Chapter 17: Preparation
(03/19/99 0730 Blue Continent)
                “Do you like your new rooms?”
                Stardust smiled slowly. “They aren’t my office building, but they’ll do. Will I ever have my own place again?”
                “If you want it, then yes.” Shikarou glanced at Circe. “Thank you for being here.”
                She shrugged. “I’m not sure I can be of any real use, but I realize that you two are still in the beginning phases of your relationship and I’m the only person both of you trust.”
                Stardust settled back in her chair. “Are you ready to try this again?”
                “Would it make you feel better to know I’m as nervous as you are?”
                She winced. “No. Did it occur to you that I might be nervous only because you are?” A glance at Circe. “My sister tells me that it will be a month or so before I start generating my own emotions, so whatever I’m feeling right now probably comes from you.”
                “I can’t do anything about that, so I’m not going to apologize.”
                Stardust gave him an appraising look. “You know what you are responsible for and won’t take blame for what you are not.” She nodded grudgingly. “That is a good start, since I feel the same way.” She closed her eyes. “Let us begin.”
                About fifteen minutes later everyone opened their eyes. Stardust got up and got a pitcher of water and some glasses. “Well, that was a waste of time.”
                Shikarou had a thoughtful look on his face. “I disagree. Oh, we didn’t find a hint about the key or why I think my black sword is normal, but I learned something very interesting.”
                “What?” Circe stretched. “Oh great master, what did you see that these poor mortals could not?”
                Shikarou ignored the theatrics. “Circe, you don’t have a lot of telepathic powers, right?”
                “That is correct.”
                “Stardust, on the other hand, you don’t have a great deal of telekinetic ability, do you?”
                “I don’t have any.”
                Shikarou smiled mysteriously. “How’s your back?”
                Stardust blinked at the sudden change of topic. “Fine.”
                “It doesn’t hurt or anything like that?”
                “No.” She gave him a suspicious look. “Why?”
                “You should be in agony most of the time. Alaka-Whams use a low level of telekinesis to support their breasts, and without any telekinesis you should be in a lot of constant back pain.”
                Stardust gave him a startled look. “That is absolutely correct.” She frowned as she twisted her spine slowly. “No, it doesn’t hurt. Why didn’t we think of that?” she asked Circe.
                Shikarou answered first. “Easy. All of you were tested before puberty and you ‘knew’ that you had no TK before your body started to develop and therefore you presumed that nothing had changed.”
                Stardust gave him an annoyed look. “All right, Mr. Expert, what do you think is going on?”
                Shikarou shrugged. “I have a suspicion, but I’ll need your help to prove it.”
                “Ok. This is becoming interesting and I’m willing to help. What do we need to do?”
                “We need to perform a careful examination of Circe’s mind with your power and my knowledge.”
                 Stardust made a face. “That’s sick. My own sister? No way.”
                Shikarou looked interested. “Now that is an interesting response, and well in line with my theory. Were you raised to believe that going into a sibling’s mind was wrong or is this something that you experienced?”
                Stardust shrugged. “It just is.”
                “Why?” Shikarou sipped at his water. “It’s not an academic question.” He frowned. “Let me explain.”
                “Heaven forbid,” Circe said in an amused voice. “You explain something. We might as well expect you to grow wings.”
                “Ha. I have had you two in my mind at the same time and much about you appears identical.”
                Circe shrugged. “Of course it does, we’re sisters. I mean we are from the same egg and it was duplicated before we developed. I guess that makes us twins.”
                “And yet your powers are almost diametrically opposed.”
                “What are you getting at?”
                “Your mothers can’t seem to not meddle. I’m wondering if they didn’t meddle with you.” He frowned. “I think, considering Circe’s telekinetic strength and your telepathic abilities, that the Pleiades would have taken one look at your individual power levels and blocked some of your abilities away to keep you from being able to access them, thus removing the possibility that you would become a threat.”
                Stardust frowned. “You actually think they would do something like that?”
                “That’s what they do.”
                Circe frowned. “He’s right. That is what they do, especially to perceived threats. And making us believe that being in each other’s minds is abhorrent would make sense then. They don’t want us to find out what’s in each other’s minds.”
                Stardust frowned at her sister. “You really want me in your mind?”
                Circe looked frustrated. “The thought still makes my skin crawl even though I now have an idea why, but if having you in my mind can make me a stronger telepath, I’m willing to give it a shot.”
                Stardust looked at Shikarou. “What makes you think you can find anything that they might have done?”
                “I am the only person on this world that I’ve found to actually have had formal training in psychic powers and techniques, which includes systematic methods of identifying tampering. I know what to look for.”
                “Why were you trained?”
                “My father discovered that I have a tiny bit of both telepathy and telekinesis and insisted that I undergo formal training.” He smiled. “Part of that training gave me the knowledge I use to build my shields.”
                Stardust sat upright. “Your shields are incredible. Will you teach me how it’s done?”
                “Yes, I will. After we investigate for Circe’s and your full abilities.”
                “All right, you convinced me. We’ll do Circe first; if something goes wrong and we fry her brain she might not even notice.”
                Shikarou sighed. “Could we please dispense with the sniping? This is going to be difficult enough.”
                Stardust nodded. “Sorry. I want to see what you are talking about. Let’s get started.”
                The three of them closed their eyes again and another half hour passed. Circe groaned and held her head as she opened her eyes, followed a few seconds later by Shikarou and Stardust.
                “That was incredible.” Stardust sounded like a teenager who’d seen her idol. “Not only have I never employed a technique like that, I’ve never even heard of one like that.”
                “And without it, we would have never found the tampering in Circe’s mind.” He took her hand. “How do you feel?”
                Circe smiled. “My head feels like I’ve been beaten by a Legendary, but you were there when I touched Fumiko’s mind. I’ve never been able to reach that far.”
                Stardust grabbed Shikarou’s other hand. “When can we do me?” she asked eagerly.
                “As soon as Circe gets a clean bill of health, we’ll schedule it.” He frowned. “We may want to conduct your survey outside.” A smile appeared. “The surge of power that happened when we unlocked Circe’s true power was bad enough when it was telepathic, but if your telekinesis does the same thing, I’ll have to rebuild the clinic and bury some bodies.”
                Stardust shrugged. “What was so bad about it?”
                “I went along for the ride.” He grimaced. “I did not need to know that my brother is taming Svetlana right now and I really didn’t need to experience it from Svetlana’s point of view.” He shuddered. “Ick.”
                Stardust started laughing and finally collapsed against Shikarou as she howled with glee.
(03/21/99 0730 Blue Continent)
                Shikarou looked around. Circe, Branwyn, Lorelei, Stardust, Elizabeth and Pythia looked back at him. “We’re here because I want to train all of you in the psychic techniques that I learned. The normal range of lessons usually takes about a year, but we are going to use dream time to shorten the absolute time, although the subjective time should remain about the same. I’ve already explained to each of you what I have in mind and Elizabeth has kindly agreed to help put people to sleep and stand guard until we are done. Are there any more questions?”
                Lorelei nodded. “If these techniques actually improve my telekinesis or teleportation a great deal like you said they might, mother is going to be very interested. May I tell her about what happens?”
                Shikarou thought for a moment. She’ll inform Sexmet no matter what you tell her, so you might as well give her permission. Branwyn’s thought whispered through his mind. Sadly, he agreed with her.
                “I guess you can.” Lorelei looked pleased at his response.
                “Anyone else?” He nodded when there was no response. “Very well. Elizabeth, Pythia, please begin.”
                About ten minutes later, everyone’s nap was over. Branwyn shook her head. “That Willow was a stone bitch, wasn’t she?”
                Shikarou shrugged. “She had the unpleasant job of taking a minor psychic and teaching him a whole lot of stuff he would probably never use. It’s just a good thing that she did so I could teach you.”
                “I don’t care what she had to do; if we ever meet she’s in for a serious ass kicking.” She glared at nothing in particular. “No one treats you that way.” She smiled. “Well, I can, but nobody else.” Stardust managed to turn her laugh into a cough.
                Circe sighed. “Anyone care to try what we’ve all learned?”
                Branwyn grinned. “Me first.” She cocked her head and suddenly chuckled. “Mother is going to give you a call, Shikarou, wanting to know where we are.”
                In turn, each of them tried out the techniques he’d taught them and in each case there was a marked improvement.
                Shikarou gathered them around. “Ok. Now we need to learn to use our enhanced powers in a combat environment. Branwyn will be assigning teams and training will commence at 0530 tomorrow morning in the arena. Pythia, Circe, Stardust, a moment please. Everyone else; today is a free day. Branwyn, they’re all yours.”
                Branwyn grinned. “Ok, he said it’s a free day. That means you belong to me instead of him. The assignments are…”
                Shikarou tuned her out as he touched the minds of the three pokegirls he’d mentioned by name. Even for him this was becoming easier, although his power increases were of a much more modest nature than anyone else’s. His telepathy was up to a couple of kilometers and his telekinesis could now move buttons instead of BBs. Small buttons. Large ones tended to wobble and stay in place. Ladies, I want to get you together sometime in the next couple of days and conduct an experiment. It shouldn’t hurt any of you and might be of more than just academic interest. With your telepathic powers added to Pythia’s dream time, I want to experiment to see if the effects of a level five conditioning cycle can be reversed.
                Stardust blinked. Ambitious, aren’t you. That will be quite a challenge. She smiled. Fortunately for you, you’re cute and I like challenges.
                Will you be helping us? Pythia gave him a curious look.
                If you three powerhouses think my modest telepathic abilities will be of help, I will place myself at your disposal.
                You have a knack for seeing things that we don’t and for thinking so far outside the box that we can’t even see it. Circe sent him a feeling of affectionate amusement. We will need a pokegirl to experiment on. Can you get us one?
                I already have a test subject lined up.
(03/21/99 0930 Blue Continent)
                I think you have a problem, Shikarou. Svetlana just stormed into the tent looking for you and she took Dorothea with her when I told her you were near the pier. Branwyn’s touch was getting smoother each time she contacted him.
                Thanks for the heads up, but couldn’t you have lied to her and told her I was somewhere else? Shikarou slid off the piling he’d been sitting on and looked around. Damn. She can see me.
                Sorry, dear one, she caught me off guard and I didn’t have time to come up with something. Besides I think I’m spending so much time around you I don’t think about lying anymore.
                All right. I’ve got Pythia, if I have to she can teleport me away.
                Svetlana didn’t look pissed, she looked like she thought she should be pissed but wasn’t completely sure. Dorothea looked confused.
                “Shikarou, I need to have a word with you.” She gave him a stern look. “What did you do when you were in Edo?” Dorothea vacillated between standing next to Svetlana and standing next to Shikarou. He gave her a tiny smile and she relaxed slightly.
                “Is it really any of your business?”
                Her eyes narrowed and her mouth firmed. “Do you know why the former head of the Yakuza in Tomakomai is in a hospital?”
                Ah. Shikarou knew this was going to go badly; the only wild card would be Dorothea. This could be interesting, but why not make it fun? “Do I get three guesses and is there prize if I guess right?”
                Oops. Now Svetlana was angry. “Don’t play games with me!” She stepped up and poked him hard in the chest. “I asked you a question and I expect an answer.”
                Shikarou grabbed the finger and twisted it backwards, driving the Megami-sama to her knees in pain and surprise. “Don’t ever invade my personal space when you are upset unless you want an immediate fight.” His voice was an angry growl and his ears were flat. “And never, ever, presume to treat me the way you might treat my brother. I am willing to tolerate your behavior, but only to a point.” He let her go and she got up and backed away, rubbing her finger.
                She mollified her tone slightly. “Did you or did you not do something that might have resulted in the former head of the Yakuza ending up in the hospital alive but without a soul.”
                Might as well get this over with. “Yes.”                         
                She froze. “What did you say?”
                “I took Suzuki Tadao’s soul.”
                The Megami-sama paled slightly. Interestingly enough Dorothea looked pleased. “What, what did you do with it? I demand you return it right now!”
                “I cannot.”
                Svetlana’s voice became shrill. “And just why not?”
                “It is gone. Suzuki Tadao’s soul is forever lost.” He eyed her briefly. “He paid the price for his crime.”
                “Did you blind his son, too? His eye won’t heal!” Her voice rose.
                “I did not blind him. I left him one eye, that he might see the error of his ways.” Shikarou was calm now, with a slightly amused look.
                “How dare you decide to do those horrible things to people?” Her voice was almost a shriek.
                “I am kami.”
                She stopped in mid tirade. “What?”
                “You asked how I dare to do these things. I dare because it is my right as a kami. They violated a protection that I had laid on the Yoshihara family and I responded as is my right and my responsibility.” He smiled humorlessly. “I actually chose the more moderate response.”
                Her mouth twisted sardonically. “Blinding a man and taking another man’s soul was moderate, was it? What would you consider an extreme response?”
                “Others would have left nothing in that building alive, not even the vermin in the walls.”
                She glared at him. “And why didn’t you do that?” He noticed Dorothea perk up.
                “There were people within the Suzuki building that were innocent of the crime I came to punish, and not recognizing that fact would have meant that I had failed in my duty. In my role as a guardian kami I only bring harm those who harm what is under my protection, none else.” He watched out of the corner of his eye as Dorothea nodded slightly.
                “Don’t you ever do that again!” Svetlana’s voice was shrill.
                Shikarou cocked his head curiously. “Why do you think that you can give me orders? I know that I have never given you that impression. I hope that my harem hasn’t given you that impression either because it is a false one.”
                She glared at him. “Fine, I want you to promise that you will never do that again.”
                “I can’t do that. I can assure you that I will only use it on those who deserve it, but I won’t make you any promises that limit my options.” A haunted look slid across his eyes. “I did that once and it was a mistake.”
                “Then you leave me no choice. I will have to speak to Faelan.”
                He nodded. “You will do what you must.” Svetlana vanished as she teleported.
                Shikarou waited a moment and turned to his Seraph. “Yes, Dorothea?”
                She hesitated. “My lord, did this man deserve what thou did to him?”
                “I believe so. He ordered a young man killed because the man’s brother, a policeman, wouldn’t take his orders. That young man was living with the Yoshihara’s and was therefore under my nominal protection.” His voice was bleak. “I couldn’t prevent his death, but I could avenge it.”
                “Did thou make this decision lightly?”
                “No. It was not an easy action to take.”
                “Thou were very firm with Svetlana.”
                Shikarou smiled slightly. “She deserved it.”
                Dorothea returned the smile. “Yes, she did and I was surprised that thou showed such restraint.” She slipped her arm through his. “Thou are not what she thinks.”
                “And what do you think I am?”
                She flushed slightly and glanced at Pythia, who was busy pretending she wasn’t there. Dorothea leaned forward and whispered, “I think that thou are very admirable and that thy actions were just.” She hesitated. “And I would like to ask if thou would tame me.”
                Shikarou didn’t hesitate for an instant. He smiled and put his hand over hers. “Let’s go for a walk.”
                She smiled and her flush deepened. “I would like that, my lord.”
                The walked off the pier and into the nearby trees as the golf cart rolled onto the pier. Helen got out and looked around. “He was here a minute ago.” She gave Pythia a look. “Where is he?”
                The G-Spliced smiled. “He’s in the woods with Dorothea.” Her ears canted sideways. “She asked him.”
                Helen stared. “You must be mistaken.”
(03/21/99 1400 Blue Continent)
                Faelan sat down in the spare chair at the table as Dorothea glanced at him and then went back to observing the other people in the inn. Shikarou chuckled suddenly. “This is the reverse of when we met at Wick. Well, you didn’t bring a bottle of cheap wine, so not quite.”
                Faelan got straight to the point. “Are you going to kick me off your island?”
                Dorothea gasped quietly and returned her attention to the table as Shikarou gave his brother a curious look. “I wasn’t planning on it, why?”
                “Svetlana told me what happened. I know you don’t like being touched by strangers and she was out of line.” He sighed. “I can’t promise that it won’t happen again, you know that.”
                “Aye, I do. She’s a Megami-sama and believes that the universe will fall apart without her Celestial duct tape.” He gave Faelan a hard look. “Next time she does something like that she and I are going to fight.”
                “I’ll warn her. Hopefully it will help. Thanks for letting us stay.”
                “Faelan, you are my brother and I want you to stay here. Your harem, too.” He sighed. “I didn’t think about what Svetlana’s reaction might be.”  A slight smile. “It wouldn’t change what I did; I’d have just been ready for the whole angry Megami routine. I really hope she calms down once she gets pregnant.”
                “So do I.” He glanced at Dorothea. “Thanks for not being mad.”
                “This is our home.” Shikarou shook his head slowly as he stressed the word ‘our’. “We are the only existent members of our family and the last of our clan and for better or worse, Svetlana is part of your family, which makes her part of mine as well, by proxy if nothing else. It will take a lot more than her invading my personal space to really make me angry.” He smiled softly. “Until Dorothea joined me, I thought that you having Svetlana was a mistake on your part, but they do have their benefits. My Celestial is kind of soft and cuddly.” He grinned.
                Dorothea turned bright red.
                Faelan bit off a laugh. “Yeah, they can be that way.” He frowned thoughtfully. “I never knew you could touch souls, at least not before the whole Mantis thing took place. I’m surprised you don’t use it more often.”
                “I’m kami and you are Sidhe, but we are both Tirsuli, thanks to father. Taking someone’s will and reshaping it to yours has to be one of the worst things that can happen to someone, but I will do it if I think it’s necessary.”
                “All right.” Faelan stood up. “I’ll talk to Svetlana.” He sighed. “Order is more like it.” He snorted. “I’ll order to Svetlana.”
                “Good luck.”
(03/21/99 1900 Blue Continent)
                Shikarou dropped the cloth wrapped bundle on the table in front of Dorothea with a clank. She looked from it to him curiously as he smiled. “While not exactly what you asked for, apparently no one makes small shields these days. Even Yushiko is stymied.”
                The Seraph quickly unwrapped the gift, revealing a matching sword and dagger set. “It is wonderful, my lord.” The sword was 105 cm long with a blade 85 cm long with a heavily ribbed basket hilt commonly known as a mortuary sword. The parrying dagger was from the same period and matched the sword. There was also a sword belt and scabbards for both weapons.
                Dorothea looked like he’d given her diamonds. “I will wear thy gift with pride, my lord.”
                “Good. You can use it in training in the morning.” He watched with amusement as Dorothea had to belt on her new equipment immediately and then went looking for Yushiko in order to show it off.
                “She seems happy.” Branwyn watched the Seraph with an amused expression. “Sometimes it’s hard to remember just how young they are.” She glanced at him in time to see his smile. “Don’t give me that look just because you are five times my age.” Her expression changed to curiosity. “When is your birthday?”
                “Fall.” He shrugged. “That’s as close as I can tell you, kami don’t celebrate birthdays.”
                She nodded. “We’ll work something out. Here we give a small gift, if anything. Most pokegirls don’t care.”
                “If you think it’s necessary.” He seemed distracted.
                “What is it?” She touched his arm and he blinked. “Shikarou?”
                “Sorry.” He slipped an arm around her and Branwyn nestled against his side. “Starting tomorrow after training, Circe, Stardust, Pythia and I are going to run some tests to see if we can reconstruct the personality of someone who’s been through a level five conditioning program and I’ve been thinking about that.”
                She nodded. “Eventually you’ll need a pokegirl to work on. Will she be hard to find?”
                “No, I already know where there’s a suitable test subject and Aggie will change the records to indicate that I’m her Tamer when I need to get her. She’s been through the conditioning and then was placed in long term storage. Her owner never reclaimed her.”
                “When will she be ready for adoption?”
                “Technically, never. Someone set her up with a loop that periodically changes the records indicating when she was placed into storage, so she never becomes available.”
                “My god, how long has she been in storage?”
                “Aggie found the original records which indicate she’s been in there since 226 AS.”
                Branwyn choked. “That’s over seventy years. That’s even before Mao’s rebellion. Good lord, go get her now.”
                “There’s no reason to get her now, in fact if I do then I’ll have to tame her. The conditions are supposed to be the same as with Maeve, so I want to do this without her being bonded to me or else I’ll have to do the same thing when we rescue Devon’s Mini-Top.”
                “All right, but she stays even if the procedure doesn’t work.”
                Shikarou eyed her firm gaze for a moment. “Agreed. She’ll join the harem no matter what.”
                “Good. She’ll need a caring Tamer after all of this.” A glint of humor appeared in her eye. “Since we don’t have one of those, you’ll just have to do.”
(03/22/99 0530 Blue Continent)
                Branwyn blinked. “You’re up early.”
                Candace smiled as she settled down at the breakfast table. “I wanted to catch Shikarou before training started, and I know that to do that I have to get here before your breakfast ends. Is he around?”
                “He’s in the kitchen, taking care of Helen. He’ll be out in a couple of minutes.”
                “Master fuck!”
                Branwyn chuckled at Candace’s sudden shocked expression. “That’s right, Kebi. Now eat your breakfast.” She waved a hand over the table as the Ria cheerfully went back to shoveling shredded potatoes and eggs into her mouth. “Care for something to eat?”
                “No thanks; I believe that eating before sunrise is unhealthy.”
                “Does tea count as eating?”
                Candace grinned. “Of course not. Tea is one of the things that helps to keep the spirit going.” She poured herself a cup and made an inquiring gesture in the direction of Branwyn’s cup with the teapot.
                Branwyn nodded. “Please.” As Candace poured she buttered a slice of toast. “So what do you need him so early for?”
                “We got the results of his bloodwork back and there were some irregularities.”
                “Of course there were, he’s not human.”
                Candace shook her head. “It’s not that simple. When he took his Tamer’s exam I drew a blood sample for DNA analysis, per standard procedure. His new sample is different from the original and some of the new results are, um, disquieting.”
                Branwyn gave her a flat look. “Explain.” When the NurseJoy gave her a stubborn look back, her eyes narrowed. “I’m his alpha and if you think you can keep secrets from me about my Tamer, you are wrong. You will tell me what is going on if I have to hold your feet to the fire myself.”
                “He needs to know before or at the same time you do.” Candace still looked stubborn. “He’s my patient, not you.”
                “Fine. I’ll be there as well.”
                “That is his call to make.” Candace sighed. “I know you love him, but you aren’t his wife and legally you have no right to the information unless he allows it. Torturing me isn’t going to change that.”
                Branwyn started to answer when Shikarou popped out of the kitchen. “Candace? I thought getting out of bed before eight would kill you unless there was an emergency.” He frowned. “Is there one?”
                Candace looked at him over her tea. “Honestly, I’m not sure. Your bloodwork came back and something odd seems to be happening. I wanted to catch you before training and talk to you about it.” She glanced at Branwyn. “You might want to continue this in private.”
                The Unicorn’s eyes narrowed. Shikarou nodded. “You are probably right. Branwyn, have Pythia start the training after breakfast, I want you and Circe to hear whatever is going on.”
                Branwyn blinked. “Ok, I’ll talk to her.”
                “Candace, does anyone else need to be involved?”
                “Poppet knows already and she’s at the clinic waiting.” The NurseJoy ignored the sudden angry look that appeared on Branwyn’s face. “She did the analysis and brought me the results, now she would like to be in on the discussion.” She glanced at Branwyn. “She has some specialized information that may be very useful.”
                Shikarou frowned slightly. “Well, that makes sense since she’s got an emotional investment in me and hates being left out.” He gave Branwyn a quick smile. “Kind of like you. So, were you threatening her?”
                Branwyn flushed slightly. “Maybe a little.”
                “I really wish you would stop that. Candace was only doing her job.”
                “She said I didn’t have any right to know because I’m just your alpha and not your wife.” Branwyn glared at the NurseJoy.
                “That is the way the Blue League’s law is structured,” Shikarou admitted. “Maybe we’ll have to do something about that.”
                Branwyn transferred her glare to him. “You can’t change Blue League law.” She snorted. “You’d have to use Scottish law and marry me.”
                “That’s about how I figured it too.”
                Branwyn turned white and then red and suddenly stared at the tabletop. “That’s not funny,” she muttered quietly.
                I am not teasing you. I will marry you someday and perhaps someday should come sooner than later. I love you and I am going to spend the rest of your life with you.
                The Unicorn stared at him, her heart in her eyes. Suddenly she crawled into his lap and started crying softly. Shikarou wrapped his arms around her and cradled her gently. “Candace, we’ll be along in a little bit. Thank you for the information.” He watched the NurseJoy as she nodded and quickly left. Pythia, I want you to supervise training today. Circe, meet me and Branwyn at the clinic.
                Pythia touched his mind gently and he could feel Circe’s presence at the same time. I’ll take care of it. You’ve made Branwyn happy and confused.
                Circe was more amused. Emotional judo. I wonder if it would work for me?
                Circe that is enough out of you. Meet us at the clinic. Twenty minutes.
                I’ll keep Poppet occupied while the two of you bond.
(03/22/99 0630 Blue Continent)
                “Circe told us you said you’d be here half an hour ago.” Poppet gave Shikarou an unhappy look.
                Branwyn shook her head. “That’s what he thought, mother. It’s my fault we are late, but we’re here now. Just let it go.”
                “I don’t like being kept waiting while you two are off having sex.”
                “Mother, when you join the harem then you might be able to bitch at me. Until then, feel free to return home.” Branwyn gave her a direct look. “And just this once I’ll tell you that we were not taming.”
                “What were you doing?”
                “Shall I get you a pokeball? No? Then why don’t you tell Shikarou what this momentous secret is.”
                Shikarou turned to Candace. “Branwyn tells me that there is a discrepancy between the blood samples you took a couple of days ago with the ones you took,” he frowned, “a hundred and eighty three days ago.” His eyes widened. “I’ve been here six months.” A smile. “Seems like six days in some ways and six years in others.”
                Both Unicorns dropped their argument to hear Candace. “Ok, I think a little review of procedure is needed here. In most leagues, when a Tamer takes his or her test, they get a blood sample drawn for genetic identification.” She shrugged. “There is some archaic rule in the original league formation that required it to ensure that the Tamer who was going out was actually the one taking the test. These days that sample is used to program the pokedex with the Tamer’s ID and it’s also used to set up his accounts when he becomes a Master Tamer or Breeder. We also use it to screen for blood gifts and curses since in many cases this may be the first bloodwork that someone from a farm has ever had.”
                “Being nonhuman, your bloodwork had some special considerations and so I sent it to the Thornton Biochemical Institute in Ireland. It’s one of the premier blood analysis centers in the Blue League and has the facilities for a complete workup. They are used to do genetic workups on new pokegirl species and I hoped they could do something useful with your blood.” She gave Shikarou an amused look. “You don’t even have the same number of chromosomes that we do, did you know that?”
                “Yes, I did.”
                “However, they were able to provide me with a genetic map that was sufficiently detailed that I could use it. They also determined that you showed no blood gifts or curses.”
                “When I took more blood for your baseline workup, I sent another sample to the Institute and a sample went with Poppet.” Poppet looked surprised. “You didn’t know because I didn’t think it any of your business. He is my Tamer and my patient.”
                “According to the Institute, your DNA has changed and you added another pair of chromosomes. If you were a pokegirl, I’d say you evolved.” She shrugged. “As you can guess, I don’t know what is going on, but I can tell you that there are some people in Belfast who would really like to study you.”       
                “Noted.” Shikarou did not look eager to rush to Belfast.
                “I thought you’d feel that way.” Candace chuckled. “Now, Poppet did a genetic workup and she did a biochemical assay, the same as the Institute, and both of their results matched.” She frowned slightly. “Is anyone else aware that your equipment is that sophisticated, Poppet?”
                “No, and I don’t want anyone to find out.”
                Candace nodded. “I won’t tell anyone. Anyway, both analysis indicated that something fundamental had changed, so I had Aggie draw up a chart of your taming activities.”
                Shikarou looked surprised. “Why on earth would you want that?”
                She smiled. “First, I’m curious as to how active you are.” Dimples appeared. “You are my Tamer, after all. Professionally, however, I had another reason. The bloodwork indicated that you may have the Tamer’s Disease, and I wanted to chart your libido.”
                “I can not have a blood curse.” Shikarou shook his head. “I’m not human.”
                “No, but has anyone proven that kami can’t be afflicted with either the same thing or something similar?”
                Shikarou blinked and his ears flicked. “Of course not. Prior to this world, no one in Tirsul knew that Tamer’s Disease existed and they still don’t.” He frowned and got a thoughtful look. “Which of course proves nothing. So, what did your work with Aggie show?”
                “Some time in mid-December, your libido started increasing dramatically.” She gave him a slightly anxious look. “It’s still increasing, too, and I have no idea why.”
                Poppet nodded. “Your blood shows the same hormonal markers that Devon has, indicating that you carry the pheromones for causing a taming frenzy. I got a small sample of your original blood from Wick and it doesn’t.” She gave Branwyn a long look. “If he’s like Devon, it’ll be in his saliva and in his sweat as well, but as long as he gets tamings on a regular basis, he’ll be fine.”
                Circe spoke up. “What could have caused this?”
                Shikarou sighed. “What did the sperm sample show?”
                Candace gave him a startled look. “It showed that if you were fertile you could get women pregnant merely by walking near them. If I had an earlier sample of your sperm, I could run a comparison.”
                “Talk to Poppet, I suspect she kept a sample when we first became lovers.” He nodded. “You said things started to change in mid-December. That actually makes sense.”
                Branwyn squeezed his hand. “Care to explain?”
                “That’s when more women started praying to me to become pregnant.” He sighed. “They’re making me a fertility god and apparently they believe that fertility gods do it more often.” A crooked smile appeared. “A lot more often.”
                Circe looked amused. “Care to explain further this time?”
                He smiled. “Gods are beings that draw power from their worshippers and the price for that is the worshippers can shape their god in some ways, emphasizing certain aspects over others, making them wiser or more benevolent; things like that.”
                “The women in Edo are making you hornier?” Poppet gave him a disbelieving look.
                “My worshippers are,” he corrected, “and they are apparently making me more fertile.” He shrugged. “It really won’t be a factor for at least another two years and besides, I’m not exactly indiscriminate in regards as to whom I bed.”
                Branwyn nodded. “And as long as you keep your harem close, the Tamer’s Disease won’t be an issue either.”
                “I thought being a death god had problems.” Shikarou rubbed his ears. “I never thought just killing people could look so attractive.”
                Candace looked surprised. “What do you mean?”
                “In two years I will become fertile. If I’m a fertility god, that means that before February, you and Lynn will be pregnant.”
                “Why us?”
                “You don’t go into a pokeball, so you don’t have any birth control.” He glanced over at Poppet, who had a stunned look on her face. “Yeah, you too.”
                Branwyn chuckled. “So, mother, can I interest you that pokeball we were talking about?”
                Her mother smiled slightly. “I’m starting to consider it.”
                “So, in the short term I’m going to need to tame my women more, which is a tremendous burden, but I’ll manage somehow; in the long term I’m going to have to consider alternative means of birth control.” He sighed. “And with a bunch of horny, baby-wanting worshippers out there, I have no idea just how bad this is going to get.”
                “It’s a good thing they still venerate my protective aspects too, I once knew a powerful fertility deity and all he did was have sex. Frankly, I have more things to do with my time.”
                “Is there anything we can do to help?” Circe gave him a curious look.
                “I’m not sure. I know that I’m finally going to have to visit my shrine and have a chat with my worshippers about how I want to be worshipped.”
                “What if we worshipped you as being less horny?”
                He frowned. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt, although if I hear anyone in the harem praying that I not want sex as much, it might hurt my feelings. How about instead you emphasize my other aspects.” His frown deepened. “I need to talk to Yushiko and find out what they are here. I’ve been negligent in my duties and I guess I need to start acting more like the deity I’m supposed to be.”
                Branwyn giggled. “Bad god.”
(03/24/99 1030 Blue Continent)
                “Who the fuck are you?” The Bun-Bun gave him an angry look. Her shoulder length black hair set off her solid white fur and jade green eyes.
                She waited. When it became evident that he wasn’t going to add to that, she frowned. “Where’s my Tamer?”
                “I will be your Tamer now. Well, in a little while.”
                “So what happened to, to,” she frowned, “to my previous Tamer?”
                Shikarou smiled slightly. “You don’t remember what his name was, do you?”
                “Of course I,” she paused for a long moment and her eyes narrowed, “don’t.”
                “Whoever he was, he ran you through a level five conditioning program before abandoning you.” He leaned back. “Now you are with me.”
                “And if I don’t want to be with you?”
                “If that turns out to be the case then later I’ll find you another Tamer. First, however, we need to run some experiments on you.”
                The Bun-Bun clenched her fists. “And if I don’t want to be experimented on?”
                Her ears twitched and softly slapped against the backs of her knees as she digested his words. “Fuck you.”
                “That will be later, not right now.”
                Her right fist began to glow and she stepped forward menacingly. “I’m going to beat your ass and then go on my way.”
                Shikarou slid to his feet smoothly and the Bun-Bun froze, becoming completely still as the glow died away. Her breathing became quick and shallow.
                He leaned forward and she stepped back quickly and glared as she realized what she’d done. His voice was low, almost a hiss. “Listen to me, rabbit, the fact that you are an extraordinarily pretty pokegirl will not allow you to threaten me. I will not put up with it, am I clear?”
                She shivered. “How did you do that?”
                He smiled and she started breathing normally. “Humans are often blind to the dangers that exist around them, but some part of you recognizes my true nature and knows what my kind does to rabbits.”
                She gathered her bravado around her like a tattered cloak. “Oh, yeah? What do you do?”
                Shikarou stepped up to her and raised his hand. Her eyes widened as his claws slid out and he used the point of one to lift her chin as he rested the line of his body against hers and pressed his lips against the base of her ear. A whisper. “I eat them.”
                The Bun-Bun shivered again and he smiled as he whispered again into her ear. “I can smell your scent changing. You’re getting wet.”
                Her voice was low. “You’re dangerous. That’s making me hot.”
                He smiled and stepped back. “I’ll have to remember that, but I can’t tame you right now?” He raised the pokeball.
                “Damnit, I want…” She vanished into the containment beam as she reached for him.
                He sighed. “So do I, but it will have to wait.” He sat down in his chair. “Stardust?” She appeared as she teleported into the room. “Did we get the baseline?” The Alaka-Wham just stared at him. “Stardust?” he prompted.
                She blinked. “Sorry, I was in the Mini-Top’s mind when you did whatever that was. She’s right, it was scary and shivery and hot.” She frowned. “That was so weird.”
                “Did you get the baseline we wanted?”
                “Oh, yes, I did.”
                “Come here.” Shikarou gathered her into his lap and looked into her eyes. “We’ve got a little while, how about we go somewhere more comfortable?”
                Stardust’s eyes glittered. “Sounds good to me.” They vanished.
(03/25/99 0830 Blue Continent)
                The Mini-Top was laid carefully out on a comfortable couch and Circe checked her over carefully. “You will have to teach me that spell,” she commented as she checked the pulse. “I know they can induce artificial comas with drugs, but I’ve heard of a magically induced one.”
                “Get in line,” Shikarou replied. “Candace wants it; because of it Maude wants to be tested for magical ability; everyone wants this one.”
                Pythia chuckled. “Perhaps this is what happened to Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.” She glanced at Shikarou. “Maude is now interested in magic? How does Faelan feel about his NurseJoy wanting to learn spells?”
                “While he wasn’t turning cartwheels over the idea, I did get the impression he was quietly pleased.”
                Stardust looked curious. “Her brain activity is minimal. Could this be used in the place of anesthesia?”
                “Sure. It’s used for that all the time on Tirsul.”
                “If it’s so useful the medical profession is unlikely to want to use it,” Stardust suggested in a voice that dripped contempt.
                “You might want to pull your skirt down, your prejudices are showing.” Shikarou smiled slightly. “Just because they were stupid enough not to let you attend medical school doesn’t mean they are too stupid to be innovative.”
                Stardust gave him a lofty look. “I think it means they are too stupid to suck air and walk at the same time.”
                “Some say that the best revenge is just living well.”
                Stardust grinned. “Whoever said that hadn’t just found out she had telekinesis strong enough to level the medical academy where they laughed at her.”
                He folded his arms. “Well, she’d better not do that.”
                The Alaka-Wham stuck out her tongue at him. “Nyah.”
                “So, how long will she be unconscious?” Circe tried to steer the conversation back to business.
                “She’ll be under for as long as I want. I remember one person being in a coma for a century, but I’m really hoping this won’t take that long.”
                Pythia nodded. “Considering that I’m unlikely to live that long, I hope you are right.”
                Stardust settled down behind her desk. “Make yourselves comfortable. Please remember to keep your arms and legs inside the mental construct at all times.”
                There was a tired chuckle at the old joke and everyone closed their eyes. Two hours later everyone got up for a break.
                Stardust settled down next to her Tamer. “If they pitched her off of a cliff, do you think they could have made a bigger mess out her mind?” She leaned against him comfortably. “You know, I’m getting used to this physical contact thing you insist on much more quickly than I thought I would.”
                “Have you realized what the problem is?”
                She nodded. “Yeah, your bunny has been through at least two level five conditioning cycles and they were at different times in her life.” She rubbed her nose against his shoulder. “Ah, that feels better. I’m not sure we can separate out the different lives she led and put them back together.”
                He nodded thoughtfully. “Maybe we shouldn’t try.” He smiled slightly. “The goal of this experiment is to integrate all her memories into a coherent whole from birth until now. Why should we care about when the memories took place or when they got erased? She’ll reorganize them temporally as we piece them together which means we still just have to link them up to her active mind.”
                Stardust’s mouth gaped and she closed it with an effort. “Out of the mouths of babes.” She sighed. “I’m supposed to be the genius here. Hey, I just had an idea. It doesn’t really matter when the memories got messed up, all that matters is that we uncover them. She should be able to do the rest.” A grin. “What do you think about my idea?”
                Shikarou gave her an amused look. “Sounds wonderful. You are a genius.”
                Stardust almost purred against him. “I know. It’s a terrible burden for me sometimes.”
(03/27/99 1430 Blue Continent)
                “Do you think I should feel grateful for you restoring my memories?” The Mini-Top was on the couch with her arms around her knees and a pensive look on her face. “My whole life has been climbing out of one shit pit and falling into the next one.”
                Shikarou settle down on the couch next to her and offered a hip flask. “Drink?” She snagged it from him and took a long pull. “I don’t know if you should be grateful or not. I do know that you’ve had your life taken from you twice, both times without your permission. I do know that you have all of that back.” He took the flask back, which earned him a dirty look. “I also know that if you are convinced that you can’t live with what we’ve done, I’ll run you through another cycle.” He frowned. “Or end your life, if that is what you would prefer.”
                The Bun-Bun twisted her head to look at him. “Do I have a name?”
                “Nanu.” He smiled slightly.
                “Nanu.” She seemed to roll it around in her mind and shrugged as she returned to staring at the wall. “What happens to me now?”
                “Two things. I want you to join my harem for one thing.”
                “What’s the other thing?”
                “We contact Guinness Book of World Records. You’ve set a record for being in long term storage and we need to document it.” He glanced over to see Nanu staring at him. “It’s true, you have.”
                “You are bizarre.” She sighed. “Any chance I’ll get another drink?” Shikarou offered her the flask. “Thanks.” This time she drained it dry in one long drink.
                “Why don’t you give me your life in a thumbnail sketch?”
                “Another test? Fine. I was born a human and thresholded into a Bunnygirl at age fourteen. At fifteen I got my first Tamer, a jackass named Robert Bates who was also a mage from Vale. He decided I was depressed over both leaving home and being a Bunnygirl and ran me through a level five conditioning cycle to fix my problems. At seventeen Rob evolved me into a Moon Bunny and later that year he acquired Donna, a Killer Queen. Donna murdered his previous alpha and took her place and over the next year systematically brutalized me until I finally evolved into a Mini-Top. After that I proved too much for her to handle and she made Robert put me through another level five cycle and dump me.” She shrugged. “The next thing I knew I was facing some freak with dog ears who told me he was going to use me for an experiment. I argued with him and apparently lost. Now, I’m here with the freak.”
                “They’re wolf ears.”
                She glanced at him with a tiny smile flickering around her lips. “Is there much of a difference?”
                “There is to me.”
                The smile grew. “As you command, master.” She reached over and rubbed one of the ears under discussion. “They’re very soft.”
                “I suspect yours are softer.”
                She frowned. “Haven’t you touched them yet? You had me asleep for several days.”
                “That wouldn’t be right.” His ears flicked. “I know, I know. I’m willing to dig around in your mind with a shovel but I won’t touch you without permission. It’s weird.”
                She twisted her body around to face him. “You really think you were helping me, don’t you?”
                He glanced away. “Yes. I also thought that once your memories returned, you’d be grateful for our help. I also hoped you’d be happy in my harem.”
                “I’ve seen some of your harem members; just what do you think I could offer?” She scratched at her nose. “I’m nobody. I’m a nineteen year old bunny and I’m seventy three years behind the times.”
                “Did you learn spells with Robert Bates?”
                She blinked. “It was my specialization. I learned everything he knew and more.”
                “Most of my harem can use magic and so far I’ve been the only one parceling out spells. They’ll be happy to learn from you.” His voice fell. “So will I.”
                Her eyes widened. “You think I can teach you?” A grin appeared as he nodded slowly. “What do I get?”
                “I’ll teach you some of the spells I know. I’ll also train you,” he smiled thinly, “until you drop and then I’ll heal you and train you more, until you’ll be eager to fight because it’ll be easier than the training.”
                “I’ll also be your lover and your friend, if you let me.”
                She snorted. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
                “So stick around and see.”
                “You’d really cycle me again if I want or let me go?”
                “If that’s what you really want.”      
                She blinked. “What I want? What I want is a cheeseburger, fries and a huge chocolate milkshake.”
                Shikarou pulled out his wand and a trolley appeared. He reached out and pulled it in front of Nanu. “Enjoy.” The air filled with the smell of cooked meat, potatoes and chocolate.
                She stared at him for a moment and then started cramming food into her mouth. She eyed him as he took a handful of chips for himself and nibbled on them as she ate. Her shake looked to be about two liters in size and she drank most of if before settling back with a tremendous belch. “God, I’m stuffed.” She rolled an eye in his direction. “I won’t fight if you tame me now.”
                Shikarou smiled slightly. “I’d love to take you to bed and I know I’ll have to tame you soon enough, but I don’t want you to hurl in my bed.” She gave him a weak smile. “Yeah, I didn’t think so either. So you sleep and I’ll just keep you company.”
                Her eyes slid halfway shut. “What will you do?” she asked in a sleepy voice.
                He waved his wand and a huge book appeared floating in the air in front of him. The cover was of some white rock and as he opened it, the leaves appeared to be made of beaten copper. “I’ll do some reading while you sleep.”
                Only someone with hearing like his could have heard her muttered “ok.” Shikarou snagged a couple of the leftover burgers and sent the trolley away. An hour later she shifted against him and began to softly snore.
(03/28/99 1200 Blue Continent)
                “God’s blood but that feels good.” Nanu dropped slowly into the hot tub with a moan of pleasure and promptly shifted until a jet was pounding against her back. “This is almost as good as sex.”
                Pythia had slid into the water until her muzzle was just breaking the surface and she looked like a blue furry alligator. “You say that after last night with Shikarou?”
                “Don’t remind me. That was almost as intense as our morning workout.” She smiled. “More pleasurable by far, but just as intense. Is it like that all the time?”
                “Which, taming with him or training?”
                She shrugged. “Either, both.”
                Pythia chuckled into the water. “Well, his libido is still increasing and we’re holding back in the training until we can evaluate how much you can take.”
                “Fuck. How’d I stack up this morning?”
                “Wait until this afternoon and watch us in the individual combats.” Pythia sighed in contentment. “Today Circe goes against Branwyn. That’s always a good fight.”
                “You didn’t answer the question.”
                “You wouldn’t like the answer.”
(03/28/99 1300 Blue Continent)
                Circe appeared in a treetop and dropped a fireball on Branwyn which missed as the Unicorn smashed the tree down with mach breaker. Steam exploded from the trunk and some of the smaller branches burst into flame as she used it to conduct a lightning spell at the Alaka-Wham who’d already teleported away.
                The Unicorn turned and unleashed an ice beam spell at an empty spot a second before Circe appeared standing in it. The beam smashed her sideways as she teleported away again and appeared behind Branwyn as the Unicorn spun in place to face her, but too slowly as magic missiles splashed across her back and equine torso. Branwyn vanished as she used teleport.
                Pythia leaned towards Nanu. “Precognition against precognition. So do you want to ask that question again?”
                Nanu shook her head. “Not on your life.” She jumped as lightning tried to burn its way through the force field protecting the stands in which the rest of the harem sat. “Why does he only have five badges?”
                “We don’t do this in gym battles.” Elizabeth joined the discussion. “This is a no- holds-barred-take-no-prisoners fight and any gym leader would freak if we did this to his precious pokegirls.” She snorted. “We save this for real battles.”
                The stadium seemed to rock as multiple fireball spells exploded one right after the other. “They are also some of our most powerful harem members. Circe’s more powerful than Branwyn, but Branwyn wants to level up very badly.” Elizabeth held up a paper sack. “Popcorn?”
                Pythia frowned as Nanu grabbed a handful and started munching. “Elizabeth, why do you carry that around? You can’t eat it?”
                “I can chew it, I just can’t swallow it.” She shrugged at Nanu’s questioning look. “I like the flavor. I ate it when I was a kid, but now it makes me projectile vomit.”
                Shikarou’s amplified voice floated across the arena. “Time.” The battle ground to a sudden halt. Both pokegirls were covered in sweat and had multiple cuts and burns. “According to Aggie, Branwyn is ahead on points for this battle and when it’s added to the cumulative total, she’s almost even with Circe. Match to Branwyn.” He checked a clipboard. “The next match is Pythia and Dorothea. There is no teleporting allowed in this match. Currently Pythia is ahead on points but Dorothea had a strong showing the last time they met.” He checked the clipboard again. “After that is Elizabeth versus Helen and finally Yushiko versus Shikarou.”
                “Crap.” Elizabeth grimaced. “I’ll bet she’s been learning more spells again and she’s twenty freaking levels higher than me.”
                Nanu watched Pythia slip into the arena, followed closely by the Seraph. “Sounds like you’re toast.”
                “Maybe, maybe not. I want to level up as badly as Branwyn.” Elizabeth sounded thoughtful. “And I’ve been studying too.” She sighed. “So has Helen and she wants so badly to be what she considers a contributing member of the harem.” A grin. “She had to buy an Everstone to make sure she doesn’t evolve to Minotaura and she’s always badgering Branwyn for any T2s that can make her a better combatant.”
                “Why doesn’t she want to evolve?”
                “It would cut down on her personal time with Shikarou. She’d rather die than give that up.” A warning look crossed her face. “And don’t try to interfere with it, or we’ll be eating gruel for a week.” She shuddered. “She even convinced Shikarou to make me drink human blood for a couple of days. I went without.”
                “I thought that’s what you drank.”
                “Nope. I am kami fed now and I don’t want human blood unless I’m starving.”
                In the arena, Dorothea drew her sword and dagger as Pythia turned to face her from twenty meters away. Pythia got shield up just before Dorothea’s wings shimmered into existence and she used feather shuriken. Dorothea advanced as Pythia hammered her with thunder bolt. The Seraph responded with another feather shuriken as Pythia took to the air, the chi bolts staggering the G-Spliced as she tried to evade. A power bolt slapped Dorothea’s breastplate in reply.
                Dorothea sheathed her dagger and used magic fist, the unavoidable attack smacking Pythia sideways as she climbed for altitude. Pythia responded with another thunder bolt, which struck the tip of the Seraphs sword and made the blade glow slightly as the electricity was conducted to her body, which jerked to the current as it flowed.
                Dorothea spread her wings and climbed into the air as she used another magic fist attack. Pythia ignored the attack as she zipped forward, glowing slightly as she used absorb to channel the bolt’s power into healing as she grabbed the end of Dorothea’s wing and carefully kept the wing at full extension as she spun underneath the Seraph, sending her pinwheeling into the ground. Dorothea’s scream was cut short as she hit.
                Pythia summoned her energy blade and fell upon her opponent, only to be knocked flying as the Seraph hit her with Meteor punch from her prone position. She bounced to her feet as Pythia recovered and climbed to put some distance between them.
                Dorothea glowed as she used heal on herself. Pythia growled and responded with hypnotize. A surprised look crossed the Seraph’s face before she crumpled.
                Shikarou sighed. “You’d think she’d learn that she really needs to try to take you out quickly. Match to Pythia. Aggie will update your points. Elizabeth and Helen, please report to the ring.”
                Elizabeth sighed and handed the popcorn bag to Nanu as she got up. “No rest for the wicked.”
                Branwyn dropped into her place with an amused look. “Good morning.” Nanu gave her a wary look. The Unicorn smiled. “I wanted to take a moment to officially welcome you into the harem. Shikarou and I talked about you briefly.” She grimaced. “He won’t tell me about your past, he says that’s your choice.
                “I would think that was considerate of him.”
                Branwyn chuckled. “I do too, it just makes my job that much harder. Is there anything that you need or might want to help settle you into life here?”
                Nanu frowned. “I’d like some weapons.”
                “Shikarou and I have already discussed that and we want to sit down with you tomorrow and see what your preferences are.” She smiled. “We have some specialized access to military hardware, so ask for whatever you want and we’ll see if it’s available.”
                “Cool. What about clothes?”
                “Pretty much the sky’s the limit. We can either get it or have it made. Helen will be talking to you later about your food preferences and will want to make a list of your favorite and least favorite foods. Oh, I hope you can use chopsticks; Shikarou has forbidden forks.”
                Nanu blinked. “Is there a good reason for that?”
                “Too many stabbings at the table.” Branwyn gave her a sidelong glance. “Shikarou chooses the alpha in his harem, but I want to ask if we are we going to have to fight over who makes the decisions in the harem?” Her look wasn’t challenging, but it was calculating. “I warn you, if you tell me no and later start ignoring my instructions, I’m not going to be happy.”
                Nanu grinned. “I just watched you fight and until I get a lot better, you’re the boss.”
                Branwyn nodded. “I know what the general entry for the Mini-Top says about their personality, but I also realize that you are an individual and you’ve had some unique circumstances, so I’m willing to cut you some slack. However, if you try to stab me in the back, only Shikarou’s unwillingness to let me kill you will save your life.” She smiled slightly as Nanu started to bristle. “I’m not saying this because you’re a Mini-Top and I expect you try something, this is a general warning I give to every pokegirl who enters the harem. This is my harem and I’m the boss. I don’t expect presents or burnt offerings, but I do demand timely obedience and you’ll find that while I prefer to solve interpersonal problems within the harem, Shikarou is disturbingly well informed as to what happens and so far he’s been willing to back me up as long as I don’t kill anyone.” She gave the Mini-Top a direct look. “Even if you managed to defeat me, I will come back, and this time I will bring help. I will enforce my will on the harem; fortunately for everyone involved, I’m usually pretty easygoing. Only one person outranks me in the harem and he’s the one with the dick.” She settled back. “Any questions?”
                “How is taming organized?”
                “I set up who sleeps with him. He chooses various partners during the day. If you come on to him and he says no, I’d recommend listening to him. His claws are sharp and he bites. As far as tamings within the harem, if someone tells you no, then you take it as no until you know everyone here much better. If someone is forced to have sex, it’s rape.” Her voice became hard. “I will not tolerate rape and neither will Shikarou. Even if the pokegirl in question fights off her attacker, I will still punish whoever did it, whether they are in the harem or not. Shikarou?” She sighed. “He will go berserk and it’s very likely that whoever attacks a member of his harem will suffer a very messy end. He’s killed humans before and is willing to do it again.”
                “That includes you, by the way. You can tell anyone, including me or Shikarou, no. I’d recommend telling him no once in a while, just to keep him on his toes. He hasn’t been inattentive so far, but let’s not let him get complacent. If, in the middle of sex, someone does something you don’t like, let them know. That also includes our Tamer.”
                Branwyn frowned. “There are former members of his harem working here on the island and one of them is a Venuswhore. I know what the entry on the Mini-Top says, and if you are unhappy with your bust size, I do have access to permanent bloom powder.” She smiled broadly. “Shikarou likes women of all shapes and sizes and he’ll appreciate you no matter what your breast size is, so if you are unhappy with it, we can make some changes. Oh, and be careful about the milk. Most of it comes from Helen and if you drink it, you’ll lactate.” Her smile became a lecherous grin. “He likes taking if from the tap and while I’ve not been able to prove it’s deliberate, sometimes the milk gets mislabeled.”
                Nanu blinked. “Do you think he’s doing it?”
                The Unicorn shrugged. “I have no idea, but I would be more inclined to suspect Helen. It lets Shikarou sample other milk, which reminds him just how good Helen’s is and forces other members of the harem to feed him, in theory preventing everyone else from resenting the extra time she gets with him. If the milk is heated, the enzymes that make us lactate break down and become harmless.” She grinned. “However, I can tell you that Helen’s milk is much better straight from the nipple and she’s more than willing to share.”
(03/28/99 2200 Blue Continent)
                “So how is Nanu doing?” Shikarou leaned back in the hot tub and sipped at his wine.
                “She’s still got a lot of settling in to do, but she’s bright and adaptable. I don’t see any real problems outside of the standard ones expected from a Mini-Top.” Branwyn settled her legs across his lap. “It will be interesting to see how the memories from all of the different evolutions will mingle in her personality.”
                “Yeah, Stardust is concerned about that causing trouble with Maeve. Her memories of what happened after Devon lost her may color her perceptions of him.”
                Branwyn poured herself some wine. “What do you think?”
                “I think it’s not my problem. I agreed to find Maeve, retrieve her and attempt to give her back her memories. Nothing was said about trying to make her just like she was before.” He grimaced. “I’m not going to restore her memories just to turn around and erase some of them again.”
                “Have you started looking for her?”
                “Viridick. Her pokeball was registered in a gym battle there this morning and the Tamer, one Jacob Kraft, is staying at a hotel there tonight.”
                “How are you going to approach him?”
                “I’d prefer to do this someplace quiet because if he won’t battle for her I’ll have to take her by force.” He refilled his glass. “Are you still keeping in touch with Devon’s harem?”
                “Just with Bellona. Kathryn is normally too busy to chat and I suspect she doesn’t like me because I look like Poppet. Bellona is much more rational and right now she’s got the time to chat.”
                “Give her a call in the morning and let her know we’re going after Maeve.”
                Branwyn nodded. “Ok. Who are you sending to Viridick?”
                “Pythia loves this traveling stuff and she’s already volunteered to go, so I’ll send her.”
                “So are you going to challenge for a badge at the Viridick gym?”
                “Not right now. Let’s get Maeve taken care of first and then we may start hitting more gyms here.” He sighed. “I’d really like to get my hands on Marcus.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “Mary might want to hope I do so soon, or I may have to use her as a substitute. One way or another I suspect we are going to want to know a lot more about the Order of Pendragon and we are going to want that information soon. However, Maeve comes first.”
                “So when do we leave?”
Author’s note: The time and location stamps will be included in the paragraph subsections from now on because in the possibly near future things will be happening in different locations simultaneously.
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                                       63
Milktit                                    Helen                                      55
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                55
Seraph                                    Dorothea                               46
Ria                                          Kebi                                        45
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      44
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     41
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   40
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                37
Mini-Top                               Nanu                                      33
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        None
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                Wales: Magicunt Village