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The world around him shifted and he released Ganieda instantly, stepping to the side as he activated the pokeballs while the Snugglebunny Splice checked around them. Heather and Dianthus appeared, their bows ready but arrows not nocked. “Clear and I have informed Pandora.”
They’d arrived inside a designated incoming teleport zone on the outskirts of Tokyo and bright lights shone down to drive away the darkness around them. Nearby two soldiers manned a machinegun protected by a concrete berm. A small heavily built sentry post was next to the machine gun nest and another soldier watched everything from behind an armored window. A fourth soldier was headed for them as Pandora appeared behind Iain with Kasumi. A second later Giselle joined them and released Nishiko and Ayame.
The soldier had paused until he was sure that nobody else was coming in too and Iain moved to meet him. “Good evening, sir. I will need to see some identification,” he said in careful English.
Iain produced a card from his pocket and handed it to the soldier. “Good evening, corporal. These people are with me,” he said quietly in Nipponese.
The soldier relaxed a little at the fact that Iain could speak a proper language. He read the card and stiffened. “Sir, I need to call this in.”
“I understand protocol, corporal.”
Kasumi joined him as the corporal headed for the sentry post at a quick walk. “What is happening?”
“They check the IDs of all incoming people and log them,” Pandora replied. “Iain has a special identity card that will let us pass without having to present all of our cards to them right now. It’s so exclusive that the guards have to verify it and him with someone else somewhere else in the government.”
“I still think it’s got some special code on it to make them call in so the government can more easily track my comings and goings,” Iain said quietly. “There’s some larger game going on, I can feel it even if I haven’t figured it out yet. We’ll just stick with a little trust as usual.”
Ayame looked puzzled. “A little trust?”
Heather flashed a grin. “Rule Thirty of a book that Iain likes to quote says that a little trust goes a long way and that the less you use the further you’ll go. You’ll hear that one a lot along with the enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy, no more and no less.”
“I like Rule Twenty Nine,” Iain said with a chuckle.
“You like a lot of those rules,” Pandora commented amusedly. “The sentry is returning.”
The corporal came back and handed Iain his card. “Sir, do you require an escort?”
Iain smiled and gestured at the women around him. “I already have one, corporal, but please thank your superiors for the offer.”
“Yes sir.” The corporal turned and headed for the sentry post.
Iain rubbed his hands together. “Ok, from here we ride.”
“Be right back!” Ganieda loped into a nearby alley. She returned less than a minute later, tucking something into a pocket on her skirt. “OK, I’m ready.” She lifted her skirt to her thighs and shifted to a centaur form. Iain was surprised to realize it was feline, with the final size being comparable to that of a riding horse, although her quadrupedal torso was longer with a narrower waist. Iain would put her shoulders at roughly sixteen hands or 163 centimeters. Her coloration and striping were unchanged. She crouched and laid down smoothly, looking remarkably like the statue of the Sphinx as she curled her paws beneath her and wrapped her tail around her side, if the Sphinx had possessed a female torso and bunny ears. She smiled at him. “Your ride awaits, sir.”
“Ride,” Kasumi said quizzically.
“It’s kind of a long walk,” Iain said. “We’ve got dozens of kilometers to travel tonight. I thought you’d ride on Giselle.”
The Pegaslut’s face turned pink in the floodlights as Kasumi turned to look at her. “Mistress, I haven’t been a quadruped for over twenty years. I am very sorry but I don’t think I could safely carry you.”
Kasumi nodded. “It has never been an issue before now, Giselle,” she said gently. “You have nothing to be sorry for.” She pivoted to face Iain. “And it wouldn’t matter as I have never ridden before.”
“Well, this I didn’t anticipate.” Iain shrugged. “We haven’t been there yet so we can’t teleport. Tokyo has strict rules about pokegirls flying at night and tends to reply to their presence with antiaircraft weapons and military pokegirl attacks. You’re going to have to ride with me.” He glanced at Giselle. “Kasumi is right that this isn’t your fault, but you are going to get time using your centaur form. I happen to know that April and Sofia are already planning scenarios where you’ll have to use both forms as well as flying in them.”
Giselle nodded solemnly. “I look forward to them, sir, and to the time when I can safely carry my mistress.” She looked at Ganieda. “Take good care of my mistress or I will know the reason why.”
The Splice’s ears flicked. “Threats? From you? I’ve seen what you call fighting and all you’d know from attacking me is what it feels like to bleed to death after I tear your throat out.”
“Enough.” Kasumi’s voice was hard. “We are clan and we do not fight in front of outlanders.” She looked at Iain. “Or has that changed?”
He shook his head. “No, I was about to stop it too. We’ll make them apologize in private.”
Pandora snickered. “Will that involve the traditional kissing and making up between them?” Both Giselle and Ganieda were suddenly staring at her and she smiled broadly. “I think it should.”
“Enough,” Iain said, obviously trying not to smile as he spoke. He slipped onto Ganieda’s back. “Kasumi, come here.”
She stopped when he slid back to make room for her. “I am not riding in front of you,” she said with a slight smile.
“You just said you’ve never ridden a horse or pokegirl,” Iain responded seriously. “If you’re in front of me I can keep you from falling off when Ganieda changes directions and you’re not expecting it. Also you can hang onto her torso and she’s got structural reinforcements to safely use her enhanced strength so you can’t injure her easily. If you’re behind me you’ll crush my ribs when you try to keep from falling off and it’ll still end up with us both being unhorsed, only at that point I’ll also be trying to breathe with punctured lungs.” He nodded at her surprised look. “I realize that you’d be more comfortable on a personal level behind me and I’d let you if you had some riding experience. This isn’t about some cheap thrills on my part.”
She eyed him for a second. “How do I do this?”
“You can either sit sidesaddle or astride. Sidesaddle is more demure for a woman in skirts while astride is more secure. It’s night, so nobody without enhanced vision or some kind of night vision device will be able to see your skirt is riding high if you sit astride.”
“You will be able to see though,” she noted.
“I have seen you in a swimsuit, Kasumi. I already know you have nice legs.” He managed not to roll his eyes as she still hesitated. It was almost worth it to let her be behind him and chance the broken ribs, but Ganieda had already warned him she wouldn’t allow it. “Can you run twenty six kilometers in one go? Because that’s how far we’re going and I don’t intend to spend the next ten hours getting there.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” Ganieda said.
Kasumi’s face set and she lifted her skirt so she could slip over Ganieda’s shoulders. She smoothed her skirt as best she could, put her hands on the Splice’s human waist and looked back at Iain. “You’ll have to put your arms around me.”
He did so, feeling the tension in her stomach. “Ganieda, up.” The Splice rose smoothly. “Follow the road west. We’ll go roughly ten kilometers before turning onto another road there and I’ll let you know when we’re getting close.”
“Yessir.” She slowly accelerated into a gentle trot faster than a human could run, but one that the pokegirls around her could keep up with while still remaining fairly alert. “If anyone drifts behind me, watch out for my tail blade.”
They’d been traveling for a while when Kasumi used her twee to contact Iain’s. You did not ask Ganieda to goad me, did you?
You know the answer to that is no. I wouldn’t do that to you.
Her head turned so she could glance at him. Why did you insist we come with you? You have not interacted with anyone other than that corporal and your ID made him fear you. I could smell it on him.
Iain gave a mental shrug. The war with Shanghai has allowed the Emperor to reconstitute some of the old ways, including recreating the Samurai class with some of their original rights. While I couldn’t kill that corporal, I could have easily made his life very difficult.
The Emperor made you samurai?
Nobody will explain what my ID card means and I haven’t yet asked Theodora to investigate. I am not a Nipponese citizen and foreigners have not been given rank inside the Nipponese Empire or made samurai for a very long time. All I know is that my card somehow indicates that I am some kind of VIP.
Kasumi hadn’t really been holding onto Ganieda and she slid to the left as the Snugglebunny skipped sideways to avoid a person who stumbled out of an alley in front of her. Iain clamped down to keep Kasumi in place as he held on to the Splice with his knees. She glanced back at him again as she got a firmer grip on Ganieda. “Thank you.”
“I am from samurai clans on both sides of my family,” she said quietly. “My mother was from the Fujiwara clan.”
“That’s pretty cool. The Fujiwaras clan was pretty powerful and is still that way.”
She glanced back at him once more. “My father claimed to be from a samurai family, but he has never said which one. Do you know which it is?”
“The Tendo family he’s descended from is part of the Takahata family, which is a cadet branch of the Oda clan.”
She turned enough to be able to look directly at him over her shoulder. “You knew what family my mother was from, didn’t you?” Her face was placid but that tone that said she might be angry was back in her voice.
He smiled disarmingly at her. “It’s nice to have what I thought confirmed.” She continued to look back at him. “I can’t help knowing what I know and I wouldn’t know less if I could.”
“No, you wouldn’t.” She turned to face front again. “That wouldn’t be in character for you.”
We need to take a five minute break, Pandora said through her bond. Heather isn’t used to running on a road surface this long and won’t admit how badly she’s hurting. I’m not sure about Dianthus but she may need a rest too.
“Ganieda.” Her right ear rotated to orient on him. “Stop up ahead where there’s a nice alley. We’re taking a ten minute break because I want to piss.”
She immediately began slowing and quickly stopped. “Well I can’t have you do that on my back,” she said with a chuckle. Her legs fold up as she lay down. “Iain has called a ten minute break,” she announced loudly.
Iain slid off of Ganieda’s back and turned to lift Kasumi off as well. “I could have gotten off,” she muttered as she straightened her skirt.
“Hey, I know you don’t want to flash your panties to me again and this way you don’t have to worry about it.”
She frowned. “I haven’t flashed my panties.”
He smirked. “Remember at your father’s house when you hopped up on the roof and made me climb up after you? You were standing on the edge of the roof wearing a skirt. They were bikini cut, light orange and the ruffle on the front was very cute.”
Kasumi’s mouth dropped. “I can’t believe you looked!” Her eyes narrowed. “Yes I can believe you did that to me.”
“Hey, I will look at what a woman shows me,” Iain said. “I didn’t hike up your skirt.” He looked at Pandora as Kasumi tried to think of a response. “Clear the alley and see if anyone needs a stamina or healing drink. We haven’t been doing a lot of running on hard surfaces and it probably sucks.”
She nodded. “Heather, watch Iain.” Then she trotted into the alley.
“You shouldn’t have looked,” Kasumi said quietly.
“It was just a glimpse, Kasumi.”
“And yet you were able to describe them in some detail,” she noted with a slight gleam of amusement in her eyes.
“I have an eidetic memory, just like pretty much everyone else that has a twee,” Iain pointed out. “I’m not a complete pervert who spent hours poring over that image. I’ve seen you in a swimsuit before, remember? That was much more memorable since I could see all of you in a fairly form fitting package.”
She shook her head but he could see she was fighting a smile. “You are such a barbarian.”
Pandora returned. “The alley is gross, but clear. You won’t be the first to urinate in there. I’ll stand near the mouth of the alley and don’t leave my sight. And watch where you step. Like I said, it’s gross.”
“I’ll be quick.” Iain hurried into the alley.
Iain slid from Ganieda’s back and lifted Kasumi off to join him. The moon had set and this part of Tokyo didn’t appear to have any electricity so it was very dark, with only the stars gleaming softly around the clouds in the sky to provide any light.
“Does anyone not have some way to see well in the darkness,” Iain asked softly.
“I can see well enough to fight, sir,” Ayame said, “but I cannot read or see color with my spell.”
“My night vision is not as good as my day vision,” Kasumi said. “May I have Nishiko and Ayame put up lights for us?”
“That sounds like an excellent idea. Start here and put more at sufficient intervals to the south that we can see the entire property.”
“The one I’m about to show you,” he said.
Kasumi frowned. “It seems that you have an almost childish urge to keep secrets for later revelation.”
Iain gave her a hurt look. “Almost childish? I’ll have you know that’s a completely childish impulse.” He flashed a grin. “And you’re not the first person to make similar observations about my behavior.”
“She is unlikely to be the last, either,” Pandora muttered. “Dianthus, sweep the area. Heather, you have the high watch. Stay alert as the lights may draw flying ferals.”
Lights began to appear around them as Ayame and Nishiko cast spells in rapid succession. They revealed a dilapidated structure that once had been a mansion modeled on a Japanese castle. A stone fence bounded the property, but parts of it had been demolished and fragments of stone from it were scattered all over the land the house sat on.
“It's not very pretty, is it,” Kasumi said quietly. “Why hasn't it been torn down?”
“The population of Tokyo went from over ten million to less than half a million during the Red Plague,” Iain replied. “While the government has been relocating people into Tokyo to try and stem the brain drain from the loss of all that technical knowledge, the population still hasn't risen to over a million. A lot of people resisted moving due to their jobs or heritage and since food isn't imported anymore, farming and fishing have become very important again. Both of those are very labor intensive in a low technology society, which even Nippon is struggling to get out of, considering the country has always been metal and petroleum poor. I should remember to offer to sell them oil. Farming also requires people to remain relatively local to their fields. There are lots of damaged places like this everywhere and nobody cares or has time to demolish them all.” He smiled thoughtfully. “I like it. I think it'd be gorgeous if properly restored.”
“It would be,” Kasumi said. “But obviously nobody wants to do that.”
“I just purchased this property,” Iain said, “and so if I want to restore it, I will hire people to do just that.”
Pandora was looking the place over. “Why did you choose this place?” Iain and Kasumi looked at her and she waved a hand to encompass the land in front of them. “The area is almost completely abandoned. You could have picked any property here, so what is so special about this particular one to make you spend money on it?”
“She has an excellent point,” Kasumi noted. “What is your reasoning for purchasing this property?”
“I guess it makes sense that you don't recognize it,” Iain said. “I'll give you a hint, Kasumi. We're in Nerima.”
She looked around again and her eyes went wide. “This cannot be. This looks nothing like my father's property. It must be at least three times the size of the school.”
“It's closer to five times the size of the property where you grew up,” Iain pointed at the part of the property closest to the road. “The property your mother inherited was actually this size but your father sold most of it to get the financing he needed for the construction of the dojo and your house. The money left over from it was the seed money he used to fund the school while looking for students.”
“My mother inherited this? I thought it had always been in my father's family.”
“If he told you that, he was lying,” Iain headed for the remains of the gate.
“Are you buying this for me,” Kasumi asked as she followed and their guards spread out around them. Ganieda shifted to her bipedal form, pulled a pair of panties from the pocket of her dress and quickly pulled them on under her dress before moving up to shadow Iain.
“I bought this because of you and not for you,” Iain explained. “It may be yours someday, but that depends on how our relationship progresses. Would you like me to rebuild the house or tear it down and build something more modern?”
“You will not touch my land,” a voice hissed as a shadow separated from a pool of darkness along the wall a few meters to the left of the gate. It resolved into a woman who stood a handful of centimeters taller than Iain. She had knee length hair that was purple black in the magical lights and her eyes gleamed green. She wore a kimono that had seen better days while the katana stuck through her belt looked almost new. Her hand dropped to the hilt of her katana. “Leave my land now or pay the penalty.”
“This land was abandoned over twenty years ago,” Iain said calmly. “The government took control of it a long time ago and they sold it to me. You're trespassing on my property, but I will be gracious enough to give you the time to gather your meager possessions and leave.” At the same time he reached out with his twee to Kasumi and all of the pokegirls in their group. If she attacks you are not to kill her. I want her alive. Be warned, she is a spirit folk and not a pokegirl so pokeballs cannot be used to capture her.
Giselle, we have not trained together, Pandora said. You and yours protect Kasumi while we protect Iain and capture this female.
The Pegaslut nodded unconsciously. Agreed.
The woman hissed again, revealing neat rows of razor sharp teeth. “Your penalty is your life, human. I am kami and I will give you one last chance to leave before I kill you all.”
“There are lots of empty houses around here for you to live in,” Iain said with an amused lilt to his voice. “I see no reason to let you live in mine.” His voice became cutting. “Get out.”
“You have made your choice.” She drew the katana in a blur. Heather's blunt headed arrow, aimed at the sword blade as it was being drawn, missed and instead took the woman just over her left hip. Light flared in a corona around the woman as the electrically charged arrow released its energy into her. She laughed once and launched herself at Iain in a run.
Dianthus' arrow was no blunt and the razor sharp head slammed into the woman's chest hard enough to slow her charge. The arrow shattered at the impact, leaving no visible damage except for a long tear in the fabric of her kimono.
Pandora stepped in front of Iain and her sword met the kami's in a blur of steel on steel that left an afterimage of sparks as their blades met again and again.
As he backpedaled, Iain saw Giselle grab Kasumi and vanish, followed an instant later by Ayame and Nishiko. They reappeared far to the side where they had an unrestricted view of the fight. Kasumi is clear. His bow appeared in his hands and he knocked an arrow as he kept retreating.
Crippled is acceptable? It was Ganieda, who had moved to be in front of Iain but not blocking his view of the battle as he moved backwards. She had been watching the kami's moves closely.
The Splice's tail snaked around and she grasped it in both hands just behind the blade before she flickered between where she was standing and appearing right behind the kami. The blade on her tail was suddenly sheathed in black energy and she drove it into the kami's back, severing the spine just above the first lumbar vertebra and punching out through her stomach before she whipped it free again. The kami shrieked and toppled forward, her sword spinning away as she hit the ground face first, Pandora stepping backwards to avoid splitting her skull open as she finished her last stroke.
Pandora whistled softly. “My sword is almost cut in two in several places.”
“She probably has an enchanted blade,” Iain said as he moved forward, his bow becoming his sword.
The kami tried to move her useless legs and glared at Iain and the sword he held. She raised her head, baring her neck. “Make it quick, human.” Blood began to spread across the front and back of her kimono.
He stopped a few meters from her. “How about instead you surrender to me and I have your spine fixed?”
“I refuse. I have no desire to be a human's sex toy.”
“I don't want you in my bed,” he said. “That would make my life a lot more complicated than it is now. You have my word of honor that I will not rape you or order you to pretend to want to be in my bed nor will I force you into the bed of anyone else.”
Her mouth twisted and she sneered at him. “The word of a human is worthless.”
His sword vanished back onto his arm. “Kasumi, please come here and reassure this spirit folk that my word is good.”
Kasumi stepped around Giselle, reaching out with her twee as she did so. Ygerna, is Iain's word good?
If Iain tells you that he is giving you his word, then you may trust it completely. You will find that for this reason he seldom makes a promise or gives his word. Is there trouble between the two of you?
No, but he wishes me to reassure someone else that his word is good. He has never broken faith with me, but you have known him longer than I have.
Ygerna's response was almost instant. If you trust my word as a Sidhe and a queen you may reassure this person without any fear of it being a lie. Iain will end his own life before he will allow you to be foresworn for him.
“Why should I care what one of your slaves says about you,” the kami spat at him.
“I am no pokegirl,” Kasumi announced as she stopped next to Iain. “I too am kami and if you will stop being stupid and use your senses for a moment you will taste the truth of that on the air.”
The kami sniffed the air and coughed once. “You are a spirit folk,” she said in wonderment. “Are you his slave?”
“I am not bound to him. He is my friend.” She glanced at Iain and decided to leave her statement at the easy truth.
The kami coughed again. “That is like being friends with a dog.”
“Perhaps,” Kasumi said coldly, “but like a dog, Iain is true to those that are true to him. And unlike many kami who might not, he will keep his word to you. If I were him I would be concerned that you would prove faithless with your surrender if he did heal you. Can you be trusted?”
The kami glared at her. “I would never dishonor myself that way. My word, once given, is unbreakable.”
Kasumi turned to Iain. “She speaks the truth.”
“That's great, but she hasn't surrendered yet.” Iain looked at her again. “What is your name?”
The kami spat blood. “I am Yuko.”
“Would that be Yuko who is the granddaughter of Toyotama-hime?”
Her eyes went wide. “How can you know this?”
He smiled. “I know things. If you'll surrender, I'll explain something very interesting to you.”
Kasumi looked at him. “You know her?”
“I know about her from my notes,” he said. “I'll explain later.”
“She's dying,” Ganieda said from where she stood. “I split the artery that runs along the spinal column and it's filling her body cavity with blood.”
“You do not want to die today,” Iain said earnestly. “And you won't if you surrender. Please surrender to me.”
“You did not fight me. Why should I surrender to you?”
“Once you're healed we can fight, but not to the death.”
“Iain,” Pandora snapped.
“Let him speak,” Ganieda said. “I didn't think he could beat me but he did. She shouldn't be much of a challenge.”
Iain looked up at her. “Please don't make my life any more difficult than it is now. Yuko is a very old and very powerful spirit folk. We got lucky today.”
Yuko's head dropped to the ground and she twisted it to look up at him. “What happens to me if I refuse to surrender?” Her voice was growing weaker.
“Then you will die today and Kasumi may end up not liking me very much later. But without your surrender and parole I can't trust you not to murder us when the first opportunity arises.”
“What is your name?”
“I surrender to you, Iain Grey.”
Iain looked at Pandora. “Get Siobhan.”
Pandora snorted. “Eve.”
The Megami-Sama appeared and released the Nurse Joy from her pokeball. “We were watching the battle, Iain, and were standing by to get involved if needed.”
“I shouldn't be surprised,” he said. “Siobhan, this is Yuko. Heal her wounds.”
“Yes, master, I mean sir.” She knelt and laid her hands on the kami's head. Yuko sighed once. “Sir, it will take a few minutes to heal the damage to her spine and abdomen.”
“I understand.” He looked at Pandora. “Put a guard on Yuko's sword but nobody touches it but her. It is hers and will remain that way until she breaks faith with us.”
“Yes, Pandora.” The Elf trotted to the katana where it lay and took up station near it.
Yuko looked up at him. “You give me back my sword?”
“You surrendered to me. That means I have your parole and I can trust you not to attack us so I won't dishonor you by keeping your weapon.”
Yuko gritted her teeth. “My surrender impels me to tell you that my sword is enchanted. You may want to keep it for yourself.”
“I figured it was when you almost cut through Pandora's sword since hers is far more than ordinary steel. It doesn't matter. That sword is yours unless you give it away and, no, I am not asking or ordering you to give it to me. I have my own sword and it might just get pissed off at me if I try to replace it.”
Yuko looked at Kasumi. “You say he is honorable. Can he lie?”
“He can and he is very good at it,” Kasumi said.
“Is he lying now about his sword?”
“I do not know.” She looked at Iain. “You had a sword earlier but I have never seen it before this and I do not see it now.”
Iain held out his left arm to show the black and silver blade on his forearm. “It's the sword tattoo.” It flowed down his arm and into his hand. “I actually don't lie when I don't have to.”
Yuko looked at the sword and back to him. “You are like no human I have ever known.”
“I hear that from many people,” he said dryly as the sword vanished back to its home.
Kasumi was eyeing him with interest. “And you have yet another secret. Shikarou would have bragged about such an ability and weapon to me long before now.”
Iain snorted. “I am not anything like Shikarou. He'd have told his girls to stand back while he fought Yuko.”
Kasumi scowled. “And then he'd have tried to bed her.”
“Yeah, and that would have been awkward later.”
“Who is this Shikarou?” Yuko slowly pulled herself into a sitting position. She looked at Siobhan. “You are a good healer.”
The Nurse Joy smiled at her. “Your injuries are severe, but fortunately not life threatening with me here.” She glanced at Iain. “Not like the time I had to keep him from dying.”
“Shikarou is a kami and Sidhe hybrid,” Iain said.
“Sidhe? Why would I want to have sex with one of those beasts or one of their half breed spawns?”
“Oh, you're going to be fun around Ygerna,” Eve muttered.
“I see no reason to speed that meeting,” Iain said. “What happened to your daughter, Yuko?”
“How do you know about me, human?”
“It's a long story. Let's finish getting you healed and we'll talk in detail about what I know and how I know it.”
“I am almost done, sir,” Siobhan said.
“Thank you, Siobhan. As soon as you're done, Eve can take you home so you can go back to whatever you were doing before we disturbed you.”
She smiled. “Thank you, sir. I am setting up a clinic in Port Arthur with some pokegirls there who have healing skills but no access to actual medical training, which we will provide. It's part of an outreach program across Texas that is being funded by Prometheus.”
“That sounds like an excellent thing. I'll look forward to seeing the reports of your progress.”
“Yes sir. It is nice to be helping more people than just the students I used to work on.”
“You have a kind heart, Siobhan.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Yuko watched as a tiny fire bloomed under Iain's outstretched hands and the kindling began to burn. He quickly fed bits of sticks into the flames until the fire caught and began to spread to the larger pieces of wood he'd positioned beforehand. He swung the kettle over the fire and settled back. “We should have water for tea in a few minutes.”
“Humans do not do magic,” she said flatly.
He cocked his head. “You might want to check your kimono. Your prejudices are showing.”
She looked down at herself. “While your slaves damaged my clothes, I am still decent.”
Kasumi smiled. “He means that you believe that no humans can do magic even in the face of evidence to the contrary.”
Yuko frowned. “What evidence?”
“Iain is human and he uses magic. You just watched him use magic to start that fire. Obviously your statement is incorrect.”
“We would not tolerate a human wizard and would kill one when we found him.”
Kasumi’s smile widened slightly. “The fact that you killed human mages does not mean they cannot do magic. It means you wouldn't let them.”
“If that's your opinion then it's a good thing that I have your parole,” Iain stated. “I'm not excited about you trying to kill me again.”
“You are wise to fear me,” her voice was amused and satisfied at the same time. “Are you ready to answer my questions?”
“I have to ask a few of my own first to ensure that I can honestly answer your questions. May I ask them?”
“Until you release me, I have no choice, human. You have my loyalty in almost all things.”
He nodded. “Are you Yuko, the granddaughter of Toyotama-hime?”
“I have already said that I am.”
“Actually, you only said that I couldn't know whether you were or not.”
She frowned and then looked surprised. “You are correct. I am Yuko the granddaughter of Toyotama-hime.”
“Is your daughter named Rikako?”
“My daughter is dead, but that was her name.”
“Is her daughter named Shizuko?”
“One of her daughters was. She is also dead.”
“Was her daughter named Mizuho?”
“My granddaughters had no children before they died. Shizuko died from the wasting sickness the humans brought when the slaves appeared. My line ends with me.”
“And there's another difference,” Iain muttered. “To answer the question you have asked, I am from another world very similar to this one. There, I had the power to see things in other universes from mine and I recorded some of them. One of these pieces of information was information about some spirit folk from Nippon and one of them was you. I have an excellent memory and recognized who you might be when you told me your name. That and the fact that you are tied to this piece of land made it certain as to who you are.”
He reached for the teapot only to stop when Nishiko blocked him with her hand. “I will attend to the tea, sir,” she said quietly. “Please continue your story.”
“Thank you, Nishiko.” Iain rubbed his chin for a moment. “There is a slight problem in that the Yuko that I observed was in another universe and not this one, so while I know a lot about her and her life, I do not have the same level of detail in regards to yours. And there are significant differences, as every world is a little different. In the world that I studied, Yuko had a daughter named Rikako who had a daughter named Shizuko who had a daughter named Mizuho, passing the blood of Toyotama-hime down the line. Each of them other than Yuko had conceived in a relationship with a human.”
Yuko scowled. “That is also true.”
“It meant that some of the children were born with their spirit folk powers locked, and that is important for this discussion. You see,” he turned to Kasumi, “your mother's name was Mizuho.”
Kasumi's eyes went wide. “It was,” she whispered. “Are you saying that I am related to Yuko?”
“Technically, no, you're not related to this Yuko. However, you are the great-great granddaughter of the Yuko of your world and she would have been almost identical to this Yuko. However, she is dead. The Yuko that we are talking to is her analog on this world.” He smiled at Kasumi. “I was hoping that someone from your line was still alive here and that is why I insisted you come with me so you could meet them.”
Yuko was staring at Kasumi. “You are of my line?”
“I carry the blood of your line but I am not of your line. As Iain said, I am of the line of Yuko of a different world.”
Yuko shook her head. “I heard his words. You are of my line. But I can feel your power. You are a full kami.”
“I was married to Shikarou. He has a spell that will awaken the full power of a kami.”
Iain glanced at Kasumi. I know that spell. Dominique could probably cast it, and if not, you should be able to.
Her head came around to stare at him. You would let me have such knowledge?
You are a Grey. If you need something and I have it, it is yours.
Yuko spoke, drawing Kasumi's attention back to her. “You said that you were married to this half breed. What happened? Is he dead?”
“No, he is not dead,” Kasumi blinked when Nishiko shoved a cup of tea into her hands. “We were married under human law and I have divorced him under that same law.”
Yuko took the cup Nishiko offered her and looked curiously at Kasumi. “Why did you marry him?”
Kasumi looked into the fire. “Now I am not sure. At the time I thought I could or did love him. Iain thinks I did so because it was the only way to escape being raped by my father's friend. At the time I was too weak to kill him when he would have finally tried.”
Yuko looked at Iain. “You know of her situation?”
“I do. I did not know her then.”
“What do you think about what she did?”
Iain eyed her for a moment. “I have done what I had to do in order to survive. I will never condemn someone else doing that. And Kasumi is my friend. If I could have been there without utterly destroying her future, I would have helped her even if she wouldn't have known who I was at the time.” He smiled slightly at Kasumi's look of shock. “It won't happen. The experiences you've had since have made you into the woman you are today and I wouldn't change that.”
Yuko turned shrewd eyes on him. “You care for my granddaughter.”
“I believe I have already said that Kasumi is my friend.”
“She means more to you than that.”
“Why do you care what she does or does not mean to me?”
Yuko smiled. “I am her grandmother and she is my only granddaughter.”
“That would be great-great granddaughter,” Iain observed.
Yuko shrugged. “Those are words that humans use. I can sense that she is of my bloodline and her grandmother was my granddaughter, was she not? Her Yuko is dead and my Shizuko is dead. She can be my granddaughter and I can be her grandmother.” She looked at Kasumi. “Is that acceptable?”
Kasumi looked stunned. “It is,” she finally got out, “grandmother. Are you mad at me for divorcing Shikarou?”
“I am not. We are immortal, child, and forever is a long time to be with someone who makes you unhappy. Leaving him was the best thing that you could have done if you were truly unhappy.” She smiled slightly, her sharp teeth glinting in the firelight. “Humans are the ones who believe that pairings should last forever, but they have a very short forever indeed. And that,” she said as she turned back to Iain, “is why I care what my granddaughter means to you. After all, I wish to hold her children someday.”
“I have a daughter,” Kasumi said quietly. “Her name is Kozakura and Shikarou is her father.”
“Then I will meet her someday, but is she small enough for me to hold?”
“No, she is an adult of over twenty years.”
“Then it would be difficult indeed for me to hold her in my arms.” Yuko nodded and turned her attention back to Iain. “If you favor my granddaughter and she is not unhappy with you, I will encourage Kasumi towards you.”
Kasumi turned bright red.
“If you’re immortal, then you’re still fertile so why don't you just have children of your own,” Iain asked, “and leave Kasumi alone to make her own decisions?”
“You are not desirous of my granddaughter? Your behavior suggests otherwise.”
“I want her free to make her own decisions without being pressured by anyone else.”
Kasumi looked at him. “Thank you, Iain, but we already know that you are interested in me and I am interested in you. The question is now if we can build a relationship.” She looked at Yuko. “If it pleases you, grandmother, Iain has already requested at least fourteen children. I am not sure if he was entirely serious or not.”
Yuko looked shocked. “That is impossible!”
“Nothing is impossible, grandmother.” Kasumi gave Iain a sidelong glance. “He is aware that I have always wanted a large family and that my previous husband did not. And he wants these children in addition to the children he already has.”
“That's only important,” Iain said quietly as Yuko turned wide eyes on him, “if grandmother here considers human children to be worth counting, which she should.”
“Why should I?” Yuko's question had genuine curiosity behind it.
“It was a group of humans that just captured you,” Iain said just as quietly. “So it is possible that this group of humans and their children can have some value, even when measured against the standards of the spirit folk.”
Yuko looked uncomfortable. “I was winning until that one got involved,” she gestured with her chin at Ganieda where she stood not too far behind Iain.
“I am human,” the Splice said proudly.
“Grandmother, you might have thought you were winning for a time because Iain told them not to kill you,” Kasumi said. “They were not fighting with their full might against you lest you accidentally be slain.”
We need to talk to Dominique about getting you an enchanted sword, Iain said to Pandora over their bond. While an outstanding alloy, yours did get pretty chewed up today.
Pandora didn't stop surveying their surroundings. I spoke to her about it while Siobhan was healing Yuko. She agrees and is moving weapons for those who need them to the top of her priority list. I believe she is going to bring it up with you when we return to Texas.
Yuko eyed Iain speculatively. “Is she right?”
He shrugged. “There is no such thing as a certain thing in a fight. Luck plays a factor in it too, but I will admit that we usually work to mitigate the effects of luck. If we’d sought your death, we'd have stayed at a distance and hit you with a variety of things looking for a weakness. If we’d determined that you had one, we’d have used the knowledge ruthlessly.”
We already know she seems to have a weakness to dark attacks as my dark blade penetrated her skin easily, Ganieda said to him. And there are several dark techniques that have a ranged element to them.
It's never nice to point out to someone as proud as Yuko is that we can kill her whenever we want. Iain smiled at Yuko. “It doesn't matter now. We're no longer fighting and hopefully we won't have to do that again.”
“And you have already defeated me,” she pointed out sourly. “Will you make me your slave?”
“Iain would never do that,” Kasumi snapped. “He is much better than that.”
“Enslaving Kasumi's new grandmother would certainly prove to be counterproductive to the positive relationship I am hoping that she and I can build together.” Iain smiled at both women. “I was actually thinking of offering you a job.”
“There is little difference between a slave and a vassal,” Yuko said.
“Are you familiar with the concept of the ronin and samurai?”
“Human concepts,” she muttered dismissively. “I know of them.”
Apparently a quick rethink was in order and Iain hurried to change tack. “That is true and I was thinking of asking you to become a guardian spirit for my family and their possessions here in Nippon. Since Kasumi is joining my clan, you'd be guarding her things as well.”
Yuko blinked. “You want me to be a guardian spirit? Why do you think I’d be one of those?”
“It’s really what you’re doing now by haunting and protecting this property,” Iain pointed out. “I’d just make it official and, more importantly, I’d extend the clan’s protection to you while you’re doing it. That would help to keep you safe.”
Yuko’s eyes narrowed. “Why would I need your protection?”
“You’re not really bothering to hide your presence here and eventually the Nipponese officials will find out about you. Since they don’t really believe in spirit folk that much, they will presume you are a pokegirl and dispatch a force to catch you. If you kill them all, they’ll just increase the power of the next capture team. The more you hurt or kill the more powerful they will know you to be and the more alluring the idea of making you part of their military will become to them. Eventually you will be captured and then they’ll chain you up and rape you repeatedly in the hope that you’ll bond to one of them. Your protests that you are a spirit folk will be ignored as the fevered delusions of a feral mind. When they do finally believe you, they’ll panic and murder you to keep you from getting free and taking vengeance on them. And then Kasumi won’t have her grandmother anymore and I might be blamed for it.” He smiled thinly. “It’s the last part that is actually important to me.”
“I am not important to you?”
He shrugged. “You’re not my grandmother. Both of them are dead.”
“But you care enough for Kasumi to extend your protection to me so that she will be happy?” Yuko smiled broadly. “If you marry her then I will be your grandmother too.”
“If it happens, then we’ll have to work something out,” he replied. “And then you’ll probably be at least somewhat important to me.”
Yuko laughed. “I like this one. His impertinences are at least amusing to hear.” She gestured at the property. “There is not much for me to guard.”
“Did you build this,” Iain asked.
“Kasumi,” he asked, “do you like the idea of living in a house like this, provided it is fully restored?”
“I think,” she said slowly, “that it could be an interesting experience. But it will cost a great deal of money to have it rebuilt.”
“I happen to have a great deal of money and I suspect the Nipponese government would be rather enthusiastic to hear I’m building a home inside the Empire since they’ll hope it’ll be a sign that I don’t intend to let the Empire fall. After all, Shanghai knows my name from their spies and I doubt they’d let me keep this place if they win.”
“They might bury your corpse here,” Pandora noted with a smile.
“OK that they might be willing to do. However, I don’t think it’s something I’ll have to worry about. Nippon isn’t losing yet.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “So we’ll be making frequent trips back and forth while coordinating the rebuilding of the house.” He looked at Yuko. “Are you willing to help with this?”
“I surrendered to you.”
“I don’t intend to keep you my prisoner forever. I’m sure that eventually that would cause some kind of friction with Kasumi. So I’d still like you to be the guardian spirit for our property here and to join the clan, but now you know you have family in the clan and when I come to coordinate the rebuilding Kasumi can come with me if she’d like so you two can get to know each other better.”
“I would like that,” Yuko said. “Will you do this, Kasumi?”
“I’d like that.” She looked at Iain. “Do you think that someday she might meet her other granddaughters?”
“I have other granddaughters?”
“I have two sisters. Their names are Akane and Nabiki.”
“I would like to meet them,” Yuko said.”
“That may be possible eventually,” Iain said slowly. “But there are still some things that Kasumi needs to learn first and this isn’t the time for that.”
Kasumi gave him a curious smile. “Oh? When will it be a good time?”
Iain gave a mental shrug. “This may not be pleasant to learn.”
Kasumi’s glare suggested she was starting to get angry again. “I am not fragile. Don’t start sounding like my ex-husband and tell me.”
“Your father and Genma are going to panic a great deal if Yuko shows up at your home.”
Kasumi blinked in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“They’re going to recognize her. They’ve met the Yuko of your world.”
“You said she was dead.”
“She is.” Iain looked into Kasumi’s eyes. “When your father married your mother, he was already a student of the Anything Goes style. Yuko was the guardian of your mother’s family and she was at the wedding. Soun’s master recognized the value of the land your grandmother held and coveted it. Happosai caught Yuko unprepared and poisoned her with a plant based toxin that spirit folk are weak against so that your mother would inherit the land and your father could build the school for the Anything Goes style on it. Your mother found Yuko while she was dying from the poison and after she died she inherited the property from Yuko in accordance with Yuko’s directives a short time later.”
Kasumi went pale and swayed where she sat. Slowly a little of the color returned to her face. “Does my father know,” she asked in a voice filled with dread.
“He suspected because of the timing, but has never inquired into the circumstances surrounding the inheritance. For him, Yuko was a troublesome spirit folk who claimed Mizuho was her family, but since your mother showed no signs of being spirit folk your father easily dismissed her claims as fantasy.”
“So her death wouldn’t have bothered him.” Iain shook his head. Kasumi looked at her hands for a moment before lifting her head to stare into his eyes. “My mother’s journals didn’t say anything about this.”
“I doubt you have a complete set. There are undoubtedly some gaps and some of them just might not be accidental.”
She nodded. “There are. But in the journals I did have she made her dislike of Happosai plain. She didn’t want him around and didn’t like the things he made my father do.” She swallowed hard. “And then she got sick and died. Did Happosai kill her too?”
Iain winced inside, but she’d asked the question. “He did, with the same poison that he used on Yuko. It’s why her sickness was so sudden and so catastrophic.”
“He is dead, mistress,” Giselle said as Kasumi stared at him with stricken eyes. “Do not forget that he is dead.”
Iain held out his hands to her. “Come here.” She got up and sank into his arms, pressing her face against his chest. He stroked her hair gently. “The answer to the question you are so afraid to ask is no. He didn’t know.” She nodded and began crying into his chest.
Yuko looked at him questioningly over Kasumi’s head. “What is the question?”
“Did her father know that Happosai had killed her mother,” Iain said quietly as he continued to stoke Kasumi’s hair, “and then do nothing about it.”
Kasumi lifted her head and stared at him with a tear streaked face. “I should have killed him,” she hissed. “Can you teach me to be a killer?”
“You already know how to kill,” he said gently. “What you want to learn cannot be taught under normal circumstances and I do not want to put you through the hell that it would take to turn a gentle soul like you into a killer. Practical you are, but a murderer you have no need to be.”
She finally gave a grudging nod. “But you are a killer, aren’t you?
Her eyes were fierce as they bored into his. “You will kill for me if I need it, won’t you?”
“Be careful what you ask for,” Pandora said warningly. “Iain isn’t just yours.”
Kasumi rested her head against Iain’s chest again. “As Giselle reminded me, Happosai is already dead. I have no one else that I would want Iain to kill so you need not worry, Pandora.”
“Not even Shikarou,” the Archangel asked. Giselle gasped.
“No.” Kasumi’s voice was firm. “I would not ask Iain to put himself into that position. Shikarou is no longer my husband and when he comes to demand that I rethink my decision, I will face him as the descendent of Toyotama-hime should and explain to him that the time to rethink that decision is already over. He will accept it or he will not, but I will never return to being his wife.”
“Hey.” Kasumi looked at Iain and he smiled. “The way of the spirit folk is the way of vengeance, remember? Face him as the descendent of Toyotama-hime if you wish, but also and more importantly face him as a Grey and know that I and the rest of your clan stand with you. You are not alone.”
“Appreciate what he offers,” Yuko said. “Being alone is difficult, even for us.”
“I believe I made you an offer,” Iain smiled at the spirit folk. “You can join our clan and not be alone either.”
Yuko shook her head. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”
“I believe I do. I am asking the granddaughter of Toyotama-hime to join us and lend us her strength and in return we will lend her our strength should she need it.”
Yuko met his gaze. “I was cursed to be barren. I cannot bring children to the clan and therefore I would be useless to you.”
“I disagree. As for being barren, you haven’t let my clan’s magic users see if we can break your curse.”
“I was cursed by Amaterasu.”
Iain smiled. “While I am sure that will be useful information when we explore as to whether or not your curse can be broken, that does not mean that it can’t.”
“Join us, grandmother.” Kasumi sat up to look at Yuko, feeling behind her until she found Iain’s hand and gripped it tightly. “I have seen Iain perform miracles. He never guarantees that he can succeed, but you can at least join us and let him try for you. Even if he cannot break your curse, you will still have a place with us.”
Yuko looked at Iain. “She cannot guarantee that. Only the leader of your clan can make that decision. What will he say?”
“I am the Grey,” Iain replied, “which means I am the clan leader. And I have already told you that you have a place with us if you want it. I never attached conditions to it and I will not.”
“Then I will join you.” She looked around. “Nippon is my land and I do not wish to leave it.”
“Then you don’t have to. Now that Giselle and the others have been here, Kasumi can come and visit in her spare time.” He looked around. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t planning to spend days here and I need to get back to the ranch.” He produced a phone from his pocket. “Kasumi, if you would please show your grandmother how to use this to contact you and me, and don’t forget to show her the verbal operation modes. Theodora, I know there’s a privacy issue involved, but until Yuko is comfortable with the phone I’d like you to please monitor it so we’ll know if she gets in trouble.
Kasumi nodded and took the phone, pushed away from him and settled down next to Yuko.
I will. Also during the next darkness cycle I’ll start seeding your property and the surrounding area with sensors.
Thank you. For the time being her status will be outer clan. If she wants promoted later she can work for the advancement.
And what if she wants to be inner harem?
Kasumi is unlikely to accept another kami in my life and she comes first.
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
Geradine - Human
Mother s & Children