Chapter 44
                “You shouldn’t be out of bed. Even you need some rest,” Candace protested as she followed him down the hall of the clinic.
                “Your concern is heartwarming, but I do have work to do.” Shikarou paused briefly to catch her eye. “I realize that I’m not at 100%, but some things can’t wait for me to pretend to take a nap.”
                She didn’t back down. “Is the world going to end if you take a few hours to rest?”
                “If Eoghan decides to drop in with all of his knights before we’re ready, it just might.”
                She blinked at his words. “Oh.” Suddenly her eyes narrowed. “Are you sure he might?”
                He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I wouldn’t have said ‘might’ if I knew for sure. If you are right and nothing happens, eventually you and Branwyn will conspire to put me to bed, probably with company to make sure I stay there; and I’ll eventually get the rest you want me to. If I’m right, then we may be in for a fight to the death in a few hours and there are some preparations that need to be done immediately.” An ear flicked. “The sooner I get this stuff done, the sooner you and my alpha can complete your scheming.”
                The NurseJoy folded her arms. “Then you’ll go to bed?”
                “Then I’ll move on to something else. If you and Branwyn can’t figure out how to accelerate the process, I’ll go to bed tonight.”
                Branwyn gave him an amused look. “Pythia says we are safe for the next few days. Kasumi agrees.”
                Shikarou looked from Candace to Branwyn and back. “I take it the fix is already in, isn’t it?”
                Candace took his hand and squeezed it gently. “We do care for you just a little bit. Since we know that Eoghan is a serious threat, we’re helping as much as we can, too.”
                Shikarou winced at her chiding tone. “I suppose I deserve that. I’m sorry. I’m just worried about what could be coming.”
                Candace smiled and tugged on his hand. “Branwyn told me what happened and I would like you to spend some time with Circe and Stardust before you do anything else. I want to make sure you are still the man we all love.”
                Shikarou started to protest and stopped at the worry he saw in their eyes. “All right, I’ll do it.” They visibly relaxed. “Branwyn, I’ve told Aggie what needs to be done. Please get started making the necessary arrangements.”
                “I’ll get on it right away.” True to her word, she turned and headed off.
                Candace squeezed his hand again. “Shall we go?” Without waiting for his answer, she headed off still holding onto his hand. It was rather obvious she had no intention of letting go, so he went along with her rather than be pulled.
                Outside the exam room, Candace gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “You be good and your nurse will reward you with a special present later.” She winked and bustled off.
                Shikarou watched her go until she turned the corner. He shook his head slowly. “I’ve known geisha with less alluring walks. How does she do that?” he muttered as he opened the door.
                Circe smiled when he came into the exam room. She gestured to a solidly built chair in the middle of the room. It was surrounded by several overstuffed chairs. “Have a seat.”
                Shikarou eyed the restraints built into the central chair. “This seems a bit more kinky than normal.”
                The Alaka-Wham’s smile broadened into a grin. “Before we’re done you’ll only wish that’s what it’s for.” The smile vanished. “There is a concern that a portion of Germanicus may exist inside all that information that now sits inside your pretty head. The restraints are just in case he surfaces during our exam and tries to remove my pretty head.”
                “What about Stardust?” He looked around briefly but didn’t see Circe’s sister anywhere.
                “She’s going to be nearby but not with us.” Circe shrugged. “I’m going to do double duty as both your primary investigator and as a tripwire. If I die, Stardust will warn everyone else that something bad has happened and that you are potentially dangerous.”
                “That’s a good idea, but I’m fine.” He eyed the chair warily. “Those restraints look pretty substantial.”
                Circe’s eyes narrowed slightly and her antenna unfurled to their full length. “I’m here to guarantee that you are yourself. Shikarou, Germanicus has proven dangerous in the past and, if you are yourself, then you’ll stop fighting me and help us prove you’re still who we all want you to be.”
                Shikarou blinked in surprise at her tone and turned to give her an even look. “You are absolutely right.” Without another word he settled into the chair and held still as Circe used telekinesis to put him into the restraints. They were too heavy for her to handle otherwise.
                “Are you ready?” Circe curled up in a comfortable looking chair.
                “Is there a way to say yes that wouldn’t be a lie?”
                She chuckled. “I guess you have a point. Here we go.” Her eyes slid shut as he leaned back and stared at the ceiling.
                An hour later she stirred and opened her eyes. “I’ve told Branwyn and Candace that we need to talk to them right away.”
                The restraints started loosening themselves as Stardust appeared in the room. “Talk about a good news/bad news situation.”
                Branwyn teleported into the room with the NurseJoy in her arms. She and Candace settled down as Stardust stood behind her Tamer and rested her hands on his shoulders. The Unicorn didn’t look pleased. “What is it?”
                Stardust was wearing one of the suits she used to wear when she had a practice. She felt it made her look more professional than the jumpers Circe had been wearing since the first visit to Kasumi’s homeworld. She smoothed her blouse as she moved to stand beside Shikarou. “We examined his mind and while we couldn’t find any remnants of Germanicus’s presence, we did make some observations that you need to be appraised of.”
                Branwyn’s annoyance was instantly replaced with worry. “What is it?”
                “His mental architecture has undergone a profound change. Due to the way the memories were handled, they are present as if he actually lived them.” Her antenna twitched. “It’s as if he aged over three thousand years yesterday. In addition, most of that was spent as undead and all of it was spent as Eoghan’s servant and guardian.”
                “While our Tamer’s personality is unchanged in the main, these memories will effect changes in him that can’t be anticipated.” She pursed her lips. “Germanicus had a love – hate relationship with his half-brother and because of the implanted memories, so does Shikarou.”
                “Good and evil are defined by the moral structure that surrounds an individual. Most, if not all, criminals don’t see themselves as evil. Germanicus did not and neither does Shikarou. However, both individuals have a tendency towards extreme practicality that isn’t necessarily considered beneficial in today’s society. In addition to that, Germanicus had a broad streak of sadism. It wasn’t sexual sadism; he merely took pleasure in hurting others.”
                “In his defense, it must be remembered that during his life, people fell into two categories. Family and outsiders. Outsiders were people you could do anything to that you could get away with.”
                “It is possible that this sadism, along with other personality traits that belonged to Germanicus may manifest in Shikarou over the next couple of years. Some of these changes in his personality will be temporary, but others may prove more permanent. It will be up to us to look for changes in his behavior and thought patterns and to warn him or help him take other steps. If he can isolate the memories and limit his involvement with them, it would help to minimize their possible effects on him.”
                Candace leaned forward slightly, her eyes intent. “Is he a threat to us?”
                “No.” Circe answered confidently. “Because of Germanicus’s loyalty to tribe and family, Shikarou’s even less likely to hurt us. He is, however, more likely to admit his feelings for us or anyone else he has to interact with. For those he likes, this may prove to be a pleasant change.” She smiled slightly as he raised an eyebrow. “For those he dislikes, it may prove to be a severe shock.” Her smile faded. “We really need to watch him around those he severely dislikes. Germanicus tended to take care of them permanently and Shikarou has proven precipitous enough already.”
                Shikarou folded his hands in his lap. “What I want everyone to be aware of is that if I start showing unusual behavior, please let me know as well as each other.”
                Branwyn got up and hugged him. She smiled as she released him and straightened up. “I only hope we can spot it among all the other issues you have right now.”
                You have a message from Thai Silvati.
                Shikarou glanced around the lunch table and put his empty bowl down. “Maybe that will prove a nice distraction. I’ll take it in the briefing room.” He pushed to his feet and watched Dorothea mirror his movements. “We’re off to the briefing room. I’ve got some mail and would like a tiny bit of privacy.” The Seraph nodded.
                Once settled, he leaned back and clasped his hands behind his back. “Play message.”
                The hologram flickered and steadied as Aggie converted the two dimensional picture into three dimensions. Thai was seated with an oriental looking pokegirl.
                That is an Amazonwu.
                “Thank you.”
                The image ground back into motion. Thai looked steadily into the camera. “Hi, Shikarou. Sorry I haven't gotten back to you until now, but I've been a bit busy. Please let Branwyn and Bellona know that Nasya has been following their suggestions to the letter about training me.” He glanced to the Amazonwu as she bowed slightly.
                Shikarou raised an eyebrow at her formal posture. “She’s probably from Edo.”
                Thai spoke again. “This is Shiori, an Amazonwu who decided to join me on Sadie Poken's Day.” The Amazonwu looked surprised and the young Tamer smiled as he turned to face her. “Sorry, I just managed to think of a name that sounded good for you. I think it means Guide in Edo, and I think it fits this attractive pokegirl quite well.” Shiori flushed and gave a tiny wave at the camera as Thai returned to his message. “I hope you and your harem are doing well and that life is letting you enjoy it. From what I gathered when we met, with the pokegirls that you have, I'm sure that every day winds up interesting.”
                “Well, there are a few things that I'd like to get off my chest... and no, I don't mean my shirt. Also, no shows this time around, the rest of the 'girls are still sleeping, for once.”
                Dorothea frowned. “Shows, my lord?”
                “During his last communication, Thai was with most, if not all, of his harem and his Medra was busy marking her territory while he was trying to talk.”
                The Seraph’s lips twisted into an odd smile. “She did not urinate on him, did she?”
                “No, but she was definitely feeling friendly.” Shikarou twisted in his seat to look at her. “If you’re going to be asking questions, sit down.”
                Dorothea sighed and moved to settle down next to him. “As thou commands, my lord.” She pulled off her helm and set it on the table before reaching behind him and grabbing his braid.
                He grinned at her. “Aggie, please back up the recording to his last sentence where I was paying attention. Oh, and please pause it when Dorothea feels like more commentary.” Dorothea tugged on his braid and gave him an amused look when he turned to see what she wanted.
                Very well.
                “Also, no shows this time around, the rest of the ‘girls are still sleeping, for once.” Thai took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “The first is, I'm heading back towards Hidden Bra now. I hope to be there within a month to a month and a half, if we can keep hiking at the rate we've been traveling. I think it's about time that my girls had a place to call home that isn't just where the tamer sleeps, or her pokeball. We'll be helping to rebuild this time, I think, and if we get the time, then I think we'll even get around to getting a foundation down for the house I'd like to have built. I also told all the new ‘girls about, well, everything since I started my journey. I have to admit, it's been eating at me, and I was in the wrong to not tell them anything before now.”
                “Aggie, when was this message sent?”
                The timestamp indicates almost four weeks ago. He may be in Hidden Bra by now.
                Dorothea stirred. “This is the Tamer who was bonded to a Zeromer, correct?”
                “Yes, he is.”
                “Could thou follow his example and tell us all?”
                “Now, where would be the fun in that?” He frowned. “Besides, I’ve told you what you need to know.”
                “Only time will prove the truth of thy statement, my lord.”
                He sighed. “Aggie, the message?”
                Thai gave a tiny shrug. “I saw your match at the gym on TV, very nicely done. I'm fairly certain it was you and your harem, although I think my 'girls are some of your biggest fans now.” His Amazonwu gave him a puzzled look which he ignored. “That, ah... jumpsuit of yours is probably going to have just about every pokegirl wanting their tamer to wear one. You may have started a new trend; maybe not in the Ruby League, though. Didn't look too warm, although you obviously weren't cold, either.” He shrugged again.
                “Also, I think you might want to be on the look out for Janne. After last time and after I've finally been giving things a lot of thought, I think she liked you so much that she left with a Shrine Maiden on Sadie Poken's Day to try and make her way towards the Blue League. I don't know that for sure, but I figured it's a possibility that could happen.” Another shrug. “That hurt to say, but there it is. I could be wrong. I also lost Lei, Orya, and Milena that day as well, and if you do ever happen to run across them, please say hello for me. Assuming that they are still themselves, that is.” His eyes lightened slightly.
                “My lord, was he fond of his lost pokegirls?”
                Shikarou nodded. “Janne was the only surviving member of his original harem. Her leaving probably hurt him a lot more than he’s willing to admit. He was fond of the others, too. It always hurts to be dumped. You spend time wondering if maybe there was something that you could have done to convince them to stay, but Sadie Poken’s day is all about pokegirls getting to find a Tamer they think they want.”
                “Is Thai a good Tamer?”
                “I think he is. He’s a bit prone to melancholy, though.”
                “That is high praise from thee. I remember Janne. Apparently thou are still of interest to her.”
                “I guess so. I’m not interested in her, though.” He sighed. “However, if she shows up here, I’ll give her a fair evaluation. If I believe pokegirls get to choose things for themselves, their Tamers should top that list.”
                “Fair enough. Still, she will have to pass our inspection of her.” Dorothea didn’t sound confident about Janne’s ability to do so.
                Thai changed subjects abruptly. “Sierra's had some success with the blood test results, which I'm sending the compressed data file regarding. According to my original blood sample, I had the Recovery gift and nothing else. She hasn't been able to make heads or tails of the second one, though. After the incident, it seems as if I can keep my armor on for a little over 17 minutes a day, but every day seems to get a little longer according to the watch. I'm not entirely sure what that means yet, and neither is Sierra. I've actually accessed the CrossShield attack, according to my Pokedex. My metabolism's increased, too; according to her, it's by around 25% or so. I seem to be about two or three times stronger and faster than I was before when armored, and I still have Recovery as shown in the original blood sample.”
                Shikarou stirred. “See, he doesn’t tell them everything unless it’s pertinent.”
                Dorothea made an unhappy noise.
                Shiori leaned against her Tamer and smiled softly. “Really, master? I hadn’t heard that anywhere in your explanations last night.”
                Thai smiled back at her teasingly, as he slipped his arm around her waist. “True, but no one asked about it.”
                He turned back to the camera. “Anyway, if you have any time to spare to deal with some annoying DNA testing, I'd appreciate it if you could see what you can find in that second sample. I don't know if there's any more than what we've already learned, but if there's something else there, good or bad, I'd appreciate knowing about it. I nearly forgot, Sierra says that my mother was a strong magic-type pokegirl... she's thinking Megami or Megami-sama.”
                Thai blinked slowly and gave a soft groan. “I feel really bad about asking for help like this. I know that you asked for updates, but I'm not really that sure as to what else I can do without going to med school or something, or hiring some specialist. It's not really a high priority or anything, so don't worry about it too much.” He paused for a few seconds and smiled. “Again, if there's anything I can do for you, within reason, let me know.” He paused again and shook his head. “Take care, and may whatever or whoever you believe in smile upon you. And good hunting, too.” He reached forward and the recording stopped.
                I have sent the blood sample information along to Selene and we will see what we can find in our spare time. A sample of his blood would prove to be of use as well with our new DNA sequencers.
                “Work with what you’ve got right now.”
                Dorothea frowned. “What do thou think of the changes that Thai mentioned seeing in himself?”
                “It stands to reason that as he gets more experience, he’ll be able to keep his new form for longer. I’m doing the same thing.”
                She nodded. “I suppose thou are. Will thou compose a message back?”
                “I think that would be a good idea.” Shikarou made himself comfortable. “Aggie, message for Thai Silvati, Ruby League.”
                I know who he is.
                “Fine. Begin recording.” Shikarou looked serious. “Thai, it’s good to hear from you and you look like you’re doing pretty good.” He smiled slightly. “You’re putting on muscle. I’m sure your harem can appreciate that.”
                Shikarou slid smoothly to his feet and bowed formally. <Greetings to you, Silvati Shiori. I am Urufu Shikarou and I want to tell you that you’ve managed to find a good Tamer and a good man.> He glanced at Dorothea. “Would you please introduce yourself?”
                Dorothea had blinked when he started speaking Japanese but recovered quickly. “Greetings to thee, master Thai and Amazonwu Shidori. I am Dorothea and I am Shikarou’s Seraph, charged with ensuring that the path he walks is righteous.” She gave him an amused glance. “However, it is a job that truly needs three or four more Celestial pokegirls for any chance at success.”
                Shikarou sighed and dropped back into his chair. “You’re backsliding.”
                “And thou are composing a message for a friend of yours, my lord. Perhaps that should be thy focus; not chiding me.”
                Shikarou’s head shook slowly. “You’re right.” He turned back to the pickup. “Thai, I want to thank you for the request. My people will see what they can find from the data Sierra prepared and as soon as I know something I’ll send it to you. If they don’t find anything in a fortnight or so, I’ll let you know that as well.”
                “I hope your busy has been better than mine. We got attacked here recently and are still evaluating the results of their attack. I’m pretty sure we won that one, but the fallout is still settling, something I’m sure you understand.”
                His ears flicked. “Hidden Bra should make a good base of operations for you. The place looked like it was coming along nicely according to the camera I’d left, at least until they chopped down the tree it was in.” He shrugged. “The display died at that point, so I don’t know too much about what’s been happening since. I have been sending them money as part of an investment program for new businesses there. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my money back, but if not, I’m sure it is going to a good cause. I also know they expressed interest in the makeup of the Caomh Sith Guard for a while. They weren’t specific, but I do know they’re still talking to Samantha, the commander, from time to time.” He frowned slightly. “I do know they were looking for a new badge design, and I think some of the people here are helping with something along those lines.”
                A chuckle bubbled up and his eyes glittered with laughter. “Yes, that was us that fought Rory. You don’t have to tell your other pokegirls if you don’t want to; just in case knowing who that person actually is somehow makes them feel awkward. I had a good time battling Rory, but I don’t think I’d want to put on that kind of a show on a regular basis.”
                He sobered. “I know that losing Janne and the others hurts. You tried to do everything you could for them and they still abandoned you. I lost one pokegirl at the Sadie Poken’s day festival I attended earlier this year. I didn’t really like her all that much, but her loss still aches a little even now.” He grimaced. “Of course, she was a bitch about it, but still it hurts.” His eyes narrowed. “In fact, I just may look her up for old time’s sake.”
                Dorothea gave him slightly worried look. “My lord, no killing.”
                “That’s not your call,” he replied curtly. “That would be up to Helen.”
                The Seraph blinked and nodded slowly. “Thou are right. Helen is the injured party in this case.”
                Shikarou took a deep breath and turned back to the pickup. “Sorry, my temper has been frayed a bit, recently. Anyway, Thai, I want you to know I think you are a good Tamer and you treat your harem the best you can. You also have a tendency to beat yourself up over stuff that’s not your fault and you need to realize that their leaving isn’t something you can control, at least not without resorting to illegal restraints. Worry about the girls who want to be with you, not the ones that don’t. However, should I run across any of your former pokegirls, I’ll tell them hello and not that they are idiots for leaving you.”
                “Congratulations, I hear you’ve become an official hero of the Ruby League for dealing with and surviving those Mantis pokegirls. I’ve been lead to understand there are some perks that go along with that and I hope they are the good kind. Enjoy it while it lasts. Memories for that sort of thing tend to be short.”
                He chuckled again. “Sorry, my natural pessimism is vying against my ingrained paranoia. I hope you’re having a good time and I hope to hear from you again, soon. I’ll pass along your message to Branwyn and Bellona about Nasya treating you right.” He grinned. “Hopefully, Sierra is keeping your hurts tended to properly.”
                “My lord! Thou are assuming much in the relationship between a Tamer and his pokegirl.”
                “They’re both adults and it’s obvious Sierra’s fond of him.” His grin appeared again. “Farewell and good hunting, good pokegirls and good friends. Shikarou clear.”
                Message complete.             
                “Send it.”
                Dorothea tugged on his braid. “What do thou see our adversary doing next?”
                Shikarou blinked. “I have no idea.”
                “But thou should.”
                He raised an eyebrow. “And why is that?”
                Dorothea regarded him solemnly. “My heart, is it not true that thou carry the complete memories of Germanicus inside thee?”
                Shikarou frowned. When she used her private pet name for him, he knew he’d better pay attention to what she was saying. “It is.”
                “Is it not also true that thou must carry these memories for the rest of thy life?”
                He nodded slowly. “It is.”
                She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him against her breastplate. She smiled and released him. “I am sorry to hear that thou must bear that burden and yet, good may come of it.”
                “My heart, thou carry the memories of someone who has observed our foe for three millennia. By examining those memories, thou may know him better then he knows himself.”
                Shikarou gave her a curious look. “I’ve been warned not to immerse myself too deeply into his memories at any time. Stardust thinks it might not be healthy.”
                Dorothea nodded. “Yet, what price needs to be paid for the security of thy family and home?”
                “I really think you’re backsliding.”
                She smiled gently. “My lord, my heart quails at the thought of losing thee. Thou have become the cornerstone of my life and I fear trying to continue on without thee. I do not give this counsel lightly.”
                He folded his arms. “I want to hear you say that like you mean it.”
                “My lord, I am quite serious.” The Seraph looked slightly nervous.
                “Say it.”
                She flushed crimson and her voice dropped to a whisper. “Must I?”
                “I’d like it, but no. You don’t have to.”
                Dorothea took a deep breath. Her voice was barely audible. “Shikarou, I think thou must do this.”
                He smiled. “Thank you. I’d like to disagree, but you’re right. I’ve been too cowardly to use them properly and if they’re a part of me now, I have to deal with them.”
                Taking a deep breath, he leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. His eyes unfocussed and his breathing became slow and even. The minutes began to spin by.
                When he blinked and looked down, Branwyn and Candace were sitting in the room and watching him intently. His wife sighed. “You couldn’t wait, could you?”
                “Relax.” Shikarou stretched and glanced at Dorothea. “How long?”
                “An hour, my lord.”
                He smiled slowly. “Ok, right now it’s a good news/good news situation. I’m not Germanicus and Eoghan won’t be attacking us for a while, probably not for a month or so.”
                Candace raised an eyebrow. “And you know this how?”
                “I’ve just relieved all of Germanicus’s memories and Eoghan is a physical and moral coward. It’s the source of all of his issues, including the first one that started all of our troubles. He was afraid that accessing his Sidhe powers would change him so much that he used his druid magic instead of even trying.”
                Branwyn frowned. “Then why on earth did he even attempt to become Sidhe?”
                “He’s greedy, ambitious and power hungry,” Shikarou replied. “He’s also got a superiority complex about a kilometer wide and the humans living at the time considered the Sidhe to be vastly superior to the mortals. He aspired to that superiority.” His ears flicked. “He didn’t understand the vast mental and physical repercussions of becoming undead or it’s likely he would not have gone that route either.”
                He shivered slightly. “I don’t think anyone can understand what’s coming until they do it and then it’s too late. Maybe becoming an undead vampire would be different, but becoming a lich?” His voice broke off and he took a deep breath. “You’re trapped inside your skull. You have no sensations other than sight and sound. No taste or touch or olfactory sense.”
                His eyes closed and he took a moment to compose himself. “Taking or destroying all of the attack force Germanicus led was absolutely perfect. Their complete disappearance will rattle Eoghan severely and he’ll dither about what to do for weeks if not months. It’s also very likely he’ll send some kind of scout to see if Germanicus betrayed him or we all destroyed each other. We need to keep our eyes open for it and take or destroy it as soon as it appears.”
                Dorothea’s eyes widened. “My lord, are thou saying that Eoghan destroyed the Sidhe because he feared them and coveted their place?”
                “That is exactly what I’m saying.”
                “Do you realize that you just took the major threat we’re facing and made him pathetic?” Stardust stood in the doorway to the briefing room. “You just said he’s a loser who has to have things his own way.” The Alaka-Wham sauntered in and settled down in a chair next to her Tamer.
                Shikarou cocked his head. “While not in so many words, I did say that, didn’t I? It’s true enough.”
                Branwyn clasped her hand and leaned forward. “What if you’re wrong? If he’s that unbalanced, he’s likely to be unpredictable.”
                “After three thousand years of direct observation, nobody is unpredictable. He’ll wait.”
                “Good.” Stardust smiled and grabbed his hand. “So we’ve got time to go back to the exam room and make sure you just didn’t unleash another foe for us to contend with inside your skull.”
                I have found something interesting in the Misty Continent. It’s probably in the Mountain League.
                Shikarou was idly rolling four pokeballs around on the tabletop with a finger. They belonged to the pokegirls they’d captured the previous day. He looked up. “Probably?”
                The system is proving difficult to locate. I suspect they have an intermittent connection. It’s doubtful they are technologically sophisticated enough to hide this well from me deliberately.
                “Your humility is astounding.”
                I speak only the truth.
                He sat up and dropped the pokeballs into the bag he’d pulled them out of. “All right, since you are determined to distract me from dealing with our captives, what’s so damned interesting?” His eyes narrowed. “You aren’t stalling for Branwyn to get here beforehand, are you?”
                No. She’ll be here before you can deal with them in any case.
                Shikarou growled deep in the back of his throat. “You had something you wanted me to know about?”
                This connection goes to an old computer system with a storage module. Interestingly enough, it isn’t associated with a town or a pokegirl center. It’s sent out a request for owners of the pokegirls stored in it to get their pokegirls out before it is taken offline permanently.
                “I’m not sure why this is important. Are you looking for permission to poach some of them for here, or do you have some nefarious purpose of your own?”
                Neither. The ID numbers of the owners are listed for each pokegirl and three of them register as belonging to the father of Thai Silvati.
                “So, send him a message about them.”
                He has no public email available. All his correspondence is private and he has not communicated with his son, so I cannot track his base of operations. If I were physically present in the Ruby League systems, it would be possible. I am not and I was designed for a system that allows for much faster rates of data transfer. It’s like wading through wet concrete.
                “Something you know nothing about.”
                Fuck you.
                The table cracked under Shikarou’s hands. He took a deep breath. “I suppose I deserved that. I apologize for being an ass. Assuming that these pokegirls did belong to Thai’s father, what can we do?”
                Your apology is accepted. I can arrange for them to be transferred to Hidden Bra and held for him. I’ll change the ownership records to reflect him as their owner so he can pull them from storage. Will you send him a message explaining what’s happened?
                Shikarou nodded. “Give me the pertinent information and start the transfer.”
                There are three pokegirls. All are approaching the change over to full adulthood. There is a Galem named Brenda, a Kunoichi named Eren and Phaenine named Selene. The three of them match with names and types of pokegirls lost to Thai’s father in a transfer accident.
                “What the fuck have they been doing for so long?”
                Unknown. The computer is not accepting requests for further data and strangely enough, lists all of the pokegirls as arriving only two days ago.
                “That’s pretty screwed up. What about any other pokegirls?”
                There are an additional seventeen pokegirls available.
                “Try tracking down their original owners and get them transferred to them. Any extras need to go to the Mountain League administrators.”
                Do you want any?
                “My plate is full right now and I have no bowl. No thanks.”
                I’m working on the transfer right now.
                Shikarou looked down at the broken table and grimaced. With a convulsive heave, he hurled it against the far wall of the room where it shattered. A brief smile appeared and he made himself comfortable in his chair again, dropping the bag next to him. “Edit out the broken table and begin recording.”
                “Thai, I know this is going to sound odd, but this isn’t a social message.” Shikarou smiled grimly. “I’ve got some news for you and you will want to be alone with only your most trusted advisors with you. I’m going to wait here so you can pause this message and get someplace private. I repeat. Do not listen to this in public or with anyone you do not trust completely.”
                He waited for a full minute. “All right, I’m sorry, but I’m probably not going to make your life easier, although the long term results could be intriguing. We’ve found an anomaly that apparently involves your father. There is an old computer that is going to be pulled from the net somewhere on the Mist Continent. That should mean it’s inside the Mountain League. It has tried to contact your father, but he’s not taking public messages.”
                “Normally I’d just let you know so you could contact your father, but apparently time is of the essence. The connection is bad and theoretically could fail at any moment; here’s what I’m doing. There are three pokegirls that are registered as belonging to your father. I’m going to transfer ownership to you and have the pokeballs sent to the Hidden Bra pokegirl center to await pickup. That’s where you were last. Once there, they should be safe.”
                “No, I don’t know how pokegirls that belong to your father got there. In fact, I’m telling you what I know.”
                “By the time you get this, the pokeballs will be waiting for you. I’d recommend picking them up as soon as you can.”
                His ears flattened against his skull instinctively. “I’m not sure how to tell you this delicately, so I’m not going to try. You might want to take a deep breath right now. Like I said, these pokegirls are listed as belonging to your father. Apparently, they belonged to him quite some time ago. There is a Galem, a Kunoichi and a Phaenine. I don’t know if that means anything to you, but they appear to be harem members of your father’s that disappeared before he retired. Their names are Brenda, Eren and Selene. They may have known you when you were a child. Good or bad, the names and types match those in your father’s harem.”
                A tiny smile appeared. “I’ll pause here while you go throw up. At least, that’s what I’d do if some of my dead mothers appeared suddenly and were alive.”
                “I hope you have good fortune with whatever is going on, Thai, and I hope that you’ll eventually forgive me for dumping this on you; it wouldn’t feel right to just keep them or dump them in the Mountain League.”
                He stood and formally bowed. “If I can be of help in this, do not hesitate to call me. I’ll do what I can and I’ll continue to try and find out what the hell is going on.”
                He stared into the pickup. “Shikarou clear.”
                Message ended.
                Shikarou nodded. “I want you to hand carry this damned thing straight to him, stuff it into his pokedex, phone, laptop, and whatever else communication system he has and then I want you to hit every alarm on it until he reads this message promptly. If he lays it aside, set off the alarms again. I want him to have read this yesterday at the latest.”
                I cannot time travel, so I hope that was sarcasm.
                “Just do it.”
                I will.
                “Thank you.” Shikarou scooped up the bag and left the room. “Please inform Branwyn that I’m on my way to Alexandria to visit our prisoners. If she’s available, I’d like transportation. Oh, and she can be my guard.”
                She is on her way.
                Shikarou traced a claw tip along the jaw of the knight. “So, kill or convert?” The knight’s eyes widened in fear as Shikarou’s emotionless expression sank in.
                “We need more males.” Branwyn raised an eyebrow when he didn’t respond. “Husband?”
                He blinked and looked up. “You’re sure?” He sounded slightly disappointed. “Very well.” His hand sank into the knight’s chest and the man screamed in agony.
                “Shikarou!” Branwyn glared at him as he looked over at her. “Stop hurting him!”
                He ignored the screams, only raising his voice slightly. “There’s always pain involved. Either they get it or I do. They’re prisoners and only deserve whatever mercy we choose to give them. Today, I’m not feeling merciful.” The screaming suddenly stopped. “All done.” He pulled his hand free and stepped away.
                The Unicorn grabbed his arm. “Is that true?”
                “I can’t lie, remember. I’m done with him.”
                “That’s not what I was asking about. There is always pain for someone?” Branwyn stared into his eyes. “Answer me.”
                Shikarou nodded. “Yes. I learned how to take that pain into myself so I could convert slaves without others knowing. After a while, it became something of a badge of pride. Silly, really, but that’s what you’re like when you’re young.”
                “How much does it hurt?”
                He shrugged. “You heard, um, what is your name?”
                “Leland, my lord.” The knight’s face was white and his breathing was still fast and shallow.
                “You heard Leland. While he was a little high pitched, that sounded fairly typical.” Shikarou moved down to the other knight, who was struggling in his restraints. “Hi.” The knight blanched and his struggles grew more violent.
                “My love, we don’t torture them unnecessarily. You are not Germanicus. Do not act like him.”
                He paused and turned back to Branwyn. “You’d rather I hurt than them?” His hand slid into the knight’s chest. “As you wish.” The knight froze but made no sound until Shikarou pulled his hand free. Then he slumped and began breathing once more.
                “I didn’t feel anything.” Branwyn gave him a puzzled look. “I thought you said it hurts.”
                “I’m shielding you. I do love you and wouldn’t want you to hurt if it can be avoided.”
                Branwyn stepped in front of him. “Let me feel it.”
                “That wasn’t a request.” Her eyes snapped at him. “I want to know what you just went through.”
                Shikarou’s ears went completely still. “The fact that I want this to be a marriage of equals does not make you in any way my superior. I’ve acquiesced to your demands up to this point in an attempt to keep you happy. Perhaps that was a mistake.” He glanced at the knight as Branwyn went white. “Name.”
                “I am Jacob, my lord.”
                Branwyn slipped her hand into his. “You’re right. I’m sorry that I’ve been treating you that way.”
                The kami chuckled warmly. “You have my best interests at heart, Branwyn. I know that and for the most part I agree with the restrictions you’ve placed on my life.” A broad smile appeared. “If I didn’t, I’d have found a way around them.” He patted her hand with his free one. “You’re worried that the way Germanicus behaves will come to dominate my thoughts. I can see why you’d be worried about this, but the truth is that all it’s really done is made me less likely to make an effort for my enemies.”
                “I am not nor have I ever been a threat to those whom I love.” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry I upset you.”
                “It’s ok,” Branwyn said quietly. “Can you forgive me for being a bitch?”
                He kissed her on the cheek. “To be a good alpha to our band of misfits, you have to be. And, sometimes, I’m the worst person for you to deal with.”
                He looked down. “Can I have my hand for a few minutes? I would like to let Jacob free so he can free Leland.”
                She nodded and let him go. As he began releasing the knight, she frowned. “What do you want to do with the pokegirls?”
                “Does anyone want them?” He began humming to himself as he unshackled Jacob.
                “Kasumi would like the Archmage. She thinks that the pokegirl would be useful at the school she’s planning. Your brother wants the Bramage.” She hesitated briefly. “I thought we might take the StarlightXpress. What do you think?”
                “I think my harem is full.”
                “She has the potential to be very useful.”
                “Not good enough. All of my ladies are very useful. I still think my harem is full.”
                Branwyn gave him an exasperated look. “Shikarou, we’re going to need a way to go into space. You want to investigate the conditions around the earth and this would give us a way to get to the moon in case Ming Die and her sisters become troublesome.”
                “Is Circe or Stardust willing to give up the location of their secret base?” The last of the restraints fell away. “Jacob, free Leland and then the two of you wait outside.”
                “Yes, my lord.”
                He turned back to his wife. “Well?”
                “Circe already has. She’s worried that if she and Stardust start reproducing that the Pleiades will consider us some kind of threat, especially once their true power becomes known.”
                “I would consider that something to be concerned about.” Shikarou sighed and settled into the chair Jacob had just vacated. “You really think she needs to join my harem?”
                “Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be arguing with you about her otherwise.”
                “Then we take her. What about the Cardian?”
                “She’s Infernal. We’ve got too many Celestials here for her to work out. Eventually, someone would get hurt.”
                Shikarou cocked his head. “What if I converted her?”
                “Unless you make her an automaton like Happosai was, she’ll probably get mouthy to Dorothea at the wrong time. Face it, my love, if you’re like this, your Seraph will be touchy too. We’ll have to sell her.”
                “No. I said they all must vanish. The choices available are: I convert her, she goes into the harem of someone I trust, or she dies.” He leaned back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. “I’ll convert her and send her to Tomakomai. She can work in my temple and help me keep an eye on the whole operation down there.”
                Branwyn didn’t resist when he pulled her into his lap, but she didn’t look particularly happy. “Are you really going to go looking for Ruiling?”
                “That depends on what Helen wants to do.”
                His alpha nodded to herself. “She may be hard to find. You might be looking for quite some time.”
                “No, she won’t.” He smirked when she gave him a curious look. “All of you have been implanted with a tracer so I can find you if you get pokenapped. I know exactly where she is.”
                “Were you going to tell me about this? I don’t remember any surgical procedure.”
                “It happened while you were asleep and involved no surgery. And, as for telling you, I just did.”
                Branwyn smacked him with her braid. “When did it happen?”
                “It didn’t take place until after Alexandria became operational. I needed the satellite web up and working in order to be able to locate you all. The implants don’t transmit on a frequency that can be detected by anything on this world except Selene and Aggie.”
                “Where does this tracer put Ruiling?”
                Shikarou snickered. “For a while she traveled around the Blue League, but eventually she returned to Tomakomai. Apparently it’s her home.”
                Branwyn sighed. “Have you talked to Helen about it?”
                “Not yet. Any idea if she’ll want a match?”
                “I don’t know,” Branwyn admitted. “She enjoys fighting, but I’m unsure if she holds a grudge against Ruiling or not. Coming here was the best thing that’s ever happened to her and she knows it.”
                “I’ll talk to her.” He shrugged. “I really don’t know how she’ll feel about it, but I hope she wants to pummel Ruiling for a while.”
                Branwyn favored him with a broad smile. “I want a high quality video of the battle.” Her smile widened. “For training purposes only, I wouldn’t want it just to gloat.”
                “I take it you harbor some negative feelings about our wayward Neo Iczel?”
                “No, I don’t. I just think she needs a thrashing over the way she treated us. And also for the way she treated Helen. And I want to see it. Preferably several times.”
                “I want to have a word with you, Shikarou.” Ygerna stood in the doorway to his office. “About the two knights you’ve purloined from me.”
                Yushiko glanced at her Tamer, who was looking blandly at the Sidhe woman. A slight smile crossed her face and vanished almost instantly at his careful non-expression.
                “Purloined? I didn’t purloin anyone, but come in.” Shikarou motioned to the chair on the other side of his desk. “Please, be seated.”
                Ygerna perched on the edge of the chair, her body stiffly erect. Morgan slipped into the room and settled against the wall. The Dragoness folded her arms and watched alertly.
                The Sidhe didn’t hesitate. “You captured two knights from Germanicus. I want them and their pokegirls.” Her tone brooked no argument.
                “That’s not going to be possible.” Shikarou glanced at Yushiko and jerked his head at the door. The Armsmistress nodded and moved to close it. She settled next to Morgan and went back into an alert posture.
                Ygerna’s voice rose. “I’ve seen them around here. I know Leland and I want both of them turned over to me immediately.”
                “I said no.” Nothing changed in his tone or posture, but Morgan stiffened slightly.
                Ygerna’s voice rose to a yell. “THEY ARE MINE AND I WANT THEM RETURNED TO ME!”
                Papers and knickknacks exploded away from the desktop as Shikarou came out of his chair like a spring and over the desk at Ygerna. He landed on top of her and the chair shattered beneath the sudden impact. Shikarou rode her to the ground, slamming her head into the floor.
                Morgan started to lurch forward and came to a sudden halt when Yushiko drove the tip of her sword into the Dragoness’s throat. The Armsmistress gave her a warning look. “Wait.”
                Ygerna coughed around the claws clenching her throat as Shikarou leaned into her face. His voice was a hiss. “You will not speak to me that way ever again or we will find out if you are strong enough to survive without your throat.” His hands tightened. “Do you understand me?”
                Ygerna tried to speak but could only gasp for air. Shikarou loosened his grip and she wheezed as she swallowed a lungful. Her eyes were wide with anger. “No one treats me this way.”
                Shikarou bared his teeth in a snarl. “You are not the queen here and you will not treat me like one of your servants.” Blood trickled down her throat as his claws dug in. “I’ve put up with your attitude up to this point, but it no longer amuses me. You want to be a bitch to your people, fine. Don’t you ever make the mistake of presuming that I am yours to command. I am not.” His nose touched hers as he glared into her eyes. “My people captured two knights. My people captured four pokegirls.” His voice dropped as the menace in it grew. “My people killed Germanicus. All you’ve managed to do so far is lose your kingdom and your people.” Ygerna jerked as if stabbed. Shikarou continued relentlessly. “All of the prisoners my people took will be disposed of as I see fit.”
                He released her so suddenly that her head hit the floor again as he rose smoothly to his feet. “Feel free to do what you want with the prisoners your people took.”
                Ygerna sat up as he sank back into his chair. Her eyes blazed with fury. “Am I being expelled from your kingdom?” She kept her voice as calm as possible but anger pulsed beneath her words.
                “You are not.” Shikarou placed his palms flat on the table and leaned slightly forward. “You still have business with my brother.” He gave her a wintry smile. “Should we continue this conversation through seconds?”
                The Sidhe woman blinked in surprise. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “You would cross blades with me? I am a Sidhe mage and warrior.”
                “I would, if you feel insulted.” He cocked his head, a thread of amusement entering his voice. “You may be older than dirt, but I don’t think you’ve kept up your weapons training. That means I will not settle for a battle of champions, or in this case, pokegirls.”
                “You presume too much.” Morgan snarled at him. Yushiko’s eyes lit up at the prospect of a fight.
                The Malakai looked disappointed when Ygerna waved her bodyguard down. “No, he’s right. This isn’t my kingdom and I’m wrong to act like it is.” She rose gracefully. “Do I need to swear an oath of loyalty to you, my king?”
                Shikarou looked startled, and for the first time, faintly worried. “That’s not necessary right now.” He licked his lips. “I want you and Faelan to see what you can work out before that happens. If you can’t develop some kind of a relationship with him, you might want to leave and return when some of our children are grown to try again.”
                It was Ygerna’s turn to look surprised. “I hadn’t considered that.” She gave him a curious frown. “You believe you can defeat Eoghan.”
                “I think we can.” Shikarou’s corrected her firmly. “I’m not sure I could have taken Germanicus, much less his master.”
                “You have a plan.” It wasn’t a question.
                “I do. No, I’m not willing to share. Not yet, anyway. Germanicus knew some spells to pull knowledge from the minds of the unwary and Eoghan taught him some of them. We’re going to be practicing opsec as much as possible.”
                “Opsec? What is that?”
                “Operational security.”
                She shook her head and ran her fingers through her tousled hair. “You spend too much time with the mortals.”
                He chuckled. “I don’t think you spend enough. They have a lot to teach.”
                “How? Their lives are gone in an instant.”
                “I would counter that they live a whole life. Immortals tend to live to a certain point and stop. That’s been my experience and the experience of Germanicus as well.” He began organizing the things that remained on his desk. “They don’t see things the way we do, which also means we don’t see some things that they do.”
                “You don’t understand,” Ygerna said dismissively. “You are still much too young.”
                Shikarou laughed out loud. “Thanks to Germanicus, I’m not that much younger than you are. Oh, my body is, but my mind is filled with the passage of millennia. You know what? No matter how long you live, each day is just as long and just as filled with potential.” He shook his head slowly. “That potential, by the way, is usually wasted by the immortal.”
                Ygerna’s eyes widened suddenly. “Do you know everything that Germanicus did?”
                He gave her a cautious look. “Due to the way things unfolded, I lived his entire life except for the last minute or so.”
                “So you know the truth. I’ve heard it said here that it’s suspected that Eoghan wiped out the Sidhe. Did he?”
                Shikarou took a deep breath. “He ordered it. Germanicus was the one who carried out the orders.”
                “I don’t really want to discuss it.” Shikarou looked distant for a moment. “It was very effective and only available to the undead. I’m not sure if I can adapt it to a spell the living can cast or if I even want to try.”
                “You’re not interested in a spell that will slay your enemies at a distance?”
                “Not another one. If I want someone dead that badly, I’ve already got a whole plethora of options to chose from. Some of them are magical while others are technological in nature.” His ears rotated slowly. “And I’ve always believed that taking care of that sort of thing personally is better anyway. It reminds you that killing should only be used when necessary. If you are ordering others to do it or doing it so far away that you can’t see the one you’re killing, then it is just too easy to forget that rule.”
                “Is that a commentary on me?”
                He looked startled. “Not at all. I understand that rulers don’t often have the luxuries of the line troops. Orders have to be given and obeyed.”
                “If you intend to be king, you’ll have to remember that.”
                Shikarou nodded. “I will.”
                The StarlightXpress looked around with a disgusted expression as she appeared. Shikarou put the pokeball on the table next to the bed. She noticed the motion and turned. “Oh, you.” She sighed and lay down on the bed. “Ok, let’s get this over with.”
                Shikarou blinked. He’d seen little since coming to this world that appealed to him less. “I wanted to talk to you first.”
                She sat up and shrugged. “It’s not going to work, you know. I don’t want you for a Tamer and there’s not a whole lot you can do about that.”
                He nodded briefly. “I’d suspected that something like that might be the case. You want to be with your Tamer. Ok, I don’t see a problem with that.”
                She looked shocked. “You’re serious.”
                “I am indeed.” He leaned against the wall. “Tandy, if you’re determined to be with Leland, so be it.”
                Her eyes widened and suddenly she barked a laugh. “That fool? He’s not my Tamer. My Tamer is Roderick Thibodaux. I was taken by Leland as salvage.”
                “Thibodaux?” Shikarou frowned. “Leland didn’t kill him?”
                Tandy shook her head. “He was afraid I’d suicide if he did.”
                “Is that likely?”
                She nodded. “A lot of times when a Tamer dies, any pokegirls he’s delta bonded to will often lose the will to live. Sometimes they stop eating, other times they suicide.”
                Shikarou frowned. “I’d heard they could die. I figured it was due to the trauma of the link being severed.”
                Tandy smiled. “I’ve heard that too, but what I’ve seen is suicide or starvation.”   
                “That could bear some investigation. However, my earlier comment stands. If you want to be with your bonded partner then, as far as I’m concerned, you can. Is Roderick in the Blue League?”
                The StarlightXpress hugged herself. “No. And I’m not sure where he is anymore. We were in the Indigo League when I was taken.” She looked up. “They’ve got bases in every League for spying.”
                “Do they have any contact with Sanctuary?”
                “Where is that? I’ve never heard of it.”
                Shikarou made a mental note to ask Ygerna if she had any knowledge of the Sanctuary Goths. “Do they have a base on the Dark Continent?”
                “Not that I know of. That place is scary and nobody wants to go there.” She hugged herself tighter. “Are you serious about me and Roderick?”
                “I have some pokegirls who are delta bonded to me and I would move heaven and earth to get them back. I’d also expect anyone to help them get back to me. I’ll do no less for you.” He picked up his com. “Aggie, find me anything you can on a Tamer named Roderick Thibodaux. He was last known to be in the Indigo League and at one time had a StarlightXpress.” Shikarou looked up. “Is Tandy the name you had then?”
                “Yes.” A faint look of hope crossed her face. “I wouldn’t change it after Leland took me and he couldn’t afford to force the issue.”
                “I’ll see what I can do, but it may take some time,” Aggie responded through the com.
                Shikarou put the com away. “We’ll see about getting you a room at the inn, if you’re willing to wait to see if we can find him. In the meantime,” he tossed her the pokeball, “you keep that. If you need to be tamed, talk to the pokegirls staying at the inn.”
                Tandy stared at the round ball she clutched. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Name:                                                     Urufu, Shikarou
Age:                                                       250
Residence:                                             Caomh Sith, Blue Continent
Region:                                  Scotland
Status:                                                    Active
Rank:                                                      63
Security Clearance:                              Eta
                Tamer                                     Y
                Master Tamer                       Y
                Researcher                            N
                Watcher                 N
                Breeder                  Y
Active Harem
Species                  Name                                      Level
Alaka-Wham                         Circe                                       73
Unicorn                  Branwyn                                67
Milktit                                    Helen                                      64
G-Spliced                               Pythia                                     60
DragonQueen                       Bellona                   60
NurseJoy                               Candace                 58
Armsmistress                        Urufu Yushiko      57
Seraph                                    Dorothea                               57
Vampire                  Elizabeth                                53
Sphinx                                    Lorelei                                   53
Mini-Top                               Nanu                                      53
Wet Lass                               Roisin                                     44
Alpha                                     Branwyn
Beta                                        Bellona
Badges: Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                England: Plymouth,
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
                                Ruby League: Polass Gym