Chapter 13: The Best Laid Plans
                Mary watched as Faelan and a strange man entered the dining room at the Caomh Sith Inn. She wasn’t sure who he was, with his long black hair and catlike ears. She decided that they didn’t really look like a cat’s ears, but couldn’t really describe them better, so she decided to stop worrying about it.
                Faelan nodded in her direction and she smiled back as the other man glanced at her and then resumed his conversation with Wolf.
                She suppressed a spurt of irritation, one that her pokegirl noticed and was, as usual, quick to comment on. “Ah, it’s hard to be a pretty girl and be ignored, isn’t it?”
                She frowned and gave the violet haired pokegirl a hard look. “Gwen, did I ask you for an opinion?”
                The Neo Iczel snorted. “Of course not, but I knew you needed it.” She picked up another forkful of eggs. “These are incredible. I wonder what they do to them.”
                Mary’s look became amused, almost mischievous. “Maybe they cook them with cream.”
                “I dunno, they don’t have any cows, where would they get it from?” Gwen replied. “I’d have seen them when we got here.”
                Mary gestured with her chin. “Maybe from her.”
                Gwen looked up to see a Milktit coming out of the kitchen with a tray of food which she set down in front of the stranger. She blanched and pulled her blouse away from her body to peer inside at her breasts. “Oh, god, am I going to start lactating?” A glare at Mary. “You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
                “Relax, the enzymes are destroyed by intense heat,” said a new voice. Both of them looked up to see that the stranger had stopped at their table.
                In her work for her masters, Mary had traveled all over the globe, but she’d never heard an accent quite like his. She nodded. “Thanks for the information.”
                “You’re welcome.” He left their table and headed towards the bar, where a large pitcher of tomato juice was being held by the Elf bartending.
                Gwen watched Mary watch the stranger. “He’s cute. Are you going to do him?” She stretched. “It’s been a while but I still vaguely remember what dick felt like and I wouldn’t mind a refresher.”
                “We are here on business, remember?”
                “So? You can pump him for information while he’s pumping you.”
                “You’re hopeless, you know that don’t you?”
                “Once you give up hope, all that’s left is fun.”
                Shikarou thought about stopping at their table on the way back and introducing himself, but the Neo Iczel had looked at him like he was a side of beef and he didn’t feel like getting involved with that right now. Besides, he had a full dance card.
                He poured Faelan some tomato juice and settled down with the rest of the pitcher.
                Faelan watched him with an amused look. “Thirsty, are we?”
                “I have an active harem of eleven pokegirls, several of which have high libidos and one who happens to be a Vampire. I am always slightly dehydrated.”
                Faelan snickered quietly and glanced at Helen. “Don’t you give him enough fluid?”
                She smiled. “Yes, master Faelan, I do, but then I take my share back as well.”
                Faelan shook his head and mimed drawing a point on imaginary scoreboard. “That’s one for you.” He leaned back and toyed with his napkin. “So what’s the plan for today, oh great contender for the Blue League Cup? Are you content to rest on your laurels?”
                “Don’t have anyone named Laurel to rest on.”
                “Ha. Ha.” Faelan flicked his ears in amusement. “No, really, what are you doing today?”
                “Visiting everyone and listening to their complaints and comments, like a good landlord. I’ll also be going over some of the new plans Lynn has for the island, why?”
                “I was wondering when you wanted to try to access your Sidhe side.”
                “Not for a day or two. While everyone else thinks I’m ignoring them, I did pay attention when Candace told me to take it easy for a few days and I’m going to.”
                “Ok. Just let me know when you are ready.” Faelan gave his brother a direct look. “Don’t take too long though; I think you want to be able to read what’s in the book.”
                “What is it?”
                Faelan shook his head. “We are not going to discuss it until you can either open the book or we know you can’t.” He smiled. “Think of it as an incentive to embrace your Sidhe blood.”
                Shikarou gave him a sour look. “All right, be a pain in the ass.”
                It was the same man, talking to a young Edo girl, Mary noted as she came out of the woods. Gwen noticed too. “Hey, there’s your boyfriend. Aww, looks like he’s taken.”
                Mary knew it was useless to argue with the Neo Iczel and in fact might just give her encouragement, so she ignored the jibe. “He seems to know the right people, maybe talking to him wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.”
                “Sure, ‘talk’. That’s what you want to do with him.”
                Once again May ignored her as she trudged across the grassy slope towards him. “Hi.”
                He gave her a smile. “Hello. Mary, isn’t it? Mary Forsythe.”
                “Someone’s been telling tales.” It was Gwen again.
                The man shrugged. “You’re a new face, of course I asked about you.”
                “Oh, and who died and put you in charge of keeping track of people?” Gwen snapped back.
                “You must be Gwen.” He smiled slightly. “You remind me of another Neo Iczel I used to know.”
                “I’m better than she is.”
                The man nodded. “I’m sure you think you are. So, Mary, can I help you with something?”
                The young woman grabbed the man’s wrist and looked at his watch. “Uh, I need to go; I’ve got training with Lorelei. Can I arrange things with Elizabeth to try out our little experiment later?”
                “I don’t see where you are going to stop asking until I say yes, so tell Elizabeth that we’ll schedule for the next time it’s your turn. Have fun.” The man watched her run off with a look of amusement before turning back to Mary and Gwen. “So, can I help you with something?”
                Gwen smiled. “Mary here has some questions.”
                Mary sighed. “What Gwen is trying to say is that we’re new in town and I was wondering if you could help fill some of the blank spots I’ve got. Gwen snickered.
                Eyes flicked to the Neo Iczel and back to Mary. “Ask away. If I can, I’ll be glad to help.”
                “I understand that the master here is Shikarou Urufu. What’s he like?”
                The man smiled slowly. “I think he’s trying to get things in order here, although sometimes it seems that the universe is arrayed against him.” The smile grew. “I think he’s ok, just a little overworked.”
                “Is he a good landlord?”
                “I haven’t heard any complaints. However I understand he has an open door policy, why don’t you ask him these questions?”
                “I thought he was away?”
                “No, he returned last night.”
                Mary’s eyes brightened. “Do you know where he is right now?”
                “He’s around here somewhere.” The man looked thoughtful. “If you try at his office at 1830, I think he’ll be there, unless an emergency comes up.” A shrug. “He’s got a lot of paperwork to catch up on, so he’ll be there for an hour or so.”
                “What can you tell me about him?”
                “A great deal, but I’m not going to. You are new around here, and there have been some strange goings on recently, so I’m not going to be talking about Shikarou to just anyone.”
                “But you do know him?”
                “Yes, I do.”
                “And your relationship with him is?”
                “Now you are starting to sound like a cop.” Mary blinked. “The answer to your question is ‘personal’.”
                Gwen bristled and took a step forward. The man smiled pleasantly. “I don’t mean any offense, but you are going to have to talk to Shikarou and ask him. However I suspect that he’s not going to be very forthcoming.  After all, he doesn’t even know you yet.”
                Gwen grinned. “He’ll like us when he gets to know us. Everyone does.”
                Gwen gave the door a disgusted look. “This is the office of the lord of Caomh Sith? Good god, it’s a bloody broom cupboard.”
                Mary felt the same way, so she didn’t say anything. They’d finally had to stop an OfficerJenny named Alice and asked her for directions to Shikarou’s office. It turned out that his “office” was in the ruins of a shop of some kind, in the only room that had a whole roof. She wondered why a lord would be here, she’d have expected him to have taken a room at the inn if nothing better was available.
                There was a light shining from under the door, so she knocked and a voice bid her to enter.
                The room was small, and to her surprise, comfortably decorated in an eclectic combination of gleanings from the ruins and new stuff obviously purchased sometime recently, somehow working together to make a warm, inviting room that had the faint scent of incense.
                Across from the single desk was a door, and the man she’d talked to twice was seated at the desk, working at a handheld computer. A trolley with a tea service on it sat nearby.
                Mary gave him an unhappy look. “So, you’re his secretary or what?”
                “Good evening Mary, Gwen. Please have a seat.” The man gestured at a couple of overstuffed chairs.
                Mary remained standing. “Is your boss able to see us or not?”
                “My who?”
                “Your boss.” She gestured at the door on the far side of the room. “You know, the guy who supposed to be in there?”
                The man smiled slightly. “That’s a loo.” He motioned at the chairs again. “Have a seat.” A note of command crept into his voice. “I’m Shikarou. If you want to talk, sit.”
                Gwen made an angry noise in the back of her throat and stepped forward. Shikarou raised his head and gave her an even look and she stopped in mid step. Mary blinked in surprise. She’d always thought Gwen would charge a volcano without blinking if it made her lose her temper.
                “I’m in the middle of something right now, so if you could wait just a handful of minutes I’ll be able to give you my full attention.” Shikarou nodded towards the trolley. “Have some tea if you’d like while you wait.”
                Gwen recovered her normal belligerence. “And if we don’t feel like waiting?”
                His ears flicked. “Then you can leave.” His voice was cool.
                Gwen’s back was up. “And if we don’t feel like leaving?”
                Pythia teleported into the room in response to his mental summons and Yushiko stepped away from her, hand on her katana. She grinned as Pythia moved to be near Shikarou. “Then we can go outside and discuss this like pokegirls. When we’re done, you’ll be a lot more polite to my lord.”
                Gwen opened her mouth and dissolved in a red capture beam as Mary decided to try to salvage a situation that was rapidly spinning out of control. She smiled. “Tea, did you say? Sounds wonderful.”
                Yushiko and Pythia took up station in the room as Shikarou smiled back. “It should only be a couple of minutes.”
                Soon he put the computer away and folded his hands on the desk. “So, Mary, you had some questions?”
                “I have a bunch of them, but the first question I have is why is your office here?”
                He nodded. “Good question. I have some enemies that are trying to locate me. They don’t appear to be too stupid, so I figure they’ll succeed eventually and when they attack me they will likely target my office, since they know I will be there sooner or later. Putting it here means that there won’t be civilian casualties when they do so.” He shrugged. “I can work anywhere, and in fact I’ve only set up an office to give them an obvious target. I’m hoping to keep my people from being caught in the crossfire when they try to take me down.”
                Mary’s blood chilled as she realized that he was talking about the knights. About her. “Aren’t you concerned that you will be too far from help when that happens?”
                “I am never far from help.” Mary blinked when she realized that he meant what he said and began to wonder what she hadn’t seen in this bucolic setting. She also realized that his two pokegirls hadn’t been worried about taking down a Neo Iczel, something that veteran Tamers would normally blink at, and wondered briefly what that might mean. Somehow she didn’t think it meant they were overconfident.
                “So, Mary, why are you here? My brother says you are showing signs of settling in for a longer stay then might be expected, there isn’t really all that much here to entice visitors yet, even if Faelan has started work on his golf course.”
                Mary fell smoothly into her story. “There was a small write-up in the news about the island coming under new ownership (true enough), and I wanted to see what I could find out. I’m looking for someplace to settle down and while it won’t be for a couple of years, this place sounded nice.”
                “I see. Anything else?”
                “No.” She smiled depreciatingly. “I’m just looking for a place I can call home.”
                He nodded. “Well, this is a nice place and you could do far worse.” He cocked his head. “You may want to explain to Gwen that while we give pokegirls the same respect that we give everyone else, in turn I expect them to act responsibly. If she picks a fight with someone, I won’t punish you; I’ll take it out of her hide.”
                Mary noted once again that he seemed quietly certain that taking down one of the most powerful pokegirls in the world wouldn’t be a problem and made a mental note to have a long talk with Gwen. “I’ll make sure she understands.”
                “Thank you.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut this short, I’ve got to check up on a sick Moonflower. If you have any other questions, just catch me when I’m around or if you need to,” he passed her a card, “here is my com code.”
                Mary smiled as she took the card. “Thanks for taking the time to see me.”
                “It’s my pleasure.” He smiled briefly. “If you decide to settle here, then you will be seeing a whole lot of me, so it was to my benefit to take the time to talk with you. I’m only sorry I don’t have more time to spend with you right now.”
                “Well, perhaps later.” Mary rose and offered her hand.
                Shikarou smiled as he took it. “Later.” He watched her as she left and then turned to Pythia. “Get Branwyn and Circe.” She nodded and vanished.
                Yushiko was watching the door. “Problem, my lord?”
                “I don’t know yet.”
                Within a couple of minutes Pythia returned with the Unicorn and Alaka-Wham. Branwyn grabbed a chair and a cup of tea while Circe massaged Shikarou’s neck; he leaned into her hands with a happy sigh.
                The Unicorn smiled. “You wanted to see us?”
                “I just had a visit from Mary Forsythe. She told me that she was looking to evaluate the island as a possible place to settle down. That was a lie.” He smiled mirthlessly. “I don’t like lies, so we’re going to seek the truth. Aggie got her transmitter ID from her pokedex and she’s going to search down any information on Miss Forsythe and I want you three to be alert for any stray scraps of thought she puts out. Don’t go probing, we don’t know what kind of defenses she might have, but be aware if her mind opens up at all.”
                Circe nodded. “Can do. Do you have anything else to support your suspicions?”
                “Molly told me that her Neo Iczel, Gwen, was observed doing a series of overflights of the entire island, and I checked the satellite data which confirmed what she said. Faelan said Mary has spent most of her time in and around the inn, chatting up everyone she could find, with the exception of him and some of the other people in charge, like Lynn. I wonder if it’s because she knows who they are and has an idea of who I am. However, other than the overflights, she hasn’t left the village and that strikes me as odd in someone who is evaluating us with an eye to making a home here.”
                “She might avoid the two of you if you are who or what she’s interested in,” Pythia noted. “And the others might give her actions away if she asks the wrong question or behaves in a way to catch someone’s attention. After all it’s an open secret that Molly is suspicious of everyone. If she’s not experienced in intelligence operations, then she wouldn’t be aware that her actions could be a dead giveaway as to what she’s actually focused on.”
                Branwyn frowned. “Do you think she’s involved with the green cloaks?”
                “I have no idea. However, a pretty woman would be a perfect agent for anyone, be it the green cloaks or one of the teams. We’ve got a lot of powerful and rare pokegirls here, so we need to not focus on the green cloaked people to the exclusion of more mundane threats.”
                Branwyn laughed quietly. “I wonder how Team Viper would feel about being classified as a mundane threat.”
                “I don’t care; an organized group of magic using individuals has the potential to be far more dangerous than a bunch of pokegirl thieves with delusions of grandeur.” He sighed. “Tomorrow I’ll get with Faelan and see if I can learn to open the Grimoire. Thank you, ladies. That will be all.” He smiled at Branwyn. “Could I ask you to take me to the clinic? I want to check on that Moonflower.”
                “It would be my pleasure.”
                Faelan pointed. “That’s where Svetlana wanted to put the house, at least until I got involved. Can you see why I wanted to move it to where it’s going to be?”
                Shikarou looked at the spot. “No, it looks like any other piece of moor. That is what they call a damp swamp, right?”
                His brother gave him an exasperated look. “No, its open land, often the soil has a lot of peat.”
                “So it’s not quite a swamp. It’s an old swamp?”
                “Don’t you have any poetry in your soul, Shikarou?”
                It was time to get back to the discussion. “What is it that I’m supposed to be looking for?”
                “Ley lines. There’s an intersection of ley lines where I’m building my home.”
                Ears flicked. “A ley line is a line of concentrated magic, isn’t it?”
                “Ah, a little knowledge surfaces after all. Yes, it is. And no, it’s not commonly seen in the East, the reason being that ley lines are constructs and you barbarians never learned to make them.”
                “Oh, the Sidhe did this?”
                “Them and the druids. Humans knew some of the magics for a time and they constructed their own series of ley lines.” He smiled. “Svetlana can’t see them either, but she can feel the increased power when she casts spells while on one. I’m building my house at an intersection because I’m going to use the power to create wards to keep intruders out.”
                “So why can’t I see them?”
                “You haven’t accessed your Sidhe blood, and your nasty eastern blood doesn’t know how to see them. More importantly, you can’t access them until you know how to use them.”
                Shikarou sighed. “All right. How do I do this?”
                “I’m not sure.” Faelan grinned at the look he got in return. “Well, I’m not. However, I do have a couple of ideas. I’m going to open myself up to the land and its power and I want you to pay close attention to me and when I’m done, we’ll let you have a go.”
                “While several sick images come to mind of you opening yourself up, I’ll refrain from commenting.” He settled back against a rock. “I’m paying attention.”
                “I thought we’d try it inside one of the ley lines, hopefully all of that concentrated power would make it a little easier for you.”
                “You’re the only expert I’ve got.”
                A couple of minutes later they stood on a small rise, which Faelan assured him was in the heart of a ley line. Shikarou stood and watched as his brother faced the moon with open arms and closed his eyes.
                His skin prickled suddenly as coldness swept through it and then he felt sudden warmth. There was no wind, and yet Faelan’s hair started to move slowly and Shikarou noted with surprise that it was unbraiding itself and starting to glow with a silvery light. He felt a pressure build around him, pushing on him from all directions until it seemed almost unbearable and then it seemed to flow towards his brother and disappear.
                Faelan turned to face his brother and opened his eyes. They glittered with the same silver glow that infused his hair. “This is what it’s like to be Sidhe, brother.  Join me.”
                “I’ll stick to girls, thanks.”
                Faelan smiled. “I can see your anxiety and the only way to vanquish it is to face your fears.”
                Shikarou glared. “Stop seeing things.” He sighed. “All right. How do I do this?”
                “For your first time you need to face the moon. Later you will learn to be able to summon your powers at will, but first the moon will guide you.”
                “You know, if I didn’t understand that magic worked in strange ways, I’d think this was a pretty screwball idea.”
                Faelan gave him an annoyed look. “You are kibitzing.
                He was right, Shikarou realized. “All right.” He turned to face the moon, closed his eyes and opened his arms.
                “Good. Now what you need to do is relax and let the magic flow through you. Don’t fight it; let it go where it will.”
                Shikarou relaxed the protections that he normally kept up and felt the pressure begin to build again, but this time it was focused on him. It grew slowly, pressing upon him from all sides, squeezing him, trying to crush him. That which made him kami tried to fight it and he spent long moments wrestling it to a standstill.
                Still the pressure built until he felt like screaming. And then he realized that it wasn’t trying to kill him, it was trying to enter him, only something was keeping it out. Easily fixed. Shikarou opened his mouth and it poured down inside him, filling him and swirling through his entire body, through the very fabric of his being.
                Something inside him clicked, like a lock being turned and he saw. His awareness swept through the land and for a brief instant he knew everything that was occurring on Caomh Sith. He saw Molly asleep in her bed with her daughters curled up next to her. He saw Branwyn resting against Circe, spent from their joining. On the other side of Caomh Sith, one of the feral Moonflowers looked up as his awareness swept through her and laughed with joy.
                And then the land swallowed him down. He saw the water as it flowed and felt the ocean gnawing at the shore. He felt the fish swimming in the lochs and the rabbits feeding the in moonlight.
                And the dead. He felt the remains of everything that had ever died on Caomh Sith. All of the animals and all of the humans. And the Sidhe. They had lived here too and their dead dotted the land, brief flashes of power in his awareness.
                Then it all swirled inside him and merged into one dark pool before filling him up until his skin felt tight and he thought he would burst.
                Then it relaxed and slid through him like cold breath.
                He opened his eyes to wonder. The ley line glowed with a soft golden glow that extended for meters to either side and climbed overhead to tower above the landscape.
                Faelan spoke in a voice tight with anxiety and fear. “What are you?”
                Shikarou looked at his brother and marveled again. Where before he’d seen Faelan’s eyes and hair glowing with a silver light, now his entire person was suffused with it and it radiated out of his skin for centimeters in dim fog. “What do you mean?
                “Look at yourself.”
                Shikarou looked at his arms. All along his body, where silver had suffused his brother, his was a black that somehow glowed in the darkness. “I am me. Shikarou.” He smiled. “That hasn’t changed.”
                Something at the edge of his gaze tugged at his attention and he turned his head to look more closely. “What the fuck happened to my hair?” It, too, glowed impossibly with black, but where it had been waist length, now it slapped gently against his ankles. He glanced up at his brother. “Did you do this?”
                Faelan smiled. “No. You did. Now you know why my hair is so long. If you cut it, it will grow back overnight. It happens when you come into your power.”
                “This is woman’s hair!”
                “It is Sidhe hair and you are Sidhe now.”
                He glared. “I look like a woman.”
                Faelan stared pointedly at Shikarou’s chest. “Ugly one, perhaps. Maybe you’re a Dildo Queen. A flat chested one.”
                Shikarou sighed. “So why don’t you glow like this all the time?”
                “I’ll teach you to hide it. People will stare otherwise and you’ll never get any work done. That and they will follow you around wanting sex.”
                The next several hours were spent teaching Shikarou how to conceal his new attributes and the sun was well over the horizon by the time both of them were satisfied.
                On the way back to town, Faelan chuckled. “I do believe that there is your welcoming committee.” Branwyn, Gwyneth and Circe were standing on a rise a half kilometer ahead of the two, watching them. “You did tell them what we were doing, in suitably vague terms of course.”
                “All I had was vague terms,” Shikarou pointed out.
                “Oh, yeah. So what do you think they’ll say about your hair?”
                “Probably something similar to what I said when I first saw it.”
                Branwyn waited patiently until they made it up the rise. “I expected you back,” she broke off. “What happened to your eyes?”
                Shikarou glanced at Faelan in puzzlement. His brother peered at Shikarou’s face. “Oh, they’re black again.” He sighed. “I don’t think we are going to be able to hide them, they keep bleeding to black.”
                “Lovely.” He turned to Branwyn. “It’s part of what happened last night.”
                “Care to explain?”
                “Not out here. I’ll tell you what I can when we get back to the tent.” He turned to Faelan and stopped when Gwyneth grabbed his hair and tugged. He glanced at her. “Yes?”
                “This needs explaining as well.” The ElfQueen gave it another tug. “I like it, it’s sexy, but you need to explain it.”
                “Tent. Faelan, I’ll see you later.”
                “Come by today and you can have a go at the book. I’ll be at the inn, going over building materials with Svetlana.”
                Once they arrived at the tent Branwyn marched him into his bedroom and glanced at Circe. Suddenly he was lifted into the air and pinned to the bed with the Alaka-Wham’s telekinesis. Branwyn nodded. “Keep him here, I’ll get Pythia.” She vanished.
                About the only thing Shikarou could move were his eyes, so he rolled them at Circe with a questioning look. She gave him a grim smile but declined to answer.
                Branwyn and Pythia appeared and the three pokegirls settled on the bed around Shikarou and stared at him for several long moments. Finally Branwyn sighed in relief. “It’s him.”
                Shikarou found he could sit up and slowly did so. “You thought I might be someone else and decided to investigate. That was an excellent idea.”
                “Thank you.” Circe took his hand. “With magical people out to get you, it might not be a bad idea to keep at least one of your pokegirls with you at all times.” She smiled. “We’d been trying to do this without your knowledge, but you keep slipping away, so we’re going to need your help too.”
                “You want to formalize Gwyneth’s bodyguard program? And who will be my guards, since I have responsibilities with pokegirls outside my harem and it’s not fair for you to have to be nearby, much less watch?”
                Pythia cocked her head. “Sukebe told me that safety sometimes requires discomfort.”
                “Sukebe was a megalomaniac and I don’t think he should be your reference for social engineering.”
                Branwyn snorted. “In this case she’s right. All of us will have to be slightly uncomfortable until this situation is resolved.”
                He sighed. “All right, I presume you have some preliminary plans.”
                Branwyn nodded. “Yes I do. We’ll go over them after I lecture you on wandering off and scaring me like that.”
                Pythia and Circe drifted out the door as Shikarou protested. “I didn’t send you away.”
                The Unicorn’s eyes narrowed. “So it’s the letter of the agreement with you kami, is it? I’ll come up with a better promise for you, one that’s extremely detailed, just you wait.” She curled up against him, wrapping her arms around his chest. “Don’t leave me again, damnit.” When he didn’t respond, she glanced up at him. “Do I have to cry?”
                “Now that’s not fair.” Shikarou gathered her up in his arms. “Branwyn, you know that I can’t make that promise. Sometimes things will keep us apart for a time, but you know it’ll only be temporary. You are my alpha and my love and I can’t think of a thing that will change that. I love you while you live and will continue to love you after you leave me.”
                “I will never leave you, not even in death. This I swear on you, my kami.” Shikarou stared at her in shock as time seemed to stand still for a moment and then a multicolored burst of energy exploded around them and faded away.
                Shikarou squeezed her tightly. “Branwyn, what have you done?”
                She smiled up at him. “Gotten my wish, I think.” She snuggled against him. “Thank you, kami.” She grimaced and untangled her arm from his hair. “Bloody hair.” She gave him another smile. “I’ll go get some scissors and we’ll take care of this.”
                Shikarou refused to let her go. “I should warn you that it may not do any good, Faelan told me that it’s likely that even if it’s cut, it may grow back overnight.”
                Branwyn frowned. “You will not have prettier hair than me. I won’t have it.”
                “Oh, that’s all.” He grinned. “That is an easy fix; I’ll just grow your hair out.”
                She blinked. “You can do that?” Her eyes narrowed. “Why am I just finding out about this?”
                “I didn’t realize it was important.” He shrugged. “I learned that particular spell as a practical joke; the one where you catch someone asleep and grow their hair out so much they are trapped in it. Now that I’m older I tend to use it to repair damage to my own hair, although if Faelan is right, that may no longer be necessary.”
                Branwyn sat up. “Unicorns find it hard to grow their hair below their waist, do you think that’ll be a problem?”
                “I doubt it, but we can find out right now, if you’d like.”
                She smiled. “It had better work or there are going to be a lot of bald men this year wearing black hairpieces after I trim you up every day.”
                “Again with the threats.” He sat up and reached for his wand. “You may want to be standing up for this.”
                Branwyn slid out of bed and then laughed at him as he struggled free of his hair and stood. He glared at it for a second and then touched it with his wand. It wove itself into a thick braid that hung down his back.
                She blinked. “Neat. Will it do curls too?”
                “You’ll just have to experiment, now won’t you? Turn around.” He cast the spell.
                “Are you done, I don’t feel any different.” She gasped as Shikarou draped a long golden waterfall of hair over her shoulders. “Wow. Where’s a mirror?” She dashed into his bathroom. He heard a squeal of joy. “Ooh, I look like a Godiva. This is incredible.” She came out of the bath, stroking her hair with obvious pleasure. “Mother is going to be so jealous.” She blinked. “Can I make this alpha’s prerogative?”
                “No. That wouldn’t be fair to the others.”
                “How about exclusive to your harem?” She looked hopeful.
                “You just don’t want Poppet to have it.”
                “Oh, not just her, I can think of a whole bunch of women I don’t want to have this.” She smiled evilly. “So, can it be exclusive to the harem.”
                “I’ll consider it, but in any case, you cannot force the other harem members to have long hair if they don’t want it.” His voice was firm. “I won’t let you go behind my back and use your influence on them, either. They get free choice or you get a haircut.”
                She looked at him in horror. “Touch my hair and suffer the consequences, knave. All right, free choice it is, even if it isn’t exclusive to the harem.” She cradled her hair. “There, there, I won’t let the bad wolf hurt you.”
                Shikarou gave her an amused look. “I can see this is going to be a wild ride.”
                Imagine what it will be like when she discovers that your hair glows?
                You are an evil little AI, aren’t you?
                Shikarou came over the rise at a lope as Lorelei made a lazy pass at him. He ducked and sped up, bounding effortlessly over some three meter tall rocks to almost land on the Catgirl on the other side. She yelped and jumped sideways as he clawed at the air, desperately trying to slow his descent or change direction.
                He landed heavily and his feet skidded out from under him to slam him face first into the gravel. He backflipped to his feet and whirled as he summoned his sword.
                Lorelei was hovering between the Catgirl and him, an angry snarl rippling from the Sphinx as she watched her target.
                The Catgirl carefully checked herself over and glanced up at the Sphinx. “Oh, cut that out.”
                Lorelei’s wings began to glow as she drew ki energy for a feather shuriken attack and the Catgirl vanished. The Sphinx twisted wildly in midair before folding her wings and dropping to the ground by her Tamer. “What the hell was that?”
                “I don’t know.” Shikarou frowned and walked over to where the Catgirl had been. “Odd, she was as tall as that rock and it’s almost two and a half meters tall. That was one big Catgirl.” He shrugged. “Well, she’s gone now and I’m supposed to meet Branwyn and Circe so let’s be off.”
                Lorelei nodded and vaulted into the air.
                Shikarou waited until she’d flown over some trees before he turned back to the rock. “Care to explain yourself?”
                The rock changed and became the Catgirl. She was what cat fanciers would have called a patchwork, her fur was a veritable explosion of differing shades of red, from rust to crimson, with just enough white to provide accent. Her tremendous bust was barely contained by the leather bodice she wore; it had seen better days and was almost nothing but rude repair on top of rude repair.
                “If you want some clothes, I can’t help you, but if you come by the village, we can get you something.”
                She sneered. “Ha ha. My sister said you wanted to talk to me?” The cat snorted at his look of bewilderment. “I’m Macavity.” Her head cocked. “And you are cute. I can see why Sexmet is interested in you.”
                Shikarou nodded. “My name is Shikarou. Do we need to talk now, or can it wait for a few hours.”
                “Do I look like I give a shit about your schedule? We can talk now or you can just stay in the dark about the Order of Pendragon.”
                “I only wanted to know because in a few hours I could welcome you with a proper meal and refreshments.” Shikarou kept his voice even.
                “Would I get a feast?”
                “If you want one,” he answered in a wry tone.
                “Why do I get the impression you are laughing at me.” Her ears flicked.
                “Because I am.” He smiled slightly. “I’m familiar with your poem, but if you want to act instead like the Rum Tum Tugger when I offer you food, I’ll just muddle through on my own, thank you very much.”
                She blinked and then grinned. “You are a delight.” She leaned forward and sniffed him. “So how would you taste?”
                Her ears flicked back and then up right again. Then she nodded suddenly. “Ah, you don’t want to tame me.”
                “Not particularly.”
                She smiled. “And if I insist?”
                “I bite and scratch too.”
                She looked astounded. “I’m impressed. Most Tamers would be cowering in fear right now, hoping their little peckers would work when I ripped their clothes off. You would actually fight me.”
                “Only if you made me. I’d like to be friends, well as long as that doesn’t doom the people I’m responsible for.” Shikarou sighed. “So, would you like a proper reception or would you like to try some dried fish?” He opened a pouch on his pack. “It’s really bad.”
                She sighed wistfully. “I’d really like some roast duck. I miss them.”
                “So you’ll have roast duck.”
                “Uh, earth to pointy ears, ducks have been extinct for a while now. They didn’t take to well to the diseases ravaging the planet way back when.”
                “I said you’ll have duck and duck you’ll have. It’ll be the price for your information on the men in green cloaks.”
                “That decides that. If you can get me some good roast duck, I’m your loyal servant.” She grinned.
                “Right. I notice there wasn’t a time interval specified for your servitude.”
                “Aw, there was going to be a rebellion right after dinner. You’ve spoiled the surprise.” Her demeanor changed abruptly. “The Order of Pendragon has been chasing me for decades now, ever since Jones decided to out me to the world. I didn’t even get a concession on the broadcast rights.” She grimaced. “If you can help me spoke their wheels, I’ll be very grateful.” She shook her head. “Sexmet thinks you can be trusted, and for the moment I’ll listen to her. The fact that your Sphinx is so loyal speaks well.”
                “Thank you. Lorelei and I care very much for each other.”
                “That’s an interesting way to put it. So, when’s dinner?”
                “This evening. How can I get in touch with you when it’s ready?”
                Macavity grinned. “Do you have a spare pokeball?”
                “Yeah. Why?”
                “I’ll let you catch me, for a little while at least and you can let me out when dinner is ready.” Her ears flicked again. “Don’t go getting any ideas, bub. I can break the pokeball and escape whenever I want.”
                “Trust me, I don’t think you’d fit into what I want in my harem.” He smiled suddenly. “You know, if you ever need money, you could make us very rich.”
                She looked surprised. “How?”
                “I catch you and sell you and you escape. We split the money down the middle. If we travel around and change my name, we could do that for a while.”
                Macavity gave him a bland look. “I’ll keep it in mind if I’m ever that bored. Now go ahead and catch me.”
                Shikarou pulled out a pokeball and held it up for her inspection before touching it to the back of her hand. She turned the hand and grabbed him as the ball touched her. “Cute, the most nonsexual way you could imagine.” She dissolved into the capture beam and once more Shikarou felt that odd sucking feeling that he’d felt at Karen’s gym.
                Aggie, I want you to compile everything you can find about Macavity, reports, rumor, anything of possible value for analysis. I want to know everything you can find and I want it sifted for hard information.
                I’ll get right on it.
                He started to shove the pokeball into his backpack and stopped with a thoughtful look. Unclipping the wand from his pokedex, he touched the pokeball and scanned it. Then he popped it into his backpack and mentally counted to ten before sticking the wand into the backpack and scanning it again. “Well now, that’s interesting.” He put the wand away and pulled the pokeball out of his pack and slipped it into a pocket before bounding off again at full speed to catch Lorelei before she missed him.
                Macavity finally pushed her plate away and leaned back with a tired sigh. “That was incredible.” She unlaced some strings on her outfit and groaned in relief as it visibly expanded. “Oh, yes.” The legendary gave Shikarou a thoughtful look. “Duck you promised and duck you delivered. Wonderful duck, I might add and the pie was very good.”
                “You are very welcome.” Branwyn made a gracious host.
                Macavity leaned forward, placing her elbow on the table and resting her chin in her hand. “Now to business.” She belched loudly, ruining the image. “Excuse me.”
                Shikarou nodded. “You were going to tell me about the men in green cloaks.”
                Her eyes grew crafty. “Was I?”
                Shikarou slid smoothly to his feet. “We’re done. Have a nice day.”
                Macavity looked surprised. “That’s it?”
                “We did the bargaining before the meal. If you want to renege, I can’t stop you, however, I can end your games right now.”
                “You don’t want to bargain information for information?”
                “I said we already agreed on price for the information you had on the Order of Pendragon. I paid it. If you have so little honor as to be willing to uphold your end of the bargain, then there is no reason for me to do any more business with you. Ever.”
                “I wouldn’t take that tone with me if I were you. You can’t threaten me.”
                “If I were trying to threaten you, I would mention that I know you have a residence somewhere in the ruins of Edinburgh.” Aggie had collated a large number of reports, unsubstantiated reports and rumors of sightings over the last 300 years to give an 80 percent probability that the legendary had a lair in that area. Many of the reports came from municipalities that didn’t talk to each other and it was unlikely to the point of unity that anyone had looked at the information in quite this fashion.
                Of course the same analysis of the reports gave a 94 percent probability that she had her primary lair in somewhere within a 20 square kilometer stretch in the middle of Ireland but there was no reason to give away everything that he might know.
                Macavity stared at him in shock. “How did you know that?”
                “My business. I was going to ask you for the information your agents could collect and trade the information mine can gather, but if you’ll break one small arrangement with me, I can’t trust you with anything substantial.”
                Her ears flicked. “Fine. The Order of Pendragon.” She hesitated. “You’ll tell me how you knew about my abode?”
                “No. Dinner was the deal. Tell me or get out.”
                “I should lose my temper, but I suspect you really think you can eject me if I prove reluctant to leave.” Shikarou just smiled at her words. “All right, I’ll tell you about the Order of Pendragon.”
                “I first encountered the Order when I was in my thirties and they claimed then to predate Sukebe. Of course, they also claimed to predate the Romans and at the time I just didn’t know they were telling the truth.”
                “They also claim to be the true heirs to the Court of the Round Table and the designated protectors of all of the British Isles. By the way, that’s often a good way to spot one of them when they’re not wearing those awful cloaks, they won’t usually acknowledge the existence of the Blue League or the Blue Continent.”
                “Up until the time of Sukebe, they were a male only organization, but the reduction in the number of men has forced them to make certain adjustments and now they also allow women, although they will be treated more poorly than an equivalent man.”
                “The rankings are based on magical ability, with knights being the pinnacle of the Order. I think there are several levels of knight, but I’ve never been able to penetrate them far enough to find out if that’s correct. I do know that they are flexible in their thinking and tactics, but only so far, for example, since the time of Sukebe, they’ve started using pokegirls, but only ones with a magic type or subtype. They disdain the rest of them.”
                “I know they have a headquarters but I have no idea where it is.” She snorted. “Avalon, perhaps.”
                “Why are they after you? You’re not a magic pokegirl.”
                “Duh, they’re after me because I’m Macavity. Everyone wants me.” Her ears flicked and she gave him an annoyed look. “Everyone with a lick of sense, that is.”
                Branwyn looked amused as Shikarou ignored the jibe. “Why are they after me?”
                “The information I have suggests you have something that belongs to them. That combined with the fact that you have some competent magic pokegirls makes you a prime target.” She looked curious. “What do you have?”
                “A book.”
                “Must be some book.”
                Shikarou shrugged. “I don’t know yet, I’ve only just been able to start reading it.” He frowned. “The weird thing is that it is useless to them.”
                Macavity grinned. “I’d never accuse them of making sense. They probably want it just because it’s magical. It is, right?”
                Shikarou eyed her for a moment. “Yes.”
                “That’s all I have to tell you.” Macavity pushed heavily to her feet. “Damn that was a good meal. Can I come back?”
                Shikarou started to answer when Branwyn interrupted. “Not with Jenova.”
                The legendary eyed her with amusement. “Shucks, girl, she ain’t so bad.”
                The Unicorn shook her head. “Hold the hokey attempt at charm. She’s a walking disaster area and she’s not welcome here.”
                 “What if she promises to behave?”
                “I don’t care if she swears on her soul, she can’t be trusted. Jenova doesn’t know herself what she’s going to do from one moment to the next, so how can such a promise be of any use?”
                “Fine. If I come back, I’ll come without her.”
                “And if she shows up later, you are gone.”
                “I don’t think I like your tone, girl.”
                “Shikarou has already, in the space of less than a day, found out where you live. If you want access to that kind of an information source you will treat him with a little respect.” Branwyn smiled sweetly. “Imagine how successful he could make some of your work.”
                Macavity eyed her sourly. “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in your case, did it? Course, you’re more of a cutting, aren’t you. Poppet should be proud of you.”
                The Unicorn looked surprised. “You know her?”
                “Of course I do. Several of us legendaries have been funding some of her research into reproduction. Some of us would like children, and she’s the leading authority on that, not that humans would believe it.”
                She gave Shikarou a speculative look. “You probably have an agent monitoring you here.”
                “We do.”
                “Watch out, with their magic, they can force people you trust to become agents and wipe their memories afterwards. That’s how they spring their agents, like the knight that attacked you in Glasgow.”
                “Interesting.” He blinked suddenly. Aggie, when I talked to the Glasgow police when I tried to get Marcus freed, I was told that he had already been released but that some needed paperwork hadn’t been filed. The OfficerJenny who discovered this was indignant and would have followed procedure and filed a report of the discrepancy. I want you to find these discrepancy reports and log them both in time and location. Maybe we can get a picture of their activities and possible base locations.
                I will do that right away. I also have a suggestion. While Marcus Pendleton-Smythe hasn’t been active, I would like to do a search for the pokeballs that his pokegirls were in. They can be tracked by a manufacturing serial number that is separate from the pokegirl inside.
                I didn’t know about that. Do it.
                Macavity frowned. “What are you going to do about the agent?”
                “Nothing. If I have her removed, that will verify that something interesting is going on here and they’ll send another agent, one that I might not catch. So I leave her alone and use her as a conduit for misinformation.”
                She nodded and headed for the door. “I’ll be in touch.”
                Shikarou walked her out. “You can reach me through Lynn or here is my card.”
                She took it, giving him a speculative look. “You would really fight me if I tried to tame with you?”
                “Without my acquiescence all you will get is a fight.”
                She nodded. “Oh, well, there are other Tamers out there.”
                Shikarou smiled. “I hope your sister takes that attitude.”
                “Sexmet? Don’t get your hopes up.”
                Shikarou’s com chirped and he sighed. “Now what?”
                Branwyn smiled. “I’m sure it’s nothing vital. After all, Lynn knows where we are and she’s got Faelan if there are any problems. We’re already in Inverness and signed in for the County Final. Tomorrow we kick ass and take names.”
                “Kick ass and take names? What have you been reading?”
                She winked. “We had a movie marathon last night to celebrate freedom from ten straight days of combat training, while you were off with Dorothea.”
                “I knew downloading those videos were a bad idea.” He unclipped his com and frowned. “It’s Poppet.”
                “Whatever it is, tell her no.”
                “Trust me, that is going to be the general idea.” He sighed and turned the com on. “Yes.”
                It wasn’t Poppet, it was Devon. “Shikarou, I need to talk to you.” His eyes were a little wild. “I don’t know who else I can come to for help.”
                Shikarou sighed and glanced at Branwyn, who was giving him a stony look. “Where are you?”
                “I’m at the Conservatory. When can you get here?”
                “Ten minutes.”
                “Ok, I’ll be in the garden.”
                Shikarou hung up the com and shrugged. Branwyn sighed. “I know, he needs help and he has no friends except you. I just hope this doesn’t take too long.”
                “Me either. If it does, however, you get to explain to whoever caused us to miss this year’s Blue League Competition that we are annoyed at them.” His ears flicked. “Preferably with several trample attacks.”
                She smiled. “They’ll be lucky if that’s all that happens to them. I’ll turn the harem loose to wreak havoc.”
                “Isn’t that my line?”
                Shikarou and Branwyn could see Devon pacing back and forth in front of the bench where they’d first met. A Peekabu wearing a brown cloak stood guard nearby and Kathryn watched her Tamer with an anxious expression.
                The Ladyien noticed them first and moved to intercept Shikarou. “Thank ye fer coming, he’s in a right state.”
                Shikarou nodded. “What is this about?”
                “I’d better let him tell ye.” She gave a nervous glance over her shoulder. “Could I have a word with yer alpha?”
                Shikarou glanced at Branwyn and reached for his pokeballs, releasing Pythia. “Go ahead, I’ve got my guard.” The Unicorn gave him a wink and moved off with Kathryn.
                “Devon.” As he turned to face Shikarou, the kami noted that young Mr. Harris looked like he’d aged a dozen bad years. “I’m here.”
                He stiffened when Devon hugged him. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you. Poppet can’t do anything and she’s told me to just let it go. I can’t.”
                “Why don’t you tell me what the problem is?”
                “It’s Lamya. She’s under arrest. For murder.” He blinked. “That and for impersonating a human.”
                Shikarou peeled Devon off carefully and held him at arms length. The Peekabu stirred but remained silent. “All right, Devon, take a deep breath and relax. There are some things I need to know.”
                Lamya Harris is a 22 year old Tamer from the Harris Conservatory with four pokegirls. Current location is the Orange Islands. She is under arrest and is being held at an undisclosed location. There is another entry for a Lamya, a 22 year old Enchantress that was owned by Devon Harris. This entry has been almost successfully deleted and is fragmentary. Pokeball records indicate the Enchantress was in Devon’s harem until a few months ago when her records were expunged.
                Find her.
                “Who is Lamya? Records indicate she’s a Tamer from here, but that isn’t the whole story, is it?”
                Devon gave him a startled look. “You have some very good information sources.” He sighed and turned away. “She’s one of my wives.”
                Now it was Shikarou’s turn to start in surprise. “She’s what? I thought you were unmarried.”
                “We are his wives,” the Peekabu announced. “His harem is his family and Lamya is part of the harem.”
                “Zelda’s right. And I let her leave.” Devon turned and punched a tree.
                Zelda used her enhanced speed to catch his arm before he hit. “We agreed that breaking your hand only adds pain to your rage and intensifies it, remember?”
                Devon glared at her. “Yes.”
                “So she’s a pokegirl. That explains the impersonation charge, but that’s minor. What is the murder charge about?”
                “I don’t know. They won’t let me talk to her and they won’t talk to me.”
                Standard procedure for an ongoing investigation. Only family will be able to speak with her and the police will be unwilling to discuss the case with anyone not their own.
                Shikarou frowned. “Are you willing to be deceitful? If so you may be able to get in to see her.”
                Devon spun around. “I’ll do whatever it takes.” He sighed. “She’s not the only one. Her harem has been impounded and I’m terrified they’ll be given away.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “It happened to me once.”
                Shikarou started to ask when Devon had been given away but remembered the young man was unused to his sense of humor. Aggie, we’ll need an injunction of some kind.
                I’m filing a report of unclear ownership on the part of each of the pokegirls in Lamya Harris’ harem. That will have to be resolved before they can be given to new owners. The system averages a week or so to clear these reports and I’ll monitor the situation. I’m moving the satellite you gave me to the Orange Islands, which will cut down on response time.
                “I can give you about a week. We’ll need to head to the Orange League right away, my people can work faster on site.”
                Devon blinked. “What are we going to do?”
                “We’re going to get your family back, what else? Are you ready to leave?”
                Devon’s eyes glowed. “Ten minutes, no more.” He dashed away and the Peekabu gave chase.
                Branwyn came up with Kathryn in tow. I thought your life was a long series of stumbling from calamity to calamity. “What are we going to do?” Her eyes suggested she already knew the answer.
                “Ever been to the Orange League?”
                She sighed. “I guess we’ll be better situated for the Blue League Cup in two years.”
                Shikarou snorted. “Yes, the grapes look sour from here, too.” Pythia chuckled.
                “I have to ask this, what if she’s guilty of the murder? If nothing else, Dorothea is going to want to know.”
                Kathryn bristled. “And what does that matter to ye?”
                “I have a Seraph in my harem.” Kathryn looked shocked. “Yeah, I feel that way myself sometimes. If she’s innocent Dorothea can probably be convinced to help correct the miscarriage of justice, no matter what the law says. If Lamya is guilty, things could become more problematic.” He glanced at Branwyn. “I did explain to her the options she has, but if she tries to go to the police, we will hold her until we can return.”
                Branwyn nodded. “I’ll make sure someone keeps a mind on her.” Kathryn blinked.
                Devon came running up, followed by Zelda and a familiar blond in a blue dress. Branwyn smiled softly and turned slightly, allowing her ankle length hair to shimmer in the light. Shikarou sighed. Women.
                Poppet glanced at Branwyn and frowned before turning her attention to Shikarou. “What are you doing here?”
                Shikarou took her arm and steered her into the trees. “Let’s have a chat.” She tried to come to a halt but finally gave up when it appeared that he might be willing to drag her. Finally he stopped and she gave him a cross look. “What do you think you are doing?”
                He cocked an eyebrow. “What you want, right?”
                “What do you mean?”
                “Devon called on your phone. Stop the games. You want me to help him.”
                A tinge of color came to her cheeks. “How did you figure it out?”
                “I’ve spent enough time in your bedroom,” she smiled slightly at his words, “to know that you always keep your phone under lock and key. You would have had to leave your com out for him to call me on it and you don’t make mistakes like that.”
                She shook her head. “The idiot never put your com number into his phone.” She squared her shoulders and met his eyes. “I was hoping you would help him, but I can’t get involved. You know why.”
                “If we end up breaking the law down there to get his pokegirls back its unlikely they’ll chase us outside the country, but you they would go after if you had the slightest sign of any involvement.”
                Poppet nodded. “That’s right. I was actually trying to get her released but the judge I owned down there had the audacity to get old and retire and I haven’t had the time to go down and buy a new one.” A sigh. “And you know what will happen to Lamya if she’s found guilty. She’ll be executed.”
                “I thought they used level five conditioning cycles.”
                “And how is that not an execution?” She asked acidly.
                “Point taken. Do you know where she’s being held?”
                “If I did, Devon would know.” She reached out and touched his cheek. “Be careful down there, I don’t have many friends and I can’t afford to lose the ones I do have.”
                “I will.” He sighed. “She’ll be considered guilty unless proven innocent, being a deceitful pokegirl masquerading as a human. Fortunately, gathering evidence is an almost genetic level trait in any good policeman, so that will help me.”
                “Why would that help?”
                “I may have to solve a murder the police think is already solved in order to get Lamya freed. If that goes away, the fine on the impersonation will be easy for Devon to accept.”
                Poppet sighed and took his hand. “I’m sorry that this had to happen. I know you were going to compete this year.”
                Shikarou shrugged. “It is annoying, but this is more important.”
                “Thank you.”
                “I sort of thought you’d given up on him as your future mate.”
                She sighed. “I have.” Her eyes hardened. “Now he’s just the boy I raised as my son.”
                “Crap. Now I feel sorry for his enemies.”
                Poppet looked hesitant. “Do you think we could talk later, about my possibilities for a future mate?” She watched him carefully.
                “You haven’t known me for that long, you do know that?”
                She nodded, still cautious. “But I haven’t clicked this well with anyone since Jamie and he and I became a couple over the course of an afternoon.”
                “What about Branwyn?”
                “We’ve had some talks about this, but we’ll have to have some more.” A sudden smile. “For some reason we’re both pretty stubborn. I have no idea why?” The smile vanished. “However, she appears to be willing to consider the idea, at least in theory and she knows that I wouldn’t challenge her position as alpha.”
                Shikarou nodded. “We need to sit down together and talk. After I get back from this, we’ll arrange a meeting.”
                “Thank you again.”
                They walked back to Devon and the others. Poppet stopped him right before they exited the trees. “What happened to Branwyn’s hair? Yours is nice, but hers…” she broke off.
                “I did.”
                Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Could you happen to mine?”
                “We’ll see.”
                When they rejoined the others, Branwyn caught his eye. Did she ask about my hair?
                He smiled slightly. She wants me to do the same to hers. I told her we’d talk about it when we got back. She also wants to continue some discussions that you’ve apparently been having with her behind my back.
                Branwyn cocked her head. There was no reason to involve you unless she and I could come to some basic agreements. We have, so I suppose it’s time for the three of us to talk. Are you upset?
                Surprised. I would not have thought that the two of you could have come to any sort of accommodation over me.
                You were surprised? I don’t think she or I believed the discussion would ever go anywhere.
                Shikarou turned to Devon. “You’ll have to provide the initial transport; I’ve never been to the Orange League.”
                Some of the anxiety had dropped away. “Hatsumi will take me and I thought I’d take Branwyn so she can come back and get you.” He frowned slightly. “For some reason Hatsumi doesn’t want to touch you. She will if I insist, but that isn’t necessary if I take Branwyn.”
                Shikarou shrugged. “Chalk it up to oddity and move on.”
                “No, I want to know what’s wrong, but it’ll have to wait.” He recovered Zelda and Kathryn before releasing his Demon-Goddess.
                Hatsumi stretched and looked around, her gaze freezing when she saw Shikarou. “The kami again. Hatsumi was hoping to never see the kami again.”
                “Hatsumi, we are going to be working with Shikarou and his harem to get Lamya and the others back. The least you could do is be gracious.”
                “Does the kami have an answer to Hatsumi’s question now?”
                Shikarou sighed. “I was once amatsukami, but I was released from service to be my own man. However I am still kami and not oni.”
                “Kami have worshippers. Hatsumi would talk with them.”
                Branwyn interrupted. “You can, there are several in our harem.” She smiled. “Actually we all say the occasional prayer to him, but you will want to talk to Yushiko, Fumiko or Lorelei. They’re the most devout.”
                Shikarou grumbled beneath his breath. “Can we get this started?” He pulled out Branwyn's pokeball and put her up before handing the pokeball to Devon. Pythia smiled and touched her pokeball where it rested on his belt and vanished inside.
                Devon smiled. “What, no threats? I don’t think I could give one of my wives away for any length of time without a threat or three.”
                Hatsumi sucked air in shock. “Master, do not tempt the kami.”
                Shikarou gave a twisted smile. “She’s right. Don’t go tempting people; you never know what might happen. Now let’s get this going.”
Name:                                                     Urufu, Shikarou                                                   
Age:                                                       250                                                                                         
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent                                                              
Region:                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                    Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                      59                                                                           
Security Clearance:                              Epsilon                                                                  
                Tamer                                     Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                       Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  Y                            
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level                     
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       61                                           
Milktit                                    Helen                                      54                                           
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                53                                           
ElfQueen                                Gwyneth                                48                                           
Seraph                                    Dorothea                               45                                           
Ria                                          Kebi                                        45
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      41                                                                                           
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   40                                           
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     38                                           
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                33                                           
Titto                                       Fumiko                   26                                           
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        None
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
Name:                                                     Harris, Devon Jamie                                                                                            
Age:                                                       15                                                                                           
Residence:                                             Harris Conservatory, Highland County                                          
Region:                                                  Scotland                                                                                               
Status:                                                    Active                                                                                   
Rank:                                                      42                                                                                           
Security Clearance:                              Theta                                                                                     
                Tamer                                     Y                                                            
                Master Tamer                       Y                                                            
                Researcher                            N                                                            
                Watcher                 N                                                            
                Breeder                  Y                                                            
Active Harem                                                                                                       
                Name                      Species                  Level     
                Ming Die               Alaka-Wham                         100
                Hatsumi Demon-Goddess 87           
                Bellona   DragonQueen                       48
                Rhiannon               Dark Lady                              44           
                Paulette Neo-Iczel                               41           
                Kathryn Ladyien                  36           
                Siobhan Nogitsune                             35           
                Zelda                      Peekabu                 23           
Alpha: Kathryn
Beta: Bellona
Badges: Scotland:
                                Ireland: Belfast