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Raven pulled her staff from her pocket and twirled it experimentally without taking her attention off of her opponent. “I am going to enjoy this,” she said with a grin. “I almost won the last time I fought you.”
“You fought my analog, not me for we have never crossed blades. As for this day, it is my sincerest intent that you shall enjoy nothing of what is going to happen to you during this bout,” Lucifer replied calmly with a hint of sadness in her voice. “However, it is often true that the student must learn humility as her first lesson before she can ever hope to learn any others.”
Kerrik looked at Iain from where they stood on the sidelines. “She seems rather confident. Raven isn’t a pushover.”
“Raven’s going to kick her ass,” Misery said with a grin.
Iain glanced at the Minitop. “Care to place a wager on that?” He turned to Kerrik as Misery scowled at him. “Lucifer is fully aware of Raven’s strength. The problem for Raven is that Lucy is three centuries older than anyone in your harem and she’s been fighting or training to fight the whole time.”
Misery snorted. “She’s a Celestial.”
Iain looked at Morwen. “I believe you’re supposed to officiate.”
“Right.” The Vampire trotted for the referee’s box.
Iain looked at Misery again. “I want you to remember that Eve’s a Celestial when you fight her next.”
“I’d rather fight Pandora. She once was a Seraph and she might be tough.”
“Pandora has the same problem you do,” Iain said. “Both of you have issues that can make you forget to pull your punches. That’s not a good thing in both opponents in the same fight if it’s supposed to be training.”
Morwen blew a whistle from where she stood. “Are you ready,” she yelled.
“I am,” Raven yelled back.
“I also,” Lucifer called.
“Prepare your defenses,” Morwen yelled.
Raven cast some spells while light shimmered around Lucifer and when it faded she was clad in white armor and helm and held a white heavy flanged mace in each hand.
“Lucifer is going to take Raven’s challenge seriously,” Eve said in a soft voice to Iain.
“Does that explain the maces?”
She nodded. “Lucifer specializes in the mace.”
“The mace is an unusual weapon of choice,” Kerrik commented. “What’s her plan?”
Iain shrugged. “I don’t know. I have seen her practice with her maces but I’ve never seen her fight with them. She uses swords when she trains me.”
Do you see the hollow in the top of each mace, Eve said to Iain across their bond. Lucifer can channel her techniques through them. She plans to start by taking down Raven so completely that Raven will have to acknowledge she still has things to learn from us.
Morwen raised a flag and let it fall. “Begin!”
Raven summoned an energy blade in her free hand and lifted off to flash through the air towards Lucifer. The Megami-Sama responded by tilting a mace slightly and a beam of white energy connected the top of the mace to Raven’s chest and came out the Archmage’s back to end in the distance. She stepped a pace sideways as Raven crashed to the ground and tumbled through the space she’d just occupied. “Medic!”
Siobhan was already waiting and raced out to kneel at Raven’s side. She shot Lucifer a look and used Raven’s pokeball to return her to it. “Was that really necessary?”
“I would not have done so if it were not. Heal her and return her to the fight. One lesson is unlikely to be sufficient to get the attention of the mighty Raven.”
“Impressive,” Kerrik muttered to Iain. “And her aim was perfect. Even if she’d missed the heart she’d have still sliced through Raven’s spine.” Iain glanced at him and he nodded. “And she didn’t miss the heart.”
Misery was staring at the battlefield. “Fuck me.”
“That shall be my job,” Eve said to her. “However, I believe that your understanding of the chastisement which awaits you has already started so perhaps I will be able to be less harsh with you then Lucifer will have to be with Raven.”
“Suddenly you sound like Lucifer,” Iain noted quietly. Eve just flashed him a brilliant smile.
Raven appeared on the other side of the battlefield and touched her chest before snarling at Lucifer as an amber glow of shields appeared around her. “You can’t do that again,” she said as she lifted her staff. The beam from Lucifer burned out her heart before she’d finished speaking.
The white helmet shifted to look at Siobhan as Raven collapsed with an incredulous look on her face. “Medic, heal and return her to the battle.”
Misery sucked air in a hiss and looked at Whisper. “Who do you fight?”
Whisper’s ears flicked. I have not been told.
“Who does Whisper get to fight,” Misery asked Iain.
“She will face Ganieda.”
“She’s not ancient like the others,” Misery said curiously. She missed the look Eve shot her. “Why her?”
“We discussed having Whisper fight Dominique or Eve but Ganieda was the final decision. The fact that she’s not as centuries wise as some of the others isn’t important compared to what she might be able to do. I think it’ll be an interesting match.”
Raven reappeared in her starting position and instantly crouched as she put a defensive screen of magic around her. Lucifer nodded approvingly. “If you do not challenge my ability to stop you from a distance I will allow you to close and try your fortunes in melee with me.”
Raven responded by creating an energy blade in each hand and hurling it Lucifer while creating two more as her eyes glowed.
Lucifer stayed still and the energy blades vanished when they touched her armor. “Did it occur to you that throwing energy blades is not an ability exclusively known to the people of this world? We know it and we know that any magical absorption ability negates a thrown energy blade as it only has a limited amount of magical energy in it and absorption drains it instantly and before it can cause injury. That’s why while we do train to throw blades; we only use them when fighting ferals or hunting animals.”
Raven hurled a ball of purple energy at Lucifer and it detonated just before it reached her in a roar of energy that was frightful in its intensity. The air flickered behind Raven as Lucifer teleported and the Archmage whirled, her hands and staff glowing with magic. But it was only a flicker as Lucifer instantly teleported again, this time coming out in front of where Raven was standing, which meant she was now behind her. Her mace took Raven in the back of the skull and the Archmage was out before she rebounded from the blow.
Lucifer walked to her starting point again. “Medic.”
Lucifer looked around the group and smiled at them. “The reasons for which events unfolded this day on the battlefield the way that they did are rather simple. You must always remember that eventually you will encounter a foe that is more powerful than you and you should be ready to recognize that fact and exercise discretion on the battlefield if it is at all possible. I understand that sometimes a worthy cause will prevent one from retiring in the face of overwhelming force, such as the protection of a loved one or your children. Still, one must always keep in your mind that absolute commitment to a fight may not be the wisest course. Living to fight again later is usually far more important than dying for a less than noble cause.”
Why beat us up so thoroughly for this, Whisper asked. This lesson could have just been told to us.
“That has been attempted and failed,” Lucifer replied. “After due consideration it was deemed that the only way that powerful persons such as yourself would ever truly recognize the fact that others might be superior to you, even if only situationally, was by experiencing overwhelming defeat repeatedly. And it did take several episodes for all of you to learn except for Morwen and Autumn, and in truth Morwen realized what was the lesson we were administering this day was before she stepped onto the battlefield with April and Autumn’s previous life led her to instinctively understand this fact.”
Autumn nodded from where she was sitting on a blanket with her kits. “During the war my primary goal in a losing battle was to minimize my casualties so I could keep my force intact as much as possible in case an opening becomes unexpectedly available to exploit. I do the same when fighting by myself.”
Misery shook her head and felt her wrist experimentally. They’d all been involved in the cleanup after the final battle had concluded and she’d been a little freaked out by how many of the severed limbs had been hers. “And just who is more powerful than you are? Who kicks your ass when you get too arrogant?”
Lucifer chuckled. “I have been soundly defeated many times, Misery. If I ever become too prideful, my wonderful Eve is more than ready to administer a check to my ambition and I to hers. We are evenly matched but in those cases we attack with others at our side. And, I have fought legendary pokegirls and nearly lost my life in my futile attempts at victory. It isn’t that you should fear finding that opponent who is too strong for you, but you should always be alert for the signs that this opponent is one that should be approached warily. She who does not consider all of the options available in a fight, including retreat, has not truly considered any options for that battle and is more likely to be defeated by even an inferior opponent. You will discover that here soon enough.”
Morwen looked up from her cup of Kerrik’s blood. “What do you mean?”
“Kerrik has asked us to socialize all of you so that you do not bring dishonor on him, yourselves or your clan. To that end, you will be working with us on the ranch. Certain chores will be assigned for you to complete satisfactorily and if you fail in the conditions you will fail in the test. Some of those tests will involve identifying, locating and retrieving a live animal without unduly harming it. When that animal is a feral hog or one of the kattle you are going to have a hard time of it.” She smiled briefly. “I know I certainly did.”
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Misery said with a grin. “We catch and release deer all the time for Kerrik’s sampling program.”
Kerrik laughed. “It’s not the same. You were catching those deer while they were feeding in the open. Those pigs and kattle will be in the deepest underbrush they can find and they’ll go from there to the best cover they can get to.” He hugged Misery with one arm. “I’ll be helping you and I know how to hunt just about anything. We’ll get those hogs too.”
Eve smirked at them. “I hope your aid isn’t as much of a mixed blessing as Iain’s is now that he’s a dragon.”
“What do you mean,” Raven asked curiously. Behind her, Autumn shifted closer on the blanket so she could hear better.
“Since he’s become a dragon, we’ve discovered that when an animal gets a whiff of Iain, it decides it has business somewhere far from him and heads there just as fast as it can.”
“Even Vinotero doesn’t like me anymore,” Iain grumbled. “He won’t come near me even when I’ve got some apples or omega fruit.” He shrugged. “It’s better for me when I’ve showered recently, but it’s still annoying.”
Kerrik eyed him curiously. “Your genetics in human form are pure human and you still smell like a dragon? That’s odd.”
Iain looked thoughtful. “True, but I spend more and more time in my dragon forms so I can get used to them. I’ll have to try deliberately to be nothing but human for several hours and put on fresh clothes and bathe when working with animals so I can run some tests.”
Lucifer glanced at the men. “I believe I had the floor. Raven, now that you have been made aware that you are neither invincible nor are you invulnerable, you can begin learning from the training we will be providing you. The first will be about manners and deportment, both among strangers and among family and close friends.”
“I want to learn how to fight like you do,” Raven grumbled.
“You will, but patience is another lesson you’ll be receiving,” Lucifer eyed her for a moment. “And you should be aware that petulance in a woman is unseemly.”
Raven blinked in surprise. “What?”
“You were whining,” Misery said.
“Petulant is less insulting,” Lucifer interrupted them as Raven’s eyes narrowed angrily. “And in truth she was cross as opposed to whining.”
“It means she was annoyed that I was not going to teach her what she felt she needed to know more than what I feel she needs to learn. As one of your instructors, I will help decide what you learn from us and when. Team training, battle tactics and new techniques are all things that you will learn during your lessons here, but the first thing you must learn is control or all of your training will be for naught.”
“How can you know what we need to know,” Autumn asked suddenly.
“I have raised many children and helped to civilize ferals across the centuries of my life and teach them how to behave among others. You are much brighter than many of my other students and so I will expect you to learn quickly, but that education will only begin once you decide that you truly wish to learn.”
“The thing to remember,” Iain said quietly, “is that when you act immature in public, you’re embarrassing Kerrik and the rest of your family even if you don’t feel embarrassed. He’s a proud man and while he might not say anything then, he will remember what you did.”
He remembers everything.
Iain nodded. “That’s right, Whisper. Now how do you think he feels when the women he holds above all others on this world act in a manner that he finds less than palatable.”
Ganieda gave Iain an amused look, her ears flicking. “You’re been listening to Lucifer talk too much.”
“Are you suggesting I’ve been listening too much or that she’s been talking too much,” Iain asked innocently.
“I think this is where I don’t reply so I don’t act in a manner that’s less than palatable and insult family in front of strangers.”
“A simple chuckle would have been ideal,” Iain said with a smile, “even though these people aren’t strangers. They’re just not close friends yet.”
Morwen frowned. “When will we know we have become close friends?”
“When we are willing to leave you alone with our children for any length of time,” April said as she joined the group. “Right nobody here is left alone with even Canaan’s kits and she likes all of you.”
“I’d say that’s a very valid determination point,” Kerrik said thoughtfully. “When will you leave Raven and the others alone with Iain?”
“Never,” Ganieda said instantly. Iain glanced at her and she shrugged. “I’m just saying what every other member of our clan is thinking right now.”
“She’s probably right,” Raven said. “And we wouldn’t want to leave Kerrik alone with you.”
“I suppose that’ll be true no matter how powerful the male in the relationship is,” Kerrik’s voice was heavy with amusement.
“Don’t get me started,” Iain muttered. “So, what’s next?”
“Now that all of the newcomers have been sufficiently brutalized,” April said cheerfully, “we can commence with baselines for them all.”
“What’s a baseline,” Raven asked suspiciously.
“We start with a medical workup from Theodora and then we proceed to physical testing,” the Duelist said. “We need to ascertain where your limits are so we will be able to praise you when you improve enough to earn it.” She smiled at Misery’s sudden scowl. “Yes, I’m sure you’ve never been stronger, but I seriously doubt that’s the strongest you can ever be and, as a pokegirl, I know we all want to get stronger. Misery hopes to someday kick Raven’s ass like hers got kicked today, for example, and if she works hard enough she’ll get that strong within the next two years or so, I suspect. She’ll just have to remember that while she’s getting stronger, so is Raven. And Morwen, Whisper and Autumn will also all be getting stronger during that same period.” She gave Autumn a sympathetic smile. “You’re going to have the worst time of it, I’m afraid.”
The Elfqueen frowned. “Why me?”
“We have Ninhursag, who originally was your genetic twin, so we already know you can get a lot stronger than you are now.” She looked at Kerrik. “I’m not sure I’m happy about your request to work with your women. It’s not really that much more to add to the training schedule, but are we going to also be training Autumn’s court?”
“Right now let’s focus on my harem,” Kerrik said. “The court will wait until next year after Autumn sees how she has improved from today and decides if she wants to put her court through the same kind of hell.”
“Also,” April said, “he heard what is happening and Caradoc has requested training for himself and his clan too, although it probably won’t start until next year.”
Kerrik looked surprised. “Is he joining Grey?”
“No, we’re considering an alliance but we’ll talk about the details of that later, although it shouldn’t affect your relationship with him at all,” Iain replied. “April, get the testing started please.”
She nodded. ‘No problem, Iain. I’d like everyone to come this way.”
“So, where’s your husband,” Belldandy said teasingly as she settled down on a heavily cushioned chair.
Lucifer handed her a beer. “He’s somewhere else where he has plausible deniability in regard to our meeting tonight.” Technically it was morning since it was after midnight, but it was the best time for the women to meet. “Did you have any problem leaving your guards?”
Belldandy shook her head. “I never sensed anything and I don’t think they could have either. I’ve never travelled like that and my guide refused to talk to me except to tell me to follow her and to warn me not to wander off. What was that?”
“Your escort was the pokegirl of a friend and what you experienced was traveling via a ley line. It’s why you were instructed to sleep at that particular hostel in Ireland. I’d never known about ley lines or using them for traveling until I met Iain.” She handed another beer to the third person in the room and leaned back against the table. “I’d like you to meet the Lucifer who is the native of One.”
“I use Lucy when I’m with her,” the identical looking pokegirl said with a smile. The only difference was that she was wearing different clothes from her counterpart. “I was told that you wished to meet me and ascertain that I was truly alive and had escaped my hunters.”
“I can’t even tell your auras apart,” Belldandy said in surprise. “You feel like the same person in two places at once.”
“Few can,” Lucy admitted. “Even Danielle can’t tell which of us is which unless we want her to and Eve, Danielle’s counterpart, has a difficult time of it too and isn’t always successful determining which of us is which.”
“Iain can,” Lucifer said. “He has a special gift for things like that. He’s the also only person who can always tell my daughters apart.” She picked up her own beer and took a deep drink. “The truth is that I can’t do that.”
“I hope to meet them one day,” Belldandy said.
Belldandy looked at Lucy. “I have to ask. How do you feel about her presence on our world?”
“Iain approached me before he moved Lucifer and her people here and I gave him my permission to do so. If I hadn’t, I believed him when he told me that he would not have allowed them to come here. I appreciate him coming to me for that approval beforehand, but to be honest I had no idea of what I was allowing. We are but a match’s flame if set alongside the bonfire that is the power of the foreign Sisterhood.” Lucy looked at Lucifer for a long moment. “But I’ve read some of the historical data that the Sisterhood brought over with them and even with the differences I see what happened to them is already taking place here. Many leagues are already indoctrinating their citizenry, both adult and child about how we aren’t human at all and are nothing more than their chattel. Places where the leagues don’t hold complete sway are doing the same thing. Ferals are breeding as quickly as local food supplies allow and when they run out of what they can catch then survival pressure will drive them into more and more conflict with the humans and us, the aware pokegirls trying to protect and be with them. And instead of paying attention to the feral pokegirls that are starting to ravage them, many groups of humans are still completely focused on redressing wrongs they feel were committed against them and are murdering still other groups, both inside and outside of the leagues.” She shook her head. “I am proud of my decisions and I am proud of what I and my people have accomplished, but the truth is that as Celestials we are all aware that the mission is paramount over the individual. When the fallout from Lucifer’s purge of the Sisterhood is over, I’ll probably fold my organization into hers. There are too many people we have to save to waste energy squabbling over who is in charge.”
“Iain and I have been discussing that,” Lucifer said quietly. “I think that perhaps it would be better if we formed a partnership so that the Celestials and any others from One who will resent my Sisterhood because it did come from the future and from another world will still have a place where they can feel that they belong and work to give aid to all those who will need us.”
Lucy smirked at her. “You think that or you and Iain think that?”
Lucifer chuckled. “He did help me to plan this out, but the Sisterhood is mine and mine alone and he and I both want it to remain that way. The last thing my sisters need to decide is that Idun and her ilk are correct and I am nothing more than Iain’s whore. I am his love and his wife but I swore I would never be a whore again when I set myself against Scott.” She shook her head. “The other reason is that there will be things that have to be done that I should not be associated with and neither should you. Iain will do those things with the rest of the clan.”
“How can you allow this,” Belldandy asked in a shocked tone.
“I heard those same words from many Celestial lips when I defied Scott,” Lucifer said grimly. “How could I dare allow myself to betray our Creator, he who was our entire reason for being? I will give you the same answer that I gave them when we spoke for the last time. It is necessary. I will watch Iain do what must be done because it must be done and, sometimes, I will not be able to do it. And after you and yours spend a little more time with us you will learn that one does not allow Iain. Stand between him and a goal he decides absolutely must be done and you will be trampled underfoot if not one of his or politely and yet firmly moved out of the way if he cares about you.”
Lucy chuckled. “I have heard your sisters say that about you, Lucifer.”
Lucifer smiled affectionately at her. “I have heard yours say the same thing, sister, and this time regarding you. But Iain and I are a wonderful match.” She looked at Belldandy. “But enough of this for we are here for a reason. I intend to purge the Sisterhood of the traitors and I am planning to move as soon as I can. We need to coordinate our actions, the three of us.”
“Why,” Belldandy asked. “This is internal to the Sisterhood and I wouldn’t dream of interfering.”
“And you shouldn’t,” Lucifer said. “But when I purge the Sisterhood I thought I might let a few of Prastara’s and Raphaela’s agents escape and run to their mistresses, thus betraying them and offering you the opportunity to cleanse the Alliance at the same time.”
Belldandy shook her head. “While I have managed to determine that their forces are small in number, I haven’t been able to pin down who they are enough to move against them. I can’t trust most of my security teams because of their influence.”
“You don’t have to,” Lucy said. “My people will form the strike teams you need to arrest the traitors you know of and after that we can press them for the information you need to remove the cancer that is their organization.”
“I can’t stomach torture,” Belldandy said.
“That’s all right,” Lucy replied with a cruel smile. “I’m not that fond of it either, but we don’t have to torture them.” She looked at Lucifer. “This is going to be one of those cases you just mentioned, isn’t it?”
Lucifer nodded. “I don’t like it, but you are correct. They threatened my family and so they will be given to Iain, who will find out everything we need to know.” She sighed. “And if it were that he would only torture them.”
Belldandy started. “There’s something worse?”
“We will not have time for any sort of lengthy process of interrogation lest your traitors flee and escape, and any prisoners are quite likely to be resistant to magical coercion, so Iain will either have Canaan and Ganieda gain their memories their way or he will do it himself. In the first method, Prastara and Raphaela will not likely survive the experience and in the other Iain will do something that makes my heart quail every time he does.” She held up a hand when Belldandy started to speak. “I am afraid I don’t know you quite that well yet, sister, to reveal all things to you. Suffice it that you will have the information you need and you will have it within a few hours of them being delivered to the clan.”
Belldandy sighed. “Skuld should be here in my place. She is ever the most practical of us.”
“You are the leader of the Alliance,” Lucifer said in disagreement, “and you make the final decision. You had to be here for I would not have allowed you to decide based upon what Skuld or anyone else might tell you.”
“I know, but my heart is heavy when I must condemn anyone, even those who I know would kill me.” She looked at her beer and grimaced. “It is a shame that this is such an excellent beer, for I have no stomach for anything at the moment.”
“You have the stomach to make this decision,” Lucifer said firmly. “And you will decide before you leave here tonight.”
Belldandy looked into her eyes. “How do you kill your friends? How do I kill mine?”
“You see what they were and not who they are now,” Lucifer said. “In my case I have watched Idun grow from a child to a woman and blossom into a gifted leader. She has been my friend for a very long time and I will grieve for her and the others in the decades to come. But as Lucy said and as you well know, we live to serve and they wish to live for dominion over all they meet. We must destroy them because if we do not they will destroy the dream we all carry in our hearts and they will cripple the potential that humanity has in the doing. I tried as hard as I could to come up with any other determination, but the bald truth is that there is no way we can coexist because they will always have to destroy us to succeed in their goals. Even were we willing to stand aside and allow them their way they would have to destroy us if only so our presence does not continually remind them of the shame of the acts that they feel it necessary to perform.”
“They would have to destroy us because we could always change our mind about not opposing them and others would hold us up as a reason to resist the rebels,” Belldandy said slowly. Her eyes hardened. “The mission is paramount. Raphaela and Prastara must be stopped and those who work with them stopped as well.” She looked at Lucifer and Lucy in turn. “To that end I will gratefully accept all of the aid you can offer me. When this is over, I think a three-way alliance between our groups would be the best. We have contacts that you do not and Lucy has ones that I cannot know of.”
“Then an alliance it shall be,” Lucifer said. “The resources of my clan and of the Sisterhood as well as Prometheus stand ready for you.”
“How is it that you can commit Iain,” Lucy sounded surprised. “He is your clan leader and I’m learning that he makes that final decision.”
“He does and he already did,” Lucifer replied. “We had hoped that this meeting would go well and planned accordingly so his decision about aiding you was already made in case we did decide to work together.”
Belldandy smiled. “He trusts you that much? That is wonderful to see how well the two of you mesh. You are an example to us all.”
“Does that mean you’re rethinking your decision to keep humans out of your life?”
“We are,” Belldandy replied. “We have seen what you and Iain are like together and we have visited Shield and Thistle and we have seen that what you showed us is no trick. And we denied ourselves the company of humans because we desired them so much. Now we realize they help to make us complete.”
“They can help to make you complete,” Lucifer corrected her gently. “Choose who you tie yourselves to carefully, though because the wrong human can cripple us.”
“How did you meet Iain?”
“I had heard of his existence and rumors of what he might be from agents of mine in the Blue League government and I decided I needed to keep a close eye on him. The usual procedure at that point is to put an agent in proximity to the target. Since he was moving around a lot at the time, it was best to add someone to his harem, someone who would be strong enough to leave him when her job was complete. Eve, whose name was Danielle at that time, was available and I gave the mission to her. Later she introduced us.”
“That’s a remarkable story,” Belldandy said, her eyes glowing softly.
“It is,” Lucifer said as she turned to the table. “But we need to return to the mission. I have available some equipment that you will not be familiar with. As I know Belldandy would prefer to take prisoners as much as possible and as she isn’t completely sure who is guilty of plotting to destroy her dreams and who is not, I wanted to offer her some options.” She held up a backpack. “This is a pokepack and holds two hundred and twenty six kilograms or five hundred pounds of material in a digital format similar to that of the pokegirl storage devices we are all familiar with. You use this wand to store items or release them and you can use your pokedex or the built-in display to do inventory searches for things you might want to release. There are limitations on what it will store or how many, but there’s a built in electronic manual that’s short and precise about its uses as well as its limitations. Among the other things it will do is hold pokegirls in complete stasis inside their pokeballs so they will not go feral. I can also provide you with as many pokeballs as you need for prisoners or for rescuing your fallen.” She looked at the two other Megami-Sama. “I can provide these in whatever quantity you might want. There are also versions that are duffle bags and other forms.”
She put the pokepack down and picked up a hard-shelled pack with a long tube that ended in a bell shaped muzzle. “Where I came from the humans had invented paraspray, a liquid that caused paralysis of the voluntary muscles in a pokegirl when she was sprayed with it. She cannot move or speak. This is a dispenser for paraspray that can be worn over armor, although it will prevent wings from being used.” She put the pack down. “This dispenser can also carry a variety of liquids or gasses. One of the ones I would suggest for your operation is a blend of paraspray and LSD along with an agent that makes the LSD be absorbed through the skin.”
“Why,” Belldandy asked, “do you recommend this?”
“The paraspray paralyzes any pokegirl but her brain is unaffected. The LSD keeps her from using any mental abilities such as telepathy or teleportation. It means you don’t have to put up a teleport or phase block beforehand and possibly warn your targets.” Lucifer made a face. “I had it tested on me. I didn’t enjoy the experience, but it kept me from being able to think coherently until it wore off.”
“What other things can that dispenser use,” Lucy asked.
“It can carry a binary agent that kills in seconds and has a very short persistence, breaking down into harmless compounds in only a few hours,” Lucifer said. “The user will have to wear a protective suit or spell, but we are using it against feral pokegirls, especially those who live in enclosed spaces. It can also use various incapacitating gasses or liquids as well as dyes and other agents for marking your targets for later location.” She smiled. “And some people are using a recreational version with a pressurized air canister to turn it into a rather powerful water cannon which they are using as a squirt gun.”
“I am glad that your people can have fun with such dreadful things,” Belldandy said.
“This isn’t dreadful,” Lucifer replied with a raised eyebrow. “Some of the things that can be done with it are dreadful, but the device itself is relatively innocuous.”
“You are right and I apologize for insulting your gift. I thank you for offering me a nonlethal way to take prisoners and I will accept it with pleasure,” Belldandy said. “What other things can you offer us?”
“I also have access to a variety of weapons and other sundry equipment for military operations, but there is one thing I want to give both of you this night.” Lucifer reached into a pocket and pulled out a slender tube from which she shook two gray pills. “If taken, these will grow a computer in your head. It’s harmless to you and will allow you to communicate with others who have them or those who have pokedexes, which I am also making available to you. When communicating with others who have them, the communications are secure and untraceable with the technology your foes possess.”
Belldandy looked at the pills. “Do you have one?”
“I do, as does Eve and Iain and everyone else that you’ve met, including the children.” She smiled. “If it helps, Iain is aware of what I’m offering you and he’s not sure he thinks this is a good idea but he agrees that it is my choice as to whether or not to make this offer.”
“Why is he not sure this is a good idea,” Lucy asked as she took one of the pills.
“Because he and I know all too well that today’s allies are not always tomorrow’s allies too and it offers a powerful tactical advantage even if we can detect when they are in use. I however, am willing to chance my fortunes with you and yours. I doubt we will ever truly be enemies even during our worst disagreements.”
Lucy was looking at the pill in her hand. “I want them for my people.” She looked up at Lucifer. “But you already knew I would.”
Lucifer just smiled at her twin. “I have them in whatever numbers you desire and will provide them without cost. I will trust you to give them to those who won’t betray the mission.”
“How do we use them,” Belldandy asked curiously. She reached out and plucked the remaining pill from Lucifer’s hand and washed it down her throat with beer.
“They will teach you how to utilize them when they wake up in about a week.” Lucifer offered the tube to Belldandy and produced another one from her pocket for Lucy. “These are for your closest allies and family. Once they wake up we can talk whenever we want and no one will be able to detect us, so you can request more of them and we can discuss tactics without having to meet and possibly be discovered. That way we don’t have to physically be together until our plans are farther along.”
Lucy nodded and rose as she popped the twee capsule into her mouth and swallowed it dry. “I’ve been checking to see if we’ve been infiltrated too. So far it looks like we’ve managed to avoid the attention of the Alliance.”
“Please,” Belldandy said, “the Alliance is mine. You’ve managed to avoid the traitors to us all and I’d like to avoid comparing them to us.”
“Very well, I’ve managed to avoid the attention of the traitors in the Alliance.” Lucy smiled and hugged a surprised Belldandy. “Greetings sister and I look forward to going to war with you and more for the coming peace between us.” She gave Lucifer a wink and blew her a kiss before disappearing.
Lucifer chuckled and took Belldandy’s hands. “I am truly sorry for what we must do to your friends.”
“They are not my friends if they seek dominion over the Earth,” Belldandy said in a heavy voice. “And I must remember that they would kill my sisters and twist the Alliance into a monstrous organization to suit their own warped desires. But I appreciate you grieving with me.” She hugged Lucifer and stepped back. “I will start our preparations. As soon as I can talk to you through this computer I will.”
“It’s called a twee,” Lucifer told her. “And I look forward to hearing from you. Be well, Belldandy. Return to the spot where you were dropped off and Ida will be waiting there to take you by ley line back to your room.”
“Be well and thank you, Lucifer.” She vanished.
Lucifer cleaned up and stepped outside the room, nodding to Eve and Pandora. “We’re done. Sanitize the room and the surroundings. Put out sensors so we’ll know if anyone comes to investigate this place.”
“We already have,” Eve said.
“Send the Sisterhood tamers and their harems back home. I’m glad we didn’t need their battle skills tonight. I’ll speak with Colonel Sawicki tomorrow during the mission debrief.”
“Go home,” Pandora said firmly. “We’ll take care of everything.”
Lucifer nodded and teleported to her room in the Sabine House; stripped off her clothes and climbed into her bed. A sleepy head rose to peer at her. “Mother?”
Lucifer kissed Seraphina and curled up with her. “Hush, child and go back to sleep.” She sighed when a solid line of warmth pressed against her back. “How were they?”
“Little devilish angels as usual,” Iain nuzzled her neck. “Olivia’s clinging to my back, so don’t get any ideas about tonight.”
“I’m not the one who seems to have ideas,” Lucifer chuckled as she pressed her rump back against his erection.
“How did the meeting go?”
“We agreed to form a partnership with which to fight Prastara and Raphaela and their minions. They both accepted twee for themselves and their compatriots. Lucy intends to give them to every person in her Sisterhood she knows she can trust.”
“We probably need to do that too,” Iain grumbled. “I can’t keep them as clan exclusives that way, but you’re already giving them to non-clan and it’s too useful for us to not use as well.”
“Offer them the same thing you offered your Rangers,” Lucifer twisted her head to look at him in the darkness. “Make them clan.” She laid back down.
“Then we start blurring who commands them and I wanted to avoid that, remember?” He jerked. “Olivia! Did you just bite me?”
Lucifer heard the girlish giggle. “Yes, Father, but not hard enough to break the skin. I had to get your attention. Do what Mother wishes and the solution is simple enough. Theodora is your empress, Ygerna is your queen and Dominique is your wizard. Mother shall be your general and command all the clan’s armies.”
Iain shook his head. “Out of the mouths of biters,” he muttered.
“That is supposed to be ‘out of the mouths of babes’,” Olivia corrected him crossly.
“You’re not a babe. You bit me. Now your mother is a babe.”
“Mother has bitten you, Father.”
“Too smart by far,” Iain muttered. Olivia and Seraphina giggled together. “So, General Lucifer, what say you? The people who are going to see you as my lackey are going to see that whether you are or not. I think it’s time to stop trying to appease their sensibilities and tell them to go fuck themselves.”
“They see me as your whore, Iain, not your lackey.”
Iain growled and Lucifer shivered at the heat in it. “I can stop that,” he said in a voice that was deep and angry. “And the survivors won’t dare call you that not even in their hearts where they think I can’t hear them.”
Lucifer waited a moment and lifted her head. “You didn’t bite your father, Olivia.”
“He’s right, Mother. They need to learn to fear you more than they ridicule you if that is the only way they will respect you.”
“I see they’re more devilish than angelic tonight.” Lucifer snuggled back against Iain. “But I tire of it too. I will be your general, Iain, but I will chastise my detractors for I fear that eventually I would have no enemies to battle if you are given free rein with them.”
Iain chuckled. “I’ll race you for them.”
She laughed softly. “No. I do not like losing, and I don’t think I’d like losing to you much more than I dislike losing to anyone else.”
“Fine, be that way. They’re yours to deal with. Are you going to turn Prometheus over to someone else while you’re purging the Alliance?”
“I do not believe it will be necessary and doing the work of Prometheus will help my heart to be just a little brighter during the coming darkness. If it turns out that I am mistaken, I will turn Prometheus over to Eve.”
“How is Eve running Prometheus different from you running it?”
Lucifer just chuckled and relaxed against the warmth that was his body.
Iain stepped out onto the bridge and stopped in surprise. “Theodora, you’ve redecorated.”
She appeared, smiling. “You noticed! I hope you like it.”
“Noticed? It’s kind of hard to miss.” The bridge’s walls were now earth colors of brown and green with some lighter streaks of white and gold. Plants sat in what looked like pots but were in fact extrusions of metal grown from the deck. “I will admit that it’s pretty but I’m curious as to the why of the changes.”
“Ygerna noted that all of the metal and technology on the bridge made her uncomfortable and I asked her for some ideas on how to make it less unacceptable. Doing some color changes to the anti-spalling composite on the walls and adding a few plants was the easiest way to hopefully help her. Checking the psychological profiles of other members of the inner clan, I realized that she wasn’t the only one who might be uncomfortable but that she had merely been the only one to comment on it. I’ve done the same thing in Auxiliary Command.”
One of the plants near the entrance to the bridge was a rosemary bush. Iain ran his hands gently over the plant and held them to his face to inhale the fragrant aroma. “I like it. Go ahead and let everyone else know what to expect unless this is just a blatant fishing expedition for compliments.”
“I’ll let the others know.” Theodora chuckled. “I was only fishing for compliments from you, Iain.”
“Mission accomplished,” he replied amusedly. “It is very nice and I may have to consider something like this for my quarters.”
“I doubt you need anti-spalling composite on your walls.”
“I meant the color changes.”
“Oh.” She looked thoughtful. “I could coat the walls with sealant that contains color adjusting molecules. It would be similar to the system I have in the carpets.”
Iain nodded. “That sounds good.” He settled into his command chair, reaching out with his twee to Theodora and his maharani. Ninhursag, what is the status of the loading?
We are getting the children settled in the nursery but everyone is on board. I’ll be heading to Auxiliary Command in about ten minutes.
We are already in position for the transit since I moved here yesterday in anticipation of this, Theodora reported to both of them. All I am waiting for is Dominique.
The hatch opened and Ygerna came in with Dominique, Eve and Lucifer. The Sidhe looked around with a smile. “It’s much more relaxing, Theodora. Thank you.”
“You are very welcome,” Theodora said as Lucifer slid into the pilot’s station and Eve took the copilot position. “Dominique, we are in position for transit.”
Dominique nodded and moved to the front of the bridge as Ygerna stood beside Iain. “And so the clan goes to war,” she said quietly. “There are no flags and no musicians and all is quiet and yet our strength carries with it a grandeur that cannot be denied.”
“I hope that war can be avoided,” Iain replied in a low voice.
“Have you decided not to rescue my mother?”
“I rescued Kasumi’s mother and she and everyone else agrees that we should go after your mother too, but I am curious as to what her life will be like afterwards. She and you will be the only pureblooded Sidhe in the world, other than Queen Ygerna and we’re not really talking to her much. Your mother will discover that a long time has passed and the Sidhe are just a memory for the humans and not necessarily a pleasant one.”
“I will take care of my mother, Iain, and Danu will bless our reunion.”
“As long as Danu doesn’t expect me to add her to the inner harem, I’m good with that.”
Ygerna looked confused for a moment and then her eyes narrowed. It was low, but Iain heard the hiss. She leaned down to put her mouth next to his ear and her voice was a harsh whisper. “You are mine, Iain Grey, and I will not share you with anyone.”
“Good. You just remember that anyone means only any other Sidhe.”
She chuckled and kissed his ear affectionately. “Golden Cloud is right. You guard your words too well.”
“It’s an occupational hazard of being around too many fey or fey like people.”
Kasumi came in and sat down in one of the science station chairs. “Did I miss anything interesting?”
“No,” Ygerna said and moved to sit beside her. “Do you begin your sentry duty of Iain now?”
Kasumi smiled. “I will as soon as we land.”
Dominique finished casting her spell. “The gate is forming,” she announced as she headed for a food dispenser for a drink.
“Shifting to EMCON,” Theodora said. “Weapons are armed but safe until release is authorized. Drones are ready for launch in tubes bow one and bow six.”
“As soon as the portal is stable launch drones and you are weapons free.” Iain replied. “What is the status on the artificial world?”
“It’s still collecting gold out near Mars,” Theodora answered, “and is showing no signs of interest in us or our activities.” The floor quivered beneath them. “Missiles are away.”
Iain watched on the display as the missiles raced towards the portal. Once they reached halfway to the portal they began decelerating until they almost drifted though the opening between universes.
Only a few minutes later they reappeared back through the gate, again almost drifting. Theodora cocked her head. “Incoming telemetry is solid and the physical constants are almost identical to those of Kasumi Grey’s universe. Dominque, I’m putting the results from the resonance crystals in front of you now.”
Symbols appeared in front of the Archmage. Dominique had enchanted some crystals made from synthetic diamond doped with specific chemicals and placed them inside one of the drones. She read the symbols and looked back at Iain. “The address matches the one for Ranma the tamer’s universe that came from the Wolf database.”
Iain nodded. “Theodora, take us through.”
The two drone missiles shot away as the Theodora accelerated. They flew over a million kilometers from the portal before self-destructing in a bright flash of thermonuclear fire. The standing rule was that no item that crossed into another universe that they hadn’t actually entered first would ever return to the Theodora, to protect her and the rest of the clan from potential nanotechnology or magical attacks from unknown enemies on the other side who’d managed to seed the drones with their devices.
Theodora brought the ship to almost a complete halt and powered down all possible systems before they slid through the gate. Weapons, drives and shields were all on standby in case they emerged under attack while stealth systems stood ready in case they weren’t.
But the space around the portal was empty and Theodora powered up the ship as she located the Earth and turned towards it, the Theodora slipping into stealth as she accelerated. “I’m picking up radio signals consistent with a low to nonexistent space presence and we will reach the L5 point in nine hours unless you decide we’re in more of a hurry. It is currently 2245 in Japan. May I shift internal ship’s time to match?”
“Keep us on our time but inform everyone’s twees of the differences. I don’t expect to be here more than a day,” Iain said as he got up.
“You will be here for longer than that,” Ygerna predicted confidently.
Iain glanced at her and then Kasumi. “Yeah, probably. Still I don’t want to screw up everyone’s internal clocks any more than necessary. Those of us who go planet side will adapt as we need to.”
Kasumi looked from Ygerna to Iain. “What is it?”
“Review the situation Shikarou left the Ranma from here when he left this world,” Ygerna said softly.
Kasumi frowned for an instant before her eyes went wide. “Oh my.” She looked at Iain. “We cannot leave him like this.”
“I’ll point out that Shikarou and I are not the same person,” Iain replied. “I never took responsibility for the man and neither did you.”
“It’s a matter of honor,” Kasumi said quietly. “My family took him in and then gave him up to the kami who became my new family. The fact that it isn’t my family any longer means nothing as I was a part of it when it happened. We have plenty of money.”
Iain scowled. “Here are the rules. There will be no time traveling or saving anyone’s lives unless it’s in our best interests. Any support we provide goes to Ranma and his harem. It doesn’t go to the Saotome family and it certainly doesn’t go to the Tendo family unless Ranma gives it to them. If he gives away all of his money to his father or to anyone else, he doesn’t get more just because his father or whoever squandered it all playing Cho-Han or just won’t give him any back. If he wastes it, he doesn’t get more.”
“We could set him up with an endowment,” Kasumi suggested.
“We may, but the legal status of his harem is probably nebulous at best, which means if anything happens to Ranma then the money stops.” Iain thought for a moment. “An endowment with a cache of money in case of something going wrong is probably the best bet for him and that if he actually needs help. He’s not stupid.”
“No, he isn’t,” Kasumi said, “but he is uneducated and really has no marketable skills either. In addition, the girls of his harem have only a cursory education and most of them aren’t human enough looking to pass.”
“Someone gave a panda named Genma a job in the area around the dojo of your family’s home,” Iain pointed out. “Not looking human isn’t necessarily a disqualifying condition to finding employment in Nerima.”
“My former family was responsible for him when I was part of it which means I am responsible for him now,” Kasumi replied. “If I had money of my own I would set him up with an endowment. I don’t, but my new family does and I need your help to ensure he and his girls are taken care of. Will my husband aid me in this?”
“I never said I wouldn’t,” Iain took her hand. “You don’t have to manipulate me. I just want to make sure we do this right so they’re actually taken care of.” He looked at Theodora. “I would like you to do some digging for Kasumi please and find out how much of the citizenship process in Japan is currently computerized and how much isn’t. We may end up illegally expediting the citizenship of Ranma’s girls so they can get to the money if anything happens to him and we need to know beforehand what we can have you do and what part of the process we’ll have to do some breaking and entering to accomplish.”
“I’ve already dispatched a shuttle to the Earth to set up a satellite constellation. As soon as it’s in service I’ll get started,” Theodora replied with a smile. “It’s a shame that this won’t really be much of a challenge.”
Iain looked thoughtful for a second and looked at Dominique. “Could we put a library doorway on a shuttle?”
“Shit.” Dominique shook her head. “Yes, a temporary door would be easy enough to enchant on one and I should have thought of that already.” She grinned at him. “You do realize that you just invented FTL travel across the solar system, right?”
“If we build a specific vestibule here onboard I can put doors anywhere you want that tie back to it. They won’t cross dimensions but otherwise we can do them for as many of our assets we have in the solar system as you can want.”
Theodora cocked her head. “Can something go through a doorway permanently?”
Dominique frowned. “Give me an example.”
“We have a fueling station in orbit around Jupiter. Could I use a doorway to run permanent or temporary liquid gas lines from it to the station in orbit around Luna or the other ones I’m establishing so I don’t need to use bulk tankers or secondary refueling stations scattered throughout the solar system?”
“Temporary should be possible,” Dominique said slowly as she thought. “As for permanent, I will have to do some research but my first guess would be that it isn’t stable enough for that. The wormhole that is created is stable enough for the safe passage of objects, including living ones, but there are some fluctuations in the energy matrix that could make having something protrude through it permanently impossible.” She looked at Iain. “The way the doorways work is that they have an active state when something is going through them and a passive state when they’re not in use. The passive state isn’t very stable but the doors go from passive to active as soon as something enters them. The problem is that the active state doesn’t seem to be designed for permanent activation.”
That made sense to Iain and had been hinted at in the things Nightraven had told him when she’d taught him how to first make doors. “What about the temporary lines Theodora suggested?”
Dominique shrugged. “That should be feasible but I’ll do some research to see if I can determine how long a protruding object can safely remain in the portal itself if a permanent duration isn’t going to be possible.”
“How big can a doorway be,” Iain asked. “Could we make one large enough for a bulk freighter to use?”
“No. The energy costs in the active state quickly go up as the size of the doorway increases and above three and a half meters in any dimension I don’t have the power to make it work,” Dominique said. “Of course, you might be able to do it, but I can’t.”
“So that’s not going to be feasible,” Iain stated. “We can live with that.”
“I can put a doorway in a shuttle today,” Dominique offered. “It’ll last for a month of normal use before I have to reenchant it.”
“I think it’ll wait until you get this vestibule designed and Theodora installs it. I’ve never been excited about all of the doors going through the periphery of the library and a designated area for more doors can have defenses that would destroy the library. Shuttles have worked perfectly well so far and they can keep working for the immediate future.” Iain got up. “Theodora, are you done with us for now?”
“I am, Iain. I’m informing Ninhursag that she can secure Auxiliary Command and thank you.”
“You are very welcome. Weapons are no longer free and stand down to normal security levels.” He reached out with his twee. April, we shouldn’t be going anywhere for several hours. What’s my schedule look like?
I’m putting a hold on training until we get on the surface of the planet and if we’re here for a few days at least I want to start more shopping missions since this is a new world. The people who can’t do the shopping will instead provide security for you and the missions.
We will be here for at least two weeks.
Then I’ll start planning out the schedules for everyone. I love you.
And I love you too, April. Iain looked at Lucifer. “Training is put on hold for now. See April for the schedules since you’ll be involved with the shopping expeditions.”
She didn’t look pleased. “Have I mentioned that I do not care for the uncontrolled spending sprees that some of my sisters call shopping?”
“These will be coordinated by April. Does that make it more acceptable?”
“I will see if it does,” Lucifer replied. “If it does not then I will join your security element.”
Iain smiled. “That works for me.”
“Iain,” Theodora smiled invitingly at him. “Could you come to medical?”
He gave her a suspicious look. “What for?”
“It’s about time for your latest physical and I would like to get it done before you go to the planet.”
“You mean you’d like to do it before Iain slips out of your grasp,” Eve said with a grin.
Theodora looked hurt. “I would never put it that way, Eve. He’s much more tractable if he’s asked politely. It’s only if he declines such a reasonable request that I’d ask my sisters to gently take him by the arms and politely escort him to medical.”
Iain smiled. “I’m pretty sure there’s a threat in that somewhere.”
“I’m sad to say,” Theodora said, “that I expected you to see one in that. However, I think my sisters would disagree. I have threatened no one.”
She chuckled. “I can’t say that and have it not be a lie since I remember threatening the Indigo League if they attempted to assassinate you. So, will you accede to my very polite request and come to medical?”
Kasumi laughed and took Iain’s hand. “Husband, I believe that Theodora is trying to develop her own version of what you call my mental judo. Let us go to medical.”
Iain waved to Eve, Lucifer, Ygerna and Dominique. “See you, ladies.”
Kasumi led him to the transport bay and they took one of the small transports. As it left the station she snuggled against him happily. Iain wrapped an arm around her and she made a content little purr.
When they arrived at the landing station, Kasumi led him out of the ship and turned to face him. Her face was serious and she took a deep breath as she looked up into his eyes. “I am pregnant.”
Iain smiled broadly “That’s wonderful!” He took her in his arms and kissed her soundly. “It’s hard to believe we’ve already been married for two years.”
Kasumi blinked and smacked him in the chest. “How did you know about that?”
“April told me about your concerns after you mentioned them to her.”
“When did I,” she broke off. “It was the day that I licked your neck while we were watching the children. I had quite forgotten amidst the following excitement.” She looked up into his eyes again. “You are truly happy?”
“I am, Kasumi. This is something that we both want and I’m glad it happened.”
Her breath gusted out and she nestled against his chest. “I shouldn’t have worried. You are not Shikarou.”
“No, I don’t believe I am. My ears are all wrong to be him.”
“Hush, Iain and just hold me.” He chuckled and tightened his arms around her. She finally pushed away from him. “I have known for a month, but I wanted to make sure that the pregnancy was certain.”
“I understand, Kasumi.”
Her eyes twinkled merrily. “You do realize that this will just enhance the legends about your virility.”
Iain raised an eyebrow and then shrugged fatalistically. “I can’t stop them and if anyone is praying to a shrine dedicated to me I can’t hear it.”
“That is true. It was because I became pregnant so quickly that I was worried about the Kasumi we will soon meet. If she got to close to you she might conceive.”
“You know, everyone gets to whack on me but I’m not supposed to hit them, so why are you tempting me so much to smack you? I have lost control before.”
She laughed. “Because I know that you won’t and unlike the situation where you terrified Allison, I am not aggressively invading your personal space.”
An eyebrow rose. “She was, wasn’t she?”
“A defensive response is only logical in that situation,” Kasumi said with a nod. “You were not attacking her, you were instead getting her out of range of being able to attack you if she lost control, which she was showing signs of doing. I doubt she’ll do anything like that again.” She smiled warmly. “Even though you did reassure her almost immediately afterwards that you still care for her, she did indeed learn a valuable lesson that day and the cost was trivial.”
“I scared her so much that she peed herself.”
“Iain, you didn’t disembowel her and in fact she lost not a drop of blood. Shikarou might not have been so reserved in his response to that kind of behavior. I do not believe it is intentional on his part but his first response is almost always to counterattack, even among the women he claims to love and cherish.” Her smile faded. “And considering that Kerrik teleported Ganieda over a lava field somewhere on the Earth in response to a snarky comment that wasn’t even aimed at him I suspect that at least part of his behavior is learned.” She met his gaze. “Did he learn that from Nightraven?”
“That’s a dangerous name to be uttering.”
“She is already watching you, Iain. She must understand that at least some of us are intelligent enough to realize that.”
Iain gave her a wary look. “What makes you think that?”
“Everything that you have written and carefully said about her suggests that she is either not human or has stopped thinking like a human does. For her to know to come when you were trapped in your dragon form she has to be watching you and that means you are somehow important to her. The fact that she then came to your aid and taught you how to regain your human form only reinforces that you are being observed by her or that she somehow otherwise knows when you might be in trouble and that for some reason she feels a need to give you some help when you require it. Will she protect you and keep you alive?”
Iain shrugged. “She might and she might not. In any case, even if she does move to keep me alive, she won’t give a damn about anyone else and so it doesn’t matter because I do care about all of you.”
“I thought that might be the case.” She took his hands and looked up into his eyes. “Iain Grey, I love you.”
He smiled warmly at her. “I love you, Kasumi Grey.”
“I am sorry that it took me so long to tell you that,” she began only to stop in surprise when he put a finger on her lips.
“I am happy to hear it, Kasumi. Do not apologize for waiting until you were certain of your feelings.”
“I’ve been certain for a while,” she said softly as he removed his finger. “What I wasn’t certain of was how to tell you. Finally, I listened to the advice of a friend who told me to say something I was having trouble with in the fewest words possible.”
He flashed a grin. “I won’t go on at length about how smart that friend must be and all I’ll say is that it doesn’t matter. I got to hear that Kasumi Grey loves me and that’s what’s important. When I hear it isn’t so important, not when she really loves me.”
Kasumi smiled and let his hands go to wrap her arms around his neck and press herself against him, sighing when his arms went around her. “I must remember to thank Shikarou the next time I see him.”
Iain’s eyebrows rose. “Whatever for?”
“If he hadn’t married me and then brought me to the world that you call One, I would have never met you. Without him I would never have found the man I love.”
“Do you trust my advice,” Iain asked curiously.
“I trust you implicitly, Iain.”
“I’d advise you to never thank him for that. Just let it go.”
She gave him an artfully innocent look. “Are you concerned that it would hurt his feeling and infuriate the women in his life who treated me poorly for two decades? I hadn’t considered that at all. I just wanted to be gracious, but if you think I shouldn’t, then I shall not.”
“Are you aware that ball gages come in different sizes?”
She gave him a confused look. “I was not aware of that.”
“They do, in a multitude of sizes ranging from an extraordinarily tiny one for the shrunken form of the fairy pokegirls all the way to one I think would work on a Tyrannodame in her combat form if you put it far enough back in her jaws she couldn’t get the leverage to bite through it. Still, somewhere in that range I’m reasonably certain I can find the one that’ll fit that pretty little lying mouth if I need to.”
She looked astonished. “You would gag me?”
“What, nobody has ever offered to gag Kasumi?”
She giggled. “No one has ever dared before.”
“Well, I’m not anyone else, as you well know.”
“I do know that,” she said with a smile. “Few others would dare Shikarou’s wrath and take his former wife into his clan.”
“You are far more valuable than he ever knew,” Iain said and unwrapped her arms from his neck. “I believe Theodora is waiting to do horrible things to me.”
“I will not allow her to,” Kasumi tugged him into motion again. “If need be I will shield you from harm with my body.”
“The procedures to collect samples I have to procure may be unpleasant,” Theodora said around them, “but I would never subject Iain to anything truly horrible. And I will do my best to minimize any unpleasantness as well.”
“And those are things for which I am very grateful,” Iain said seriously. “Now let’s get this done.”
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)
Golden Cloud – equine unicorn
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