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Kasumi rang the bell and looked from Iain to the heavily cloaked figure standing with them. “They’re going to think she’s a member of your harem.” She glanced at Giselle. “It would be better if they thought she is too.”
“Giselle is safe for she is clan,” Iain said firmly. “As for her,” he nodded towards the figure, “that is the plan until the big reveal. I just hope Soun did as you asked in the letter and everyone is here.”
“Why would he not,” Mizuho asked quietly.
“You’re not supposed to talk,” Iain said. He looked at Heather. “Keep close to her and don’t let anyone mess with her cloak.”
The Elfqueen shook her head. “I don’t think I can do that and still guard you. Pandora is on her way.”
“You needn’t curse,” Mizuho said.
Kasumi giggled and was still giggling when the door opened. Akane grinned at her. “Kasumi!” Her grin became a welcoming smile. “I see you brought Iain again.”
“Well, Akane, to be truthful he brought me.”
Akane nodded. “How is Shikarou?”
“He is well.”
“Will he be joining us this visit?”
Kasumi shook her head. “No, he won’t. After things settle down from the presentation tonight, I’ll explain why he isn’t here.”
“All right.” Akane grinned again. “The letter you sent to Father has him completely mystified, but as you requested, everyone is here, including Aunt Nodoka. Nabiki wasn’t happy to cancel her plans for a study session for her entrance exams, but Father put his foot down and she obeyed.”
Pandora landed just as her wings vanished and she quickly moved to stand next to the cloaked Mizuho as Iain smiled at Akane. “Trust me that if this wasn’t really important, I wouldn’t have asked Kasumi to request that everyone please attend tonight.”
Akane gave him an eager look. “What is it that you’re going to tell us?”
Iain shook his head. “If it wasn’t what it is, I’d tell you before anyone else, but this I cannot.”
Kasumi smiled at her sister. “Akane, dear, I asked Iain for a present and he went and got it for me. What I didn’t consider was how this present was going to affect the rest of my family but it will and so you need to know about this present. That’s why I sent that letter to Father.”
Akane nodded. “Well, come inside then. We’ll meet in the dojo and I will have tea ready to take to them.” She looked the group over. “I know Giselle and Pandora from before, but I have not met the other two girls.”
“This is Heather,” Iain said as he gestured to the Elfqueen. “She’s my bodyguard for tonight. The other person has asked me not to discuss anything about her at this time. However she will be taking tea with Kasumi while Pandora, Giselle and Heather stand guard.”
Akane eyed the cloaked form suspiciously. “Tell me this isn’t another one of Ranma’s fiancés.” The cloaked figure stirred but didn’t respond.
Iain smiled. “I promise you that she is not one of Ranma’s fiancés. I can assure you that she is not interested in Ranma as a marriage candidate for herself.”
Akane turned that suspicious gaze on him. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“There’s a whole lot I’m not telling you,” he said cheerfully. “A bunch of it involves girls, nakedness, me and sex.” Akane glared at him but he could tell she was trying not to smile. “Keep your questions until after this meeting. At that point you can ask the ones that haven’t already been answered by what you’re going to learn tonight from me and I’ll decide if I want to answer them.”
She did smile then. “After what you’ve put me through you should answer everything I ask you.”
“What did I put you through?”
“Kasumi and I are close and so everyone was coming to me today and asking what I knew about this letter and the meeting Kasumi was requesting. It was very annoying.”
“And hopefully you looked at them and told them in a conspiratorial tone that even if you did know what this was about and you weren’t saying that you did, that you couldn’t share because it was Kasumi’s meeting,” Iain said.
Akane’s smile became amused and mischievous at the same time. “I might have said something like that to them.”
“Good. They deserved that for trying to get you to violate your sister’s trust.”
“Yes, except for the part where I didn’t really know anything.”
“That just made it easy not to let anything slip.”
Kasumi gave Iain a hard look. “Stop teasing my sister. Akane, may we come in?”
Akane reddened. “I am sorry, where are my manners? Please, all of you come inside. I will let Father know you are here.”
“Please ask them to go to the dojo,” Kasumi said. “I do not want to let this matter lay any longer than absolutely necessary. We will go ahead and meet everyone else there.”
“I’ll take care of it, Kasumi.” She hurried off.
Kasumi turned to Iain. “Please come with me.”
“Let’s go slowly,” Iain said quietly. “Our companion has not been on the property in quite a few years and while we don’t have time to give her the grand tour, she might want to see what she can as we go. I expect after tonight things may be hectic here for a while.”
Kasumi nodded. “Upstairs are all of the bedrooms except Father's,” she began, “including the room where the Saotomes' sleep. My old room is up there too.” She led them down the hall and around the corner. “This room to the left is another guest room. Aunt Nodoka is probably staying there.” Then she led them to the dojo. “Other than regular repairs, the dojo hasn’t really changed except after I moved out Akane had some ceiling fans installed in here and in the living area to keep it cooler in the summer.”
Iain looked around the room and muttered something too low to hear. Heather gave him a curious look. “I didn’t hear that?”
“I don’t like public speaking,” Iain said. “And yet I seem to be doing it more and more.”
“You’re quite good at it,” Pandora noted. “I’m surprised you don’t like doing it.”
“I’m also good at gelding hogs and changing some really nasty diapers. Ask me how much fun I have doing that.”
Mizuho made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a smothered giggle. “We all do what we must.”
“True.” He looked at Pandora. “Get her settled with Kasumi and keep close. If someone decides she’s a vengeful spirit or something like that we could have pandemonium and there’s no telling who might get hurt during it.”
“I will.” Pandora looked at Kasumi. “Did you tell your mother about the Saotome men and Jusenkyo?”
“She did. I still find it hard to believe,” Mizuho said quietly.
“Aren’t you supposed to not be talking,” Pandora noted curiously.
“They’re coming,” Iain warned.
Soun’s eyes lit up when he saw his daughter. “Kasumi! It is good to see you again and so soon.”
“I bring news, Father.”
“Where is Shikarou?”
“He isn’t here again. Iain brought me once more.”
He eyed Iain suspiciously. “I see. Grey-san.”
“Tendo-san, please be seated.”
Soun frowned. “Shouldn’t it be Tendo-sama?”
“I never got those lessons from either you or Akane,” Iain pointed out. “Until that happens, you can’t be my sensei.”
Soun grumbled and sat down. “What is this meeting about?”
“Please be patient,” Iain said. “I really don’t want to have to repeat myself if I don’t have to which is why I’d like to wait until everyone is in here before I start.” Ranma, in his girl form, came in with Nodoka. “Ranko, Aunt Nodoka, please take a seat.” He looked at Ranma. “Where’s your pet?”
“It seemed kind of silly to bring a panda into the training hall,” Nodoka answered. “I had Ranko put him just outside.”
Genma would be able to hear inside the dojo quite well from there. “That should work nicely.” Eventually everyone had filed in and was seated and Akane had brought in tea and joined them. Soon the hall had the Tendo and Saotme families on one side and the Greys, Kasumi and Mizuho on the other.
Iain waited until the tea had been served and everyone was watching him expectantly before beginning. “I am going to try and go in a logical progression but I may miss some things. If you have any questions while I’m talking, I will try to answer them on the spot unless they’re complicated, off topic or would force me to jump ahead, in which case I will ask you to hold that question until the end and if it isn’t answered by then, I’ll try again.”
He looked around the room in order to make eye contact with each person in turn. “As you have been told, but may not have thought about much, we live in another universe located adjacent to this one. This is important because time passes at a different rate between universes and while time passes faster in mine than it does here, the difference isn’t that significant. When a day passes at my home, less than a day passes in yours. Exactly how much time passes between the two places hasn’t been determined and isn’t important because when we travel between our home universe and this one, we adjust the gate spell to minimize the time passage here because Kasumi wants to spend time with her family while they’re all together. I’m telling you this because otherwise the things I’m going to relate are going to be even more confusing than they’re already likely to be.”
He gave a mental shrug and started. “Kasumi loves her family very much. I happen to know that not only from the discussions we’ve had but because of the fact that I know things, as I have revealed to a couple of you before. It means I have an idea of just how much she still misses her mother.”
“We all do,” Nabiki said. Akane and Soun nodded their agreement.
“I know. I also know that since your mother’s sudden illness was not accidental or a product of nature, it was therefore something I didn’t have a problem interfering with.”
“What do you mean it wasn’t natural,” Akane asked curiously.
“You don’t know this, but both your mother and your father carry the blood of different lines of spirit folk in their veins,” Iain said. “You and your sisters carry that mix. It’s the same for Genma, Nodoka and Ranma too. It’s why all of you are more powerful than regular humans.”
“That’s absurd,” Soun announced.
“I don’t hear a question in that,” Iain said. “So I’m going to ask you to please be quiet until I’m done. However, whether you think it’s absurd or not, it’s true and indirectly that blood is the reason your wife was deliberately poisoned.”
“I don’t understand,” Akane said. “Who poisoned her and why?”
“When Soun married your mother Mizuho he met her kami ancestor, a tatsu kami by the name of Yuko. She was the one who owned this land and was holding it for her family’s eventual use. If she were to die, that land was going to be given to your mother. Happosai learned of this and poisoned Yuko.” Soun looked surprised. “Yes, Tendo-san, that’s how you got this land. Mizuho let you sell off a bunch of it to build the school and, more importantly to her, a home for you, her and your family. In the meantime, Happosai gave you some instructions regarding the land and Mizuho prevented you from carrying them out.”
Soun nodded unconsciously. “They seemed harmless, but her mind was made up and I wasn’t going to disobey her in this.”
“That’s when Happosai realized that Mizuho had a stronger hold on you than he did and so to remove her, he poisoned her too.”
Soun jumped as if stung. “I never knew that.”
“I know you didn’t. Neither you nor Genma knew about this. If you’d even suspected, you’d have tried to get revenge on Happosai. But remember that Happosai tried to murder you all using blowfish poison before Shikarou killed him. He liked poison.” Nodoka cautiously raised a hand. “Yes, Aunt Nodoka?”
“I find it hard to believe that I have the blood of the spirit folk, much less everyone here. How can you know this is true?”
“Are you willing to test my statement?”
She frowned. “How do I do that?”
“I want you to take a good long look at me. Then tell me what you’re thinking.”
Her frown deepened. “What will that do?”
“Please trust me. This should work.”
“Very well.” Nodoka looked intently at him for a while. Her cheeks turned pink and she abruptly looked away.
Iain’s voice was gentle. “You’ve been alone for a while and your body is recognizing that I am the equivalent of a spirit folk, pure blooded and responding to it. Your blood is drawn to the blood of other spirit folk so you can breed with them and improve your bloodline.” Her blush deepened and he carefully didn’t smile. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You have ever been faithful to your husband and that is unlikely to change until and unless you divorce him. Now the question is, do you believe me?”
She nodded briskly, still not looking at him. “I do.”
“I’m glad you do. Now, to get back to the thread of my discussion, since Mizuho’s illness was the act of a murderous scumbag, I decided that I could get involved. I could not save her life in that time but I could bring her here and save her life. So I had a body made with which to replace Mizuho and did so. The body that the Tendo family cremated looked like Soun’s wife, the girls’ mother and your friend, but was not. Now understand that I went to the day that she was supposed to die and brought her forward so that she didn’t live through the intervening years. This means that she was not somewhere else and not seeing you because I ordered it or otherwise prevented her from doing so. For her, she was sick a few days ago and now her children are much older.”
“Mizuho is alive,” Nodoka asked.
“She is. She’s been healed and is healthy.”
Soun slapped his thighs. “When can I see her?”
Akane was staring at the cloaked figure. “Iain, is that my mother?”
“I am,” Mizuho stated as she pulled the hood of the cloak back. “You have grown into a fine young woman, Akane.” She looked at Iain as people stared at her in shock. “I know that Kasumi has a computer that she may contact you with. Could I have some time alone with my family and friends? I will have Kasumi call you when you may return.”
Iain nodded. “I understand. Take as long as you need to.” He looked at Heather and Pandora. “Let’s go, ladies.” He glanced at Kasumi and she gave him a grateful smile. He smiled back at her and glanced at Giselle. The door to the ship is at the farm. I will have Nishiko and Ayame ready for when you want or need them with Kasumi. All of you are free to stay with us like last time.
She didn’t look in his direction, but he saw the tiny smile. Thank you, sir. We will work shifts and unless the mistress forbids it we will be sleeping at the farm or on the Theodora.
Iain then led his people out of the dojo.
Ygerna and Heather walked slowly down the street, peering into parked cars with flashlights while Iain, looking bored, slouched along behind them. It was early evening in Moscow and all three were dressed as officers in the Gosudarstvennaya Avtomobilnaya Inspektsiya. The GAI was the police force in the Soviet Union that was responsible for traffic safety, car inspections, recovering stolen vehicles and investigating accidents. Heather and Ygerna were the police personnel while Iain was their driver, since in the Soviet Union, uniformed officers did not drive themselves. The marked car behind them was therefore Iain’s responsibility.
Ygerna looked back at him. “You can’t tell what they’re doing, can you?” He shook his head. “It’s fascinating that the buildings in the Moscow Kremlin have magical wards protecting the older ones.”
“They all probably did at one time,” Iain replied. “But when Napoleon retreated from Moscow he tried to blow up everything at the Kremlin. It didn’t succeed, but the buildings without wards are probably rebuilt from the destruction he did manage to cause.”
“I wonder what they were protecting this place against.”
“It was probably meant for someone like you,” Heather said quietly. “Fey live in this world and you may find a lot of older buildings belonging to people who might know about the existence of supernatural creatures have been given protective wards of some kind or another.”
Ygerna chuckled. “It has been so long since I had to consider that, it’s not surprising that I have forgotten to do so.”
Iain glared at the buildings for a minute. “I don’t care why they did it, it’s pissing me off. I like being in contact with my harem members, be they dead or alive.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Ygerna said. “It’s not like they can be killed again by anything here, can they?”
Julia cracked the door open and watched as the custodial staff person mopped his way down the hall towards the office she was inside. He was young and handsome in a way, which would help. When he came close enough she pulled the door open a little wider. “Hello,” she called softly in Russian.
He looked up and immediately away. “Good evening, miss.” The cleaning staff wasn’t supposed to talk to the people working in the offices.
“I’ve been watching you,” Julia said just as softly. She pulled the door open a little more, revealing a line of naked flesh that ran from her shoulder to her ankle. “Could you come inside?”
His eyes went wide and he looked up and down the hall to make sure they were alone. A smile crept across his face. “Are you sure?”
“I am,” she purred.
“I’ll be right back.” He grabbed his mop and bucket and disappeared down the hall. He was back a few minutes later and she opened the door for his eager entrance.
At the sight of the nude, fit Julia, he immediately went for the fastening of his pants. “No,” Julia said. “I want you to take everything off.” She smiled, “just like I did.”
He quickly stripped and piled his clothes up near the door. Julia remembered guys like that from her life before she was recruited by Sanctuary, the ones who intended to screw her, a human, and dash away. She had despised them but she didn’t let anything appear in her face or eyes. “Lie down. I want to be on top.”
He obediently lay down on the rug in the middle of the room, his already hard erection waving in the air. “Come here,” he said imperiously.
Julia straddled his waist and dropped to her knees, took his head and slammed it down on the carpet hard enough to stun him. Then she pinned his arms with her knees and, using her hands, covered his nose and mouth to keep him from breathing. She held him down with her superior strength while his heels drummed quietly on the rug until he was dead before dressing in his work uniform. She didn’t know where he’d put his mop, but simply following the trail of water drops led her to the right area and then it only took a couple of tries with his key ring to find the correct door and right key and retrieve it. It was the work of but a moment to recover the body and hide it in the closet the mop had come from before she began carrying the mop and bucket down the hall towards her goal. The man’s build had been similar to her own, however he had been taller than she was, but carefully tucking the shirt into the pants and the pant legs into the boots hid most of the extra length and made her anonymous. And it wasn’t as if a janitor would wear perfectly fitting tailored clothing.
Military personnel and office workers ignored her as she slipped past them, just another faceless worker in the Soviet machine. Once close to the library, she hid the bucket and mop in another closet and stole two light bulbs from light figures in the stairwell that ran up and down nearby. She waited until they were cool and headed for the library door.
The man working in the library looked up when she entered. “What do you want,” he asked curiously.
She held up the bulbs. “I was told you needed some lights replaced.”
He grunted sourly. “It’ll take more like twenty bulbs to do that.”
“This is all I have. I don’t have to replace any,” she said. “Others will cheerfully take them.”
His expression didn’t lighten. “Damn it, wait. I’ll show you the two best places to put them.” He came from behind the counter and headed into a darkened portion of the library. “I caught some idiot actually using matches to try and see the book titles,” he grumbled. “These books are priceless.”
“I know,” Julia said. Shadows beside and around her began filling with even darker forms as her sisters used her presence as an anchor to shadow walk into a place they’d never been. “That’s why I thought you’d want them instead of the general who just wants to see his secretary’s legs better.”
“You’re a custodian,” the man asked her with a puzzled look on his face. “What do you care about books?”
“I care a great deal,” Julia said. “Books are knowledge and knowledge is power in written form. I am here for one of them after all.”
The man froze for a second and Sorrel grabbed from behind, him slapping a hand over his mouth. “Don’t scream,” the Armsmistress said pleasantly into his ear. “I will remove your ability to breathe if you do. Nod if you don’t want to die.” The man tried to nod and Sorrel released his mouth. “Speak quietly only,” she advised him. Reaching into a pocket, she pulled out a photograph and handed it to Julia. “Here.”
“Where is this book,” Julia showed the man the photo of the Grimoire of Danu that Iain had given her.
The man’s eyes went wide. “That book is cursed,” he said. “It has killed everyone that has ever touched it.”
“Then how was it placed in the library,” Julia asked.
“It was shipped here in a box and has never been unpacked.”
“Will touching the box kill you,” Julia asked.
“No. I’ve examined the book without removing it, but if you try to touch it you’ll die. I’m only telling you because your friend will kill me in retaliation.”
“Take us to it,” Sorrel whispered in his ear. She released all but his arm.
He swallowed convulsively and nodded. “We need to go that way.” He led them deep into the stacks of books, eventually coming out in front of a locked door. He paled when he saw it. “Damn, I forgot. The Supervisor keeps the key with him at all times and he is gone for the day.”
Julia examined it. “Is the door alarmed?”
The Silver Dragoness stepped out of the shadows and touched the door. The lock opened with a click as the librarian went rigid in fear at the sight of her. Then Eirian was gone, back into the darkness around them.
“The creature you just saw is under my command,” Julia told him. “If you behave you will not see her again. If you do not she will be the last thing you see. Is the book far away?”
When he didn’t speak, Sorrel shook him gently by the arm. His eyes focused on her face as she spoke in an even tone. “Julia asked if the book is close. I don’t like repeating her questions to you. Is it?”
The calmness of her voice seemed to settle him. “It is. It is just on the other side of this room.” He pushed the door open and led the way as best he could since Sorrel did not release his arm. Julia closed the door behind them and waited for a second until she heard the lock click again as someone relocked it from the other side.
Skye stepped out of the shadows as Julia turned around. “We cannot touch that book.”
“No,” Julia said, “we cannot but we might be able to retrieve it by taking it and the box it is in, saving our lord from having to brave an already awakened fortress.”
The Blue Dragoness seemed shrunken, but that was because her wings had been dismissed for this operation. “I see. It will not destroy you if you are wrong but it will render you nonfunctional for a time and you will have to be retrieved. However the experiment is authorized. Proceed.”
Sorrel and the librarian were standing in front of a massive walk-in safe. “It’s in there,” he said. “I have never been trusted with the combination.”
“Perhaps that means they won’t believe you were involved with this theft,” Sorrel said idly. She handed the man to Julia. ‘They might let him live then.”
“Unlikely,” Julia noted. “They will question him strenuously and he is unlikely to survive it. Do not cut the safe open with magic. There are legends of supernatural creatures here and we should make this look like they were involved.”
Sorrel dug her fingers into the seam of the safe’s door, put one foot on the frame of the safe and slowly pulled. Metal groaned and bulged as her muscles bunched under her skin and she levered the door outward until she could see the pistons locking the door in place. As each became visible, she stopped pulling, made a fist and slammed it into the hardened steel of the piston, which shattered under lateral stresses it had never been designed to resist. As each one was broken it made manipulating the much softer metal of the door a great deal easier. Then she went back to pulling until the opening was wide enough for the smaller Julia to worm her way through after giving the librarian back to Sorrel.
The Armsmistress watched until Julia was gone before she spoke. “They are going to believe you were involved with this theft and they will torture you.”
The librarian was pale. “I know.”
“If you wish, I will kill you. It will be quick and painless. I can offer you no more than that and the mercy I offer is just an echo of the life I once had.”
“I don't want to die,” he whispered.
“You believe you can survive the torture you are going to undergo? You will not.”
“Every moment I live is another moment that I am alive,” he said. “And every moment I live I have hope I can find a way to live the next moment.”
“You remind me in some ways of my lord,” Sorrel said quietly. “You do not wish me to kill you and I will let you live for whatever fate awaits you after we leave this place.” Her hands went around his throat and tightened as she choked him into unconsciousness, deliberately squeezing hard enough to leave massive bruises that might grant the man some mercy.
Julia poked her head out through the opening of the safe. “I have the box with the Grimoire in it. It will not fit through this opening so I will return to our demesne from here. Eirian will inform our lord of our success.” She withdrew.
Sorrel laid the librarian out on the floor and stepped into the nearest shadow to vanish.
Iain watched as Ygerna finished checking this world's Grimoire of Danu for traps by sprinkling ground up chalk over the tome as she finished chanting her detection spell. All of the chalk slid off of the book into a pile on the tabletop. She looked up with a smile. “The only trap on this is the one that keeps non-Sidhe from handling it and that one has been present on all three of the versions.” She lifted up the book and opened it. “I wonder how it's different from mine or the second one.”
Iain watched her with amusement. “Have you told the duchess Ygerna that we have acquired it?”
She looked up and smirked. “I have not. I want its arrival to be a complete surprise.”
“Since things seem to be at some kind of a standstill with Kasumi and her family, take a week or two and read it. If you want, also have Theodora scan it while you're asleep.”
“I will.” Her smile dimmed. “My warning is still in force, Iain.”
His eyes showed his puzzlement. “What warning?”
“I warned you not to let Kasumi be without you for too long or else dire things might happen. Her place is as with us and it is as your wife and my sister.”
“I wonder how many women would be telling me this so soon after marrying me as you have,” he wondered out loud.
Ygerna grinned. “All of the ones who are as smart as I am would, of course. Do not give her time to try and live without you.”
“I don't intend to,” Iain said. “I'm planning to ask her out on a date tomorrow.”
“Good. She belongs with us.” Ygerna gazed at the book and closed it as she lifted her eyes to meet his resolutely. “I have an unusual question.”
Iain regarded her for a long minute. “I'm waiting to hear what it is.”
“Obviously as you went into the past to retrieve both Mizuho and Yuko, your ability to walk the shadows will allow you to pass through time if you wish to. Are there any practical limits to its ability to do so? Could you go back through the history of my people if you wished to?”
“I need a memory from someone who experienced that time period. Remember that I already suggested that I could steal a bunch of Sidhe and bring them to the present in order to make more Sidhe bloodlines available for our children to mate with. That means I believe the answer is no to the practical limits and yes to traveling to times where Sidhe still lived.”
“And by copying the memories of an individual you can use them to get to a particular destination, just as you did with Kasumi.” She put the Grimoire down. “I passed through High Cloud Valley a half moon before my mother was killed.”
Iain waited and when she didn't say anything else, he cocked his head. “I presume that is significant.”
She nodded gravely. “My mother disappeared in High Cloud Valley.” She looked down at the book but her mind was obviously somewhere else far away. “I believed until very recently that she died there and the goblins had eaten her so we couldn't recover her body. Now I wonder if the truth is far more outrageous to contemplate. What if what really transpired was that she was attacked and then she was rescued by you and me and brought to our present? Is that something that you could do?”
Iain regarded her before reaching out to her. “Take my hand, Ygerna.” She did and he squeezed her hand gently as he pulled her to him. “I could do that, but it would take more than you and me to rescue anyone being attacked by other fey. The threat they would represent is at least that of a typical aware magic using pokegirl.”
“Even if it didn't,” Ygerna said thoughtfully, “my sisters would be very upset if we didn't take them along to help with the fight and so they could protect you.” She flashed a smile, all teeth. “They'd be upset at both of us, not just you, and I would deserve their anger.”
“I'm glad you didn't include me in that.”
She winked. “You always deserve their unhappiness towards you, Iain.”
He shook his head. “I think I will have to disagree with that.”
“Of course you will.” She squeezed his hand and released it. “Now go see if you can remind Kasumi that you are here and have done all of this for her.” Her eyes met his. “Don't wait. Be assertive and firm.”
“I’ll do what I think is right.”
Ygerna chuckled. “I am still not used to being told no. I should get used to it from my husband, shouldn’t I?”
“I think that on some things, like you trying to dictate how I should behave with others, yes you should.”
Ygerna nodded. “I can take solace in the fact that my husband is a rather intelligent individual, then. And if he turns out to be wrong, he will be willing to admit that fact.”
Iain smiled. “Unlike his Sidhe wife?”
She returned the smile. “Unlike his Sidhe wife.”
Iain rang the bell and waited patiently. It was early afternoon and he’d planned this visit when Ranma, Nabiki and Akane were out of the house at school or study so he wasn’t surprised when Kasumi opened the door. She smiled at him. “Good afternoon.”
He smiled back. “Good afternoon, I’m Iain Grey.”
Kasumi cocked her head curiously. “I know who you are, Iain.”
“Well, I haven’t heard anything from you for nearly two weeks and I wasn’t sure if you remembered me.”
She flushed slightly. “I’m sorry. Mother hasn’t asked me to contact you yet.”
Iain decided he wasn’t going to point out that she had the phone and her twee and didn’t have to wait for her mother’s orders before using either. “Maybe she forgot.” Iain shrugged as Kasumi flushed darker. “It doesn’t really matter right now since I’m here to talk to you and not her. I want to invite you out on a date, so what are you doing in two days?”
Kasumi glanced behind her. “My family doesn’t know I’m divorced yet.”
“First of all, you told your mother you were single. Nobody is within range of my perception which means they’re not in earshot, Kasumi,” Iain said gently. “And you don’t have to tell anyone we’re going on a date. If you don’t want to lie to them I will.”
She looked surprised. “What would you tell them?”
“I would tell them that our outing is clan related in nature and that I’m not letting you out of it. What we’re actually doing as our clan business isn’t any of their business. Actually,” he mused, “neither of those things is a lie. I guess I wouldn’t have to lie to them in this particular case.”
“I’m not sure that would be sufficient for my mother.”
“If it isn’t then she’s gone from ‘my life is yours’ to ‘that’s not a good enough explanation’ in record time. However, I’m serious. This is clan business and I’m not planning on letting you out of it.” He smiled reassuringly. “I already have reservations.”
“And where would we go?”
“We are going to go see a nogaku and have kaiseki at a restaurant that was highly recommended.” He shook his head. “It was harder to get the reservations for the restaurant than it was for the theater, but that’s Tokyo for you. Fortunately it was all done over the phone and I can do a pretty good native Nipponese accent so at least the whole ‘is this a gaijin I’m dealing with’ question didn’t come up until I gave my name and by then it was too late.”
She smiled. “That sounds wonderful and I’d love to go.” Her smile faded. “But I’m not sure that this is a good time.”
“I think it’s an awesome time,” Iain said cheerfully. “If you’re worried about the fact that nobody except your mother knows you’re divorced I can meet you clandestinely somewhere else before we go.” His cheerfulness vanished as she shook her head slowly. “I’d really like you go with me on this date.”
“I don’t think I can,” Kasumi said softly. “I’m sorry.”
Kasumi flushed slightly at the sudden lack of emotion in his tone. “Iain, that’s undeserved.”
“Considering that you just said you’re sorry but you haven’t said what for, I can’t really know if it is undeserved or not.”
Her mouth set and she glared at him for a heartbeat. “I’m sorry that I can’t go with you on what sounds like a wonderful date and I’m sorry that you’ll have to cancel those reservations. I can believe that they were difficult to acquire.”
His cheerfulness returned as abruptly as it had vanished. “As for the first part, I think you can go with me and it’s just that you’ve decided for some reason that you won’t and as for the second part, don’t worry about it. I’m not going to cancel anything.”
She gave him a slightly perplexed look. “But I’ve already explained that I can’t go. If you keep the reservations you’ll still be charged when we don’t show for them.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’m still going.”
Shock filled her eyes. “You would go alone without me?”
“Kasumi, you can decide if you are going on this date or not but you don’t get to decide if I am going. I understand this particular play is a classic and a cultural icon and I’ve been told by you and Yuko that I need to acquire some Nipponese culture so this sounds like a great thing to see. As for going alone, I am paying for two people no matter what and I’ll have to think the situation over in detail and see if I’d like to take someone else with me.”
He knew the look that suddenly blazed in her eyes and it was definitely aimed at him this time. “You would take someone else on our date?” Her tone was suddenly very definitely unhappy.
“If you aren’t going with me on this date then it certainly cannot be our date, can it? And if you aren’t going, you can’t set any conditions on what I do when I do go. If, at that time, I decide to invite someone else along with me who might enjoy the experience, well that is my right and if you are suddenly too busy watching your mother carving out a place for herself in the family you don’t live with anymore after her return to spend a particular evening with me, you don’t get to dictate anything about what I do or do not do on that particular evening.”
“Who would you take,” Kasumi asked. Iain could actually hear a low growl in her voice as she spoke. If he weren’t already aggravated at her refusal it would have been amusing to him. On second thought it was still amusing.
“That’s a very good question. I did plan out that night with you in mind and almost anyone else that I could ask won’t have the cultural references to appreciate the evening’s activities as much as you would and it’s not really fair to just drag them along to something they will tolerate because I ask them to instead of enjoy because it’s something they’d like to do with me. That’s why I’ll have to think about it for a while before making any decisions.”
“Tell me you’re not going to take Nabiki in my place.”
He snorted. “Hell no. If I start spending money and it involves your sister she would hound me forever to continue spending money on her. Besides, I am not interested in either of your sisters, just you.”
“Is there some way I can keep you from taking someone else on this date?”
“Sure there is. You come on it with me.”
Kasumi’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t enjoy being blackmailed by you, Iain.”
“I am not blackmailing anyone and I am not threatening you or anyone you care about. I wouldn’t. “
“That’s not the way this feels.”
Iain eyed her curiously. “That is because your possessiveness, which I appreciate, is warring with whatever else is going on in your head right now. You’d like me to acquiesce to your desires so that conflict will end. Since I have refused to so far, you’re not happy with me as a result. But I am not forcing you to do anything and you can’t make me accept that I am.”
“I have responsibilities to my family, Iain. This is not fair.”
“You want me to stay home, not see this play and not go to this restaurant until you decide you’re ready to go there with me. Is that incorrect?”
She sighed. “No, it is not.”
“You really don’t want me to do this with someone else. Is that incorrect?”
“It is correct.”
“Then I agree with you. This isn’t fair at all,” he paused, “to me.” He frowned. “And the situation isn’t fair to you.”
Kasumi gave him a relieved look. “I’m glad you agree. Hopefully, in just a short time things will go back to normal.”
“Are your parents at home?”
Kasumi stopped as she started to say something. “They are. Why?”
“I’d like to have a word with them.”
Kasumi hesitated. “I’m not sure that this is a good time, Iain.”
“Kasumi Tendo, you are a guest in this home and a dutiful daughter, correct?”
She blinked in surprise. “I am.”
“Then you don’t get to make that decision for your parents. As you are answering the door and I have requested to meet with them, please convey that request to them in a prompt and timely manner.”
Kasumi’s face smoothed, but he wasn’t tricked as her eyes were still unhappy. “May I inquire as to the subject of this visit,” she asked formally.
“There is a member of my clan visiting her family here. For the last two weeks that clanswoman has been attending to an unexpected and joyous event with her family. Up to this point I have been considerate enough to allow her to spend all of her time with her family, but she has responsibilities within her clan and I will only allow them to be neglected for so long. While I have been patient with the situation, I am not happy that she has been completely out of contact with her clan and I am going to quietly but firmly insist that the situation changes and that it changes immediately. At this point I see no reason to forbid my clanswoman from being involved with her outlander family but I also see no reason to allow them to forbid her from being involved with her clan, which is her current family.” Her eyes had been getting bigger and bigger and she went pale when he smiled grimly. “See, I don’t even have to bring up the fact that we are engaged.” His smile warmed. “Besides, we miss you and Giselle is frantic about the fact that she hasn’t been able to call you mistress for two whole weeks since you decided you didn’t need any guards.”
“I can’t tell them that. Please don’t order me to do that.”
Her obvious upset bothered him so much that Iain started to reach for her and stopped himself. “Kasumi,” he said gently. “I am not ordering you to do anything. I’m asking and all you have to do is let them know I’m here and I want a little of their time. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“What will you do if they refuse to see you?”
“Unless I’m willing to use force against them I have no choice but to leave,” Iain replied. “So I’d leave. But if they do refuse then I’ll have to rethink certain things. Honestly, in that situation I’m more worried about you than anything else.”
“Why would you be worried about me?”
“That means that eventually you’ll have to decide if you want to stay with us and with me,” he said simply. “You’ll have to make a decision about that and I don’t envy you having to decide what it is you want in that situation.”
“What would you have to rethink?”
“They’re not in my bubble, Kasumi. While I like Akane and kind of like Ranma, the truth is that other than you, I have no ties to the Tendo family or the people they associate with.” He shrugged. “And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not at anyone’s beck and call and I don’t intend to start being that way. I am not at the beck and call of the women who love me and whom I love and I am certainly not going to be at the beck and call of people I hardly know.”
Kasumi nodded. “I’ll ask them if they’re willing to see you now.”
“Thank you. I’ll wait.”
She was back only a few minutes later and he was amused to see that she was faintly blushing. “Iain, they’re, um, preoccupied at the moment and can’t see you. Could you instead join us for dinner?”
He regarded her for a moment. “I can.”
One of her eyebrows rose curiously. “Would you join us for dinner?”
He smiled slightly. “I will.”
“Thank you, Iain.”
“You are welcome, Kasumi. I’ll see you at dinner.” He turned and headed for the gate.
“Iain?” He looked back at her and she gave him a hesitant smile. “What about our date?”
“It’s only our date if you decide to go with me.”
She nodded unhappily. “I understand. How long do I have to decide if I’ll go with you?”
“It’s in two days, Kasumi. You have until that day at noon to decide to spend the evening with me or not. After that I’ll decide if I’m going to ask someone else to share it with me and if I do I’m not going to throw them over after that if you suddenly change your mind.”
“I understand and thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He continued for the park and transport back to the farm.
Akane opened the door and smiled at him. “Good evening, Mr. Grey.”
He smiled back. “Good evening, Miss Tendo.”
“Mother insists that I call you Mr. Grey,” she said apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.” It’s mine, he managed to not say out loud.
“Please come in. You know, I’ve missed seeing you since Kasumi came back.”
Iain slipped off his shoes and carefully placed them where they belonged. “I’ve missed seeing you too, but things have been a bit hectic here since Kasumi came to visit.”
She nodded. “Thank you for bringing back my mother,” she said very softly. “Kasumi told me that without you this wouldn’t have happened.”
“At least now you understand why I couldn’t tell you why I wanted that meeting. You’d have thought me mad.”
“I probably would have,” she admitted. “But I am very glad that you are not.”
“You are very welcome, Akane Tendo.”
“Would you like to take tea on the porch? You can watch Mother and Father working on the garden.”
Iain frowned. “You don’t have a garden anymore. Soun stopped tending it when he thought Mizuho had died and later had it removed.”
Akane nodded. “I remember it well but Mother wants it back and they’ve been working on it this afternoon.”
Iain smiled suddenly. “Are you saying I get to see your father doing manual labor with a shovel?”
Akane grinned. “You do.”
“Wow. That would only be better if Genma was out there helping.”
Akane’s grin didn’t change. “Mother couldn’t make him help and if Aunt Nodoka showed up he’d become a panda again.”
“Pandas can dig. Maybe not well, but they can dig. Besides, if he can hold a broom and a teacup as a panda he can hold a shovel.”
Akane laughed. “That is true. I may have to mention that to my mother.” She led him out onto the porch. “Please sit.”
Iain settled down. “Where are your sisters?”
“Kasumi his helping me with dinner and Nabiki is,” she giggled, “in the dojo with Ranma. She’s supposed to be training but I doubt she really is. After you have your tea I’ll sneak in there and check on her.” She turned and hurried away.
Soun and Mizuho were standing out near the pond and were talking. They were close enough that Iain could have enhanced his hearing and eavesdropped if he’d wanted to but he really didn’t care what they were discussing and just noted their presence as he began mentally reviewing the magical studying he’d been doing earlier that day. He kept his awareness of the area high enough that he saw her with his perception when Kasumi came out of the house with tea.
She paused. “Hello, Iain.”
He smiled at her. “Hello, Kasumi.”
She knelt and put the tea tray down in front of him. “I hope you’ve had a good day.”
“It was almost quiet,” he said.
She eyed him curiously. “Almost?”
“I asked a girl out and she has to think about her decision. It was unexpected.”
Kasumi’s eyes narrowed as she poured his tea. “Who,” she asked bluntly.
She looked startled and then relaxed. “Oh. I thought there was someone else.”
“You are the reason I’m here.” Iain just shook his head. “Besides, the only other unattached women around here are either infertile spirit folk or are probably one of Ranma’s problems.”
“That is true enough.” Kasumi rose gracefully. “I must return to the kitchen. Please do not discuss your business with my parents without me.”
“I can’t make you any promises about that,” Iain said. “I’m the Grey and you are part of my clan, but I won’t bring it up without you being with us unless they ask me why I’m here and refuse to let you participate for some reason. And if they do I’ll still let you hear everything by twee.”
“Thank you, Iain.” She disappeared into the house as Iain picked up his tea and sipped it. But since he had a few minutes free here and he hated the idea of wasting them, he put the tea down, placed his hands in his lap, closed his eyes and returned to his magical studies.
He kept an eye on his surroundings with his perception and so when Soun and Mizuho paused, watching him curiously and then moved towards him, he spoke without opening his eyes. “Good evening.”
“Iain,” Mizuho said carefully, “you’re glowing.”
He opened his eyes and held out his right arm. It glowed with a soft aura of bluish light. “Well, that wasn’t what I was trying for.” He focused and the glow faded away. “The last thing I want to do is make myself a more obvious target.”
“Good evening, Grey-san,” Soun said. “What were you trying to do?”
“I was practicing my magic,” Iain replied. “It wasn’t supposed to result in any sort of external effects and I was definitely not supposed to be glowing.”
Soun looked curious. “What were you practicing?”
Iain started to tell him that it was too complicated to explain and remembered he was supposed to be nicer to Soun since he might be his father in law someday. For a second he considered how to explain it and then realized there was an easy way to do so. “Just like in martial arts, there are a couple of theories about magical applications of force, those being overwhelming force all of the time and the use of minimum force at just the right juncture to cause the desired effect.” Soun nodded. “I’m a proponent of the second philosophy and I was reviewing some actions that I’ve taken recently to see if I’d done the best that I could and how to improve in the future.”
“I see,” Soun said. “I believe that philosophy too and I am glad to hear that you do as well.”
Iain looked from Soun to Mizuho. “I hope that my accidental glowing has not caused you any trouble.”
“It has not,” Mizuho said as she sat down on the porch on the other side of the tea service and motioned for Soun to join her. “I understand that you wish to speak with my husband after dinner tonight. May I inquire as to what the topic of discussion will be?” She poured tea for both her and her husband.
Iain instructed his twee to feed this conversation to Kasumi as he considered his reply. “I’d actually like to speak with both of you and I’d like Kasumi to be in attendance as well,” Iain said. “As to what about, I’d like to refrain from mentioning it until that time. I’m not trying to be secretive, but I suspect that once we begin discussing it, that discussion will not end until certain things have been resolved.” He smiled. “And I’d really like to eat first since Kasumi and Akane are both excellent cooks.”
“They are,” Mizuho said with satisfaction. “Nabiki is as well, but unfortunately she does not feel that her culinary skills should be practiced with any regularity. I understand you were aware of this already.”
“I am,” Iain said. “I also know that if the situation demanded it, she would rise to the occasion without fail.”
Mizuho nodded. “Kasumi was kind enough to share the stories you gave her about our family with me and so I am aware of what might have happened if the past hadn’t been changed by Shikarou and Kasumi acting in concert. In that time, Nabiki comported herself with the honor that I would expect from one of my daughters.”
Iain had gone very still at the mention of the stories. Now he smiled again. “That is very true. I’m just glad that it didn’t have to stay that way.”
Mizuho eyed him curiously. “If things had unfolded the way they did in that story and Kasumi was your friend as she is now, if it were necessary would you have intervened in Shikarou’s place?”
Iain realized that Soun was watching him intently. “I would have,” he said honestly.
Mizuho and Soun exchanged a look. “I also understand that you were kind enough to make the necessary arrangements for my family to have sufficient monies as to live comfortably for some time as well as maintain the shrine to Shikarou,” she observed quietly. “May I ask why you did this?”
“Whether I have had a lot of it or not,” Iain said, “money is something that I have always seen as a tool to use as opposed to an end in and of itself to acquire. The school has recently had a problem in that there were not sufficient students so as to assure its continuation. With the bride price money Shikarou gave Soun he did address the situation in his own way, but he didn’t make sufficient allowance for continued outlay of monies for the foreseeable future, either by accident or design. When I first brought Kasumi here to see her family, there were issues that had depleted the available money and, as I had enough spare funds available to set up the foundations that I did and because Kasumi is my friend and was concerned about her family’s wellbeing, I did so.”
Mizuho and Soun exchanged another look. “Did you see this as charity for my family,” she asked.
“I saw it as an investment.” He smiled. “I was hopeful that I would receive lessons in the school’s style, but unfortunately circumstances didn’t allow for them on my last visit. Even without the lessons, however, it made Kasumi less worried about her family’s future, which made what I did worth it.”
Soun nodded. “So Kasumi’s happiness is important to you.”
A tiny alarm bell began ringing in Iain’s mind and he wished Canaan or Ganieda were present right now. But they weren’t and he’d gotten along without telepaths for a long time without too much difficulty so he wasn’t going to call them summarily from the Theodora. “I realize that my actions might seem excessive to be done simply because Kasumi is my friend, but please understand that I have very few friends and I treasure the ones I do have. She worked with me while I was doing this and approved of the steps so I didn’t feel that it was excessive at the time and I still do not feel that way.” He looked from Soun to Mizuho and back. “Is there a problem with what we did?”
“There is not,” Soun said reassuringly. “We were merely curious as to why you had done these things.”
“Why did you set up a separate foundation for the shrine that goes to my husband,” Mizuho asked. “The household foundation is more than sufficient to see to its upkeep as well as the household’s without undue strain.”
The bell was louder and more strident now and Iain chose his words with care. “Please do not be insulted, either of you, with what I am going to say” he said. Both looked at him curiously. “Soun is a good man and he tries hard to be a good father, but he has no head for money and, fortunately, he is at least somewhat aware of this, which is why he let first Kasumi and later Akane manage the household accounts. But it didn’t seem fitting that he should have to go to Akane whenever he wanted or needed money.” Soun nodded unconsciously. “The foundation for the shrine’s upkeep allows him to have money of his own. It also keeps the shrine in good condition, which hopefully will make my teacher look upon me with more favor. That’s why I also made an ironclad agreement with him to make sure he does keep the shrine up as it should be.”
“I understand that you threatened my husband’s life as part of that agreement.”
“My teacher is a kami and is the father of Shikarou, who is also a kami. If I told them that the shrine would be taken care of and later turns out that it has been neglected, I would be in as much trouble as Soun at that point and I wanted to impress upon him just how serious the agreement he’d made to maintain the shrine is. Having done so, since I knew he would be diligent in maintaining it, I didn’t ever expect to have to execute that portion of our agreement.” He smiled. “In addition, I doubt my friendship with Kasumi would survive my killing her father.” His smile faded. “And the final reason is because Akane has enough to do that she doesn’t need to be saddled with the bills for a shrine that her father insisted on setting up in the first place. Shikarou didn’t request it.”
“How do you feel about the shrine,” Soun asked.
Iain didn’t care either way but he couldn’t just say that so he tried to be tactful. “I believe it serves a purpose, if only to increase the number of visitors to the school. Hopefully some of them will either enroll their children here or will become students themselves. While you don’t need money right now, you and Genma are the masters of the school now that Happosai is dead and I would hate to see that style not grow and flourish as it deserves to. And since Genma doesn’t teach and neither Akane nor Ranma are officially masters yet,” he held his hands up, palms uppermost as he shrugged. “It falls to you to ensure the style of your school survives. Not needing money allows you to focus on that goal.”
“Well said,” Mizuho stated with a warm smile.
Akane came out of the hallway. “Dinner is ready,” she announced as she gathered up the tea service onto the tray.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Iain rose smoothly as Akane disappeared back into the house. “I’d like to go wash up for dinner.” He waited for Soun’s nod and headed inside.
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
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
14 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