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Loose Threads

Thirty Seven


             Iain watched as the dimensional gate closed behind them and shifted his view to the forward cameras. The view was almost identical to the rear view since they were above the Sun and some light minutes from Earth. “Theodora?”

            “I have contact with the satellite I left from our last visit and have verified it is Kasumi’s Earth. We’re headed solar south and anti spinward to rendezvous with the Earth, which should take place in about a day.”

            Iain looked at Allison. “You have the conn so you have to transfer it to Theodora if you want. I’d only take that away from you in an emergency.”

            The Umbrea nodded, her ears flicking. “Theodora?”

            “Yes, Allison?”

            “You have the conn.”

            “I have the conn.” She turned to Iain. “Rendezvous with the Earth area will be in twenty two hours and five minutes. I have updated your twee with a countdown.”

            “Thank you.” Iain rose. “If nobody has anything, I believe I have an appointment with Zareen to help change diapers and bathe kids. Anyone wanting to help is more than welcome.” Nobody moved and he chuckled. “Yeah, me neither, but I’m the dad and I have to play.” Whistling cheerfully, he headed off.


            The shuttle touched down and disgorged Iain, Kasumi, Nishiko, Dominique and Pandora before climbing back into the night sky to disappear. Kasumi looked around trying to understand where they were. They were behind an old looking house with what looked like rice paddies extending away into the darkness. She kept her voice low. “Where are we?”

            “We’re on Sadogashima, not far from Sawata and Mano Bay,” Dominique replied in a normal voice. “And the farm house is currently empty because we’re in the process of purchasing it and the associated farmlands and forest around it.”

            Kasumi knew that Sadogashima or Sado Island was an island in the Niigata Prefecture but other than that, she know nothing about the place. “How is this farm for sale?”

            “The family that owns it moved to Tokyo after the elders running the farm died and the current owners are not interested in farming,” Iain said. “There’s a lot more land with the property than is currently under cultivation and this gives us a base where we can keep busy and yet far enough away that your family can’t just drop by unexpectedly. The island is pretty quiet. It’s considered remote enough that at one time people were exiled here from Japan for the rest of their lives. The weather is warm and there’s less snow here than on the mainland in the winter but the winds can get pretty fierce from what we’ve been told. The only industries are tourism, agriculture and fishing. Oh, and this is the last home for the crested ibis in Japan, although there is only a tiny population here in the wild and the last remaining ones in captivity should die out in 2003.”

            “You know a lot about this.”

            “We’re cloning them back on One for Nippon and releasing them on Sadogashima there, so we’ve done some homework.”

            She eyed him curiously. “Will you be doing that here?”

            “It could be that previously unknown wild birds might be discovered on the island,” Iain said with a smile. “It’s mostly mountain and you never know where odd populations of endangered animals might pop up in that kind of situation.”

            “Why the crested ibis? It isn’t a bird that would feed feral pokegirls very well.”

            “We were asked to provide them. Prometheus was originally hired to provide sika deer across Nippon for the ferals and Nipponese to eat. One of the project leads there had worked on the crested ibis breeding program and it was one of his favorite animals so he diverted a moderate amount of funds for some small production runs of the birds. But they’re not the reason we picked this place. We chose it because it’s remote and for Japan the island has a tiny population that’s still shrinking. If we had to, the entire clan could set up here for a reasonably long period of time without being discovered and, if we’re being productive, a much longer time would pass before we were bothered by anyone. For now we’ll be rotating people down to give them the chance to be off of the ship for a while.”

            Pandora smiled. “And the fact that there are more noh theatres per capita on the island than anywhere else in Japan had nothing to do with your decision to base here.”

            “It was a factor,” Iain said, “albeit not a large one, but it means that we can go to plays for many months out of the year without having to leave the island, if we stay here that much.”

            Kasumi nodded. “What did you want to do first, see my family or rescue my mother?”

            “I think that we should probably rescue your mother first and then go see your family once she’s healed up and briefed but,” he smiled slightly, “the final decision is yours. You know the people involved a lot better than I do.”

            “How long will it take for my mother to recover once we have rescued her?”

            Iain looked thoughtful for a second. “Theodora says that purging the toxins and repairing any minor damage should take about three hours. The toxin works by shutting down the autonomic nervous system and in cases where a lot of it is administered death usually results from heart failure or fluid buildup in the lungs from partial paralysis of the swallowing reflex preventing the epiglottis from closing and causing the victim to drown in their own fluids.”

            Kasumi’s eyes were wide. “How did my mother die?”

            “She didn’t. She was, for her, and will be, for us, rescued before she can die and skip the intervening decade or so of the lives of the other people in her family because it would have screwed with your timeline too much. As for the replacement body, it’s already showing signs of incipient cardiac failure.” He frowned again. “Oh, by the way, the drug itself is extracted from a plant that is very rare but does grow on this island. Back on One it’s the primary reason we went there the first time since I needed the drug for the replacement body. It should be growing here on Six as well, but it’ll be high up in the mountains of the southern chain.”

            “Six, sir,” Nishiko asked curiously.

            “We needed a reference name for this world and six was the next number so it’s named Six.” He grinned. “I voted for Myrtle but I was told to shut up.”

            “He really did try to name this world Myrtle,” Dominique said with a laugh.

            “You make it sound like some kind of sneaky underhanded trick,” Iain pointed out sourly, “and I wanted to name the universe Myrtle. I merely commented that numbering these worlds was sort of impersonal and that perhaps we should try something more interesting instead.” He grimaced. “And we’re getting off topic. What the two choices boil down to is where you’re going to spend your time.” Kasumi looked confused and he elaborated. “If we rescue your mother first, you get to spend most of your time after she’s rescued hovering in medical and then with her while she gets used to the idea that she’s just skipped past roughly a decade of her family’s life or you can spend that time with your family instead of sitting in medical.”

            “How long do you think it will take my mother to come to terms with what has happened to her?”

            Iain shook his head. “We have no way to knowing the answer to that question. Still, if we want to hurry her transition along, we could use dreamtime to make the perceived time pass faster for her so it takes less time in the real world.”

            “As we are unsure how long it will take my mother to adapt to what was necessary to save her life,” Kasumi said firmly, “I believe rescuing her should happen before I discuss with my father that I am no longer married to Shikarou and that I intend to marry you.”

            “Very well,” Iain looked at Dominique. “If I recall correctly you need to set up the doorway here.”

            She nodded. “I do. And Theodora just reminded me that the cattle are supposed to arrive on the island in three days.”

            Kasumi looked at Iain. “Cattle? How is that you have cattle here?”

            “We bought fifteen Japanese shorthorns while you and Iain were off seeing the world during our first visit here.” Dominique said. “They were being shipped here by truck and ship from Iwate and should be landing on the island three days from tomorrow. We will need to make the arrangements to have them brought here from the port but April knows what to do.”

            “We also need to sweep the area for spirit folk before Yuko sets foot on this island.” Iain said. “Canaan and Ganieda will need to be involved to help identify the local power structure.”

            “Maybe we’ll get lucky and there won’t be any,” Pandora said.

            “I’m not counting on luck. It seems like every time I do someone gets hurt.” Iain looked at Kasumi. “I’d suggest we get the door done and we’ll plan to leave tomorrow around sundown. I need to talk you through how to pull up the memory we’re going to need to travel.”

            “Good. I have been talking with Theodora on the clothes we will wear.”

            Iain blinked. “You have?”

            “Yes. We will discuss it later.”

            “Do I get a say in this?”

            “Later,” she repeated firmly. “We will discuss this thoroughly when I give you the memory you will need to take me to rescue my mother,” she smiled slyly, “who is soon to be our mother.”

            Iain blinked. “Oh, shit. I’m getting a mother in law.”

            “And you are saving her life,” Dominique said amusedly.

            “Maybe I need to rethink that idea. That’s right up there with sticking your hands into rotating machinery and not expecting to lose a limb or at least some fingers.”

            Kasumi gave him a sad look. “You offered to rescue my mother and I cannot do this without you, but you raised my hopes of seeing her again. Are you going to deny me this simple pleasure?”

            Pandora chuckled at the shocked expression on Iain’s face. “There’s that verbal judo you mentioned in Where None Has Gone Before. She’s very good at it. How does it feel to have it applied to you?”

            “Surprisingly painless,” Iain replied, “probably because I never changed my mind about rescuing Mizuho.” He grimaced. “I’d disappoint Kasumi and piss off Yuko, who is in orbit above us. I’d like to think I’m not quite that stupid. Then there’s the whole I care about Kasumi and I want her to be as happy as possible thing too.”

            Kasumi’s sad look vanished as if it had never existed. “Thank you, Iain.”

            “You’re welcome. Dominique, get that door open so we can get security in place here. While I don’t think I have any enemies on this world, that seems to be when I get jumped and there’s the whole thing about all of these humans with minor superpowers running around and me being a trouble magnet to consider.”

            Dominique laughed. “You have enemies here. All of the guys who met any of us on our last visit and got ignored when they tried to pick us up would probably cheerfully back a car over you. So, yes, I’m on it.” She jogged for the house. “I should be done in an hour.”

            “While she’s working on that,” Iain said, “how about I give you a tour of the empty farm. You can see our nice dry rice paddies that we get to replant and I’ll show you where we’ll be putting the cattle, at least initially.”

            “I’d like that.” Kasumi rested her hand on his arm. “Will there be chickens so I can gather the eggs?”

            “That’s right; Kasumi Tendo is living the dream.”

            “Soon, I hope, I will be Kasumi Grey. Now, please show me around.”


            “Theodora told me not to worry about what I was going to wear and that you’d be bringing it with you,” Iain said. He was trying very hard not to be irritable about the whole thing, but he wasn’t sure he was successful as Kasumi immediately looked very apologetic.

            “I intended to discuss this with you beforehand,” her tone was contrite, “but then we got busy with the farm and I, um, forgot.”

            “Having too much fun?”

            She blinked at the gentle amusement in his voice and gave a hesitant smile back. “Yes. Magic is my life and I would never renounce it, but I love farming almost as much as magic.”

            He chuckled. “That’s probably because successfully coaxing crops out of the ground is very like magic in its own way.” A table with refreshments had been set up in his laboratory and he gestured towards it. “Please sit down so we can start working on the memory I’m going to need for this trip.”

            Kasumi settled into one of the chairs arrayed around the table and put a bag on the floor next to her. “Ganieda, Canaan and I have been discussing what I will have to do,” she said calmly. “They’ve been helping me with the exercises to visualize the memory the best possible way for you to use.”

            “I see,” Iain eyed the bag. “I take it those are my clothes?”

            “Both of our outfits are in there.”

            “Outfits? This is starting to sound ominous.” He pulled another chair around in front of hers and sat down. “All right, I want you to close your eyes and focus on the day your mother died.” Kasumi obediently closed her eyes. “The first thing I want you to do is, in your mind, walk through your house, starting at the front door and moving all the way to the back and then upstairs and finally, back downstairs and outside near the pond.”

            Her eyes still closed, Kasumi frowned. “We did not do this as part of the preparation for this mission. What does doing this thought exercise accomplish?”

            “As you walk through the house,” Iain continued without responding to her question, “I want you to remember where your family members were, as well as any possible visitors or guests. I intend to exit the shadow walk in your mother’s room, but if for some reason we arrive elsewhere in the house we may have to sneak through the house to get to her and I will be carrying a body, making being silent rather difficult. So I want to know where everyone was during that day that you know about and can remember.” He waited for a minute. “Let me know when you are done.”

            Sometime later she opened her eyes. “I am.”

            “Good. Now close your eyes again. I want you to focus on the last time you were in your mother’s room and she was alive. Remember the time of day. I want you to remember as much as you possibly can about that visit. What did the room smell like? What did the sun look like through the window? What sounds did you hear? What did the floor feel like beneath your feet? What were you feeling at that moment?” He waited for several heartbeats. “Now tell me what the one thing that is the most prominent in that memory is.”

            Kasumi smiled slightly without opening her eyes. “You need to take a copy of the memory now, Iain, for I cannot adequately answer that question until you do.”

            “Very well.” Iain touched her forehead with his index finger and pulled a small golden globe of light from it. Her eyes opened and she watched intently as he slid the globe into his temple and closed his eyes. A second later they popped open in surprise and he looked at her to see her still staring at him with an almost frightful intensity. He raised an eyebrow. “Are you waiting for me to be angry with you?”

            “I am not sure how I expected you to react,” she said as she visibly relaxed. “But now you understand what I could not have told you before now.”

            He nodded. “Yes, I think I would have had a small problem believing you if you’d just told me that you saw us taking your mother and thought we were kami come to escort her to the afterlife.” He eyed her briefly. “Your hair isn’t long enough.”

            “I was told you can grow it out for me just as you evened it up before,” she responded confidently. “Will you, please?”

            “I will.” Iain quickly examined the bag before picking it up. “So I have a black keikogi and you have a white one.” He got up and tossed the bag to her. “You can change downstairs and then I’ll grow your hair out.”

            She got up. “Are you upset with me? I am having a hard time reading your mood.”

            He smiled. “Do you normally have an easy time reading my mood?” He gestured at his head. “I don’t have those flags that Shikarou has on top of his head.”

            She chuckled. “I do not have an easy time trying to read your mood, but I wish to learn more about how to read your mood than I know now and this is a time where you seem to be more neutral than usual. You are smiling, but only your mouth is. Your eyes tell me nothing and that worries me.”

            His smile vanished. “How long have you known we were going to rescue your mother?”

            “I only realized what was going to happen after you offered to rescue her for me. While I remember the event clearly, that happened decades ago and I didn’t associate you with that event until you made your offer. That offer made me remember that day and the two kami I saw that day so long ago and I recognized you and realized, after thinking about it for a moment, that the female kami had to be me.” She smiled. “I was ready to be angry with you because until I realized that the woman was me with longer hair I thought she was some Nipponese woman that you favored over me. When we were discussing saving my mother I still wasn’t sure it was me and then I realized that I could make sure it was me by insisting that I go with you and refusing to give you that memory until it was time for us to go. That is why I haven’t given it to you before now. You no longer have time to find someone else to take instead of me.”

            “You’re jealous of me?”

            Kasumi’s cheeks colored slightly. “Jealous isn’t the word that I would first think of using in relation to you, Iain.”

            “And pray tell, what is that word?”

            “Possessive.” He looked surprised and she smiled again. “You are mine and I am not going to share you against my will. I willingly share you with my family.” She frowned. “I will share you with my clan family. I will not share you with Nabiki.”

            He cocked his head curiously. “Were you this possessive of Shikarou?”

            “I was not. If I had been, we would have fought over his affairs as soon as I realized what was taking place.”

            “And me?”

            “You will not be alone with Lieutenant Tokunaga until after we are married. And you may not be alone with her even after that. I do not trust her to be honorable.” She glanced down and looked up into his eyes. “And I am not sure I want you alone with my grandmother. She lies about what she wants in relation to you.”

            “So I have heard,” Iain said quietly. “But I want to make sure I understand this. You are possessive of me, but you weren’t possessive of Shikarou.”

            She colored again. “That is correct. I hope you are not upset about this.”

            “I am not. In fact, I am pleased you care for me so much that you’re willing to be possessive and I hope you only become more possessive of me as time passes.”

            “I can easily see your hope becoming reality.”

            He nodded. “Now go get changed. We have your mother to rescue.”

            Kasumi grabbed up the bag and headed for the stairs down. She was back a few minutes later, wearing a white keikogi. “I left your outfit on the bed.” She stopped directly in front of him, her eyes bright. “Now you can make my hair longer.”

            Iain nodded and then frowned. “Hold still.” He bent over slightly and peered at her face as she froze. He gently touched her cheek. “Your yokosuji are beginning to appear.” She blinked in surprise and he stepped back. “You won’t be able to hide being kami from your family for much longer without magic or makeup.”

            “I became a kami as an adult and Shikarou didn’t think I’d ever have them,” she said quietly.

            “Well, what does he really know about your lineage,” Iain asked with a smile. “He thought you were just a human when he transformed you into a kami. Now turn around so I can grow out your hair.”

            She obediently turned in place. “What color are they?” She glanced at him over her shoulder. “And is the color somehow significant?”

            “Face front.” She did so as Iain continued. “Yours are still pretty faint but I think they’re going to be the color of your eyes so they’ll be dark brown. As for its significance, yokosuji show that you’re spirit folk and relatively powerful. Usually they’re the color of your eyes and or hair. When they’re not, I haven’t really wondered why.”

            Her voice was teasing. “I thought you considered the why of everything.”

            He chuckled. “If I did that I’d have no time for anything else or for anyone else and you can imagine how poorly that would go over in the family. Not to mention it would be kind of dull for me, too.”

            “Shikarou says he has to have sex regularly or he will produce pheromones like Devon. Are you like that and you have to have sex all of the time?”

            “Do I have to?” Iain shrugged. “I’m not claiming I’m a god of sex or anything like that. I can tell you that I’ve gotten used to having sex regularly and I like it a lot better than the alternative.” He stepped back. “Your hair is finished. Theodora, let’s have a mirror for Kasumi if you don’t mind.”

            A mirror appeared next to Iain as Kasumi turned around. She cocked her head. “How did she do this?”

            “It’s a hologram,” Theodora said without manifesting. “The hologram reflects like just like a mirror would so it works perfectly well as one, except mine has no flaws in the glass or mirroring at all, so it is actually perfect. That means that any imperfections are the fault of the observer or of the object being observed.”

            Kasumi looked at Iain with amusement. “Is that her way of saying if I do not like what I see it is not her fault?”

            “I believe it is.”

            Kasumi looked at herself in the mirror and smiled when she saw her hair now came down to mid-thigh. “Fortunately for my sister, I love what I see.” She gathered her hair up and pulled it around in front of her. “I understand,” she said to Iain, “that you prefer women with long hair.”

            “I like the women that I like,” Iain replied. “Long hair can be fun and very pretty and it can also be an unmitigated disaster sometimes, especially if unconfined in bed or microgravity. Short hair can be nice too, if done properly.” He watched her play with her hair in the mirror for a minute and shook his head before heading for the stairs. “I’ll be right back.”

            When he returned the mirror was gone and Kasumi was in his laboratory chair reading something on her handheld. She looked up. “You look nice. Are you ready to go?”

            “I am.” He glanced up. “Theodora?”

            “I have finished cutting the hair of the replacement body to match Kasumi’s memories of Mizuho’s hair and the nightgown and panties are on their way to medical. It was fortunate that she helped care for her mother in her final days. Shall I dress the replacement or will you?”

            “I would rather you did,” Kasumi said as she put her phone away. “If you can do that it will prevent Iain from handling the nude body of someone identical to my mother. I’d prefer he didn’t.”

            “I understand the sentiment,” Theodora said as she appeared next to Iain. “I must correct something, however.  The replacement was deliberately designed to not possess the mental architecture to ever be sentient and therefore cannot be a person, which you suggested it was when you said it was someone. Iain and I are aware that you would not want us to murder a person to rescue a member of your family unless that person was evil. And as the body was deliberately poisoned to die soon after being left in the way that Mizuho would have without our intervention,” her voice trailed off as she cocked an eyebrow inquisitively.

            “I appreciate that,” Kasumi said as she rose. “Still, I would prefer my fiancé not to handle the nude bodies of anything or anyone who looks like any other member of my family unless absolutely necessary.”

            “I’m good not having to drag around a dead weight while trying to shove it into a nightgown and a pair of panties no matter what or who it looks like,” Iain said. “How long will it be until we can get the replacement body?”

            Theodora visibly considered. “Call it forty minutes. After it’s dressed I want to drain the bladder one last time before you try to carry it.” She nodded towards Kasumi. “And then I would like you to verify that everything is accurate while you’re making sure Iain can’t see anything revealing.”

            Kasumi glanced at Iain and her cheeks colored but she smiled. “I will be happy to.” She turned to Iain. “I realize that you have probably seen my sister’s bodies with your perception, but I also know you’re not interested in them sexually and that you weren’t deliberately peeping on them.”

            “True and true,” he said quietly.

            “Have you also seen my father that way?”

            “I can’t turn this power off,” Iain said. “That means I see inside the clothes and bodies of anyone I am around. I’ve gotten used to it and it’s not usually remarkable, although I must admit I was intrigued by the differences in Ranma’s muscular structure between his two forms.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “His left upper arm’s muscle has tissue scarring from a cut he received when he was very young while his feminine form shows no sign that her arm was ever injured. This suggests that they are really two separate bodies with Ranma’s consciousness the only thing they share. If I get the opportunity, I definitely intend to ask Ranma and Genma as well to provide me with DNA samples from both forms so I can satisfy my curiosity.”

            “I didn’t know you could see inside people.”

            “No matter what Eve thinks and tells people,” Iain said, “it’s actually difficult to stop my vision at the clothing skin demarcation. It’s easy to do it at the demarcation between skin and air so when you are nude with me I will see you in toto, but when someone is wearing clothes and I’m not focused on their external body I tend to see inside them more often than not.” He smiled. “So usually I see their exterior with my eyes and their interior with whatever sense I use for my perception at the same time.”

            “If the two of you eat the snack I’ve prepared,” Theodora said as a tray floated into the room and settled down next to the table, “when you leave here you’ll arrive at medical not long after I’m done prepping the body and it will be ready for Kasumi’s inspection.”

            “Sounds good,” Iain pulled waved Kasumi back into his chair and claimed one of the ones that had come with the table. “Let’s see what we’ve got today,” he said as he lifted a tureen lid.


            “She looks just like my memories of my mother,” Kasumi said quietly as they looked at the replacement body lying on a gurney. “It’s frightening.”

            “It isn’t her,” Iain replied. “This is just a facsimile and we’re going to use it to rescue your mother. And it looks like your memories of your mother because the clothing and hair is from your memories.” He reached for a bag that lay at the end of the gurney and pulled out some straps. “Help me secure it.” One strap went around each wrist and then was secured around the waist while the others went around the body’s ankles and knees, locking the legs together and the arms against its sides.  The straps would make the body easier to maneuver and carry. “Do you want me to carry it?”

            Kasumi hesitated and shook her head. “I don’t want to touch it but I don’t want you near it more than I loathe the idea of handling it.”

            “You know, it is possible to be too possessive.”

            Kasumi looked up quickly and relaxed when she saw his amused smile. “Perhaps,” she said with a smile of her own, “but I do not think that you need fear that happening just yet.” Her smile faded. “And again your technique of distracting me worked. I am no longer hesitant to do what must be done.” She picked up the body and draped it over her left shoulder. “It is lighter than I thought it would be.”

            “You are kami and the appearance of your yokosuji suggests your power level will be growing as they develop since they’re a sign you are coming into adulthood as a spirit folk. Dragons tend to become more powerful as they age and I suspect dragon kami will too. I asked Yuko about it and she deftly stepped around the question. I think she’s fearful of revealing too much of her capabilities at any one time.”

            Kasumi reached out and took his hand. “Isn’t it true that you also avoid that type of revelation as much as possible?”

            “I am not afraid of revealing my abilities,” Iain replied as he wrapped his magic around himself, Kasumi and the body she carried. “I’m smart enough to know it’s a bad idea in a world filled with pokegirls who would like nothing more than to swaddle me in bubble wrap and tuck me away somewhere safe until the time for sex rolls around. The problem is that the more I show I can do, the more dangerous a situation I should be safe in and the thicker that layer of bubble wrap they want to engulf me in becomes.”

            “Is there a thickness greater than infinite,” Theodora asked as her hologram materialized. “Because that’s the thickness I believe certain members of your family would like to employ for your protection. Others, however, understand that you need to be allowed to be part of this family and they won’t let the scared ones isolate you.”

            “True.” Ian shrugged as he picked up a small bag that sat on a nearby stand and tucked it into his belt. “But there are two rules to success in life and the first is to never tell anyone everything that you know.” He looked at Kasumi. “Are you ready?”

            She nodded resolutely. “I am.”

            “Then step with me,” he paused, “now.” They stepped and the world rotated around them.

            They were standing on a ridge overlooking a valley full of verdant trees that swayed in the breeze travelling up the valley towards them. Birds swirled overhead and the sun was high in a nearly clear sky.

            “It’s beautiful,” Kasumi said.

            “It is.” Iain looked around. “And it appears to be either very earthlike or Earth.”

            I am picking up television and radio signals received from your handheld computer, his twee said. The language is similar to Japanese but different enough for translation to be impossible without a larger data sample. The living beings in the television images are of mostly human looking beings, although some are of humanoid animals, dinosaurs and I have seen at least one dragon based biped.

            “What is that,” Kasumi asked, “above us? Are those people?”

            Iain looked up. Two things were flying in close formation at a high altitude. He shifted his vision and resolved the scene. Once he could see them in detail he realized that they were people. Both were male and wearing blue and yellow body armor of some kind and he stared for a second before focusing on the ground in front of him and Kasumi. His voice was tight. “We need to go. Step with me. Now.”

            It was bitterly cold and Kasumi felt prickles in her nose as the moisture in her exhalation froze almost instantly. They stood on an unbroken ice sheet that extended away from them to the horizon Wind howled around them too loudly for speech and she felt Iain’s hand tighten around hers and tug her forward.

            They stood in her parent’s bedroom and her mother’s dying form lay covered in blankets in front of them. Kasumi let Iain’s hand go and moved forward to drop the body she carried onto the bed between her mother’s body and the wall. Quickly she began removing the bindings from the body and laying them next to her mother. “You knew those flying people. I could hear it in your voice. Who are they?” As they’d agreed, she spoke English since she didn’t learn to speak it until she was much further along in school than the Kasumi they’d meet today was.

            “I know of them. We’ve never met and I doubt we ever will.”

            “I asked who they are.”

            “Their names are Vegeta and Nappa and if they are together that Earth is not one we want to be on at that particular time. How is your mother?”

            Kasumi glanced up at him. “I do not like the fact that the replacement body has better color than she does.”

            “Who are you?” This came from the doorway and was asked by a young female voice in Japanese.

            Iain turned to see a girl staring at them. In her face he could faintly see the woman Kasumi would become one day. “Hello, Kasumi. You are not supposed to be in your mother’s room without your father, are you?”

            A slightly guilty look crossed the girl’s face. “No, but neither are you.”

            Iain heard the soft feminine giggle from the direction of the bed and ignored it. “That is not true. I am supposed to be here. Your mother is very sick and it is time for her to leave. We are here to take her to where she should go.” He knelt to make himself closer to her height. “Now you need to go to your room and you are not to tell anyone that you saw us here today. Your father would not believe you and you would just get in trouble if you did, both for lying to him and for being in the bedroom without him.”

            “Are you a kami?”

            “I am.”

            She bowed to him. “What is your name, master kami?”

            “You don’t need to know my name, young Kasumi Tendo. You need to turn your pretty little self around and go to your room where you need to wait for one hour.”

            Kasumi looked into his eyes for a long minute. “Mother is in a lot of pain, isn’t she?”

            “She is.”

            “You will make her pain go away?”

            “I will. I promise you that.”

            She nodded. “I will miss her.”

            “I know you will,” Iain said gently. “You will see her again someday.”

            She nodded again. “When my time comes, will you be there for me too?”

            “If it is within my power to be there for you when that day comes, I will.”

            “Thank you. I will look forward to seeing you again, master kami.”

            “You will, Kasumi Tendo, for that I can promise you. Now go to your room.” She bowed again and then padded out of the room. Iain stood and closed the door. “We need to move quickly,” he started to say only to stop with a grunt when Kasumi rushed over and threw her arms around him to hug him tightly and press her head against his chest. He hugged her back. “Kasumi?”

            “I had been so worried about my mother,” she said softly. “Even while she was unconscious I could see just how much pain she was in and I could see how it was destroying my father even as he tried to hide it. Her final release was a blessing for all of us. I had forgotten how happy your words to me made me feel and gave me strength in the years to come.” She looked up at him. “I built a little shrine to you. I still have it, although I haven’t prayed to it since I met Shikarou.”

            “Well, from now on if you have a question or a request, you can just ask me.”

            She smiled up at him and released him. “It was very odd to know she was me and hearing her say the words I said to you when I was a little girl was disquieting. Your words still brought me comfort and they do even today when I knew they were for her and not for me now. Will you truly be there when I die?”

            “I don’t intend to let that happen for a very long time and it isn’t really what I told you, Kasumi, since your mother isn’t dying today either.” She raised an eyebrow and he shrugged. “If I am there when death comes for you then I’ll fight him tooth and nail to keep you alive. It is very likely that I will be dead before you or any of my other wives are if I have any say in it.”

            “Just as I and the others will fight to keep you alive, Iain.”

            “I understand and, considering the fate that awaits me after my death, you won’t hear me complain about people trying to help keep me alive. The complaints start when that help involves me not being allowed to do anything that might be dangerous at all.” He stationed himself near the door. “Do you need help strapping up your mother?”

            “I do not. The instructions that you and Theodora gave to me through my twee are more than sufficient to make securing my mother for transport a relatively simple matter..”  Kasumi worked quickly and soon her mother was ready for transport.

            “Don’t pick her up.” Iain came over as he pulled the bag from his belt. He removed a soft, thick hinged collar that reminded Kasumi of a cervical brace and slid it around her mother’s neck before fastening it into place. Activate medical unit, he told his twee.

            It is activated and searching for the jugular veins and carotid arteries. It found them. There was a pause. Needles are inserted and drug regimen is commencing. Kasumi’s mother twisted and moaned once, her eyes opening for a second and then sliding shut once more. Then she was still.

            “What did you do,” Kasumi asked tensely.

            “I had Theodora make this medical unit in order to start your mother on the antidote for the poison immediately. Her research suggested that your mother might be so close to death that moving her might prove problematic otherwise.”

            “You didn’t tell me.”

            “No, I didn’t.” He met her gaze. “You already were worried about this more than enough. You didn’t need to hear that moving your mother might kill her before we could get her to the ship. This thing has a cardiac monitor too and if her heart stops we can restart it if necessary using leads from the collar.”

            “And if it doesn’t start?”

            “Then I’ll crack her chest and manually manipulate her heart while we travel. I did some homework. I can give her five squeezes and then we’ll have time to cross a world or two. It shouldn’t take more than that to get home. If it does, we’ve got bigger problems. Now pick her up.”

            Kasumi hoisted her mother carefully onto her shoulder. “I am ready to leave.”

            “Good. Now turn towards the door and take four steps towards it. Do not look back here.”

            Kasumi obeyed even as she asked her question. “What are you doing?”

            “I’m keeping my promise to a little girl.” Iain pulled a small canister from the bag and unfolded a long thin spray tube from the nozzle. He inserted it as far as he could get it into the replacement body’s nose and then covered its face with the bag before activating it for several seconds. The sprayer held the same toxin that had been used to poison Kasumi’s mother as well as the replacement, but the dose the sprayer held was so concentrated that even with her twee, if Kasumi breathed the fumes it would make her sick for minutes they couldn’t spare. The body jerked violently and then went still as the air rattled from its lungs in one final exhalation.

            When Iain turned around while tucking the bag back into his belt, Kasumi was watching as tears slowly trickled down her face. “I had wondered about that,” she said almost too softly for him to hear. “She died this day and the replacement seemed too healthy for that to happen.”

            “Your mother is still alive,” Iain reminded her firmly. “You carry her life in your hands and I will protect both of you with mine.”

            She blinked away the tears and nodded as her eyes gleamed with determination. “Let us get her back to the Theodora.”

            “Wait just a second.” Iain opened a cabinet. Inside, neatly arranged, were Mizuho’s journals. Iain touched each in turn and they glowed with a soft amber color as he did. He shut the cabinet door quietly. “Now we can leave.”

            “What did you just do?”

            “I’ve recorded the contents in my memory. Theodora will use that memory to recreate your mother’s entire set of journals for the both of you.”

            Kasumi smiled at him. “You do too much for me, but I thank you and will happily accept this fine gift.”

            “Good. Now we’re going.” Iain took her by the elbow. “Now step when I say to.” His power swirled into place around Kasumi and her mother. “Step.”

            They stood on the edge of a glade in an old growth forest. It was morning and birds chirped while the rustle of squirrels sounded in the near distance. “It is pretty,” Kasumi murmured.

            “Yeah, it might be worth coming back later to see what’s here.” Iain glanced at her. “But we need to get your mother to medical first.”

            “You will not move until I allow it, trespassers,” a male voice said from their right.

            Iain looked and his eyes went wide in surprise at the equine creature facing them. “You’re a real unicorn.” He looked closely. “And you’re male.”

            The stallion faced them with his horn leveled at Iain. “Your eyes work, intruder,” he snapped. “Before I kill you, tell me what you are doing trespassing in the heart of our forest.”

            I cannot move my feet, Kasumi said to him through her twee. Plants are holding us in place.

            Iain looked down with his perception to see that the grasses had grown up over their boots and woven into strong looking bindings. He kept his eyes on the unicorn. “We’re just passing through and exited a magical transport here by accident. We will leave as soon as you release us.”

            The unicorn’s leonine tail slashed the air. “It is forbidden for any others than the members of the herd to be here. Your lives are forfeit by your presence.” He cocked his head slightly as his ears pricked curiously. “Why does the woman carry another woman?”

            “The woman being carried is injured and we are taking her for healing,” Iain said. “Please, I implore you to let us continue on our journey. We won’t ever return here if you wish. I like unicorns and I don’t want to have to harm you.”

            “Harm me?” The unicorn’s horn came back into line with Iain’s chest. “I am going to kill you, intruder, and then the two women. You cannot stop this.” Dirt flew from under his hooves as he charged.

            Iain created a ball of hellfire in his right hand and hurled the mass of black flames at the unicorn. It hit on his shoulder and black fire exploded over the equine’s body, engulfing it. The stallion went down, squalling in agony as a pillar of black smoke climbed from him to the sky. “Next time,” he muttered as he knelt and used more hellfire to clean the grass from his and Kasumi’s legs and boots, “I’m bringing my pistol no matter how much anyone protests.”

            “You did not have it in my memories,” Kasumi pointed out, “which means you did not take it on this trip.”

            “Which just bought that unicorn a long painful death,” Iain replied. He stood and took her hand again. “Step.”

            They came out in the medical bay they’d selected on the Theodora. Kasumi deposited her mother into the medical unit waiting for them and spoke as she watched it cycle shut. “I presume that since neither Ganieda nor Dominique has mentioned that you can hurl fire that they are unaware that you can.”

            “They are unaware,” Iain said. “And nobody except people who can use hellfire tend to think it I might be able to use it as some kind of an offensive technique.” He smiled amusedly. “I mean, all I’ve ever been known to use it for is to make black fire candles which creep some people out.” He glanced at her. “And I know you’re going to tell them about it.”

            “I was told that you haven’t learned any offensive magic.”

            He snorted. “Any magic, used properly, can be offensive or defensive in nature. They have tried to make me demonstrate offensive magic spells without teaching me the basics behind them. That I can’t do. However, nobody has asked if I’ve figured out how to defend myself using magic.”

            “So they have not been asking the proper questions. Can you use healing magic as well?”

            “I’ve seen too many healing spells being used on me and other people. Yes, I’ve learned how to use my magic to heal myself as well as others. I’m still learning, but yes, I can do it if I have to.”

            She nodded. “I am going to remain here and attend to my mother, even if I cannot currently touch her.” She lifted her head and met his gaze. “I would like to request that you return and save the life of the unicorn, if you can safely do so.”

            “You know, that could be a universe where unicorns are evil.”

            “Iain, please do as I ask. It is not a creature of darkness and was protecting his territory.”

            Iain rubbed his eyes as he thought. “Now that I know to be looking out for it I should be able to keep my feet from being bound again so I can escape if it’s necessary. I’ll return as soon as I can.” He ordered his twee to upload the memories of their trip to Theodora.

            Her image appeared almost instantly. “Be careful on your return. The stallion spoke of the herd, which suggests more unicorns will be in the forest and some might be close to where you were attacked.”

            “Yeah, that thought already has me nervous,” Iain replied. He took a step forward into a shadow and vanished.

            The sky was ruddy red from the huge sun that filled most of it and the area around him was sand that stretched to the horizon. In front of him, Iain could see the remains of buildings of some kind protruding from the sand like broken teeth jaggedly pointing at the sky. The dry air sucked at the moisture in his body and the heat was almost a physical pain as he stepped into the shadow of an overhang to sink into it.

            He was back in the forest and saw there were four unicorns clustered around the still smoking remains of the stallion that had attacked him. Quickly he considered and discarded several ways to announce his presence and, briefly, considered just turning around and leaving before he spoke. “I bid you greetings and I come in peace.”

            Instantly they whirled and aimed their horns at him threateningly. “Who are you,” one of them demanded in a feminine voice.

            “I will deal with this,” another female voice announced loudly and the four unicorns in front of him dropped their horns and backed up a step as a fifth unicorn walked out of the woods. She lifted her head and regarded him evenly. “You are the one who has murdered my current breeding partner. Why have you returned?”

            “Well, he’s not quite dead yet,” Iain answered.

            “He will be,” she said instantly. “We put out your evil fire but we cannot heal the wounds made by your fell magic.”

            “I returned,” Iain said as he tried to keep to the thread of the conversation that he wanted to follow, “because I defended myself when I was attacked by that stallion for accidently entering the forest. I was taking a woman who was dying to where she could be saved and now that she’s no longer in danger I returned to heal the stallion’s injuries as we don’t think he should die either, even if he refused to listen to my request to merely allow us to pass through this forest unmolested.”

            The unicorn mare was still regarding him and Iain could feel the full weight of her gaze almost as a physical pressure. “There is much you are not telling me.”

            “If I don’t get to him soon he will die,” Iain said. “And this conversation is taking place while his life is draining away.”

            “If you can save him then do so. We will continue this conversation afterwards.”

            The other unicorns spread out around the dying stallion as Iain headed for him at a trot. He dropped to his knees and pressed his hands against the stallion’s shoulder before turning his magic towards healing as he’d learned how to do even as he examined the stallion’s injuries with his perception.

            Hellfire burned and consumed everything it touched until, for reasons nobody understood, it would suddenly go out. It’s self-extinguishing was never predictable, either. But while it burned it caused horrendous damage to living things.

            The stallion looked like he’d been hit with a white phosphorous bomb. His hide was cracked and blackened where it still covered his flesh and in places the fire had burned into the heart of his chest and legs to leave gaping wounds of destroyed flesh and bone. It didn’t cauterize as it burned and so, now that the fire was out, fluids were seeping out every bit of flesh Iain could see. His patient wasn’t conscious anymore, but his body was still jerking and twitching from the unending pain of the fire since the nerves hadn’t been seared away.

            Iain took one hand and pressed a finger to the stallion’s temple and the beast went limp. He returned the hand to press next to the other, noting that the deep inside the stallion his magic was already rebuilding the tissues and organs necessary to keep him alive while the rest of his body was repaired. He was helping with the prioritizing but in some cases the magic seemed to know of its own accord what to do better than he did and he added medical training to his long mental list of things to study when he had time.

            “What did you do to him?” It was the mare who had been questioning him. She’d moved to stand closer where she could see what he was doing and was easily visible with his perception. “Is he dead now?”

            “No, I put him into a healing coma. It’ll wear off before tomorrow morning. It negates the pain his brain is still registering and makes sure that he won’t wake up with me next to him and try to kill me again, either accidentally or by design. If you look at his chest you’ll see that inside his wounds are healing. I’m doing them first to make him stronger before I work my way towards the outside of his body to finish the repairs.”

            She nodded. “So he won’t die now?”

            “He won’t from what I did to him earlier. I did not make him immortal. If he picks a fight with someone else tomorrow and gets killed, that’s entirely his business.”

            “We will continue our earlier discussion. There is much you are not telling me.”

            Iain glanced over his shoulder at her before focusing again on his work. It was harder than he’d expected as the unicorn’s magic tried to keep his magic from affecting it. “You’re right.”

            Her ears flattened for a second. “Explain.”

            “No.” Gasps sounded from the other unicorns and Iain realized that they were speaking without moving their mouths. And this wasn’t a form of telepathy, either. He wondered how they were doing it.

            “I am not used to being refused.”

            “That’s good. You shouldn’t get used to it. I won’t be here long enough for you to get used to it from me, either.”

            Her ears went back again. “You are impertinent.”

            “You forgot to call me a barbarian too.” She blinked in surprise and he chuckled. “Most people who find me impertinent also accuse me of being a barbarian. I’m actually neither.” The worst wounds were repaired and Iain could feel his magic working outwards from the unicorn’s core.

            The mare cocked her head. “And what are you?”

            “I’m uncooperative. With all due respect, if this boy here hadn’t attacked me, we would never have met and he’d just have some story about a wizard he’d chased out of the forest. But no, he had to be,” Iain hesitated, reconsidered and changed the words he’d been about to use, “unwise in his decision making in regards to me and got set on fire for it.”

            The unicorn mare took a step towards him. “I heard the pause in your voice. What word did you replace with unwise?”

            Iain glanced at her again and decided to be hung as a sheep. “I was going to say he was stupid.”

            The mare took another step towards him. “Did you insult him when he and you spoke?”

            “No. He told me that he was going to kill us for trespassing and I asked him to let us leave and that we’d not come back and that I didn’t want to hurt him. He sneered at me and attacked. I didn’t plan to die today and I was protecting the two women with me so I defended myself. Unfortunately there are no half measures with that kind of fire.”

            The mare walked up behind him and sniffed Iain’s neck. He flinched away from the velvet touch of her nose but kept his focus on what he was doing. “I agree. He was stupid.” She raised her head and looked at the other unicorns. “When he wakes, you are to tell him that he is to leave this forest. I see no need to breed with a stupid stallion.”

            One of the other unicorns bowed its head. “It will be as you command.”

            “Is there some other forest he can go to or is this exile going to be from all unicorns?”

            The mare looked at Iain’s back. “Why do you care what happens to this one?”

            “Is there a rule that nobody but herd can enter this part of the forest and that the penalty is death? He claimed he was enforcing it.”

            “That rule exists, but it is for the evil creatures that populate this world and when they attack the herd or the forest of the herd. That stallion does not have the power to decide if humans are evil or not, as humans can be as good as paladins and as evil as demons. Even if he could, he does not have the right to decide if an intruder, human or not, should die. That right is mine and mine alone.”

            “Sometimes the consort of a queen decides he’s got a lot more power than he probably does,” Iain noted. “It happens in human societies too.”

            “And how do human queens deal with this problem?”

            “It depends on how besotted the queen is with her consort. If he pleases her enough some of them will let him abuse her subjects for a time. Eventually, though, she will tire of his actions and get rid of him somehow.”

            “It sounds as if their breeding prospects are as limited as mine,” the mare said. “We have always been few in number and good stallions are hard to find.”

            The stallion’s surface wounds were starting to knit and his hide was beginning to grow over his body. “That could be,” Iain said. “I’m not a queen so I don’t know the anguish of being one.”

            “That was impertinent.”

            “Not really. People easily recognize when I’m being impertinent.” Iain stood. “He’s whole again. He should sleep until tomorrow morning or so. I tried to not deplete his body’s resources when I healed him, but I’m still new at this and so he might be famished when he wakes up.”

            “He is always famished when he wakes up,” the mare said.

            “Then he’s going to be that way tomorrow too,” Iain said. “Pity, I’d like to know if it worked. I guess it did. He was pretty critically injured and he hasn’t lost any body mass. The last time that happened to me and I got healed I lost about two percent of my body mass.” He rubbed his eyes. “Well, he’s healed and my job here is done. I’d say I’ll be seeing you, but I doubt I’ll be coming back here so I’ll just say goodbye.”

            One of the unicorns around the stallion put her ears back. “You will leave when our queen says you may leave, biped.”

            Iain looked at the mare who was standing next to him and obviously led the group. “Just so you know, I’m about to be impertinent to that mare.”

            Her ears canted amusedly. “As long as it does not physically harm her, please, demonstrate what impertinence from you is like.”

            Iain nodded and turned back to the mare who’d just lectured him. She was thicker in the body than the others and he thought about calling her Tubby, but decided that would be too easy as well as potentially useless since he didn’t know if she was actually considered overweight. She might be normal or gravid. Instead he stepped to his left so that the body of the stallion wasn’t between him and her. She obviously realized what he was doing and her head shifted to line her horn up with him as her nostrils flared. “Due to some recent changes in my life I’ve temporarily adopted some of the reasoning sharks use to get through their normal day to day activities, although I’ve had to add some stuff to it. When they encounter something new that day they ask two questions, while I ask three. The first is can it eat me? The second is can I eat it? The third that I have to ask is can I fuck it? The fact that your eyes are widening and your nostrils are flaring as you begin breathing faster in preparation to fleeing marks you as prey and puts you squarely in the category of things I can eat.” Her eyes widened more and her breathing increased as she stomped a hoof defensively. “I can see through that you know. You’re frightened, not angry. Fortunately, I can tell a lot about a person from their behavior and I figure you’ll be stringy and bitter, which is not how I prefer my meat even if your behavior is making me hungry.” His tone hardened. “But food, no matter how bitter, doesn’t get to hector me.” She took a step towards him and his bow appeared in his hands. The mare froze as he spoke. “Now you’re threatening me and I’ll turn you into a pincushion that glows on the inside from magical fire if you’re dumb enough to charge. And at that point I’d feel obligated to at least see what you taste like. Now you just drop the attitude and nobody else will get hurt today.”

            “Where did you get that bow?” The lead mare leaned close to him, her eyes on his weapon. She was so close he could smell her scent and fancied her could feel the heat of her body. “It is unusual in many ways.”

            Iain felt an urge to answer her but didn’t take his eyes off of the other mare as he did. “A tree gave it to me in return for most of my blood.” His eyes narrowed and he shot her an irritated glance. “Stop that.”

            “I cannot. It is part of my nature to compel others to be truthful.” She shifted her body to face him. “You can speak to trees?”

            “I can but I usually only speak to some trees. The majority of trees are not the most gifted conversationalists.”

            She tossed her head up and down. “I am far closer than the mare you are pointing a weapon at. Does my closeness not bother you?”

            “Actually it does. Unicorns are quick, that horn is very sharp and you are way too far inside my defensive envelope for me to be sure to hit you before you’re poking a whole bunch of extra holes in me.”

            “Then why are you not pointing your weapon at me?”

            “You haven’t offered me any threat.”

            “Then you are just defending yourself from her attack?”

            “No, I’m trying to prevent her from attacking by pointing out that I will defend myself. If I were actually defending myself she’d be full of arrows.”

            The lead mare looked at the other. “Stop threatening him.” The other mare lifted her horn and took a series of deep breaths as Iain’s bow vanished. “Where did your weapon go?”

            “I store it on my body as a tattoo.”

            “Show me.”

            “Look, I really need to be getting back to where I’m supposed to be, but here.” He rotated his left arm to show the tattoo of the tree. “It looks like a tree but it becomes what I need when I call it.”

            She leaned her nose closer and sniffed his arm. “You have other tattoos.”

            “I do and I’m not explaining them. I’ve been told to always leave a woman wanting more. Now goodbye.” He stepped into the mare’s shadow and vanished.

            He was standing outside of one of the dry foods storage buildings on the Sabine Ranch and paused. Theodora?

            What are you doing there, Iain? You are in your laboratory right now.

            He took a deep breath and let it out in a gust. I am shadow walking and apparently this is an intermediate step on my journey. Have we gone to Kasumi’s world to rescue her mother from death yet?

            I’m still growing the clone and it won’t be ready to use for another week and a half. Where were you headed?

            In my present, Kasumi is in medical and her mother is undergoing treatment to remove the poisons. There was a complication on the return walk and I had to go back to fix something. I was headed for medical when I exited here.

            That is interesting. I presume you don’t want me to tell you about this visit.

            That would be appreciated as I don’t remember having a conversation with you about that at that time.

            Then you’d best be on your way, my love.

            “I’m going,” he muttered. “But first, a snack.” He quickly entered the dry storage building and grabbed a double handful of carrots before stepping into a shadow.

            Nothing had changed in the medical bay. “How long was I gone?”

            “Less than two minutes,” Kasumi said. “What are you doing with carrots?”

            “I’m going to wash them in the sink and then I’m going to eat them. Want one?”

            “I believe I will decline,” she said as Iain started washing the carrots. “Did the unicorns give them to you?”

            “No, they didn’t. I picked them up on the way back.”

            Theodora appeared next to him. “Give me the memories,” she demanded.

            “Man, the women today are just so pushy,” Iain muttered as he removed the excess roots from the carrots and dropped them into the recycler. “Me, me, me, me. I’m Theodora and give me your memories. I’m the queen of the unicorns and do what I want. Sheesh.”

            “You met their queen,” Kasumi asked curiously.

            “I did. Honestly, she looked like any other unicorn from that reality. Ryan is prettier.”

            “Unicorns have udders,” Theodora noted amusedly. “Ryan has breasts.”

            “And they’re very nice ones,” Iain said.

            “I still don’t have those memories.”

            “I still haven’t heard you ask for them yet.”

            She stuck out her tongue before clasping her hands in front of her contritely and looking at the floor just in front of his feet. “Please, Iain, give me your memories. They’re all of you I can touch and I crave your touch so much.”

            “Ok, that’s just creepy,” Iain said as he instructed his twee to upload the memories Theodora wanted.

            Her head came up and she gave him a broad smile. “Thank you, kind master.”

            Iain groaned.

            Kasumi chuckled. “And yet her behavior worked, which means she will do it again.”


            Her chuckle became open laughter. “Indeed.” She sobered quickly. “Did you save the stallion’s life?”

            “He should recover completely, at least from the physical aspects of what happened to him.”

            “There are other aspects?”

            “It turns out that the queen of that herd of unicorns is living in that forest and he was her consort. While there is a rule forbidding trespassing, it’s also true that only she gets to decide who lives and who dies for that particular rule. She wasn’t pleased he was assuming her authority and publicly dumped him for being an idiot. He’ll find out when he wakes up and someone else notifies him. Apparently she’s done with him. How’s your mother?”

            “Theodora says her kidneys were failing and is having to rebuild them so she’ll be in the medic for another day.”

            Theodora was watching him curiously. So this is where and when you were headed.

            It is.

            Time travel can get complicated quickly, can’t it?

            It most certainly can. This time it wasn’t.

            I am glad you are safe.

            He smiled. So am I. “I’m glad your mother is going to be all right. I’d have hated to have let down young Kasumi when I said she’d see her mother again.” He bit into a carrot and chewed determinedly. Carrots were not his first choice for a snack but he’d been in a hurry and the other closest vegetables had been onions and garlic.

            She smiled warmly at him. “You haven’t and I don’t even have to die to see her once more.”

            “Your father is going to freak out.”

            “I know.” She gave him an amused look. “Is it too cruel that I am going to enjoy his discomfiture?”

            “Considering how much I’m looking forward to it, I can’t say that it is. Or course, I consider his future state of panic a good start on the payback for asking me to impersonate Shikarou just so he can get drinking money.”

            “That also worked, did it not,” Kasumi asked with a smile. “You gave him the money he wanted.”

            “Yes, but that was so you’d be happy with me. It was never about making your father happy.”

            She nodded. “And now we are to be wed so apparently your tactics worked. But from now on you don’t have to placate my father to please me.”

            “And that pleases me,” Iain said with a smile.

            “Ganieda and Danielle are on their way here,” Kasumi said. “Mother won’t be released until at least tomorrow evening and so they have the opportunity to question you properly on what you know about offensive and defensive spells and how well you can protect yourself with magic.” Iain regarded her with an unfriendly look and she paled. “If I didn’t know your true feelings for me I would be concerned for my safety right now.”

            “Good. I should be able to make you feel nervous once in a while too.”

            “They needed to know.”

            He nodded. “I knew you’d tell them but I thought you’d wait for at least a little while.”

            “You have the free time now,” she countered. “Later I will need you with me and that is not the time for them to be trying to monopolize you or your time.”

            He grinned. “Well, at least you’re being selfish about this. I can at least understand that.” He sighed and headed for the door. “Theodora, when they get here, I’ll be in my lab.”


Iain Grey


Inner Harem

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 - Elfqueen

Dianthus Barbatus - Elfqueen


Outer Harem

Allison – Umbrea (Outer Harem Alpha)

Daphne - Whorizard

Lynn - Growlie

Chuck – Doggirl

Ryan – Unicorn

Winifred - Rack (German)

Rosemary - Mistoffeles (Uruguayan)

Silver - Pegaslut

Joyce – Milktit


Outer Clan

Melanie – Iron Chef

Siobhan – Nurse Joy (Glasgow)



Queendom / Outer Harem

12 Elves

Dionne - Elfqueen

Adrianna - Elfqueen

Heltu - Wet Queen

6 Wet Elves



Dead Harem

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






     Dorothy: Duelist

     Meara: Duelist

     Regan: Duelist


     Hannah: Huntress

     Rebecca: Huntress


     Lisa: Milktit

     Sherrie:  Milktit

     Harriet: Milktit


     Olivia: Megami-sama

     Seraphina: Megami-sama


     Caltha: Nightmare

     Kim:  Nightmare

     Xanthe: Nightmare

     Epona: Nightmare

     Philippa: Nightmare

     Nott: Nightmare

     Nyx: Nightmare