Chapter 28
(06/22/99 1215 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
                “Uh oh.” Faelan suddenly became intently focused on his tea.
                Shikarou raised an eyebrow and started to turn when someone grasped his braid and snapped his head back. He found himself looking up at the face of a furious Unicorn. “You are coming back, right?”
                Shikarou sank his claws into her wrist and she winced before letting go. “Good afternoon, Poppet. Please join us.” He waved to get the attention of the Elf who was working the bar. She nodded and grabbed a tray and a small bottle before heading in their direction.
                The Unicorn settled next to him, rubbing her wrist. “I’m bleeding! Look at what you did!”
                The Elf at the bar appeared with a tray. “Potion, lady?” Poppet gave her a look and took it before the she returned to her post.
                Poppet sprayed her wrist and put the potion down. “Should I ask why you keep potions behind the bar?”
                Faelan chuckled. “Shikarou’s been feeling a bit short tempered recently and the barmaids got tired of the ‘howls’ of pain and the ‘packs’ of bandages they kept going through. So they ‘hunted’ for a solution and Candace provided them with a ‘herd’ of potions to keep behind the bar.” He yelped and scooted away from the table as Shikarou dumped his cup of hot tea into his brother’s lap.
                Poppet snickered quietly and turned to Shikarou as Faelan grabbed the tablecloth from the next table and started mopping his crotch. “You never answered my question, Shikarou.” She sounded calmer, but Shikarou could see a slumbering volcano reflected in her eyes.
                “I’m going to do my best to.”
                The Unicorn grabbed his hand and squeezed hard. “I need more than that, Shikarou. If that’s all you’ll give me then I’m coming along with you. I lost Jamie. I’m not losing you.” She squared her shoulders. “I’m willing to be pokeballed if that’s what it takes.”
                Faelan froze.
                Shikarou squeezed back. “I promise you I will do everything in my power to return for you, Poppet.” He dropped his voice. “If it takes a thousand years and even if I have to journey through time and space to find you, rest assured that I will.”
                Tears glittered in the corners of Poppet’s eyes. She whispered, “Thank you.” Shikarou lifted her into his lap where she curled against him. She was silent for a long moment. “I had so little time with Jamie,” she said quietly, her cheek against his, “and almost no time with you. I don’t think I could go through that again.”
                She wiped her eyes with his shirt and slid back into her chair. “Since I know you are coming back, I’m going to begin my search for a replacement when I return to the Conservatory and I’ll be moving here as soon as I can.” She reached for the tea and poured herself a cup. Faelan eyed her warily. “I’ve already spoken to your wife about this and while she’s not ecstatic about the idea, she knew this day might come when she joined your harem.” She looked into his eyes. “Branwyn just didn’t expect to be your wife when it happened.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Sometimes life takes some strange turns.”
                “Branwyn said something very much like that when we talked last week.” Her eyes lit with amusement when he blinked in surprise. “Yes, I made this decision before I knew you were going to another dimension.”
                “Was someone going to bother telling me?”
                “Eventually. Branwyn felt that telling you too early might be unlucky.” She shrugged. “I believe we make our own luck and I don’t want to start this off by keeping secrets from you. I am hoping to become your wife and I suspect honesty will go a long way in helping that to happen.”
                “Branwyn doesn’t want me to join the harem and I also think that’s a good idea. I’ve kept training all these years, but I’d want to be the alpha and I’m not sure I could beat her. I know I’m higher level than she is, but you’ve made her very crafty and I’m too rusty as far as that goes.” She smiled thinly. “Besides, you’ve made it plain that the job isn’t open for reassignment through combat.”
                “So do you have any idea what you’ll be doing here, once you’ve settled down?” Shikarou watched her carefully.
                “I suspect that will still be at least a couple of years before I can move here, but I think once I do that I’d like to have another batch of children before I become a pokewoman.”
                She rubbed her cheek thoughtfully. “I’ve spoken with Lynn and Gwyneth and if their dream of an Elf enclave comes to fruition, I can function as their liaison with Tamers who want Elf pokegirls. I’ve done almost identical work with the Conservatory and pregnancy won’t get in the way of that.” She gave him a wry look. “You’ll also need a contact with the Pleiades group when Ming Die realizes that you’ve managed to make both Stardust and Circe fully functional. While Stardust hasn’t quite taken out an ad in the Blue League Observer, she’s been openly using her powers and if I can notice, eventually Ming Die will too.”
                Faelan looked startled. “Maybe she already has.”
                “I seriously doubt that.” She smiled. “I think Jim was trying to create his own version of the Vulcan race when he made her production run and he certainly seems to have made them as inflexible as the fictional Vulcans are. Once they decide that something is a certain way you just about have to shove any changes down their throats before they are willing to reevaluate the situation. That’s why they hid on the moon when they easily had the power to carve out a place anywhere on the planet if they’d thought about it.”
                “Being bonded to Devon is helping her, but I think it’ll be years before she changes enough to be that flexible. She’s already decided that Stardust and Circe are mental cripples and she’s likely to ignore all but the most direct evidence to the contrary.”
                “You seem to have thought this through.”
                She gave Faelan a disgusted look. “Faelan, before I met Jamie I was one of Jim’s generals and I was a very good one. My work there is the absolute main reason that the Conservatory has been as successful as it is. Now I’ll be Shikarou’s general.” She gave Shikarou an expectant stare.
                He smiled. “Good. I want you living here as soon as you can.” She visibly relaxed as he continued. “I was planning on leaving in the morning. Are you staying the night?”
                “No, I just wanted reassured that you were coming back. Now that I’ve received your oath, I can return home and start my search for a replacement.”
                Faelan flicked his ears diffidently. “What about Katherine? She’s intelligent and pushy enough to do the dirty parts of the job. Giving her your job would keep Devon there and presumably reduce his chances of wandering into danger and squandering all of the work you’ve done on his line. Not to mention she’d have his harem to act as heavies if she needed them to.” He shrugged. “It’s what they do for her now.”
                Poppet looked shocked and then grinned. “I like the way you think. That is definitely something to consider.” She looked thoughtful. “She’s a Scot and would make sure that the Conservatory stayed in Scot hands. She’d also definitely keep Devon’s interests in mind and even if she doesn’t work out, considering her would please Devon no end. Thank you for the idea, Faelan.”
                “No charge,” he replied laconically. “I won’t start billing you until you need advice with him.” He pointed with his chin at Shikarou.
                She chuckled and rose to her feet. “I think he and I can work together without your help.” She gave Shikarou a quick kiss and hugged a surprised Faelan. “Gentlemen, I’ll see you later.”
                Faelan watched her go with bemused eyes. “When she tries to be good, she’s very very good.”
                “I won’t dignify that by finishing the quote.” Shikarou sighed. “I’ve almost finished packing and I’ve downloaded all of the information Ranma told about himself. There wasn’t a lot, but I’ll take all I can get.” He shook his head. “I also spoke with Soun Tendo over the phone and once he was confident I wasn’t bringing his daughters back, he told me about them. I’ve also got a whole bunch of pictures, including stills from your records of his speech.”
                Faelan nodded. “What equipment are you taking with you on this little jaunt into nothingness?”
                “Everything I can think of. I’ve got spare pokeballs, construction plans, two extra PPHU’s along with batteries, potions, a stack of evolution stones,” he took a deep breath, “everything I need to set up a complete colony for me and my harem. I’m also taking the transdimensional locator that father left and a teacher. If worst comes to worst, in ten years he can come find me with it.” He glanced around him. “I’m also taking three ingots of gold and one of those I’ve turned into one ounce coins.”
                Shikarou sighed. “Ranma came from the 1970’s and considering that they are displaced only four dimensions from his home dimension, things should be almost identical between the two. The problem is, I don’t know how far it is from here. If it’s not that far, then that world could have its own Jim Sukotto and Linda McKenzie just waiting to get the ball rolling there. If so and if I’m trapped there for a while, I’ll head to central Australia until 2010 and then I’ll either head to Edo or Indigo.”
                “Not the Blue League?”
                “Darkness, no!” Shikarou almost choked. “Poppet will be there and I don’t need any of the sorts of complications two Poppets could bring into my life.”
                Faelan nodded. “If two Poppets met and each of them thought she had a claim to you, I’m willing to estimate your lifespan beyond that point could be measured in minutes with a meterstick.”
                “Seconds is more like it.” He grimaced. “And if they didn’t kill me, Branwyn would.”
                “Of course I would,” she plopped down in the chair next to him. “The only question is why would I kill you?”
                “Two Poppets.”
                She grinned. “Nope. You’d live through that. She wouldn’t. I’ve already got to share you with my mother and two Unicorns are enough for anyone. Especially you.”
                “I agree. I was only explaining to Faelan why I wouldn’t go near the Blue League if Sukotto exists where we are going.”
                She nodded. “Faelan, we discussed every possible contingency we could think of last night in our council of war. Our best bet may be fleeing to the space station where we found Pythia. We know that won’t be blown up and Shikarou is carrying one of the small manufactories with him so we can keep it running or turn it into something more useful.”
                “That is excellent contingency planning. So who’s going?”
                Branwyn shook her head. “Every pokegirl who’s ever had anything to do with him has volunteered. We even had a feral Moonflower, you know, the laughing one who lives at the clinic, wander in and stand around like she expected to be captured and taken along. It was eerie.”
                “Ok, everyone volunteered. Who’s going?”
                “I’m taking my active harem.” Shikarou rotated his neck slowly. “Candace is determined to convince me that I need to take her as well.”
                Faelan nodded. “You should. I also want you to take the base seed father brought.”
                “No. I don’t expect to be there long and I’m not going to plant a base just to abandon it later. That’s cruel to the AI and it’s not going to happen if I have any say in it.”
                Faelan sighed. “I won’t be the clan head until you leave, so I can’t order you to take it or else I would.”
                “You couldn’t make me obey an order like that even then.” Shikarou smirked. “I am taking one of Selene’s marker beacons. I’ll claim that world for both of us, just like this one.”
                “Just come back. I don’t want to try to run this place without you. I really don’t want to try to deal with Ygerna without you, either.”
                “I have every intention of coming back, brother. There are just too many exciting things going on for me to keep away.”
                “Good.” Faelan smiled. “If you don’t come back then I’m going to give your mother your coordinates.”
06/23/99 0500 New Avalon, Blue Continent)
                Dr. Banzai took a gulp of his coffee and turned to Shikarou with a wry smile. “You’d think that with all of the travel I do, I’d be used to being awake at this hour.” He motioned to a severe looking man with brown hair and a goatee. “This is Dr. Gordon Freeman and he’ll be running the dimensional transporter.”
                Freeman stuck out his hand. “Mr. Urufu.”
                Shikarou took it. “Dr. Freeman, please be gentle.” That got him a thin smile and Freeman hurried into the lab to finish the preparations.
                Banzai watched him work through the observation window. “Gordon is one of our best experimental physicists. We managed to get him away from Black Mesa over in the Indigo Plateau, but it took a lot of work.” He glanced up. “It means he’s the best in the world right now and if anyone can do this right, he can.”
                “Ah.” Shikarou wondered briefly wondered if this was supposed to be reassuring and then put it out of his mind and went back to focusing for his mission.
                Freeman worked quickly, directing a small team of assistants. Soon a framework of metal bars that formed an arch began to glow softly. Dr. Freeman activated an intercom and spoke to Dr. Banzai. “Three minutes to synchronization.”
                “We need to get you into position,” Banzai said as he took Shikarou’s arm and urged him into the lab.
                Less than a minute later, Shikarou was standing in a circle painted on the floor right in front of the glowing arch of metal bars. He tugged on his kimono idly while he practiced breathing exercises to control his heartbeat, which threatened to speed dramatically every time he stopped focusing on it.
                The glow intensified and spread to fill the inside of the arch before opening into a tunnel whose walls swirled with every color Shikarou’d ever seen and many he had no name for. Abruptly the inside of the arch seemed to recede into infinity.
                They have achieved primary synchronization and their coordinates match those of the ones that Ranma was sent to. However the temporal aspect is off enough that at least a month will have passed.
                “We’re ready, Dr. Banzai.” Freeman sounded very excited and yet spoke with quiet control.
                “Shikarou, just step into the portal.”
                The kami strode confidently into the arch and suddenly the portal sucked him forward. He spun wildly and tried to correct as he reached the opening and was spat out into driving rain to slam flat on his back onto a large concave depression in a rock.
                Lightning flashed and a bolt struck the rapidly shrinking portal. Shikarou’s skin crawled from the electrical corona and he threw himself away from the rock as the portal abruptly reopened and spat several molten pieces of the latticework that had made up the arch.
                Purple afterimages strobed across his eyes as he lay in the rain and blinked several times to clear his vision before rolling to his feet as more lightning flared overhead.
                Peering around, he could see a small square light in the distance and carefully made his way towards it, carefully skirting the large pools of water that lay between him and his goal. He’d have jumped and taken his chances with the pools but that would have made him a target for the lightning and he didn’t fancy that.
                Swimming across the pools was also out of the question, long bamboo poles stuck up from their edges and one of them already smoldered from a lightning strike. Therefore he was satisfied to slip his way through the mud to the small house that eventually emerged from the storm as close lightning strikes chased him the whole way.
                He hammered on the door, bellowing “Let me in!” If they didn’t hurry he was going to batter it down and drive the inhabitants out into the storm.
                There was the sound of a bolt being drawn and Shikarou stumbled through the open doorway. A voice babbled at him but he ignored it for a moment as his eardrums healed. Finally it sank into his consciousness. Mandarin Chinese. Not a dialect of it that I recognize, but I can probably make myself understood.
                “Thank you for giving me shelter from the storm.” He bowed slightly as he got his first look at his host.
                 The man wore a khaki uniform and hat with a red star on it and he smiled broadly. “Welcome to Cursed Training Grounds of Jusenkyo. You fall in spring, yes?” He pointed at Shikarou’s ears.
                Shikarou blinked and cast a sleep spell. He sighed as the man crumpled to the floor of the building. “Ye gods, I forgot.” Quickly he cast an illusion spell that hid his ears and fangs and turned his eyes from shiny black to brown. He then leaned over to drip on the man, who sputtered and woke. “Are you ok?”
                The man stared at Shikarou. “Where your ears go?” He frowned. “Must be light. You no fall in spring. So sorry.”
                Shikarou sighed and began to wring out his hair. “Do you always speak in such choppy sentences?”
                The man gave him a foolish grin. “Tourists want me talk like this. Leave more money. It become habit.”
                “For more money, I guess I can understand.” He shrugged off his backpack. “I hope this rain lets up soon. I’m looking for someone who should have been here about a month ago. He’d be Japanese, like me. Probably he didn’t speak much Chinese and there may have been some women with him,” he paused and cocked his head, “or some female spirit creatures.”
                “Saotome boy. Him here, have no girls, but him followed by spirits. Many spirits.” The man made a sign to ward off evil. “Him want know about other Saotome. Father who fall in cursed spring and become panda.”
                “Not a cat?”
                “You wrong like him. Him think cat too. No, panda. Boy become girl.”
                Shikarou’s eyes went wide as his mind abruptly skittered sideways. “Did you say this was Jusenkyo?”
                “Yes, ancient training ground of cursed springs. Many springs each with very tragic tale of thing which drown in spring. Whoever fall in spring take form of what drown in that spring. Hot water make you change back until cold water touch you again.”
                Shikarou shivered suddenly. “Blood and darkness. Nice storm. Good storm. You feel free to last just as long as you want.” He took a deep breath and let it out. “So did you know where the panda and girl went?”
                “Panda cheap. No pay for food, so I keep stuff. You want see?”
                “Yes, I would. Did the Saotome boy see it?”
                “Him see letter. Get excited. Try take letter. I keep. Boy no have money.” He disappeared into the next room briefly, returning with a small pack. “This what I keep. Cheap panda take other pack and run away.” He pulled out a scrap of paper. “Here.”
                Shikarou unfolded it carefully. Saotome Genma, I know from your last letter that you are headed to the training grounds at Jusenkyo, so I’m sending this there. I’ve made all of the arrangements I can without alerting my daughters to your impending arrival. I’ve spoken with the principal of Furinken High School and he’s agreed to let Ranma take classes starting whenever you arrive at my dojo. I agree with you that the boy probably would benefit from some structured education. I’m eager to see my old friend again and to get the events we arranged in motion.  Safe travel back to Japan. Tendo Soun.
                Shikarou put the letter down and pulled a pouch from the sleeve of his kimono. “You fed the boy Saotome?”
                “Him have no food, but eat like many. Him take food outside for spirits too.”
                His eyes widened when Shikarou put a gold coin on the table. “For feeding the boy.” His eyes got bigger when a second coin joined the first. “For the stuff you kept.”
                The man grabbed one of the coins and bit it. “This real gold.”
                “You’ve been very helpful and I don’t intend to cheat you.”
                The coins vanished into the man’s pocket. “Stuff now yours. You need guide?”
                “I just need some directions. I’m going to be traveling quickly.” He smiled as he stuffed the other backpack into his. “Traveling through China can be confusing. What’s the shortest way to Japan from here?”
                “You in Bayankala mountains in Qinghai province. You follow Yangtze River basin to sea. Is almost 1800 miles.”
                Shikarou nodded. “That sounds about right from what I remember. Thank you.”
                “You stay till morning. Storm end tonight. I feed you good food.”
                “I appreciate that, but I need to be going.” He dug a cloak out of his pack and slipped it on. “Hopefully I won’t get wetter.”
                The guard laughed nervously. “You be careful. Stay away from springs.”
                “Oh, fear not, I intend to.” He strode out into the storm.
                An hour later he stood inside his tent and dropped his backpack on the floor. Pulling out a pokeball he released Branwyn and handed her the pack. She stared at him. “Did you go swimming?”
                “It’s raining.” He started to shed clothing as she began releasing harem members.
                Candace touched him on the shoulder. “You’re skin is like ice.”
                “Is it? I didn’t notice.” He frowned. “I feel fine.”
                Elizabeth touched him. “Wow.” She peered closer. “You’ve got ice on your skin.”
                Circe sighed and looked at Stardust. “It’s his powers. Everyone away from him, he might become cold enough to freeze your skin.”
                Branwyn chuckled and said in a plaintive voice, “He’s become cold to me. If only he’d think warmly about us.”
                Stardust gave her an annoyed look. You are using your cold generation to protect you against the storm outside. You need to convince yourself that you are safe now. Here, let me help.
                A minute later the ice on his body began to melt. Branwyn smiled. “Thank you Stardust.” The Alaka-Wham sketched a bow and headed for the room she was sharing with her sister.
                Nanu tapped Branwyn on the shoulder. “Who won the lottery tonight?”
                Shikarou shook his head. “No lottery. Branwyn.”
                The Mini-Top nodded. “Ok.” She slipped her arm through Marzia’s. “Come on and let me show you something new I’ve learned.” The Blazicunt giggled and let herself be led away.
                Helen shoved a steaming bowl of stew into his hands. “You need to get yourself outside of that quickly before it cools.”
                Shikarou smiled and settled down to eat. Branwyn sat down next to him. “Where are we?”
                “China. We came out where I expected, near the Jusenkyo Training Ground. It turns out to be a bunch of bamboo poles surrounding and surrounded by acres of individual springs.” He glanced at her. “Each spring has a curse that will turn whoever falls into it into something else, something that drowned in it. Sound familiar?”
                “The spell dump.” Her eyes went wide. “That abomination exists here?”
                “Apparently that explains how Genma became a cat. Here he became a panda, and get this, a young man he was with became a girl. The whole process is reversible, sort of. According to a man who lives there cold water makes you change and hot water makes you change back.” He finished the bowl and started to put it down when Helen pulled it from his hands and placed a full bowl in them. “Thank you.”
                She gave a throaty laugh. “I don’t want you to stay cold or my breasts might freeze in the morning.” She sauntered away, putting extra sway in her hips. Shikarou had the courtesy to watch.
                Branwyn snickered. “So that’s how you get the best portions of everything.”
                “You could help.”
                “You’d love that, wouldn’t you? Having to drink my milk again?” Still she looked thoughtfully at the door to the kitchen for a moment. “We’ll see.”
                Shikarou glanced down as his com chirped. Branwyn raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got a message. Here?”
                He activated his com and read a text message before dropping it on the pile of wet clothes. “It was delayed. I actually got it a couple of days ago.”
                “Something I need to know about?”
                He nodded. “When I came through the portal it got struck by lightning and I’m pretty sure some of the equipment on the other side was damaged.”
                “The portal vomited bits and pieces of the gate generator before closing.” He nodded as Branwyn went white. “Yeah, it had me worried as well, so I made a mental note to send myself a message if we made it back ok and have Aggie delay its arrival until after I saw the portal destroyed. I just received that message.” He grimaced. “I didn’t feel it necessary to send any details about what happened and I really wish I had. The entire message said was ‘we made it’. It didn’t even say if we all came out ok. Apparently I was feeling terse.”
                “You? Terse? I can’t believe it.”
                Helen moaned as he suckled, cradling his head to her chest. “Oh, kami, that feels good.” He nipped her lightly and she moaned louder.
                Suddenly he felt pressure and a line of warmth against his side. A voice whispered in his ear. “Move over.” He did so and Branwyn eagerly sucked the Milktit’s other nipple into her mouth.
                Helen’s eyes opened in shock and then slid closed once more as she whined in pleasure.
                Shikarou slipped his hand between Helen’s thighs and teased her wetness. Her head lolled back as she shuddered and slid her hips forward to the edge of the table. Her tail lashed against his legs.
                Suddenly his hand had company. Branwyn chuckled around Helen’s tit. Great minds think alike?
                You do it. He pulled his hand free and she took over. The Unicorn jumped when his fingers wormed between her legs and she shivered and spread her thighs to give him access. Soon she began moaning softly as she drained the milk from Helen.
                Helen whispered into Shikarou’s ear. “Back up a meter.” He complied and watched as Branwyn’s mouth came off Helen’s nipple with a pop as the Milktit lifted her up and twisted to lay her alpha on her back on the table.
                Helen slid down the Unicorn’s body and nuzzled between her legs, going to her hands and knees in front of Shikarou. She raised her head to look over her shoulder at him and shimmied her ass deliciously. “Please?” she whimpered before covering Branwyn’s pussy with her mouth. The Unicorn grabbed Helen’s horns and groaned loudly.
                Shikarou slid behind Helen when the Milktit chuckled and raised her head. “You taste like him,” she teased
                “Shut up.” Branwyn pulled Helen back down and the Milktit went back to work without another word. She whipped her tail and wriggled her ass as sucking sounds came from between Branwyn’s legs. The Unicorn arched her back and lifted her hips as she cried out.
                He grabbed Helen’s generous hips and slid slowly inside her. The Milktit groaned against Branwyn’s pussy and the Unicorn yelped and shrieked as she came.
                Shikarou drove hard and deep, his groin spanking her ass with each stroke, driving her forward against Branwyn. She began to cry out in time to his strokes, her voice muffled by Branwyn’s thighs. He increased his pace until she suddenly lifted her head and screamed, her ass twisting in his hands as she convulsed.
                She wrapped her arms around Branwyn’s legs and held on as he thrust until he cried out and buried himself inside her to spill his heat into her body. She jerked beneath him and screamed again.
                He rested on top of her until her breathing steadied and she lifted her head slowly, her hair a tousled cloud around her mottled face. “Oh kami, thank you both,” she whispered. “That was a rare treat.”
                Branwyn pushed at her gently. “And it’s going to stay a rare treat unless we put a bed out here. This table is hard.”
                Helen slid to her feet and lifted her alpha into a long kiss. “Thank you.” She frowned slightly and looked down between them. “Sorry.”
                Branwyn cradled her head and kissed her again. “Don’t be. I knew it would happen and he’ll be more than glad to help me.”
                The Milktit smiled softly as she glanced back at Shikarou. “That he will. I need to clean up and get breakfast started.” She slid into Shikarou’s arms for a long kiss before disappearing into the kitchen.
                Branwyn slipped her arm through his. “I’ll wash you if you’ll do me.” She winced and rubbed her rump. “Ow. I think I’ve got a bruise from that table. Do you think we can put padding on it?”
                “How about we put some big pillows in here and move there next time.”
                “That won’t work. That table has a glorious taming history and would feel neglected.” She sighed and pulled him down the hall. “I guess padding wouldn’t be traditional either.”
                “What if there were a couple of small pillows around for temporary padding?”
                She laughed. “Now there’s an idea.”
                Two days of slogging through the mud had made Shikarou more than a little cranky. Having to keep his pokegirls hidden only added to his aggravation. He glanced up at the black dot that was Lorelei doing lazy circles at 400 meters as her voice whispered into his ears via the com spell. “You are approaching the village I saw earlier. Do you intend to give them a visit?”
                “I want to see if they know of an airport and barring that check in with the village elder boss and see if he has any news.”
                “I thought the Chinese don’t like the Japanese.”
                “They don’t and the Japanese return the favor. There’s been too much bad blood over the years. However, they should tolerate me. At least I don’t look western.” He hopped off a low cliff and landed in a spray of mud that drove him knee deep into the ground. Cursing loudly in several languages he carefully pulled himself free and retrieved the boot he’d lost in the muck before continuing on.
                He’d elected against flying for the time being in the faint hope that maybe Ranma might still be in the area and he’d run across the young man. However, aerial surveillance didn’t show any single men in the area or anyone accompanied by any females who might be pokegirls.
                So he was going to stop in this village and then press on to the Yangtze River and the coast.
                He could make out two figures guarding the gate as he stepped onto the road. Approaching revealed them to be armed women dressed in colorful clothing. The one with the spear stepped into his path. “Who are you that comes to Joketsuzoku and what is your purpose here?”
                “My name is Shikarou and I am here to buy some supplies and speak to the village elder if that is possible.”
                She sneered as she looked him up and down. “You should bathe and make yourself pretty before trying to deal with us.”
                The other looked at his long braid and drew a knife from her belt. “You will cut your hair before we will let you in.”
                Shikarou swallowed an angry retort. “If those are your conditions, then I will go elsewhere.” He turned and headed back up the road at an easy run.
                “Wait! You come back here right now!” He glanced back to see the guards had abandoned their posts and were giving pursuit.
                He sped up and raced back off the road, tracing his path back the way he’d come, the only place where he knew there weren’t any mud pools to trap him. The shouts quickly began to grow fainter.
                “There’s someone else chasing you and this one is pretty fast.” He sped up to a lope at Lorelei’s warning, bounding over low bushes.
                “I’ll lose them at the cliff.”
                “That third chaser is still closing.”
                He shot a glance behind him. “I don’t believe this; I’m being chased by a grey haired midget bouncing on a stick at more than 40 kph.”
                “What is that place?” Lorelei asked curiously as she banked to fly after him.
                “Joketsuzoku, which translates as tribe of women heroes.”
                “So is the midget a girl?”
                “I didn’t look that closely.” He reached the base of the cliff, squelched through the mud and leaped for the top, keeping close to the wall. “This should stop them.” He landed and turned to look down just in time to see the midget land its stick right below him somehow without sinking into the mud and launch itself upwards, aiming right at him He threw himself sideways as it landed hard and spun. His nose said woman, and his eyes said old.
                She grinned at him. “My girls think you might be worth meeting and after that chase I think I agree. Why don’t you be a good boy and come down without any trouble?”
                “With all due respect, I’m afraid I’m on a mission and I don’t have time to give your girls the attention I’m sure they deserve.”
                She looked surprised. “Politeness from a Japanese? I haven’t seen that in over a hundred years. However, my girls need a husband and I think you might beat one of them.” She leapt at him and jabbed with her staff.
                Shikarou caught it in his hand, sinking his claws into the wood and jerking it from her to fly over the edge of the cliff. “Sorry, I don’t have time for this. Have a nice day.”
                The woman stood stunned. “No one has disarmed me in over two hundred years. If only you’d been born three hundred years ago.” She sounded wistful.
                “She’s distracting you while the others scale the cliff.” There was a second of silence. “Shot.”
                The old woman stared suddenly upwards. “What in hell?” The spray of feather shuriken smashed into the top of the cliff, shattering the rock along the edge and sending it tumbling down on the climbers, who jumped free.
                He bowed at the old woman. “Gotta go.” The Sphinx snatched him into the air with her telekinesis and grabbed him as she blasted by.
                A faint voice shouted, “Come back here!”
                Lorelei climbed hard. “So you already have a fan club?”
                “I think their kind of club gets used on people.” He oriented quickly and pointed. “Head that way. It’s in the direction of Japan.”
                “So are you still determined to walk to Tokyo?”
                “Nope. I’ve been convinced that flying is much better.” Lorelei banked and dropped. “What are you doing?”
                “You’re all nasty. I’m going to drag you through that river until you are clean.”
                “Now you wait just a minute. I don’t want -” He kept protesting all through his drubbing as Lorelei pulled him along with her telekinesis.
                When he was clean she pulled him back into her arms and climbed once more. “Now you’re all better.”
                He jerked suddenly. “I think there’s a fish in my kimono with me.” He felt around and pulled out a carp, which he offered to Lorelei. “Want it?”
                She crammed it into her mouth and chewed. “You are so good to me. Give me a kiss.”
                “Yuck! You’ve got fish breath!” He struggled but eventually relented.
                Shikarou looked at the outskirts of Shanghai and took a slow deep breath. The last two weeks had reminded him once again of just how little fun it was to be Japanese in China. He’d almost been detained by the Communists on several occasions and had been shot at twice as he evaded capture. The fact that he spoke fluent, if slightly archaic Chinese make him more suspect, not less. Outside the tourist spots, they were actively antagonistic against Japanese. He supposed it was different inside the normal tourist areas, at least until the tourists ran out of money.
                He’d been surprised at the reception until it finally sank in that he wasn’t in Edo. He was in China. Sometimes he thought it would be nice to be able to lie and claim he was Chinese too.
                Yushiko looked over at him. “So, how do you want to proceed?”
                “I’ll get a look at some Japanese passports and I’ll manufacture one for me. Then I think I’ll catch a ferry to Shimonoseki. It’s a two day trip, but there is far less security than at the airport. I’ll have Branwyn or Circe wait somewhere in Shanghai and once we’re well underway she can teleport aboard with my backpack and anything else I think the Chinese might take umbrage at. Once in Shimonoseki, I can catch the train to Tokyo.”
                Yushiko nodded. “I want to thank you, lord, for letting me spend so much time at home with my grandmother. She told me that you know she’s going to die soon.”
                “Before winter.” He sighed. “I didn’t know she knew.”
                “She’s made her peace and I got to say what I didn’t before.” The Armsmistress hugged him impulsively. “You made it much better for me than when she died after I’d left home.”
                “I’ve been thinking about asking her to stay on as the family’s guardian spirit after she dies. I really don’t have the time to watch them properly.” He gave her a cautious look. “What do you think about the idea?”
                “My first impulse is to say that it would be wonderful.” She looked thoughtful for several moments. “As your priestess, I think she would be honored and would do an excellent job.”
                “Then I will ask her after we return.” He glanced down at the city. “I probably need to return you to your pokeball.”
                She nodded. “I would be unhappy to give up my weapons and armor just to make them happy. You would have to protect both of us and that would be embarrassing for me. After all, I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”
                “I know. I try to let you.”
                She looked down at the town with disdain. “What are you going to do about money? I don’t think your homemade gold coins will spend here, at least not openly.”
                “I’ve got a spell that will allow me to duplicate coins and bills. Of course, I have to get some first. Fortunately I’ve got an illusion spell that will disguise one pokegirl at a time and I’ll just have to take Kebi into town and let her see what she can find. If I already had money I’d cast it on you instead to hide your armor and weapons.”
                Yushiko nodded. “I understand, lord.” She gave him a sideways look. “Lord, will there be any time to do some shopping in Tokyo?”
                “If there is, we’ll do it.”
                “Thank you. Are you going to teach this illusion spell to Branwyn and the others? That way more than one of your harem can be disguised at a time.”
                He looked surprised. “That is a very good idea. I’ll work on it on the ferry. It’s a simple spell and shouldn’t take them long to learn.”
                “Good. Then we can shop for stuff for you without you.” Yushiko winked and reached out to touch him and activate her pokeball.
                He smiled and released his Ria. Kebi looked around curiously. “China. Why Kebi?”
                “We’re alone. Will you stop that?”
                Kebi grinned and kissed his cheek. “You think I’m cute when I talk like that and no one thinks I’m dangerous.”
                Shikarou gave her a mock glare. “You are cute whether you talk like a feral or not. You’re one of the brightest pokegirls I’ve met and you act like a three year old.”
                “I want to.” She gave him a petulant look. “What want Kebi for?”
                “Fine, be that way. I’m going to cast an illusion spell to make you look like a Chinese girl and I want you to go with me and do some pickpocketing. I really need money, not gum or toys.”
                “Kebi get what Kebi find. Kebi find money. Get raspberry?”
                “If you find me some 5000 or 10000 yen bills I’ll give you two.” Shikarou gave her a big grin. “Can you do that?”
                “Kebi do if Kebi get three! Give spell!”
                “Three? For three you’d better produce.”
                She gave him an arch look. “Kebi no can produce. Two years. Then Shikarou make Kebi produce. Big belly. Many baby.”
                “I keep forgetting that you are a pokewoman.” He sighed. “That’s not the kind of produce I was talking about.”
                “Kebi know. Want baby. Want your baby.” She grinned. “Come, get money. Give spell, get money. Then three raspberries.”
                Shikarou shook his head and cast the spell. He looked critically at the young Chinese girl. “That should do.”
                The Ria dumped her pack and dug around in it to produce a mirror, which she used to peer at herself. She grinned. “Kebi ugly. Blech.” She put the mirror away. “Get money now.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the town.
                “So this is snack food.” Branwyn gave the bag of chips a disgusted look and crammed it into a nearby trash receptacle. “I’ll be quite content with Helen’s treats.” She gave Shikarou an expectant look and he sighed and produced a small bag of cookies from his pack. She grabbed it and looked pleased as she peered around the train station. “Thank you. How can they eat that, it tastes horrible.”
                “I take it you don’t have a proper palate for preservatives.”
                “Is that what’s wrong with it? It’s nasty.” She glanced back at him. “I understand you didn’t think this ferry ride was as bad as the last one.”
                “It was relaxing that the crew wasn’t terrified it was going to sink.” He settled more firmly on the bench and looked around himself. “It’s odd to see so many people and not a single pokegirl.”
                “Is it that or the fact that all of the women are wearing clothes?” When he ignored her, she glanced at his ticket. “So how long is this train ride?”
                “About six hours to get to Tokyo. Then we have to find Nerima and the Tendo Dojo.”
                “Have you thought about how you are going to approach them about Ranma?”
                “I think the best way will be for me to approach them as a traveling samurai. If Tendo has a dojo, he should respect that. It means I’ll have to be alone for a while, but I’ll be careful not to go more than two days without setting up the tent or moving on.”
                “That would be wise; if you rape his daughters he may either be mad or make you keep them all.”
                When Shikarou gave her a bland look she shrugged. “If he’s like the Soun of our world, he’s anxious to get rid of them.”
                “I suspect that he doesn’t have thirty or so daughters here, so he may be slightly more attached to the ones he does have.”
                “I guess we’ll find out when we get there.” She looked amusedly at him. “Remember, none of them are pokegirls, so they can’t join the harem unless Elizabeth bites someone.”
                “While Elizabeth has a twisted sense of justice, she does have one and wouldn’t infect someone for no reason.”
                He chuckled quietly. “If women around us start thresholding, we’ll finally settle the old argument about whether or not being a pokegirl is contagious.” He snorted. “And if they don’t, we won’t have changed anything. I suspect we aren’t going to change anything in that argument.”
                “Are you going to reveal that you are kami?”
                “I suspect that would prove counterproductive, so no. All I want to do is collect the Ranma who doesn’t belong here and be on my way.”
                He sighed. “I just hope he’s there or at least made contact with them. It’s a big planet and he could be anywhere. If he’s not at the Tendo’s, I’ll go to his mother’s place next. If that doesn’t work, we’ll find someplace quiet and I’ll use the manufactory to make an observation satellite and then we’ll try to track him down by his pokedex. I know he took it with him, but it could have been broken or lost.”
                “If we can’t locate him that way, I’ll try to tap into Dorothea’s cosmic awareness and see if she can locate his Celestials. That’s pretty much a last resort because if this planet has demons then it has angels and we could spend years trying to find the right good aligned being.”
                “Finally, we could wait and infiltrate special project groups all over the world and look for reports of the pokegirls. They’ll stand out and we may be able to track him by that. A worst case version of that is we wait for thirty years and use Aggie to invade intelligence organs all over the world and then travel back to this time to get him once we know where he was.” He cocked his head. “And the good thing is that we’d be correcting the timeline by removing Ranma’s influence instead of messing it up.”
                “And during all this we need to keep an eye on the United States and make sure there isn’t any sign of Jim Sukotto or Linda McKenzie. If either or both of them surface our priorities will have to be immediately reevaluated. I’m not letting any of you die for this Ranma, whom I’ve never met, no matter how morally wrong Banzai would think it to be.”
                Branwyn was staring at him. “After hearing that, I really hope he contacted the Tendo family.”
                “I do too.”
                Shikarou settled his backpack into place and took a deep breath before heading out. The Tendo Dojo was only a block or two ahead and Branwyn had been put into her pokeball.
                After getting off the train, he’d caught a city bus to the Nerima district and started asking about the dojo. Locating it had been surprisingly easy, everyone he’d asked had known of it and spoken highly of the master, Soun.
                Once he’d determined that he was within a couple of kilometers of the place, he’d brought out Branwyn for a quickie to ensure he had maximum time available before needing to seek out his harem again and headed here.
                He’d been surprised to see a young woman in a black leotard leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Her laugh had been a little unsettling, but he was glad to know that he could travel the roofs without getting into trouble. That might prove useful later.
                He looked the place over critically once it came into view. It was fairly typical for a dojo and residence and although there was a faint air of dilapidation, it looked reasonably well cared for. It had a serious outer wall, unusual today, and Shikarou wondered if it was a relic of an earlier time or an affectation to keep the outside world at bay.
                The gate was open and he could hear voices inside, although there was a strange background hum that made them impossible to understand. I hope this works. He strode through the open gate.             
                A sensation like a light electric charge ran over his entire body and he felt his illusion spell shatter like glass. The voices became suddenly much more distinct and a deep male voice yelled, “Look, another one!”
                Shikarou’s vision suddenly went white as something was slapped against his face. “I got him!” A younger male voice. Blows rained down on the kami, staggering him backwards through the gate. As he came level with it, the hum suddenly became much louder and pain exploded up his back and legs and he felt energy surging behind him, smashing him forward once more as he pulled at the thing on his face.
                A female voice yelled, “Look out!” and a blow smashed Shikarou sideways. He extended his claws a centimeter and raked them across his face. The thing didn’t come off, but it shredded and he could see again.
                The view wasn’t enlightening as the first thing he saw was a burly bald man in a white gi and a long haired man in a black gi leaping at him in a synchronized kick which smashed Shikarou back against a wall.
                Then a man dressed as a Shinto priest and a younger man in Chinese clothes ran forward and began plastering strips of paper all over Shikarou’s body. The papers were covered with some strong adhesive and were very tough. Soon Shikarou began to resemble a mummy. He glimpsed writing on one of the strips and recognized them as spirit wards against oni. He toppled to the ground and struggled to get free.
                “Tendo, old friend, once more the School of Anything Goes Martial Arts is triumphant.” The burly man smacked his partner on the shoulder and grinned.
                Shikarou’s eyes narrowed and then he closed them and relaxed, reaching inward. Moisture began to bead his body and then quickly began to freeze into ice. Meanwhile, a conversation was ongoing.
                “Pops, we gotta get this one into a box and seal it. We’re gonna need a big box.”
                “Ranma, my boy, you’re the heir to the school, you should do it.”
                “He’s right, son. Listen to your father.”
                “I ain’t touching no demon. It might get inside me like the one in Kasumi.”
                The ice began spreading and Shikarou could feel the glue losing its adhesive qualities as a female voice said disgustedly. “Oh, stop being a coward, Ranma and do it.”
                “Stay out of this Akane! Nobody wants you to butt into this.”
                “Ranma, you idiot!”
                “Yes Ranma, listen to your fiancé.”
                “I’m tellin ya I ain’t touching no demon.”
                Shikarou worked the wards loose and rolled to his feet as the boy yelled. “Darn it, Pops, you let it loose!”
                Shikarou growled and backpedaled to give himself some room. “I am no demon.”
                “It talks!” This from a young woman in a gi.
                “Get him Saotome!” The two men jumped at Shikarou again, who waited until they were in mid jump and dodged. The young man tried to attack him while he was dodging, but Shikarou caught his foot in mid leap and threw him at the two males. He was impressed that the man had the presence of mind to score a glancing blow as he went.
                The girl in the gi went into an attack posture. Shikarou shook his head. “I am not a demon.”
                She glared. “And what about your ears?”
                He sighed. So much for not revealing himself. “I’m kami. I hunt demons.”
                “Prove it!” She didn’t believe him, which he found understandable.
                He dodged the two men again. “The spirit wards only work on evil and they didn’t render me powerless.”
                “You got burned in the gate!”
                Shikarou glanced at it and snorted. “Those aren’t spirit wards; those created a one way barrier to all life. Nothing can pass through it until it’s destroyed. He noticed the young man listening and dodged the two adults again. “There’s another fact indicating that I’m not a demon.” He gestured at the two men who were coming around for another try. “I haven’t killed them yet.”
                The bald man sneered. “You cannot hurt the masters of the School of Anything Goes Martial Arts. Get him Tendo.” They attacked again.
                Shikarou cast his forcewall spell and they smashed into it. “You were saying.” He shook his head and appealed to the girl and the boy. “I was trying not to hurt anyone.” One ear rotated and his head swiveled to pin the priest, who’d been sneaking up behind him. “I’m done trying. You put another of those spirit wards on me and I’m going to make you very sorry that you were born.”
                The girl looked suddenly angry. “There’s no need to threaten him.”
                “I disagree. I’ve been shown nothing but hostility since I entered your gate and he was offering me more. Oh, and I can’t lie, so it wasn’t a threat.” He flashed a smile. “However, as long as he doesn’t try to attack or trap me, I will remain harmless to him.”
                The young man looked curious. “How can you make someone sorry they were born?”
                The girl gave him an accusatory look. “Ranma!”
                Shikarou smiled. “It often involves making holes in the body and taking out things that are supposed to remain inside it.” He dropped the force shield and cast healing spells on the groaning men. “I really prefer not to do that sort of thing.”
                Another woman appeared. This one was wearing a jumpsuit and had shoulder length hair. “You said you hunted demons. Can you take care of the one here?”
                “Nabiki! No!” This from the man in the black gi.
                “Father, if he can help Kasumi, then we should let him try.”       
                Shikarou looked the young man over. “She called you Ranma. Are you Saotome Ranma?”
                The man drew himself up. “I am. What of it?”
                “Do you know of a Professor Stroak?”
                “Ah. Never mind.” Shikarou sighed. “Where is this demon?”
                “Wait.” It was the man in the black gi. “He mentioned someone with a name like that.”
                Nabiki looked thoughtful. “Now that you mention it, he did. So did Usagi.”
                Relief swept through Shikarou. “So he is here. I need to talk to him after I take care of the demon.”
                “I’m Tendo Soun. What’s your name?”
                “I am Shikarou.”
                “Well, Shikarou, first you see what you can do with the demon and then we’ll talk about the other Ranma.”
                “Fine. Where is it?” Shikarou summoned his sword and scabbard. He thrust them into his belt.
                Soun raised his voice. “Kasumi, come here.”
                “Coming father,” a female voice almost sang. Then she appeared. She was older than the other two and had longer hair, tied back with a ribbon and wore a conservative dress with an apron over it.  “Yes, father? I’m almost through burning lunch.”
                Soun winced. “That’s good, Kasumi. We have a guest.”
                “That’s nice.” Kasumi came out and smiled at Shikarou. “Will you be staying for lunch? We’re having burnt rice and sautéed garbage.” The man in the white gi turned slightly green and Soun’s smile became rather forced. “There will also be a nice vinegar pie for desert.”
                Ranma muttered loudly. “Geez, we might as well have had Akane cook.” Akane gave him a look rich with a promise of revenge which he didn’t notice. Nabiki did and snickered quietly.
                Shikarou bowed to her. “I am pleased to meet you.” He noticed the tiny horns on her forehead and his sword hand flexed. “Do you have another name?”
                Her brow furrowed. “Xiqua.” She smiled again. “I’ll go work on lunch.”
                Shikarou watched her leave. “That’s the demon’s name. Sometimes you catch them off guard with a direct question. It must be fairly weak.” He turned his attention to Akane. “If I cut her in two, the demon will die.”
                Suddenly Soun’s head grew until it was almost as big as the rest of him and he thrust it into Shikarou’s face. “YOU WILL NOT HURT MY KASUMI, DO YOU HEAR ME? SHE IS NOT TO URK” He broke off as Shikarou grasped his throat and squeezed. His head quickly began shrinking.
                “I never said I would kill her, only that if I did the demon would die. By the bye, never speak to me like that again.” He kept his voice even when what he really wanted was to squeeze until Soun’s eyes popped out. Shikarou realized that he was cranking up the pressure on Soun’s throat and suddenly let him go. “I really need to watch that. I manifested a new power and got more aggressive again,” he muttered. He raised his voice. “Is there any way to remove the demon or do we have to wait for it to get tired of being in her?”
                The priest spoke up. “If she is hit firmly the demon will flee. Otherwise, we must wait until it chooses to leave her voluntarily.”
                Soun gasped for air. “No one will be hitting my Kasumi,” he rasped.
                Shikarou gave him a disgusted look. “Then there is nothing I can do until it leaves her.”
                Akane touched his arm. “When it does that, leaves her, I mean. Then you can kill it?”
                “Then please stay with us until you can.” She looked worried. “The demon has been possessing us in turn and stopped with Kasumi because we can’t hit her.”
                “I will.”
                “Thank you.” She smiled and became suddenly pretty. “I’m Akane and that is my sister, Nabiki. That’s Ranma and his father, Genma.”
                He bowed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all. As I said before, I am Shikarou.” He smiled. “I’d like a place on the property to set up my tent. I wouldn’t dream of imposing on you any more than absolutely necessary.”
                Soun looked worried. “You will eat with us, right?” He sounded desperate and Shikarou could guess why.
                “I will. There’s nothing that Kasumi mentioned that will kill me, although it didn’t sound all that tasty and I will eat my share of it so you don’t have to.”
                Suddenly he had Soun Tendo hugging him. “Thank you, Shikarou. I knew you’d be a dear friend.” He let go and looked at Genma. “Time for a game?”
                “I think so, but you won’t win this time.”
                Akane touched his arm again. “Don’t mind father, he’s a bit high strung.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I understand. It seems to run strong in him.”
                “You don’t have to eat Kasumi’s cooking.”
                “I told your father I would and I can’t lie. Besides, I should be punished for almost choking him to death and I suspect that this will do nicely.”
Name:                                                     Urufu, Shikarou
Age:                                                       250
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Region:                                  Scotland
Status:                                                    Active
Rank:                                                      60
Security Clearance:                              Eta
                Tamer                                     Y
                Master Tamer                       Y
                Researcher                            N
                Watcher                 N
                Breeder                  Y
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       72
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                59
Milktit                                    Helen                                      57
DragonQueen                       Bellona                   52
Seraph                                    Dorothea                               50
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      48
Ria                                          Kebi                                        47
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     47
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                46
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   43
Mini-Top                               Nanu                                      41
Blazicunt                                Marzia                                    40
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Bellona
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                England: Plymouth,
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
Name:                                                     Saotome, Ranma
Age:                                                       18
Residence:                                             Unknown
Region:                                  Earth
Status:                                                    Active
Rank:                                                      42
Security Clearance:                              Delta
                Tamer                                     Y
                Master Tamer                       Y
                Researcher                            N
                Watcher                 N
                Breeder                  Y
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level
Griffon                                    Kasumi                   40
Herochan                               Shampoo                               37
Cheshire                                Nabiki                                     35
Angel                                     Rei                                          29
Megami                  Usagi                                      27
Mareen                  Rain                                        25
Alpha                                     Nabiki
Beta                                        Kasumi