Chapter 15: Changes
“All right, why do you suddenly look like a Bunnygirl sank her teeth into your arse?”
Shikarou blinked. “That was actually a look of epiphany, not one of buttock related pain,” he informed Branwyn in a lofty tone.
“So what were your buttocks having an epiphany about?”
He rolled his eyes. “I was thinking that it’s good to be back at Caomh Sith and to be home when I realized that this is my home now. I’ve made the mental transition and I have a home again.”
Branwyn stared at him and then wrapped her arms around him and rested against his chest. “That’s good to hear,” she said in a soft voice.
He draped his arms around her and squeezed gently until she made a contented noise. “I thought so too.”
They stayed that way for a few minutes before Branwyn slowly pushed away and kissed him gently. “I need to check on our guests.” She smiled as she evaded his attempt to for another, deeper kiss. “I’m beginning to wonder if you aren’t channeling Devon’s Tamer’s disease; recently you’ve been very horny.” A grin appeared on her face. “I’m commenting by the way, not complaining. Not yet.”
“It’s the company I keep, I assure you.” He made another grab for her. “All of these beautiful women, how can I not want more and more of each of them?”
She stepped back, shaking her head and making her massive golden braid swing slowly. “I have to check on Devon and his harem as well as Lamya’s harem, since she hasn’t left his sight since she got back and we’re still taking care of them.” She cocked her head. “You are supposed to spend tonight with Candace and since she’s still treating Mr. Splinter, you get to spend it at the clinic. Gwyneth will escort you down. Why don’t you stop on the way and tame her?”
After a quick glance around to make sure Gwyneth wasn’t in earshot, he pouted, his ears drooping sadly. “She’s not you.”
She gave a soft chuckle. “No, but if she’s all you’ve got, she’ll do now won’t she?”
“I don’t think of any of my harem as ‘just doing’.”
She nodded. “That’s also good to hear. Now get going.”
“Yes, mistress. As you command, mistress, Shikigor will do.” He hunched over and crabbed sideways as he mimicked having a hump and a clubfoot.
She laughed. “If only.”
Shikarou mused to himself as she walked away that he’d be a lot sillier than that if that’s what it took to make her laugh. He shook himself out of his reverie and went looking for Gwyneth.
They were on the way to the clinic when he saw a silver haired woman waiting up ahead and as he approached he was surprised to see that it was Hatsumi. He was even more surprised when he realized she was waiting for him.
“Hatsumi would like to speak with the kami.” She inclined her head to his escort. “Alone.”
’s eyes narrowed. “I am his bodyguard. He goes nowhere without me.”
“Hatsumi understands bodyguard. Hatsumi only requests some privacy.”
“Gwyneth, give us a handful of meters, please.”
She looked at Shikarou and nodded slowly. “All right.” She moved a short distance away, staying where she could clearly see him.
He turned back to the Demon-Goddess. “What is it, Hatsumi?”
“Hatsumi would like to thank Master Shikarou for helping Hatsumi’s master get his pokegirls back. Master Devon was frantic to help them and without the kami’s aid, he would not have been successful.” She looked deeply into his eyes. “Master Shikarou did what any true kami would have done.”
“Um, thank you for the compliment, but I just helped.”
“That is not true. Master Devon could not rescue his pokegirls on his own and no mortal agency could grant him the assistance he needed. He beseeched Master Shikarou for aid and the kami rescued his pokegirls and gave them back to him. Only the kami had the power to take Lamya’s pokegirls from the pokegirl center, in a way that no one has ever been able to do before, and only Master Shikarou’s skills and knowledge made it possible to solve the murder and free Lamya. The kami acted as only a kami can and Hatsumi is grateful.”
“That is an interesting way of looking at what happened, but the truth is I had help, in fact I had a lot of help, from Aggie and from Devon and his harem, including you, Hatsumi.”
The Demon-Goddess shook her head in denial. “Master Shikarou is most humble, but of course a kami would have access to servants and powers that mortals could not hope to. Master Shikarou is a true kami, a guardian spirit, and Hatsumi understands this completely now.”
Red eyes stared into his. “Because of this, Hatsumi asks a boon of the kami.”
Shikarou flicked his ears irritably. “What is it that you want to ask of me, Hatsumi?”
“Please allow Hatsumi to become one of the kami’s servants.”
He looked shocked. “You want to worship me? Why on earth would you want to do that?”
“There will always be those who will seek to harm Hatsumi and her master, some from the past and some from the future. Master Shikarou is a protective kami and will protect us. Hatsumi understands that Master Shikarou has others to protect and that sometimes they will need protection too, but with Master Shikarou’s aid, Hatsumi knows that Master Devon will be much better protected.”
He sighed. “Look, I’m new at this whole protection thing, and I’m not sure just how good I’m going to be at it. People are praying to me for protection and for kids, for blood’s sake. I’ve never been this kind of kami before. I was a death god, not a kami of protection.”
Hatsumi’s eyes glowed with pleasure. “That is even better than Hatsumi had hoped, Master Shikarou. It means that Master Shikarou understands that all enemies are best when dead.”
Shikarou rubbed his face with a heavy hand. “I give up. Yes, you can become one of my worshippers. Talk to Yushiko and she’ll explain what you need to do.” He glanced at the sky and muttered quietly, “Father, I really hope you’re laughing right now.”
Helen checked to make sure he was alone and settled on the edge of the table. “Got time for me?” Her hands were already undoing the ties on her blouse as she gave him a needy look.
Shikarou smiled as he looked up at her. “You already know the answer to that.” His lips closed greedily around the nipple she offered him and he drank deeply. His eyes drifted shut as he savored the taste.
Helen moaned softly and cradled his head. “When the others drink it just feels good, but when you do it I always want to be tamed.” Shikarou responded by suckling harder. “Oh, kami,” she breathed.
His eyes opened and he looked up at her. She giggled. “You deserved that, you greedy thing.” She gasped when he inhaled her nipple and sucked even harder and her thighs pressed together in a search for relief.
Shikarou released her nipple and stood, opening his pants while Helen checked behind her and shoved a pitcher to the side before laying back and lifting a leg over him to pull him in.
He sank deep inside her as she draped her legs over his hips and pulled; he overbalanced at her tug and came tumbling down in a mostly controlled fall to land with his palms slapping the table on either side of her head. “Deeper,” she moaned in a low voice.
Shikarou lifted her legs onto his shoulders and drove into her until his balls slapped against her ass. The Milktit groaned in pleasure with each thrust, her breasts rocking in time to their lovemaking. She shuddered suddenly and grabbed his braid, pulling him down for a heated kiss. She broke it and whispered against his lips, “I had mine, now you.”
Shikarou changed the rhythm of his stroke as he worked towards his own release and Helen clamped her legs on his shoulders as she lifted her hips to meet his thrusts until he hissed between clenched teeth and buried himself to the hilt as he spilled into her.
The Milktit dropped her legs to the floor and grabbed a napkin to wipe him off as he pulled out. She clamped it between her legs and let him pull her upright, her eyes bright with suppressed laughter as she smoothed her skirt back down.
“Well, my lord, I’ve had my treat, now it’s time for you to finish yours.” She guided his head back to her chest and sighed with pleasure as he went back to feeding.
After a breakfast in which Pythia kept giving him amused glances and Siobhan continued to sniff the air with a curious expression and Helen spent the whole meal laughing quietly at them both, Shikarou was just glad to be escaping the tent.
Helen stuck her head out the kitchen door as he not quite snuck out. “Got a second, oh great master?”
Apparently escape was not meant to be. “Sure.” He followed her into the kitchen, which had changed a lot since the early days. Now the kitchen was a lot larger and there were four large modern ovens, two good sized food storage areas and a sophisticated computer system. Doors lead to other areas including a cheese making room. Milktits produced over 170 liters of milk a day at peak production and something had to be done with it; they had Milktit cheese, butter and cream.
“Try this.” Helen shoved something in his mouth. A velvety chocolate flavor spread warmly across his taste buds and he made an appreciative noise as he chewed. “It’s a new recipe for cookies.” She gave him a glance. “When Branwyn told me that I was going to learn to read, I agreed so she’d leave me alone. I never knew something so small would open up such a huge world for me.” She checked an oven and the buttery smell of bread filled the air. “I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I had to make up my own recipes, which limited me. Now Aggie gets me recipes from the web and I get to use the ideas that other people have come up with. This is so much fun!”
“Is this what you wanted to talk about?”
“Oh, sorry, no.” She gave him an apologetic look along with another couple of cookies. “I’m glad your metabolism runs so high, otherwise you’d get fat on everything I cook.” She winked at him. “And I really enjoy cooking for you and the harem.”
He gave her a tolerant nod. “Your company is delightful, but you wanted something?”
“Are you aware that the harem has meetings to discuss possible issues, usually involving you?”
“Yes, I know about them. Usually it’s to update some entry in my TTR.”
“That’s part of it, but we also compare notes about you in order to keep an eye on your physical and emotional state.”
“I didn’t know that, but it makes sense. I keep an eye on the harem as best I can so I guess it’s only fair.”
She nodded. “Well, some things have been coming up and while no one is concerned as of yet, I wanted to suggest something. I’m still new here, so I didn’t feel it would be right to try to make suggestions to Branwyn yet, but I know I can always approach you.” She gave him a curious look.
He smiled and nodded. “You can.” Helen relaxed slightly. “So what idea do you have?”
“I tend to read just about anything I can find and when the harem started talking about how you seemed to be changing, I started doing some research.”
Shikarou frowned. “What changes are they talking about?”
“There’s a whole series of them. You seem to be getting stronger and faster and your appetite has jumped dramatically.” She smiled. “You are also much more sexually active, at least according to Branwyn.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“So what I was thinking was that we needed to see if they were right, and to try to get an idea of the extent of the changes. I know we can’t quantify how you’ve already changed, but I was thinking that perhaps we could get a,” she paused. “Damn, I can’t remember that word.” She raised her voice. “Aggie, what was I thinking of?”
“The word you want is baseline.”
“Thank you.” She smiled at Shikarou. “She’s been a great help with the technical terms.”
Shikarou was staring at her. “You are incredible. Did you come up with this idea on your own?”
She blinked. “What do you mean? I’m just a silly Milktit.” A smile. “No, I didn’t think of it myself. I told Aggie what we were worried about and she helped me do the research needed to find out how we can help you.” Her ears flicked nervously. “So what do you think?”
“I think you are absolutely incredible.” Shikarou gave her a warm smile. “If I didn’t have Branwyn, you would make a first rate alpha.”
The Milktit flushed. “Stop that.” She gave him a stern look. “I wanted to know what you thought about getting a baseline exam so we can see how and how much you are changing.”
“I think it’s a wonderful idea.” Shikarou munched on a cookie as he thought. “If it’s going to be useful, I’ll need blood work as well as the physical exam.”
“You will also need a mental exam for your emotional state. Circe says she’s not qualified to do it, but she has a sister who could.”
“Ah, yes, this mysterious Stardust she mentioned to me. Looks like I’ll have to meet her after all.” He nodded suddenly. “Tell Branwyn about your idea and tell her I want her to coordinate the appointments so we can get this taken care of as quickly as possible.”
She smiled. “I’ll tell her today.”
“Good. Do I need to milk you again?”
She laughed. “No, I think twice a day is plenty. I love the extra tamings. I’ve never had a master who could do it so often and I never dreamed that I would get laid so much, but the milkings let me have you twice every day without anyone else getting upset. More than that and someone will get jealous.”
“Good point.” He grabbed another handful of cookies. “I’ll see you later.”
“Shikarou! Hold up!” Shikarou turned and waited as Lamya joined him. “I’m not sure I can ever express my gratitude for what you did. I’m sure Devon would have found a way to free me eventually, but you really helped speed things along.”
He gave her a noncommittal smile. “That’s an interesting opinion. How are Morgan and Xifeng doing?”
She blinked at the change in topic. “They’re fine. Now that Tess has rejoined Devon’s harem, I’ll need to make one of them my alpha. Thank you for taking care of them for a time.”
“They were no trouble at all.” He looked into her earnest young face. “What are your plans now? Are you going back to your journey?”
“That’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about, you see we’ve gotten my pokeballs back, the ones the Aggie switched so you and Devon could rescue my harem and I wanted to see if you wanted one of them.”
He nodded. Aggie had told him the pokeballs’ contents earlier this morning. “Did you have someone in mind?”
“Actually, yes, I do. One of the pokeballs has a NurseJoy
in it and I was wondering if you wanted her. Devon already has two, what with Letitia and Florence, and I don’t really have a use for one.”
The Shikarou Urufu Home for Unwanted Pokegirls, are you now? What about the others, the Mysticangel, the Mystikat and the Starmystic? Is she even going to let you know about them? I got them for you, damn it.
I don’t care about them and I could leave a far worse legacy than a home like that. “I would be happy to accept such a remarkable gift from you.” If she’s willing, that would give Faelan one for his household.
Grumble. She’s ruining my gift.
“Ok, Shikarou, I’ll bring her by later today.”
“He’s only got the fox thingy with him; we could kill him and be gone before anyone knew.” Gwen had that sullen look she got when her will was being thwarted.
Mary shook her head as they watched Shikarou head down a path with Pythia in close company. “We are supposed to gather intelligence, not do any eliminations; my orders were quite clear.”
“Oh, come on, they prize individual initiative.”
“Come on? Gwen, you know that isn’t true for me or any of the other female knights. If you want that, we can see about getting you a male knight to be a companion to.”
“No thanks, most of them are idiots.”
“Then stop trying to get me to do something that will get you taken away.” Mary grimaced in exasperation. “Because that’s what you are doing.”
Gwen glared. “You like him don’t you?”
“No, he’s a freak.” She sighed. “I’m just not sure why we are here. I’ve never been on a mission like this where nobody had anything bad to say about my target. The worst I’ve heard so far is that he’s gone too much, but still he’s apparently doing a good job.”
Gwen snorted. “Yeah, I know. And the sheriff was just plain creepy, what with the way she looked at us when we asked her about him.”
Mary agreed. She’d gotten the distinct impression that Molly had been either measuring them for handcuffs or coffins; she wasn’t sure which but was quite sure she didn’t want to know. “If any of the knight commanders had this kind of loyalty, we’d have already saved Britain.”
“So what do we do?”
“We keep watching and reporting. And that’s all.” Her tone was final.
A hundred meters away Pythia snickered. “They’ve decided to let you live for a while longer.”
Shikarou clasped his hand over his heart. “That’s a relief. I wasn’t sure I wanted to die today and I’m sure if I die before I’m ready that it’s a bad omen of some kind.”
She glanced at him. “Why do you tolerate their presence? If you made them slaves, you could feed the Order anything you wanted them to believe.”
He shrugged. “I’m not willing to take that step. Yet.” He glanced at the G-Spliced. “No, I don’t know why I’m not willing to do it; I just know I’m not.”
“I suspect it’s because you like the person she is and are vacillating because you hope to turn her to your side.”
He looked interested for the first time. “That would be something useful. Do you think it’s possible?”
“I don’t know. So far you’ve forbidden us to probe her or Gwen’s mind.” She yawned, her tongue curling as she did. “Are you lifting that restriction?”
He thought for a moment. “Yes. I want everyone to be careful, but I need the data.” He smiled suddenly. “After all, what’s she going to do, decide to kill me?”
“So, Candace has you scheduled for a physical today at 1200 and after I talked to her yesterday she went ahead and made arrangements for your blood work to be analyzed at the Conservatory.” Branwyn looked over at him. “I can’t believe Helen came up with this idea, it’s brilliant.” She smiled thinly. “I’m also more than slightly aggravated that I didn’t think of this myself. After all, I grew up in a research facility. You know, if Helen had any real combat skills I’d suggest you make her your beta, but she doesn’t and in a combat harem that’s out of the question.”
“Let her know you considered it; that will make her feel good.” Shikarou gave an abrupt nod, snapping his thick black braid up and dropping it into Dorothea’s lap. She glanced at him and flushed slowly as she realized he was watching her, but her fingers closed resolutely around his hair and began to slowly caress it.
Branwyn watched with an amused look. “I will. After Candace finishes the physical, we’re going to the arena for some physical testing; strength, endurance, that sort of thing.” She gave him a hard look. “Our goal is to push you until you can’t take any more, so it’s not going to be fun.”
“I thought as much.”
“After the physical testing Candace will take more blood and tonight before bed she’ll collect a third sample.”
“My lord, some of Devon’s pokegirls approach thee.” Since this discussion was not for anyone outside the harem, Branwyn fell silent at Dorothea’s warning as Hatsumi came up, accompanied by Kathryn and Lamya.
Hatsumi gave Kathryn a pointed look. “Hatsumi says ask him.”
The Ladyien gave the Demon-Goddess an annoyed look and turned to Shikarou. “Good morning to ye.” She glanced at Hatsumi once more. “Hatsumi has badgered me into bothering you this morning, and I apologize beforehand.”
Shikarou nodded. “What is it, Kathryn?”
She rubbed all four hands together nervously. “Understand that I think this is utter rubbish and a waste of our time, but Hatsumi’s demanded that I ask ye formally for a favor.”
Shikarou sighed. “Apparently Hatsumi isn’t going to let this drop until you tell me whatever she wants you to, so just do it and it’ll be over.”
Kathryn nodded with a grateful smile. “We want ye to find Maeve.”
Branwyn frowned. “Maeve is dead.”
“I know, but Devon’s never really gotten over it. If we had her, he could try to have her fixed, fail and move on.”
“Devon wants to try to bring her back to life?” Shikarou sounded more than slightly confused. “How is that possible?”
Lamya shook her head. “Not all of her died,” she said simply, as if that explained things completely.
Not to Shikarou. “Someone tell me what is going on?”
Kathryn gave Branwyn a glance. “If ye don’t mind?” When the Unicorn shook her head she turned back to Shikarou. “What do ye know about Maeve?”
“Devon said he lost her, other than that, nothing.”
“Ah, well, Devon acquired Lamya and Maeve together and she was the first member of his harem that he tamed. She’s a Mini Top, which is a special evolution of BunnyGirl
. They only evolve when they either witness or are the recipient of a great deal of physical abuse or violence. Are ye with me so far?”
“After Maeve and Lamya, Devon acquired Tess and meself, in that order and when we got to Glasgow, he was arrested for being a member of Team Viper.”
“That I know a little about. His harem was put up for adoption, wasn’t it?”
“Aye, we were. And Maeve was given to a Tamer.”
“That isn’t in the official reports.”
“Nae, it wouldn’t be. When Ming Die squeezed them for a great deal of money, part of the agreement was that they didn’t admit any wrongdoing, so Maeve’s loss never officially happened.”
“Tacky, but that makes sense.” Shikarou frowned. “Devon’s got some pretty good resources. Why didn’t he find Maeve, or was it that she wasn’t important to him?”
Kathryn winced. “Nae, she was one of the lights in his world, even if she was a bitch to us. She was his first alpha and since he gave me the job, we didn’t get along verra well.”
“Nae, what happened was that before Devon was released from jail, the Tamer who adopted Maeve ran her through a level five conditioning cycle.” Dorothea gasped. “Aye, it destroyed her personality and she was renamed, Kinesha I think.”
“Later we ran across her in the Indigo League, in a pub. Devon was grief stricken and we left right away.” She sighed. “He’s never forgiven himself for losing her. He claims that if he’d somehow been better, he could have saved her.”
Branwyn snorted. “Utter rubbish.”
“Aye, I agree, but that doesn’t change how he feels.” She grimaced. “Hatsumi thinks you can find her and bring her back, if we asked ye to try.” The frown deepened. “She also thinks you can restore her, but I know that’s impossible.”
“For mortals, not for kami.” Hatsumi’s voice rang with conviction.
“Whatever.” Kathryn shook her head. “So I’m here to ask ye to look for her, in yer spare time, of course.”
Shikarou exchanged a look with Branwyn, who shrugged. “So you want me to look for Kinesha. Anything else?”
“Hatsumi would like for Master Shikarou to restore Maeve’s mind. Hatsumi knows that this would make Hatsumi’s master very happy.” The Demon-Goddess gave him a confident stare. “Hatsumi knows that the kami can do this.”
“I cannot make any promises.” Shikarou’s voice was flat.
“We know,” Kathryn answered. “I don’t expect you to find her, much less bring her back.”
Shikarou’s ears flicked in annoyance. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Branwyn gave him a startled look. Why are you agreeing to this?
He gave an almost imperceptible shrug. First, Devon came whining to me that he couldn’t save Lamya and her harem and we get them back. Then he ignores his responsibilities to his pokegirl’s pokegirls and we have to take care of them. His alpha should have pointed out to him that he was ducking his responsibilities, but she dropped the ball on that and now she’s telling me that ‘you can’t do that’. I’d like to smack her smug ass around, but since I shouldn’t do that I’ll just make the twit eat her words. Teeth glinted in a silent snarl.
Branwyn stared at him for a moment in shock. “Very well, ladies, you heard him.” She recovered her composure quickly. “Now I have a question for you. When are you likely to be moving on?”
“We are leaving tomorrow.”
His alpha’s eyes narrowed. “And just when was I going to be informed about this?” She glanced at Shikarou. Arrogant little bitch, isn’t she? We’ll find Devon’s rabbit and when I’m done, she won’t have to eat her words; I’m going to shove them so far up her ass that she’ll taste them.
“Take off your clothes and lie down on the bed.” Candace gave Shikarou a tiny grin.
“Don’t I get any foreplay first?” He began to quickly strip.
Her grin widened. “Not this time and for a change I’m going to be sticking things in you.”
“That doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun as when I do it to you.”
“You’re probably right, but I’ll enjoy this as much as I can.” Candace had already measured him and weighed him and now she proceeded to give him a thorough physical examination, which of course included at least one thing he enjoyed not at all, a prostate exam.
When she was done she threw the rubber gloves in the trash and pointed to a door. “You can clean up in the bathroom. Oh, and while you are in there, you’ll find two sample cups. I need a urine sample and a semen sample.” She gave him an extremely amused look. “And no cheating. I’d let you have help with the second sample, but if I did, I doubt I’d get the whole thing and that’s what I need, since I’m going to be checking volume as well as composition. So, do it yourself.”
He gave her a disgusted look before disappearing into the bathroom. “First Kathryn and her bullshit and now this crap is happening to me. Today sucks.”
The arena stands seemed relatively full of people; most of his active harem was present, along with several members of his inactive harem, including Molly, Candace, Lynn and Alice. To his surprise, Poppet was seated next to Candace, talking quietly to the NurseJoy
“What’s Poppet doing here?”
“Someone had to come get the blood work samples and I guess she decided to do it herself.” Branwyn seemed unconcerned. “That makes sense; she’d be interested if only to continue evaluating you as a breeding partner.”
“Ok. What am I doing first?”
So, for the next half hour, Shikarou picked things up, and in the process determined that his physical strength had more than doubled from what he estimated he had when he arrived here.
Next there were the endurance tests. These were set up with Yushiko and Dorothea sparring with him until he was too exhausted to continue. Breaks were only to replace broken bokken and drink some water. The pokegirls were instructed to push him hard and he was only allowed to defend himself and not counterattack, and this they did admirably.
Shikarou was surprised that he lasted for over half an hour of punishment, only conceding defeat when he could no longer raise his sword.
Immediately Candace came out with her needles and sample bottles to draw more blood and even demanded another urine sample, which he provided after a quick trip to the bathroom.
Poppet came out to give him a quick hug and jerked away from him immediately. “Yuck, you’re sopping wet.” She looked at her soaked shirt and gave him a wry grin. “Isn’t that supposed to be the girl’s job?”
Shikarou was too tired to glare at her properly, so he instead grabbed her and tried to dry himself by rubbing his sweaty body against hers while she tried to push him away, protesting the whole time.
“So what are you going to do next, Shikarou?” Devon gave him a curious look.
“I’m not sure. I was expecting to make it through the first leg of the Blue League County Finals, so I hadn’t planned anything. How about you?”
“I’m going to spend some time with Letitia and Florence, so I’ll be shuttling between the Conservatory and Belfast. In addition, Zelda wants to go back to her home and see if we can’t find her parent’s bodies to give them a decent burial.” He sighed. “I’m not sure I want to do that. It’s quite likely they were converted by the Wasps and I’d prefer it if she didn’t have to think about that.”
Shikarou nodded. “If I remember correctly, the place was damaged by fire, so why not go ahead of her and finish the job? That way she can assume the corpses were cremated in the ruins and won’t think to worry about it.”
Devon looked surprised. “Brilliant! I may just do that.” He glanced over as Hatsumi appeared. “There’s my ride. Take care.” He stepped into the Demon-Goddess’ arms and was whisked away.
Shikarou watched the empty spot for a minute. “Oh, no problem, Devon. You are very welcome and I didn’t mind giving up my plans at all. Your gratitude made it all worthwhile.” He snorted. “Oh, wait, you never even said thank you.”
Sir Gregory advanced and kneeled. “Your Majesty.”
The woman on the throne nodded. “Rise, Sir Gregory. What have you to report to me?”
“I have nothing out of the ordinary to report, your majesty.”
She cocked her head quizzically. “Don’t you?” Her tone held an air of whimsical amusement and the four identical Dragonesses along the wall stirred. “Aren’t you going to finally tell me that the Grimoire of Danu is back on Earth? Or did you think I wouldn’t find out about what happened with Sir Marcus in Glasgow?”
Sir Gregory turned white. “Your Majesty, we are still investigating what happened and I didn’t want to trouble you with an incomplete report.”
Her voice cut at him like razors. “You are overstepping your authority, Gregory.” When she dropped the honorifics, it was a sign that things were not good for the person she was talking to. “You have been my right hand for many years, but I remain the queen. I was the queen before your great-grandfather was born and I will remain the queen after your great-grandson dies, should you live to have a son.” Her tone hinted that this might be questionable.
“I gave specific orders that the slightest sliver of information about certain subjects would be brought to me immediately, no matter how vague or fragmentary. Do you remember what those subjects were, Gregory?” she asked in a silky voice. “I’ll even give you a hint, there were four of them. Do you know what they are?”
“Yes, my queen.” Sir Gregory trembled.
“Enumerate them for my benefit, Gregory.”
“The Grimoire of Danu, my queen. The sword Excalibur, my queen. Any information about the Sidhe, my queen, and anything about the return of Arthur from Avalon.”
“Correct. Now Gregory, if you fail me again, in the slightest thing, I will not be pleased.”
Sir Gregory kneeled again. “My queen, I hear and obey.”
“That had better be the truth, Gregory. More than your life hangs in the balance.” Gregory gave her a look of sheer terror. “Now, tell me about the Grimoire.”
“Yes, your majesty. After we determined that the park in Glasgow held a controller for the cargo transport, Sir Marcus was dispatched to collect it for study. While he was attempting to complete his duty, a Tamer activated it and he and several pokegirls were transported to asteroid base C-17.”
“We do not know what happened there, but we do know that the Tamer returned several hours later. Sir Marcus determined that the Grimoire was present and attempted to recover it, however he was unsuccessful.”
The queen nodded. “Yes, I’ve seen the police report. Where is Marcus now?”
“He’s currently doing work in our base on the Indigo plateau, your majesty.”
“I want to question him, Gregory. Today.”
“I’ll make the arrangements immediately, your majesty.” He started to rise.
“It’ll wait until after our little talk, Gregory. You were telling me about the Grimoire?”
“The Tamer who recovered the Grimoire is Shikarou Urufu and he’s a landlord here in the Isles, my queen. He holds tenancy over your lands on South Uist, which he has renamed Caomh Sith.”
“The Home of Peace? This man is an optimist.”
“Yes, my queen. He resides there, but has most often been on the road, competing at gyms for badges so that he can compete in the Blue League Competition.”
“Who rules when he is away?”
“There is an ElfQueen
who claims to be his queen, but we believe that Urufu’s half brother is the true ruler. He’s a retired operative of the Planetary League Council by the name of Faelan Wolf who lives on the island.”
The queen laughed. “Faelan Wolf? How quaint. So where is the Grimoire?”
“We believe that Urufu has it and keeps it with him while he’s traveling. We have an operative on Caomh Sith and according to reports he’s currently on the island.”
“Why hasn’t the Grimoire been taken into custody?”
“There was an attempt made, my queen, when Urufu was in Edo, one that resulted in the death of a knight. Another knight returned to report that Urufu is a mage with some very powerful blood gifts, something that we were not aware of until that point.”
“Our agent is gathering information so that our next attempt to recover the Grimoire will be our last. I’m considering using the Templar Knights in the attack.”
“You consider him that powerful?”
“The situation is unusual, my queen. Urufu shows some unusual abilities and powerful magic. His harem also appears to be quite powerful and I believe that caution is indicated.”
The queen was silent for a moment. “I agree. Sir Gregory, you will use the Templar, but you will not initiate any attempts without my express direction, is that clear?”
“Of course, my queen.”
With a clink, the little blue plastic disk sailed into the cup. “I win!” Belinda grinned up at Shikarou as her sister frowned. “I win!”
“Yes, you did.”
Tamara glared at her sister. “I think she cheated.”
Shikarou chuckled. “I’m afraid unless she has suddenly developed telekinetic powers; your sister beat us both fair and square.”
The Growlie crawled into his lap, pondered for a minute, and announced her solution. “I’m going to have telekinesis when I grow up,” she announced confidently. Her head twisted to look up at him. “Can I?”
“When you get older you will become a Growltit, which can evolve into a couple of different things, but I’m not aware of an evolutionary path for the Growltit that has telekinesis.” Tamara pouted as he draped his arms over the ten year old. “However, new evolutions are still being discovered, so if you still want, when you become a Growltit, we’ll see about getting you a Psi-crystal and conduct a few experiments. Will that satisfy you?”
She nodded. “Yeah.”
Belinda’s eyes narrowed. “I want to be a Dragoness and a Denmother and a Sphinx.”
Shikarou raised his eyebrows. “Ooh that one’s going to be a toughie.” He glanced at his watch. “Girls, I have to go, I’m supposed to be meeting someone in a little while.”
“Tiddlywinks are boring with just her,” Tamara announced. “Let’s go play Legendaries!”
Belinda grinned. “Yeah. I wanna be Typhonna.”
Tamara glared. “I’m going to be Typhonna.”
Shikarou sighed. “Ok, Belinda, you called it first, so you can be Typhonna.” He touched her nose and her fur changed to a dappled green that spread down her in a wave.
“What about me?”
Shikarou touched Tamara’s nose. A dull silver spread across her fur. “You can be MechaTyphonna
.” He leaned down and whispered in Tamara’s ear. “She has missiles.”
“Only if I don’t call it first!”
Shikarou put Tamara down and stood up. “I think you still need something before you go terrorize Nyu-Tokyo.” He snapped his fingers and a cloth bag appeared. “Here you go.”
He handed the bag to Tamara, who opened it up and reached inside to pull out a gumdrop. “What are these?” she breathed. The two Growlies stared at him with an intensity that reminded him of Border Collies waiting for their orders, eyes bright and ears up. Even their tails quivered slightly as they waited.
“All right! We get to eat the people! Let’s go!” The sisters raced out of the inn, almost running into Circe as she came in.
“You’re letting them have sugar? Before dinner? Molly is going to have your hide.” The Alaka-Wham glanced at the table and all of the chips flew into the cup.
“There is a long and venerable tradition of uncles spoiling their nieces,” Shikarou announced frostily.
“Yes, and an even longer one of their mother killing the uncles for it,” she replied.
“Some traditions need to end and I suspect that’s one of them. So, what do you want?”
“I’m here to take you to see my sister, remember? She wants to meet you on her terms for the first visit.”
He nodded. “Ok. Let me get my stuff.”
Circe led Shikarou out of the alley. “There’s her clinic.” It was a nice little two story with office space on the first floor and living quarters on the second, pretty typical for the Blue Continent, not to mention Glasgow. “She goes by the name of Victoria here; people don’t think Stardust is a proper name for a therapist.”
Once inside, Circe nodded to the young pokegirl behind the desk. “Mandy, this is Shikarou Urufu.” The temperature was noticeably on the chilly side and Shikarou wondered why.
The pokegirl is a Margarita, the ice evolution of Chichi.
Well, that explains that. You need to stay out of my mind while Stardust is examining me, while she may get information about your existence I don’t want her to have any direct contact with you.
Mandy nodded. “Your appointment is in ten minutes. Would you like to wait?”
Circe glanced at Shikarou and nodded. “Yes, we will.”
A few minutes later Mandy looked up. “You can go in now.”
Shikarou got up and glanced at Circe. “Are you coming?”
She shook her head. “No. She wants to meet you alone.” A smile. “You aren’t worried, are you?”
He raised an eyebrow. “The fact that I’ve gotten used to the psychics in my harem does not mean I want just anyone poking around in my head.”
She nodded. “That’s a good attitude to have. Keep it.” She smiled. “Make her work for it, she’ll respect that.” The Alaka-Wham shivered. “Damn, it’s cold. I’m going to wait outside.”
Shikarou opened the door and stepped quietly into the room. It was nicely furnished and he smiled at the traditional couch. An Alaka-Wham wearing a nice grey suit was standing at the window and looking outside as she sipped at a bottle of liquid his nose identified as orange juice. “Stardust?” he quietly called.
She jumped and the juice flew everywhere as she spun with a shocked look on her face. “What the hell?” Her eyes were wide and her antenna quested in his direction.
“I’m Shikarou. Circe brought me here for an examination.”
She continued to stare and he felt her mind testing his shields. “How?” She frowned. “Circe wasn’t kidding about your shields. I can’t feel you at all.” It seemed to unnerve her and she kept facing him as she backed behind her desk.
Once behind her desk she seemed to relax a little as Shikarou watched her. “Please sit down, Mr. Urufu.”
“I’m not used to being called Mr. Urufu. Please call me Shikarou.” He settled into a comfortable looking overstuffed chair.
She nodded slowly. “Very well. Shikarou it is.” Her eyes narrowed. “I still can’t feel you, even though I know you are here in front of me. How did you construct your shielding?”
“Magic. I have little psychic powers of my own and use magic to protect myself.”
She shook herself. “That’s interesting. You are aware that you are going to have to lower your shields before I can examine you.”
“Yeah, I understand.” He frowned. “I’m not too happy about it, and I’d like to ask if I could put shields around this room first, but I know what I have to do.”
“Why are you so, um, defensive?”
He shrugged. “I was mind raped as a teenager. A powerful psychic was looking for a husband and decided I’d do. She wasn’t the type to bother asking me, she just took me over.”
Stardust looked surprised. “May I inquire as to what happened to her?”
“My father found out and was slightly miffed. He has this irrational dislike of rape and took steps. She ended up being burned at the stake.”
“Oh.” She gave him an odd look. “I can’t do anything until you drop your shields.”
He sighed. “All right.” His eyes unfocused briefly and then he nodded.
“It’s like you just popped into existence.” Stardust shook her head. “Your magic is quite remarkable.” She smiled. “Now just tell me what is bothering you.”
“How about I just relax and let you poke around? After all, my talking isn’t going to do anything except make me think I’m being useful.”
Stardust blinked. “For a non-psychic, you are remarkably well informed.”
That earned her a smile. “My very first crush was a psychic and while I was silly enough to think that I could impress her, I learned everything I could about how psychics and their powers work. I did learn a lot, but she never noticed me.” His ears flicked. “I realized later that there was no way she couldn’t know what was going on and ignoring me was probably the best she could do.”
Shikarou glanced at his watch and then settled back and closed his eyes. “So just do this.”
“All right.” Stardust slipped into his mind.
She stepped into a corridor of dressed stone and looked around carefully. “So, he uses mental constructs. Once again, unusual for a non-psychic.”
“Thanks.” Stardust whirled to see Shikarou leaning against the wall. “However, if you’ll remember, I said I didn’t have a lot of psychic abilities. You assumed that meant that I had none.”
“How are you here?” She frowned. “I could be anywhere in your mind.”
“I use the mental constructs to channel attackers to where I can deal with them and even though you aren’t an attacker, they did their job; so I knew where to meet you.” He smiled. “Don’t worry, I’m just here to observe.”
“I can’t worry. No emotions, remember?”
“Oh, right.” He fell in alongside her as she headed down the corridor. Periodically wooden doors appeared and fell away after she cracked them open to peer inside.
“You’ve got good compartmentalization.” Apparently she didn’t mind the company.
“Thanks. My father and Willow showed me how to do it.”
Stardust gave him a shrewd look. “Willow. Is that the pokegirl you were talking about? The one who ignored you?”
“Willow’s not a pokegirl, but yes, she’s the psychic I mentioned.”
Suddenly Stardust stopped with a frown and stared at the blank wall. “There should be a door here. I can feel it.” She ran her hand over the wall and jerked it back as there was a snapping noise and a flicker of energy. “Damn, that hurt.”
“Are you ok?”
She nodded, still staring at the wall. “I’m not supposed to open it.” She gave him a quick glance. “This kind of thing happens for a couple of reasons. One is there is something that you are trying to not remember. Another is that there is something that someone else is trying to keep you from remembering and the last is that there is something in there that isn’t part of you.”
Shikarou looked interested. “Which do you think this is?”
“It’s not you trying to suppress a memory. The door would still exist, only the construct would show some kind of locks or a guardian.” She frowned. “We need to be careful; a guardian could hurt me if it is powerful enough. Are you aware of the limitations of constructs?”
“What do you mean?”
“Constructs are only as powerful as you imagine them to be. If you have a weak imagination, your constructs are weak and conversely if you have a powerful imagination and will, your constructs can be like Legendary pokegirls. So, how’s your imagination?”
“I’m a mage, imagination is part of spellcasting.”
“Crap.” She glared at the wall. “I only know that a door should be here because of the regularity of your mind, doors are set at exact intervals. Otherwise I can’t detect a thing.”
She gave him a look. “Are you willing to help me?”
“Sure. What do I have to do?”
Her antenna twitched. “I’m going to have to link my mind with yours so that you can see past the construct and then you are going to have to open the door.”
“Ok. Let’s do it.”
Stardust touched her antenna to his forehead. “Ok, tell me what you see.”
Shikarou looked at the wall and blinked in surprise. “There’s a door, but it’s not like the others we’ve seen so far. It’s technological, made of metal and has a touchpad for DNA identification. There’s a weapon’s blister above the door and I don’t know what kind of weapon is in it.”
“You need to open the door. Imagine the touchpad is keyed to your DNA and everything should be fine.”
“All right.” Shikarou squared his shoulders. “Here goes.” He pressed his hand against the touchpad and the world changed.
They were outside and standing on a hill overlooking a village. Smoke rose in a thick column from at least a half dozen burning buildings and the air was heavy with the scent of death.
Shikarou looked down and could see the tiny figures sprawled around like toys carelessly tossed by a child and knew what he would find once he got down there.
He heard Stardust’s voice next to him. “What happened to you?”
Shikarou glanced at her and then looked down. Stardust had shrunk to about two thirds his height. “What the fuck?”
She gave him an odd look. “I was wondering that myself. We appeared here and you grew.”
“I grew? Are you sure you didn’t shrink?” He shrugged. “I actually hope you are right, because I know what’s down there.”
“Oni or bandits. I recognize the type of village, it’s Japanese.” He frowned. “What should we do?”
“The only way to get through a mental construct is to either crash it or make our way along it. I’ve already tried to crash it and failed.” She grimaced at the admission. “I didn’t think that was possible, but it happened. Now we only have one path. You have to be true to your nature, that’s the only way to get through this.”
Shikarou gave her a wry grin. “Great, now I have my own spirit guide.”
Stardust ignored him. “I’m vulnerable here, particularly since I have no combat skills. You’d better lead.”
“What happens if you get killed here?”
“You don’t want to know.” She gave him a tiny smile. “At that point you’d better hope Circe likes taking care of vegetables, because there will be two in my office.”
“Right. Success it is.”
“I thought you’d understand that quickly.”
Shikarou headed down the hill, closely followed by Stardust. Approaching the village, he saw that it was either populated by Japanese dwarves or she was right and he’d grown.
Bodies lay everywhere, most in pieces and the ground was so sodden with blood that it squelched with every step. Most of the bodies were men and boys, few females were present.
Suddenly Shikarou stopped, his ears twisting as he put out a hand to halt Stardust. He heard a rhythmic grunting and shook his head slowly before moving slowly in the direction of the sound.
It was coming from the headman’s house. Shikarou extended his claws and gave Stardust a warning look. She nodded and slipped up close behind him, not exactly what he wanted, but it would do. Slowly he opened the door to a scene from hell.
Bodies and bits of bodies lay everywhere and the blood formed a pool that extended from the door across the entire floor, even curling underneath the small group of the living huddled together on the far side of the room. All were women or girls and all were nude.
The noise came from a darkened corner on the far side of the room and Shikarou opened his eyes wide to maximize the light coming into them as his pupils dilated.
The woman was on all fours and her body rocked forward heavily each time the black wolf oni thrust into her. It held her by the hair, pulling her head up and her eyes were open and empty.
Its head turned to look at Shikarou and its ears went back as it snarled loudly. The women screamed and pressed themselves as far away from the creature as they could.
It slid to its feet and the woman slumped forward, unconscious or dead and Shikarou knew where he’d place his money.
Its voice was a angry rasp. “You again.” It looked past him. “You brought me something tasty.” A smile twisted the muzzle as Stardust squeaked and pressed herself against Shikarou.
Its eyes narrowed as it looked him over. “You’ve grown more powerful, but you can’t defeat me. Even if you do, far worse waits.”
Shikarou summoned his sword. Here it was different, the blade gleamed black in the dim light and glowing runes dotted its length. He lifted the blade and a dreadful hunger seeped from it and down his arm, filling him with anticipation. He fell into a low guard position and waited.
The creature laughed. “You can’t attack, the moment you do, I get your companion.” It moved smoothly forward and to the side. “She cannot cower behind you forever, and if you move to defend yourself, she dies.”
Stardust whispered to him. “There is a way for you to protect me, but it’s dangerous.”
“Do it. I can’t let you be killed here.”
She pressed herself against his back and seeped into his body. “Your construct will protect me and here I’m safe as long as you aren’t killed.”
The black wolf screamed its rage. “No! She is mine! Now you must die!”
Shikarou smiled. “Here is my world, my rules.” He summoned his power and the building exploded away from them. Women screamed and ran in all directions.
The oni grabbed a girl as she passed and threw her at Shikarou as he charged. “Save her if you can!”
Shikarou cut the girl down without hesitation as he met the creature’s attack. He’d have done the same in the real world, the death of this creature was immeasurably more important than the life of any mortal, but here he knew that nothing was truly real, except for them.
The world seemed to slow as his full power exploded inside him and the creature’s blurring attack became almost leisurely. Shikarou knew somehow that only a strike to the heart would end this, any other damage the creature would survive.
The point of his katana slid into the creature’s chest and the feel of bone shattering transmitted itself up the blade as Shikarou thrust. The creature’s eyes went wide and it dissolved into black smoke which was sucked through the sword and into Shikarou.
He screamed and heard Stardust’s echoing scream as if far away as he collapsed to his knees and the hallway reformed around him.
He gasped for air as his heart slowed and the power drained away. Sometime during everything his sword vanished back to its home. Shikarou leaned against the wall and whispered. “Stardust?”
She flowed up out of him like liquid and appeared, holding his right hand. “I’m here.”
“The construct was a mission and you completed it.” She squeezed his hand. “It’s over, but I’m not sure that was everything.” She gestured behind him. “Look.”
Shikarou twisted to see the door. The weapon blister and the touchpad were gone. The door had changed and was now made of stone bound with bands of copper. The lock on the door was hugely made and there was no key.
“How do I open it?”
She touched his shoulder. “You have to find the key. Somewhere in your mind it must exist and this door can’t be opened without it.”
“I’m tired.” He hated admitting weakness, but it was the truth.
“You do not have to find it now.” She smiled at him. “When you completed the mission construct, something changed and until you know what it is, you won’t be ready to search for the key.”
He nodded wearily. “Will you help me?”
“I have never seen anything this complex. Helping you to solve it will be my pleasure.” She tugged at his hand. “Now we must go.”
Shikarou opened his eyes and looked at his watch. “I don’t think any time has passed.” He looked at Stardust as she slowly slumped forward.
He jumped up and gathered her in his arms, listening. Her heart sounded strong and regular and he couldn’t see any injuries. “Circe, something is wrong with Stardust.”
She appeared and placed her hands on her sister’s head. Her eyes closed and her antenna hovered over Stardust’s face. The Alaka-Wham gave a long sigh and opened her eyes. “She’s going to be ok. What you two faced took a lot out of her and she needs some rest.”
Stardust’s eyes fluttered and slowly opened. She smiled slowly up at him. “I look a fright.” She frowned and blinked rapidly. “What the hell? Put me down!” She struggled suddenly to be free and Shikarou dropped her legs to the ground and helped her to stand. She pushed away and grabbed Circe.
Circe helped her sister to the couch and got her settled onto it. Stardust gave her a frantic look. “I don’t understand what’s happening. Help me.” Circe leaned down and pressed her antennae against Stardust’s and they both closed their eyes together.
Shikarou leaned against Stardust’s desk and watched intently as several minutes passed. Finally the two Alaka-Wham’s opened their eyes and turned as one to stare at him with neutral eyes.
He held up his hands. “Whatever I did, I don’t know what it is or if I should feel guilty about it.”
Stardust gave him a slight smile. Circe did not. “Something happened while we were in your mind and it resulted in an unexpected effect.”
“I don’t see.”
Stardust glanced at her sister with an almost impish look. “Should we keep him in the dark?”
Circe was still watching him. “I don’t think it was deliberate, but when Branwyn finds out, she’s going to be very pissed at him.”
“Interesting, but don’t let her hurt him. Not for a while, anyway.”
Shikarou frowned. “Would someone tell me what is going on?”
Circe gave him a flat look. “You bonded my sister to you and not with an alpha bond.”
Shikarou quickly rebuilt his shields. Stardust smiled. You can’t keep me out any more. There was a feeling of vast amusement.
“Branwyn’s not going to be pissed.” Shikarou shook his head. “She’s going to wait until I go to sleep and get a knife, but she’ll do it very calmly.” He sighed. “I don’t know what happened, but I’m sorry it had to happen to you.”
“I won’t be much good in your harem.”
He smiled. “I’m sure we can find a way to utilize you much more efficiently than you might think, but if you really want, you can stay here.”
Stardust cocked her head quizzically. “Are you sure?”
“I am. We are delta bonded, like it or not, and right now I don’t know you well enough to say either way. However, if you are like Circe, you are going to need some time to get used to having emotions, even if they are my leftovers. I would like you to spend some time with us while you adjust, but afterwards you are welcome to come back here if you want and I’ll drop by from time to time to see you, and I don’t mean just for taming.”
Stardust looked at him for a moment and nodded. “I’ll give it a try.” She smiled. “At least now you can’t get another psychic pokegirl to help you.” She gave Circe a glance. “She couldn’t think her way out of a paper bag, so you need me.”
Name: Urufu Shikarou
Residence: Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Security Clearance: Epsilon
Master Tamer Y
Species Name Level
Alaka-Wham Circe 61
Milktit Helen 54
Unicorn Branwyn 53
Seraph Dorothea 45
Ria Kebi 45
Armsmistress Urufu Yushiko 42
Sphinx Lorelei 40
G-Spliced Pythia 38
Vampire Elizabeth 33
Titto Fumiko 26
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
Wales: Magicunt Village