Chapter 19: Changes
(04/12/99 1315 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“What if I told you that you couldn’t have her?” Devon’s eyes were angry as they glared at Shikarou.
Shikarou paced over to stand next to Bellona, who gave him a faintly curious look. The air seemed to grow heavy as he drew himself up. “Then, Devon Jamie Harris, you would stand before me a man foresworn,” he intoned formally. “I would have no choice at that point but to seek satisfaction.”
The statement hung in the air between them and seemed to vibrate with energy as time suddenly stood still. Even the insects went quiet. Branwyn turned white as the blood drained from her face and Kathryn stared at Shikarou as her mouth dropped. Paulette’s mouth firmed and she moved up next to her Tamer.
Devon paled and then flushed a violent red which stood in stark contrast to his bright blue hair and for a brief second he looked terribly young. He stared at Shikarou as he visibly gathered his thoughts, but his next words were for Bellona. “Are you sure that this is what you want to do?”
Bellona was looking from Devon to Shikarou with a puzzled look. Devon was staring at her with eyes full of pleading while Shikarou was coolly watching her. She turned to Devon. He gave her an anguished smile. “Please change your decision and stay with me. I need you with me.”
The DragonQueen glanced at Shikarou. “Do you have anything to say?”
“No. This is your choice and yours alone.”
She blinked. “That’s it?”
He gave a tiny shrug. “I await your decision.”
She stared at him for an instant before turning back to Devon. “I wish to join Shikarou’s harem.”
Devon sagged for a heartbeat and straightened. “I release you.” He gave Shikarou an angry glare that was echoed by Paulette and Kathryn. Meanwhile, Maeve watched Kathryn.
Shikarou pulled a pokeball from his pocket. “Here is Maeve’s pokeball. I’d like Bellona’s now, if you please.”
Devon stared at it for a moment before taking it. He frowned and handed over Bellona’s. “Here.”
Shikarou took it gracefully. “Thank you.”
Devon gave him a flat look. “Kathryn, we are leaving.” He hugged Maeve close. “I need to put you in your pokeball for the trip.”
She frowned. “Can’t Kathryn go up instead?” The Ladyien’s eyes narrowed and she gave the Mini-Top a speculative look.
“No, you still need the rest.”
“Oh, ok. When are you going to tame me?”
He smiled slowly. “Soon, I promise.” He put the Mini-Top into her pokeball. He turned to Shikarou and said stiffly. “Sir, I do not believe that we need to be in contact again.”
Branwyn grimaced. “Stop that, Devon. Don’t go burning bridges just because you are angry.”
He gave her a hard look. “Perhaps you are right.” He nodded to Shikarou. “I’ll be in touch.”
Shikarou inclined his head slightly. “You will do as you will.”
“Paulette?” The Neo Iczel gathered Devon and Kathryn into her arms, her eyes watching Shikarou until they vanished.
Shikarou took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. “And once again you forgot the thank you.” He turned to Bellona. “I want to welcome you into my life and I hope I can be what you are looking for.”
Branwyn chuckled. “I hope you’ll forgive him, he’s never poached a pokegirl before. He’s taken them in combat, but not this.”
Bellona nodded slowly. “This has never happened to me before either. What happens next?”
“I’ll set you up with a room and then I’ll let Lorelei know that she’s been bumped in the rotation. You’ll spend tonight with Shikarou, getting formally brought into the harem.” She gave her Tamer a broad smile. “And you will keep it in your pants for one day so she gets a proper induction.”
Bellona’s eyes widened as he chuckled. “As you command, my alpha.” He grinned at Bellona.
She gave him a thoughtful look. “Are there any rules I need to know right away?”
“My name is Shikarou. Since I can’t seem to stop certain behaviors, I also answer to master or lord. I am not your husband and you are not my wife.”
Bellona nodded. “Very well.”
Shikarou turned to Branwyn. “When you get her settled in, I would like Bellona to go through a healing cycle and then get some sleep, so I am giving her a free day today.” He smiled. “That means actually free; that does not mean that you get to tell her what do to.”
Branwyn returned the smile. “Very well. Bellona, this way please.”
“Just a moment.” Shikarou handed Bellona her pokeball. “Normally the pokegirl who owns it keeps it around here. It prevents misunderstandings.”
The DragonQueen looked into his eyes for a long moment and then smiled. “Thank you.” She leaned over and licked his cheek. “Interesting. You don’t taste like evil incarnate.”
“Who’s been saying I am?”
“Paulette. She does not like you.”
Shikarou shrugged. “Damn, now I’m going to lay awake at night, worrying about what I can do to change her mind. Oh, wait, all I need is a bone saw and a spoon.” Bellona blinked at his sarcastic tone. “Now, please go with Branwyn. I don’t want you tired tonight.”
She blinked at the sudden anticipation in his tone. “Ok.”
(04/13/99 0345 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
Shikarou chuckled quietly into Bellona’s neck as her hair fell over his face in an emerald cloud. “It’s a good thing I have magic or we’d be sleeping on the floor.” She pressed back against him, but didn’t awaken. Before he’d repaired it the bed been ripped open from her claws and the headboard, already heavily scarred from previous bedmates, had received massive damage from her grip during some of their couplings.
He shifted slightly and winced once. “It’s a good thing I regenerate or my back would look like that headboard. Next time you go on your hands and knees.” A wry grin flitted across his face. They’d done that too, that was when the mattress had been shredded.
She’d been astonished and apprehensive at the idea of being tamed without restraints, but in the end he’d convinced her to give it a try. A lot of the blood drying around them as a result of that was his, but she’d done something while riding him, and he wasn’t exactly sure what, that had resulted in him clawing her back up. He’d been mortified, but Bellona had been quietly smug about the whole thing, at least once he’d healed her up. She also had enjoyed much more pain during their taming than any of his other pokegirls and he was looking forward to exploring how far her limits ran.
He sighed into her hair and closed his eyes as he composed himself for an hour’s meditation.
The room was of dressed stone that had been heavily carved over millennia of habitation and torches guttered in the corners. There was no exit, only a tremendous mirror in a simple silver frame that was hung on one wall. Shikarou moved to the mirror and saw in it the wolf creature that he had battled on two previous occasions. Its inky black eyes met his calmly and the hand he reached out to touch the glass was heavily muscled and covered in black fur. The monster reached out its hand to meet his at the surface.
Somehow he knew that this was as it should be and his muzzle wrinkled in a grin as he dropped his hand back to his side and spoke a single word in his native tongue. The mirror shimmered and the view changed. Now it showed a path with hedges bordering it on either side. Flowers sprouted in a tremendous explosion of color along the hedges and the path turned and went out of sight to the right.
He stepped through the mirror and onto the path and paused as his muzzle twitched and olfactory organs sorted through the riot of scents that suddenly filled the air. Satisfied, he strode rapidly between the hedges and suddenly frowned as he noticed that his balance was off. He stopped for a moment and thought before realizing that it was his digitigrade stance working in conjunction with his tail that was changing his stance and affecting his center of gravity. He swished his tail a couple of times to get a better feel for it and continued down the path, following the twists and turns until it ended at an open field.
“You are late.” The man sat on a tree stump. Long silver hair was curled in his lap and silver furred ears flicked irritably. “Change form and sit down. We need to have a talk.”
The sensation of his bones twisting and muscles moving was uncomfortable as he resumed a more traditional form and settled on a nearby log. “I am sorry, father, but I didn’t know I had to come here.”
His father nodded once, an unreadable expression in his golden eyes. “The fact that we are here and having this discussion means that something has happened that I did not anticipate. I suspect that somehow I am unable to come to you to help and that we are out of contact.”
“That would be correct. I am on another world in a universe that you are unsure how to reach.”
“That means, my son, you have a problem and it’s one that has the potential to be very serious both to you and to those around you.”
Shikarou’s ears flicked nervously. “I do not understand.”
The man sighed. “I didn’t think you would, but I still hoped that I was wrong. Listen well. Your mother was not pleased when you turned two and started manifesting your abilities and, after she threatened to abandon you and return home, I tried to mollify her by isolating the vast majority of your powers. I intended to return them to you when you were an adult and on your own and at that time I would train you in their use and control.”
“It didn’t work. She still left when you were but a child and she told me before leaving that if your powers came back, she would never have anything to do with you again. I left your powers locked away so you would be able to have as much contact with her as possible.”
“Why did she do this?” Shikarou gave his father a puzzled look. “Her leaving hurt so much and I never understood why she did it.”
“Your mother is amatsukami and her people are fascinated to the point of obsession by racial purity. Your Sidhe blood offended her and your kami gifts are more in line with what they expect from the oni, which disgusted her.” He shrugged. “Her worshippers are the same way, which helps to explain her feelings but doesn’t excuse them, especially not in regards to her own children.”
“Before I could get together with you to unlock your powers, you married Pallaius and moved to your mother’s lands. I knew that your abilities would cause you great distress there.” He shrugged again. “I suspected that your marriage to Pallaius would not last very long, so I continued to wait.”
“Apparently I waited too long or we wouldn’t be having this conversation within the confines of your mind.” He straightened. “While I look like your father, I am actually a warning spell that was buried in your mind that would only activate if you reached 251 years of age, which is when my creator set your limitations on your powers to automatically end. The fact that I still exist and have activated tells me that for some reason my creator has not been able to activate your powers before now and that they have either started to manifest on their own or will do so very soon.”
Shikarou nodded. “My powers have been growing, but I put it down to having worshippers again.”
His father frowned. “If I was your father in truth I would be able to tell you if that is true, but that is beyond the knowledge that was placed within me. I can only tell you what I know.”
Shikarou cocked his head. “So, please tell me what you can.”
He nodded. “I would like to be able to give you a list of your powers and tell you what they will be like, but as you know, each of us is different and the powers you manifested as a child may be only the beginning of the powers you will hold as a full adult.”
“I can tell you that as a child you showed the abilities of shapeshifting, necromancy, and the manifestation and control of cold. These are the powers that your father locked away.” He smiled wryly. “I think it was the necromancy that really bothered her. Her people want to pretend that death is not the nasty business that it actually is and so they try to act as if it doesn’t exist.” He gave Shikarou an amused look. “Of course she was also upset when you froze the milk in her breast while you fed.”
Shikarou chuckled quietly and then suddenly his ears drooped. Eagerly he asked, “Did I show that I could fly? I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.”
“No. I am sorry to have to tell you that you showed no signs of flying abilities. That doesn’t mean that they won’t manifest later in life, but it is equally likely that you may never develop any flying related magic.”
“I see. What else can you tell me?”
“Not much. I can tell you what I am, in the hopes that it will help you to try to guess the extent of your powers.” He frowned. “He is, I am, sometimes it’s confusing to me. Anyway, I am a wolf forest spirit; while I could be considered part of the kunitsukami and not the amatsukami, my powers are much more like those of the oni and therefore most consider me to be in neither group. I can fly, transform into various wolf related forms and I can command wolves. I also have almost complete control over cold and can generate temperatures that approach zero degrees Kelvin without harm to myself. Because of my control of cold, I tend to maintain a constant temperature around myself and do not notice temperature variations of either hot or cold.”
“My Sidhe heritage is more problematic. I have powers in relation to death. I am a true necromancer and also have powers of healing and purification. I also have the ability to mimic any sound I have ever heard, which explains why I am such a good storyteller.” He grinned and fangs flashed in the light. “Few others can make the sounds of a snowfall or the hiss of rain.”
“Your mother is a goddess of life and healing, and I have no empirical data to indicate how her blood will influence your powers, but I would expect something along the lines of increased healing abilities or fertility.”
He frowned. “Neither one of us has shown anything like your blood magic, although since it has appeared in several of my children including those from other wives, your mother accuses me of providing it to you. While I know that my creator has some theories as to how it might have manifested, apparently he didn’t have anything that he thought significant enough to put into this spell’s knowledge base.”
“Your ability to manipulate souls is not unique, but you have shown an unusual aptitude for it. It isn’t one of my abilities, and I sometimes wonder if it came from your mother. She’s never revealed the true extent of her powers and so I can only speculate.” His ears flicked. “I asked her once and she became very upset and never answered the question. It is also quite possible that it manifested as an aspect of my necromantic powers and thus comes from me. Further research is required.”
“I would like to caution you that working with souls can be a tricky thing and could easily get you branded oni. In addition, while you have never manifested the ability to consume the power of a soul, should you develop it be careful. Sometimes the evil of a soul can taint someone who consumes it, and consuming the souls of the good can lead to your being hunted relentlessly by those that think themselves good.”
“I would urge that you use any soul related powers sparingly, if at all. However, don’t let my warnings get in the way of your survival. ”
“Remember that you are a master of the Tsukiken School of martial arts and the discipline that allowed you to advance to that high rank can be used to help you master your new powers as they appear. Hopefully, they will manifest slowly and one at a time, but we both know that often we don’t get what we want.”
“One other thing: when your new powers begin to appear, it might be prudent to isolate yourself as much as possible until you gain a measure of control. You have the signs of being a very powerful being and you don’t want to accidentally hurt anyone important to you.”
“I know that I wish I could be there to help you during this time, but we must all walk our own paths alone. I have faith in your willpower and control and more importantly, I have faith in you, Shikarou. You have never failed to make me proud of you and I know that you will succeed in this as well.”
“I will continue to search for you, for only extraordinary circumstances could have kept me from your side at this time, and when we finally meet again I look forward to greeting you more as an equal than as a son.”
“I love you with all of my heart. Be strong.”
Shikarou opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling to his room for a long time as tears flowed down his cheeks.
(04/13/99 0922 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
Marcus has healed his Demoness Lilith in the pokegirl center in Plymouth England. The report just updated and the timestamp is sixty three minutes ago.
Shikarou bounced to his feet and grinned at Branwyn. “Training is over. Aggie located Marcus and we are an hour behind him.”
Branwyn nodded. “Helen, get out the PPHU. Everyone else stand by for healing. Anyone feeling too slimy sluice off in the bathroom. Those using the bathroom have four minutes. Move.”
Bellona came up to stand next to Shikarou as people started moving. “I never knew that you had an indoor arena. The fact that you can restructure it to different environments is incredible.”
“You weren’t supposed to know. This is for us only.”
She nodded, her emerald green hair swaying slowly. “Who is Marcus?”
“There’s a group called the Order of Pendragon that has been attacking us from time to time. I don’t know much about them but I do know that Marcus Pendleton-Smythe is a member, he attacked us in Glasgow. I want to get my hands on him so he can give me information about the Order.” He smiled slightly. “I need to know if they’ve given up on me, or if I can expect more attacks in the future.”
“Do you think they’ve given up on you?”
“No, I don’t. They still have agents here watching me and I think they are just biding their time.”
She looked surprised. “Who?”
“Mary and Gwen.”
“Why don’t you get rid of them?”
Shikarou smiled. “Knowing who the enemy spies are can make life a lot easier and allow me to feed them disinformation.”
Branwyn looked up. “Bellona. Pokeball. Now.”
The DragonQueen smiled and offered Shikarou her pokeball. “Would you do the honors?” She vanished in the red beam and he handed the pokeball to Branwyn.
Branwyn started her healing cycle. “Have you decided on the team?”
“You, Circe, Bellona, Pythia, Elizabeth and Dorothea.”
“We haven’t trained with Bellona yet,” she pointed out.
“This is a capture mission and I’m hopeful there won’t be a lot of fighting. If I need to, I’ll reevaluate the situation and my pokegirl lineup.”
(04/13/99 0930 Plymouth, Blue Continent)
Branwyn and Shikarou appeared outside the pokegirl center and she let his hand go. “We need to be careful, he might recognize us.”
He grimaced. “Then the little fuck runs and we chase him down. That’ll get him out of town, anyways.”
“What if the Demoness teleports?”
“Crap. I forgot about that.” He shrugged.
A third voice interrupted them. “Damn, you are quick.” Shikarou turned to see a cute olive-skinned brunette. “I only sent the message ten minutes ago.”
Branwyn frowned. “What message?” Suddenly Shikarou’s com started sounding a siren and a second later his pokedex started making the same noise.
The woman grinned as Shikarou juggled both pieces of electronics and finally shut them off. “Guess I spoke too soon.”
Shikarou checked his com and looked up at the brunette. “An all Tamer callout? You have got to be kidding me.”
“We’ve got a Widow. Does that sound like kidding?” The brunette frowned. “I’m Marisela Garcia, the leader of the Plymouth gym, and you would be?”
“Shikarou. This is Branwyn.” His ears were half flattened. “What about Marcus?”
“Marcus Pendleton-Smythe. He was just here with his Demoness, Lilith.”
“Oh, him. I remember the Demoness. He left almost an hour ago, before word came in about the Widow incursion.” Marisela frowned thoughtfully. “Is he a friend of yours?”
“No, he’s not. I just need to have word with him.” His smile showed just a hint of teeth.
She gave him an odd look at his tone. “Well, you are going to have to wait. You need to check in at the pokegirl center and we’ll set you up with some accommodations until more Tamers arrive. I expect that we will be leaving in the morning to hunt this Widow down.”
Aggie, park your satellite over this area and find that Widow, if she exists.
Satellite arrival time is 345 seconds. She could be extremely difficult to locate if she is in the second stage of her life cycle, so you need to understand that my not being able to find her cannot be considered as conclusive evidence that she does not exist.
Branwyn sighed as they headed inside to check in. “Bellona is our only Dragon type. Can you plan a strategy around her?”
“I can and I already am.” He sighed. “I’m tempted to leave today and I’m tempted to wait and leave with the others tomorrow. Both have distinct and very different advantages.”
They finished checking in and Shikarou was assigned a bunk in the pokegirl center. He politely turned it down, explaining that he had a tent.
Branwyn looked at him as they left the building and picked up where they’d left off. “Explain.”
“Leaving now would mean that we don’t have to worry about darkness knows how many idiots getting in our way. I’m not sure we can take a Widow, but if every Tamer in this area goes after her, the body count is going to be very high.”
He shrugged. “On the other hand, leaving in the morning gives us a bunch of people we don’t know traveling with us to suck up her attacks while we try to take her out. We also have to share the bounty with all of the survivors, but that is less important than us living.”
Branwyn frowned. “Dorothea is going to want to leave right away, to keep the body count down.”
“I know. Do you think Ms. Garcia would buy the idea that we want to head out now to provide her with a scouting element?”
“She’d probably jump at the idea. So how do you think we can destroy a Widow with only one harem?”
“First we have to find her. I’ll explain everything else on the way.”
When they tracked her down, Marisela was cautiously pleased at the idea of having a scout. “You are just going to keep an eye on her and keep in touch with me, right?”
Shikarou grinned. “I have no intention of ever getting into a fight I don’t think I can win.”
She nodded. “All right, but be careful. You seem moderately professional and I’m going to need platoon leaders for all the other Tamers who are going to be arriving.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. What’s your com number?”
A few minutes later they were on the road with Pythia covering them at a much higher altitude than normal.
I have located the Widow and I’m downloading map data to your hand computer.
Shikarou pulled out his handheld. “She’s about thirty kilometers north of here, near the ruins of a town.” He made an adjustment. “Let’s see,” he said musingly. “Widows have enhanced strength and speed as well as 360 degree vision.” He looked at Branwyn. “Ok, for this we’re going to need you, me, Pythia, Bellona, Circe and Elizabeth. We’ll keep Dorothea as a reserve. She can report back in case of total disaster.” He adjusted the map and started releasing pokegirls as Branwyn called Pythia down. “Time for a preliminary briefing.”
(04/13/99 1100 North of Plymouth, Blue Continent)
Shikarou looked around the slowly undulating field he’d picked as an ambush site. The whole area was open ground for over a hundred meters in all directions, and all of the undergrowth and trees had been hastily removed and were scattered around the periphery of the free fire zone. Three circles four meters in diameter were spaced fifteen meters apart in the center, forming a rough square in the center of the cleared area. “This should do nicely.”
He turned to his pokegirls. “Ok, everyone has been healed and is at full strength. Remember, no battle plan ever goes exactly like we want it to, but I think we’ve prepared for all of the contingencies we can think of, including fleeing.” He turned to Bellona. “Our plan rests on you, but this is a Widow and the risks are high. Normally I just give orders at this point, but I’m willing to come up with another plan if you don’t want to do this.”
The DragonQueen squared her shoulders and looked directly into his eyes. “I can appreciate the desire to keep the casualties to a minimum, but if Devon told me he wanted to attack a Widow and had a foolproof plan, I’d have worked with the rest of his harem to hold him down until the insanity passed.” Her mouth firmed. “You had the beginnings of a plan and worked with your staff to refine it until it’s as good as it can be in the time you have. Yes, it puts my life on the line, but if we are being honest, you are going to be putting yourself into just as much danger as I will be in since you are going to be the bait.” She glanced at Dorothea, who was busy checking her gear once more. “Well, the primary bait.”
“As you mentioned, you’ve got contingency plans in place to run before everyone is dying, and if the wheels come off you’re ready to scrub the whole attack and retreat and regroup.”
A tiny smile appeared on her face. “What I’m trying to say is you are being as thoroughly professional as I’ve ever seen a Tamer and I’m ready to do my part.”
Branwyn blew air out her cheeks. “Next time, could we dispense with the speech?”
Bellona grinned. “Hey, it’s my first time with you and Shikarou, please be gentle.”
Shikarou turned to Dorothea. “What about you?”
“My lord, I stand ready to complete thy plan or die trying.”
Her eyes opened in shock as Shikarou grabbed her breastplate and jerked her forward against him. “NO DYING, IS THAT CLEAR?” He dropped his voice. “If things go bad, you are to run to Plymouth. You know where the rest of the harem is stashed and if we fall your job is to get them to Faelan.” He kissed her on the lips gently. “Do not fail me in this, Dorothea, for this is even more important to me than killing that Widow.”
She wrapped her arms around him fiercely and kissed him hard. “I will not fail thee in my mission, my lord.” Her eyes met his. “I will live, no matter what, in order to save thy harem. Do not die, my lord, I beseech thee.”
He smiled slightly. “I don’t plan to. Now you have the first phase. Go.”
She nodded and took to the air, sweeping around to head in the direction of the Widow.
Circe watched her fly off with an amused look. “She kissed you in front of the rest of us. Just how corrupt do you intend to make your poor Seraph?”
Shikarou laughed. “As much as possible.”
Your spell is working. I have realtime contact with Dorothea and will guide her and provide tactical advice. Preliminary ETA of Widow to ambush site is approximately 900 seconds.
Shikarou nodded. “We’ve got fifteen minutes. Action stations, everyone.”
Dorothea winged towards the Widow’s location, climbing as she flew. “So thou are the tiny voice in my lord’s head.”
My name is Aggie and I am a person, not a voice.
“I meant thee no insult.”
None taken. You will want to stay high enough to stay out of range of her hyper venom attack but close enough that she will follow you. What do you plan?
“I will strike my foe at a distance with magic fist. My lord suspects that while the Widow is strong against all other attacks except Dragon, that perhaps the variability inherent in magical attacks may damage her slightly. After her attention is on me, I will drop and lead her a merry chase back to my lord.”
Risky. Widows are fast. Suggestion. Stay at extreme range and hit her occasionally with a ranged attack to keep her attention and infuriate her. She will follow you.
“I disagree with thee. An enraged foe will strike out at anything, and if she comes across another pokegirl she will quite likely cease pursuit of me to chase easier prey. That possibility becomes more likely if she does not believe that she can reach me.”
Hmm. Your way is riskier, but with a commensurate higher probability that the plan will succeed. One moment. A brief time passed. I have contacted Shikarou and he is sending Pythia to meet with you in six seconds. She will be flying over you and attaching the stripped down pokedex that Branwyn possesses to the back of your armor. I will be able to use the scanner to watch behind you as you fly and feed you data on the Widow.
Dorothea blinked. “Thy help would be of great benefit to me. I thank thee.”
Shikarou is my friend and while he had reservations about you joining his harem, he has since become rather fond of you, more so than you know. It is only fitting that I do what I can to help keep you alive.
Dorothea blushed. “Thy words gladden my heart.”
Pythia appeared on the horizon and flew quickly to slip above the flying Seraph. “I’ll have this attached in minute.” She worked quickly and moved around to where Dorothea could see her. “Be careful, sister.”
Dorothea smiled. “I shall.” She continued on as Pythia vanished.
The Widow will be on the other side of that hill. Dorothea banked and turned to avoid letting the Widow shorten the range by climbing the hill.
Her blood chilled at the sight of the dreaded black form. It was eating something and took no notice of her distant form.
“I hope that she knows of my presence.”
If not, I’m sure you can let her know you are here. Thunderbolt will give her eyes something to follow to you. But you will have to get closer. Stay with magic fist and see if she sees the attack.
Dorothea fired a magic fist attack which struck the Widow on her abdomen and the pokegirl responded by hunching down to finish cramming her meal down her throat. Dorothea hit her repeatedly and the Widow ignored her to finish her meal before turning quickly to face the circling Seraph. Her mouth opened and a glow began to emanate from her gullet.
I think she sees you.
Dorothea hit the Widow once more and dove as the hyper beam ripped through where she would have been. “Does my lord get his tendency for understatement from thee or do thou get it from him?”
The Widow is giving chase. She is quite fast and is currently closing. Speed up.
I think I get it from him.
Dorothea flew faster until the Widow began to fall back as she maneuvered through terrain Dorothea could soar over.
I am going to try something, please do not panic. Dorothea blinked as her vision dimmed and she saw an overlay view of the Widow behind her. Point your hand behind you and summon your power for your magic fist. A blinking crimson light appeared on the ground in her in the overlay. That is the impact point of your attack. Guide it onto the Widow or at least nearby and attack her.
Dorothea tried it. The bolt smacked the ground in front of the Widow, who screamed in rage and responded with another hyper beam, which Dorothea evaded with Aggie’s help. Excellent. Now we can tease her if she starts to lose interest without you having to make yourself an easier target.
“Good. My lord awaits her on the field of battle and I would not want her to miss her appointment with destiny.”
It is now official. You are strange.
Shikarou heard Dorothea’s laughter as she came over a slight rise and flew overhead. “MY LORD, THY VICTIM APPROACHES.”
Branwyn snorted. “Victim, huh? I hope she’s right.” She tightened her grip on his hair. “I’m ready.” They stood in front of one of the circles, Shikarou ready to release a spell as Branwyn was ready to teleport. Bellona and Pythia waited inside the circle directly behind them. Elizabeth and Circe were nowhere to be seen.
The Widow will come into view in ten seconds.
Shikarou started his spell and energy began to swirl around him. Suddenly a black nimbus burst into existence around him and Branwyn and seemed to feed energy into the spell he was casting.
“Beloved, be careful,” the Unicorn warned.
The Widow appeared as he released the ice beam spell. Normally an ice beam creates a beam of ice that is only about four or five centimeters in diameter, but this beam was a meter or more wide. It smashed the Widow flying and her screams of rage could be heard for a kilometer. She rolled to her feet and charged her new prey, her clawed hands extended to fire hyper venom as soon as they got in range.
Branwyn teleported into the circle with Pythia and Bellona, taking Shikarou with her.
The Widow used her hyper venom attack as soon as she could and the venom ran down the hemispherical force shield to soak into the ground. Shikarou glanced over his shoulder. “Move to another dome so as to avoid the poison before beginning. Don’t use this one.”
Pythia nodded and wrapped her arms around Bellona from behind before teleporting to one of the other circles which denoted the force field domes. Bellona smiled at Shikarou as they faded from sight as Pythia turned them invisible.
Shikarou dropped his voice as he shot the Widow the finger. “We didn’t think about the hyper venom in the dirt around the force domes. Tell Circe that Elizabeth is no longer viable as backup.”
“I’m on it.”
The Widow screamed and used her hyper beam on the forcefield. Shikarou watched the energy coruscate centimeters in front of him and waved at the Widow, sweeping his arms from side to side in an exaggerated motion. The Widow charged, bellowing her rage as she closed.
The Widow pounded on the force dome with her claws, trying to reach the prey that she could see but not reach as Shikarou capered in front of her wildly. Branwyn stayed behind him, ready to teleport them to safety if something went wrong.
The enemy pokegirl backed suddenly and stopped as she opened her mouth to fire another hyper beam. Shikarou grinned. “Now.”
Energy enveloped the Widow and she tried to scream around the developing hyper beam as Pythia phased partially out of the ground underneath her and Bellona hit her with a point blank dragon breath before they sank back into the ground. They had phased into the ground beneath the force dome and quickly traveled to get beneath their foe.
At the same time Branwyn teleported Shikarou in front of another circle and he used his lightning attack on the Widow. It bounced off, but got her attention as he’d intended. Branwyn teleported them back to the safety of the force dome as the Widow vomited the hyper beam at where they had been and Pythia and Bellona repeated their attack before teleporting to a circle for a quick breather. Circe appeared at the end of the field behind the Widow and cast flare, which detonated three meters behind the Widow and blinded her rearmost eyes. She screamed and spun in a circle as the Alaka-Wham teleported away.
Shikarou cast imitate on himself and again on Branwyn as the Widow rounded on the last motion, which was Pythia and Bellona appearing. “Ready?” She nodded and they waited until the Widow had committed to another hyper beam attack before teleporting behind her, coming out ten meters away. Both of them used Bellona’s dragon breath on the Widow, who never saw the attack coming from her blinded eyes. The mortally wounded Widow crashed to the ground and began dragging herself towards them as they teleported back to the safety of their force dome. She continued to claw and bite at the force dome around them until Pythia and Bellona hit her a third time from the rear.
Finally she stopped moving. Shikarou took a deep breath. Pythia, you and Bellona hit her again and again until she’s in pieces. I want to make sure she’s dead.
A short time later everyone stood and watched as Circe and Pythia used their telekinesis to gather up the pieces of the Widow. Bellona took his arm. “Is this a typical day in the life of my new family?”
“Blood and darkness, no. This was easy. Sometimes someone actually gets hurt.” He grinned at the expression on her face. “All kidding aside, I am very pleased with your performance today. You did well.”
Her tail twined around his ankle and rubbed it gently. “Thank you.” She cocked her head and licked his cheek. “What kind of reward do I get?”
Branwyn grinned. “Down, pokegirl. We have needs too.”
Bellona’s eyes went wide at his response. “As a reward for a good job how about a million credits of your own?”
Everyone turned to stare at him and he grinned at the stunned looks on their faces. “I think each pokegirl in my active harem should get a million credits to spend as they please. We’ll take ten percent of what is left for the group fund and let Lynn use the rest for Caomh Sith.” He looked smug. “Now we can afford that containment equipment and transporter for the clinic and the police station.” His ears flicked as a thought struck him. “The only other restriction is whatever you buy has to fit in your own room or in the armory. No meter long rubber ducks that someone tries to keep in the hot tub.”
Branwyn smiled slowly. “So, when do we go after our next Widow?”
Shikarou blanched. “They aren’t worth it. I could have lost several women who are important to me today and that’s not worth the bounty. If we never have to do this again, I’ll be perfectly happy.”
“Marisela is not going to be pleased.” Elizabeth grinned within her hood.
“I hope she’ll be glad we kept the body count down, but frankly I don’t give a fuck. We saved at least fifty lives today and she can have all of the screaming fits she wants, but that makes it worth it.” He raised a hand defensively. “I realize that killing more Widows could save more lives, but we got lucky today and we won’t get lucky every time. I’m not sacrificing my women to save someone else’s.”
He shrugged. “I’m also going to do my best to not encourage other Tamers to try this. Because of that, while I’ll show Marisela the video of the takedown if I have to in order to collect the bounty, I’m not going to let her have a copy of it.”
Circe nodded. “It reveals too much about our capabilities and wouldn’t help anyone else prepare to fight a Widow.”
“That’s right.” Shikarou sighed. “We got a 900 million credit bounty and missed Marcus. I’d rather have Marcus.”
Bellona’s hand tightened for an instant on his arm. “What I saw today was incredible. If you want Marcus that badly, it’s only a matter of time before he’s yours.”
Branwyn nodded. “She’s right. He’ll be in our hands eventually.” She smiled. “So now we return to Plymouth and quietly inform the authorities as to what happened so they can search for any other problems out here and then we go home.”
Elizabeth frowned. “Shikarou, since we defeated a Widow today, can we skip afternoon training?” Everyone laughed.
Shikarou made a show of stroking his chin thoughtfully. “It was only one Widow, so I’ll have to think about it. If it had been two, then yes, but since it was only one, I don’t know.”
There was more laughter.
(04/13/99 1800 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“So, can I presume you are buying dinner?”
Shikarou gave his brother a sour look. “I’ll buy if you only order tea and cheese sandwiches.”
“Such a big spender.” Faelan grinned. “How did Marisela take you going cowboy on her?”
“It means going off on independent ops in violation of orders.” I’m not sure what a cowboy is, but I have heard it applied to the people working at a Milktit ranch. It’s a saying in Indigo.”
Svetlana swept into living room of the tent and came up behind Shikarou to give him a big hug. He stiffened in surprise as she settled down next to her Tamer and gave him a broad smile. “I just heard the wonderful news. You took out a Widow! So how much of the bounty are you giving to a worthy cause? I don’t think you should limit yourself to less than half, you could never use all of that money.”
Shikarou gave her a look that suggested she’d just offered him a plate of feces. He recovered quickly and tried to make light of the situation. “I’ve made a healthy donation to the Shikarou Urufu Betterment Foundation.”
Svetlana laughed. “Now, that just won’t do. I’ve got a list of worthy charities that could make very good use of that money and whenever you have time today we’ll sit down and figure out who gets what.”
Shikarou’s ears went flat and a low growl began to issue from his throat. Svetlana ignored the signs. “So when will you be available today?”
Faelan pulled out a pokeball and put Svetlana up. “I was really hoping she wouldn’t try that with you. We had that particular fight after the Giantess bounty came in.”
The growl died and Shikarou took a deep breath as he pulled his claws out of the table slowly. “What happened?”
“I gave her some of the bounty and told her to do whatever she wanted. The rest I banked for school.” He grimaced. “She didn’t get nearly as much as she thought she should and we had a terrible row over it.”
“You know, Faelan, I would strongly suggest that she not talk to me for a couple of days.”
He nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Thank you. Where were we?”
“Right. She was a little annoyed, but once I explained that I only did it to keep the inexperienced Tamers from being mowed down like grass, she calmed down. She even gave me the badge to her gym as a bonus.”
“She must have mellowed. So what’s next, oh great conqueror?”
“I need to visit my shrine and see what’s going on there.” Shikarou smiled. “I hope there’s nothing that I disapprove of, but if there is, then I need to stop it before it gets out of hand.”
Faelan nodded. “What are you going to do if Svetlana comes around with the collection plate again?”
Shikarou sighed. “I know you love her, which kind of limits my options. I don’t want to kill her and I don’t even want to beat her senseless. Well, sometimes I do.” He glanced at Faelan. “I am growing very tired of her treating me like some appendage of hers or like I’m her Tamer.” He looked thoughtful for a couple of minutes. “I suppose I don’t know what I’m going to do. That usually means that if I figure I’m going to get preached at, I might as well do something to deserve it.” A slow smile spread across his face. “Now that could be fun.”
“No banging my Megami-sama.”
Shikarou grinned. “If I can avoid taming her ever again, I will.” He smiled. “She was ok, just not my type.”
Faelan grinned. “Details?”
“Why not. What is it?”
“Did she play the helpless maiden game with you?”
Shikarou grinned. “No, I think that one is something special for you two. Most of the time she was more ‘Let’s get this over’ then anything else.” A smirk. “Since I felt about the same way, it worked for me.”
“What kind of games do your pokegirls like to play?”
Shikarou looked at him with an unreadable expression. “Are you trying to offend me?”
“No, I’m curious. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with Tirsuli women before coming here, just my first and a few others.”
“Ah. Every woman plays games. They vary from woman to woman, and none are quite the same, but they all do, just like we do.”
“What if I have to tame your harem?”
Shikarou smiled. “Branwyn has taken steps to ensure that unless I am killed, she won’t have to be tamed by you and I suspect she’s made the same arrangements for the rest of the harem. They’ll take care of each other until I’m back on my feet.”
Faelan looked slightly disappointed. “Oh.”
“Little brother, enjoy the girls you’ve already got and if you want more, go out and catch them. Stop sniffing around mine.”
“I’d like to point out that most of the ones around here are yours in one fashion or another.”
“Right across the channel is a whole bleeding continent full of horny feral pokegirls as well as horny domesticated pokegirls with crappy Tamers. Get off your butt and go catch some and if Svetlana gives you any shit, tell her that if she was a good alpha, she’d be helping to make the harem stronger instead of being a bitch.” He blinked. “Did I say that with my outside voice? I usually say that only with my inside voice when you start whining.”
Faelan stared at his brother, his ears flicking up and down. Finally he shook his head. “You are such an ass.” He sighed. “Still, even asses can be right. Maybe I need to take a trip.”
Shikarou smiled. “No, what you need is to take a short Tamer’s journey. You’ve never been on one. You went from a Giantess to Vale to the PLC. Take some time and fuck the scenery. Take your harem and let them help. I’ll talk to Molly about letting Amy have time off.”
Faelan started chuckling. “That actually sounds like a good idea.” He nodded. “Elder of the Tsukiken clan, you have convinced me. I’ll leave in the morning, if you’ll talk to Molly today.”
“I will. Have a good time.” Shikarou stood. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go talk to my Denmother.” He stopped. “We could use some water types.”
“I’ll stick my rod in the water and see what nibbles.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
(04/14/99 0700 Blue Continent, 04/14 1600 Edo)
Bellona slipped back to stand next to Branwyn and Circe as they watched Fumiko apparently trying to crawl inside Shikarou. “Do we always get around so early?”
The Unicorn nodded. “Yes. Breakfast is at 0530 every day and when we are on the road, we strike camp at 0700.” She smiled slightly. “You get used to it and I must admit we do get a lot done. Shikarou explained to me that he believed that the limiting factor for most harems was the Tamer. Most pokegirls get plenty of opportunities to sleep in their pokeballs, so, since he doesn’t sleep and only requires an hour of meditation a day he decided to test the theory. So far he seems right.”
“But the other night when he was with me, he slept.”
“No, he meditated until you were asleep and then he got up.” She glanced at the DragonQueen. “I’m fond of good cuddle and his getting up is something I don’t particularly like, but it gives him some alone time and he seems to need that.”
“What does he do?”
“I honestly don’t know. Maybe you can help me find out. He’s been very secretive about his activities.” Branwyn frowned. “Well, that’s not exactly true; he just won’t talk about it. I know he often spends time in the arena and he hangs a sign warning everyone to stay out. It usually says something about hazardous conditions. So far no one has been curious enough to find out if it’s true or not.”
“I thought he couldn’t lie.”
“He can’t. But that doesn’t mean that the sign isn’t incorrect most of the time. As long as it’s correct when he hangs it, he’s not lying.”
Bellona blinked. “Sneaky.”
“Get used to it,” Branwyn muttered in dry voice. “But he’s even sneakier to his foes than he is to us.” She gave Bellona a look. “By the bye, that was a good job you did with the Widow. Frankly, I didn’t expect everyone to make it back from that one, but as much as I didn’t like it, Shikarou was right. We had the experience to make the most of our advantages and we couldn’t wait and hope someone better came along; and while I hate to admit it possible loss of some of us was better than a definite forty or fifty dead if the groups of Tamers had engaged her.”
Shikarou finally peeled Fumiko off of him and looked her over quickly. She gave him an amused look. “What is it?”
“I’m just checking on something. It seemed like there were an unusual number of arms clutching at me and since you can actually do things like that, I figured I should check.”
She laughed at him. “So what brings you here today? You aren’t due for another couple of days.”
“I came to see this shrine I keep hearing about.”
She sobered instantly. “Oh. It’s down the road about a kilometer.”
He frowned. “What is wrong?”
“There’s been a problem at the shrine. Some people have been coming by to steal out of the offering box.”
“Maybe I can do something about that.” He frowned. “Why do I have an offering box?”
She shrugged. “It’s traditional.”
“Can you get away to take me there?”
“No, I’ve got a lot of work to do.” She gave him a sad smile. “Sorry.”
“That’s ok. Right now your work is supposed to come first.” He hugged her tightly. “We’ll find our way to the shrine.”
“Yushiko can take you to it.”
“Good idea.” Shikarou released Yushiko. “Fumiko thinks you can take me to my shrine.”
The Armsmistress nodded. “Yes, my lord, it is just down the road.”
“All right, let’s move out.” He gave Fumiko a quick kiss. “I’ll see you later.”
As the shrine came into sight Shikarou ground to a halt and stared at it. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes briefly and Branwyn heard him muttering to himself. “I’m in Edo. I’m in Edo. Edo is a conglomeration of the various Asian countries and I have to keep that in mind.”
She touched his arm. “What is it?”
He chuckled slowly. “Sorry, I just got a shock. My shrine is built in a mix of Chinese and Korean styles and I was expecting Japanese.”
“That it is.” He smiled. “Come on.”
Yushiko smiled proudly. “My family commissioned the shrine’s construction and used a local feng shui priest to ensure everything is perfect. That’s why it’s so far from the shop because this place has the best chi flow.”
Inside the pagoda there was incense burning and a collection box next to the stone that represented the kami. Two women and a Titmouse were praying at the rock that apparently represented the shine’s kami. They would pray for a moment and then clap twice before going back to their prayers. Two young men stood nearby watching.
Shikarou watched for a moment and then emptied his pockets of change and dropped the coins into the collection box. He shrugged as Branwyn gave him a curious look.
Yushiko did the same thing and smiled at his wink.
One of the young men nodded and walked past them to open the collection box and remove the coins, which he swept into his pocket. Shikarou frowned. “Why are you doing that?”
The man smiled. “I am the keeper of the shrine and it is my duty.”
The Titmouse came up and bowed to Shikarou. “Master, he lies. He steals from you to buy food and drink for himself and his friends.”
The man glared at her. “Shut up, you fuzzball. You have no idea what you are talking about.”
Shikarou gave the Titmouse an amused look. “I know you are telling the truth and that he is lying to me. The question I have is how did you know who I am?”
The pokegirl smiled back at him. “You came to me in my dreams and guided me here that I may serve you.” The two women broke off their prayers and turned surprised faces towards them.
The man scowled. “I don’t know who you are, but leave this place and never return.”
Shikarou glanced at him. “Yushiko.”
“My lord?” She almost quivered with eagerness.
“What is the customary penalty for theft?”
“Jail time, my lord.”
“Pity. The last time someone robbed my shrine, I took his arm. Still, I suppose I should make some nod in the direction of the law. Take him into custody and you and Circe deliver him to the police and press charges. Oh, and the money should go back into the box. Take his friend, too, if he interferes.”
Yushiko spun the man around and smashed him face first against the wall while he was still trying to protest and his friend stood stunned. Circe watched him alertly.
“Gently, Yushiko. He’s young and probably still has uses for his teeth.” Shikarou turned to the man’s friend. “Jail or leave.” The man fled.
After the money had been returned to the offering box and Yushiko and Circe were gone with the prisoner Shikarou turned to the Titmouse. “How can you serve me?”
“Let me serve you as the keeper of your shrine, Master.”
“Very well.” Shikarou placed his hand on the Titmouse’s head. “I charge you to keep my shrine and instruct those who come to worship me and desire instruction.” He dropped his hand as she began to glow. “Oops.”
When the glow faded, the Titmouse had changed substantially. She had grown almost fifty centimeters and changed to an almost completely human form, losing the fur, the ears and the tail. Her hair was waist length and a shiny black which matched her eyes. She now wore a red hakama and white kosode while a katana graced her belt. “Thank you, Master.” Even her voice had changed, becoming deeper and more melodious.
Shrine Maiden, the amateurish summoner, Aggie supplied.
Shikarou nodded. “This will allow you to more easily perform your duties. What is your name?”
“Echiko, see to your duties.”
The Shrine Maiden bowed happily. “Hai, Master.” She turned and headed off to check on the two human women, who were standing stock still and staring at Shikarou with huge eyes.
Shikarou turned to Branwyn. “Before you ask, I have no idea how that happened, but that’s sometimes how magic works.”
He had to explain what happened to Yushiko when she and Circe returned and once more when they returned to the Yoshihara residence for dinner. He suspected that unfortunately this would only enhance the reputation of the shrine.
04/15/99 0700 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“I’ll be fucked. Look at that.” Gwen smacked Mary on the shoulder, almost catapulting her out of her seat. She gripped the table to save herself.
“Watch your strength, damn it.”
“Balls to that. Look over at that bastard.”
Mary looked at where Gwen was carefully not pointing. Shikarou was eating breakfast in the inn, unusual enough, but she didn’t see anything odd. She looked closer. He was reading as he ate and her heart skipped a beat, no, several beats, as she realized it was a large book with copper pages. “Fuck,” she breathed. “The Grimoire.”
“Out in the open and everything.” Gwen grabbed her arm and pulled. “Let’s go say hi.”
Mary gave her a slight glare, but she knew the old saying that having a Neo Iczel was kind of like having a zebra on a string. It usually went where it wanted, taking you with it, and if you fought it too hard you got bitten. As she did each time she remembered that saying, she wondered what a zebra was.
Gwen almost dragged her over to Shikarou’s table. He glanced up at them and then around at the nearly empty dining room. Only the barmaid was visible behind the Inn’s bar. “Merry met.” He smiled and shut the book, putting it to his left, on the other side of the table from them. “Care to join me for breakfast? I’m having eggs Benedict.” He uncovered a tureen and the rich smell of hollandaise sauce filled the air, making Mary salivate.
“Thanks,” Gwen dropped into a chair and grabbed a plate as Mary sat more sedately.
Shikarou shook his head and smiled at Mary. “I had a Neo Iczel for a while. Headstrong is a good word for them, but they usually mean well.”
Mary smiled and helped herself to the food. “That is an understatement. May I ask why you are eating here?”
“Helen has the morning off and breakfast was kind of light, so I’m having a second one.” He smiled gently. “I didn’t get my morning milk.”
“Is she ok?”
“She’s fine. Candace is giving physicals to my entire harem and it involves an overnight stay at the clinic.” He shrugged. “If I didn’t allow it and someone came down with some rare condition, I’d never forgive myself, so I guess the time it takes is worth it.” He sipped at his tea. “However, it means Helen won’t be getting out until this afternoon.”
Mary stared at the Grimoire as she ate. He had his teacup and saucer sitting on it and it was just out of reach. She noticed Gwen staring at it as well. The Neo Iczel almost quivered as she considered options.
Shikarou watched them for a couple of minutes as everyone ate and smiled slightly. “I owe you an apology for being a sorry host.”
Mary blinked. “Why?”
“For teasing you.” When Mary still looked confused, his smile widened. “With the Grimoire.”
Gwen froze as Mary’s eyes went wide. Her mouth opened, but no words came out.
“I mean, it’s right there. All Gwen has to do is lunge across the table, sending plates and cups flying and grab it up. Then she grabs you and you teleport to wherever you intend to run to and the Order will reward you handsomely.” He put down his fork. “That’s quite a temptation.”
Mary’s mouth worked and finally words came out. “You knew?”
He nodded as his smile faded. “It’s my job to know things. I’ve known since you came here who you worked for. What I don’t know is why they sent you. I’ve been reading the Grimoire and it wasn’t written by humans and it cannot be used by them.” He met her gaze. “I don’t know why the Order thinks they want it, but it’s useless to them.”
Gwen’s mouth firmed. “So why can you read it?”
“It’s common knowledge that I am not human.” He glanced at her. “I wouldn’t.” Gwen lunged. The Grimoire faded to smoke and dissipated. Shikarou looked amused. “Fancy that.” Gwen glared. He shook a finger at her. “Now that would be a real mistake. I’ve been patient with you so far, but don’t push it. I’m starting to get very annoyed that I can’t find Marcus Pendleton-Smythe and if you push, I will take that annoyance out on you.”
Gwen blinked at his words. “I don’t see any pokegirls to protect you,” she stated flatly.
“Which means that either I don’t need them or you just don’t see them,” he responded as he rose from the table calmly. “I think I’ll leave you to ponder which it might be.”
He stepped out into the street and chuckled. “Aggie, I think they’ve been primed enough. If they respond as Stardust says they will, be ready to respond.”
As thou command, it will be mine honor to obey.
“You know, it’s cute when Dorothea talks that way.” Pause. “At this point I should point out that you are not Dorothea.”
Name: Urufu Shikarou
Residence: Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Security Clearance: Epsilon
Master Tamer Y
Species Name Level
Alaka-Wham Circe 64
Unicorn Branwyn 56
Milktit Helen 55
Seraph Dorothea 47
Ria Kebi 45
Armsmistress Urufu Yushiko 44
G-Spliced Pythia 42
Sphinx Lorelei 40
Vampire Elizabeth 38
Mini-Top Nanu 33
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
Wales: Magicunt Village