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“They should be home by now,” Kasumi told him as they appeared near the tent. Nishiko and Giselle were waiting and Nishiko had a few quiet words with Ayame before taking her place as Kasumi’s guard. Ayame trotted for the tent and a break.
“Theodora reported that Akane and Ranma returned home fifteen minutes ago,” Iain said. “She lost track of Nabiki after your sister left the school grounds this morning and headed off in another direction.”
“Nabiki is taking some study courses before attempting the university entrance exam again.” Kasumi’s eyes widened. “You have my family under surveillance?”
“No, but we are surveilling the exterior of the high school and the dojo. Historically those two places are where most of the trouble occurs and my family wants to know when to try and warn me away. The individual members of your family are not being tracked since that’s a privacy issue and they haven’t given permission for monitoring.” He eyed her for second. “Do you want to go say hello to your sister? Soun has probably already told her you’re in town.”
“Yes, he would have.” Kasumi started for the house and stopped to look back at him when she realized he wasn’t with her and Nishiko. “I’d like you to come with me.”
“Are you sure that is wise, mistress,” Giselle asked. “He isn’t family. He could always meet them later.”
“I want him with me, Giselle. His presence will keep me strong against Genma.”
“I don’t understand, mistress, but your will is my will.”
“It’s pretty simple,” Iain said. “Genma is a pervert. If he does anything untoward to Kasumi and she doesn’t slap him down, I get to kill him on the spot.”
The Pegaslut looked shocked. “Mistress?”
“It’s true, Giselle. He says the same rules of engagement that he had in Glasgow are in effect and he will get involved before we know there’s a problem, including with Genma Saotome.”
Giselle’s eyes glittered with sudden anger. “Good. I thank you sir.”
“Hey, I haven’t killed him yet. Kasumi pointed out that if I did I’d probably have to kill Ranma too, and that would upset her sister.”
The Pegaslut nodded. “I understand, sir. But you will hurt him, will you not?”
“Perhaps you could see fit to cripple him sir.”
“Giselle!” Kasumi whirled to face her alpha. “Why would you want him to do that?”
“Genma Saotome put hands on Ayame, mistress. From what he saw with the otherworld Ranma and His Majesty’s harems, he came to believe that we are creatures made for the pleasure of a man and that we craved a man as we were with you only.”
“Why didn’t she tell anyone,” Kasumi asked.
“She told me, mistress, as she should have. However she requested I not report it as she had seen you did not wish to know these kinds of things. It was twenty years ago, mistress, and you did not care for us as much as you do now.”
Kasumi looked speechlessly at Giselle and jumped when Iain put a hand on her shoulder. “Giselle is right,” he said quietly. “And you can’t be angry at Ayame for something that happened twenty years ago. She thought she was doing what you wanted. Fortunately she knew you didn’t want her to actually fuck,” Kasumi twitched at the word, “Genma.”
“If anything like that happens now, I want to know about it immediately,” Kasumi almost snarled.
Giselle didn’t quite straighten to attention. “Yes, mistress.”
Kasumi glared into nothingness for a moment before jerking into motion. “Come, Nishiko.”
“I’m going to be a minute,” Iain said. “I’m waiting for Pandora to relieve Dianthus and Heather. But if you’ll wait at the door I will be there when you ring the bell.”
She nodded angrily. “I’ll wait. Just don’t be long.”
Iain watched her not quite stomp towards the house. “And now she’s pissed off at Genma and mildly irritated at me. Well, that wasn’t great but it could have gone worse.”
Giselle gave him a puzzled look. “How could it have gone worse? Mistress will be upset at me and Ayame for some time to come for not telling her so long ago.”
“She didn’t ask if Shikarou had ever tried anything with you or the others.”
Giselle froze for an instant. “I cannot speak of such things.”
“I didn’t think you could. However, will you answer a question for me, Giselle?”
She gave him a nervous smile. “I have learned from the time mistress spends with you, sir, so my answer is that depends on the question.”
Iain chuckled as Pandora and Ganieda came out of the tent and headed in their direction. “Excellent. I’ll remember that. My question is simple and shouldn’t violate any orders you may have received. If Shikarou had never tried anything with you or anyone else in Kasumi’s harem, instead of saying that you couldn’t speak of such things, would you have instead said something along the lines of denying that your king would ever do such a thing?”
Giselle looked thoughtful for a moment. “Sir, I have now learned and shall advise my mistress that questions from you can carry as much danger as a knife blade. And the answer to your question is yes.”
“It’s ok, Giselle, I do not plan to tell Kasumi.”
“Then why ask, sir?”
“I can’t beat them in hand to hand, so I have to be more cunning than they are so I can stay out of their reach. Questions like that let me evaluate how I am doing.”
Giselle gave him a rare warm smile. “You are doing quite well, sir.”
“Thanks. Now run along. The less Kasumi sees you right now the faster she’ll just blame Genma.”
“Yes, sir. Be well, sir.” Giselle teleported to the tent and darted inside.
“I have him,” Pandora said. “And Ganieda is my trainee today.”
“That should be fun,” Heather said. “Iain just pissed Kasumi off towards Genma.”
“I will do my job,” Ganieda said. “I have a lot to learn but I know where I want to be, and that is at Iain’s side. He protects me as I protect him and it does not matter if some human is mad at another human. Iain is my focus.”
“And so we were four,” Dianthus said. “Welcome sister and remember that we must worry over him for he shall not worry over himself.”
The Snugglebunny Splice nodded. “I saw the videos Zareen made of him facing against Kerrik. We serve a madman, but he is ours.”
“I’m standing right here,” Iain said acidly.
“He should be standing with Kasumi,” Dianthus noted. “Come, Heather. We are going to improve the plants in this park to provide better cover for the tent and us when we’re about.”
“Wait,” Iain said firmly. Dianthus looked back at him. “If Kasumi cuts me loose tonight, we will all meet somewhere nice in the park before I go to bed. I intend to bond you, Heather and Ganieda so you can find me.”
“We are already bonded to you,” Ganieda said.
“He is talking about delta bonding us,” Heather said. “Now shut up and guard him.”
Ganieda’s ears flicked. “You can do that?”
“I can do that.”
“Good.” She laced her fingers and turned her hands outward, cracking her knuckles as she straightened her arms. Her claws extended and retracted for an instant. “Canaan has shown me the peace you bring. I yearn for it.”
“Enough,” Iain said. He jogged for the house and Kasumi. She gave him an amused look as he joined her and he shrugged. “I was dealing with inter-pokegirl relations.”
She smiled. “That says everything without saying anything.” She rang the bell. “Even with how long it has been since I was last here it still feels strange to not just walk in, but you are right. This is not my home.” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “Are you going to masquerade as a kami for my father?”
“Yes. If he has money coming into his pocket he’ll at least steal less from Akane’s.”
“I intend to put a stop to that,” Kasumi said. “I will inform my sister of what’s going on.”
“It could be that Akane already knows about it and, for reasons of her own, is allowing it to continue.”
Kasumi’s look of surprise vanished instantly when the door opened. Akane looked at her and was suddenly hugging her sister. “KASUMI!”
I am nearby where I can keep an antenna on things, Canaan said in his mind.
That’s good. I am not sure how things are going to unfold here and the more people paying attention the better.
Akane finally let her sister go and Kasumi motioned towards Iain. “Akane, this is my friend, Iain Grey. He is the one who let me travel to see my family and without him I wouldn’t have been able see you.”
“Thank you, Grey-sama,” Akane said formally.
“Akane,” Iain said with a smile. “Call me Iain and it was my pleasure.”
“Kasumi, father told me that you were cooking dinner tonight, but when I looked you hadn’t make any preparations. Are you?”
Kasumi smiled gently. “I would never presume to do that to you without getting your permission first, Akane. I know you are so proud of your cooking. Maybe later I will cook, but tonight can I help you?”
Akane nodded eagerly. “I would like that. Ranma and I bought everything I needed on the way home.”
“That’s good. Where is Ranma?”
“He’s in the dojo. He practices there on weekdays while I cook. After dinner we do the dishes together and then our homework. Will Shikarou be joining us for dinner?”
“He didn’t come,” Kasumi said. “He’s very busy right now and so I asked Iain to bring me instead.”
Akane looked at him and blinked when she saw Ganieda standing behind him. “You’re a big rabbit. Are you a pokegirl?”
“I am. I am part of Iain’s family.” Her ears flicked and Akane’s face suddenly turned a bright red. “Kasumi, you can join me in the kitchen,” she stammered and fled.
“What was that,” Iain asked.
“She was wondering how we had sex,” Ganieda said. “I explained it. She didn’t believe me so I showed her a bit.”
Kasumi blinked and giggled suddenly as Iain smacked himself in the forehead with a palm. He sighed. “I think that’s a new record for going from new person to pariah. You should not have done that.”
“She is eighteen and knows about sex.”
“Not between me and you. There aren’t any pokegirls here other than the ones who came here with us and she isn’t used to the practicality that pokegirls bring to sex. Akane is probably a virgin.” He frowned. “What did you show her? No,” he said hastily, “I do not want to know.”
It was nothing that bad, Canaan said to him through their bond. Most of it was technical more than graphic, although she did use a few mental images of her in some poses.
Iain sighed. “Ganieda, please stay here for a minute.” He headed into the house and to the kitchen. Akane was slowly unpacking a bag of groceries when he stepped through the doorway. “Akane?”
She looked up and turned bright red again. “What do you want,” she snapped.
“I wanted to apologize.” She stopped what she was doing in surprise. “Ganieda is a pokegirl and all pokegirls from the onset of puberty have to squarely face the fact that they must have sex on a regular basis from that point on for the rest of their lives or the part of their brain that makes them a person will go into a coma and they will essentially become a beast until someone ties them down and has sex with them to wake it up. She was not trying to embarrass you. She was, honestly, treating you like an equal and explaining something that you didn’t understand.”
“I’m not like that!”
“No, and she didn’t realize it. She was actually trying to help, but she’s never really been socialized. The person who had her before she came into my care was pretty cruel to her and she never got much of a chance to be around regular people until now, so she doesn’t know what is rude or embarrassing or polite. Fortunately she’s very smart so she learns quickly and seldom makes the same mistake twice.”
“And because I am smart,” Ganieda said as she stepped up next to Iain, “when I do fuck up I try to make things right. I shouldn’t have done that, Akane, and I apologize. Can we work past this?”
“You said a curse word,” Akane said.
Ganieda smiled without showing any teeth. “Iain here is to blame. He curses, although he’s getting better because of the children.”
Akane suddenly looked interested. “You have kids?”
“I have not been pregnant, no, but I have been told that the clan’s children are mine too. Iain has promised me children from my womb someday soon, though.”
“You did?” Akane was looking at him now.
Iain smiled. “I did. Ganieda wants kids and I like children.”
“I like children too. How many do you have?”
“Well remember that these are pokegirls and I have more than one woman in my life, but there are nineteen children from six mothers and the children range from the age of six years down to only a few months for Zareen’s septuplets. We’ve got a tent in the park across the street and when you’ve got some free time, perhaps this weekend, you can meet some of them if you’d like. Most of them are very nice.”
“Most of them?” Akane was eyeing him curiously.
“Canaan, who is strong enough to lift a bus, has two children who are almost as strong as she is. They don’t really know their own strength and so they can easily hurt people. That and they sometimes bite. They’re still nice, but you have to be careful around them.”
“So, do you accept my apology,” Ganieda asked. “I know Iain wants to taste your cooking and if you’re mad at him he’ll probably be reduced to searching for scraps in your rubbish bin.”
Akane snickered. “I have to feed Ranma and Saotome-san. We do not have leftovers. Yes, I accept your apology.”
“Good.” Kasumi slipped past Iain into the kitchen, already rolling up her sleeves. “Now go away, Iain. We have dinner to prepare.”
“All right. Come on, ladies.”
“Where are we going,” Ganieda asked.
“Back across the street,” Pandora said. “Iain hasn’t done his training today.”
“I’m on vacation,” Iain protested. “Can’t I skip it?”
“Kasumi is on vacation,” Pandora said as she took his hand and then grabbed Ganieda’s. “You are not.” They vanished.
Kasumi opened the door and stood by to let Iain and Pandora step outside before following and pulling the door shut behind her. He smiled. “Akane has become quite the good cook. If she really learned how to do that from you, I really can’t wait to eat your cooking should the opportunity arise.”
She smiled. “I’ll pass the compliment to Akane. She’ll like hearing that from someone who isn’t family.” She looked up at the night sky. “Before I married Shikarou I used to stand out by the pond and look for constellations on a night like this. I used to wonder if there was life on other worlds and what they were like. I never thought I’d visit other worlds like I have.”
“Technically you still haven’t. Every world you’ve been on has been an alternate Earth.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve walked on Mars. I have pictures of the Viking 2 Lander.” He grinned. “Some of them have me posing next to it and some annoying person may have written ‘wash me’ in the dust on it. The Viking program was the last program to send vehicles to Mars before Scott’s attacks began and destroyed civilization. On my world things were a lot different and a lot more vehicles were sent, although nobody had yet been to Mars when I was kidnapped. I’ve also fallen off an asteroid but that really doesn’t count.”
“How did you do that?”
“The escape velocity was higher than the impulse from my foot hitting the ground and it launched me away from it. I had maneuvering thrusters but I kind of FUBARed using those and it took a couple of minutes before I regained control. It was definitely not my proudest moment.”
“Speaking of not being proud, I’m sorry about my father tonight.”
“Don’t worry about it. He wouldn’t be Soun Tendo if he hadn’t tried to engage me to Nabiki. I just wish he hadn’t trotted out that line about me being rich to her when she protested. That’s when I started getting a little concerned.”
“I don’t think she will be interested after tonight,” Kasumi said with an amused lilt to her voice. “You worried her when you insisted that any engagement agreement would stipulate she have fourteen children.”
“I said at least fourteen,” Iain smirked. “The expression on everyone’s faces was priceless when I did.”
“He was serious,” Pandora said.
Kasumi blinked. “Really?”
“Well, I wasn’t serious about marrying Nabiki. I mean she isn’t my type. But Pandora is right that I want more children.”
“But after meeting Nabiki you’re not interested in my family?”
“I already knew that Akane and Nabiki, while nice enough, weren’t hot. Meeting them today just proved me right.”
She was silent for a moment. “I have the coordinates for the world that the tamer Ranma came from and is back on now. There is an unattached Kasumi there.” Her eyes met Iain’s. “She is probably as desperate to get away from her family as I was.”
“While I may drop by there soon to see how that Ranma is doing, I don’t think that would work out well,” Iain replied. “I’m not the young man who had a huge crush for an imaginary anime girl. He died some time ago, burned to ash in the fires that birthed me, his phoenix. As for me, one of my few friends outside of my family that I cherish is the woman that girl could become but won’t and there’s no way that girl could become her. My friend is unique and I doubt I could ever find anyone like her anywhere. So every time that I would look at that girl I would remember my friend and know that the girl in front of me could never be you.”
Iain could see her eyes searching his in the darkness but she was silent before finally stirring. “Good night, Iain.”
“Good night, Kasumi.” He watched her go inside before turning back to the park.
“You did well in there tonight.”
Iain glanced at Pandora as they walked. “That place was a minefield, but at least I didn’t get stabbed by anyone trying for the last piece of sushi. On top of that I still think there’s more to what’s going on than what Soun and Genma have told me.”
“You would be right. Fortunately they’re not nearly as crafty as they think they are.”
He frowned. “You know what they are up to?”
“No, I do not but Canaan does or she can find out. Ganieda may as well. They are outlanders and they are not our friends. Don’t let our rules prevent you from using tools that you have to fight them and do not refuse to use those tools just because those two are part of Kasumi’s life. They are childish and selfish and without honor as we identify it.”
“Do you think I should have told them no when they asked me to help them?”
“We both know you should have but you are right that this may help Kasumi’s family be happier overall and thus help her to be happier too.” She glanced at him. “Next time, though, I may arrange for her and her harem to bitten by Zombabes so she loses these contests.”
“See, I told you there was evil in the hearts of Celestials.”
Pandora snickered softly. “I knew that before they murdered me. And if I’m ever unsure, all I have to do is to look inside my own heart or think about how selfish I was when I snuck out of the lands of the dead behind you.”
“I’m glad you did.”
“You would be. Your heart makes mine look like as bright as exploding star.”
“It certainly had better. The day my heart is brighter than yours I have done something seriously wrong in my life.”
She gave him a teasing smile. “The day your heart is brighter than any of ours I will know that the man I am talking to is not you and he’d better tell me quickly what he did with you.”
“That would be true enough.” He glanced at her as they stopped outside the tent. “Do I need to go inside with you while you get the others?”
“I’ve already asked Theodora to tell them to join us.”
“Am I making a mistake in doing this all together?”
Pandora shook her head. “You are not bonding any of these because you love them or they you, so they should not get the consideration you give those you love when you delta bond them. When you love them you will give them what they do not get tonight.”
“I haven’t given you that.”
“As you once said, I still think like a Seraph, even though I did not start as one and am not one now. Seraphs are content to bask in the radiance of those they care for and who care for them, or at least I am. I wouldn’t know what to do with you alone for an extended time.”
“What about your week?”
“I will probably be the last to take her week as I am unsure what I want to do. I may just let it go.”
“I won’t let you do that. If nothing else, we may take the first week after you give birth just for us and the girls.”
She looked startled for a second. “I had never considered that. Perhaps.”
Heather, Dianthus and Ganieda exited the tent and headed for them.
Heather gave him a quick smile. “How was dinner over there?”
“The food was good, although I suspect Melanie fed you better. Soun tried to get me to marry Nabiki.”
The Elf’s eyebrows scrunched as she frowned. “That was fast. I’ll have to inform the pool manager so she can see if anyone bet this early and won. How did you get out of it?”
“He told her I was rich, which complicated things until I said I wanted at least fourteen children from her and it had to be part of the engagement contract. At that point her protests quickly drowned out her father’s attempts at agreement.”
Dianthus shifted her bow on her shoulder. “Then it is for the best that you are not interested in her either, master. You deserve better than that.”
“That’s good because with the ladies who have chosen to twine their lives with mine it just so happens I am doing much better than I would ever do if I were with Nabiki.”
“She would definitely not like hearing you say that,” Pandora pointed out.
“And she’s not anywhere near here, is she? Have you found a nice site?”
“I have. It’s one of the proposed advance bases that we decided against because we found signs that sometimes ships moor in the harbor.” The Archangel held out her hands. “Pokeballs, ladies.” A soon as she had them, Pandora recalled the owners. She handed the balls to Iain, who slipped them into his pocket before taking her hand.
The scene changed and Iain heard waves crashing on breakers even as his nose was filled with the smell of the sea. He’d already transitioned to night vision and looked around curiously. The island they were on didn’t have any trees that he could see from where he stood, but they were on a beach not far from some scraggly bushes he didn’t recognize. The ocean surrounded them on three sides, waves rolling by or twisting towards them as they reached the shallower water around the island. The harbor was small, but there was a definite gap in the breakwater that would allow medium sized or smaller ships to enter and leave without too much difficulty. Fortunately, the harbor was empty now. The water inside it was nearly mirror still and reflected the stars and clouds overhead almost perfectly.
Pandora was watching him. “Any thoughts?”
“No. Any time I want to watch the sea I can always go to the beach in Texas or down to the Louisiana Canal.” He dug out the pokeballs and released the occupants. “All right, ladies, I’m going to bond you one at a time in order to keep the potential problems to a minimum.”
Ganieda’s ears halfway flattened. “And what order are we going to be bonded in? I’d like to go first.” Both Heather and Dianthus bristled instantly.
Fortunately he’d anticipated this issue. “I will bond each of you in the order that you joined the clan and my family,” Iain said firmly. “That would be Heather, then Barb and then you.” He looked into Ganieda’s eyes. “Do you have a problem with that?”
She smiled slightly. “Of course I do, but I accept your methodology as a valid solution to the problem.”
“Good. But that brings up something else. You have all requested to become part of my permanent bodyguard and Pandora has approved each of you, otherwise this would not be happening. You are being delta bonded because you’ll need to be able to find me if at all possible during dire situations. However, we are all aware that because of the fact that you will be delta bonded to me you will also be seen as having become inner harem by everyone in the outer harem and outer clan. The current members of the inner harem were consulted beforehand, accepted what this meant and are willing to welcome you. The current members of the outer clan and outer harem, as is traditional, were not consulted and only notified as to what was happening and about my reasoning behind this decision. Several of them are senior to all of you insomuch as time in the clan is concerned and, being pokegirls, they have long memories. Don’t be a bitch about this promotion. Inner harem does not mean they can’t challenge you for being an asshole and kick your ass if they can swing it. Piss Ninhursag off while doing it and she will probably come up with conditions for the battle that will make it a lot more likely that you will get that ass kicking. And even if you don’t, April and Sofia will be paying attention and they can slant training however they want in order to give a correction to a troublemaker. They do it to me when I get cocky and they will certainly do it to you if they feel they need to.”
“And we all know that this lecture is really for me,” Ganieda said, “since I am very new to the clan.”
“That’s not true,” Iain replied. “Yes, you are very new to the clan. But this kind of promotion is quite a bump and something like this can go to the head of anyone. I’ve seen similar promotions turn good natured humans into petty little gods filled with their own awesomeness that strangely enough nobody else can seem to see.”
Heather giggled. “We will try to not to do that and you’re right, April and Sofia will bleed that right out any of us who fail.”
“All right, then.” He motioned Heather to stand in front of him. “Heather,” he smiled suddenly, “my bonny Heather, do you want to be delta bonded to me?”
She nodded solemnly. “I do.”
“Do you do this freely and without coercion?”
She nodded again. “I do.” Her voice was higher, nervous but not afraid.
He winked. “It won’t hurt.”
“It’s not that,” she said. “It’s just you’ve done so much for me already and now this. I don’t know if I deserve this.”
Iain looked at her thoughtfully for a second. “Do you trust me?”
“Always,” she said without hesitation. “All that I am is yours.”
He took her hands and squeezed gently. “Then trust this, Heather. I believe you deserve this. I believe you can handle this and I believe you will be an asset to me as one of my bodyguards and to the inner harem as the person you are. If I had doubt about any of that, you would not be standing here tonight.”
Heather’s eyes glowed with joy at his words. “I understand, Iain. I will make you proud of me!”
“Good. Ready?” She nodded and Iain sent his power into her. He looked at her template and willed the delta bond into existence, feeling it as it formed on his end. When it was done he looked into her eyes. “Do you feel that?”
Her eyes were wide and suddenly she hugged him hard. “Yes!”
He could feel her joy across the new bond as she slowly let him go and moved to join Pandora. She looked calm, but inside she was almost buzzing with excitement at getting something from him that she’d never dared to dream of but had secretly wanted almost since he’d rescued her from Sanderson. It was almost distracting as he turned to the other two pokegirls. “Dianthus.”
The Elfqueen took her place in front of him. “I shouldn’t let you do this, master, but I want it so much that the thought of refusing this makes me hurt to even consider it.”
“You do realize that once this is done you can never leave me.”
She gave a low laugh. “That decision was made when you removed my tattoos and told me I was pretty. I knew then that your women would have to kill me to keep me from your side. This will just make it harder for them to hide you from me.”
“No,” Pandora said,” it will make it so our enemies won’t be able to hide him from you the next time he needs you. You are becoming one of us tonight and you will be one of us until the day you die.”
“The day that happens,” Dianthus said,” I want to join the master’s dead harem and continue to serve him.”
Accepted, Eirian said from where she rode on his arm.
That is not your decision to make, Iain snapped.
Yes, my lord. She will join us when you say she will.
“Let’s worry about staying alive before we worry about death,” Iain said firmly. “Barb, do you wish to be delta bonded to me?”
“Do you do this freely and without coercion?”
Iain took her hands. “Then so be it.” His power slid into her like a blade. Each time was easier and each time frightened him a little more as he wondered if was easier because he was getting better at it or because his defenses were coming apart.
The first thing he felt over the new bond was yearning hunger that sucked at him and almost made him stagger. That hunger surged through the bond and crashed into his hastily erected defenses. For an instant he panicked. There was no way he could satisfy this. Then knowledge came and, with it, acceptance and his shields dropped to let her inside to take what she, as all of the ones before her had done, needed. She took his warmth and his care for her and pulled it into herself and wrapped it around a frigid core inside her that had always been terribly alone.
Her eyes widened and she fell against him. He caught her and held her tightly as her body jerked for several seconds before quieting. She looked into his eyes and smiled. “You like my hair more but you still like my eyes very much. I’ll grow my hair out for you.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
She tried to stand and he helped her until she didn’t need it anymore. She was still smiling. “Yes, I don’t have to do it, master, but I want to because it will make you happy and in making you happy I will be happier.”
He shook his head. “Pokegirls are weird.” He smiled for an instant. “All people are pretty weird, including me.” He frowned and looked at Pandora as Dianthus sat down on a fallen palm tree. “I am weird, right?”
She nodded. “Spectacularly so, Iain. No one would ever mistake you for normal.”
“That’s good.” He looked at the Snugglebunny Splice. “Ganieda, it’s your turn.” His eyes swept down the dress she was wearing. “That’s not a very voluminous dress. How do you hide your tail? I haven’t seen it since you started wearing those dresses.”
She smiled amusedly down at him as she stopped in front of him. “My tail is completely prehensile. I don’t know if it’s normal to Blade Bunnies or if it’s due to something else I was blended with, but it is. The blade on the end is just short enough that I can tuck it sideways right underneath the bottom curve of my ass without the point cutting through the fabric on either side. The rest of my tail I coil like a rope and keep against the blade.”
“You don’t have to hide it, you know.”
“I do, Iain, but this way it’s a surprise to our enemies. I also keep it tucked like that whenever I’m around our family so a child doesn’t grab the blade and lose her fingers.” Her ears flicked and her tail snaked out from under her dress to take up the half coiled posture behind her he remembered with the point aimed roughly at her shoulder blades. “But if you like I can keep it out for you.”
“It’s your call, Ganieda. I wanted you to know that you don’t have to hide it from me or us. I like it. It’s pretty and lethal, just like the rest of you.”
Her tail slipped back under her dress as she gave him a happy smile. “Thank you. But when we’re alone I’ll try to remember you like to see it.”
“Time,” Pandora said. “Flirt later.”
Ganieda snickered as she glanced at Pandora. “You really aren’t much fun out of the bedroom, are you?”
The Archangel’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Who said that?”
“Sorry, we don’t have time for me to be interrogated,” Ganieda said carelessly as she faced Iain again.
He managed not to laugh at the twinkle in her eyes. “Ganieda, do you want to be delta bonded to me?”
All humor instantly vanished from her face. “I want that more desperately than you can ever imagine, Iain. I have wanted it ever since Canaan said it could help silence the voices around me, but what I just watched you give them is more than I could conceive of a delta bond ever being and I want it more than anything I’ve ever wanted.”
“Do you do this freely and without coercion?”
She smiled, showing her teeth. “If you don’t hurry this up, I’m going to coerce you. Yes, I do this freely and I am not being coerced.” She reached out and took Iain’s hands, interlacing her fingers in his. “You impressed me when we met, now impress me again with something that nobody else can do,” she said quietly.
“Am I going to have to do something to impress you regularly?”
She chuckled. “You might have to. I am easily bored.”
“Well, let’s see what I can do to impress you today.” He drove his power into her. Where things were easy with Heather and Dianthus, this time it was very different. He could sense fragments of people swirling around inside Ganieda, each a different breed, and all of them were screaming as loudly as they could for his attention. They were constantly distracting and he paused to collect himself and focus his will. I am here for Ganieda. Immediately they all began clamoring that they were Ganieda and the person he wanted.
Dimly he was aware that the woman standing in front of him was screaming but he blotted it out as he fed more power into his search. Outside wasn’t important right now. Only what was happing inside mattered as he reached out with his power. Bring me Ganieda. Nothing happened and he poured more power into search, ignoring Pandora’s grip on him as she yelled at him to stop and tried to pry his fingers from the Splice’s. Show me Ganieda.
Suddenly he could see, not his target, but that a single softly glowing line came from each fragment and led away, all in the same direction. He moved through the screaming people, avoiding them with difficulty as he followed the lines until they began to converge. Finally he saw her, all of the lines coming together inside her. She saw him at the same instant and screamed his name. Instantly the others took it up and tried to block his way but his power forced them aside and he moved forward until he intertwined his fingers with hers just like they were outside and forged the delta bond between them. Done, he pulled his power and himself out of her.
Suddenly he was outside and pain exploded through his hands and wrists. He jerked backwards and fell, looking in astonishment at shattered fingers and wrists that bent in the absolutely wrong directions. He heard a moaning sound and realized with a start that he was making the noise.
The pain began to pass as Pandora began healing his hands. “Iain,” she said as she peered into his eyes. “Talk to me.”
“I’m going to be all right,” he managed to get out. “Ganieda?”
“Eve brought Siobhan and she’s taking care of her. Now lie still and rest.”
“No.” Iain’s power surged and pain returned tenfold as his own magic forced himself to heal at a rate that his body didn’t like. He snarled in the back of his throat and sat up. “Help me stand.”
Pandora pulled him to his feet and he staggered over to drop to his knees next to Siobhan. The Nurse Joy was sitting back on her heels and she glanced at him. “Master, she had only minor injuries and I have already healed them. However, she is in some kind of coma and I’m not sure how to wake her up.”
“She’ll be fine.” Iain took the Snugglebunny Splice’s head in his hands and leaned over it. “Ganieda!”
Her eyes snapped open and she gave him an almost lazy smile. “Hi.”
“Hello yourself. Are the voices quiet?”
“No,” she said just as lazily, “but they are quieter now and your strength will give me the tools to finally silence them once and for all.”
“Good. Do you need time off from guarding me to do that?”
“Yes but I still need to be near you. The closer I am to you right now the more power I have against them.” Her smile widened. “And so Ninhursag knows this isn’t some sad attempt to monopolize your nights and days I will be fine sleeping on the floor next to your bed.”
“Some of us won’t want you even there,” Siobhan said sourly. “We’ll be getting as little time as it is with the master while it is not our time with him.”
“I will try to be as accommodating as possible,” Ganieda said as she slowly sat up, “and it could be that I could be farther from him for relatively short periods, but the faster I get the voices silenced the sooner I will finally have peace. Would you deny me that after what your master did to give you peace?”
“He is your master too.”
“No, he is mine but he does not wish to be my master and he knows I value him all the more for that. You need a master, not me.” Her smile faded as the Night Nurse glared at her with a face twisted in rage. “No, sister, you do not need this. I needed this bond or one day I would snap and murder everyone around me except him. He gave me this because of that and his heart is no more mine than it is yours. When the day comes that your delta bond forms with him it will be a glorious thing and you know that it will be because he will have taken a place in your heart next to your old master’s, who you will never forget and you will have taken a place in his.” Her voice dropped and became an angry hiss. “I would do almost anything to forget my mistress and the monster that she was and it is because of that bitch that this had to happen today. Remember Gordon with the affection he deserves and be grateful that your delta bond will one day be a product of love and not as mine is, born of hate, misery and despair.”
Siobhan got to her feet and looked down at the Snugglebunny Splice. “Do not presume to speak to me as if we are friends, for we are not.” She turned to a shocked Eve. “Return me to my post.”
“Siobhan?” Her head came around to look at Iain. “Thank you for helping.”
“I will always seek to do as you ask me to, master.” She glanced at Ganieda. “Please keep her away from me until I am no longer mad at her.”
“I will.” He nodded to Eve, who took Siobhan’s hand and vanished with her. “Wow.”
Pandora snorted softly. “She is a Nurse Joy and they are a pampered breed, but I did not realize she had such depths of anger within her.”
Ganieda pushed to her feet. “She is angry at Gordon for dying and leaving her, at Iain for being nice enough that she likes him and, most of all, at herself for surviving Wallace. All of those will pass in time. Her anger at my delta bond is amusing since it turns out that she needed me to be delta bonded to you because I am certain that is the only reason I didn’t eat her heart a few minutes ago.”
“Well, I’ve put in a lot of time and effort on her so I appreciate you letting her live this night,” Iain said dryly.
Ganieda glanced at him. “I sounded that arrogant?” Her ears flicked. “You wouldn’t have said anything if I hadn’t. Do I need to apologize to her?”
“No, she was being kind of a bitch to match your bitchiness. Let it go for now, just try to remember from now on that our enemies are outside the clan. I’ll have a word with her about that too.” He looked around. “I know I just said that because you’re all now inner harem not to let the change turn any of you into assholes. However, that doesn’t mean you have to let anyone else be an asshole to you either, although please leave their organs functional and inside their bodies where they belong when you address the issue.” Heather snickered loudly and Iain chuckled too. “And with that, I believe the evening’s festivities are concluded.” He rubbed his eyes. “Pandora will set up the revised schedules and Ganieda will begin formal training as one of my persistent bodyguards.” He looked at the Snugglebunny Splice. “You need to discuss your situation with Canaan and Ninhursag. Canaan may be able to come up with some ideas on how to expedite getting your voices silenced.”
Iain rang the bell and waited, rocking on his heels. He glanced down at the bag sitting by his feet and then at Heather, who gave him a quick wink. Her face smoothed when the door unlocked and Kasumi opened it. “Iain,” she said in surprise. “I was just coming to get you when I heard the door.”
“Oh. I hoped I could get your father and Saotome to tell me what they have planned for this kami masquerade so I can get this over with. I don’t suppose that’s why you were looking for me.”
“No, I wanted to invite you along with us to the beach.”
“It’s Saturday,” Heather said from behind him.
“That’s right,” Kasumi said. “We’re renting a van and going to the beach and I wanted you to come with us.” She favored him with an amused smile. “Or is that unreasonable?”
“No, it’s not,” he replied. “Is this going to be a nude beach?”
“There are no nude beaches around Tokyo,” Kasumi replied. “And you are still incorrigible to ask.”
“Actually it’s because I don’t own a swimsuit.” She frowned at him and he shrugged. “We don’t use them on the ranch. I can probably buy one at a shop near the beach, right?”
“It depends on the beach we’re going to and I’m not sure which one it is.”
“I have shorts.”
“Those will do nicely.”
He nodded. “I’ll be back.”
“The van will be here in half an hour,” Kasumi said. “Be back a few minutes before then.”
“I can fetch and carry and you don’t want to miss ordering me about doing that, do you? Or would you rather hope one of the men who lives here would be willing to haul stuff for you and your sisters?”
An amused smile appeared. “Can you be back in five minutes?”
He grabbed up the bag. “I’ll do my best.”
“What is in the bag?”
“Oh, I found an international newspaper dealer and thought your father might like the ones I’ve already read. I’ll give them to him later.”
“He will like that, please hurry.”
“I will.” Three minutes later he rang the bell again.
Kasumi opened the door with a bemused smile. “That was certainly fast.”
“Theodora was listening and had swimming trunks and a shirt waiting for me.” He was wearing dark blue swim trunks and an oversized shirt that showed Goku from Dragonball Z on it. “Is this all right?”
Kasumi eyed the shirt. “On your world we are anime characters. Is this another one that you have met?”
Iain shook his head. “ Nope. And if I do find this world I’ll let Kerrik go there first. I don’t have the power to play with people who can casually blow up planets.” He frowned. “Although I might sneak to Korin’s Tower to see if I can finagle some Senzu beans from him. If nothing else I can provide them back to him by the bushel thanks to Ninhursag and her court’s magic.” He smiled at her look of incomprehension. “So, is it fetch and carry time?”
She looked past him at Pandora. “Where is Heather?”
“She’s not excited about dunking herself and her bow in salt water,” Pandora said. She was wearing her normal clothes. “I will join you at the beach, but we don’t think Iain will be in danger during the trip. If we’re wrong, a team will be standing by just in case.”
“The van is going to be crowded enough,” Iain said. “I don’t want to have to squeeze in anyone I don’t have to.”
“True,” Kasumi noted. “And yes, it would make things easier if we had everything ready to load into the van when it arrives, so there is much you can carry for us out to where Father will park the van. Come with me and I’ll show you where to start.”
Soun turned into the parking lot and announced loudly, “we’re here!”
The rental agency had provided a very nice looking minivan that wouldn’t seat all seven people and their gear so Iain had made a trip to his tent and come up with a hard shelled container for most of the things they’d been taking. The container had been ratchet strapped to the roof of the minivan while he and Ranma had been banished to the van’s cargo area while Soun, Genma and the three women had ridden in the seats.
Ranma had been grumpy about the banishment until Iain had stretched out in the cargo area and gone to sleep. Once he’d realized that sleeping was possible, Ranma had quickly stretched out too and joined him in slumber.
Iain opened his eyes and looked up to see Kasumi watching him from over the back seat. He didn’t move except his eyes as he looked around quickly while reaching out with his twee. Is there a problem?
She smiled and shook her head. “We’re at the beach.”
“I heard Soun.” Iain popped the latch on the minivan’s rear hatch and held it shut until the vehicle stopped before letting go and rolling out of it as the hatch swung open. “Ranma.”
Kasumi’s smile widened when Ranma didn’t move. “You’ll have to be louder than that, Iain.” She looked surprised when Iain reached in and whacked Ranma on the top of his foot, right below his toes, and Ranma came upright in a flurry of limbs.
“Time to unpack,” Iain said.
“Why do I have to do it,” Ranma grumbled.
“I’m going to help,” Iain said. “And we do it because it’s polite, whether we like actually doing it or not.” He looked up as people began exiting the minivan. “The other reason is because we’re carrying this stuff we get to decide where it gets to go. Face it, once we put it down, others are unlikely to move it again so we get to pick where on the beach we’ll be.” He realized that Kasumi was still in the minivan and was just sitting quietly and watching the two of them. He decided to ignore her. “This is an awesome responsibility that you should always get so you can abuse it for your own desires.”
Ranma blinked. “Really?”
Iain nodded. “If you get to decide where the family sets up, you get to pick why they set up there. Are you hungry? Set up closer to the food vendors. Do you have little kids? Set up closer to the bathroom so you’re not hiking two kilometers with a child who desperately has to pee.” Ranma grinned. “Want to watch pretty girls? You can set up where you do that instead of where your wife and sister in law can watch young men playing some stupid sport or your father and father in law can wander off to gamble or get in trouble that you have to get them out of.” He grinned back at Ranma. “So instead of having to deal with someplace somebody else wants, you get to, under the guise of being helpful and responsible, be the one in control.” He motioned towards the front of the minivan where everyone else except Kasumi was looking at the beach. “And since I packed almost everything in that container on the roof and it has convenient carrying handles, we only have to make one trip.”
Ranma scrambled out of the minivan. “Let’s get that box.”
Iain looked at Kasumi and said in a low voice. “The fact that what we’re doing will help him to be a good person, a good boyfriend, a good husband and eventually a good father is just something he’ll figure out one day.”
“Did you plan to turn this into a training exercise for Ranma?”
“I didn’t expect to be at the beach today, so no. I just take advantage of opportunities when they pop up. It’s one of the ways my father worked with me before he died, but compared to how contrary a child I was, Ranma is downright agreeable.” He flashed a smile. “Or so I was told by my sisters.” He ducked out of the minivan, shut the rear hatch and began helping Ranma undo the straps.
Kasumi got out of the minivan and joined her family and Saotome at the edge of the parking lot where Nabiki was involved in an argument with the two men as to where they should set up. She wanted to put the family nearer to some expensive looking shopping while Soun and Genma were inclined more towards closer to a vendor selling food and drink, including alcohol.
“Hey, you guys coming or not?” Everyone turned to see Ranma and Iain standing on the other side of the van. Iain waved. “We’ve found a great place!” They picked up the container and headed down the beach.
“You’re going the wrong way,” Nabiki yelled but the two men kept on going and she gave chase.
When Kasumi rejoined the group, Iain and Ranma had opened the container and were unpacking it. “This is a great place,” Iain enthused. “We’ve got a great view, a little privacy, those palm trees will give us some shade later in the day if we stay that long and over here we can have open flames so we can build a fire.” He pulled out a teapot that Kasumi didn’t remember packing. “Then if Ranma or Genma end up in the water we can change them back.” Nabiki was staring at him. “Hey, I don’t want to ride in a van with a wet salty panda. I suspect it would be like riding with a wet dog.” Genma glowered at him.
Akane gave him a suspicious look. “Kasumi told you about that?”
“No, she didn’t. I already knew.” He sighed when her expression didn’t change. “I know things. It’s one of my gifts, or curses if you will. Look, do you want me to prove it?”
She folded her arms. “Yes.”
Iain motioned away from the camp. “Come with me and we’ll go over there where nobody else can hear and I’ll tell you something that nobody else but you could know.”
“Yes.” Akane’s eyes narrowed even further but she followed Iain out away from the camp.
Kasumi’s eyes narrowed slightly when she realized that he was deliberately making sure that they were even out of earshot of her and that he carefully turned them so she couldn’t see either person’s lips when he spoke to Akane even after she zoomed in on the scene. She could see that he said something and watched the color drain out of Akane’s face. Akane said something to him and he replied. Then she nodded to him and she could see that Akane was smiling when they turned and headed back for the camp which made Kasumi even more curious but it also made her relax.
Nabiki promptly put herself in front of Akane. “What did he tell you?”
“Something personal,” Akane said.
“Fine. I want my allowance for this week.”
Akane gave her a resigned look that said they’d had this discussion before. “I gave it to you Monday, just like I always do.”
Nabiki scowled. “I want my allowance for next week.”
“Not until Monday. If I give it to you now you’ll just try to get more out of me on Monday. You have money, Nabiki. We all know you do. Spend what you have or find some boy who will spend his money on you like you always do.”
Nabiki’s face lit up. “Yes. Iain!”
“You have got to be kidding,” Pandora said as she came out of the palm trees. She was wearing a purple one piece bathing suit that was the same shade as her hair and an ankle length sarong in the same color tied around her waist. “I thought it was settled last night that you’re not interested in marrying Iain.”
“I don’t want to marry him!”
“Then he’s not going to be interested in dating you or buying you things,” Pandora replied. “Find another man.”
“How did you get here,” Genma asked.
“I’m a pokegirl. I can fly.” She looked at Iain. “I don’t really think you need a guard right now so if you don’t mind I’m going to go get some charcoal or something. There’s not much wood around for this fire you want to build.”
“I’ll try to stay out of trouble.” He watched as she vanished before pulling a towel out of the container. “So, who gets this one?”
Ninhursag Grey - Elfqueen & maharani
Eve Grey - Megami Sama
April Grey - Duelist & beta
Dominique Grey - Blessed Archmage
Pandora - Fiendish Archangel
Canaan - G Splice (Hunter Amachamp & Alaka-Wham)
Zareen - Nightmare
Raquel - Fiendish Rapitaur
Sofia - Ria
Vanessa – Evangelion
Lucifer – Megami Sama
Ganieda – Snugglebunny Splice
Heather - Elf
Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen
Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)
Daphne - Whorizard
Lynn - Growlie
Chuck – Doggirl
Ryan – Unicorn
Winifred - Rack (German)
Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)
Silver - Pegaslut
Joyce – Milktit
Melanie – Iron Chef
Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)
Queendom / Outer Harem
Dionne - Elfqueen
Adrianna - Elfqueen
Heltu - Wet Queen
6 Wet Elves
Eirian - Silver Dragoness
Aurum - Gold Dragoness
Skye - Blue Dragoness
Emerald - Green Dragoness
Beryl - Red Dragoness
Julia - human
Ling - Cheetit
Matilda - White Tigress
Liadan - Twau
Sorrel - Armsmistress
Natalie - Blazicunt
Maria – Slutton
Rhea Silvia - Chimera
Mother s & Children