Chapter 48
                Candace jumped when Shikarou slipped his arms around her and nuzzled the back of her neck. “Warn me when you are going to do that.” She carefully put the plaque she’d been given for winning the Zombabe Bite-Free Competition down on the counter. “Please?”
                She leaned back against him as he pressed his lips against her neck and chuckled. “I’ll think about it.” His lips nibbled gently and she stifled a groan.
                “Shikarou, I’m still on duty,” she whispered. “The clinic isn’t the place for this.”
                He spun her around and propelled her backwards to pin her against the wall. “You are always on duty when we’re here. It’s my island, my clinic and my pokegirl,” he whispered back, while staring intently into her eyes. “I think it’s a fine place for this.”
                He kissed her hard and ran his tongue along her lips, which parted to grant him entry. She suddenly pressed against him and wrapped her arms around his neck as she kissed him back.
                She giggled and slapped his hands away when he started unbuttoning her blouse. “My office has a new daybed and it’s much more comfortable than the counter.” She went back to kissing him when he scooped her up and headed down the hall.
                He kicked the door to her office shut behind them and stared for a second. “I’ve never seen a daybed with a canopy before.”
                She flashed a smile. “You gave us all of that money and I thought we deserved something special.”
                He laid her on the bed and kissed her hungrily. The nursejoy grabbed his shoulders and rolled, putting him underneath her. “My office and my rules,” she whispered as she straddled his waist. Reaching up, she undid her hair and it spilled down over her shoulders in a pink cloud.
                Shikarou went back to unbuttoning her blouse as she shook her hair out. She grabbed his hands and gave him an amused look. “I’ll take care of this. Strip.”
                Shikarou kicked off his boots and struggled out of his shirt as she slipped off her blouse. “I can’t remove my pants because there is an obstruction,” he said calmly.
                Candace gave him an impish look. “I do believe you’re right.” She slid forward onto his stomach. “There.”
                He frowned when he didn’t feel any cotton or silk against his skin and slid his hands up her legs and under her skirt to cup her ass. “You’re not wearing any knickers.”
                “And you’re talking too much.” She scooted forward and straddled his head, dropping her skirt over his face. “This’ll keep you busy.” She shivered and sighed when his mouth eagerly covered her. “Oh, yes.” She leaned back, moaning as he licked her. Her breath began coming in gasps as she built. He slowed and she hissed before grinding herself against his mouth. “Don’t stop,” she whispered/gasped. When he sealed his mouth around her clit and sucked, she screeched and went off like a firecracker, jerking so hard that he had to hold her still while multiple orgasms swept through her.
                Finally, she leaned back against his knees for a moment while fighting to get her breath. Eventually, she rolled off of him and slid back to kiss him eagerly. Finally she broke the kiss and propped herself up to give him a sultry look. “Now we’ll take care of those pants,” she half whispered.
                He gave her a curious look. “What pants?”
                She blinked and looked down his nude body. “When did you,” she began when he interrupted.
                 “You never noticed?” He chuckled quietly for a second before his eyes filled with heat. “It doesn’t matter.”
                She nodded. “No, it doesn’t.” Her mouth covered his again and she squeaked when he pulled her on top of him before rolling over and pinning her arms above her head. “I said, it’s my office.” She jerked her wrists.
                She blinked when he gave her a lazy grin and tightened his grip before forcing her legs apart with his knee and moving between them. “My building.”
                “Oh. That trumps me,” she said in a suddenly breathless voice. “Please be gentle.”
                He nudged himself against her opening and his smile turned predatory. “No.” With a lunge he buried himself to the hilt. She screamed and her body twisted beneath him as he began pounding himself into her over and over. Her skirt twisted and he growled and reached between them to rake his claws through the fabric before tossing the remains to the side.
                Her cries grew louder and louder until she suddenly began babbling incoherently as she went into convulsions. Her head jerked and her hair flew wildly as he sped up and, when he spilled into her, her back arched and she went rigid for several seconds before collapsing.
                Shikarou rolled them sideways and wrapped her tightly in his arms.
                A few minutes later, Candace took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She gave him a happy smile and snuggled against him. “Hi.”
                “Hi, yourself.”
                They were quiet for several minutes before she raised a hand and peered at her wrist. “I think I’m going to have bruises.”
                “Probably. It’s likely you’ll have a bruised groin, too.”
                “That’s good.” She pressed her lips against his chest gently before looking up at him. “My birthday is next month.” Her eyes were suddenly unreadable.
                He gave her a questioning look. “I know.”
                “I’ll be thirty three. I can already feel the changes and I did a hormonal check. I’m becoming a pokewoman.”
                “Are you going broody?”
                She buried her face against his skin and held him fiercely. “I don’t know, but I think so. I notice Molly’s kids more than I did.”
                He squeezed her until she squeaked. “It’s ok if you are. You might talk to Helen and see if she thinks you’re becoming more maternal. She is a pokewoman, after all. Branwyn might be able to help too, since she’s been at the Conservatory for a long time.”
                She spoke against his chest. “I, I didn’t think about that. I was just so scared that you might not want me if I changed.”
                He kissed the top of her head. “You change a bit every day and I still want you. I want kids, Candace, maybe just as soon as things settle down.”
                She sighed and relaxed. “I think I do, too.”
                “Are you ready?” Yushiko glanced from one end of the battlefield to the other.
                Branwyn nodded from where she stood ready to command Elizabeth if there were difficulties. “We are.”
                “We’re ready too.” Shikarou glanced at Gwyneth. The elfqueen squared her shoulders and swung around to face front.
                Yushiko raised her flags. “This battle is to evaluate Gwyneth’s combat status and will continue until either one side cannot continue or until Shikarou calls the match.” The flags fell. “Begin.”
                Gwyneth got her absorb spell up an instant before Elizabeth’s fireball exploded around her. Flames sucked inward and vanished, leaving the elfqueen none the worse for wear. She returned the energy in the form of an ice beam which smashed the vampire backwards with a cry of pain before she faded from sight as she went invisible.
                The elfqueen dropped into a crouch and suddenly the air was filled with flying spikes of wood as she used an omni-directional form of lance that Shikarou had never seen before. Branwyn dodged frantically and Shikarou cursed as one drove deeply into his thigh in spite of his attempts to get out of the way. He pulled it out and threw it away. Yushiko threw herself flat to avoid being hit while the rest of the harem, safely in the stands, made excited noises as splinters ricocheted from the force field protecting them.
                Somewhere in the room, Elizabeth cried out in agony. She appeared, hanging in midair. One of the shards had taken her in the left cheek, skidded along the bone underneath, and exited under her ear. Blood poured down her face as she glared at Gwyneth. “Bitch.” She raised her hand and Gwyneth groaned as energy poured from her body and arrowed to the hovering vampire to be absorbed.
                Elizabeth grinned as she used what she’d gotten in the draining attack to heal herself and her cheek mended. That grin vanished when Gwyneth hit her with another ice beam that sent her spinning away. She cursed audibly and vanished, appearing behind the elfqueen. A shimmering crimson sword sprang from her hand and she drove it through Gwyneth, the blade exiting the elfqueen’s stomach.
                Elizabeth’s jaw dropped when the blade vanished as Gwyneth used heal and the spell sucked the blood forming the sword into the elfqueen’s body to effect repairs.
                Gwyneth spun in place, her rose whip uncurling from her hand to slash at the vampire. It passed through Elizabeth as she phased. When she reformed a second later, she unleashed a dark matter attack at point blank range.
                The elfqueen was blasted across the arena and smashed to the ground to lie motionless. Shikarou recovered her as Elizabeth raised her arms above her head in a victory salute. Yushiko’s voice floated across the arena. “Gwyneth is unable to battle.”
                Shikarou gave Branwyn a broad smile. “Get the others down and put them to work. Now we know that Gwyneth isn’t as rusty as we thought and her real training can begin.”
                The squire stopped when he approached the throne room in order to get his breath and briefly fight his rebellious stomach. The undead Dragonesses guarding the throne room had continued to decompose and now each stood in a pool of slime. The stench was incredible.
                Empty eye sockets followed him as he approached the door. “I am here with a message for his majesty, King Eoghan.” A small eternity slid silently past and finally one of the Dragonesses reached for the door. There was a meaty noise as a tendon tore and somehow the stench increased. The man fought down his gorge once more as he entered.
                King Eoghan sat unmoving on the throne, clad in rotting finery. He hadn’t risen from his seat since taking the crown from Ygerna. His skull turned and red pinpoints flickered in the semi-dark. “Squire Lamont.” His voice was hollow and emotionless.
                The squire knelt. “Your majesty, I bring a message from the communications center. It is from the rebels on Caomh Sith and the technician said it was a priority message.”
                “Is it from our queen?”
                “Yes, your majesty, part of the message is from her.”
                The throne levitated slightly into the air and rotated to more easily view the video screen before settling back to the ground. “Rise, Squire Lamont. We will see this message.”
                Lamont walked quickly to the screen and pulled up the message header. Ygerna appeared, primly seated on a hollow in a white boulder. The sides of the boulder rose on either side of her and formed a rough throne. She wore a beautiful gown and her hair had been brushed until it gleamed in the sunlight. “Eoghan,” she began, raising her head haughtily, “I know that it is you that is behind what has happened to my knights and I am not pleased. I send you this message on behalf of another, one Shikarou Urufu, who is desirous of speaking with you. He believes that this issue between us,” her nostrils flared, “can be settled without more open warfare. He is wrong, but if there is the slightest chance he can accomplish his goal, then I must help him to try.” She smiled thinly. “I’d listen to him if I were you, especially if you are wondering why Germanicus is so late returning home with me and the Grimoire.”
                One arm of the throne cracked as Eoghan’s hands clenched.
                “I suspect you miss Germanicus.” Her eyes gleamed in satisfaction. “He’s been with you your whole life.” She tapped her chin and continued in a musing tone. “I wonder what could ever have happened to him. If I remember correctly, he’s never been away this long, leaving you all alone. You must be so sad.” She smiled cruelly. “Perhaps he’s finally realized how pathetic you are and struck out on his own. Wait, you need him so much you made it impossible for him to do that. You even had to drag him into undeath with you. It’s good to know that, so long ago, I did indeed choose to take the strongest man to grace my bed.”
                The broken arm of the throne came free with a snapping noise and the other arm cracked.
                Ygerna gave him a dazzling smile. “I don’t know what offer he is going to make and I doubt that in any case it would work. Frankly, I hope you throw his request back in his face. Then he’ll be free to help me hunt you down and send you to hell where you belong.” Her eyes narrowed. “You were useless while alive and it’s obvious that death hasn’t changed you in the slightest.” She waved a hand dismissively. “I suppose I should let you speak with Shikarou now.”
                The view slid sideways to reveal Shikarou standing with his hands clasped behind his back. He was staring in Ygerna’s direction with a look of shock on his face. Quickly, he composed himself. “King Eoghan.” He bowed respectfully, as a shrill cry of anger came from offscreen. “I am Urufu Shikarou.”
                Lamont flinched as Eoghan actually snarled. “He is Sidhe. I thought I exterminated them but for my betrothed. How many of the damned things remain?”
                “Your majesty, I must admit you have executed your campaign nearly flawlessly and taken the throne of the Order of Pendragon with surprising ease. Incidentally, you also sit on the throne of the Sidhe kingdom. Other than the former queen’s escape, your coup was flawless.” He glanced to the side at another inarticulate cry of rage. “It is the truth, is it not?”
                Shikarou straightened. “This war has gone on long enough and cost us both deeply. I have lost some very close to me and you have as well. I suspect you have already surmised that Germanicus is truly dead and I now confirm that as fact.”
                Eoghan lurched to his feet, taking the other arm of the throne with him.
                “King Eoghan, I am part Sidhe and, because of my lineage, cannot lie. Listen closely, for I shall only make this offer once, whether you believe me or not. As I said before, both of us have lost ones dear to us. I propose to call a truce.” Eoghan snarled again. “I possess the Grimoire of Danu and I have decided to offer that which you truly desire: the opportunity to return to life as Sidhe.”
                Instantly, it was silent in the throne room. Only the sound of Squire Lamont’s breathing could be heard as Eoghan become completely motionless.
                “I will grant safe passage to Caomh Sith for you and one guard. That includes the guard’s harem, if there is one, but they will not be deployed. I will swear to you that neither I nor mine will kill you. Once the procedure is complete, you will be allowed to live your life in peace, if you will be kind enough to grant us the same favor.” He stopped as offscreen there were the sounds of yelling and, suddenly, the noises of someone being forcibly restrained. The yelling was quickly muffled.
                “I cannot swear that you will not be hurt, the procedure to return you to life may prove painful and the procedure to make you Sidhe requires you to be bound to prevent movement. It mentions excruciating pain in the description.” Eoghan nodded unconsciously at something he’d already known. “I will grant you ten days to consider your reply and, at that point, if I have not heard from you, I will remove the Grimoire from this plane of existence and send it someplace where it will never be found again by any who live here.”
                “I await your response. Shikarou clear.” The image died.
                Shikarou settled down next to Helen and looked out at the view. “Credit for your thoughts?” The sun was slowly going down and the sky was bathed in oranges and pinks. From where they sat near the summit of Mount Tarumae they could look down over the whole city of Tomakomai.
                The milktit leaned against him. “Are we going to go down there? I’ve never seen it.” She twisted her head to look at him. “You don’t normally bring me to Edo and you don’t usually visit Fumiko until the weekend. Why are we here?”
                He slipped an arm around her waist. “You normally don’t want to come when I travel to Edo. The Yoshihara’s have been having a bit of trouble with the yakuza. Well, one yakuza soldier in particular. I think the others remember my warning.” His ears went flat for a heartbeat. “I’m here to deal with the situation.”
                “Who is it?”
                “His name is Nakamura Shou.” Shikarou looked down on the city nestled at the base of the mountain. “He started out by trying to trash the reputation of the Yoshihara swords and has slowly moved to the reputation of the family itself. The two have always been closely intertwined, so it wasn’t all that hard. Soon, he’ll move to physical attacks on anyone who goes into the city and, finally, he’ll attack their home and shop.”
                “There’s nothing wrong with their weapons and they’re honorable people. Why is this person doing this?”
                “The truth is he has nothing against the Yosihara family. It’s my fault.” Shikarou’s ears flicked. “Remember that. It’s my fault and my fault alone. It’s not anyone else’s.”
                She frowned and smacked his ankle with her tail. “Why do you sound like I’m not going to believe that?”
                “Nakamura Shou is Ruiling’s current tamer. This is very probably her doing.”
                Helen’s ears went flat. “Then you are wrong. I share some of the blame for this. If you’d had your way, she’d have been dead some time ago. I was the one who decided that I didn’t want to bother with her.”
                He glanced at her but remained silent for a moment. She was right. Finally, he spoke. “Do you want to help deal with her?”
                “What do you think? Of course I do.” She slipped her fingers into his. “I’m not sure I can do it alone.”
                “You are far from alone, Helen. You have me and your harem sisters.” Shikarou’s tone was slightly remonstrative. “You’ll never be alone again.”
                “That’s good to hear.” She snuggled firmly against him. “I want your children.”
                “Are you sure? Children can look appetizing, but they really aren’t all that tasty.”
                She smacked him firmly. “You know what I mean. I’m a pokewoman and I want to bear you children. Candace told me about your talk with her and I started thinking about it.” She flashed a quick smile. “Branwyn is so jealous it’s funny.” Her ears flicked. “How many would you like?”
                He didn’t hesitate. “How about a hundred?”
                She stared at him for a moment. “That many? I may need some help with that.”
                “Trust me, I intend to help,” he said with a grin. “However, I think I said you had harem sisters. I’m sure we can convince some of them to help with the hard parts.”
                Helen chuckled. “I think many of them won’t need to be convinced. We’re all wondering who’ll get pregnant first. We’ve got a pool going.”
                “I would think that the fact that Kasumi is already pregnant would end the discussion.”
                “She’s not a pokegirl and so we’re not counting her.” She turned back to look over the city. “I hope you have a good supplier for a lot of diapers.”
                “I’m really hoping father will give me some of his special ones. They’re self cleaning and self repairing. He seems to always give them out when one of his daughters or daughters-in-law get pregnant.”
                “He really has them? I’ll speak to him about it the next time he visits.”
                “You do that. He’s a sucker for a pretty girl and he’s well aware of how beautiful you are.” Shikarou slid to his feet and offered her a hand. “Sitting here won’t resolve the whole Ruiling issue, so I think we need to get this done. We’ll get a good night’s sleep and then go hunting them in the morning.”
                “It’s a large city. Finding one yakuza and one neo iczel may be difficult.”
                He shook his head. “It won’t be as hard as you think. I implanted each member of my harem with a transponder and, if Ruiling is out of her pokeball, I can find her. According to the transponder records that I reviewed, she’s out of it most of the time. Aggie’s building a pattern of her movements now that should help if she’s in her pokeball tomorrow.”
                “Do I have one of these transponders?” She gave him a curious look as she let him pull her to her feet.
                “Of course you do. I definitely don’t want to lose you.”
                Her eyes suddenly held suspicious moisture. “Thank you,” she said simply.
                “So, as your wife, do you think I should walk behind you, beside you or in front of you?”
                He looked very thoughtful for a moment. “I like the view when you are in front of me, but I think you should be beside me.”
                Kasumi shook her head and gave him an amused smile. “You’re incorrigible. I like that.”
                Helen and Ayame exchanged grins.
                They were walking the path down the mountain that led from the Yoshihara home towards Tomakomai and had already passed the shrine. It was a beautiful morning, temperatures were crisp and birds were warming up for the day’s singing.
                “Mistress,” Helen began respectfully, “when you next see master Kerrik, would you please ask him for diapers?”
                “Helen, would that be important?”
                “Master Shikarou says that his father customarily gives self cleaning and self repairing diapers to his daughters-in-law when they become pregnant.”
                Kasumi ground to a halt and turned to Shikarou. “Is this true?”
                “I can’t lie, remember. It’s true.”
                “I remember watching mother change Akane’s diapers. If I can forgo that, it would make life a lot less messy.” She gave Shikarou a suddenly doe eyed look. “Do you think your father would take pity on someone so unworthy of his attention?”
                He looked away. “Stop that.” Her warm laugh sent shivers up his spine. “If you do that to him, he’ll probably give you whatever you want.”
                She slipped her arm through his. “He already has.”
                Shikarou glanced at her. “You don’t have to do this, you know. I should be able to handle Nakamura without any of your help.”
                “I know. However, I need to get some things here and I want to meet the one pokegirl that seems to disgust everyone in your harem. They’re not afraid of her, but their opinion of her is not very good at all.” She gave him a curious look. “Why hasn’t she attacked your shrine or temple?”
                “Shine priestess’ are not any fun to tangle with. They’d hunt her until she died of old age if she did something that stupid. Sadly, she’s not that dumb.”
                “Was she really that bad?”
                “I don’t think so, but according to the harem, she committed a couple of cardinal sins. The worst of these was to leave us.” He glanced at Helen. “That’s what Sadie Pokens is supposed to be all about but she hurt Helen when she did so. That’s what I didn’t like about it. Still, I got Helen in the trade and she’s been a treasure. She’s one of us now and part of our family in ways that Ruiling never was and never could be.”
                The milktit flushed and smiled broadly. “Thank you, sir.”
                “Why do you say sir to Shikarou when I am around?”
                Helen’s ears flicked. “Mistress, you are his wife and you are a tamer. We did not wish to show you any disrespect by being familiar with your husband in your presence.”
                “Am I that forbidding?” Kasumi smiled gently. “If he was from my home, he and I would be together exclusively, but here that cannot be. I know he is not formal around those he cares for and I don’t think he wants you to be formal to him. Please stop doing so on my account, as it may breed resentment in him for my presence. I know that you are not his wife; as far as I am concerned you are his concubine, and as such, you have the right to be acknowledged as his.” Her smile softened. “In addition, Helen, you are my friend, and the first real one I’ve had since I graduated from school.”
                “I am?” Helen sounded surprised. “That’s horrible. You must have been so lonely.”
                “I was, until a kami arrived and saved me from a demon before introducing me to his family of spirits. Are you aware that you’re the one who showed me that Shikarou was such a wonderful man and well worth pursuing?” She glanced at him. “He was already remarkable, but I didn’t dare consider someone like that for me; and if you hadn’t been determined to talk to me after the episode with Elizabeth, I’d still be taking care of my family and dreadfully unhappy.”
                “Should I leave, so you ladies can talk without me?” Shikarou asked dryly.
                Helen smiled slowly. “I think we’re doing well enough with you around, sir.” She turned to Kasumi. “I’m glad I helped, but the truth is that we’re in public and here, we have to act like anyone we meet would expect. To do otherwise could get both us and him into trouble.”
                “I was not aware of this.” She turned to Ayame. “Is this why you, Giselle and Nishiko are so deferential in public?” Nishiko was the archmage she’d taken from the spoils of Germanicus’ attack.
                “Yes, mistress, that is why.” The drow zee was watching the surroundings alertly. “In many places a tamer can get into trouble for pokegirls who are not properly polite. In a few, the authorities may get involved to correct the situation, usually by using conditioning cycles as punishment.”
                Kasumi’s eyes widened and then narrowed. “I see. Then, in order to prevent my husband from having to rescue me from jail after someone tries to take one of my pokegirls, please continue to do so.”
                Shikarou sighed when he spotted a waiting figure up ahead and glanced behind them to see if there was still time to flee. However, it was already too late as she rushed forward to stop in front of them and bow deeply. “Master.”
                Kasumi blinked. “Is she what I think she is?” The woman was wearing a set of fake black wolf ears and a sashibakima.
                “If you think she’s a priestess from the temple, then yes.” He smiled slowly. “Good morning.”
                The shrine maiden bowed again. “Greetings, master. Will you visit the temple today?”
                “No, I’ve got business in the town. Is there anything to report?”
                “No, master. Things have been quiet, with the exception of the yakuza you seek.” She smiled pleasantly. “But we know that after today, things will be quiet again.”
                Kasumi gave him a sharp look. “How does she know about this?”
                “I’m not sure. My worshippers have a disturbing ability to know when and why I’m visiting Tomakomai.”
                The shrine maiden nodded. “Hai, master. The spirits tell us of your presence and whether or not we can be of aid to you. Still, we must ask if you will come to the temple, since you have never gone there.”
                Kasumi gave him an arch look. “You’ve never been to your temple?”
                He glanced at the priestess and led them away from her. “The temple came about after the whole time travel thing took place. I really don’t want to see what several hundred years of worship look like, especially since I skipped the whole interval. It’s creepy to think about it.”          
                “Why is she wearing fake wolf ears?”
                “That was my idea.” Shikarou flashed a smile. “They sell them in the souvenir shop. If a relatively large number of people are wearing them, then mine don’t stick out quite so much.” He frowned at the patiently waiting pokegirl. “I know I need to visit the temple, but not today.”
                Kasumi nodded. “You cannot shirk your responsibilities just because they make you uncomfortable.”
                “When did you start channeling my father?”
                He received a smile for his efforts. “I’m Kasumi. I’ve always been the responsible one; remember my family? Someone had to be, and Akane and Nabiki were too young.” She would not say a disparaging word about her father, but they both knew he would never be responsible.
                “True.” He turned back to the shrine maiden. “I’m not going to the temple today, but I will be there soon. Why don’t you go and tell the others.”
                The pokegirl suddenly beamed. “Thank you, master and mistress!” She went into a deep bow and raced away.
                Shikarou’s eyes gleamed with a sudden hunger. “Now, for the hunt.”
                Ruiling grinned around a mouthful of sushi as her tamer settled heavily into the chair on the other side of the table with a glum look on his face. “So, what’s the job for tonight?”
                Nakamura Shou’s expression grew unhappier. “There isn’t one.”
                “We get free time? That’s unusual. Usually someone needs pounded.”
                “That’s not it. We’ve been cut loose.”
                The neo iczel stared uncomprehendingly at him. “What do you mean, ‘cut loose’?”
                “We have been abandoned by the yakuza. They say they’re not going to have anything to do with us.” Shou shrugged. “The orders come from the oyabun himself.”
                “That doesn’t happen. We haven’t done anything to offend Suzuki Danjuro. If we had, they’d want us to pay for it. What the fuck is going on?”
                She blinked as someone sat down next to her. “They are distancing themselves from you because they suspect that I’ll take umbrage at what you’ve been doing to the Yoshihara family, and they don’t want to be suspected of being involved.” Shikarou grinned toothily. “They’re right about me being upset over it.”
                Ruiling threw herself backwards from the table and shot upwards to hover almost fifty feet off the ground. “YOU!”
                “Yes, me.” He looked up at her and shook his head slowly before nodding at her tamer. “And you probably want to come down here unless you want me to rip his heart out and put you into your pokeball, once I’ve taken it off his belt.”
                The pokegirl froze for a handful of seconds before slowly landing next to her tamer. “What do you want?” Her voice was filled with hostility.
                “You’ve been trying to ruin the Yoshihara’s because you can’t get over me. I’m here to make you stop.”
                “You’ll never get close enough to steal my soul! I can get another tamer.” Shou gave her a slightly hurt look.
                “You can face me today or you can face me another day.” Shikarou’s ears stilled. “I can and will find you no matter where you run.”
                Helen placed a hand on his shoulder. “I will fight her.” She gave the neo iczel an even look. “Hello, Ruiling. If we had met under better circumstances, I would thank you.”
                The neo iczel blinked. “What the hell for?”
                “I thought I was happy before you threw me at him, but I was wrong. You made my life complete when you did that.”
                Ruiling’s eyes bugged. “You’re that damned milktit.” She swiveled to Shikarou. “You kept her? She was useless and an easy defeat.” Her mouth drew in a vicious smile as she turned crafty eyes on Helen. “And now you want to fight me again? I accept.” She turned the smile on Shikarou. “I hope you’re fond of this one, so her death will break your heart.”
                “It will.” Helen blinked at his grim tone and then relaxed when he continued. “But you won’t be the one to kill her. Helen is too good to lose to someone as pathetic as you.”
                The neo iczel purpled and she glowered. “I will tear her into tiny bits.”   
                Shou looked at the growing crowd nervously. “Not here. We’ll meet on the battlefield north of town at dawn, so when Ruiling crushes your pokegirl,” he sneered at Helen, “you can’t complain. Bring lots of money to pay when you lose.”
                Ruiling nodded firmly. “You are as good as dead, Helen.”
                The milktit gave her a bland look back. “You were too stupid to realize just what a good thing you had here before you threw it away. You’re still that dumb, aren’t you?”
                Ruiling made a noise like a kettle coming to boil and started forward. She halted when Shikarou abruptly returned Helen to her pokeball. “You can wait until dawn to fight.” He smiled slowly. “Or you can run, if you really want to. But if you do, one day you’ll turn around and I’ll be there, just like today.”
                The neo iczel gave him an angry look. “What’s to keep me from ripping you in half right here?”
                He snorted. “Do you really think I don’t have backup? We will finish this tomorrow at dawn.”
                She looked around warily and backed away. “Dawn, then.” Turning, she dragged her tamer into the crowd and was gone.
                Kasumi pushed away from the wall where she’d been watching and joined him as he released Helen. The milktit looked around before turning to Shikarou. “Sir, why did you do that?” Her voice trembled with suppressed anger.
                “You were goading Ruiling into fighting now,” he said quietly. “Too many people would get hurt.”
                Kasumi stared. “I’ve never seen you this angry.”
                Helen took a ragged breath and smiled with an effort. “Mistress, I am a pokegirl and most of us live to fight, regardless of what we do in our off time. Ruiling wants to fight me and I want to smash her.” She took another deep breath and was suddenly the person Kasumi knew. “You’ve just never seen me ready to fight before.” Her eyes flicked to Shikarou and fire flashed for an instant. “You should have let me, sir.”
                “You’ll get your chance in the morning, after you’ve had a good night’s rest. Ruiling isn’t going to improve before then.” He rubbed his eyes. “I’ll use Gwyneth as my guard.”
                “Can we watch, sir?” Ayame nodded respectfully. “Mistress wants to.”
                Shikarou looked at Helen. “Well? It’s your chance at revenge. Do you want witnesses?”
                The milktit shrugged. “I’ll win or lose whether she’s watching or not; if she wants to, that’s fine with me.” Her muzzle wrinkled slightly. “What will you do if Ruiling carries out her threat, sir?”
                Kasumi went white. “She would actually kill you?”
                “It happens, and Ruiling has that kind of personality.” Shikarou looked into Helen’s eyes. “If she does, I’ll kill her.” He raised a finger to stop her as she started to speak. “However, I have no intention of allowing her to do that to you. You’ve got a job, remember? If you die, your harem sisters will have to pick up the slack, and they won’t be happy about it.”
                She suddenly blushed. “Yes, sir.”
                Kasumi gave them both a curious look. “What are you talking about?”
                Helen’s flush deepened. “Mistress, he says he wants a hundred children.”
                Kasumi’s mouth dropped and then curved in a warm smile. “Then I forbid you to die, Helen. I am not going to make up your shortfall.”
                “You heard her.” Shikarou sounded gloomy. “If you die, I don’t get what I want.”
                Helen chuckled. “Yes, sir; I’ll do what I can to keep the mistress from being inconvenienced.”
                His ears flicked. “We need to head back to the Yoshihara’s. Helen, you have point.”
                “Yes, sir.” Helen became suddenly watchful and moved to her post.
                Kasumi leaned over and spoke softly. “Do you really want a hundred children?”
                He gave her a wry smile. “I’m willing to space them out over the centuries.”
                “That’s good. Otherwise, we’ll have to look into adoption.”
                The eastern sky was crimson with the promise of dawn when they arrived at the battlefield, which was a large open area surrounded by a low earthen berm. Various pits had been blown in the open area and water filled three of them to make impromptu pools. On the north side of the battlefield, some metal stands stood forlornly just outside of the berm, their seats stained with bird droppings.
                Kasumi looked around. “We are the first to arrive. Do you think they will show?”
                “What makes you think they might not?”
                Kasumi shrugged. “Does she strike you as a person one can rely on?”
                He grimaced. “You have a point. Why don’t you get seated in the stands? I don’t want you associated with us, if possible. It’ll keep her from deliberately targeting you.”
                Nishiko shook her head. The archmage was Kasumi’s escort today. “Mistress, with all due respect, it would be safer next to the stands so that we could duck behind the berm if there is any trouble. In the stands, you would be a target.”
                Gwyneth kept her face neutral. “She has a point.” The elfqueen was still unsure of what kind of relationship she might develop with Kasumi and was being very cautious around her. In her mind, even in a marriage of equals, humans had higher rank than pokegirls. Of course, she wasn’t married to Shikarou and Kasumi was. This only added to her concern.
                Kasumi regarded the stands somberly for a moment. “Both of you are correct. We will watch next to the stands and try not to draw attention to ourselves.” Her mouth tightened. “In any case, I think the ground will be cleaner than those seats.” She released her other two pokegirls. “Giselle, we will be setting up next to those stands to watch this battle. Make the necessary arrangements.”
                The pegaslut nodded. “Yes, lady. Ayame, you will have the security detail while Nishiko and I will stand by to take the mistress to safety, if there is trouble. Come with me.” She strode off, the other two pokegirls falling into a loose formation behind her.
                Kasumi looked into her husband’s eyes. “Be careful and take care of my friend. Please.”
                “I’ll do my best.” He turned to Helen as his wife headed towards the distant stands. “Let’s wait on the east side. That’ll put the sun in Ruiling’s eyes when you start , even it’s unlikely to stay there.” His ears flicked. “She has an idea about how my harem battles, but she’s never seen you fight. Still, she’ll be wary of you casting a force field for protection and she knows all about using absorb to blunt magic attacks.”               
                Helen smiled. “You know I already know this. You’re worried about me, aren’t you?”
                Shikarou looked away and abruptly sighed. “Yes, I am. Ruiling is very tough and this is not going to be an easy fight. She’ll be out to kill you and I don’t want to lose you.” He turned his head to meet her gaze. “You’ve become rather important to me.”
                She touched his cheek. “I’ve known that you love me for some time, Shikarou. You know that I love you. I’d worship you, but it just seems absurd to say prayers to you when I can go down the hall and talk to the real thing.” She glanced to her left and let her hand drop. “They’re coming. If I lose, can you prevent her from killing me?”
                “Branwyn and Circe are already in position. They’ll fetch you just as soon as it looks like you’ve lost.” He smiled slightly. “Roisin is with them and is keeping everyone hidden under her fade.”
                “I want to beat her.” Helen’s ears went back. “You are my tamer. Command me, if I need it.”
                Shikarou smiled suddenly. “I never taught her the com spell. That’s a small advantage.”
                She gripped his hand. “I’m excited, not scared. This is what I was made for.” Her eyes glittered eagerly. “Win or lose, I’m going to kick her ass.”
                Ruiling and Nakamura stopped a good twenty feet away from the two of them. The yellow haired neo iczel pointed at the stands. “Who’s the bitch?”
                Shikarou shrugged, not letting his sudden anger show. “Someone who wants to watch while you get your ass handed to you.”
                Nakamura blinked and sidestepped away from Ruiling as she almost growled. “I’m going to kill your pet and then I’m coming after you.”
                Helen laughed as she stepped forward. “I’ve heard all about the big, bad Ruiling, but it’s interesting that I’ve only heard about her from you. Everyone else seems to think she’s pretty pathetic.” Her lips pursed. “Well, except for Branwyn. She thinks you’re a joke. I think she’s right.”
                Ruiling snarled and flew straight at Helen in a blur. Helen used quick attack to drop below the enraged neo iczel and lunged upwards as she passed overhead, burying her horns in Ruiling’s belly. Ruiling screeched and kept going, pulling Helen off her feet with a jerk.
                She rolled along the ground and came up in a crouch, her horns tipped with blood. Ruiling arched up and looped around to launch a power bolt which Helen’s absorption spell drank without incident. Helen returned it in a glowing pulse of energy which exploded into overwhelming brightness right in front of Ruiling. The blinded neo iczel cried out and curved into the ground in a spray of rock and earth.
                As Ruiling shouldered her way out of the rubble, Helen hit her with thunderbolt. The neo iczel grunted and finished freeing herself. She hovered for a moment, orienting herself, and vanished.
                “Go left strike right!” At Shikarou’s bellow, Helen threw herself to the left as an energy blade shimmered into existence in her right hand. She slashed wildly to her right as Ruiling appeared behind where she’d been standing, catching the neo iczel across the chest and shoulder.
                Ruiling hissed as clothing shredded and a line of blood appeared across her chest. She lunged and caught Helen by the throat. Her fingers tightened and she gave a low laugh as she began strangling her opponent.
                Now? Branwyn’s mind touched his.
                No. She hasn’t lost this yet. “Double blade!”
                A second energy blade sprouted from Helen’s left hand and she buried both weapons in Ruiling’s belly before ripping sideways in a geyser of blood and flesh.
                Ruiling punched her in the chest with her free hand. From where he stood, Shikarou’s enhanced hearing clearly heard bone shatter. Helen flew across the field to tumble bonelessly to a halt. She pushed herself up on her hands before suddenly vomiting blood and collapsing.
                Ruiling wrapped her arms around her stomach and dropped to her knees. Her hands glowed as she activated a healing spell. “I win,” she hissed through the pain. “I always win.”
                She never noticed as Branwyn appeared and took Helen’s wrist before whisking her off to Candace’s capable care.
                Gwyneth muttered a spell. “It’s done, my king. She can no longer flee.”
                He nodded. “See to Nakamura. He may be of use.” His mind reached out through their bond. Circe, you’re up.
                A sliver of annoyance tinged her thoughts to him as Roisin dropped the fade and they appeared on the south side of the battlefield. I wish you’d waited until I’d teleported to put up the block. She arced smoothly into the air and landed in front of Ruiling. Her antenna twitched and the neo iczel collapsed as the psychic attack shredded through her personality.
                Gwyneth hurled a handful of seeds at Nakamura as he turned to flee and, as soon as they touched the ground, vines sprouted to wrap him until only his nose was visible in the mass of tendrils. The leaves trembled and muffled screams could be heard as he struggled fruitlessly to escape.
                The elfqueen raced over and touched a portion of the vines near his waist. “Move.” They shifted to reveal his belt and Ruiling’s pokeball, which she pulled free and used to recover the unconscious neo iczel. “She is ours, my king.”
                Branwyn appeared outside the berm and trotted over. “Candace says her heart was pulped but that she got medical help in time. She was pokeballed and healed, but as you can guess, your nurse wants to keep her overnight for observation.” They smiled at the old joke.
                “How is she?”
                “Worried about what you think about her loss. I tried to reassure her that she almost took Ruiling with her, but she wants to hear it from you, not me.” She grimaced. “This harem is going to pieces, you know that, don’t you?”
                Kasumi smiled softly. “It’s not a harem anymore. It’s a family now and it won’t let you treat it like a harem.”
                Branwyn’s eyes narrowed for a moment. “She’s right. Tradesman?”
                “I don’t think we have a choice.” He shrugged. “How long does the paperwork take?”
                “If you are serious about this mage version of a tradesman, then it may take a couple of months. However, we can get a temporary permit in a few days while they’re processing everything and arguing with us.”
                Kasumi touched his shoulder. “I want this new category for the teachers at the school.”
                “Branwyn, you heard her. We’ll sit down and do the write-up tonight.”
                The inn was almost empty, but considering the emotions of one of the people in it, it still seemed too small for additional occupancy. From the bar, Rani watched the two brothers with concern as she contemplated contacting the guard for backup.
                “I can’t believe you are going to let him just walk away.” Faelan’s eyes were hot. “He killed Kebi, Marzia and Zorione, for heaven’s sake!”
                “I am well aware of what this fight has cost me. I haven’t forgotten your loss, either.” Shikarou sipped at his tea, hoping an appearance of calm would soothe his brother. “I’m also aware that almost nobody else agrees with the decision I have made. It is, however, my decision and I have already made it.” He put the cup down and fixed his brother with a hard look. “I gave him my word and you and your harem will follow my dictates in this matter. Eoghan will be allowed free passage and you will not interfere with the ceremony.”
                “And if I refuse?”
                “Then I will have no choice but to place your harem in storage and you into confinement until Eoghan’s visit is concluded.” Faelan turned white. “I don’t want to do that, Faelan. You don’t want me to do that, either. Trust me brother, you want to be there.” Shikarou glanced at the door of the inn as it opened. “Lovely. Here come our wives and yours looks just as happy as you.”
                Svetlana actually looked angrier than her husband as she took the chair next to him. Branwyn, in contrast, looked faintly amused. The Megami-sama turned a glare on Shikarou. “I can’t believe you’re going to do this,” she burst out. “You know he has to be destroyed.”
                “The lich has to be destroyed,” Shikarou countered. “You might notice, I propose to do just that.”
                “You’re going to reward him! If you think I’m going to just stand around while you give something that evil everything he has wanted to be for three thousand years, you are quite mistaken.”
                Faelan touched her hand and she blinked. “He gave his word and, as his subordinates, we are bound by it.”
                Svetlana started to snap something but Shikarou cut her off. “I told Eoghan that if he was willing to let us live in peace, we’d be willing to do the same. Do you really think he’ll do that once Ygerna marries Faelan? She is part of his dream and he wiped out the Sidhe in order to put the events in motion to gain her for himself.”
                The Megami-sama suddenly looked thoughtful as Faelan jerked up in his seat.
                “That’s pretty sneaky, but at that point he’ll be a Sidhe mage. It’s my understanding they’re as hard to kill as liches.” Faelan shrugged. “I don’t see where that helps.”
                “It’ll limit his options. As undead, if we press him, he can always dig a hole and hide for centuries until we relax our guard. As Sidhe, he’ll have to eat and he’ll have other urges that will need to be satisfied. Urges that require others to fulfill. Entertainment. Sex.” Shikarou’s ears flicked and he smiled grimly. “After three thousand years, he’d like to get laid. He’s too proud to be a farmer, so he’ll need to have contact with a society; and with that we can always find him.”
                “So, even if he’s not easier to kill, you’re making him easier to hunt. That will be a big help.” Svetlana pulled Faelan with her as she rose. “I’m glad to see you are going to exact justice for his past crimes.”
                “It’s good to hear you’re happy with my decision,” Shikarou’s voice was droll. “I want to keep this quiet. I don’t want Ygerna to know she’s likely to be used as bait again, until it’s too late to listen to her scream about it. She can get pretty loud.” Svetlana suppressed a laugh and nodded.
                Branwyn nudged him as they left. “You’re leaving too much to chance. I know you don’t work that way and Pythia is too happy with the situation. What else is going on?”
                “What makes you think something else is going on?”
                “I already answered that question and I now have the additional fact that you’re not answering me. You’re only evasive when you’re keeping secrets.”
                Shikarou started chuckling. “In a few years, I won’t be able to get anything past you, my love.”
                The Unicorn raised an eyebrow. “Shikarou, when you start with the endearments I know something is up. What is it?”
                “That’s not fair. I use endearments much more often then that.” He sighed when she folded her arms and plastered a patient expression on her face. “While I suppose we could, instead, spend the time enjoyably exploring what might come up when I start with endearments,” he said with a smile, “you obviously don’t want to be dissuaded from this discussion. If, and I say if, I did have additional plans in the works to deal with Eoghan, considering his presumed ability to steal thoughts from others, I couldn’t discuss it for fear of him finding out. Don’t you agree?”
                Branwyn’s eyes widened. “You’re right. Forget I asked anything.”
                “Consider it done.”
                She leaned against him. “I wonder, could we instead proceed with that exploration of what comes up when endearments start being tossed about?”
                “I think that’s a laudable idea.” He rose and offered her his hand. “I think this could be much more enjoyable in private.”
                She took the hand. “I agree, my love.”
                Elizabeth glanced at the sunny sky and pulled her hood more tightly around her face. “This bites.” She blinked and giggled at her joke.
                Kasumi glanced down towards them and waved. “I think she’s glad to see us.” Shikarou shook his head. “Well, we shouldn’t dawdle.”
                The vampire gave a low laugh. “She’s happy to see your pokeballs, not us.”
                They headed up the hill to where Kasumi was waiting for them. She smiled. “Did you get it?”
                Shikarou chuckled. “I’ve got a surprise for you.” He began pulling pokeballs out of his pack and releasing them. His entire active harem plus Gwyneth appeared, each carrying a pair of hundred kilo sacks of concrete. Depending on their individual strength levels, some carried them more easily than others, but all carried them.
                Kasumi’s eyes lit up. “Put them over there, ladies.” She indicated a small pile of identical sacks lying under a tarp.
                Shikarou took the bags from Helen as she stumbled and headed for the stack. “Set up the tent, please.”
                Helen nodded and pulled out her wand as Kasumi gave her a curious look. “Why are you setting up the tent here?”
                Branwyn dropped her two sacks onto the pile and trotted over to watch Helen work. “She’s only done this once before,” she explained to Kasumi. “To answer your question, your husband made us put all of the furniture into our bedrooms. Then we got to fill the common room with more sacks.  You should have enough to finish the foundation for the main building.”
                The tent flickered into existence and steadied.
                Kasumi looked surprised. “That’s quite creative. Every day he proves I made a wise choice with him. We’ll get the foundation for the school poured before the month is over and get started on the walls next month.” She gestured to a large pile of rocks that had been roughly shaped with cutting bars. “The supplies for that are already here, since we have rock on the island.”
                Branwyn gave her a diffident look. “I know you want pokegirls as well as humans to be able to attend, but they’re not going to have any money. I don’t see how they’ll be able to afford everything.”
                Kasumi nodded absently as she watched her and her husband’s harems starting to carry sacks out of the tent. “We talked about that a week or so ago and I decided that, since we’re rather wealthy, we can set up scholarships for needy students.” Her eyes flicked back to Branwyn. “We’ll do it on a case by case basis and it’ll be an informal program so we don’t fall under any Blue League oversight.”
                Branwyn looked thoughtful. “Poppet can help with that. Can the rest of us give any assistance?”
                Kasumi suddenly looked uncertain. “I could use instructors, but I wasn’t sure how to ask.”
                “How about ‘I need instructors for the school and you scuts aren’t doing anything worthwhile?’.” Laughter bubbled up the unicorn’s throat at Kasumi’s shocked expression. “You do know that Shikarou is going to become a tradesman, since he’s doing it primarily for you. As a pokegirl mage, he’ll have to have practicing mages in his harem and teaching is a good way to do that.”
                “But that way is just too rude. I could never do that.”
                Branwyn smirked. “I’ll take care of it, Kasumi, and preserve your delicate sensibilities.” The two women shared an amused smile. “I do need to ask, although I’m sure the school will a bastion of decorum, how will you deal with unruly students?”
                “As students have been dealt with forever,” came the prompt reply, “firmly and decisively. I just won’t be rude about it.”
                Her eyes swept the area where the foundation markers had already been planted. “When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and be a teacher. To pass on the accumulated knowledge of my people seemed like the noblest pursuit I could imagine.” Her gaze darkened slightly. “When my mother died those dreams died with her. Father needed me to step in and take her place. I did as much as I could until I graduated and then I became, for all intents and purposes, a housewife.”
                “No boyfriends?” Branwyn gave her a friendly smile when Kasumi frowned. “I understand they can be customary for young human women.”
                “No, nothing like that. There was a young man, a local doctor, who I was fond of for several years. I decided that being a doctor’s wife could still involve teaching and, since he already had a practice he wouldn’t be moving me away from my family. Eventually, I realized that he only thought he was in love with me. He didn’t really know me at all and he was never going to try to correct the situation.”
                “Shikarou took you away from your family,” Branwyn pointed out quietly.
                “By that time, I was more than ready to leave them.” She shivered slightly. “Mr. Saotome was starting to watch me.”
                “What would you have done?”
                She turned empty eyes on Branwyn. “My duty.” She blinked and her eyes returned to normal. “Akane is safe from him and Nabiki is too smart to put herself into danger. She carries a knife. It’s very small, but very sharp.” A tiny smile flickered across her lips. “I taught her how to do that, but Mr. Saotome would never have believed that I would fight back.”
                Branwyn touched her arm and watched her jump slightly as she returned from wherever her mind had gone. “You are an Urufu now and you have no duties to the Tendos. We will give anyone who tries anything exactly what Happosai got.”
                “I know, and that makes me very happy. Father would have been very understanding about any incidents, it being his best friend and all.” Her eyes flicked to where her husband was helping to pile sacks of concrete. “Shikarou will not.”
                “I heard you weren’t going to give me up to Eoghan and you hoped that he’d break the peace because of it.” Morgan set up a folding chair which Ygerna settled comfortably into, as Shikarou put down the cutting bar and reached for his thermos. He flipped up his protective goggles and glanced at his guard. Nanu was busy scanning the area, but the cant of her ears indicated she was also paying attention to Ygerna and Morgan.
                “Someone’s been telling tales.” While not surprised that Svetlana hadn’t been able to keep this secret, he was still mildly disappointed that he’d counted on her indiscretion and that she hadn’t failed him.
                “It is true.” She gave him a satisfied look before letting her gaze sweep the area. “This is where you’ll hold the ritual?”
                “Rituals,” he corrected absently. “This is the tallest hill on Caomh Sith and a good site for the rites. On the night of the full moon, it will be brilliantly lit. I’m not sure we’ll need artificial light if the sky is clear. I’ll go ahead and set up the area with it, though, just in case. Some soft indirect lighting around the altar itself should be sufficient for my needs.”
                The Sidhe woman snorted. “Considering everything he’s done, the moon should refuse to rise on that night. Did he agree to do it?”
                “Not yet, but he will. If not, I will get rid of the Grimoire and he’s unlikely to tempt that. He needs the other spells in it to make you love him.”
                Ygerna blanched. “I’d forgotten I put those in it.” Suddenly, she smiled. “So even if he doesn’t insist on taking me for some reason, he has to have the Grimoire. You’ve made it so he can’t possibly keep the peace and we can crush him.”
                Shikarou gave her a pained glare. “Look, I’m trying to keep this a secret. Can we stop this line of discussion?”
                She nodded and rose. “Your secret is safe with me. Svetlana, on the other hand, is telling everyone she can find what you’ve told her.” Actually, the megami-sama had blurted it out during an argument Ygerna had picked with her to pass the time. She’d been horrified when she’d realized what she’d done, but there was no reason for Shikarou to know that.
                Shikarou nodded. “Sometimes she does that. If he gets word of it, he’ll come prepared to take you with him. That will suit my purpose as well as if he tries to take the Grimoire.” He set up the laser indicator and watched it sweep, noting any spots that still needed leveled. “Later, I’d like to talk to you about the ceremony and make sure I’ve got the altar carvings correct.” He glanced at her. “I’ll know if you try to trick me.”
                “Just because I can lie doesn’t mean I will. Your thought that Eoghan would be easier to track if he were alive is a good one and I agree. I will help you.” She smiled. “Later. Right now, I’m going to tea with your brother.”
                Nanu snickered once as Morgan wrapped her arms around her queen and flew away. “You had a comment?”
                She grinned. “She left her chair.”
                “She’ll be back later to help me with the altar. Is that it?”
                “No. That’s three times you’ve explained what’s going to happen and each time you’ve added something. We’ve got a pool going on how much more you’ve got hidden away.”
                He flicked his ears irritably. “Where did you put your money?”
                Nanu ignored the tone of warning in his voice. “Oh, we’re betting time with you and I said we won’t know the full story until after the rituals are complete. Bellona agrees with me, so if we’re right, we’re going to share you all the nights we win from the others.”
                “I take it you’re telling me this so I won’t reveal the whole plan until afterwards?”
                Nanu winked. “I like to win and it never hurts a girl to hedge her bets.”
                He brushed dust from his hair and reached for the cutting bar once more. “You know this won’t change whatever plans I have.”
                “I know.” She smiled as he started chuckling. “I’ll talk with Bellona about how we’ll spend the nights. I should, shouldn’t I?”
                His chuckles became laughter and she joined in.
                Gwyneth ran effortlessly through the forest, her mahogany hair sweeping behind her. Every few days, she left Peacetown and returned to the land she loved. It strengthened and purified her as it did all her kind. With the battle with Xantha looming ever closer, she needed all the strength she could gather.
                She slowed when she entered the glade and saw the cloaked figure waiting. A hand rose and dropped the hood, revealing the gleam of not-quite silver and she relaxed. “Master Kerrik. I didn’t know you had returned.”
                She’d never directly spoken to him before; for some reason he seemed to avoid the elf species on the island. Considering how many of them were here, it seemed impossible; but none of her subjects had ever been approached for taming or even casual conversation.
                Considering he was her king’s father, she’d kept track of such things. Lynn had, too, and had reported similar behavior.
                His eyes were neutral and his ears still. “Just how much of an elf are you, really?” His voice held faint curiosity. “Are you truly lwashê?”
                She froze. She didn’t recognize the word, but it resonated with something deep inside her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, master Kerrik.”
                “You are not a true elf.” His eyes were still neutral and she began to feel a tiny flare of anxiety. “You are a caricature of the lwashê created by a madman with delusions of superiority. And yet, I find myself here as a Bearer.”
                He blinked and his eyes filled with their customary humor. He always seemed to be laughing at something just out of sight. “I’m sorry to frighten you. Sit and I’ll try to explain.” He gestured at a fallen tree.
                Gwyneth settled to the ground at his feet. “Master Kerrik, I should not, while you stand. Please, take the seat for yourself.”
                For an instant, his mouth twisted angrily and then it smoothed. “Gwyneth, I am not your master, not in any sense of the word. My name is Kerrik and I would appreciate it if you would use it.” He looked down at her before she could reply. “Understand something. I am not supposed to be here right now and you should not mention my presence. You and the others must deal with this threat without outside aid or certain things will not come to be. Things that are very important. When they ask what transpired here tonight, you must tell them that you cannot speak of it until after the dead druid is dealt with.”
                “Then why are you here?”
                “I am here because I am a Bearer and that has nothing to do with the problem that my sons face. I am here because of you and your upcoming battle.” He settled down next to her crosslegged.
                His eyes met her for a moment. “There are true elves, those who were created by the elven gods and who are still watched over by them. They call themselves the lwashê, or the people. They are creatures of nature and magic, much like the elves here. Their power, however, can be much more than anything that your elves can wield, for they have dozens of millennia of history, culture and experience to draw upon, while you have nothing. Each of you must learn all over again what you are and you are always alone when you do. Or else you work with your tamers, who have no idea what you can do or what your limits might be, other than what’s in the pokedex.”
                “The lwashê recognize the fact that there are others not like them, not elves. These they call the lwashêteh. Outsiders who learn their language know that this means ‘not of the people’. That’s what they’re taught, but it’s not the exact truth. Lwashêteh can be translated that way, but it really means ‘non-people’.” He gave a slightly bitter smile. “Age does not necessarily breed tolerance.”
                “The lwashê, as I’ve said, are an old race and their gods have given them many gifts of knowledge and of power. Some of the gifts of power are a series of magical weapons that travel from user to user according to their need. When the need ends, the weapon chooses to move on to another.” His ears flicked. “These weapons always go to the lwashê. Some of them have been stolen, but they always return, usually with the blood of their thieves adding to their history.”
                “Sometimes these weapons must travel to the one who needs them. They have the ability to choose tshelerhen or Bearers, who will accept the honor of conveying the weapon to its next user.”
                Gwyneth nodded slowly. “I would think that these Bearers would also be lwashê. Why were you chosen?”
                His eyes flicked away and came back to look into hers. “I’m not sure. I have it on the highest authority that I am not lwashê, and yet I was chosen. Perhaps I am the only one who could bring this weapon to its next user, since the weapon is here for you.”
                Gwyneth blinked. “But that’s impossible.”
                A glint of laughter appeared in his eyes. “Trust me, when it was discovered that I was to carry the weapon offworld, that’s what the elven scholars and nobility were screaming.”
                He dropped his hands into his lap. “There are several different classes of weapon, but most of the time they are either a sword or a bow. Some can change to meet their user’s needs, but those are exceptionally rare. Some go where there is religious strife and others go where the elven race is in danger of extermination. Another class is the fwüathel, or need blades. They are much less powerful than the others, but they are most often to be found in use, since they travel to elves that need them. The weapon I bear is a need blade and it has sensed your need and responded to it.”
                “I don’t know how to use a sword.”
                “You will.” He produced a long bundle from beneath his cloak. “This blade’s name is Dwulashel or Thistle, and it has come for your need, Gwyneth.” He unwrapped it and offered it to her, hilt first. “Take it and let your need be met.” His eyes flared amber. “But remember this, only an elf can touch this blade without harm.”
                The hilt seemed unremarkable, but she hesitated and looked into his eyes. “I can trust you.” He nodded and she took the hilt in her hand. Something seemed to click inside her and she pulled it from its wrappings.
                It was leaf bladed and was the color of grass in autumn. It fit her hand as nothing she’d ever held had and she slowly turned it from side to side, watching the light play along its length. Absently, she noted him laying a matching scabbard in front her, but she didn’t look up until he silently rose to his feet.
                “Will you teach me how to use it?”
                “When the time comes, you will know.” He smiled slowly. “The blade has recognized that you are truly of the lwashê and its power will be yours to command.”
                Gwyneth sheathed the sword without taking her eyes from his. “How do you know so much about the elves if they don’t tell these things to outsiders?”
                His smile turned bitter again. “That you do not need to know. Trust me, the elves regret my having such knowledge, but it was freely given at the time.”
                “Will you teach me?”
                He looked surprised and then suddenly thoughtful. “Those memories are very painful for me, but I will consider your request.”
                She jumped to her feet and grabbed his cloak. “Kerrik, are those memories why won’t you take elves to your bed for taming?”
                His face went still. “I have taken no lovers here.”
                “I wasn’t asking about lovers, I was asking about taming. We need more men.”
                He stepped away from her. “I know, but for now, I cannot.” He wavered like mist and was gone.
                Sir Templeton was in his early thirties and, although long past the age of being an active Tamer, he was still muscular and fit. He had with him two elves that never spoke and watched him almost as warily as their surroundings. He eyed the ritual site without any signs of enthusiasm. “I don’t like it.”
                Shikarou snorted in amusement. “The slab has to be carved from the living stone of a mountain. So does the pool. That kind of implies that you need a slab, a pool and a mountain. Other than that, I’ve added some electrical lights and torches. The electrical lights are in case the wind is excessive. I really don’t care if you don’t like something, everything here is necessary.” One elf gave him a frightened look.
                Sir Templeton grunted sourly. “What about those?” He gestured at the manacles located at each end of the slab.
                “Your king understands that he will have to be restrained during both rituals. I would have thought he’d have mentioned that to you, since you’re inspecting the site for him.”
                The knight’s eyes narrowed. “You’re being disrespectful to me. I don’t like that, either.”
                Bellona spread her wings slightly and then relaxed when Shikarou nodded. “You’re right, you didn’t deserve that. I formally apologize. However, I didn’t deserve your attitude either. If King Eoghan briefed you on what’s going to be happening and you understand that, everything here is necessary. If he didn’t, then both you and I are wasting our time standing here.”
                The elves cringed as Sir Templeton bristled. He opened his mouth to snap something and froze as Elizabeth, Pythia, Branwyn and Circe appeared around him. Shikarou sighed. “Look, you’re here to do a job. Do it and stop giving me an attitude. I don’t have to put up with it and, frankly, I’m not interested in trying to. If you don’t, then I’m going to evict you from the island, and that’s going to be a bit hard on you since the next ferry isn’t due until tomorrow morning. From your behavior, I suspect you are someone important in the Order’s hierarchy, but you aren’t there right now and you need to keep that little fact firmly in your mind.”
                The knight glanced in the direction of his pokegirls and deflated when he saw they were under the watchful eyes of Bellona and Dorothea.
                Suddenly, he stiffened and out of the corner of his eye Shikarou realized that one of the elves was trembling like a leaf in a high wind. Sir Templeton swung smoothly around to face Shikarou and spoke in a dead voice. “I am Eoghan. Explain your behavior towards my vessel.”
                Shikarou noticed his harem slowly easing away from the possessed knight. He didn’t think they were aware of their actions.
                Shikarou raised his eyebrows. “Your majesty, I greet you. Sir Templeton was being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative, and I didn’t have the time to put up with it.” He motioned. “This is the site where the rituals will take place.”
                The knight slowly turned and looked the area over. “I sense a ley line.”
                “Actually, you sense two. One of the reasons I chose this site was because two ley lines intersect here. I wanted to make sure we had the power to do this right, without having to have a living sacrifice.”
                Sir Templeton seemed amused. “It should work, but a sacrifice is traditional.”
                “Then, your majesty, I will arrange for one to be present.”
                The knight knelt and carefully examined the carvings on the slab. “You made this altar?”
                “I consulted with Ygerna before doing the carving to make sure everything was accurate, but yes, I did the work.”
                “You have passable skill. You would have been a good artisan for the druids. It will be sufficient for the rituals.” The knight rose and grasped the wrist of the nearest elf. She collapsed soundlessly. “I will come with my guard on the day of the next full moon. You will confirm my safe passage.”
                Shikarou noted the elf didn’t appear to be breathing. “You and one guard are granted safe passage to Caomh Sith from the day before the next full moon until the rituals are complete.”
                Sir Templeton nodded. “Very good.” He went blank for a heartbeat and then looked around. “His majesty is pleased with your work,” he announced pompously. “I’ll be going now.” He pulled a pokeball from his belt and retrieved the untouched elf. Then he pulled out his wand and vanished.
                Branwyn knelt and checked the fallen pokegirl. “She’s dead. What happened?”
                Shikarou took a deep breath. “Possessing someone like that will snuff out their life force as a side effect. Eoghan found that by absorbing the life force of another into the vessel’s body right after transference, he can keep his vessel alive. It cuts down on the need to prepare more vessels for possession.”
                “So those elves were like batteries? That’s sick.” She wiped her hands in the grass and rose. “Your plan had better work.”
                He shook his head. “I still can’t tell you what I might be planning.”
                She sighed. “I know. I just want something that careless of life stopped permanently.”
                “So do I, my wife, so do I.”
                Yushiko’s voice came strongly over the communications spell. “Xantha brought a lot of elves and they’re ringing a large clearing a kilometer ahead.”
                Shikarou glanced over his shoulder at Gwyneth, who flashed a smile and tightened her grip around his waist as Branwyn jumped some bushes. “We expected that.”
                She nodded. “That’s why we’ve brought my people. My sisters don’t outnumber them but I don’t doubt they’re of much higher quality than my future rabble.”
                “Xantha expects to win, too,” he commented almost idly.
                Gwyneth didn’t miss the tension in his voice. “Someone has to lose and it’s not going to be me. She’s not Ruiling and in any case, Ruiling is your prisoner, isn’t she?” When he nodded, she continued. “So you actually won that one, didn’t you. If I fall, then all you have to do is catch Xantha and tame her for me.”
                “I’d prefer you beat her yourself.”
                Branwyn slowed to a canter. “We’re here.” She looked up briefly as Yushiko returned to orbit overhead, circling counterclockwise to Dorothea and Bellona’s clockwise patrols. “I take it a show of strength is the order of the day?”
                He chuckled. “As you well know it is. I’m not one for display either, but sometimes it’s necessary.”
                The elves parted to allow them entrance and then reformed behind them. Looking them over, Shikarou could see almost every elf breed represented, along with several other plant type pokegirls which were scattered throughout their ranks.
                Lorelei came in for a landing, followed closely behind by Pythia, Circe and Elizabeth. Shikarou slid from Branwyn’s back and released Helen, Nanu, Candace and Roisin. An excited murmuring rose from among the elves as the three patrolling pokegirls landed with their sisters and everyone formed up around Gwyneth. The stopped at the edge of the grassy field that served as the battlefield and let the elfqueen proceed alone to the center where Xantha waited for her.
                Xantha was wearing a leaf green dress and had a sword belted at her waist. Her long red hair was bound in a single braid and her skin gleamed in the sun. She sneered at her opponent. “I am Xantha, queen over all the elves in the lands of the Blue continent and I pledge all that I am and all that I have for this battle.” Her magically enhanced voice swept over the assemblage like thunder.
                Gwyneth gave her a grim smile. She wore a camouflage uniform from the Caomh Sith guard. Her sword hung from a combat belt that was festooned with pouches.
                Her spell was different from Xantha’s and her voice sounded at a conversational level in the ears of all within range. “I am Gwyneth, delta bonded of Urufu Shikarou and queen of the elves of Caomh Sith and North Uist. I repudiate your claim over me and mine and stand before you ready to pledge all that I am and all that I have for this battle.”
                A grandelf stood nearby. She turned to them. “Can this not be resolved peacefully between you?”
                Xantha nodded. “Yes, if she swears loyalty to me and places all her resources within my capable hands, I will accept peace.”
                The grandelf turned to Gwyneth. “Will you so swear?”
                “No. However, if Xantha swears her loyalty to me and places all of her resources in better hands than hers, I will accept peace.”
                The grandelf turned to back to Xantha, but before she could speak, the elfqueen spat on the ground. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before that happens, bitch.” She glanced at the grandelf. “Get out of the way and let me end this.”
                “Yes, your majesty.” Hiking up her robes, the grandelf ran for the edge of the battlefield.
                Xantha looked Gwyneth up and down. “I see you no longer dress as a queen should. Somehow that seems fitting. You will be allowed three preparatory spells before combat begins.” Her gown glowed and leaves spread outward from her throat to cover her body before hardening to form armor as vines grew up her neck and wove into a helm. Her eyes gleamed in the light. “One.”
                Gwyneth stepped back and drew Thistle. Brown spread up her arm and over her whole body before turning the color of amber and becoming harder than stone. “One.”
                Xantha glowed a brilliant red as she cast a spell to absorb direct magical attacks. “Two.”
                Gwyneth quickly followed suit with her version. “Two.”
                The ground suddenly became moist and water flowed up out of the ground to cover the entire battlefield to a depth of two centimeters as Xantha used water floor. “Three.”
                Gwyneth’s eyes glowed as she made herself immune to illusions. “Three.”
                The grandelf screamed from where she stood. “Begin!” Gwyneth lunged forward with her sword as Xantha grinned and dissolved into the water.
                Gwyneth looked around wildly and then ran towards Shikarou, splashing quickly across the field towards the side, where she knew she wouldn’t be attacked from behind. Suddenly, water surged up her body and over her head, forming a bubble around her that prevented her from breathing and began to crush her as more water was sucked into the bubble, increasing its pressure as its size remained constant. The transparent image of Xantha laughed at her soundlessly as it tried to kill her.
                Gwyneth struggled fruitlessly for several seconds before going still and concentrating on her sword. The blade began to glow and ice spread from it to begin filling the bubble. Water dropped way from Gwyneth as Xantha fled and the elfqueen fell to her knees to vomit water from her lungs. She drove her sword point first into the field and ice began spreading out from it, quickly freezing the water around her and expanding outwards in all directions.
                Xantha reformed ahead of the spreading ice and knelt to gather a palm full of water. It glowed as she stood, and when she spun and hurled it at Gwyneth, separated into individual droplets to become a watery version of spike cannon that blasted across her armor and knocked her sprawling.
                Gwyneth shrieked a spell and Xantha screamed as her entire nervous system lit up with pain before she fought the spell off. She leveled her sword at Gwyneth and spat a word of power. Her sword suddenly became dozens and they flew straight at Gwyneth, who barely got a force shield up in time to repulse the attack.
                Suddenly the ground surged up and over Xantha as Gwyneth finished her latest spell. A tiny sprout appeared on top of the mound and quickly grew into a sapling and then an adult tree that Xantha stepped out of. She raised her sword and lightning blasted from it to strike Gwyneth, knocking her sprawling. The absorb spell soaked up most of the damage and Gwyneth rolled to her feet to see Xantha charging her.
                Gwyneth finished her haste spell and met her foe in the center of the battlefield in a flurry of attacks that put a stunned Xantha on the defensive, until she finished muttering her version. For a moment, they hacked at each other and bits of Xantha’s petal armor fell away only to regrow an instant later, while her sword couldn’t penetrate Gwyneth’s magical armor.
                Then Xantha slipped on the ice. Experimentation had proven that Gwyneth’s armor was surefooted on any surface and she reacted instantly, driving Thistle through Xantha’s armor and into her belly. She jerked it free as she stepped back and delivered an armored kick to Xantha’s head.
                Xantha rolled across the ice and tried to push herself upright. Gwyneth drove her blade into Xantha’s back, pulled it free and drove it in again.
                Xantha went down, moving feebly as her blood spread over the ice. Gwyneth watched her for a moment before stabbing her one last time and stepping back. “I declare this battle over. Xantha is vanquished and she and all that is hers are now mine.”
                The silence was absolute as every elf went down on one knee and bent their heads to their new queen. Gwyneth glanced at her tamer and spoke quietly. “I need Candace out here to heal her and you need to bring a pokeball for my new subject, my king.”
                The moon was just rising over the horizon when Shikarou led the king up the hill. Torches flickered in the slight breeze. The undead had brought a knight named Charles, a highly competent tamer with a full harem of pokegirls, all of which were still in their pokeballs.
                Faelan and Ygerna waited for them. Neither looked happy as they silently watched the group approach. Ygerna wasn’t happy because Morgan had been forbidden from the area for the duration of the ceremony and also because of Eoghan’s presence. Faelan was just generally unhappy to be around the lich.
                Eoghan bowed to her. “My queen, it has been too long. Soon I will live again and we can be together.”
                Ygerna’s eyes widened and narrowed. “You’re forgetting something. I hate you.”
                There was an echoing chuckle. “No, Ygerna, I haven’t forgotten that. Still, in the fullness of time, all things are possible.”
                “All things are not possible.” She shuddered. “Get away from me.”
                The lich chuckled again and moved towards the altar.
                A nude woman was bound and gagged next to the empty pool. Her skin was a light golden color and her canary colored hair had been expertly braided into two plaits. The lich looked her over. “Who is she?” Ruiling’s eyes bugged as the skeletal figure leaned over her and she tried to struggle, but the bonds were proof against her enhanced strength and a spell prevented her from using her more esoteric abilities. To her credit, she didn’t scream.
                “She’s a yakuza soldier who didn’t believe me when I told her to leave some people alone.”
                “A foreigner. Is her soul powerful enough to work the magic?”
                “It will.” Apparently, Eoghan had a lot to learn about souls, but then it could just be his prejudices leaking through. Celts were notoriously insular and Druids were even worse. Of course, at that time in history, anyone new who appeared tended to be an invader so perhaps their caution had been reasonable after all.
                Eoghan’s head slowly rotated as he looked the area over and finally he turned to Shikarou. “Are you ready to begin?”
                “We can get you positioned on the altar, but other than that we’ll need to wait until midnight. You’ll need to remove your clothing before lying down.”
                The undead stripped and settled down on the altar. Shikarou quickly manacled him in place before glancing at the knight. “Do you wish to inspect my work?”
                Charles gave a quick nod and professionally inspected the bindings before taking up a position outside the circle carved in the rock. Clearly, he’d been briefed on what to expect. Since he’d stopped inside the second circle, obviously Eoghan wasn’t completely aware of how things were going to unfold.
                Faelan nodded to Charles. “I’d step out past the white rock, if I were you. You’re inside the protective field that will be raised and nothing mortal can survive there.” He checked to make sure Ygerna was in her place and looked at his brother. “Other than him, everything is set.”
                The knight looked at his king. “Do it, Sir Charles. Shikarou gave his word that neither he nor his will kill me as long as I keep the peace. I will be safe.” Charles bowed and moved farther away. Faelan drifted over to stand next to him in case there was trouble.
                The ley lines held more than enough power during a full moon to carry out both rituals, but Shikarou placed the bound pokegirl in the empty pool. She’d been warned to leave the Yoshihara’s alone and hadn’t. Branwyn was adamant that she could neither enter the harem nor be sold; therefore she might as well be put to some use. Besides, considering that Eoghan was undead instead of dead, a true death might be necessary to ensure everything worked properly. Magic did have rules, after a fashion, and you ignored them at your peril.
                Once midnight arrived, Shikarou drew a bronze knife and gutted Ruiling with a single stroke. He slit her throat for good measure and dropped her struggling body before he returned to the Grimoire. The empty basin began to fill with blood.
                Once he raised both circles, the first ritual began. An hour later, he was finished and a human writhed on the altar. Eoghan was pale, with brown hair and brown eyes. Tattoos covered his arms and chest and extended around to his back. Sweat glistened on his body and he sucked in deep breaths as he relearned how to breathe.
                Ruiling’s body had vanished in the pool and the blood level had risen as it dissolved.
                “Your majesty, you are a powerful mage and I’m concerned that during the second rite you may inadvertently utter some word of power that might disrupt the ritual, so I’d like to gag you.”
                Ygerna glared daggers at him at his words and he gave her a dry smile in return.
                Eoghan tried to speak and only managed to make a grunting noise. Finally, he nodded. Shikarou produced a ball gag and put it carefully into place. Aggie, tell Faelan what he needs to do.
                I am telling him right now. Faelan’s ears flicked but otherwise he didn’t respond. He says he’s ready.
                Shikarou checked the Grimoire one last time and began the second ritual. For the next hour, muffled screams worked themselves from around the gag. When he finished, Eoghan lay limp, breathing heavily and drenched in perspiration. He was Sidhe now and it showed. His hair had become the color of obsidian and his eyes were now the gray of the angry sea.
                The blood was gone and the pool dry and empty.
                Shikarou put the Grimoire down and opened the circles of power. “The rituals are complete,” he intoned solemnly.
                Faelan summoned his sword and buried it in Sir Charles’ heart. He pulled the knight’s sword from its scabbard and examined it briefly before trotting over to his brother. “It’s enchanted, just like you were expecting.”
                Eoghan grunted and thrashed feebly as Shikarou smiled. “I said the rites were complete. That means his,” he nodded in the direction of the dead knight, “safe passage ended. However, my oath to you still stands; neither I nor mine will kill you as long as you keep the peace.” He glanced to the side. “Ygerna, please come here.”
                The Sidhe woman gave Eoghan a disgusted look as she did as asked. “What is it?” She blinked when Shikarou handed her the knight’s weapon. “What do you expect me to do with this?”
                The kami grinned like a shark. “You are not related to me by blood or marriage. In addition, you are not oathbound to me.” He motioned towards the bound Sidhe. “He is yours to do with as you will, but I’d prefer him dead before sunup.”
                Her eyes went wide as she stared at him. “You offer quite a gift.”
                Eoghan’s struggles strengthened.
                “It never occurred to him that I wouldn’t have bound everyone around me into my service, since that’s exactly what he would have done. You are free to avenge yourself and your people. More importantly, you’re protecting your unborn children. Mine too.”
                Her eyes narrowed as she hefted the weapon expertly. “I’ll be done long before dawn.”
Later -
                Shikarou leaned back against a rock and took a rare moment to enjoy the sunshine. He glanced over as his brother came trudging up. “Your wife is pestering Candace again.”
                Faelan turned to watch Svetlana talking with the nursejoy. “She’d probably leave her alone if you’d waited like you were supposed to.”
                “Candace proved very eloquent in convincing me to change my mind.” He got a distant look. “I’ve never had to raise a son before. I hope it’s not too different from a daughter.”
                “You’re asking the wrong man about that. I must admit, I’m surprised Helen isn’t upset.” Faelan flicked his ears at his brother’s sudden change of expression. “Oh. From the look on your face, she’s no longer got a reason to be jealous of Candace.”
                “She’s pretty eloquent, too.”
                “Is that what they call it now? What about Kasumi?”
                “We’re still not completely sure how that one happened, but I think when father blessed me, he undid my spell of infertility.” He shook his head slowly. “She’s refused to let me find out what she’s carrying because she thinks I’ll tell her. How’s it going with Ygerna?”
                “We’re still courting.” He shrugged. “Svetlana’s calmed down, now she knows the worst is over and all three of us are dating.” Faelan settled down against the rock. “Are you really going to make Svetlana a Sidhe? That was pretty violent.”
                “I promised her I would. And while Eoghan’s transformation was violent, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t sedate anyone we care about. In fact, the Grimoire recommends something like that to reduce the pain.”
                “Funny you didn’t mention that to Eoghan.”
                “He didn’t deserve it and, after being brought back to life, he was so weak it might have killed him.” He snickered. “That would have broken my oath.”
                “What about your wives? Will they become Sidhe, too?”
                Shikarou turned and regarded him for a moment. “I hope not. While I was on Kasumi’s world I bargained with an oni for a spell that will allow them to become kami.” He glanced at his hand. “If that finger hadn’t grown back, I’d have never used a katana again. However, the choice of what they do or don’t do as far as that goes will be theirs. I want them used to making decisions. You never know what may happen and I’m not invulnerable.”
                “Just really hard to kill.” Faelan sighed. “I need to do the same thing, I think. Svetlana’s going to fight me over it.”      
                “At least she’s making the decision to fight. That’s a start.”
                “Oh, speaking about fights, what was all the screeching over at your house?”
                Shikarou shrugged. “When I got up this morning, I had an extra pokegirl.”
                “The moonflower? I was wondering if she was going to choose a tamer.”
                “No, a megami-sama joined us for breakfast, acting like she’d been there the whole time.”
                Faelan blinked. “You didn’t kill her, did you?”
                “No, but Dorothea almost did. The newcomer announced that Dorothea was needed somewhere else, and that she was taking her place. Dorothea took that poorly for some reason. Only quick healing from Candace kept the megami-sama alive. I spoke to your wife and she was shocked that the celestials had tried that. Apparently, she’d had no knowledge it was coming and she said some rather infernal things about it.”
                “So what are you going to do now?”
                “I’m hanging up my pokedex for a while. The whole tradesman thing is going to take some time to resolve and, while they’re fussing about it, I’m to go take a vacation.” Shikarou waved abruptly and a golf cart turned and headed towards them. “I’ve got women to love and children to chase. That’ll be enough for me, at least for now. I’ll still travel to Tomakomai. Fumiko is there, after all, and I need to start paying more attention to my temple and the worshippers.” He chuckled. “Branwyn wants me to start getting involved in politics. She thinks we can make a difference if I can get elected to the Blue League council.”
                “What do you think?”
                “I think I’m making a difference here.” He scratched a cheek idly. “I missed both my daughters learning to walk and one of them learning to talk. That’s not going to happen again.”
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
Alaka-Wham         Circe
Unicorn                  Branwyn
Milktit                    Helen
Dire Wolf               Pythia                    
DragonQueen       Bellona
NurseJoy               Candace
Seraph                    Dorothea
Armsmistress        Urufu Yushiko
Vampire                  Elizabeth
Mini-Top               Nanu
Sphinx                    Lorelei
Wet Queen            Roisin
Alpha                     Branwyn
Beta                        Bellona
Badges:                  Scotland: Stornoway, Rum Island, Glasgow
                                Ireland: Belfast
                                England: Plymouth,
                                Wales: Magicunt Village
                                Ruby League: Polass Gym