(07/03/99 1430 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
One instant the pier was empty; the next, Branwyn appeared, her Tamer in her arms. She let Shikarou go and shook her head slowly. Her thick braid moved in counterpoint to her movements. “So that’s what time travel feels like. I don’t suppose I could leave that to Circe?”
“You need to learn it, too.” Shikarou looked around slowly. “Someday you might be the only one available to save us.”
Branwyn sighed and nodded. “That means you’ll want everyone to learn this, doesn’t it?”
“That’s right. We will cross train until everyone is proficient, even if not completely comfortable with the technique.”
Branwyn unzipped her coat. “All right, I’ll make the arrangements. It’s so nice to be warm again.” She glanced at him. “Not that you noticed how cold it was in the Ruby League.”
He rolled his eyes. “Enough already. Who’s got me duty today?”
“Take the others and set up camp in our usual location. We’ll skip afternoon practice.” He smiled broadly. “That means give them free time, by the bye.”
Branwyn gave him a brief smile. “So you don’t want me harassing them. All right, will there be anything else?”
He thought for a minute. “No. What do you think about keeping Candace with us fulltime? Maude seems competent enough running the clinic without her.”
“Considering your proclivity towards personal injury, I wanted that a while ago. Do you think she’ll be willing to do it?”
“We can only ask. I’ll talk to her about it tomorrow.” He frowned. “Ask Faelan if he’ll be available for breakfast in our tent tomorrow. I want to discuss Ygerna and what she knows with him.”
“Yes. I need to talk with her about Ygerna as well, if not about exactly the same thing.”
“Should Ygerna be there?”
“No. This is family business.”
She nodded. “When do you want to start training Roisin?”
“We’ll evaluate her abilities tomorrow and see what she needs.” He stretched. “I want a hot bath and a cold beer, not necessarily in that order.”
“I thought you didn’t like beer from here in Scotland.”
“Normally I don’t, but Rani has found some that is quite good. It’s not local; it comes from a winery in the Capital League.” He grinned. “It took them almost three hundred years, but they’ve managed to make an excellent beer.”
Branwyn looked curious. “I’ll have to give that a try. If you say it’s good, then that’ll let me see what your palate likes, besides pokegirls.” She grinned. “I’ve made a little beer when I was younger. If I can, maybe I’ll start making some in the tent, presuming I can duplicate a recipe that you happen to like.”
“That sounds good. My dear, dear wife, if you’re trying to do that for me, well, I’ll even buy the first round.”
(07/03/99 1800 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
“Branwyn said you wanted to talk to me?” Svetlana settled down next to him on the bench. “She mentioned something about you wanting to talk to me about Ygerna and my husband.”
He raised an eyebrow and flicked his ears in annoyance. “I’m pretty sure she also mentioned doing it tomorrow.”
The Megami-sama nodded. “She did, but I suspect that it might be better if we have this talk in private.”
Shikarou gave her a curious look. “You do? Why would you want to talk to me privately about it?”
“This has to do with populating the world with Sidhe from her womb and using Faelan’s sperm to do it, doesn’t it?” She nodded before he could answer. “Of course it does. I’d prefer to have this particular discussion without Faelan so I can hear your arguments without his input. Sometimes he gets a bit shrill when the word ‘children’ is bandied about freely.” She raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t going to just order him to do this, are you?”
“No, I’m not.” Shikarou sighed. “Ygerna wants to have Faelan’s children. That you already know.”
“Yes, I do.” The Megami-sama grimaced. “After all, she hasn’t been very subtle about it, now; has she?”
“No, she hasn’t. Her prejudices are showing and, like most, they aren’t particularly pretty.” He leaned back against the bench and glanced at Nanu, who smiled back briefly before returning to scanning the area. “Part of the problem stems from the fact that Ygerna doesn’t really consider him married, since you are a mortal. She’s wrong, but that’s the way she sees it.” He waved a hand dismissively. “Granted, it’s different from the whole ‘you’re a pokegirl and can’t marry anyone’ argument, but it’s still just as wrong.”
“So that’s why she acts like I’m invisible when she wants to suck up to my husband.” Svetlana looked thoughtful. “Now her behavior makes sense.” She glanced at him. “What do you think?”
“You are my sister by marriage and you are his wife.” He smiled at her look of gratitude. “You love Faelan and he loves you. That’s why I made the offer I did.”
“What will happen if you do make me Sidhe, like you offered? She won’t be able to ignore me then.”
“When I do it, not if.” Shikarou smiled gently. “I see no reason not to make you one. You are a good person and I’m worried that when you die, the Celestial conspiracy will try to drop another Megami or such into his harem.” He met her gaze squarely. “No matter what they seem to think, you are not just a cog in their machine and there isn’t anyone who can replace you. Besides, my brother loves you with all his heart and I don’t want to see him hurt. It just happens that I can do something about it, thanks to the Grimoire of Danu.”
She colored with pleasure. “That’s quite a compliment. I’d gotten the impression you weren’t really all that fond of my presence.”
“That would be because for a time I wasn’t. However, we’ve both grown since then. You’ve mellowed a bit since finding a real purpose in serving my father and I’ve come to realize that you serve a very important role in my brother’s continued happiness. I value that very much and so I value you as well.” A quick flash of a grin. “On a more personal note, I’ve come to realize that you aren’t a bad person to know and I hope we can actually become friends. Dorothea has helped me to see that Celestials aren’t bad as individuals.”
She frowned. “That’s nice to hear and I hope we can be friends, too. If you are going to make me Sidhe, why does Faelan need her?”
“He doesn’t. However, she needs him.” He shrugged slightly. “And I need her to have him.”
He turned to face her. “I’m going to be frank with you.”
Nanu snorted. “That’s new.” She smiled cheerfully when his head swiveled to look at her. “It is. Usually we have to pull information out of you one fragment at a time.”
Svetlana glanced at her. “Please be silent for a change. This is very important to me and I’m grateful he’s willing to be forthcoming.”
Nanu snorted again but said nothing.
Shikarou looked out into the bay for a moment. “Ygerna is a very powerful and old Sidhe. In fact, she’s considerably older than I am. I don’t believe she’s as powerful as she’d like us to believe, but she’s powerful enough that she needs to be neutralized somehow. I’d prefer to make use of her in some role, but if I can’t, then it’s very likely that I’ll have to eliminate her.” He looked over to see if she was following the discussion. “The best way to neutralize her without lopping her head off and burning her to carbon would be to give her a vested interest in our family’s continued health. Having children with Faelan would handily fill the requirements of doing just that.”
He shrugged. “I thought about breeding her myself, but I think you’d do a much better job of keeping an eye on her than Branwyn or Poppet would.”
Svetlana looked surprised. “Me? I don’t see why.”
“They both have a tendency towards tunnel vision and it’s only going to get worse when they start having children. You are much more likely to evaluate Ygerna as a possible threat to our entire family, instead of just to your children.”
“What about Kasumi?”
Shikarou hesitated. “I suspect that Kasumi is likely to be the most practical of all three of my wives. In spite of the fact that it is frighteningly different from the one she came from and the life she led there, she’s adapted remarkably quickly to this world. That suggests I may be right. It also suggests that her practicality may rival my own. If I am right and she suspected Ygerna was any kind of a threat to her family, she might just kill her and be done with it.” He smiled softly. “If I wanted her dead, I’ve already taken care of it myself.”
Svetlana nodded once. “You may be right about her. Am I mistaken or is Kasumi much smarter than she lets people know?”
“That’s very perceptive of you. She is.”
Svetlana gave him an odd look. “I realize you are trying to be nicer to me, but isn’t this a bit much?”
He ground his teeth together. “I’ve been an ass to you pretty much since we met and I guess I’m trying to overcompensate. In part, my behavior is a response to your own behavior. You have been treating Faelan like an extension of your will and that has been spilling over into how you treat me.” The grinding became audible for a second before it stopped. “However, parts of my actions have been a knee jerk response on my part to your being a Celestial.”
“Why do you dislike us so much?”
“My service in the Amatsukami court gave me the opportunity to see just how bad good people can be. Celestials here have that same arrogance, and they are just as prone to serious mistakes because of that arrogance.” He shrugged. “I’m done serving that kind of stupidity.”
“Is that why you’ve worked so hard to corrupt Dorothea?”
“I don’t think opening her eyes to the fact that the small injustices are just as important as the world spanning quests, as well as pointing out that destroying evil includes dealing with the fallout on the surrounding populace, should be considered corruption.” He glanced at her. “I think it actually makes her a better Celestial.”
Svetlana bristled slightly. “What makes you think we don’t try to deal with all of those problems?”
Shikarou smiled again. “Normally, at this point I’d reply with something hurtful and you’d either start yelling or stomp off in a huff.”
She blinked and suddenly looked amused. “Historically, I think something like that would take place, yes. Are you going to do something different?”
“Aye, I am. The Celestial alliance claims to have brought Ranma Saotome here to advance the precepts of Parity, right?”
“They did.” She looked slightly puzzled at the sudden change of topic.
“So, apparently, there wasn’t anyone on this world who could have spoken there as eloquently as he did.”
“Of course not, he was the Chosen One.”
“So the Celestials made the arrangements for his father to fall into one of the Cursed Springs and become a cat to scare Ranma onto that rock so that their other unwitting agents could bring him here after they got killed and the equipment got damaged.” It wasn’t a question. “Couldn’t they have kept everyone alive and scooped him out of his bedroll?” Shikarou glanced at her. “Or was turning Genma into a cat some kind of punishment for the life he’s led?”
She looked uneasy for a moment and then shrugged. “He was going to fall into a spring; we just nudged him into one that would help us as well.”
“And Ranma was going to fall into a dimensional vortex, but they just chose which one?” He frowned. “I retract the question. I’m not trying to start a fight.”
Svetlana looked stunned. “Ok.”
“So, the Celestials brought Ranma here and without wondering if they arranged for the Tendo Dojo to be destroyed and people seriously hurt in order to make sure he got some of his pokegirls, I want to ask you a question.” He scratched his nose. “I’ll try not to word it in such a way as to either make you mad or vent my anger over what happened.”
“This sounds interesting. Go ahead.”
“The Celestials brought Ranma here and they arranged for him to receive a harem so he could understand the plight of the common pokegirl. They arranged for him to speak at the Sadie Poken’s celebration in Dogpatch and then, after a suitable time, they made the arrangements for him to go home. Am I incorrect in thinking they tried to reward him by making his harem follow after him? This isn’t my question, by the bye.”
Svetlana nodded slowly. “That was the general plan.”
“Which brings us to my question: why didn’t they care enough about him and his harem to make sure he got back to his proper home or have the means to take care of himself and his harem until he got settled?”
She frowned. “I don’t know. Do you have a theory?”
“Not one you’re going to like.”
“You’re probably right. Nevertheless, I want to hear it.”
“I think they were done with their tool and, as soon as they could, they washed their hands of him with as little effort on their part as possible. It follows the usual pattern of blind arrogance.” He twisted to face her. “Ranma had to turn to stealing to feed his harem. He got caught and put into jail, leaving his harem starving in a cave and half feral when I met them. What’s noble about leaving someone that way?” He turned back to the bay. “More importantly, in the big picture of things, if his pokegirls went feral, there was nothing to keep them from populating that world with the same horrors that exist here via parthenogenesis. Ranma would have been out of the picture and it’s doubtful he would have been listened to. Even if they had been eventually killed, the death toll among the humans would have been staggering.”
Svetlana went white.
Shikarou continued relentlessly. “Where does the Celestial community get the right to ruin Ranma’s life and put another world in danger, just so he can have a chat with a group of Tamers? I don’t think they have that right and I don’t think they ever did.” He smiled mirthlessly. “We talked about this in a roundtable discussion and it was suggested that I was their solution. Pythia doesn’t think so and neither do I. A considerate group of Celestials would have taken steps to ensure that none of those problems got the opportunity to arise instead of having to shove me into the situation as a sop to their pride. Unless, of course, they didn’t think what happened to Ranma was important once they were done with him. They didn’t even bother to return him to his own world, for the sake of darkness.”
She looked thoughtful for several moments. “I think the Celestials did the best that they could with what they had,” she said quietly.
Shikarou turned and took her hand. “Why are you lying to me?” His tone held only curiosity.
Svetlana gave a helpless shrug. “You’ve turned my world on its head and I don’t like it.”
“That’s understandable. No one likes it when they find out that things may not be as they think.” He brushed off his kimono and rose, offering her a hand. She smiled and took it. “I think I’ve given you enough to think about for now, but I do want to ask you a question.”
“Another one?” She gave him a teasing smile. “All right.”
“This conversation is very similar to the discussions that I have with Dorothea and with anyone else in my harem that’s interested. This is the source of what you’ve been calling corruption. Do you really think that’s my aim?”
“No, but I think you are diverting us from our goals.”
“I thought your goal was to help humanity.”
She nodded. “It is.”
“So, the Celestials had Ranma help the humans on this world. How did they help him when they were done with him?”
“When does our responsibility to offworlders end?”
“When they’re back where they belong and can deal with the changes you’ve wrought in their lives.”
“Isn’t that what you did?” She gave him a triumphant smile.
“Yes. Did the Celestials have me do it for him or them?”
The smile vanished. “No. You did that on your own.”
“That’s the problem. They either didn’t think of it at all or didn’t think it worth doing.” He motioned her up the pier as he began walking. “I shouldn’t have to clean up their messes.” He favored her with a grim look. “If it happens again, I may have to find them jobs.”
“I thought you didn’t want more worshippers.”
“I don’t. But someone has to do their job and, from where I sit, so far the Celestials aren’t doing theirs.” He smiled. “They’re making me ask my sister-in-law questions that are making her unhappy. I don’t like her being unhappy and, since it’s within my power to do something about it and them at the same time by making them work for me …” His smile broadened as his voice trailed off.
She suddenly looked thoughtful.
(07/03/99 2300 Caomh Sith, Blue Continent)
The wind gusted fitfully and clouds swirled overhead. Raindrops pattered intermittently on the pier and splashed into the bay as a shrouded figure appeared. It separated into two forms briefly. There was a quick flash of dim red light and only one remained.
The figure turned and moved quietly towards the bench, settling down next to a cloaked figure that was already there. A feminine voice issued from the hood of the newcomer. “You felt it, too.” It wasn’t a question.
The second figure nodded. “Probably about the same time you did. Do you know what it is?”
“Something is wrong at home.” The first figure turned to face the other. “When can we leave?”
“I’d prefer to leave in the morning but, if you think we need to, we’ll leave now.”
“Something is dreadfully wrong. I want to leave now.”
The second figure rose. “Very well, I’ll gather my harem.” A hand appeared and pulled the first figure to its feet. “I was hoping your homecoming would be slightly more cheerful than a family emergency, Kasumi.”
“I did too, husband.” She leaned against him briefly. “I had much happier things planned for our reunion. I don’t like being apart from you.”
They turned and headed up the road. “Then, don’t leave.” There was a low chuckle. “I’m not particularly happy that you’re gone.”
“I still have things that must be done. I won’t after that.”
The sun shone brightly in the clearing and the musical calls of birds filled the air. With a soft crackle, energy split the fabric of the universe and the portal spun open. Shikarou stepped through and looked around as Branwyn followed. He nodded and Branwyn stepped back through the dimensional portal only to return with Kasumi and Giselle.
Everyone quickly shed their rain gear as the portal slid shut. Shikarou released Pythia. “I want you to take Giselle and go to Nerima. Don’t go near the dojo; instead, establish a teleport point for her a couple of miles away in that park we went to.”
The G-Spliced frowned. “Considering some of the things you are concerned about, I recommend exiting a dozen miles away and flying the rest of the distance. That’ll give us a better chance of evading anything that attacks us as well as increasing our chances of avoiding detection entirely.”
Shikarou nodded. “That sounds good. Do it.” He turned to Kasumi and Giselle. “When Pythia takes you to Nerima, be very careful and follow her lead. At the first hint of trouble, teleport back here immediately.”
The Pegaslut glanced at her Tamer and nodded. “I will. Kasumi has told me to obey your instructions as if they came from her and I shall do as she wants.” She smiled suddenly. “The fact that your instructions are designed to keep me safe has nothing to do with that decision, of course.”
Kasumi and Branwyn chuckled softly while Pythia grinned. Shikarou nodded somberly. “Good. Pythia.”
Pythia took Giselle’s arm. “Here we go.” They vanished.
Branwyn glanced at her husband. “Are we going to set up a perimeter?”
“Not yet. If someone suspects we might show up around here, having people flying around overhead will only help to pinpoint our location.”
With a crash, something jumped into the middle of the clearing. Shikarou summoned his sword as Branwyn shifted to her quad form and moved to protect Kasumi.
The tiny figure glared at Shikarou. “You’re late,” snapped Cologne.
Shikarou’s ears flicked. “I got here as soon as I knew there was a problem,” he replied in a calm voice.
Cologne’s gaze hardened. “You’re still too late.” She motioned at Kasumi. “That’s the last living Tendo now.”
Kasumi turned white. “What? What happened?”
“Happosai happened.” Cologne turned back to Shikarou as Kasumi stared in shock. “You’ll need to know the whole story before you act.”
Shikarou nodded and sank to the ground cross legged. “I will, indeed.” His voice trembled with the first stirrings of anger. “What did Happosai do?”
“For a couple of months after you left, things were fairly normal at the Tendo house,” Cologne began. “Akane Tendo took over the household duties once Kasumi left and, according to my son-in-law, wasn’t doing too badly. Things only began to fall apart when she suddenly up and died one afternoon while preparing dinner.” Kasumi gasped and the old Amazon looked over at her. “I already told you they’re all dead.” She turned back to Shikarou. “The Saotomes, too. That’s why I’m back here.”
“Nabiki was the next to drop dead, this time at school. It was a month after Akane’s death. That gave Happosai what he wanted and not too long after that, Soun died as well.” She sighed. “My son in law realized that Akane had been murdered by Happosai and attacked him. He was killed. Afterwards, Happosai killed Genma to keep his secrets from being found out. I only know what happened because Ranma wrote me a letter before his death. He hoped I could avenge him if he didn’t beat Happosai.”
“Shampoo found the letter and was killed by Happosai as well, when she tried to kill him in retaliation for Ranma’s death.” Suddenly, Cologne looked her true age. “That’s why I returned here. I can’t beat him, either, and I have responsibilities to the other Amazons.”
Tears trickled down Kasumi’s cheeks. “Why did he do such a thing? We’ve always shown him kindness.”
“It was your fault all of this happened, girl. Your bride price was too much for him to resist and Akane flatly refused to give him any of it. Nabiki was the same way and so she had to go, too. Soun, of course, buckled like a stick of straw and handed all of it over.”
Kasumi looked at Shikarou and spoke in a tone of hammered iron. “I want his head.”
Shikarou nodded. “Not just yet.” He smiled grimly. “Or should I say, not just now.” He turned to Cologne. “What day did Akane die?”
“I don’t know for sure. Why?”
“It’s very important.” He rose. “As soon as Pythia and Giselle get back, we’ll move to Nerima and set up in a hotel. Then, we’ll visit the local newspaper and find out exactly when events took place.” His lips curved in a predatory smile and his ears flattened against his skull.
“And then we’ll go back and stop this from happening.”
Cologne blinked. “I didn’t know you could do that.”
Shikarou flashed a smile that was nothing but teeth. “If I wasn’t planning to do it and destroy this present, you wouldn’t know it now.”
“I want to go with you when you do this.” Kasumi touched his cheek gently. “They are my family and it’s important to me, too.”
Shikarou glanced down at her hand but didn’t pull away. “Are you sure you want to do this? It’s not likely to be a pretty interview. The coroner’s records will contain photos of their bodies and I will have to look at them.”
She nodded firmly. “I am samurai, from both my father’s and my mother’s bloodlines. I can handle this. I will handle this.” She looked down at the floor for a second. “I can’t ask you to deal with this by yourself. It’s not fair to you.”
“And if it becomes necessary to actually go back in time and see the autopsies?” His voice was gentle. “If the data is inconclusive, that may be the only way to prove they were murdered.”
Kasumi flinched but recovered quickly. “I go where you do, my husband. If you must see my dead family, then I must as well.”
He nodded. “If at any time you feel that you can’t continue, then you don’t have to. This isn’t some kind of bravery test for you. I have faced the dead many times before and the fact that they are your family will not make this any easier.”
I think her touch helps her to do whatever she does to get her way. Branwyn glanced at him as she handed cups of tea to each of them.
Shikarou smiled. I think you may be right, but right now isn’t the time to experiment on the subject. She’s on the edge of a breakdown and she doesn’t need us to pull away from her right now.
I don’t blame her for that. If I had to consider seeing my dead family all sectioned for an autopsy, I’d be jittery, too. Branwyn hugged Kasumi. “One way or another we will make this right.”
I will have the manufactory construct a high speed laboratory for forensic analysis. DNA analysis isn’t available right now and won’t be for several years so it may prove of some utility.
Kasumi blinked. “What is DNA analysis?” Her head cocked as Aggie fed her information through her newly functioning twee. “Oh. Do you think that could be useful?”
Shikarou frowned. “You never know. It’s a very useful tool and having one around could prove useful in other ways as well.” He took a deep breath. “Since we are going to erase this present, there is no reason to hunt Happosai down here. I’ll also be playing fast and dirty with rules.”
Kasumi looked thoughtful. “I won’t countenance killing Happosai until he’s done something, but won’t that mean that Akane will die?”
“No. It means that we’ll interrupt Happosai during the act, but early enough in the attempt to save Akane’s life.”
Kasumi gave him a worried look. “You can do this? You’re sure?”
“That’s why I want to know exactly how she died, so I know that I can prevent her death.”
“Oh. I see. That’s quite clever. But doesn’t that mean that you’ll only need to investigate Akane’s death?”
“If there are things in common with how they died, it could help me to prevent Happosai from succeeding. Only by examining all of them can I be sure to understand exactly how he’s thinking.”
Branwyn took Kasumi’s hand. “Are you completely sure you’re going to want him dead? That’s quite a step and I know you’ve never killed before or had someone killed for you.”
Kasumi gave her a level look. “That little man took my father’s honor years ago, and he’s been shaming my family ever since. The fact that we had to endure his noxious presence after his return and even abet him in his activities only made our shame that much deeper. If Cologne is right, now he’s murdered my family and, even if we successfully time travel back to before Akane’s death, he’ll still be planning her murder at that time. I want him dead.”
Giselle cleared her throat. “Um, master Shikarou, could it be that you are going about this all wrong?” She ducked her head.
He kept his voice soft. He definitely didn’t want Giselle to stop contributing now that she’d started. “It could be. It wouldn’t be the first time. Why don’t you explain what you mean?”
“If you are concerned as to whether or not this Happosai killed Kasumi’s family and if you want to know exactly how this was accomplished, then perhaps this is the perfect time to be hunting him. He has all the answers.” Her voice dropped. “Then my mistress won’t have to look at her dead family.”
Shikarou turned slowly and smiled at her. She visibly relaxed. “That was an outstanding observation and you are absolutely right. If we can take Happosai alive, then he can answer all of our questions.” He went back to staring at his tea as the Pegaslut colored with pleasure at the praise. “Now we need to determine where Happosai might be.”
“We’ll start at the training hall.” Kasumi’s voice was firm. “Since my family is gone, that would be a perfect place for him to store his pretties without fear of being disturbed.”
“Pretties?” Giselle looked puzzled.
“He collects women’s undergarments, but they have to be stolen or taken from an unwilling woman to make them worth his while.” Branwyn sipped at her tea. “He’s considered a pervert because of it and he tries to hide his activities.”
“Only from outsiders,” Kasumi corrected. “In private, he’s very proud of his acquisitions.” Her brow furrowed. “If it becomes necessary, taking them from him would enable us to lure him to us. Even if he’s moved out of the dojo, he never knows just how many of his treasures he has at any particular point. I was always taking some and giving them back to their owners.”
Giselle nodded. “Then taking out an ad in the local paper stating that a large number of these items had been found in the dojo might draw him out.”
Kasumi smiled. “There’s no might about it. He’s fiercely protective of what he has and if he thinks someone has part of his collection, he’ll come for it.”
Branwyn put her tea down. “That means, if he’s not at the training hall, we have a way to get him to break cover. Excellent. However, I still hope he’s at the hall.”
Elizabeth touched his shoulder and leaned over to whisper in his ear. “The light just went out.”
Shikarou nodded. They were ensconced across the street on a rooftop and covered by an illusion spell that turned them the color of the slates. A light drizzle made the watch more than slightly uncomfortable. “We’ll give him a half hour before we move in. He’s always been quick to sleep and quick to wake.”
“I wish he’d been more predictable. We’ve been watching him for two days and he hasn’t acted with any regularity in any way.” She snickered. “Not even to go to the bathroom.”
“Two days isn’t long enough for real surveillance. A week to a month would be required. Besides, he’s canny enough not to set a pattern if he can avoid it.”
“Who are you taking besides me?” She looked around as if she could see anyone else in the dark cloudy night.
“Circe will have overwatch. Other than that, no one. I don’t want him to suspect anything until it’s too late.” He glanced overhead. “There she is.”
Elizabeth peered. “I don’t see anything.”
That’s because your senses aren’t as sensitive as his happen to be. Don’t worry, I’m here.
The sensors you placed show the streets are empty. Scans in all available spectrums confirm that there are only a few cats and some rodents in the area. No one else appears to be awake in nearby homes.
“Remember, Elizabeth, once we’re inside, don’t put me down. We can’t have us leaving any signs of our visit.”
“I remember. Leave nothing you bring and take nothing you find.”
“Good. This time, don’t break that rule. Let’s go.” The Vampire wrapped her arms around him and lifted off silently, fading from view as she accelerated towards the now silent dojo.
From another rooftop, Kasumi and Giselle watched them anxiously.
The drizzle had become a pounding rain and the gray sky hid the sun almost completely. The drumming on the roof finally woke Happosai and he stirred slowly, rubbing his head with a pair of lace panties. “Ah, my beauties, it’s good that you greet me when I awaken each day.” Tucking them into his gi, he headed for the bath, absently scooping up the bottle of saki he’d taken to bed with him.
A short time later, he was downstairs. He headed into the kitchen, skirting around the pile of delivery boxes. It teetered precariously as he brushed one edge. “Maybe I’ll hire a maid,” he mused. “One young and cute, who can live here and take care of an old man in his second childhood.” His eyes glinted with humor. “She can model some of my things for me.”
He put the kettle on the stove and a short time later settled down at the table with his tea, shoving more cartons off of it to make room for the cup. “Hmm.” He lit his pipe and puffed contentedly.
“Hello?” A feminine voice drifted down the hall. “I tried to ring, but the bell is gone.” Kasumi smiled at Happosai as she stepped into the room and hung her raincoat up. “Good morning, Happosai.”
He grinned. “Kasumi! Wonderful. Now, I won’t need a maid.” He blinked as the color drained from his skin. “KASUMI!” His eyes raced around the room. “Where is he?”
Shikarou stepped in from the porch. “I’m right here. I warned you about being careful, now didn’t I?” His mouth twisted in distaste as he sniffed the air. “I hope we won’t be here long or this place is going to have to scrubbed.”
Happosai screeched. “But I didn’t! I didn’t drink from the bottle and I cleaned my cup before using it! How?”
“The paralytic poison was on the grip of your pipe.” Shikarou smiled as he settled down in front of the panicked looking man. “It’s quite specific. It only paralyzes the nerves that control every movement except for your face and jaw.” That’s why you can still speak but can’t move your head or anything else.”
Kasumi was looking around the room. “You had all of my family’s money and you couldn’t be bothered to fix the battle damage or clean? You are completely pathetic.” She pulled two pokeballs from her belt and released Giselle along with a Drow Zee. “Shikarou, this is Ayame.”
Shikarou nodded to the pokegirl from where he sat. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Shikarou. Where did you meet Kasumi?”
She bowed deeply. “Shikarou-san, I was salvaged by Kasumi-san when she defeated my former master in Tomakomai.”
Shikarou glanced at his wife. “You never mentioned going there.”
She shrugged. “Junko took me there to meet her family. We really haven’t had time to talk much, have we?”
“No, we haven’t. It’s been a little busy since you came home. What do you have in mind?”
“I’m not going to leave my family home looking like this, even if it won’t exist in a little while.” She flushed. “I suppose that sounds silly.”
“I understand. I cleaned my home in Japan before I left, even though I knew I’d never come back to it.” He released Helen, Pythia, Yushiko and Nanu. “Branwyn?”
She teleported in, followed closely by Circe. “You rang?” Ayame’s eyes bugged at her words and she was obviously waiting for Shikarou to do something violent.
“Would you help Kasumi to get this place clean?”
Branwyn nodded. “Yushiko, guard duty. Pythia, Circe, start compressing the garbage into smaller piles. Helen, check the rest of the house and see what else we need. Nanu, start in the bathroom.” She glanced around. “It’s probably the worst place in the house.” She paused. “Nanu, instead, I want you to go through the cleaning supplies and make a list of what we don’t have, like garbage bags. We’ll send someone shopping once we know what’s missing.” She turned to Shikarou. “I’ll start in the bathroom. Can I have Roisin to help?”
Nanu was looking around with an expression of revulsion. “I think Bellona and her dragonbreath might be a better choice. There’s stuff growing on the walls in the sauce stains.” Kasumi winced.
Shikarou released Bellona and Roisin. “Bellona, you’ve got guard duty. Yushiko, help Nanu and then you’ll do the shopping.” The Armsmistress nodded and headed after the Mini-Top.
Brawnyn turned to Roisin and switched to Gaelic. <Come with me, we have a nasty bathroom to clean and hopefully you can minimize the scrubbing we have to do.>
<Yes, my alpha.> She headed upstairs as the others began moving out.
“Once Pythia and Circe are done with the piles of trash, I’ll need them.” Shikarou twisted to look at Brawnyn. “I’ll be using them for the interrogation so I don’t accidentally kill the little shit.”
“Will you need Candace just to make sure?”
Shikarou looked thoughtful for a second. “I suppose so.”
Kasumi paused. “I have been talking to Stardust, so I know about some of your abilities. Why don’t you convert him and save us a lot of bother?” She smiled at his look of surprise. “I don’t want you or anyone else having to wallow around in his brain, if you don’t have to.”
Branwyn’s eyebrows rose and she stared first at Kasumi and then at Shikarou. “I see what you mean about her being practical.” She turned back to Kasumi. “Doesn’t the thought of his soul being manipulated bother you at all?”
Kasumi gave Branwyn a curious look. “Should it? This is the fastest way to get the information we need to prevent what Happosai accomplished from happening. Why shouldn’t we use it? It’s just a tool and our husband isn’t going to use it on anyone important to us.”
Branwyn’s eyes flickered towards Shikarou. You know what? You two do make a good couple. “Fine. So convert him, but let me clear the room first.”
Happosai was staring at Bellona in shock. “Oni,” he breathed. His eyes focused on her breasts. “Nice oni.”
leaned down to look at him. “Is this the runt that’s caused all of the trouble?” She glanced at Shikarou. “He’s not much to look at is he? What’s his name?”
Bellona blinked and backed up quickly, hissing as she made a sign to ward off evil. “Kill it.”
“He’s not from our world, but yeah, he’s a lot like the one you’ve heard of.” Shikarou smiled grimly at Happosai. “Nobody likes you and you killed your only two students.”
“I didn’t kill Soun, and Genma attacked me along with that insolent boy of his.” Happosai managed to look victimized. “I was defending myself.”
Shikarou started removing his tunic. “I don’t think I believe you, Happosai. It doesn’t really matter though.”
The little man’s eyes widened. “Why not?”
“You’ll tell me the truth soon enough.” He folded the haori and laid it off to the side.
Kasumi edged forward, her eyes glinting in the dim light. Shikarou spoke without looking at her. “Are you sure you wish to see this?”
She settled down next to him. “I do. Not only because of Happosai, but also because this is a part of you and I want to know as much about you as possible, my husband. Can your daughters do this?”
“One of them can do something similar.”
“Then I need to know everything I can, in case one of our children starts doing anything along these lines.”
Branwyn paused. She had been leaving the room behind everyone else, but now she rubbed her forehead and grimaced. “Damn. I hate to admit this, but she’s right. I really don’t like this, but I need to know as much about it as possible.”
“Shikarou, don’t do this! I’m harmless.” Happosai broke off as Kasumi stuffed a wadded up towel in his mouth before sitting down at his head.
“Will it hurt him?” Her voice was clinically curious.
Branwyn gave her an odd look. “It did in the beginning, but Shikarou has gotten good enough that it doesn’t seem to. Would you like it to hurt?”
Happosai’s eyes went wide and frantic noises came from behind the towel. Kasumi eyed him for a moment before shaking her head. “No, I don’t think that’s necessary.”
Shikarou opened Happosai’s gi and placed his hand on the old man’s chest. “Here we go.”
Kasumi paled as Shikarou’s hand sank into the little letch’s chest. Happosai jerked once and then was still.
Bellona moved back against the wall where she could be as far from Shikarou as possible and yet still be in the room.
Shikarou pulled out a small glowing ball. “This is a soul.”
Kasumi cocked her head. “Can I touch it? It won’t hurt me, will it?”
Branwyn stared at her. “What? Why on earth would you want to do that?”
Shikarou shrugged. “You can try, but I doubt you’ll feel much.” He leaned over and offered the globe.
Kasumi carefully touched it with a fingertip.
“Why isn’t it white like the others?” Branwyn slowly leaned forward to stare intently. “It’s got an orange cast to it.”
“I think he’s made a deal of some kind with an oni. Such a deal can leave its mark on a man and this would be fairly typical.” Shikarou held the soul up so everyone could see it clearly. Blue swirled up and mixed with the orange before consuming it utterly. When he finished, the soul was a uniform sapphire blue.
“None of the others were that blue,” Branwyn sounded curious in spite of herself. “Why is that?”
“In every other case you’ve seen, I’ve left my slaves some personal volition. Not this time.”
He plunged the soul back into Happosai’s body. The man’s eyes fluttered and then slowly opened wide.
Shikarou settled back into a sitting posture. “Happosai, have you had contact with a kami or oni? If so, is there cause for it to come seeking redress for my actions?”
Happosai spoke in a toneless voice. “In my youth, I bound myself into service to an oni in return for being given the knowledge of the Anything Goes style and the power to practice it. Later, it appeared and wanted my soul, which was the payment we’d agreed upon. I tricked it and killed it.”
Kasumi leaned forward, her eyes intent. “What did you do to my sister?” She swung to Shikarou when there was no reply. “Make him answer me.”
“Happosai, tell me of the events surrounding the destruction of the Tendo bloodline.”
He licked his lips. “I will do as you command. After you left, there was all that beautiful money. Soun told me how much you’d given him and I wanted some of it, as was my due as his teacher as well as for putting up with his attitude all these years.”
“But Akane had control of how it was distributed and she wouldn’t give me any, even when Soun ordered her to. She went so far as to cut Soun off when he started giving me his pocket money.”
“I didn’t want to kill her, but she left me no choice. On that particular day, I put ground up fugu liver in the soup and she died after tasting it.”
Shikarou glanced over at his wives. Kasumi was white as she listened to his confession. Branwyn looked like she was becoming angry.
“After that, Nabiki took control of the money and I knew that it would be mine. I could work something out with her. But she suddenly became responsible. Somehow she found out that Akane’s death might not be an accident and she hired an investigator with money that should have been mine to look into the whole matter. She had to go, so I put more fugu grindings in her lunch. She was a careless cook anyway, so it was easy for others to think her death was an accident.”
“Later, it turned out that Nabiki had paid the investigator before her death and had gone so far as to give him specific instructions that if she died he was to investigate her death as well. The bastard stayed on the job and turned his findings over to Soun, the only living relative.”
“They implicated me. Soun was going to go to the police and I had no choice but to make his death look like an accident. I arranged a drunken fall at the baths. It happens often enough that no one questioned it.”
“I manufactured a will giving everything to me and evicted that brat and my thankless student, Genma. Later, Ranma came back and I killed him and his father in a battle. It was purely self defense, you must understand.”
Kasumi frowned. “How can he lie to you like that?”
Shikarou glanced at the tiny pervert. “He tells the truth as he sees it and it may be that, because of some guilt, he’s persuaded himself that he did have to act as he did to protect himself. Most people don’t like to think of themselves as evil and will go to great lengths to rationalize their actions, even to themselves.”
He rose to his feet. “I believe we have all of the information we need to act to prevent these events from coming to pass. However, I don’t want to do anything irrevocable until we are ready to leave.” He gave both ladies a serious look. “If we have more questions later, it’ll be difficult to ask them with him dead.”
“What will you do with him?” Branwyn shuddered as she looked over at the immobile figure. “I don’t want him staying in the same house we do.”
Shikarou shrugged. “At this point, he has no volition of his own, but I’ll send him away until we need him.”
Bellona frowned. “What happened to the money?”
“Who cares?” Branwyn shrugged. “We have plenty.”
“If he turned it into cash, we could take it with us and use it ourselves. Or would it disappear once we changed the future?”
Shikarou grinned. “No, if we take anything out of the timestream before we alter it, whatever we took will remain, but it’s a very good question.”
Bellona wasn’t through. “Are we going to use this technique to rescue Pallaius from death?”
Shikarou shook his head. “No. I have made my peace with her death. Besides, one of the rules of time travel, as I understand it, is that you should never mess with your own past.”
Kasumi obviously was thinking furiously. “If Shikarou were to stop Pallaius from dying, he would have never left the service of the Empress. Therefore he would have never come to the pokegirl world and never learned how to travel through time to rescue her in the first place.”
Shikarou nodded slowly. “And that is a very good example of what father calls paradox. I don’t know a lot about it, but father hinted during some of our discussions that paradox situations were universally catastrophic and should be avoided at all costs.” He frowned. “We’re taking a serious risk by trying to time our exit so closely and I don’t want to jeopardize their chances any more than we already have.”
Branwyn changed the subject. “What is fugu? I realize from Happosai’s story that it can kill, but I don’t understand what it is.”
“It’s a dish made from a couple of species of pufferfish. Fugu is a delicacy here in Japan ,as well as elsewhere around the world. It has to be prepared very carefully because it has varying levels of tetrodotoxin in various parts of its body. The organs are particularly toxic, but the whole fish has some level of it. The fish accumulates the toxin by ingesting a particular type of bacteria.”
“Tetrodotoxin works by inhibiting the fast sodium channels in the muscles, which renders them unable to move and causing paralysis.”
“In very low doses, it causes numbness and tingling in the extremities and lips. In anything other than small doses, it paralyzes the muscles that allow you to breathe. It doesn’t affect the brain or heart, so you remain conscious while you suffocate. There is no antidote and all medical science can do is support the respiratory and circulatory systems until the toxin wears off. Without prompt medical aid, you will die if you are poisoned by fugu.”
Branwyn gasped. “He did that to Akane?”
“He also did it to my other sister Nabiki.” Kasumi took a deep breath. “There is no antidote for fugu poisoning, Shikarou.”
“Candace is a NurseJoy
and they can cure almost anything,” he replied calmly. “She can cure any toxin except hypervenom with esuna. However, hopefully, it won’t come to that.”
“I was wondering why you brought her with you.”
He nodded. “I’d like to say I knew we’d need her, but the truth is that we were going to talk to her in the morning after we got back about her joining the active harem on a continuous basis. This emergency came up and I never released her once we got home.”
“What about him?” Bellona pointed at Happosai.
“When the poison wears off, I’ll have him withdraw the money out of the bank. We’ll want smaller, older denominations, if possible. We’ll finish him off before we leave.”
Kasumi rose smoothly to her feet. “Then I’ll help Nanu in the kitchen. Branwyn, you were going to help Roisin in the bath?”
The Unicorn nodded. “That I was.” She watched Kasumi leave and turned to Shikarou, dropping her voice. “Sometimes she’s scary, the way she compartmentalizes. I think Stardust should make sure she’s ok, when we get back.”
“She’s going through a very rough patch and I don’t think her responses have been out of the ordinary when that’s taken into consideration.”
“She just didn’t seem so… oh… I suppose… tough works. She just wasn’t like that when staying here.”
Shikarou shook his head. “She kept a household running with no money and no help. I think she may be the toughest Tendo of them all.” He shrugged. “You heard her. She comes from samurai blood on both sides and she seems to take that very seriously. I can respect that.”
“I’m sure you can,” Branwyn replied in a droll voice. “Now, I get to go shovel shit with Roisin.”
She shook her head. “No, you need to get rid of that piece of filth.” She motioned towards Happosai. “I don’t want that thing in any house I’m in.”
“Finally, we’re all done.” Elizabeth put the last of the bundles into a bag. “We’ve got four thousand 5000 yen notes in bundles of 100 each for a total of twenty million yen. All we have left is one bundle of 33 bills and 3,974 yen in coins.” She looked over at Candace. “I can’t tell if we just became rich or not. How much is that in SLC?”
shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t think any bank would convert it and you could probably get more than its face value by selling it as artifacts of the past.”
“There’s an idea.” She stuffed the bag into Shikarou’s backpack. “I’ll bet he leaves it with the Tendos.”
Candace shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. Considering the luck the Tendo family seems to have, someone would find out there are already bills out there with the same serial numbers when they went to deposit it. We’ll probably end up taking it home.”
Branwyn chuckled as she entered the room. “I think he’s going to exchange it somewhere overseas so that if they figure out there are duplicates of the bills in existence in Japan, we’ll already have laundered it at a small loss.”
“Are we going overseas?” Candace looked curiously at Branwyn as she pulled a strand of her hair around. “Some of us stand out more than others and I’m not sure how pink hair would be received.”
“You’ll see.” Branwyn gave her a mischievous look. “I’m not going to say anything else.”
“I’ll just ask Shikarou,” Elizabeth declared, tossing her head. “He tells me everything.” She smirked. “So, why not just tell me now and save me the effort?”
The Unicorn snorted. “He doesn’t tell himself everything, much less you. Nice try.”
The Vampire grinned. “It was worth a shot.”
Candace chuckled quietly. “So, this is the banter I was missing in the clinic? And you want me to give up my nice practice for this full time? I think I’ll have to seriously consider telling you to get stuffed.” She smiled softly at Elizabeth’s expression of awe.
“I can’t believe you said that to her.”
“At the clinic, I was the person in charge and I was the one who had all the secrets to dole out when I felt like it,” she replied loftily.
“I guess I deserved that.” Branwyn grumped. “The truth is that Shikarou asked me not to talk about any plans we have for when things are settled.” She shrugged. “He’s suddenly paranoid about ‘other’ forces overhearing us.”
Elizabeth sobered. “Then we shouldn’t. He hasn’t led us wrong before on that sort of thing, and he’s our resident expert on things that go bump in the night.” She flashed a grin, all fangs. “And, as the harem’s token ‘bumper’, I think you should consider my opinion carefully.”
Branwyn snorted. “We could add another one to the harem?”
“Sure you could. He’s not going to want another Vampire. What’s left? I don’t think even he’d be too happy with a Zombabe, and there’s the little problem of the fact that soon we’d all be Zombabes. No, he doesn’t want more than one of any type of pokegirl in his harem.”
“I hate it when you actually think.”
Candace laughed. “Now, that’s funny.”
In the living area, Yushiko dropped a large stack of paper on the table in front of Shikarou. “Here are the newspapers from the day before Akane died, just like you asked.” She settled next to him, her armor appearing as the illusion faded. “I presume you want them for the pictures?”
He nodded. “Kasumi and I agree we’re only going to get one chance to get this right, so we’re going to come out a day or two before and get into position.”
Yushiko nodded. “That sounds good. Where’s Happosai?”
“Kasumi asked me to order him to return the stuff he’s stolen, so he’s out doing that right now.”
“He’s my automaton, and with that level of control, I know where he is and what he’s thinking at all times. Yes, that’s exactly what he’s doing.” He grimaced. “That’s one of the reasons I hate possessing someone that thoroughly.”
“I feel that way too.” He sighed heavily. “I’ll kill him before we leave to sever the connection and make sure nothing strange happens. Sometimes magic can be unpredictable and I don’t want any surprises when we run across him again.”
The Armsmistress nodded as she leaned over and sniffed his neck. Her eyes narrowed and she looked up at him. “When’s the last time you got laid?”
“I’ve been kind of busy. There are only twenty four hours in the day.”
“You know, we haven’t tested your ability to cause a taming riot. Are you sure this is the time and place to do that?”
Shikarou winced. “You have a point. I’ll tell Branwyn to pull a name out of the lottery tonight.”
Yushiko sniffed him again. “Two names, preferably Nanu and Helen.” She grinned. “I’d been thinking that the quality of the cooking had been going down and now I know why.”
His ears twisted to point at her as his curiosity got the better of him. “Why Nanu?”
“She’s tough, horny as hell and it’ll be extremely funny to watch her bitch about lactating for a week.”
“I could ask for you, instead of her.”
“I don’t like being out of my armor around anyone but you. Besides, as I’ve already found out, milk makes my armor smell funny and it’s really hard to get that smell out once it’s in there.”
Shikarou gave her an amused look. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You’d better. Now go find Branwyn.”
“Can’t it wait?”
“I’m starting to think about stripping out of my armor here in public. I don’t think so.” She gave him a bland look. “Or were you hoping to share your harem with Kasumi?”
He slipped to his feet. “I’ll go find Branwyn.”
Circe passed him as he left the room and paused, sniffing the air. She turned to watch him and then shook her head. “You’re right. Helen and Nanu would be best right now. He’ll give anyone else friction burns.” She took a deep breath and settled down where Shikarou had been a moment before. “Are these the newspapers?”
The Alaka-Wham picked one up. “I see a possible complication.”
Yushiko frowned. “What? The picture is legible.”
“Yes, but we’ve never tried to teleport to anyplace depicted in a black and white photo, much less tried to go back in time using one.”
Name: Urufu, Shikarou
Residence: Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Security Clearance: Eta
Master Tamer Y
Species Name Level
Alaka-Wham Circe 72
Unicorn Branwyn 61
Milktit Helen 59
Seraph Dorothea 52
Armsmistress Urufu Yushiko 52
Vampire Elizabeth 50
G-Spliced Pythia 50
Sphinx Lorelei 47
Mini-Top Nanu 47
Wet Elf Roisin 33
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
Wales: Magicunt Village
Ruby League: Polass Gym
Name: Urufu, Kasumi
Residence: Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Security Clearance: Eta
Master Tamer N
Species Name Level
Pegaslut Giselle 33
Drow Zee Ayame 26