Blood Debts Book 5 of The Return
A Ranma, Sailor Moon, Dresden Files fic thingy.
By Sunshine Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:
Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. And the Dresden Files is owned by Jim Butcher.
Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C as always is wanted.
Chapter 10: Choices, Part B
My hand rubbed my belly as I walked the path that connected the house to the dojo. I took a moment to revel in the contented feeling of being full.... and luxuriate in how wonderfully soft my skin was. The warm morning sun also felt wonderful.
My tail swished back and forth. The stones felt cool against my bare feet, but after a couple steps my armor extended. Silvery greaves shifted into place, and hooves clopped against stone.
Stepping up to the porch that ran around the dojo, I peered inside.
I looked in and saw a short human in black cargo pants and t-shirt facing off against a slightly taller succubus in a red Lycra bodysuit. Both had black hair, but where her tresses were fine and straight, he had a wild shock of hair.
Both were thin, but while she was on the lithe, somewhat willowy side, he could... charitably be considered edging out of scrawny.
She held a katana that gave off an almost malevolent red glow, while his sword flared with a blade made entirely of pure light. It also hummed as he moved and sparked whenever the two blades came into contact.
Standing just off to the side was another girl. This one had orange hair and intense green eyes. Surprisingly, she had a sober expression and was intently supervising the proceedings. Though she did glance towards the door and give a big grin.
Tail drooping, I hesitated at the threshold. Watching the two spar was fascinating. Nariko was more experienced, had finer footwork, and had the edge in reach, but Butters wouldn't be dissuaded. There was a stubbornness and willingness to take risks that I found appealing.
Also it seemed that his lightsaber had a "safe" mode, because he was able to freely bonk her with his blade. Meanwhile, Nariko had to hit with the flat of hers. I idly wondered why she was fighting with live-steel when I was certain that they would have training blades stashed somewhere.
I was so transfixed by the match that I didn't really notice I had entered the dojo. The two had circled around and Butters' back was towards me.
The swords stopped.
Nariko looked at me and pulled her katana back.
Butters tilted his head and began to turn.
"Oh, wonderful!" Misako clapped her hands. "Finally! Someone in this family with a sense of style."
As the green-eyed demon rushed over to inspect my form, Nariko smiled and bowed her head approvingly towards me.
That left the... human. Geeze, I was still over a foot taller than him. The short man held Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith. The tip of my tail started to curl.
He adjusted his glasses. Maybe it was due to the demon chick fussing over my ears and my horns. She also complemented me on my makeup and tried to ask me what blush I used.
Stepping forward, I shook my head. This caused Misako to pout, the girl had pulled a hairbrush out of.... somewhere and was about to use it.
"Butters, Butters, Butters. You have the opportunity to play Jedi versus Sith and you're not wearing a robe?" I turned to Nariko. "And you, where's the force lightning? Or at least wear a black bodysuit. I mean you're a demon with an evil, glowy sword, you've got appearances to keep up!"
Tilting his head, Butters nodded. "Harry.... you're looking.... better," he said, his eyes darting over my form.
"It'd be hard not to." My smile broadened as I clomped closer. "Two arms, two legs, two eyes."
Butters continued to look me over. The embarrassed geek had passed and now his expression was clinical. Well, the man was a medical examiner. "You're a fae too?" he asked keeping his sword pointed low.
"Sidhe," I sniffed.
The tip of the sword made small circles as his gaze went from my chest, to my choker to my eyes and ears. I may have leaned forward to give him a closer view.
He looked to the other demons and made a thoughtful noise. "The Winter Mantle?"
Smiling, I nodded. "You're getting pretty quick on the uptake with this magic stuff," I purred keeping my voice low.
"You screwed up, didn't you?"
"It's not like...." I frowned, tail drooping.
Butters laughed. The Sword's blade dimmed and vanished. "Oh, Harry. How did you screw up turning into a succubus? And what are you wearing?"
My cheeks felt flush. Well... they actually felt very cool but I knew blood was rushing towards them.... and my ears. I looked down. Then I swallowed. "Uh, that's my armor."
Butters raised an eyebrow. "It's a shiny, metallic blue bikini bottom and matching bra."
"Bustier," Misako corrected.
He shrugged. "That's not armor. Okay, maybe in a fantasy videogame."
I leaned forward and rubbed my forehead. Well I rubbed the base of my horns. That did make me feel better, despite Nariko's raised eyebrow and the snickering coming from Misako.
"Okay, yeah it's part of my armor...." I concentrated. The Mantle eagerly complied. There was a shifting noise as blue ice grew out and plates extended. Soon everything bellow the neck was encased in blue and black ice armor and a pair of light blue translucent wings grew into place rising from my back.
This time Butters' blink was followed by a geeky grin. "You're the..."
I twisted a bit showing off the side and back of the armor. "It's more form-fitting than anything Jaime had with the scarab, but it'll do."
"You went from the Wizard Winter Knight to the sidhe succubus Blue Beetle. That's nuts." Butters shook his head, but he was smiling.
"Says the Jewish Jedi Knight of the Cross."
Butters laughed. He stepped closer and then sidestepped as I twisted to show myself off. "The armor does look real cool," he said.
I wondered if he was saying that half to himself. "Alien symbiot infiltrator armor" was probably less scary than "predatory demon chick". Not that I disagreed. I did look real cool.
"Geeze, you're tall though. Even as a girl." His empty hand idly reached out.
My tail just happened to roll beneath his palm.
His fingers were warm, very warm. He looked confused as his hand automatically closed around the appendage.
A purr escaped my throat. I looked down and leaned closer, my armor pressing against him.
"Harry," He stated looking straight up. "What are you doing?"
There was no tremor to his voice. The scared little medical examiner that had his lab destroyed by zombies was gone. His other hand still held his sword. I knew he could activate it in a second. I also knew he wouldn't.
My lips parted. Despite his size he was....
I blinked and jerked my head up. "You're pulling my tail," I squeaked out, with a little frown. The backside to my armor did feel a bit tight, but so did my torso. It would have been easier if Murphy had been the one sent to give me backup. Easier on the eyes too.
"Oh... didn't mean too," Butters coughed, letting go.
I ignored that my tail lifted to push against his palm.
I grinned. "Never mind that, you can make it up to me. There is something I want you to do," I said my, voice softening as I once again leaned closer.
"I'm flattered, really, but I'm very happy with Andi," Butters deadpanned.
I blinked. My tail flicked and part of me felt fluttery. Worse, my cheeks chilled again. Andi... now she was something else: buxom strong. Butters was a lucky man.
"Do you know you blush blue?" Butters asked. "I wonder if your blood's really blue, or if it's an illusion caused by how your skin filters certain wavelengths of light," he asked in medical examiner mode. He then peered into my eyes. "Huh... the veins in your eyes look blue, but they're all weird and faerie."
"Yes, exactly!" I cried.
"What?" Butters' brow furrowed.
"Soulgaze me!" I demanded, superfluously. I was already being drawn into his chestnut eyes.
There was fear. There was desperation. I felt an overwhelming desire to prove oneself. I saw a kid standing up to a bully. He got knocked down. He got up. He got knocked down again.
The page turned. Now older, the young man tried the military; he was rejected. He tried the police; he washed out. Two things were apparent, the little man struggled against his limitations, but he kept at it.
There was medical school, and a period of success, of vindication. But it was all too short. His internship was rocky, his residency was a nightmare. It was the blood. It was seeing people suffer. Once again, the flesh failed him.
He pushed on. He made do. If he couldn't deal with live patients, he'd become a doctor for dead ones. Bitterness crept into him as a young man became an adult.
The page turned. And he discovered something new. Something different. He reported his findings. That the bodies he had examined were human-like but not human. All his work was correct. His evidence was solid.
But everyone knows monsters aren't real.
He stood by his work. He was locked up. He was forced to recant. The well of bitterness came up and whispered against him. But the man still had hope; he still thought he could make a difference.
The page turned, a year later he met a gangly, distant man that looked off with a thousand yard stare. A year after that zombies tried to kill him, the gangly man saved him, and together they rode a tyrannosaurs rex.
He had made a difference; he had saved lives that night. Both in helping control an undead dinosaur and as a doctor. Still, the fear held him back.
The page turned, over the years the fear nipped at him, pointing out his weaknesses. But over the years he rose to the situation. He helped as he could, and did what he could. He found love.
Then the gangly man disappeared.
And the little man realized that he could do something.
His faith that people can still do the right things and that one can make a difference even if the flesh is weak was tested. He learned, he grew. He stumbled, but, like when he was a boy, he got back on his feet.
The ultimate test came in the rain, saving a family from being murdered by monsters. The gangly man had returned, but had been vanquished. There was no one else. The little man knew he couldn't win, not against the Denarians, but he knew he could make a difference.
He had faith.
My head snapped back as the Soulgaze withdrew. I shivered and realized I'd slipped down to my knees and draped my arms around Butter's shoulders. The massive difference in our heights put me at a strange angle relative him. Despite the awkwardness, I pulled closer.
"I'm sorry," I whispered into his ear. "I had no idea."
Butters turned. The Sword had fallen out of his hand. He'd brought that arm up and wrapped it around my back, just below where my wings emerged through my armor. His other hand was lower by the base of my tail.
"You?" He gave a strained laugh, hugged me and leaned his head against my shoulder. "God Harry.... just...." He looked me in the eyes. "How do you go on?"
I chuckled. Well, it was more of a purr. "What about you? Steve Rogers is less stubborn than you are."
"I was more of a DC fan but... Captain America did appeal to me." He straightened himself or tried to. Instead that just pulled me in closer. "Growing up... I did wish for super serum, but a Sword is a nice consolation prize."
I shifted to lean close and whispered again. "The serum isn't what made him a hero."
"And a sword doesn't make a Jedi," I added, looking down. My arm slipped off his shoulder. Talons stopped just over the Sword's wooden handle.
He followed my gaze. Lifting his hand of my shoulder, he picked up the sword and deposited it in my palm. I took a moment to study the polished wooden grip and the little shard of steel that stuck out.
Nariko gave the hilt a respectful, slightly awed look. She was her mother's daughter and into swords. Despite its new state, Butters' blade was once Kusanagi. It had been made by the Shinto god Susanoo and, as the legend went, was given by Amaterasu to Japan's first Emperor. It was interesting to see someone who was impressed by a Sword of the Cross, as a holy relic independent of the whole "cross" aspect.
Butters stood. "Harry, it'll be okay."
He offered his hand.
I held out the sword.
Butters grabbed me by the wrist. He grunted with effort but managed to pull me back up to my hooves.
Okay, I'll admit that I helped too. I mean, the guy was over a foot shorter than me.
Misako clapped, and, for once, she didn't look snide or sarcastic. Though that might be because she was too busy shifting between clapping and taking pictures. Nariko also gave a genuine smile.
I bowed my head.
"You've got demonic fangirls," Butters noted.
I struck a pose and cocked my hip. "They're my nieces," I said, sounding more proud than I expected.
"It is nice to have a cool auntie. Someone with decent fashion sense," Misako smiled. Ah, there was the familiar mad glint to her green eyes.
I looked down. I wasn't nude, technically. "Clothing... right."
Butters shook his head. "You really are clueless aren't you?"
My lips shifted into a pout.
He looked up at me with a strange expression. "I'd say you can't be that dumb. But here you are a giant ice-fairy demon lady."
"Hey!" I stomped a leg.
He looked down at my gleaming hoof then back up at me.
"You going to blame the others on why you're like this?"
My pout grew embarrassed. "No..."
"Certainty not," Misako said indignant. "Mother's a stick in the mud when it comes to this stuff, so she wouldn't do it, Auntie Eve doesn't care, and Auntie Cecilia is far too subtle in her machinations to be this blatantly indulgent, even if the results are lovely."
"Blaming others includes blaming the Winter Mantle," Butters gently reminded.
I gestured towards myself. Indicating the pale wintery hair and various bits of ice adorning my willowy form.
Butters crossed his arms. "You're saying you were outsmarted by a pack of heightened instincts that Mab dumped in you?"
Huffing, I felt my wings droop. "Fine, you were right to be worried. You can say 'I told you so'. I wasn't thinking." My tail also went limp.
"Hey, don't be that way," he stepped closer and took my hand. It was warm.
A smile touched my glossy lips. My gaze drifted down. My fingers were longer than his. His hands were delicate-looking, surgeon's hands, but they still looked human. My hand was as if carved from alabaster and my dark blue nails seemed honed out of polished stone. They looked more art-piece than flesh. Even the blue veins just visible below the skin came off more like fine tracery.
My tail rose up and curled around one leg.
"You're still Harry." He looked me in the eye. "You were smart enough with the Soulgaze. And only Harry Dresden could be both a fae and a succubus and still be clumsy."
Misako took a picture of us. "Even mother is more gifted at being a succubus. And she was a virgin for the longest time."
Nariko reluctantly nodded.
"Hey!" I blinked. "Wait, Ranma was a virgin?"
I was back in the bedroom. Once again, I was staring at my reflection. It was getting a bit eerie. So far, I'd spent more time looking at myself in one day than I ever had... before. I'm sure Murphy would say that that was due to my innate cave-man attitudes towards gender.
Murphy. Shiny sapphire lips creased into a frown. Explaining all this would be... problematic. But... I murmured as my tail swished... explaining it would be so worth it.
"Auntie! Lift your arm," a boisterous voice said as I was prodded in the side.
Turning, I saw Misako was trying to remove a button-down shirt. The green-eyed girl struggled a bit getting it off my shoulders.
I leaned over to give her an easier time.
I looked at myself. This was necessary, especially the bra. Breasts are heavy. I was glad I was somewhat less endowed than my sisters.
I saw that one of Cecilia's girls, Desiree, had stepped into the room carrying a shoe-box. Misako handed the periwinkle shirt over, and took the box. "Just a bit tighter in the shoulders and a bit more across the front," she said to the younger girl. Desiree blushed slightly at me before slipping out of the room.
Misako motioned for me to sit down on the bed.
From the box she pulled out a pair of leather work-boots and started lacing them up over the pale blue knee-socks adorning my feet.
"How do they fit?" she asked, slightly irritated.
I took a few steps. "Fine," I shrugged.
"Finally," she said with some relief eroding her frustration.
"Sorry?" I asked.
"Oh, it's not you," Misako airily waved. "Well, it is you," she admitted.
She pulled me up and went back to the mirror.
I saw a tall woman towering over a shorter woman. It didn't help that the taller one was only in a bra, underwear, and boots. I blushed a bit.
"You have any idea how difficult a woman your size will be to get clothes for?"
"What about Eve?"
"She's got problems, and you're like a head taller," she gave me an apprising look. "At least it's not all bad. Undergarments won't be much of a problem."
"Huh." I then realized that the clothes I was already wearing did come out of a pretty standard packet.
"Fortunately, your height is the only... excessive measurement of yours. And you're willowy enough and your torso is also more long than broad. Thus your bra's band size isn't excessive."
"Hurrah," I deadpanned.
The coifed girl eyed me. "It's no laughing matter; custom bras are expensive. You'll still need to order custom stockings." Her gaze lowered. "But on the balance I'd say that's worth it given those fantastic legs."
I focused on my reflection. Though I did notice a prideful smile grow on those sapphire lips.
People entered the room, and I felt Desiree and Meredith. I picked up a bit of nervousness emanating from them and a desire to help.
I cocked my head. Desiree carried that periwinkle shirt and pair of pants. Meredith had... my duster. My tail drooped.
Misako swatted the appendage. "Not yet, we're still trying human duds."
Frowning, I obliged; my tail vanished. "Fast work, I noted."
"We only had to make a few adjustments this time, Auntie," Desiree assured.
Soon, I went back to the bed, off came the boots, on came the clothes, then the boots came back on, and the duster slipped over my shoulders. The heavy spellbound coat felt... comfortable. Purring, I ran a hand over the sleeves, there was something about leather. And it was a gift from Molly. My ears and cheeks flushed at that, a gift from the Winter Lady.
My idle and happy thoughts were interrupted when Misako once again led me to the mirror.
A tall woman gave a cocky smile back at me. Black slacks and a dark blue button-down western shirt with black accents showcased her lithe figure without being blatant. Draped over that was a black leather duster. It looked a bit more voluminous over my new frame, but it fit.
I looked down. The reinforced material had been altered. I could feel that a bit had been taken in to fit more slender shoulders, and the sleeves had been re-hemmed for arms that were just a bit shorter. However the bottom hem was left the same length, turning a calf-length coat into an ankle-length coat.
Meredith and Desiree clapped.
"Not bad," Misako admitted. "You can do the bifauxnen style well."
"Uh... thanks," I twisted a bit, taking in the look. I wasn't sure how else I could have done it. I mean this was basically how I dressed before. Okay, t-shirts were more common than button downs, but I wore the latter when I had to dress nicely.
I also wore cowboy boots, but I was afraid that Misako would launch into an explanation about how I'd have to find a cobbler to make me special ones. And worse... she was probably right. That said, I did know some cobblers. Their operation was small, but they did great work.
"If I'm going to have such a problem finding clothes that I'd have to mod them, why don't I just buy menswear?"
Misako gave me a flat look while Meredith giggled.
"We did get those men's department," Desiree gently stated.
"Oh." I picked at my shirt. "So the mods are..."
"Because you're not shaped like a guy," Misako snorted. "Really Auntie, we must get your clothing style in line with your makeup style."
Ignoring that, I lifted a boot.
"Yes, those too. Shoes will be a hassle. Well, you might be able to get sneakers, but anything fashionable will have to be bespoke."
Huh, so my prediction about cowboy boots was correct.
"High heels will have to be completely custom," Misako added.
"That's not going to be a problem," I snorted.
"If you say so," Misako chuckled. "Now, stylish pants and shirts would also fall under the same problems."
"Skirts may be okay," Desiree offered.
Misako looked me over. "Yes, as long as she keeps in mind that a knee length skirt would, on her frame, look like a mid-thigh one."
"But it would show off those wonderful runner's legs!" Meredith said.
"Good point," Misako agreed.
I frowned. They had a point. I'd be careful when buying pants. I could easily end up with something that looked like flood pants or clam-diggers. Shorts were worse. I'd be hard to find something that didn't fit me like glorified Daisy Dukes.
"Great job girls," I smiled. Feeling the welling joy in my nieces I swept them up into a hug. They began to purr. Then I began to purr. Afterwards, still basking, in the feeling of connectiveness I returned to the mirror.
"Very good work," I bent forward then squatted, rose up, and moved my arms. "You really make these fit a lot better."
"Oh, it's a major advantage we have," Misako smirked.
"You'll pick it up soon enough," Meredith assured.
"Will I pick up how to look more human?" I asked. I had dropped the demonic accoutrements, including my horns, which made everything feel a bit muffled.
"This isn't exactly subtle," I pointed with a pale long-fingered hand with dark blue nails.
My face was a similar pallor, with the barest tinge of blue, especially on the cheeks. Not to mention, the sharp teeth when I smiled, the pointed ears, or the dark, almond-shaped eyes with those blue flecks and slit pupils.
"I still look pretty sidhe."
Misako nodded. "And the choker is a bit blatant."
"That stays," I said sharply, my hand going to the platinum band. It was barely obscured by the collar of my shirt.
The green-eyed young woman slipped closer to me. "At least this shows the upside to your bold makeup."
"I'm not wearing makeup."
Misako gave an indulgent smile. "Of course, but still such exotic eye shadow will make exotic eyes more accepted. And someone with such rich blue lips will of course use blue-hued foundation. Especially given such 'obviously dyed' hair."
"People will assume I'm doing some type of goth look?"
"You are wearing dark clothes and a long black coat," Desiree said.
I tilted my head. They might have a point. Most people went out of their way to avoid admitting that the supernatural existed. So as long as I wasn't too blatant...
"And the ears?"
"Comb your hair over them," Misako shrugged.
"Or learn to cast a glamour," Meredith offered.
In my reflection, a pale slim eyebrow rose. "You could have started with that."
Misako chuckled. "Sorry Auntie," she said, not sorry at all. "It's not like it's something we normally bother with, but since you're all fae..."
"And a wizard!" Desiree added.
I slowly nodded.
"Misa-chan said you had fancy armor..." Meredith's tone was leading.
I eyed the little demon. "I might," I grinned. The mantle responded. By now the whishing sound of growing and sliding ice was familiar. Blue and black armor slid over pants and shirt. Boots were covered then morphed into dark hooves with silvery greaves. Armor slid over hands and my talons grew out. Horns extended, and finally my tail snaked out the slit the back of my duster as my wings lifted and grew into place.
"Ooooh...." Desiree stepped looking around.
Meanwhile Meredith ran a hand over the slick material coating my thigh. My tail swished. And I crossed my arms. "Pretty neat huh?"
"You kept the coat?" Misako asked looking between my shoulder blades.
"The coat's awesome."
Misako allowed a small nod.
I shifted out of my armor and back into the blouse and pants.
Sniffing the air, I turned to the door. I noticed that my nieces had mirrored the move. The synchronicity was eerie, but we could all sense who was coming.
The door opened and Ranma stepped in. She was wearing black leather pants, boots burgundy blouse, and a matching black jacket. I glanced down at myself, then at Misako who tried looking innocent.
There was more than a bit of similarity between my clothes and my sister's style.
"Looking good," my sister smiled as she closed in for a hug.
I returned the embrace, the diminutive woman almost vanishing in my arms.
Two more of my nieces had entered: Ranma's daughters Akane and Nabiki.
"Huh, Misako's being more restrained than I expected," the older one dryly noted.
"Give her time," her cute baby sister said in a sing-song voice.
Misako stamped a foot. "Can't I be nice?"
Ranma pulled out of the hug and gave her coiffed daughter a flat look.
After a moment, Misako looked down. "This is her first day. We shouldn't overwhelm her."
I reached out and patted her on the shoulder.
"That mean I shouldn't suggest a nice kimono? I have a pattern in mind and everything," Nabiki offered.
"What were you thinking for the sash?" Akane asked.
"Well I didn't want to get too formal for the obi. I mean, I doubt she even knows how to tie one but there is a shade of lavender that might be perfect."
Ranma lifted a finger. "I appreciate the sentiment Misa-chan. However..." She let the word hang in the air as she gave me her full attention.
I frowned in confusion, but my tail drooped in apprehension.
My sister made a show of looking at her watch. "We've already lost most of the morning, we're going to have to rush if we're gonna get some training in. Tessa will try again; we don't know how much time we have."
I growled at Tessa's name. "Training? Well... Butters and Nariko are taking a break." I glanced out the bedroom window. I couldn't see the dojo from here but I wasn't sure about the rush.
"No, no, not there," Ranma's smile grew. "We'll have to go someplace we can stretch our wings."
"Oh," I said in a small voice.
I stepped out onto the bright sunlight. Half-dead grass rolled in front of me. The ground undulated with hummocks. There were several bare spots with exposed dirt and more than a handful of craters. Beyond the rough field, leafless trees clawed at the cloudless sky. There were layers of fences, both within the forest and in front of the trees. Rolling hills surrounded the grounds, and directly in front was a lumpy bump of land. Even with its top sheared off, the massif stood larger than the rest of the hills.
The trees near the summit had been blasted down; their logs lying scattered down the slope like toothpicks. At the very top was burned debris that indicated some sort of building was up there. Gaping concrete tunnels and holes were among the ruins exposed like a skull with its teeth ripped out.
The damage wasn't fresh. Many cycles of rain, sun, and wind had worn things down and I could see that some greenery had begun to creep in before autumn had halted the advance. I nodded at that.
Behind me, Butters stepped out of the building. It was one of those corrugated steel prefab military-style structures. You know, the ones that are like a half-cylinder on the side. There was a cluster of them at one end of this field and there were a few other outbuildings in the distance.
He had tossed a black vest over his shirt. He rubbed his bare arms. I noticed they were a bit more muscular than his normal "noodle arms". Training with Michael was paying off. Which was good; not many Knights get to retire. Well, that is to say not many long-term knights get to retire. There have been plenty of knights who take up a Sword for one mission and hand it back. However, those that make a life of it... well they end up being lifers. And not many rookie Knights get a full-time mentor.
Butters turned to me and looked up and down. He breathed out and looked back out across the field.
"Yes?" I arched an eyebrow and my tail curled slightly.
"Are you sure about this?"
I ran a finger along my left horn. I paused, enjoying the tingle. "Bit too late for me to back out," I stated, making a note to be careful with those things. Of course succubae would be more sensitive.
Butters lifted his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose.
"No, well yes," he sighed. "Yes it's too late to back out, something I'm painfully aware."
He held up a hand. "And no, I'm not objecting to you training. That's a very sensible idea. One that I doubt was yours."
"The redhead, Ranma?" He asked; I nodded. "She seems to be pretty focused on that."
"I was going to ask to practice." My tail drooped.
He looked at the rolling land in front of us and made a thoughtful noise.
Sure, I was planning to practice, but I was thinking we'd start in their dojo. And not be driven out here into the wilds of Canada.
This wasn't quite Camp Kaboom out in the desert of the American Southwest where I helped train newbie Wardens, but there was plenty of evidence that this was a place for live-fire practice.
I inhaled and could smell just a hint of the sulfurous scent of expended munitions on the crisp fall air. There was another scent, something familiar but hard to quantify.
"Sure, practice is good, but did you have to dress like that?"
He looked me over, his eyes lingering on the base of my tail before he crossed his arms.
"It's.... " I sighed. "She told me I shouldn't be wearing the armor for this."
"So, you decided on a blue bodysuit?"
"It's what Misako had," I mumbled.
"The one with the orange hair and the crazy eyes?" He laughed after I grunted in agreement. "You're being played."
"Played?" I looked over myself. The dark blue Lycra fit well, and gave a surprising amount of support. "But I look good in this, right?"
Butters tilted his head. I could see his brain working behind his glasses. "You're a tall succubus in a skin tight leotard," he stated as if to confirm the reality before him.
Smiling, I rolled my hips as I twisted to get a good look at myself. "It is surprisingly comfortable," I noted as my tail swished back and forth.
"Played," Butters repeated.
He said something else but I didn't notice as my horns tingled. I then realized what that familiar scent was. It was Ranma. I could feel my sister's presence, not just with her approach but how it had permeated these grounds. I recalled a similarly enveloping feeling at her house.
A rich contralto voice chuckled. "Played would be if Misako convinced you to wear a miniskirt and tiara."
"Maybe high heels," the blue haired niece added. Akane looked me over. "Or just convinced you to go with hooves."
Butters looked down at my legs. "Yeah, at least you've got feet."
I crossed my arms. Truth be told, I wasn't sure exactly how summoning hooves worked. I knew they came when I went all Blue Beetle ice armor. It was probably like making my wings appear. Or those ice talons.
The instant my fingers and toes started to tingle, I halted that line of thought
Ranma had stepped out of the building and was circling around me. She wore a dark purple bodysuit that, despite being the same cut as mine, seemed to have more.... gravitas.
Then again, it might be the presence my sister put out. I bowed my head to her.
Purple eyes twinkling, she returned the gesture. As did Akane who stood at her side a few paces back.
Butters frowned. "Why do I feel like we're about to duel?'
Ranma chuckled. "Spar. There is a difference."
I did look between us, there were two groups of two. "Wouldn't that make you my second?" I lightly asked.
"There's no settling of accounts here. No, this is a teaching experience," Ranma's lips curled into a smile. She then gestured for me to follow and turned down the slight incline further into the cold field.
"Oh? Do we have time for you to teach me your martial art?" I asked, my boots swishing through the half-dead grass.
"No. Shame that." My sister clasped her hands behind her back. "But there is something vital that you must be taught, before you go into battle."
"I'm listening," I said.
"You're not human."
I blinked. My tail lazily moved to and fro. "Do tell."
Smirking, the redhead started to pace around me. "Yes, yes, you've got the breasts and the horns and the tail. But there's more than that." She stopped and met my gaze. "You're a baby. You've been one of us for what? Not even a whole morning?
"You don't know your powers. You don't know what you can shrug off and what you can power through. You don't know your limits."
"And you do?" I crossed my arms. "Didn't know you had much experience with sidhe wizard succu-"
And that's when her right fist slammed into my side. I coughed up air as my diaphragm burned and twitched. I had taken a lot of beatings over the years, and had come to be a connoisseur of taking a hit.
And Ranma knew how to follow-through enough to do real damage. Her fist pushed in just under the ribs and lifted out with a jerk. I growled and slashed with my hands, talons springing into place. Still shocked, my attack was instinctual. One arm was knocked aside by Ranma's tail with a warm hiss, the other was grabbed by her left hand and twisted.
I tried to roll out of the wrist-lock, and in the process stumbled to the ground. Ranma slipped her grip and pulled on a finger, torquing the joint.
"What the hell?" I demanded beginning to pull myself up. "You could have warned me."
Butters stepped forward but Akane held up her hand to halt him.
"You can get out of this," Ranma mildly said. "It's just a finger."
She let go and peered over me. "How do your ribs feel?"
I almost detected a flicker of uncertainty in those purple eyes. A moment of worried empathy that she had hurt me, more than she had intended. The redhead sniffed the air and the moment passed.
I gasped and felt my side. It hurt; pain washed over me. But... it wasn't the pain I'd expect from having had my kidney smashed to a pulp. Bruised yes... but not damaged. I had a huge, nasty bruise on my side. But as I prodded, the tender spots seemed to lessen. I could just imagine the heavy blue bruises shrinking under the bodysuit.
"And then there's your arm." Ranma's tail waggled over my left arm. There was a large straight cut running down my forearm. Cerulean blue blood squirted out of the sealing gash. The sleeve of my bodysuit still flittered where it had been sliced open. It seemed to coagulate faster than human blood.
"It actually is blue," Butters remarked.
"I can heal..." I blinked.
"And you didn't even notice that wound," Ranma tilted her head. "Control, dear sister, control."
Glaring, I stood up. I exhaled, my body tingled and the pain started to fade, but there was a tightness in my chest, a hunger. I thought back to seeing Thomas, Lara and their sisters after a battle. They could heal damage too, but it came at a cost.
Ranma flexed her hand. She then licked the back of a finger. "Yes, that's another thing. We need to see how much your healing costs."
"How much she'll need to feed?" Butters asked.
My sister nodded to him. "And what," she took another lick. I noticed a flash of blue disappear past her lips.
"Hey! That's my blood!"
"The Mantle?" Butters asked, ignoring my outburst. The redhead nodded. He looked me over. "Harry's obviously using its power."
"Yes, but how much can she use it?" Ranma grinned, flashing her teeth.
"Ah," Butters stepped back.
I gave the Knight a quick glance. "Is she gonna do what I think she's gonna do?" I asked, suddenly feeling very naked to be without my coat or staff. The tight Lycra bodysuit wasn't helping.
"We need to learn your limits; it's important," Ranma said in her most soft and sympathetic "mom-voice". I also felt that a part of her would enjoy this. "We'll have to go in stages to make sure we don't push you beyond where you can heal but..."
"What if I fight back?"
Purple eyes twinkled. "Please do, but try to minimize the magic usage; you need to learn how to use this body you begged for."
"It's win-win," Akane agreed.
Ranma's amused smile vanished, replaced with a contemplative, evaluative look. Shifting her feet, she met my eye.
I put my arms up and gave a loose stance. "This is gonna to suck isn't it?"
The redhead snapped forward.
I've said it before. I've been beaten a lot. I've become a bit of an unwilling expert in receiving and managing pain. Though, I suppose the one time I broke my own hand to escape a set of handcuffs was deliberate on my part.
The attack was vicious, intense. She came at me with a flurry of blows that I barely blocked and leg swipes that forced me to mind my footwork. I grit my teeth. The barrage was also restrained. I knew she could be faster; I'd seen her hit harder.
Hells Bells, most of her attacks were with her fists and the blade of her hand. From what I knew of her style, she preferred to use her claws in slashing or stabbing attacks. Her combos and responses were also sluggish.
As we sparred, her hits started to come in faster. My heartbeat climbed as I worked to block and dodge and grappled her. My head buzzed and I pushed harder with my own hits. She blocked them, but each time, it felt like if I pushed a bit more I'd get through her defenses. It was also more of a brawl, I knew she had a full repertoire of throws and joint locks and other nasty bits, but it looked like her focus was on gross blunt trauma.
I blocked her arm, pushed her aside, and using my greater reach slammed a fist into her side. Strength flared in my arm as her ribs cracked. Snarling, I followed up with a right jab on her chin.
There was the reverberating thunk of fist on bone. I gave a triumphant yell.
Bounding back, Ranma smiled, there was red blood splashed on her teeth. "Good, you're starting to tap into your capabilities. But you're still fighting like a human." She spat some blood. "Also don't hit where the bone is strongest."
I breathed a few times... then realized my heartbeat had dropped back down and my breathing had returned to normal.
"That's like a human?" Butters cried. "You were going after each other like a kung fu movie."
Ranma tilted her head. "Yes, it was showy and a bit slow. Though there wasn't enough blood." One hand behind her back, she turned to me and beckoned with the other. She stood relaxed in a bladed stance with her knees bent. Her tail whipped back and forth.
"Oh, you cocky little shrimp!" I cried, charging her.
At the last moment, I shifted my angle and tried to punch past her. Her arm went up to block and then I moved to kick out her leg.
Just before my blow landed, I caught a vaguely approving look and then she jumped. My foot went through empty air. Her blocking arm grabbed mine and yanked my elbow over my head and back. My balance shifted, and her tail wrapped around my left leg
I cried as she flipped me over. My arm was yanked one way and my leg another. I landed in a rough heap. Meanwhile, Ranma gracefully fell, straddling my chest. "Work through the pain, Dear Sister." Those purple eyes looked apologetic but she still snapped my left arm just above the wrist.
I screamed. My hand flopped around bonelessly. It would have been comical if not so painful. I may have made a T-Rex related quip.
Then she punched me in the face. My nose broke and blue blood splattered everywhere. Some of the finer droplets seemed to freeze in midair. Her claws slid out, and she started to cut into me. Little lines were slashed into my shoulders
The pain and anger boiled over. And a cold... calm descended. The pain was there but it was something I had lived with. I'd fought with worse. I ignored her slices, they were agonizing but no real damage.
My right arm came up, dark ice talons already forming. I swiped at her. Her hand came up and she blocked. I expected that.
Which was why my real attack came with my left arm. My forearm might have been broken, but I could still throw some weight. My clawed hand hit her face like a fleshy flail. I gritted my teeth as I felt my bones begin to knit together.
That approving smile returned, marred by the slashes across her face.
I then whipped my tail around and yanked her foot. She fell forward, her head landing heavily on my chest. Head-butting her, I used my forearm with its floppy wrist to pin the back of her neck. With her somewhat restrained, I started rabbit punching her with my right hand. Though part of me wanted to start slicing her apart.
Then she kneed me in the crotch. I learned two things. One, that women were pretty darn sensitive down there too. And two, that my sister could knee hard enough to break a pelvic bone
And then she bit me. On the chest.
It wasn't any cute little love nip. Don't think of those delicate holes the vampires make. Actually, vampire bites aren't like that at all. They're messy, vicious wounds where flesh has been torn out.
So, exactly like that. With a final burst of pain, my wrist locked back into place as the bones fused. Still holding, her with my am, I changed targets from her torso to her bloodied chin. Her mouth snapped shut and I felt her jaw crack. I then took my healed left arm and heaved her off in a broad swing.
One advantage I had to be being a foot and a half taller than her was that, compared to me, the little redhead weighed nothing. Flapping her wings, she did a midair twist and neatly landed on her feet. Her lips and chin were splattered with blue bits. It looked like she had been messily eating a blueberry pie.
"You bit my tits! You crazy bitch!" I screamed pulling myself up. I put weight on my feet. Despite how it felt, my hips weren't apparently broken. Or maybe they'd healed, or maybe she didn't hit as hard as I originally thought.
The front of my bodysuit was a torn and bloody mess.
Butters looked between us and despite the dirty look Akane gave him, he stepped forward. "This has gone too far."
The redhead appraised the man and looked to me. She waited, silent.
"She's still pulling her punches," I gasped, angrily. I felt a bit insulted that she was holding back.
"Harry, she's eating you," he patiently said. I could see the hurt look in his eyes. He had agreed to this and was worried it was spinning out of control.
"She coulda made garland and streamers with my entrails." I looked sharply at my sister. "Or ripped my heart out."
She flashed her blue-stained fangs and bowed her head. I could see the predatory edge to her, but those eyes were utterly rational. It was disturbing. This really was just a lesson for her.
Looking a bit green around the gills, Butters swallowed. "Jesus, Harry, and you asked for this?"
"Repeatedly and demandingly." Ranma strode forward. "How many bones have I broken?"
I idly tapped my nose. It was tacky with blood. But it was still my nose. Well, okay it was Lea's delicate little nose. But the relevant thing was that my nose had healed and it wasn't even the tiniest bit crooked or bent.
She made a point to step to the side and observe my flicking tail. "And here you are eager to go another round."
"If only to wipe that smug off your face."
"You're starting to learn," she purred. "I was worried about how thick that head of yours would be."
"You're holding back," I growled.
The "look" returned. Her eyes bored onto me and I felt the weight of her presence push down on my shoulders and horns. "You're young, of course I'm holding back. I don't know if you'll survive having your head cut off, or your heart eaten. Few of us can. Hell, I took a risk when I punched you in the side at the start."
"You didn't know how fast I could heal?" I demanded.
"Still don't, not everything. What if it takes you two days to regrow an eye and the balloon goes up?"
"So, he turns demon chick and still has to wear an eye-patch against Tessa?" Butters snorted. "That's exactly Harry's luck."
Ranma out-stretched her hand. Looking over her fingers she methodically studied my form. A smile crossed her lips.
"You look like a kid in a candy store." I crossed my arms. "Picking the best parts you're going to break?"
"It's that spark of comprehension that makes teaching worth it." Her smile grew. "You're starting to understand which wounds you can take, and which you must dodge. Yes?" she asked, tilting her head with a twinkle in her eye.
My stomach dropped out at that.
Her claws slid out. I shifted and expected a blitzkrieg of kicks, punches and slashes.
The redhead did not disappoint. She was faster. She was more skilled in unarmed combat. Which is only fair. For my age, I'm one of the top combat wizards on the planet
But when it came to physical fights I was more of a brawler with only a smattering of professional training. Granted, I had been training with the Mantle and had physical abilities well above the human norm. But as for training...
My sister... was a professional trainer for demons, mercenaries and special forces troops. Hells Bells, technically, she spent a lot more time teaching than she did fighting. Which I suppose was fitting, I spent more time doing mundane, okay mundane-ish, investigative work than fighting monsters.
Of course, at the moment, my sister's training consisted of "It's only a flesh wound, ya pansy."
I gasped as I managed to partially block her forearm, her wrist snapped down and clipped the side of my horn. I yowled. That was another thing, she knew this body's weaknesses far better than I did..
Stepping back, I pushed another attack off. I had one advantage: my reach far exceeded hers. My arms were covered in layers of healing bruises and my legs had started to go numb.
The pressure kicked up as she seemed to dip into her inexhaustible reserves of stamina and hit just a bit harder and faster. I clocked her on the side of the head when I found an opening, and got slashed through the bicep for the trouble.
Knowing her preference for combo attacks, I pulled back, and then it felt like my guts were on fire. As I blocked a kick, her tail slipped up and slashed over my belly. Lycra and skin tore apart, there was pain that locked up my knees, and ropes of gaudy blue and purple intestines spilled out.
I screamed as ice flared around me and my hair started to lift up. I moved in to throttle her as my eyes burned with rage and pain.
For her part, Ranma's face was utterly calm as she slashed open my shoulder and head-butted my chin. The pain of my spilling guts hit me with a visceral horror. And for an instant, I didn't notice that once again I'd been knocked to the ground. I missed that I was on my back, that the redhead had sunk one hand into my chest and was moving to grab my neck.
No, my attention was on how the tip of her tail was obscenely looping through my guts. I distantly heard Butters call out, and could see Akane shout something in return.
But then the penny dropped. Ranma's hand touched the cool metal of my choker. The pain became distant. I matched my sister's gaze and smiled. "My turn."
There was a whisking noise as my armor snapped into place. Plates of blue ice grew, covering my skin. And in the process, growing over Ranma's hands and tail, freezing them in place.
The little redhead tugged at her arms and gave a little nod of approval. And then I throat-punched her and slashed her right cheek into ribbons from ear to chin. Deep red, almost purple-tinged blood splashed out and splattered on my lips.
Snarling, I licked the drops away and rolled over so I was the one pinning her. I licked my lips again, the flavor was delicious. I was going to be real hungry after this.
I got in a couple more hits and felt my guts begin to heal. And then I remembered that my sister's legs were still free. And then she broke my knee and with a stomp shattered a mess of the little bones in my foot.
Distantly, I realized I just might end up being more injured at my sister's hands than Thorned Namshiel's. Laughing madly, I responded by thickening the ice keeping her hands and tail in place. And then I smelt something like burning pork, except more mouthwatering.
Ranma's hands ripped out of their icy prisons. The hand that had sunk into my torso left a burning wound cavity while the other had heated my choker to the point where it was hard to breathe. The redhead flipped off and, with a whip-like crack, ripped her tail free of my guts in a shattering rain of blue ice and blood.
"You dirty cheater!" I gasped, pushing a bit of cold into my choker to keep it from burning. I also layered more ice over my wounds.
I stomped forward; my gleaming hooves digging into the turf. My legs tingled and my knee ached.
"You're the one that started using magic." My sister beamed with pride, which was creepy given she still had half of a Glasgow smile.
"What's wrong with you two?" Butters demanded as he pushed past Akane.
The blue-haired girl huffed but looked to Ranma, who shook her head.
"As I said, we don't have time to get her up to speed. We're stuck with teaching her to swim by tossing her into the deep end," Ranma patiently explained, seemingly not noticing her cheek knitting itself back together.
I rolled my shoulders. My gleaming armor did give some comfort. At the very least it gave support even if my knee still felt a bit stiff.
My sister nodded. "Now Doc... if you want to jump in. She could use some partner training...."
Butters looked a little green but set his jaw.
The redhead gave that unbalanced smile but bowed her head. "No, no... with you I'd have to hold back."
She held up a hand before he could respond. "It would still be good training, important training. But I can't just break your bones and have you be back up for another go."
"Isn't this draining her?"
I looked between the two.
"Yes, she's still standing after that, at her age? Impressive."
I still wanted to throttle the redhead, but praise from my elder sister buoyed my mood.
Butters still looked a bit queasy but his intellectual side was coming out. "And afterwards you'll see just how much it'll take to sate her hunger?"
"Hey! I'm right here!" I stamped a hoof, indignantly.
"Akane, Sir Butters, you both might want to step back." Sniffing in my direction, the redhead tapped her chin. "And call the duty officer to inform her that we're entering the live-fire stage."
Turning on her radio, Akane nodded and put an arm around Butter's elbow and gently pulled him back towards the building.
Taking a few steps forward, Ranma clasped her hands behind her back. "This time, you take the initiative," she offered flexing her wings a bit.
"Uh, is the armor okay?"
My sister's smug grin returned and she simply beckoned once more with her finger. "Your training is far from complete Grasshopper."
"I'm gonna steal that pebble from your hand," I growled dashing forward. My long legs ate up the distance between us. My wings trimmed back and at the last moment flapped giving my terminal approach an extra burst of speed.
I leaned forward and down and icy talons shot out and stabbed towards the redhead like a brace of missiles. It was the fastest and hardest physical hit I'd given. Even the attacks I'd made back when I used a cursed belt to transform into a Hexenwolf didn't have this raw aggressive power. When I'd first became the Winter Knight and the Mantle was pushing me at its fullest I hadn't slipped loose this much.
The hit was solid, my other arm knocked away the redhead's parry. My claws slashed down.
But I knew I'd miss.
My sister bent her knees and dropped down, her head passing under my claws. Her forward foot angled to give purchase while her trailing support foot shifted and dug in, launching her towards me.
I was overextended and now Ranma was about to grapple me. It seemed to be her preferred style: let her enemy attack, dodge as close to them as possible, eat the remaining distance, and gut in melee.
That's when I spun on one leg and kicked up with the other. Ranma's claws hit the armor over my torso. Light flashed as the glowing talons gouged at the blue ice. Meanwhile, my kick connected; the edge of a gleaming dark blue hoof slashed open Ranma's side from her hip to her ribs.
Blood flew out of the ragged wound. And then I realized I was even more over-extended. And I still had a vicious succubus clawing at me. Bits of ice chipped flew in sparkles as she dug at my armor. Her talons shrank in length, turning form thin stiletto-like slashing blades into short thick chisel-like triangular claws which proved far better at stabbing into my armor.
However, my attention was kept more on keeping her from stabbing something.... especially vital. I'd learned that when she got this close her talons were more of a diversion. Her real goal came-
Pain slashed on my knee as I tried to hop back. I whipped out with my tail to block her own snaking appendage and kicked at her leg. There it was: once she closed in, if she couldn't kill in one hit, she'd take out her opponent's legs and knock them down to the ground, denying maneuverability and mobility.
I managed to get a punch into her shoulder and worked under an arm. But despite my greater reach, I was hardly able to keep her from knocking me off my feet.... er hooves. Her tail slashed through my thigh. Armor parted and blood spurted out. I looked down, then her foot hooked my leg. I slipped and started to fall over.
Frustration flared within me. Then I got punched in the chest. Another fist pummeled me. There was a loud snap as my armor began to spider-web. I fell onto the ground, my back slamming into the sod, my wings splayed under me.
My sister's little stabbing claws pried under the cracks and ripped off the chest-piece of my armor. I flipped my tail over, but her own shot out and knocked it aside. I punched but she moved to pin me down and block both arms. A growl escaped my lips.
Then she gave me a disappointed look.
That got me. I screamed and clawed my hands at her. She moved to knock them aside, but not before blue flames shot out my palms Twin jets slammed into the redhead and blasted her off my chest.
She flipped over, trailing smoke and flared with her own burning purple aura. Her wings spread and she stabilized her descent. An enticing charred, meaty smell tickled my nose as I glanced at my clawed hands.
Don't get me wrong, I'd made fire before without a focus item. Hells Bells, fire was one of my favorite types of attacks. But this was.... different. There was no visualizing the spell, gathering energy, fleshing the construct, and releasing it. This was... primal, automatic.
My fingers flexed. I could do succubus magic.
Then I noticed the shimmering black orb forming between Ranma's hands as she pulled back her wings and came at me like a dive bomber.
Lifting off my back, I centered myself. I pointed my fingers, there was a weak blue spark. Okay, maybe I couldn't do succubus magic.
"Nuts to this," I murmured and concentrated on a spell. Sure my sister had told me not to use magic, but given she was going to hit me with an exploding ball of magical fire, I'm pretty sure that rule had gone out the window.
The armor on my forearms glowed and ice gauntlets thickened as I visualized the runes carved into my blasting rod.
So... yes... this was going to be wizard magic. But I'd shown that I could do the same fire attack with succubus powers, and I was curious as to the difference.
Yes that's it... curious. I grabbed my right forearm with my left hand and, tracking my sister, aimed it Megaman style.
"Fuego!" I cried as the runes on my forearm flared and a lance of blinding white fire shot out. My lips curled into a smile.
And, really, wasn't the whole point of this exercise to learn what I could do?
The beam arced out, cutting across the sky. Pulling back a wing, Ranma banked away from the beam. I twisted my wrist to keep the white lance on her. Then she released the orb.
Her wings spread and pushed and she flipped out of the dive while the black orb shot towards me while it randomly jinked from side to side.
"That's just not fair!" I cried as I switched to trying to hit the orb with my fire attack. On the upside, my endurance was much better. On the downside, I really wished I could do both types of fire attacks at once.
A few yards above my head I finally hit the orb. Before it exploded in a rain of shrapnel, I ducked my head under my arms. I felt hot shards ping against my gauntlets but nothing seemed to penetrate the armor.
"Next time, I'm bringing my coat and my shield bracelet," I muttered, pulling myself up. I flexed my legs; hooves dug into the turf. My balance felt a little bit better, and my ankles seemed to be up higher and further... back, though maybe that was because my knees were a bit bent in this loose stance I took.
My sister landed on two legs and fell into a crouch.
"No superhero landing, this time?" I shouted across the field.
Springing back up, she met my gaze. Despite the distance, I froze, transfixed by her purple eyes. She smirked and blasted me with a pair of purple eyebeams.
"Damn-it!" I screamed dodging to the side. One beam hit me in the horn. A scream escaped my lips, but I held up my arm. "Fine! Fuego!"
A white-hot beam of fire shot out. And Ranma raced towards it. Expecting her to dodge, I started jittering my arm.
The nimble little minx flipped and rolled and leapt. She even used her wings to change direction midair. Despite that, I managed to get hits, but that just meant the white beam had to burn through her aura first. And since she kept moving and dodging, those protective purple flames of hers managed to wick and dissipate my attack in the few brief instances I managed to hit her.
Tail twitching, my frustration grew. I had to prove myself. Sure, this was my big sister. Sure, she'd been a succubus for a lot longer; I had only been one for less than a day. But I was a wizard, more importantly I was pretty sure I'd been fighting supernatural monsters longer than she had.
I started to run towards her, might as well get the grappling over with. Despite the damage, hunger and fatigue, my legs seemed almost eager to run. Then again I had spent years practicing and learning how to run, maybe my previous abilities just meshed with this new body...
My lips curled into a smile.
My sister drew closer and I debated what spell I was going to break out next. I had an idea, but I wasn't sure if I should wait on the surprise or not. It was clear we'd both broken the rules. Though I had noticed a lack of further ranged attacks on her part.
The base of my spine tingled. My eyes widened. On instinct, I dodged. My weight shifted and powerful legs darted me to the side.
A tiny purple fireball shot out. It was barely the size of a golf-ball, and was something I'd normally just block with my shield. However a throbbing pulsing power came from this attack. I had dodged it, but barely. Instead of blasting though my palm, the purple fireball grazed my forearm.
If you define "graze" by took a pinky at the first knuckle, cut along forearm armor and skin leaving a bloody furrow, and clipped the elbow joint.
"That's it! Screw the surprise." With a wave of pain I slammed my wrists together. My armor grew as more runes flared along my gauntlets and prongs grew out. It looked like a giant ice version of my blasting rod had extruded from my armored arms.
Which wasn't far off the mark. "Cannem Flagrantissimum!" I screamed digging into my succubus powers and my wizard magic. The prongs began to glow as silver motes sparkled.
An instant later, a thick pulsing blast of white and blue fire shot out. The recoil knocked me half a step back and I dug my trailing hoof into the ground to regain my balance. Shadows bent away from me as I pumped more into the flaming torrent. Succubus fire and wizard fire blended together, all held in place by a helical carrier beam of Soulfire.
Powered by a person's soul, Soulfire was a kind of magical rebar that you added to spells to make them stronger or more resilient or to add to their capability. However, this might be one of my more literal uses of the "magical rebar" analogy.
It wasn't quite Blue Beetle's plasma cannon, but it worked for me. The blue and white flames caught my sister and she flattened under the impact. I aimed the beam down, but my vision was impaired by my attack's own blinding backwash.
After a few seconds the beam cutout. One second there was a ten foot wide, hundred foot long beam of solid fire, the next there was a steaming trench of dirt full of flicking flames and silver sparkles. My arms lowered and the gauntest disengaged, shrinking back down.
My heard raced, my knees wobbled. I blinked at the trench. It actually reached beyond the field and had lit a couple tree trunks on fire.
I didn't see my sister; my nostril flared.
And then I was bopped on the back of the head.
"Oww!" I cried twisting around as my sister popped up next to me.
She blinked at the flaming furrow. "Oh, that's actually kind of cool." For once her face didn't have that smug "I know more than you" expression.
I blushed. "It just came to me..."
"Needs to be quicker," she patted me on the shoulder. "Come on, let's get lunch"
I wobbled a bit. The fatigue that had been chasing me started to catch up. "Uh... yeah," My stomach growled. "Food would be most welcome."
Butters and Akane had approached while my sister had guided me back towards the building. There were also a few mercenaries with fire extinguishers and other gear.
My niece clapped her hands. "Just wait until I tell Misako what you can do! She'll be so jealous I got to see it first."
"Holy...." Butters looked me over and swallowed. "That wasn't Hellfire was it?"
I looked the knight over. I was hungry. I took a step closer. My armor shifted. And began to retract. I felt air blow against my midriff and the lower parts of my thighs and knees.
A pair of mercenaries nodded to me as they passed. Both the male and the female were fit and determined. But... I sniffed the air and turned back to Butters. Him I knew. I smiled and looked down at him. I shifted my hooves and took a relaxed pose, balanced on my new knees. My face tingled but I let my grin grow
Butters met my gaze. His expression was opaque. He then turned from me to my sister.
For some reason jealousy burbled within me. I shook my head causing my fine pale hair to spill around my shoulders. It had gotten tinged a bit red, but I had more pressing concerns. My hips almost creaked as they pressed against the tight blue skirt that wrapped around my waist and backside.
I licked my lips and leaned forward. Loose slightly fluffed hair fell around my face. I wasn't sure how Andi managed this style. Maybe I could ask her when I got back to Chicago. There were a lot of things we could... talk about.
Butters' stance shifted and I could smell his adrenaline and hormones spike. Well, he had been becoming more martial and aggressive. Good.
"Have I thanked thee for thy help and support, Sir Knight?" I asked rocking my hips as I put a slim manicured hand on his shoulder. There was a rustling sound as my above the knee skirt thickened. My tail flicked as sapphire lacework grew on my armor's skirting and bustier. I then winked and took a dainty step right next to him, my hooves almost up to his boots. There was rustling noise and thousands of clear armored ice ringlets rained down from the hem of my skirt. Translucent mail poured over my knees, shapely, calves and angled ankles. The occasional mail link was dark blue forming a repeated snowflake pattern to the flexing under-skirting.
A hand touched my elbow. "Sister," Ranma stated. "Are you hungry?" There was worry in her voice. There was also her adamantine will.
My tail thrashed with irritation. She knew I was hungry. "As are thee," I said, archly. I slipped next to the knight and inhaled. "Just because thou have surrounded thine with so many delicious exemplars doesn't mean thee have any right to get greedy with my..."
She squeezed my elbow; I blinked. I bowed my head, my dangling sapphire earrings chiming. Huh... why was I wearing earrings to a sparring match?
I then sniffed and turned to the knight. I lowered myself, somehow it was easier to bend down with these knees and ankles. Mail ringlettes piled around me in a shimmering pool. I fluttered my eyes and licked my lips. "Shall, we have the pleasure of lunch?" Butters wasn't my type but... he was brave and he was here.
"Harry," the knight stated.
My lips quirked
He leaned in. "Why do you look like Andi?"
I stopped. A long fingered hand went up and pulled at my hair. There was a noticeable red tinge to it. I looked down. Hells Bells, I had cleavage. Okay I was still getting used to the whole chest thing, but it looked like my armor was doing some real Wonderbra magic here. Then I felt my face. The lean features and little fae-nose were.... well not gone, but my face seemed a bit...
My niece stepped in and held a small hand-mirror. I blinked. Yup, with the fluffed reddish hair I could make a passable succubus version of Butters's werewolf girlfriend.
"Harry.... are you?" He steeled himself and shook his head. "Miss Blackstone, you're trying to seduce me," he dryly stated.
"Blackstone?" I shook my head. At least my hair was back to its pale-almost white color, and my delicate nose had returned.
My sister chuckled.
"If you're going to vamp up and drape yourself all over me, I ain't gonna call you Harry. And Copperfield just sounds weird."
I nodded. I was Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.
Part of me tingled as I rose up. My hands roamed over his chest as I found his shoulders and lifted. "Thou honor me, sir knight," I whispered.
"Oh, that does sound perfect. BlackStone," my sister laughed.
I whipped my head back and glared.
"You do know our grandmother is named BlackSky right?"
I leaned a bit on Butters and frowned.
"And of course," The redhead pointed to herself. "DarkStar."
Butters laughed. "It's a perfectly good succubus name."
"And thou hast given it to me," I purred and leaned in to kiss him.
Flush, Butters turned his head and I planted my sapphire lips on his cheek. Still, I puckered, pressed down, gave a little twist, and just as I withdrew let my lips part. My tongue darted out and gave a slow little lick.
My sister tilted her head. I glanced over and could see the gears turning behind her eyes. The match might be over but she was still in full "instructor mode". I noted the slight twitches the tip of her tail made and wondered if each motion corresponded to something new she observed about me.
I gave a little sigh and shifted around so I could drape my arms over his shoulders. I had to bend down to do it, but my new knees let me do that with ease. I could bend my knees and ankles and it was like I could suddenly stop being so tall. It also meant my skirt was pressed against his backside.
There was a flash as my niece took a picture. I blinked then grinned more and pushed myself closer to Butters and motioned for her to take another shot.
"How about we get her some lunch?" Butters suggested, adjusting his shirt-collar.
Still studying me, my sister nodded. "That is a wonderful idea." She idly lifted her arm and made a circling gesture. "Come on Akane, let's check in and see if Ucchan and Desiree have got lunch ready."
I sniffed the air and could just make out the scent of something roasting. I half nudged, half turned Butters towards the building.
"No, no, you can take a load off, Sis," Ranma assured leading me to a bench next to the doors to the prefab building.
Akane helped Butters sit down and handed him a few bottles of water and handful of ration bars.
Ranma stretched over and hugged my neck and shoulders. It mussed up my hair a bit, but I didn't care. A rumbling purr grew within me.
"I didn't expect that on your first day. I'm very proud of you," she gave me a quick kiss.
"With all of my magic, victory would have been mine," I said without whining, or pouting. Sure, I had crossed my arms and pulled in my knees, but my tone was totally even and mature.
My sister looked at me like I was an idiot. "Well, yes. And I could have had Morgan shoot off your limbs. Winning wasn't the point of the lesson. But now that we know how well you can heal, how quickly you can learn, and... how you act when you get hungry," she gave a toothy grin, patted me on the shoulder, and slipped into the building, Akane in tow.
"She's pretty scary," Butters noted as he handed me a water. "Kind of like Murph, but with bloodlust you know?"
"They are about the same size." I gave a smug smile to conceal my nervousness. I wanted to get back and see Murphy. Well, I wanted more than that. But I couldn't leave, not when Tessa was still plotting to summon... something.
My stomach growled and I slumped onto the bench and gasped. My tail limply fell behind me and my wings drooped. One advantage of this new body was that it cooled off after physical exertion pretty quickly. Still not fast enough, I looked at the bottle of water, drank half of it, and then dumped the remainder on my head.
Butters sat on the other end of the bench. He blinked at me. "You do realize what she's saying, right?"
Blushing, I squared my shoulders and smoothed out my skirt. Well, the ice mail ringlets that draped down my legs. The armored blue skirt around my waist and thighs was pretty much impossible to rumple. I then crossed my legs at the knee and rocked my hooves. At least it was easier to do that with these new joints. I did have reverse-knees, well if you counted my ankles, which were much further up, all of which gave me a better balance. And at least my choker kept me from slumping my neck and shoulders.
"I am well aware of my sister's intentions," I primly stated.
Sluicing through my hair the water started to crystallize. The rime frosting on my horns tingled as well. I slouched down and reveled in the coolness. My forehead felt especially cool. I lifted an arm and flexed my hand. There wasn't even a dull ache from where my sister had broken it in two places. I wasn't sure when she broke it the second time. On the upside my pinky came back.
The knight eyed me. "You're a baby succubus, and you came out stronger than even she expected."
I shifted my position and gave him an expectant look.
He sighed. "She just gutted you like a trout and was happy that you pulled yourself together. Do you think she's going to go easy on you next time? Or are you just going to play dressup?"
I frowned. Maybe that's why my legs shifted so much, my sister had done a lot of work on them. Glancing off to the side I saw that Butters was stealing a glance at my thighs. So, I slowly uncrossed my legs. Then tapped a hoof and parted my knees just so.... and then leisurely crossed them the other way.
My stomach growled. Loudly. My cheeks flushed blue and I put a hand over my mouth. Part of me wanted to crawl into a bed and sleep, another part wanted to use a bed in a different manner. Either way, I still felt flush and my neck and ears were hot. "Pardon me, Sir Knight. But I feel faint, if I could have some of thine provisions?"
Butters rolled his eyes and tossed a ration bar at me. "There's also you leaning on the Mantle."
I used my claws to snip off the end of the wrapper to the energy bar, gingerly peel the wrapper and nibble down the protein enriched food. Licking my lips, I gave Butters a warm smile and a slow wink. I then sluiced a bit more water over my head.
"You know bad things happen when you lean on Winter Faerie power." His exasperation gave way to bemusement. "Then again, you let yourself get turned into a sidhe succubus. So maybe you getting all fancy fae right now is expected, if overdone."
I gave a dismissive sniff, and returned to inspecting my arm. The wounds had vanished. I knew there wouldn't even be a scar. My attention having moved to the sapphire lacework on my bustier when my nostrils flared.
The scent was familiar. I turned before my visitor could speak. "Yes?"
A young woman with green hair and dark skin looked at me... and blinked. Lady Pluto was wearing a light purple dress with red piping and a matching jacket. If she were older it could pass as a type of feminine business-wear, as it was she looked like a schoolgirl from some bizarre, if elite, private academy. Though the large key-themed grey staff she carried ruined that image.
She eyed my dripping hair. "Ah, sorry for... interrupting you Dame Dresden, Sir Butters" She bowed her head to him, but her red eyes studied me.
I turned away, I did not want to risk Soulgazing with Lady Pluto. "Nevermind, I was uh... training. " I ran a hand through my hair flicking out the excess moisture. I did feel something slick but sharp on my brow.
Pluto continued to eye me.
"What dost thou want?" I asked, my voice cracking a bit higher.
Concerned, Butters raised an eyebrow at me. I smiled back at him.
Lady Pluto smiled. "To make reparations."
End Chapter 10
Poor, dumb Harry. She's starting to realize what she's gotten herself into.
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, Toxinvictoria and Ellf.