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Three figures watched through an observation window as Gale continued nursing Grace. Every so often the Mini-Top would move, or speak, and Gale would react in kind.
Rein sighed. “How do you intend to tell them?”
Andrew barely shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“She was dead.” Aella breathed. “We had all… I had finally come to accept that.” Her eyes filled with fresh tears, one breaking free to join the drops that littered her cheeks. “I don’t know how I can handle this.”
Aella continued staring. “I… Have to.”
“He wanted you to know as soon as possible.” Rein explained gently, carefully moving Aella away from the glass. “Let’s get you cleaned up and back to Lucina. Alright?”
Aella let the Myobu walk her away, leaving Andrew to continue his watch.
“You understand who has to know next, don’t you.” Rein’s voice whispered in his mind.
“She will need to rationalize what she hears. Grace will need to be strong enough to meet with her.” Andrew replied.
Rein nodded as she vanished through the door.
Andrew looked down at a small intercom system and, after a moment’s hesitation, activated it. “Gale, how is she?”
The Night Nurse turned to the window. “She’s doing fine. If I didn’t know where she came from, I’d say she’s a perfectly healthy woman.” Gale turned back to Grace. “But you’re not feeling perfect yet, right?”
Grace nodded slightly. “Everything is… real again.” She took a shuddering breath and let it out in a single burst. “I can barely remember how…”
Gale rested her hand on Grace’s chest when she began to cough. “Even breaths, Grace. Don’t think about them; let your body do the work.”
Andrew watched Grace control herself. According to Rein, her memories were slowly reconciling themselves. But it would take time before the Mini-Top could put her death in her past instead of her present.
“I’m going to go get screamed at.” He said. “Grace, I’ll be back as soon as I can. Alright?”
Grace nodded, weakly lifting an arm to give him a wave as he left.
The room was completely silent when he entered. Before any of the waiting pokegirls could speak he bowed his head.
“I went against my advisors and only pure, dumb luck kept me from leaving you all alone. I failed each of you, I failed each of them, and I failed my children.” He slowly raised his eyes to meet Cristina’s and relaxed very slightly when he only saw worry in them. “I swear that I will never again intentionally enter a situation where I am at an outsider’s mercy.”
Silence. Eventually Lyn shook her head ruefully. “You’re a fucking moron, but I accept your terms.”
“What do you mean you accept it!” Melody nearly screamed. “Andrew was THIS CLOSE from death!”
“You haven’t known him as long as I have.” Lyn replied calmly. “This isn’t over between him and I, and he knows it, but I also know that he does not make empty promises. He just sacrificed his greatest privilege because he understands that he made a mistake.”
“Please Lyn, explain.” Cristina said over the sound of Melody’s rage.
“He will never again enter a situation where he’s at a stranger’s mercy.” Lyn paraphrased. “By promising that, he accepted, without question, a guard when he’s around anyone not in the harem. And while he didn’t explicitly say it, that will also mean he will listen to us within reason.” She glared at Melody. “I will not let us abuse that trust because you are overreacting.”
“I see.” Cristina replied quietly. Melody looked like she was trying to retort but was visibly struggling to overcome Cristina’s aura. “Melody, do you have something to add?”
Melody hissed. “Why can’t I be angry, Cristina? I can feel you stifling me.”
“Because Lyn is right, and this isn’t a decision you will be able to make alone. Currently we are missing two members of the command staff who will need to have equal say before advising Andrew of anything.” She finally looked back at him and smiled. “I hope you don’t mind if we keep you at home for a few months.”
“Right now I think that’s pretty wise.” Andrew muttered.
“Will you give Melody the time she needs to scream at you?”
Andrew snorted and looked at the fuming Wet Queen. “After we’re done here, Kuu will probably need it too.”
“I’ll make mine later.” Lyn said grimly and stood. “Did you at least learn anything from your near death experience?”
“It was not worth it.”
“I figured.” Lyn shook her head. “Cristina, we should let Melody do what she needs to.”
The Wet Queen barely waited for the door to close behind the two before shooting to her feet and lunging at him.
Andrew felt her slap sting more than just his cheek before Melody broke down, tears running down her face as she clung to him. “What am I supposed to say to you?” She wailed. “I wasn’t even there to help you. You- you could have just been gone.”
Andrew clutched her hair and held her close as she cried.
Constance trudged into the room, looking around approvingly. “Never knew we had one of these.”
“We didn’t until recently. Daria and Lyn helped me make it for my magic studies.” The room in question was a small refurbished cave, not too far from Lyn’s own workshop. The interior was covered in magically reinforced padding which Andrew knew could withstand anything short of a hyperbeam. “What do you think it is?”
“Looks like some sort of combat room.” Constance replied. “But it ain’t, is it.”
“Not exactly, but I’m sure it would work for training like that. I usually practice my magic in here.” He looked around the sparsely decorated walls. “But the reason I brought you down here is because I want you to be able to safely express your emotions.”
Constance looked at him quizzically. “What about?”
“Something happened a few days ago.”
“I was attacked.” He watched Constance to gauge her reaction. “During the attack, I had a choice. Lose, or be trapped forever in a world between life and death.”
Constance snorted. “Well you’re here, so obviously you didn’t only have two options.”
“True. I took a third option, which was to intentionally throw myself into the lands of the dead.”
Constance blinked. “You died.”
“Functionally, yes, but it was more that I was just on the wrong side of the veil for a bit.” He raised an eyebrow. “You alright so far?”
“I’ve learned to stop questioning magic.”
Andrew couldn’t help but chuckle at that. “Fair enough. Well, anyways, I don’t know how long I was there. Wandering. At least two weeks I think I experienced.”
Constance nodded slowly. “That sounds like it would suck.”
“It nearly made me die for real.”
Constance winced. “Yea, no thanks.”
“I would have died for real if someone hadn’t come to pull me back home.”
“Oh? Was it Azshara? I remember you telling us how she’s the guardian spirit of our garden.”
“Not quite.” Andrew replied. “It was Grace.”
Constance’s jaw dropped but she composed herself quickly. “G-Grace? She’s still… around?”
Constance’s eyes filled with pain. “She’s been here all along, and I- I never got a chance to say goodbye?”
“Grace found me,” Andrew continued, “and gave me her will, more or less. What had kept her anchored to the garden. It pulled me back home.”
Constance sniffed, angrily rubbing at her eyes. “She just couldn’t be satisfied with saving us once, could she? She had to do it again.” She barked a laugh. “Yea, emotions. Not feeling too destructive with them but I understand why we’re down here for this. Fuck.” She looked at him. “So she’s gone for good now, isn’t she. All this time her spirit’s been floating or whatever in the garden and I never realized. Or could I just not see her? I know my magic ability is shit.”
“If I had let her move on, which she was ready to do after ensuring I would make it back safely, she might have still made it back to us through reincarnation.”
“If that’s even real.” Constance muttered before his words sunk in. “Wai- If?”
“She wanted to come back.”
Constance felt her heart leap through her throat. “S-S-She-“
“I didn’t let her spirit move on.” Andrew explained. “I dragged her back with me. She’s here. She’s alive.”
Constance’s conflicting feelings came to a head and the next thing she knew she was staring up at a worried face.
“Hey, you alright?” Andrew asked.
“Wuh?” Constance mumbled.
“You fainted.” Andrew reached down to pull her to her feet. “I knew this would be tough for you.”
Constance felt her heart quicken. “You said-“
“Grace is alive.”
She felt the world spin again but forced herself to stay standing. “Where? Where is she?”
“You can come in.” Andrew called.
Constance turned to the door, hardly daring to breath when it swung open. Grace slowly stepped in, not in what had been her usual outfit, only in a casual t-shirt and shorts. But it was her. Tired, haggard, but whole. Alive.
Constance staggered forwards, her hands trailing across Grace’s face before the Tank Vixxen lunged out and wrapped Grace in her arms.
“Oh my god.” Constance finally managed to say. “It’s you. It’s really you.”
They stood entwined for a long time before Grace relaxed, resting her head on Constance’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.” She whispered. “I couldn’t win that day.”
“I’ve missed you so much.” Constance replied. “And no, no… Grace, no. You won. I made it through, I saved some of them. You fought.” She reached up to cradle Grace’s head. “We both knew what was going to happen.”
“Hm.” Grace stared off into the distance. “I have relived that day hundreds of times, you know that? When you’ve got nothing else to think about you tend to agonize over your last mistake.”
Constance winced. “I can’t pretend to know how that is.”
“Thank you.” Grace murmured. “After going over my actions, again, and again, I also came to realize that there was nothing else I could have done. Maybe I could have lived, but someone else would have died. One of the ones in the cave, or one of the ones who came to save me afterwards. Someone would have taken my place. I came to accept what had happened.”
Grace laughed quietly. “Sounds like I gave up, doesn’t it? Nah. If I had given up I wouldn’t be here again.” She raised her head to look at Andrew. “Lots has changed.”
“Would you like me to leave you two alone for a bit?”
Constance craned her neck. “Don’t you want to be with her too?”
“We’ve had a few days,” Grace explained, “and we’ll have many more.”
“I, don’t know what we would even do.” Constance stuttered. “I mean, I know what the two of you might do, but we never… really…”
She nearly cried when Grace pushed away from her and took a long familiar pose. “Nah. We’ve had our own thing we do.”
Andrew drifted for the door while Constance was composing herself. “She’s mellowed a bit, Grace, but she hasn’t gone soft. Are you sure you’re feeling up to this?”
Grace’s humor glinted in her eyes when she replied. “I may have been without a body to train, but I never stopped fighting. I can feel that strength right now.”
“Gale did say you were healthy.” Andrew conceded. “Alright. I’ll be outside if anything happens.”
Constance shoulders shook with her suppressed sobs. “I’ve missed you,” she sniffed after Andrew closed the door behind him. “There’s so much that’s happened, so much I want to share…”
She yelped when Grace slid in and rapped the bridge of her nose. “We can talk whenever we want.” Grace smirked. “I haven’t been able to stretch since getting my body back.”
Andrew leaned against the wall, listening to the muted shouts. Eventually he began to hear laughter mixed in and smiled to himself.
He would let the rumor spread on its own and advise Grace to slowly reveal herself to the others. That was probably for the best. What she decided to do from there was her own choice. He’d already brought her up to speed on the new intricacies of life.
For a moment he frowned to himself. Crap, did he need to assign her a rank? Those waters were already heavily muddied with Melody’s promotion.
No, he decided. In fact, maybe it was time for the ranks to go away for good. They had been Cortney’s idea in the first place, not his, and he’d never really liked them. Even for a chain of command it hadn’t ever really been followed.
He chuckled to himself while he thought. Yea, telling any of the women he loved that they were inferior was a poor choice on a good day. Maybe there should only be two different ranks in the family. Combat, and wife. After all, they kept trying to organize their chaos, and failed every time. It might be time to embrace it instead.
They’d definitely still find their ways to posture but he could live with that if it helped more of them make up their minds.
The noises from the room had stopped so he poked his head in. “Everyone alright?”
Grace was lounging on the ground in front of a prostrate Constance. When he peeked in she waved. “She’s taking a quick nap.”
Andrew chuckled, taking a seat beside her and snuggling close. “She alright? Do I need to call for a medic?”
“She’ll be on her feet in a minute.” Grace explained. “She’s never protected her backside. Guess some things haven’t changed.”
“I’m not sure how much you’ve seen from the garden.”
“Not enough.” Grace agreed. “There are new faces, new adventures, new things to do. My old position seems to have vanished.”
“Did you expect otherwise? It’s been nearly two years.”
“I guess not.” Grace muttered. “Still, I’ll need to find a new one.”
“Why do you even need one? You don’t have to put yourself in danger anymore.”
Grace slowly looked at him. “I’m not afraid of death. I wasn’t before I died and I’m not now. I understand that you’d rather not lose me again, but I’m not going to become your Playbunny just because you’re afraid.”
Andrew snorted, his eyes wandering. “That hurts.”
“The truth often does.”
“Yea, it does.” Andrew idly teased her long ears. “Will you at least not be alone again?”
“I’m stubborn, not stupid.” Grace whispered. “I died because I was alone. I don’t have any plans to repeat that mistake.”
“That’s all I can ask.”
“Yea.” Grace watched Constance begin to stir. “There she is.”
Constance sat up, rubbing the back of her skull. “Fuck.”
Grace giggled, causing the Tank Vixxen to turn. “Pop pop and down you go.”
Constance gave her a scathing look and slid over to join the pile. “There’s a reason it’s called a rabbit punch, alright? Nobody else here can throw one.”
“I’d hoped you would have gotten better while I was gone.”
Constance’s jaw tightened and Andrew could see the lax attitude she had grown disappear behind a steel wall. “I have. I’ve grown beyond what you were and kept going. We all have. But you must have been busy too, because I could no more touch you today than I could two years ago.”
Grace shot her a savage grin. “I hunted to survive. Some of them nearly hunted me in return.”
“The estrogen in here is stifling.” Andrew complained, laughing when the two turned to him in confusion. “You’ve never heard that saying? I guess it doesn’t make sense the way I just tried to use it, but when you had two guys squaring up you’d say-“
“Testosterone. The correct word is testosterone.” Grace replied deadpan. “For a male or a female.”
Andrew raised his hands in surrender. “Whoops.”
Grace stood, hauling him up and carrying him to the door. “You claimed this place would stand up to a bit of punishment.”
“It should.” Andrew hurriedly got out. “But-“
“Radio Gale down, then. See you tomorrow.”
Andrew grunted when she tossed him onto the ground, the door to what had once been his practice room clicking shut. He glared at it for a few moments before rising and dusting himself off. Gale was already headed down, and had been since he had felt the friendly tension turning competitive.
Well. Nothing he could do about it now. He slowly breathed out, smiling at the door and who stood behind it.
He’d missed her.
“Two weeks.” Andrew flipped through the document in his hands. “It’s taken you two weeks to finalize this?”
Lucina was perched cross-legged on the table in front of him. “There were a few events that forced me to reconsider.”
“Fu was originally going to be a member, and she easily proved that she would do well. However, her fighting style was far too forward. She didn’t position herself well during training to protect the objective.”
“She’s an excellent fighter, but a poor guard.”
Lucina’s bright eyes were focused completely on his. “That’s correct. She was who I chose to replace Aella from my original lineup. With her out, I brought Aella back in, but she was acting rather distracted. I found out why that was a few days later.”
“I’m still not convinced she should be on the team, but I don’t have another dragon to ask. That’s why this proposition is only a first draft.”
Andrew paused when he reached the last name. “Wait, really?”
Lucina glanced down at the picture of Grace. “Are you surprised? She found me. Made it very clear where her place was.” She gestured at the document. “That’s something all of them… all of us share. Without asking, we’ve each pledged to give our life for you.” She looked back to match his gaze. “Myself, Aella, Nova, Grace, we are the ones I came to after testing. The list originally included Fu, Constance, and Nami, but for one reason or another they aren’t suited to act as a guard.”
“I’d expected it to be longer, actually.”
“I talked with Gale, since Cristina said she was the one with the right kind of experience.” Lucina explained. “She told me that anyone already with duties to distract them shouldn’t be considered. That ruled out the entire command staff in one swoop.”
“You’re probably going to ask about Camiel or Albia next.” Lucina continued. “Camiel I definitely considered. She’s basically a more powerful version of Cristina, who I also wanted to add to the list, and Albia is a better-trained mix of Nova and myself. I’d be stupid to not consider her.”
“So why didn’t you?”
“I don’t trust them.” Lucina replied bluntly. “I trust them not to hurt you, but I don’t trust them to defend you. Camiel especially is still a mystery to most of us and any hesitation during a situation will lead to mistakes. Mistakes lead to injury or death.”
“You haven’t talked about Albia yet.”
“Right, I haven’t.” Lucina finally looked uncertain for the first time during their conversation. “She’s on the shortlist with Nami for backups. Her issue is that she’s a Hunter. I made one offhand mention about her to Aella and you’d think I had spat in her face with the way she began fighting.” Lucina shook her head. “The two can’t really be anywhere near each other for an extended period of time. Not exactly a good trait for this team.”
“One or the other. Can’t be both.”
“So I chose the one I know better.”
“Four. I can handle four of you.” He sighed. “What now?”
Lucina scooped the papers from his hands. “Now I can get started.”
“What does that mean?” Andrew called when Lucina hopped off the table. “Get started with what?”
“There’s a major issue that two of your fireteam share. Until we can fix it, you’re not allowed to leave.” She studied him. “I’ve been told that won’t cause any problems.”
“No, but would it kill you to lighten up a bit?”
Lucina allowed herself to smile, showing him that the bubbly Shadowcat was still there behind the mask. “I’m on duty right now.”
Andrew smiled back when hers vanished. “And you’re doing a wonderful job of it so far.”
He frowned once she had left. What issue?
“Lyn, how do they look?” Lucina barked.
Lyn turned to greet the Shadowcat. “They’ve both got the potential. From here it’s on them.”
She watched in glee when Lucina strode to the edge of the arena and stared at the two struggling figures.
“I told them you’d be perfect, you know.” She gushed. “’I can make items to make Lucina more durable. I can’t make someone else Lucina.’ That’s what I told them, and look at you go.”
Lucina turned to her quizzically. “Durable? Why’s that an issue?”
“Melody was worried that you’re as squishy as he is. Her exact words went something like ‘If she has to take an attack that’s meant for him, she’ll be torn apart just as soon as he would.’”
Lucina turned back to watching Grace and Nova. “Again, why is that an issue?”
Lyn grinned at the Shadowcat’s back. “It’s not. That’s the point. I can create enchanted items to help you take those hits. What I can’t do is turn someone like, say, Fu into you.”
“Gotcha.” Lucina sighed. “Thank you for helping today.”
“I want him safe as possible, as quickly as possible. Not trapped, but safe. And that will extend to all of you, too.” She raised a hand, waiting for Lucina to notice before wiggling the object that hung from her fingers. “This is yours.”
Lucina gave her a confused look but took the complicated piece of clothing. “And what is it?”
“Do you know what a corset is?”
Lucina glared at the smiling Archmage. “I am going to give you two more sentences to better explain yourself.”
“Only two, oh dear. Am I allowed to make jokes as well?” Her smile grew when Lucina hissed. “Touchy on the bust, I see. You’re hardly flat, you know.”
Lucina flung the object back in Lyn’s face as the Archmage laughed. “You’re not convincing me.”
“It’s not a corset, I just wanted to tease you a bit.” Lyn chuckled, tossing the item back. “It’s an enchanted piece of armor.”
Lucina hoisted the top again, now seeing how it might work. “There’s only one hole.”
“Put it over your head.” She held up a hand when Lucina moved to comply. “Actually, wait. Strip first so it doesn’t crush your clothes.”
Lucina didn’t look convinced but she obliged, stripping down and lifting the hole over her head.
The enchantment activated instantly and Lucina felt her chest compress when the straps shot around her body, cinching down just above her waist.
“Too tight?” Lyn asked, nodding when Lucina coughed. “See? You really aren’t that small.”
“I can’t breathe.” Lucina wheezed.
“Let me fix that.” Lyn reached out, placing her hand over Lucina’s stomach. “How about now?”
Lucina took a deep breath when the material relaxed. “Much better.”
“Good.” Lyn replied brightly and Lucina yelped when extra straps sprouted from the bodice before shooting across her body. “How about now?”
Lucina gingerly tugged at where two of the straps had come dangerously close to her groin. “I can wear underwear with this thing on, right?”
“Over the top, sure.”
Lucina stared at her. “Lyn, I’ve seen some of the things you’ve made. I am not comfortable with how close to my pussy this got.”
Lyn purpled. “My sex toys are never kept in my workshop. I wouldn’t trick you into wearing one of them.”
“The fact that they exist is what’s scaring me.”
“I can’t promise that anything thicker than, maybe, silk would be comfortable.”
“As long as I can pretend there’s a barrier.” Lucina pulled at the fit again, marveling how as she turned she couldn’t feel any of the straps shift. “So what’s special about this?”
“First of all, this.” Lyn casually pointed her finger, a bolt of magic spearing into Lucina’s chest only to harmlessly dissipate. “Built in magic absorption. It won’t completely negate, say, one of my usual spells, but it’ll make you far more durable than you were before.”
Lucina had to force her heart rate to slow back down. “What else?”
“Those straps you’re so worried about are extending the effect to your limbs. Not as powerfully, so don’t expect to hold out a hand and block a fireblast, but it’s there. Additionally, this is the bit I’m most proud of.” She pointed at Lucina’s discarded outfit. “How attached to those are you?”
Lucina frowned, looking at the clothes. “I like them, but I guess I could live without them.”
“I mean as a thing. Do you like having them in your wardrobe, looking at them, feeling them…”
“Oh.” Realization dawned. “You’re saying you’re about to vaporize my clothes.”
Lyn chuckled. “Yea. Well?”
“Cool. Now, first of all, say clearly ‘My name is Lucina. I am your new owner.’”
Lyn smiled. “Isn’t that all you are?”
Lucina slowly took a deep breath. Was that all she was? Maybe. Was that all she wanted to be?
“My name is Lucina… Ranger.” She clearly stated into the air after a minute of thought. “I am your new owner.”
Lyn watched the spell shift. “That’s not who you are.”
“It will be.”
Lyn grinned at her. “Excellent.”
“So what now?”
“Now, you might feel a bit of a tingle.”
Lucina frowned when the feeling Lyn mentioned began to spread across her torso. “What is it?”
“The spell is scanning you. It knows that it’s being worn by someone calling herself ‘Lucina Ranger’, but it needs to see who that person actually is.”
Lucina waited for the feeling to fade. “Okay, it’s done.”
“Perfect. I’ll give you a list of the commands later, but for now, go ahead and put your clothes back on.”
Lucina did so, adjusting her shirt until the armor’s collar sat just above the neckline. “Okay?”
“Say ‘Absorb new appearance.’”
“Absorb new appearance.” Lucina parroted.
There was a moment pause before her clothes vanished.
“WAH!” Lucina screamed, hands flying to check whether she had truly been stripped. “I wasn’t expecting-“
Lyn was giggling but she waved a hand to calm the flustered Shadowcat. “Remember what they looked like?”
“Well of course, but-“
“Visualize them and say ‘Display appearance.’”
Lucina slowly visualized her missing outfit. “Display… Appearance.”
She grunted when the bodice began to move, shrinking in some areas and growing in others until she could only feel her clothes against her skin once again.
Lyn held up her hands, a mirror forming between her fingers so Lucina could see herself. “It’s as if nothing ever happened.”
Lucina slowly pulled at the fabric. “It feels just like my clothes did.”
“That’s the beauty of it.” Lyn replied happily. “I’ve been practicing making these shifting designs for a long time now. Andrew’s is kind of version 1, with how he has to manually edit it, and I made one for myself a while back which is basically version 2, but the flaw in it is that it can only change its own color and texture. This is version 3. Complete metamorphosis.”
“Remove appearance.” Lucina guessed, feeling the armor return to normal. “Nice.”
“See, you’re smart. You’ll pick up on how to use it quickly.” Lyn beamed. “And to take it off, just pull up as if you were taking off a shirt.”
Lucina pulled the armor off easily. “That’s a bit of a design flaw, don’t you think?”
“Not anyone can do that.” Lyn explained. “Only you. Only the owner.”
“Ah.” Lucina pouted. “That might make sexy time a bit difficult.”
Lyn chortled. “Why do you think I kept it above the waist? Sure, if you’re having to use it during sex you’ll miss out on some foreplay, but if we’re in that kind of situation I doubt we’ll mind.”
Lucina slowly nodded in agreement. “I’m impressed, Lyn. This is an incredible piece of gear.”
“It’s not, really.” Lyn breezed. “It’s actually rather simple because of how I modularly design my items. I’ve already started work on modifying our existing helmet spells to work with it, and the gloves and garters will come after that.”
Lucina shook her head ruefully. “Garters. Really?”
“Needed some kind of leg covering that left the functional areas open.” Lyn teased. “Unfortunately that kind of outfit won’t be as comfortable as this, even though you’d think otherwise. At that point it’s a full body armor spell and you’ll notice that you’re wearing it.”
“So this is the equivalent of a bulletproof vest, while the full suit will be, well, a full body suit.” Lucina mused.
“Will it work with our current armor? And more importantly, does it only block energy attacks?”
Lyn nodded. “You can wear anything you’d like over the top, and no. It should stop most physical attacks as well, at least to your torso. The weaker extended effect might help, but a sniper will still take your head off without a helmet.”
“How many do you have?”
“Two.” Lyn apologized. “Yours that you’re wearing, and one that’s currently fit for Fu. I thought she was going to be on your team.”
“Last minute decision.”
“I should be able to modify it for Grace instead, but I’d rather just make a new one.” She nodded at Lucina’s midriff. “You felt how even when I tried my best to make it fit your body, it still needed resizing.”
“That’s not just a comfort thing. If the spell isn’t molded to your body, it might leave a gap in the defense. Nobody wants that.”
Lucina shuddered at the implications. “No. Definitely not.”
“After the lesson today with those two, I’ll focus completely on making the other three for your team. Then, after you’re protected, I’ll start the rest.” She smiled grimly. “I want all of us to have one eventually. I’d push to make them mandatory, but I can’t do that, so I’m trying to make them irresistible instead.”
“Thank you.” Lucina pulled the armor over her head and watched her clothes reappear. “And give me the full manual, would you? Not whatever you’ll be giving the nervous ones.”
Lyn shook her head with a smile when the armor began moving with Lucina’s thoughts. “I said you were smart. You’ll get the full copy.”
“…and we’ve completely finished the rooms, here.”
Andrew looked around the building. “Water, electric, plumbing, all of it?”
“That’s excellent.” Andrew nodded down the hallway they stood in. “And down there?”
Ishara grumbled. “Working on it, but the important ones are finished. Your suite, and the first wing of harem bedrooms. Cristina will have a home.”
“It’s what she’s wanted from the beginning.” Andrew whispered. “Thank you.”
Ishara chuckled and put a heavy hand on his shoulder. “By the time we get to me, I intend to have started the first extension.”
Andrew chuckled nervously. “I don’t like the sounds of that.”
“Then maybe you’ll like it when you hear the sounds of our children running through their beautiful home.” Ishara teased. “When is she due?”
“Any day now.”
“I understand Fu has planned her own wedding.”
Andrew nodded. The Warvern was only waiting on scheduling because the time had gotten so close to Cristina’s due date. She wasn’t going to wait for much longer, however. They’d likely be saying their vows without either Gale or Cristina to witness.
“I like the idea of keeping the ceremony private this time.” Ishara mused. “The church was lovely, but we attracted a lot of attention. I might do the same, depending on how this goes.”
Andrew was about to respond when Camiel appeared between them.
The Archangel didn’t even spare Ishara a glance, forcefully taking his arm. “Cristina.”
Andrew felt the world twist around them when they teleported and he immediately moved towards the bed they arrived at.
Gale looked up when he dropped next to her. “Camiel’s still in a dither?”
Andrew looked back at the flustered Archangel. “Yea.”
“I’m fine.” Cristina said from her position staring at the ceiling. “Just contractions. I’ve been having them for a while. It doesn’t feel any-“ She gasped.
“That was a good one.” Gale said. “Got any more like that?”
Cristina replied with a groan as her body tensed.
“Yep, they’re definitely coming now.” Gale shouldered Andrew away and began nursing. “Just like that, Cristina, you’re doing fine. They want out and you want to get them out, so just let your body do what it wants to do.”
Cristina cried out at the same time as Gale’s excited shout. “I can see one, Cristina! Keep going, girl, you’re doing it!”
“I never want kids again!” Cristina moaned, tears of pain glinting in her eyes. “This- fucking- ahhhhHHHHH!”
“Got her!” Gale called excitedly, wiping at the tiny form in her arms. “She’s a beautiful little girl, Cristina.” Her smile wavered when she felt the protrusions on the baby’s back but soldiered on. “A beautiful little Angel.”
She jumped when a hand reached past her to touch her arm. “I don’t care what she is.” Gale turned to see Andrew watching her calmly. “If, when, my daughter needs something to keep her healthy, then we’ll find a way for her to survive.”
Gale nodded wordlessly, glancing down at the squirming figure for a moment. “You’re right.”
“Gale it hurts it hurtsithurtssss.” Cristina groaned. “The next one-“
Gale carefully wrapped the baby in a blanket before severing the umbilical with a flick of her wrist. Andrew reverently took the package from her hands, turning to watch Gale help deliver the second child.
“There you go, Cristina, I can see the next one…” Gale was saying, but Andrew had eyes only for the life in his hands.
The baby was very slowly squirming. Not once had she made a sound, even when Gale had roughed her up with the towel. Maybe it was because she was a pokegirl, she had an innate survival instinct to remain quiet.
He felt someone next to him and looked over to see Camiel gazing down in awe. When she noticed him looking she gestured. “May- May I-?”
“Cristina needs to hold her first.” Andrew replied gently. Camiel looked down and nodded, continuing to watch the little girl move.
“I’ve got the head.” Gale called. “He’s coming out. Hold on, Cristina, you’re okay.”
Cristina clenched her fists to fight the pain but within moments Gale held the child in her hands. “Is he-“ her words were cut off when the infant screamed and she quickly began toweling him off. “Oh man, he’s a loud one. Easy buddy, you’re in the real world now.”
“Let me- let me hold him.” Cristina struggled upright and reached desperately for the crying form. “Gale, please-“
Andrew stepped past Gale and gently handed their daughter to her. “Here, Cristina.”
Cristina’s hands were shaking from her exertion but she managed to stroke the baby’s cheek. “She- she’s beautiful.”
Andrew smiled to himself. “Just like her mother.”
“Yea.” Cristina nearly cried. “I think, I think she just smiled, look, she’s-“
“Here.” Andrew felt a second form being pushed into his hands and looked down to see his son still wailing. “I need to clean up.”
Andrew took him from Gale and began slowly moving his arms in an attempt to lull the still crying infant to sleep.
“Andrew.” Andrew looked up to see Cristina reaching towards him, their daughter already eagerly suckling at her breast. “Give him here.”
He obliged, watching Cristina soothe the crying child before pushing him to her unoccupied side. Almost instantly the sounds stopped when he latched on and began sucking in time with his sister.
Cristina let out her breath, cradling the feeding infants reverently. “They’re beautiful.”
Andrew was watching her face when he spoke. “They are, because of you.”
Cristina looked up with a smile. “You as well.”
“I can’t believe my stupidity almost cost me this sight.” Andrew whispered. “This is a memory I will never let go.”
Cristina looked back down at their children. “I know I said never again, but already…”
Andrew chuckled. “We’ll get there.”
“Thank you for meeting with me today.”
The shadow in front of Melody blinked. “Are we formal, Alpha?”
Melody made a face. “You don’t have to be.”
Lucina pulled her mask down and grinned at the Wet Queen. “Cool.”
“How are things? And more than just ‘Good’ or ‘Moving’ as a response, please.”
“I assume you wanted to hear a report since we’re activating for full duty tomorrow.”
“Well, with Gale’s guidance and Cristina’s advice, we’re ready.”
It had been two months since the Ophanim’s delivery. Within that time, Andrew and Fu had gotten married in a small ceremony, Fu had gotten pregnant, and most importantly for Lucina, Grace and Nova had each managed to teleport. Now all four of the pokegirls in Andrew’s guard could use that vital technique.
“Cristina’s advice? I thought she was too busy with her kids.”
Lucina shrugged. “She’s still able to talk. She advised me in a good training regimen.”
“I see.” Melody replied. “I understand Lyn has finished fitting each of you with her new armor.”
“Yea, that happened a month ago.” Lucina replied. “It’s an incredible piece of gear, Melody. Do you have one yet?”
Melody shook her head. “Apparently I’m up soon, but not yet.”
“I’m naked except for it right now, and you’d never tell.”
Melody peered at the dark outfit over Lucina’s body. “I know about the shapeshifting thing. What I don’t know about is that uniform.”
Lucina’s eyes glinted. “We’re the last army. Everyone else has abandoned their ranks, but we still have something to fight for.”
Melody nodded slightly. “Is that your on duty uniform?”
Lucina shifted so the light caught a better path over her. “It’s not meant to be interesting. It’s meant to send a message.”
“It does that for sure.” Melody replied. “Though if you’re not careful, the others will see your team as a challenge.”
Lucina’s fangs glinted when she smiled. “I want them to, Alpha. Because if we’re not the best, we don’t deserve to be at his side.”
Melody smiled back. “Think you can defend that right now?”
“We will or we will die trying.”
Melody nodded. “Very well. You’re clear to begin operating.”
Lucina nodded, pulling the half mask over her face again and teleporting.
The others were lounging in the gym when Lucina appeared. “Well?” Grace growled. “What she say?”
Lucina grinned behind her mask. “We’re good to go. Tell him that he can schedule his trip.”
Grace grinned back, pushing off the bleachers as her uniform melted into a casual outfit. “Excellent. Anyone else rather do it?”
Aella and Nova both shook their heads, Aella speaking. “You go ahead, Grace. He’s starting to take you for granted, but reminding him that you’re back won’t hurt.”
Grace nodded at the Shinryu. “You good?”
Aella glanced up at her. “I’m fine, Grace. I’m just still getting used to seeing you again.”
The Mini-Top smiled at her before skipping out the door.
“This will be a quick trip.” Lucina began. “Melody has told me of our target, and we’ll be scooping her up with or without Andrew’s support.”
Aella raised an eyebrow at that. “Melody endorsed this? I thought she’s been keeping him at home.”
“She says it’s a good low-risk way to give him some freedom, but yes. This is her mission, he just agrees with what she wants.”
“Interesting.” Nova murmured. “Who is the target?”
“We’re heading north, to where the Carlsbad farmers have set up a homestead. There’s a Minotaura there who doesn’t belong to any of them and Melody wants her. Andrew wants one of her herd, but Melody believes he’ll reconsider once he gets to know the Minotaura.”
Nova frowned. “Her herd, as in a Milktit? I can understand why he wants one, but why does our Alpha think he’ll want the Minotaura?”
“Because she’s special.”
Nova waited for Lucina to elaborate and shrugged when she didn’t. “Okay. When do we leave?”
“Whenever he says so.”
Grace returned a few minutes later with Andrew in tow. “You girls ready?”
Lucina raised an eyebrow. “Andrew?”
“I’m going stir crazy.” He confessed. “If Melody says I can go for a walk, you better believe I’ll take her up on it.”
The group laughed, Aella clambering to her feet and speaking to shift her armor. “Formation, ma’am?”
Lucina thought for a moment. “Aella, you and Grace are on backup. Nova is our visible.”
The Blazicunt stretched, rolling her neck to loosen it. “Understood.”
Andrew watched the pokegirls move. “I’ve been so busy with the kids, I… What in the world happened here?”
“We’ve had nearly three months together.” Lucina explained. “I’ve made good use of it.”
Andrew nodded, waiting for Nova to take her post at his shoulder. “Ready?”
Lucina gestured before she went invisible. “Lead on.”
The pokegirls tending the fields noticed the visitors first. One frowned, the man familiar but not recognized until he waved and a voice reached her ears.
“Hello! It’s Andrew, I’m back!” Andrew yelled, watching one of the elves begin running towards them. “Hey, this is, uh…”
The Elf skidded to a halt. “Welcome back, sir! Is our Lady with you today?”
“Oh, no, not today.” Andrew explained. “I’m sorry, what was your name again? Dawn?”
The Elf giggled. “I’m Donna, sir. My sister is Anna.”
Donna shrugged. “You were close, sir. Will you be here long?”
“Not too long, just seeing if someone is here and that’s about it.”
Donna nodded. “Most of the farmers are in the city, sir. Master Jed is with them.”
“That might make this a bit easier. Who is still here?”
“Master Garrett is looking after the homestead, sir.”
“Excellent, I can work with him.” Andrew nodded to himself. “Thank you, Donna.”
The Elf bobbed her head before returning to the field.
Nova followed him like a shadow as he walked towards the cabins. It was a bit creepy how silent she had been, especially compared to the fiery attitude she normally showed. A testament to Lucina’s strict training, he imagined. He’d nearly forgotten she was even there multiple times during the walk up.
Garrett was sitting outside his cabin when Andrew arrived and he stood in surprise. “Well I’ll be damned. Andrew, was it? What are you doing back ‘round here?” His eyes drifted to the silent Blazicunt and he frowned. “Who the hell is she?”
“Sorry, last time you saw me when I was being a bit more casual.” Andrew glanced at Nova. “Truth is, I have a few trained pokegirls who protect me.”
Garrett made a low whistle. “Won’t she introduce herself?”
“That would distract her from her duty.” Andrew replied easily. “Garrett, this is Nova.”
Garrett nodded. “Pleasure to meet you, though I understand you won’t return the sentiment.” He chuckled when Nova didn’t even blink. “Shit, Andrew, she’s making me nervous. I guess that means she’s doing her job.”
“Yea.” Andrew cleared his throat. “Garrett, you still have those unclaimed pokegirls running around?”
Garrett made a face. “Kinda. Lost a few to ferals, a few others found tamers. The rest hang around because we feed them, even if we can’t regularly tame them. Why? Had an eye on someone?”
Andrew shifted uncomfortably. “Well, I don’t want to…”
Garrett held up his hand. “No, don’t say anything. You and your people saved us all. We aren’t keeping close tabs on any of those girls, so if one or two disappear, there won’t be any issues. Like I said, we’ve already lost a few to the ferals.”
Andrew nodded. “I get it.”
“Cool.” Garrett jerked his head at his cabin. “I think I can hear Lisa moaning in there. Maybe I should go keep her company. Maybe that will take a while.”
Andrew chuckled. “Have fun.”
“Who are we looking for?” Andrew jumped at the voice, turning to see Lucina next to him.
“You just scared the shit out of me.”
The Shadowcat glanced at him. “I’m not here, but thank you for the compliment.”
Andrew sighed when she vanished again. “You’re a scary woman, Lucina.” He waited for a response and, getting none, moved off into the clustered buildings.
He saw a wandering Milktit immediately, the girl stopping and watching him carefully. She didn’t look feral, but he couldn’t be sure, so he decided to just leave her alone altogether.
He rounded the next building and came to a halt. Two pokegirls were sitting in the shade and when he came into view they both turned to look at him.
One slowly grinned, standing and walking his direction. “You.” Cathy rumbled.
“Fu isn’t here, but-“ Andrew tried.
“Man.” Cathy’s eyes flicked over his. “Dragon, gone. You, man.”
“She’s completely feral.” Lucina’s voice whispered in his mind. “Is this who you wanted to find?”
“I wanted to get her permission to take one of her Milktits.” Andrew groaned. “Why is she feral? Garret said the farmers are taming the unclaimed girls occasionally.”
“How long ago did you see her last?”
Andrew frowned. “A couple months.”
“Minotaura have a lower libido. It’s possible she hasn’t been tamed since you met.”
Andrew tsked. “I hope not.”
“That would mean she’s chosen her tamer.”
From her position nearby Lucina grinned. “And who might that be.”
“Nova, if she comes after me, don’t hurt her too much.” Andrew said casually.
Cathy snorted. “Man. Tame. Yes?”
“Fu isn’t here to fight.” Andrew replied.
Cathy took another step towards him and he could finally see how her makeshift clothing had started to degrade. “Tame.”
“This is not how I wanted this to go.” Andrew groused. “Lucina, can’t you put her to sleep or something?”
Lucina rolled her eyes and appeared behind Cathy. “Hey, cow.”
Cathy whirled just in time for the pokeball to catch her between the eyes and she vanished into the capture beam.
“WAIT!” Andrew cried. “THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!”
Lucina picked up the ball once it made the capture sound. “You’re hard, and she’s the reason. What’s the issue?”
Andrew gritted his teeth. “We need a Milktit, not a Minotaura.”
“I think you’ll be surprised what we need. Ready to head back?”
“The whole point of this trip was to-“
“You’re telling me you didn’t see?” Lucina asked incredulously. “She was basically in your face.”
“She was leaking.” Lucina explained. “Straight through her grimy clothes.”
Andrew blinked. “Her breasts, you mean? I saw, but I assumed she had drunk one of the other Milktits’ milk…”
“Minotaura aren’t supposed to lactate unless pregnant.”
Andrew’s jaw dropped. “So she’s-“
“No, you idiot.” Lucina growled. “Melody went over the footage of your last meeting. She was lactating then too. And now, a few months later, she’s still lactating and I saw absolutely no sign she was pregnant. Did you?”
Andrew shook his head.
“Melody thinks she somehow kept the ability to constantly lactate.”
“So she’s just a regular Milktit?”
“No, she’s definitely a Minotaura.” Lucina replied. “She’s just special.”
“That’s what you meant.” Nova murmured behind him.
Andrew craned his neck to look at her. “Huh?”
Nova blushed and pretended to lock her mouth shut.
“You said it yourself, didn’t you?” Lucina asked. “She’s chosen her tamer.”
“I didn’t come here to bring her home with us, no matter what Melody may think.”
Lucina glared at him. “If Melody is right, she’s all we need. If not, she’ll need to be tamed before you can ask permission. What’s the issue?”
“No, not because of that.” Andrew took a deep breath. “I told Fu she was off the table.”
Lucina slowly began to laugh. “Oh, Andrew, you’re fucked.”
“Maybe.” Andrew held out a hand when Nova moved towards him. “Nova, I need to talk to Lucina for a bit. Alone.”
Nova’s eyes darted towards the Shadowcat and she shrugged when Lucina barely nodded. “Sure.”
Lucina held out her hand when Nova vanished. “Not here, I hope.”
Andrew took her hand, looking around when the scenery shifted to show them back in the gym. “I’m not happy.”
Lucina raised an eyebrow, releasing him and taking a seat. “I know this isn’t what you wanted, but…”
“Can you take that fucking mask off?” Andrew asked wearily. “I want to see who I’m talking to.”
Lucina gingerly pulled the covering down. “Is the design not acceptable?”
“No, that’s not the problem.” Andrew rubbed his temples. “It’s badass. Nova’s discipline was also incredible. The problem is that I didn’t feel like I was in control just now. You were running the show, I was just along for the ride.”
Lucina slowly nodded her head. “That’s an issue.”
“Is it? Maybe that’s how this needs to be.” Andrew shook his head. “You’ve found your place here. This job is what you’re made for; I don’t have the right to take that away.”
He watched in surprise when Lucina’s uniform changed into her usual clothing. “C’mere.”
Andrew hesitantly sat next to her. “What was that?”
Lucina glanced down at her shirt. “Oh, this? Didn’t you know what Lyn’s been doing?”
Lucina giggled. “Right, of course not. Check it out.”
Andrew’s jaw dropped when she grabbed the shirt and pulled, the armor slipping off and leaving the Shadowcat nude besides her panties. “Holy shit.”
“Cool, right? She’s eventually going to make one for everyone.” Lucina slipped the armor back on. “She made it to keep us safe.”
Andrew tapped her chest, feeling how the seemingly flimsy material resisted his hits. “I guess I’ve been further out of the loop than I realized.”
“You’ve been busy. I’ve been busy.” Lucina cocked her head. “The problem here is that this is something that directly affects you, right? You don’t worry about the harem training regimen, you leave that to Cristina. You don’t worry about our feral patrols, you leave that to Kuu and Melody. If you followed that line of thinking, you’d leave the guard to me.”
Andrew nodded. “That would make sense.”
“And you did, but now you’re realizing that you don’t like being left out of something that you’re a part of.”
Andrew snorted. “Sounds about right. I think the biggest issue with how today went is how there was no reason for me to be there, even though it was supposedly something I wanted to get done. It wasn’t me and my guard, it was my personal fireteam dragging my dead weight on their mission.”
Lucina frowned. “Which are we? Your guard, or your team?”
Andrew raised his eyes to the ceiling. “Melody phrased it as a personal fireteam.”
“That’s how she explained it to me.”
“Which is why you’ve created what you have.” Andrew sighed. “In my head, you were just a guard. An annoyance, something I would have to deal with limiting my actions.”
Lucina gazed at him. “My first priority is getting you home safely.”
“And to that end, if you can remove the reason for me to be out there, you will.” He looked back down. “Hence your quick capture of the Minotaura. She was getting in the way of getting me home.”
“I think today was a bad example of how we’ll be operating with you.” Melody stood, pulling him to his feet. “I had strict instructions from Melody to capture that Minotaura and get you back. You weren’t really in control in the first place.”
Andrew made a face. “I figured.”
“She’s still worried.”
“She has every right to be.” Andrew confessed. “And to that end, Lucina, you were excellent.”
Lucina grinned at the praise. “So you’re not mad anymore?”
Andrew shook his head ruefully. “Not really.”
“Good.” Lucina cocked her head. “Want to go for a walk?”
Lucina giggled. “No, nothing that would make Melody worry. There’s a simulation we’ve been running that you might enjoy.”
Andrew frowned. “Oh?”
“Yea. It’ll be fun, I promise.” She smiled. “And hopefully it’ll show you how things are meant to go when we’re watching over you.”
Andrew smiled back. “I can probably be away from the kids for a little bit longer.”
“Excellent. Let’s go.”
Melody – Wet Queen - Alpha
Cristina – (Blessed, Fiendish) Ophanim – Beta
Aella – (Hunter) Shinryu
Cortney – (Upgraded) Videogirl
Fu – Warvern
Lucina – Shadowcat
Nami – Sharptits
Constance – Tank Vixxen
Gale – Night Nurse
Shamira – Goldina
Nevaeh – (Blessed, Fiendish) G-Splice
Ann – Ice Empress
Nova – Blazicunt
Furia – (Fiendish) Wolf Queen
Rein – Myobu
Ishara – Romanticide
Kuu – Elfqueen
Lyn – Archmage
Yang – Nereidame
Daria – Vampire
Camiel – (Paragon) Archangel
Albia – (Hunter) G-Splice
Grace – Mini-Top