Chapter 18: Maeve
 (03/29/99 0530 Blue Continent)
                The holographic Bellona gave Branwyn a sour look. “You are aware that not everyone gets up at this hour, right?”
                “Yes and I’m sorry if I woke you up, but Shikarou asked me to call before we went to Indigo.”
                “I was awake.” She shrugged. “Guard duty.”
                “So what are you unhappy about?” Branwyn gave her a curious look. “Is it something I can help with?”
                Bellona’s mouth moved like she had a nasty taste in it. “Only if Shikarou needs a slightly used Beta in his harem.”
                Branwyn blinked in surprise. “Why would you want to leave Devon’s harem? I thought you were happy there.”
                “Was is the operative word. I was his Beta, his confidant and the primary trainer in the harem.” She did spit this time. “Until you rescued Tess.”
                “Yeah. Without so much as a by-your-leave she took over every job I had.” Her eyes narrowed. “I went to Kathryn and she told me to live with it. I went to Devon and he told me that I could be Tess’ assistant. I went to Tess and she told me that she doesn’t need one.” She sighed. “I’m not being mistreated; the problem is that I’m not being much of anything.”
                “Will Devon release you?”
                The Dragon Queen snorted. “I asked him about it and he told me that I was too valuable to leave and then he trotted out that whole wife thing. Then Kathryn caught me alone and told me that I’d get used to it, after all I was just supposed to be subbing for Tess until she returned.” Bellona frowned. “I’d have been happy with just one of my previous jobs, but no, we have to keep Tess happy.” She stared into the camera. “If I’m not used to it by the next Sadie Pokens day,” she sighed, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
                Branwyn nodded. “Is that likely that you won’t get used to the new situation? These sorts of things happen all the time.”
                “I went from being number two in the harem to being number zero. What do you think?” She smoothed her features. “So, why are you calling so early? I know it’s not to hear me bitch.”
                “I wanted you to tell Kathryn that we have a lead on Maeve and we’re leaving this morning.”
                Branwyn could hear the DragonQueen’s teeth grind. “Lovely. I just slid into negative numbers. I’ll tell her. Do you have a timetable?”
                “No, not right now. When we’re in Indigo I’ll be too far away for realtime communications, but I’ll send you daily updates.” She frowned. “That is, if you want me to.”
                “I don’t. However, my disgust at what’s going on isn’t going to keep me from doing what’s best for my Tamer.” Bellona rubbed her chin. “No matter what the personal cost happens to be.”
                “You are a credit to pokegirls everywhere.” Branwyn knew it sounded pathetic, but there was nothing else she could say.
                Bellona knew it too. “Thanks. Maybe – oh, never mind. Keep me informed and I’ll let Kathryn know.” She smiled suddenly. “Maybe I’ll disobey her and let Devon know what’s going on. Do you think that would be best for him?”
                “Not until we know if her memories can be recovered. Until then there’s no reason to raise his hopes.”
                Bellona snorted. “Right. And the chances for that are what?” She spread her hands slowly. “Slim and none?”
                Branwyn made a decision. “Promise to keep secret what I’m about to tell you. I assure you it won’t hurt Devon.” She smiled. “I’m not supposed to reveal this.”
                Bellona looked curious for the first time. “A secret? All right, I promise not to tell.”
                “Shikarou found a pokegirl who’d had two level five conditioning cycles at different times in her life to experiment on and they managed to recover all of her memories.”
                Bellona’s eyes widened. “That’s supposed to be impossible.” She nodded. “I can see why you want to keep that a secret. I suspect that the leagues wouldn’t be happy to find out you could do this. Memory wiping is supposed to be one of their biggest threats.”
                “Exactly. If we recover Maeve’s memories, I’m going to lie to Devon about how it was done. It may help to keep him out of trouble. You may want to suggest to Kathryn that everyone play this very low key.”
                Bellona nodded. “What are you going to tell him?”
                “Shikarou thinks we shouldn’t explain how we did it and he may hint that powerful and rare magic was used. I agree with him, but I’ll arrange for one of the harem to explain it instead of him, since his inability to lie could be inconvenient.”
                “I won’t say a word.” Bellona smiled. “I seriously doubt that anyone would believe me anyways.”
                “Good. I’ll be in touch. You take care.”
                “You too.”
(03/29/99 0600 Blue Continent 03/29/99 0100 Viridick)
                The chime made a soft sound in the pokecenter. A minute later it made a louder chime. A minute after that it switched to a raucous buzzing noise. The Bunnygirl sleeping at the desk jerked and fell out of her chair. She flailed as she tried to get up and managed to overturn her desk in a cascade of paper and pens. As she struggled to get up her powerful leg muscles kicked the desk halfway across the room. Metal shrieked as it slid across the floor. “Shit.” She looked around guiltily as she managed to climb to her feet as her heart pounded and massive amounts adrenaline in her bloodstream made every move hazardous. “Hope nobody heard that.”
                Fortunately the commotion had woken up the duty NurseJoy, who stuck her head out of the treatment room where she’d been asleep in on a gurney. Bleary eyes read the clock as the loud buzzing became a strident alarm. “What the?” She staggered over and slapped the disconnect. The alarm instantly died.
                The NurseJoy stared at the monitor set safely in the wall. An animated Whorizard blew flame out her mouth and farted a large green cloud at the same time. “Damnit, Carol, I told you to never use this screen saver again. I’ll have it removed in the morning.” She rolled the trackball to cancel the screensaver.
                “Aw, Tammy, it’s cute.” The Bunnygirl grinned. “Please don’t get rid of it, I like it.”
                Tammy ignored her. “Priority transport with immediate release?” She stared at the screen for another minute. “Why can’t this wait until morning?” She sighed and tapped in an authentication code. “Carol, clean that mess up.” She looked up suddenly. “No, don’t try to move the desk. Just get a broom and a dustpan and sweep all the crap that came off your desk into a pile. Then get me some coffee. Wait, get the coffee first.”
                “Yes, Tammy. You want it like normal right? Two sugars and four creams?”
                Tammy shut her eyes for a moment. “It never changes, Carol. One sugar and one cream.”
                “Oh, right.” The Bunnygirl headed off, muttering to herself. “One sugar, one cream. One sugar, one cream.”
                The NurseJoy shook her head and muttered beneath her breath. “It can’t be helped that she’s so stupid. You are what you eat which makes Bunnygirls cum and carrots.”
                She snorted and turned her attention back to the monitor. “Arriving in two minutes.” She spent the time scrolling through a newsfeed. “No Widows, no nothing. What makes this one so important?”
                The monitor flashed and the computer beeped. “Ok, we got it.” A pokeball materialized on the stand.
                Tammy picked it up and looked it over. “Nothing special, just a standard pokeball. Well, it ordered immediate release.” She activated the pokeball.
                A blue furred figure coalesced. Pythia nodded as she read the pokegirl’s nametag. “NurseJoy Tammy, thank you. I’ll take my pokeball.” She tucked it into a pouch and turned to leave.
                Tammy frowned. “Hold up, there’s some paperwork but it won’t take long.”
                Pythia gave her a small smile. “For what?”
                “For the priority transport. Under Indigo League rules every one of them has to be logged.”
                “What priority transport?”
                Tammy pointed at the monitor. “That – what the hell?” The monitor showed nothing out of the ordinary. “Hey,” she turned to see that the strange pokegirl was gone. “Shit.”
                Carol came into the room with a steaming cup of coffee. “Here, two creams and three sugars, just like you wanted.” She stopped dead in the doorway. “Hey Tammy, thanks.”
                Tammy gave her a sour look. “For what?”
                “My desk.” It was where it belonged and everything was back on it. “Thanks for cleaning up.”
                The NurseJoy took a deep breath. “I’m going back to bed.”
                “What about your coffee?”
                “You drink it.” Tammy disappeared back into the treatment room. “This has got to be a dream. I’m still asleep and you got that coffee for yourself.”
                Carol stared at the door Tammy had entered. “But I hate coffee.” She took an experimental taste. “Yuck. God, I must be stupid to get myself coffee.”
(03/29/99 0615 Blue Continent 03/29/99 0115 Viridick)
                Outside the pokegirl center Pythia appeared and let Shikarou go. She grinned. “I wish I could have stayed long enough to see the NurseJoy’s face when Aggie got through resetting the systems.”
                “It’s probably best that you didn’t.” He shook his head. “We need to find a place to wait until Kraft gets on the road. I certainly don’t want to challenge him here in Viridick.”
                “What if he decides to wait for a few days before moving on? He might have some shopping to do and the weather report called for rain.”
                “We cultivate the virtue called patience.” Shikarou reached for Branwyn’s pokeball. “Of course, I’ve always had trouble with that one.”
                A couple of minutes later the three of them were ensconced in a booth in an all night diner. Branwyn smirked. “I see they’ve done the obligatory credit check to make sure you aren’t some stupid Tamer who wants to spend the night here for free instead of going to the pokegirl center.”
                Shikarou grinned and picked up his tea. “No, I’m a very intelligent Tamer who wants to spend the night here instead of going to the pokegirl center. However, I’m willing to pay for the privilege.”
                “What do we know about this Jacob Kraft?” Branwyn looked over the menu at her Tamer.
                “Surprisingly little. He took the badge here with Kinesha and Bess. Bess is a Pumara and Kinesha is a Mini-Top who incidentally is using Maeve’s pokeball.” Shikarou sipped at his tea. “Actually it’s kind of odd. He doesn’t appear very often and from looking at his Tamer record you’d think he spent a lot of time in the wilderness.”
                “What’s odd about that?”
                “Kinesha and Bess show the same activity levels that Jacob does, but Aggie ran another search and both of their pokeball serial numbers show a different story. The pokeballs seem to have spent a lot of time in various towns and cities. They were always associated with a Pumara and a Mini-Top, but the names are always different.”
                “What do you think it means?”
                “Traveling under an alias is one thing, but they apparently have access to tech which allows them to change the names of pokegirls well enough that the pokegirl center systems didn’t catch it. They don’t normally track the pokeball serial numbers, so no one knew.” He frowned. “I wonder if Jacob could disguise his Tamer record the same way.”
                “There’s a best case and worst case in such a situation, at least as far as we are concerned. Worst case for us is that he’s an agent working for some government. That would make robbing him problematic at best. Best case for us is that he’s some kind of high tech criminal. Then we can do a simple smash and grab.”
                Pythia frowned. “So how are we going to do this?”
                “You and I will walk past his room and you’ll get a feel for his mind so we can track him at a distance. If you are willing we may do a little eavesdropping and see who he works for, if anyone. When he leaves town we follow and challenge him for Kinesha. If he gives us too much trouble we bop him on the head and take her. If he works for a friendly government then we go to plan B. I really wish I had one.”
                “What about Bess?” Branwyn looked curious. “In either case.”
                “Taking a man’s last pokegirl is just mean.” Shikarou shook his head. “Unless of course he’s an asshole. Then he’ll be lucky if I leave him pants.”
                “What if he’s a criminal?”
                “Then we see if there is a reward.”
(03/29/99 1400 Blue Continent 03/29/99 0900 Viridick)
                Jacob dropped the towel on the floor as he left the bathroom and glanced out the window to watch the rain run down the glass. “Bess, Kinesha, get your lazy asses up out of that bed.”
                His Pumara rolled out of his bed and glanced at the window. “The weather sucks. How about we stay another day?”
                “The bank is likely to find out they were robbed today and I really want to be somewhere else at that point.” He leaned down to the pile of blankets on the bed and said in a pleasant voice. “Hey! Boozebunny. Get your butt up.”
                The blankets groaned. “Crap.” A hand appeared and dragged a half empty bottle of whiskey under the blankets. “Ah.”
                Jacob put his foot on the pile and shoved. The air suddenly smelled of alcohol. Cursing preceded the appearance of Kinesha as she threw the blankets off and tried to suck the spilled whiskey out of the sheet. She glared at him as he smiled. “Now that you’ve finished breakfast, go clean up. We leave in an hour.”
                “Stupid prick.” She clutched the mostly empty bottle and headed for the bathroom.
                Bess watched her go. “Tell me again why we kept the alky when we sold off the rest of the harem?”
                “She’s almost as good a fighter as you are and keeping her half drunk keeps her out of trouble. Besides, all Mini-Tops are borderline alcoholics.” He patted a pouch on his belt fondly. “The money for the harem financed this little baby and it managed to net us a cool fifty million from the bank.” A grin. “And the trail will lead them right back to the gym’s computer system.” The grin widened. “That trail will tell the police that the bank was robbed from the gym sometime during the night, right about the time you and I were dragging Kinesha away from the jukebox. Hell, I even paid for the damage she did to it.”
                “What happens when the boss finds out about it?” Bess looked doubtful.
                “How many times do I have to tell you that Giovanni is yesterday’s news. He isn’t our boss any more.” He snorted. “If I’d had this purpose built AI when we were with Team Rocket, he’d be a lot poorer right now.”
                “As for finding out about this, the only thing in his mind is Legendary pokegirls and that Ranma fellow. Good riddance to them all.”
                Beth smiled back. “You’re right. And for fifty million credits I’m willing to suffer a little rain.”
                “That’s the spirit.” He shrugged and glanced at the bathroom before lowering his voice. “I’m only willing to tolerate that bitch for a little while longer and then she gets a deep and shallow.”
                Canines glinted in the light as Bess grinned. “Deep cut across the throat and a shallow grave sounds good to me, but I get to cut her.”
(03/29/99 1515 Blue Continent 03/29/99 1015 Viridick)
                Shikarou disagreed. “Circe, I think that saying the food here sucks is doing them a kindness.” They were sitting in the tiny restaurant that was built into the lobby of the hotel where Kraft was staying. The attempt to wander the halls the night before had been stymied by an alert desk clerk, so now Shikarou and Circe waited in the lobby for them to pass so she could scan Kraft’s mind.
                She picked at the eggs. “Helen has really spoiled us, hasn’t she?”
                “I agree with that statement.” Shikarou poked at a piece of toast. “They even scorched the toast. Remind me to ask our next target to stay in a higher class hotel.”
                They chuckled at each other. Circe frowned. “There he is.” She motioned with her chin behind him. Shikarou turned his pokedex slightly and Aggie put the view up on his screen.
                Jacob Kraft was one of those people who could disappear into a small crowd almost anywhere in the world. Shikarou supposed that would be of benefit to a spy.
                Circe watched him check out at the main desk with an idle expression. None of his pokegirls made an appearance, but they could be in his pokeballs. She absently stuck a piece of bacon in her mouth and made a sudden face. “Yuck.” Interesting, until recently he belonged to Team Rocket, but now he’s gone freelance. He’s very pleased with something that happened at the Viridick Bank and Trust, but I’d have to go deeper than I really want to in order to find out. She blinked. He’s planning to kill Kinesha sometime in the next couple of days and is looking forward to it.
                “Good thing we came along when we did. Aggie, any sort of news from the bank?”
                Nineteen minutes ago there was a phone call made from the president of the Viridick Bank and Trust to the Mayor of Viridick which lasted for four minutes. The mayor then called the chief of police and they talked for ten minutes. Two minutes ago a radio dispatcher contacted two teams of detectives and ordered them to the bank but they are supposed to go discretely, with no lights or sirens.
                Circe sipped at her coffee and made a face. “Sounds like someone lost something important.”
                Shikarou glanced at the pokedex screen to watch as Jacob Kraft walked out the door. “I wonder if he found it.”
                I can access the bank records but a detailed study of them would take some hours.
                “Oh, there’s a much easier way to find out.” Shikarou’s smile was predatory. “He’s a bad guy so we can do unto him before he does unto others. While we’re doing unto him, we’ll just ask.”
                “And if he has acquired a large sum of money from the bank?” Circe put her fork down and watched her Tamer closely.
                “We’ll make the arrangements for Dorothea to return it. I suspect she’ll find some kind of information on his body, once we discover it. If not, I’m sure something can be worked out.” He pushed to his feet and dropped some coins on the table. “Shall we follow, at a suitable distance, of course?”
                Circe smirked. “Of course.”
                They were almost out the door when a voice yelled at them. “Hey!” Shikarou turned to see the surly Catgirl who’d served them the food. “You forgot my tip!”
                He regarded her for a heartbeat. “Don’t eat the eggs. You could be saving your own life.” He followed Circe outside into the drizzle as she laughed quietly.
(03/29/99 2330 Blue Continent 03/29/99 1830 Indigo Plateau)
                Jacob peered sourly at the overcast sky as Bess made an angry sound at the still falling rain. “When are we going to stop for the night?”
                He shrugged. “Another half hour or so. You heard the news report that the bank figured out they’d been robbed, and much faster than I’d figured. At this point every kilometer we put between us and Viridick only helps.”
                Bess grunted and suddenly sneezed water. “Crap.” They moved on.
                Twenty minutes later Bess frowned and sniffed the air. “Something smells good.” She padded off into the growing darkness.
                “Shit.” Jacob sighed and followed. “Damned cat listens to her stomach more than she listens to me.”
                Soon he saw where someone had tied a tarp between some trees to make an improvised canopy. Under it an Oriental woman dropped some wood next to a fire as a Milktit stirred a pot of something that smelled wonderful. Bess was chatting with the woman and turned when he appeared. “There he is.” She grinned. “We’ve been invited to dinner with them. Kinesha too.”
                “Great.” Jacob looked the place over and decided that with his two fighting types there was no threat here. “Kinesha can stay in her pokeball.” He moved into under the tarp and dropped his pack. “Thank you. I’m Jacob.”
                She bowed slightly. “I’m Yushiko.” A nod towards the Milktit. “Helen.”
                Jacob cast an expert eye over Helen, who gave him a shy smile. “You must be a good Tamer, she looks nice and healthy.” He glanced at Bess to see the same thoughts in her eyes that he was having. This had possibilities.
                Yushiko grinned. “Yes, she does.” She glanced at Helen. “Is it time yet?”
                The Milktit cocked her head thoughtfully. “Not quite. It should only be about another two minutes or so. Why don’t you get out the bread?” She turned to Bess. “Do you have any bowls?”
                Bess nodded and dug two camp plates out of their pack to hand to Bess as Yushiko pulled a loaf of bread out of her pack and started slicing it with her wakizashi.
                Helen glanced at Yushiko. “I think it’s about time.” She started filling bowls as Yushiko offered some bread to Jacob.
                He grinned. “Thanks.”
                In a smooth motion Yushiko put the point of her blade against his throat and smiled. “Move and you die. If the cat moves you die. Return her to her pokeball now.”
                As his eyes widened in shock Jacob watched as four other figures appeared, two behind Bess and the other two between him and the Pumara and one of the ones behind Bess was A FUCKING SPHINX AND THE OTHER WAS AN ALAKA-WHAM!
                “Bess, don’t move, there are psychic pokegirls behind you.”
                Shikarou stepped away from Branwyn and smiled as he plucked the pokeballs from Jacob’s belt. “If both of you behave, you have my promise that we won’t kill you.” He put Bess into her pokeball. “Sit.”
                Yushiko stepped away and sheathed her wakizashi with a smooth motion before going moving to stand guard near her Tamer.
                Helen moved around next to Shikarou and handed him a bowl. “Eat.” She gave the other bowl to Jacob and returned to get more food.
                Jacob stirred when Helen moved within reach of him but relaxed when both Shikarou and the blue fox pokegirl gave him almost identical looks, ones that hoped he’d try something. He took the bowl and settled down.
                “What happens now?” Jacob sighed as he ate. “This is excellent.” Helen beamed. “Who sent you, Giovanni?”
                “No. I’m here on my on. I want your Mini-Top.”
                “What the hell do you want with Kinesha? She’s nothing.”
                “That is not important to you.” Shikarou ate quickly. “The question is what do I do with you and your Pumara?”
                Yushiko smiled. “Her name is Bess, my lord.”
                “Thank you. Bess.”
                “You could always let us go.” Jacob grinned.
                “Actually, I’m considering doing just that.” Kraft looked surprised at his words and then his eyes narrowed suspiciously.
                “What do we have to do?”
                “Just exactly how much money did you get from the bank?”
                Jacob’s eyes brightened in understanding. “How about I give you half? That would be 25 million credits.”
                Branwyn gasped. “You got fifty million from the bank? How?”
                Jacob looked mysterious. “I’ll give you half and you ask no questions.”
                “Going to be difficult, are you?” Shikarou sighed and sank his hand into Jacob’s chest. “We’ll just see about that.”
                A little while later Circe settled down next to Shikarou as he watched Lorelei flying by on her guard circuit. “I’ve gotten just about everything I can from Jacob’s mind. What about Bess?”
                “She’s too independent to leave on her own and she wants to stay with Jacob.” Shikarou shrugged. “She’s already been done and I want you to sieve through her mind next.”
                “And Kinesha?”
                “I’m not letting her out until we get to Caomh Sith. Bess told me she’s got a lot of problems and we really need Candace to deal with them.” He turned to the Alaka-Wham. “If she’s not a full blown alcoholic, then she’s well on her way to becoming one. I want Candace to give her a full medical workup and then she’s going to have to be completely sober before we start work on her.” He smiled grimly. “Several days sober.”
                “So she goes in a cell?”
                “I’m going to be putting her into a coma for our work on her and I’m thinking about just keeping her in it until we’re done with her. I’ve seen someone go through delirium tremens and it’s not pretty. This way we can not only avoid having to deal with her, but keep her deep enough that she has no memory of it.”
                He shrugged. “DTs can actually kill and keeping her under the whole time will help us treat her.”
                Circe nodded. “Ok. Are you aware that Nanu wants to see her? She’s curious about the Mini-Top that got her rescued.”
                “I don’t see any problem with that as long as we continually stress that I never had any intention of keeping Maeve and that this was done for Kathryn.” He frowned. “Speaking of which, I need to talk to Branwyn about her next message to Devon’s harem.”
                Circe nodded. “Helen had fun with the subterfuge.” She got up. “I thought you might like to know.”
                “I know she’s determined to prove her worth to the harem and I can’t convince her that she doesn’t have anything to prove.” Shikarou sighed. “I got fighters out the ass but only one cook and I really wish she’d realize that fact.” His eyes suddenly gleamed with amusement. “How about I use her in gym battles?” He gave Circe a thoughtful look. “Niamh was going to be my sexbattler and she didn’t want to stay with the harem. That may be a good use for Helen, since I know she knows some sexual techniques and no one else has trained for it.”
                Circe smirked. “Are you sure this isn’t just so you can spend more time taming her?”
                “Oh, it won’t just be me. Everyone will get to help. However, upon due consideration, it may take some personal training to teach her a couple of the spells I have in mind.”
                “That wouldn’t happen to be one-on-one training, would it?”
                “Now that you mention it, I think you are right.”
(03/30/99 0800 Blue Continent)
                “Well, Branwyn, this is better but still kind of early.” Bellona wiped sleep from her eyes and pushed her hair out of her face.
                The Unicorn shook her head and pulled her heavy gold braid around where she could stroke it. “Damn, I hoped that this would be late enough. Just what time does your harem get up and around?”
                Bellona grinned. “Our Tamer is human and has to get some sleep after he spends a night taming. Kathryn tried getting us up early, but that is another thing that didn’t survive Lamya’s return. Now we get up when he does, usually around nine.” She grimaced and glanced around. “I don’t think anyone can hear me, but hold on for a minute.” She vanished as she put Branwyn on hold.
                The DragonQueen appeared again a full minute later. “I’m away from camp and now we can talk.”
                “You can’t say bad things about Lamya?”
                “Sure you can.” Bellona shrugged. “And somehow it comes back to bite you on the tail.” She grimaced. “Lamya is one of the first ones and can get away with more before Kathryn will step in. It’s never anything overt, just a witch’s curse here or there.”
                “I didn’t realize that it was that bad in Devon’s harem.”
                Bellona shook her head. “It’s not, I’m just unhappy because I used to be someone and I don’t think Devon is living up to some promises he made me. He disagrees. He has kept one promise and protected me from Tess’ wrath over my doing her job while she was gone but…” she broke off. “I’m just bitter and I shouldn’t be airing harem business to you.”
                Branwyn nodded. “Do you have anyone you can talk to?”
                “No, to be a good trainer I had to isolate myself from the others and they haven’t been willing to overlook that. Of the ones I knew as part of Team Viper, I’ve never liked Rhiannon and Siobhan worships the ground that Devon floats over.”
                “As for Morgan and Xifeng, they are in a different harem and Lamya has taken steps to ensure that everyone knows it.” She smiled slightly. “Actually, I can admire that. Being a nominal Tamer lets her outrank Kathryn, and if anything will anger that Ladyien, I think that would be it.”
                Branwyn nodded. “Have you considered joining Lamya’s harem?”
                “No. They are second class pokegirls and they know it. Besides, while I won’t turn down some nice pussy, I definitely prefer dick and Lamya has shown little inclination to share her harem with Devon. I think she’s worried that Kathryn would use the opportunity to fold her entire harem into Devon’s and put Lamya in her place.” A slight smile flitted across her face. “And she’s right. Kathryn wouldn’t miss that opportunity to consolidate her power.”
                She shook her head. “There I go talking harem business again. So, you are back in Caomh Sith. Does this mean that your search for Maeve goes on?”
                Branwyn smiled. “We got her. She’s a mess and her care is going to take a while, but she’s in our possession.” She cocked her head. “I know it’s probably a source of mixed feelings for you, but I’m pleased that things went as smoothly as they did.”
                Bellona’s face was expressionless. “Yeah, that’s great.”
                “I’ve talked things over with Shikarou and I want you to do something for me.”
                “What?” Bellona looked wary.
                “I want you to go into Devon’s tent, roll him off of whomever he’s with and give him the news.”
                “But you haven’t, you don’t know if you can bring her back.”
                Actually, Shikarou was pretty sure they could and Stardust made it sound like it was already done, but Branwyn didn’t feel that Bellona needed to know that. “Shikarou thinks that having Devon watching over her couldn’t hurt and may actually help her recovery.”
                Bellona thought briefly. “Ok, but it’s up to Kathryn.”
                “I want you to tell him. Be excited and when he asks remind him that Kathryn has been foisting me off on you. Maybe you can get some extra time with him.”
                “I’m going to pay for it later.” She nodded to herself. “But the time would be worth it and hopefully would piss both her and Tess off.” She grinned suddenly. “I’ll do it.”
                “Have fun.”
(03/30/99 1000 Blue Continent)
                Dorothea frowned. “So what happened to the money that these criminals had taken?”
                “I had Aggie return it to them and put in a software glitch that made it seem like they’d misplaced it. So when they did their next audit, the money turned up.” Shikarou leaned back against Dorothea’s legs. “As far as they are concerned they were never robbed.”
                “My lord, that is was an ingenious plan and very humble of thee to return the money without them even knowing that it was gone, much less knowing that it was thou that returned it.” Dorothea stroked his ears. “So thou have Kinesha and now the villains work for thee. What are thy plans now?”
                “We’ve already got Maeve sedated and are starting the process of purging her body of toxins.” He sighed. “Candace was mad enough to chew brick when she found out that Kinesha hadn’t been treated at a pokegirl center for some time. She’d lost a chunk of one ear and her liver was starting to rot from all of the drinking.”
                “What did thou do?”
                He smirked. “When Candace left the room, I removed all of the diseased portions of Maeve’s liver and Candace had to regenerate the healthy parts. It was faster than waiting for it to partially heal on its own.”
                “My lord, I didn’t know that thou had a spell that would do that.”
                “I don’t. I used a knife and cauterized everything as I cut. She was still going strong when Candace got back and started healing her.”
                Dorothea gave him a penetrating look. “So how long is it likely to be until Candace speaks to thee again?”
                “I’m working on that.” He shrugged. “It was faster and it did help and hopefully as long as I look suitably guilty and show some signs of obvious suffering she should forgive me soon.”
                “Thou art a terrible man, my lord.” She frowned prettily. “And probably right. Candace has a forgiving heart and she knows thou would not have done such a thing unless it was for the best.”
                “Thanks, but I’ll keep suffering just to be sure.”
                “When do thou expect Devon to arrive?”
                “About an hour after Bellona tells him.” He looked around. “In fact, I’m surprised he’s not here yet.”
(03/30/99 1100 Blue Continent)
                Devon has arrived. Circe’s mind touched his. He’s come out near the inn.
                “Thank you. Inform everyone else, including Lynn and ask Branwyn to meet him for me. I’m a little busy right now but I should be free in less than ten minutes.”
                Candace gave him a look. “Problem?”
                “Devon arrived.” Shikarou sighed. “I think you are right. According to what I was able to find, Maeve probably has reached the point of thiamin deficiency in her alcohol use, which often results in the degradation of the myelin sheathe which allows nerve transmission. Can you fix it?”
                “I can, but alcoholics at this level seldom want to stop.” The NurseJoy shrugged. “I can’t do anything about that.”
                “I know a spell that causes severe allergic reactions when the person enspelled comes into contact with a particular substance and I can tailor it to alcohol.” Shikarou frowned. “It’s commonly used on people who commit crimes while on a drug, so using it on Maeve should work.” He took Candace’s hand. “I have to go greet our guests, but I will probably end up bringing them right back here.”
                Candace smiled. “Remember, no surgery on anyone without anesthesia.”
                Shikarou rolled his eyes. “Cut out one liver and people never forget.” He grinned at her wink. “Gotta go.”
                Devon was talking quietly with Branwyn. Paulette and Kathryn stood with them as Shikarou came up. He glanced up and smiled. “Kathryn gave me the wonderful news. So you are sure that this Mini-Top is Maeve?”
                “Everything matches with your journal archives, including the pokeball serial number.”
                “What about her mind?”
                “It’s what we figured.” Devon nodded without surprise. “She’s been physically mistreated and malnourished and Candace is working to clear that up before we attempt to recover her mind.”
                Devon blinked. “You know as well as I do that is a waste of time, you can’t restore the mind after a level five conditioning cycle.”
                Shikarou smiled slightly. “I’ve heard that.”
                Branwyn cocked her head. “I want you and your harem to stay with us, in the tent again like last time.”
                Shikarou glanced at her. I don’t want them there.
                Humor me this once, beloved. I want to be able to keep a close eye on them.
                Once? Just once? All right. “Why don’t you take Kathryn and set things up while I take Devon to see Maeve, if he’s interested.” Branwyn nodded and led the Ladyien away.
                Devon sighed. “You know, I made my peace with her death a while ago. I’m not even sure why I’m here.”
                “Humans have this propensity to want to see the body.”
                “Huh?” Devon frowned.
                “You lost Maeve without ever really losing her. She just disappeared one day and you never got a chance to say farewell.” He shrugged. “You don’t like that, so when you heard that she might be here, you had to come find out for yourself.”
                “What are you, some kind of therapist?”
                Shikarou chuckled. “No. I’ve just seen a lot of grieving families who don’t have a body to mourn. Monsters tend to eat their prey, often whole. So, do you want to see her?”
                “How is she?” Devon looked nervous and Paulette started giving Shikarou an unhappy stare, making him realize that he normally didn’t have a bodyguard when on the island.
                “Unconscious. She’s been through a lot and I’m keeping her in an induced coma while her body heals in order to prevent additional mental trauma.” He hesitated. “She probably doesn’t look good. Are you sure you want to see her?”
                “Yes. No.” Devon sighed. “I don’t want to, but I have to.”
                “This way then.”
                A few minutes later they were standing next to Kinesha’s bed. Devon looked at the supine form and grimaced. “She’s so thin.” Tears glittered in his eyes. “Where did you find her?”
                “That’s not important. What you need to know is that she had become an alcoholic and before I’m willing to do anything else, I want her purged of all of the toxins. That’s going to take a few days and then I’ll reevaluate her. I also want her to put on a few pounds before we consider any sort of work.” Shikarou motioned to the glucose drip. “She’s well taken care of and you can spend as much time with her as you want.” He frowned. “You know, I have no idea if Candace has visiting hours but if she does I’ll talk to her about getting you an exception.”
                Devon nodded slowly, his eyes on Kinesha. “I’d like that.”
                “Devon.” The young man looked up. “I want you to understand that we are going to try to recover her memories. We’ve run some tests and had some success, but I’m not going to make you any promises.” Shikarou glanced at Paulette. “Even if we do accomplish something I will have your vow not to reveal anything that you see here. I want the vow of everyone in your harem as well, before I will proceed.”
                Devon nodded. “You’ll have it.”
                Paulette stirred. “Why is it important?”
                “Over the years the leagues and Tamers have used this as the final solution for dealing with problem citizens, both human and pokegirl. No matter how difficult the procedure might be, if word got around that there might be a way to undo an L5 conditioning, the leagues might take steps to ensure that the knowledge of how it’s done stays in responsible hands, since they would be afraid that it would loose a lot of its deterrent ability if there was a procedure to undo it.”
                “Governments tend to believe that they are the only responsible people around and since I’ve started putting down roots, I’m not quite ready for a life on the run. In addition, the worst case scenario has the leagues trying to eliminate everyone who’s ever heard there might be a recovery process, which would include you and your Tamer.”
                Devon shook his head firmly. “I said you’ll have our oaths.” He glanced at Paulette. “Everyone will give them.”
                She bowed her head in a nod. “Yes, husband.”
                Shikarou’s ears flicked irritably.
(04/01/99 0500 Blue Continent)
                Helen presented the tray of biscuits with a flourish and Shikarou suppressed a grin as Branwyn took a couple. He helped himself to a handful and reached for the butter as his Unicorn watched with an amused expression. “Shikarou, I know Helen just gave you several liters of milk, how can you still be hungry?” She handed the tray to Circe who took one biscuit and sent it on down the table.
                “I am.” He bit into a biscuit with relish and frowned. “That’s odd.”
                “What is it?”
                “It’s a little salty.” Shikarou reached for the yellow pitcher of milk. The blue ones held the milk that was safe for everyone else to drink, but the yellow held unadulterated Helen.
                Branwyn bit into hers and coughed. “That’s a lot salty.” She gulped down some milk to cut the flavor.
                Complaints started floating up the table and Helen came out to see what the matter was. Everyone was complaining that the biscuits were too salty. She took one and blanched when she tasted it. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what happened but I’ve got another batch coming out and I’ll get those.” She grabbed the tray and went down the table grabbing biscuits before fleeing to the kitchen.
                Shikarou sighed. “It wasn’t that bad.” He loaded his plate with eggs and offered them to Branwyn.
                She smiled and took it. “They were horrible.” She handed the eggs to Circe and reached for the salt. “You don’t have to make excuses for her, these things happen.” The cap of the salt cellar came off when she tried to salt her eggs, dumping its contents over her plate. “Shit.”
                Helen appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, twisting her apron in her hands. “My lord, I am very sorry, but something is wrong with these biscuits as well. If you can wait ten minutes, I’ll have more.”
                “It’s all right Helen, I’m not upset. Like Branwyn was just telling me, these things happen.”
                “Thank you, my lord.” She disappeared into the kitchen.
                Shikarou handed Branwyn his plate. “Use mine.” He refilled his glass. “The milk tastes a little odd today, but not salty.”
                Branwyn nodded. “Yeah, I noticed.” She blinked. “But we don’t drink the same milk.” She frowned and then paled slightly before unbuttoning her blouse and gently squeezed a breast. Her eyes narrowed. “I’m starting to lactate. That was unheated milk.”
                There was a cry of rage from the kitchen and Helen appeared in the doorway once again. “My lord, could you come here?” Her eyes were angry and her nostrils flared with each breath.
                Shikarou exchanged a worried glance with Branwyn. “Sure.” He followed the Milktit into her private domain. “What is it?”
                “Someone put salt in the flour. Not enough to keep the flour from doing its job, but enough to ruin anything I cook.” Her voice was low and angry. “I want you to see whose scent is on the flour bin besides mine.”
                Shikarou gave her a long look and carefully sniffed the flour bin. He frowned and checked his watch. “Ah.”
                Helen touched his arm. “Please explain your ah?”
                “It’s April the first.”
                Helen’s eyes widened in comprehension and then narrowed. “She thinks that she’s going to pull that shit in my kitchen?” She snarled. “And just how do I go about getting recompense?”
                “Let me make a call. Aggie, please call my brother.”
                Just a moment.
                “Wolf residence. This is Svetlana.”
                “Shikarou. I want to talk to Faelan, right now.”
                “He’s kind of busy, can it wait?”
                Shikarou glanced at his Milktit. “Helen is about to come over and kill one of your harem, so you tell me.”
                The video feed went live and Svetlana appeared with a startled look. “You really believe that? Just a moment.”
                Two minutes passed and Faelan appeared. He wasn’t fully dressed and didn’t look happy. “What is it?”
                “It’s April the first and someone put salt in the flour, loosened the lids on the salt cellars and swapped the Milktit milk pitchers around so most of my harem is going to be lactating for the next week.” Shikarou smiled unpleasantly. “And I have Amy’s scent on the flour bin and Helen is ready to declare war on your Cheshire.”
                Faelan looked startled. “Crap. It’s April Fools Day.” He frowned for a moment and then nodded. “Amy brought this on herself and was stupid enough to get caught. Helen, she’s fair game, just don’t kill her.”
                Svetlana appeared. “Wait a minute, that’s not fair.”
                Shikarou smiled. “Get any presents of milk last night?”
                She blinked. “Why do you ask?”
                “You’re starting to leak through your gown.”
                She turned white and stared at her chest before pulling her gown out to look inside. Fire bloomed in her eyes. “That is one dead pokegirl.” She left the video input yelling for Amy.
                Shikarou gave Faelan a bemused smile. “Enjoy.”
                Faelan shook his head. “I have to go.” He broke the connection.
                Shikarou turned to Helen. “I’ll take care of breakfast. You take Pythia and go Cheshire hunting.” He considered. “Spanking sounds good.”
                “Ha. I’m going to have Pythia keep her from teleporting and hold her down while I shave her tail and any other part of her I can.”
                “Now that’s cold. Have fun.” Shikarou pulled out his wand as Helen left. “Now let’s see. Waffles and strawberry syrup and fried ham.”
                Branwyn’s mind touched his. Devon’s harem is up. Don’t tell them about the milk. It’ll be my April Fools joke for them.
                “Bloody hell.”
(04/06/99 0730 Blue Continent)
                “She’s put on a couple of kilos and with the techniques you showed me, I’ve removed her scar tissue and regrown the missing piece of her ear.” Candace looked up at Shikarou. “If she were conscious I’d tell her Tamer to give her a lot of physical therapy to get her back into fighting trim and release her.”
                “Does Devon know?”
                She shook her head. “He brought in Letitia to take a look at her but she doesn’t have the information you gave me and I didn’t share, as per your request.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry you missed her, she’s huge now and I think she’s due in just a few days.”
                “I’ll ask Branwyn to get an appropriate gift. Letitia delivering would get him out of here for a few days at least.”
                Candace gave him a dark look. “It had better. Of course, she could come here for the delivery.”
                “For a pokegirl with the word joy in her name you are not bringing me any today.”
                “Don’t like babies?”
                “I adore my own. Human babies are too fragile.”
                She chuckled. “I still like them.”
                “Fine, you like them. Now is Kinesha physically ready for us to start work on her mind?”
                “I’ve repaired the damage to her body.” She gave him a wry look. “While I don’t like the way you did it, the damage to her liver has been entirely repaired. If you ever do that again, do not throw the pieces in the rubbish bin. Maude was a little frantic when she found, as she put it, bits in the bin.”
                “She’s started putting on weight, which is a very good sign.
                Shikarou suppressed a chuckle. “I’ll keep that in mind. So as far as you know, she’s ready.”
                “I can’t come up with a reason to not allow it.” Which of course wasn’t the same thing, but it would do.
                “Even with their oaths, I do not want any member of Devon’s harem in here once we start. I’ll talk to him this evening. Thank you, Candace, your help has been crucial and I really appreciate it.”
                Candace slipped her arm through his. “If you’ll come back in a couple of hours, I’m free for lunch.”
                “Sounds good.”
(04/06/99 1900 Blue Continent)
                “You wanted to talk to me?” Devon stepped into Shikarou’s office.
                The kami looked up from the Grimoire of Danu, the reflected light from the copper pages giving his face a reddish cast. “Just a minute. There’s tea on the trolley.” He glanced at Hatsumi as she glided silently to the wall near Devon’s chair. “There’s blood if you want it.”
                Hatsumi blinked. “Thank you, lord kami, but Hatsumi has Devon duty and cannot eat.”
                Shikarou read another page before carefully closing the book. It evaporated into smoke as he got up and poured a cup for himself. “Sorry, doing some preparations for tomorrow.” He settled back in his chair and leaned back. “Picked out a name yet?”
                Devon blinked. “I don’t understand.”
                “Candace told me that Letitia is due in couple of days and I was wondering if you’d decided on names. For the baby.”
                Devon brightened. “Yeah. Christine if it’s a girl and Christopher if it’s a boy.”
                “Good. Fatherhood can be frightening, but it does have rewards.”
                Devon sighed. “I get to do it again in a month with Florence. Did you ever have kids?”
                “Two daughters.” Shikarou smiled in fond remembrance. “And I helped to raise some of my half siblings.” He gave Devon a direct look. “I’ve seen you with your harem and if you apply yourself you can be an outstanding father.”
                “I’m terrified I’ll end up like Cameron.”
                “You won’t. Poppet’s told me a little about him and that man hated too much. You aren’t anything like him or you wouldn’t have names already picked out. You also wouldn’t be here for Maeve.” He snorted. “That is one man the world is better off without.”
                Shikarou gave him an odd look. “Tomorrow we are going to start work on Maeve’s mind. I know you’ve been to talk to her every day, but starting tomorrow her room is off limits until we are done.”
                “I want to be there.”
                “No.” Shikarou watched Devon start to get angry. “I’m glad for your oath, but you have no business there while we are working and you might even be a distraction.”
                Devon shook his head. “Ming Die then. She can help.”
                “Anyone other than me and my pokegirls could cause irreparable harm.” Shikarou shook his head. “I can’t allow it.”
                “She’s my fucking pokegirl.” Hatsumi gasped as Devon spoke. “You don’t make the rules in this case, Shikarou.”
                “Without meaning any disrespect to you or your past, right now Kinesha is my pokegirl and I do make the rules here.” Shikarou watched him evenly. “Perhaps you should spend some time with Letitia while my harem works on Kinesha because you are not going to be with us and neither are any of your pokegirls.”
                Devon growled and half lurched out of his chair. “I challenge you for her.”
                “I reject your challenge.” Shikarou put his tea down and sat up. “Until I say otherwise, Kinesha is mine.”      
                “You can’t do this to me.” Tears flowed down Devon’s cheeks. “I can’t lose her again.”
                “I never said you wouldn’t have the opportunity to claim her, I said you will not be with her while we are working on her mind. I don’t want her. Trust me; you will have the chance to take her back into your harem.”
                Devon stared numbly at him for a moment. “All right.”
                “So why don’t you go to visit Letitia for a few days? If I can I’ll give you frequent updates and if I can’t, Branwyn will.”
                “I want to be here in case Maeve needs me.”
                Shikarou’s ears went flat but Hatsumi spoke before he could. “Master, Maeve may need you but Letitia does need you. She is as frightened as you are and you are of great comfort to her. Hatsumi thinks you should rethink your wants against Letitia’s needs.”
                Devon blinked and turned to look at Hatsumi. “Sometimes I forget that you are not just a fighting pokegirl.” He sighed and turned back to Shikarou. “She’s right. Letitia needs me and right now Maeve doesn’t.” A deep breath. “I would like constant updates.”
                “If you don’t feel they are coming often enough, feel free to call Branwyn.” He smiled. “You can call me it you want, but Branwyn will have my phone.”
                Devon nodded and wiped his face. “I will.”
(04/11/99 1000 Blue Continent)
                Shikarou opened his eyes and reached for pitcher of iced water. Stardust beat him to it and drank from the pitcher, her eyes dancing as she watched him. Pythia stretched and twisted her neck. “Five days of this. I’m going to hurt at the next training session.”
                Circe plucked the pitcher from her sister and filled two glasses before levitating it over to Shikarou. “You aren’t alone in that. We’re all going to be out of practice.” She handed a glass to Pythia, who grunted her thanks. “When are you going to wake her up?”
                “In a couple of minutes.” He drank deeply from the pitcher. “I just hope everything works.”
                Stardust frowned. “We did what we set out to do and now it’s up to her.” She looked at the still unconscious Maeve. “That is one fucked up pokegirl.”
                Shikarou shook his head. “Not nearly as much as Nanu and she’s fine.” He smiled. “Ok, her room is an armory and now she wants grenades, but otherwise?”
                Pythia kissed his cheek. “You can’t win that one, please stop while you are still even.”
                “Do you want us to wait outside while you wake her up?”
                “Yes, I do. She will probably respond violently no matter what, but I can talk to her more easily if she’s not trying to keep an eye on you three. Stay close though.”
                Soon Shikarou was alone with the unconscious Mini-Top. He sighed and pulled out his wand. A couple of minutes passed and the pokegirl started moaning. Shikarou poured some water in a glass and stuck a straw in it. She sucked hungrily at the water and slowly opened her eyes.
                “Devon?” Her voice was weak.
                “My name is Shikarou. You’re in a clinic and when I’m sure you are better, I’ll contact Devon and let him know. What is your name?”
                “I’m Maeve.” She nodded slowly. “Where is Jacob? He’s my Tamer now.”
                “Actually you belong to me now and if things work out, you’ll never see Jacob again. However, I’m going to give Devon the chance to take you back, if you are interested.”
                She winced. “My head hurts.”
                “You were subjected to an L5 conditioning cycle not long after you left Devon. Your memories have been put back together so you remember what happened.”
                “Do you know how I got taken from Devon? I never knew.” She was watching him closely. “Are you going to tame me?”
                “No. If you have to be tamed I’ll make the arrangements for a pokegirl to tame you, but I was hoping that the next harem you belonged to was Devon’s.” He smiled. “As for what happened, I can tell you, or do you want Devon to?”
                “Tell me.” She looked around the room. “You’re alone.”
                “I have some guards outside the room, but I was hoping you would be more comfortable with just me.” He blinked as a quiet knock came from the door. “Excuse me.”
                He came back with a tray of food which he placed in front of Maeve and for the next several minutes she ignored his presence for the food. “You know, while you are eating might be the best time to tell you what happened to you. Devon was misidentified as a member of Team Viper and arrested and some overzealous police put you and the rest of his harem up for adoption. You were taken by Jason Thornton and you attacked him when he attempted to tame you into his harem, so he had your brains scrambled.”
                “From there Jason took you to the Indigo Plateau and there he died and you were taken by Team Rocket. You went to Jacob and he lost you to me almost two weeks ago.”
                “I was asked by Kathryn to find and rescue you and frankly she was a bitch about it and so I took it as a challenge.”
                She looked up and wiped gravy from her face. “Why didn’t Devon try to find me?”
                “He knew that you had been killed and couldn’t deal with the idea of a new personality living in your body. He tried to mourn you, but it didn’t work.”
                “I was happy with him. I want to go back to him.” She watched his eyes warily as she spoke.
                “Ok, I’ll see what we can work out.” Shikarou hesitated. “You’ve been gone from his harem for nearly a year.”
                She blinked. “That long. How large is his harem now?”
                “He’s got eleven pokegirls in his harem.”
                “Who is his alpha now?”
                “Kathryn is.”
                She smiled slightly. “That bitch. She and I have a long overdue reckoning.” She frowned. “Are you a Tamer?”
                “Yes, I am.”
                “Is that how you know Devon?”
                “I met Devon through Poppet.”
                “How do you know her?” She looked faintly curious the first time.
                “We are lovers.”
                She blinked. “You don’t look like you have an Ice resistance bloodgift. I thought it would be needed to keep your dick from freezing off if you put it in her.”
                Shikarou smiled. “Yeah, you are one of Devon’s. She asked me to do him a favor and I’ve been helping him out since. I helped him get Lamya back when she got arrested.”
                She gave him a weak smile. “I’ve got a lot to learn, don’t I?”
                “Yes, and I want to let Devon tell you most of it.” He frowned. “Do you want a drink?”
                She frowned. “I was a boozer, wasn’t I? No, I don’t.”
                “Good. I, uh, cursed you. It made you violently allergic to alcohol, but while we were scampering around in your mind, we tried to cure your alcoholism.”
                She chuckled and started coughing. “Scampering, huh? I suppose I should be grateful.” She looked directly into his eyes. “Thank you.”
                “You are very welcome.”
                “How did you fix my mind?”
                “You don’t need to know that. The knowledge could get you taken away from Devon again.”
                She nodded slowly. “Then by all means, don’t tell me. When can I go back to Devon?”
                “Let me send in Candace, she’s my NurseJoy and is probably fretting right now because she hasn’t examined you yet. I’ll contact Devon and try to arrange a meet tomorrow, but it may be a couple of days. Yesterday he became a father and that’s a little unsettling.”
                Maeve’s eyes widened. “Father? You weren’t kidding about me having a lot to learn.”
                “Let me get Candace.”
(04/12/99 1300 Blue Continent)
                Shikarou smiled. “Congratulations on Christine and happy birthday.”
                Devon smiled. “My cup runneth over.” Paulette watched Shikarou carefully. “Thanks for the baby blankets.”
                “Branwyn picked them out.”
                “So when do I get Maeve?”
                “As soon as all of the arrangements are complete.” Shikarou smiled. “Shall we?” He smiled amusedly as they walked. “Remember what I was going to try to do?”
                “Recover her memories? Yes, I remember.” He shrugged. “I knew it wouldn’t work.”
                They came up on Maeve, Branwyn and Circe. The Mini-Top looked up. “Devon.” She threw herself into his arms and the two of them cried on each other.
                Paulette’s eyes narrowed. “You succeeded.”
                Branwyn smirked. “That’s right. Once again, we did the impossible.”
                Devon looked up. “I don’t know what to say. I would have given anything to have Maeve back and now you’ve given her back to me.”
                “Hold on to that thought.”
                “What do you mean?”
                “I didn’t do this for free.” Shikarou shrugged as Devon looked shocked. “I want something. Well, actually two things.”
                “Whatever you want, if it’s in my power to give you, you can have it.” He held Maeve tightly. “What is it?”
                First, I want you to say thank you. I’ve done a lot for you and you’ve never told me that you were thankful for my help.”
                Devon stared. “I.” He frowned. “I thought I did.”
                “No, you never have.”
                “Easily fixed. What is the other thing?”
                “I want Bellona, if she’ll have me.” Branwyn stared at him in shock and she wasn’t alone.
                “But she’s a member of my harem?” Devon started to look unhappy.
                “And you gave your word. Anything in your power to give. If she doesn’t want to go with me then so be it.”
                “She’s not going to.” Devon shook his head, “However, I’ll let her tell you that.” He frowned. “Paulette, go get Bellona’s pokeball.” He pulled out a pokeball and released Zelda who took up a guard post.
                “Devon, I shouldn’t leave you alone.” Paulette really didn’t look happy. “You might not be safe.”
                “Paulette, if Shikarou wanted me dead, I’d already be dead. Now go.” She sighed and vanished.
                Devon cradled Maeve. “I’ve missed you so much.”
                She cocked her head up to look at him. “Enough to make me alpha?”
                He chuckled. “We’ll see.” Maeve cuddled against him.
                Branwyn exchanged a look with Shikarou. She’s smart. Already she’s trying to manipulate him. Why do you want Bellona?
                I think she’ll be a good addition to the harem and you need a beta. Nobody wants the job, so maybe Bellona will.
                She told me she was unhappy in the harem since she lost her jobs to Tess, but I don’t know if she wants to leave.
                Then all she has to do is tell me no.
                Paulette appeared with Kathryn and the Ladyien stepped away from the Neo Iczel with a frown. “Ye shouldn’t have let Paulette leave ye alone,” she chided Devon. “It’s not safe for ye.” She blinked at the Mini-Top. “I knew that Maeve had been found, but what are ye doing with her?”
                Maeve smiled nastily at her from within Devon’s arms. “Hello, bug. You and I need to have a chat about that fight at Loch Ness.”
                Kathryn turned white. “Ye have yer memories.”
                “Damned right I do.”
                Shikarou cleared his throat. “I hate to break up the reunion, but we have unfinished business.”
                Devon nodded and held out his hand to Paulette. She handed him a pokeball and he released Bellona. She looked tired. “Bellona, Shikarou has asked for you in exchange for Maeve. He said if you tell him no then he’ll drop the subject.”
                Bellona gave Devon a curious look and then swung her gaze to Shikarou. “Why would you want me?”
                “I need help training everyone and Branwyn needs a beta.”
                The DragonQueen gave him a disbelieving look. “Who’s your beta now?”
                Branwyn barked a laugh. “No one. No one in the harem wants the job. I’ve never had a beta.”
                Bellona stared at her. “No beta? Why not?”
                Shikarou answered. “Everyone has seen the work she has to do and no one wants that kind of responsibility. I’m a hard taskmaster and Branwyn is sometimes even worse.”
                “What about your Armsmistress?”
                “Yushiko is busy being the priestess of a kami and that takes up the vast majority of her free time.” Branwyn shrugged. “Circe doesn’t want the job and no one else is qualified.”
                Bellona shook her head. “And yet your harem fights well together.”
                “That’s Shikarou’s doing. He’s single-handedly done most of that. I help, but we need a beta.” The Unicorn smiled. “Apparently, he wants you.”
                “All I have to do is say no and you won’t be angry at Devon?”
                Shikarou smiled. “Of course not. I’m offering you a demanding, unrewarding job for the unforeseeable future. No one in their right mind would want it and I won’t blame you if you say no.”
                Bellona looked at him for a moment and then looked at Devon. “Yes.”
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