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 11: Fey and Brooding, Part A
My stomach growling, I eyed lady Pluto. "Reparations, for what?"
"How was your training?" The green-haired young woman eyed me. "Nothing like a fresh new body?"
I pulled back from her steady red gaze.
"It was... intense," Butters said from his spot next to me on the bench.
"Ranma is exuberant and loves helping her family," Pluto smiled warmly, but that ageless crimson gaze seemed to dissect and study me. With my sister that gaze meant she was trying to learn the best way to teach me, with Lady Pluto... it was like she was cataloging a fascinating insect.
"Something like that," Butters muttered, sipping his own water. He seemed rattled by the training. Or at least rattled by something.
"Thou hast come to check out the fresh meat?" I struck a pose, then blushed, suddenly realizing I was just wearing a very stylized version of my armor. While I knew Lady Pluto was likely some sort of ageless.... thing, she still looked like a kid.
"In part." Pluto eyed me, then laughed. "Lovely tiara."
My hand went back up and felt over my brow. Yeah, that was a tiara up there. I was going to have to be careful in the future. For one, that tiara might clash with my hooves or my skirt. "Please, pardon the faerie magic. This form is new to me," I said reaching up to pull the sculpted ice off.
But, part of me decided to leave the tiara in place. I lowered my hands and primly folded them. The gems embedded in the tiara felt like they'd be pretty, but I would need a mirror to be sure.
Smiling, Pluto nodded. "As I was saying... given your troubles I felt... reparations were in order," she reached into her jacket and pulled out a cream envelope with gilt edges.
"Reparations. What didst thou do?" I trailed off. "It was thy interference!" I cried.
Lady Pluto toyed with the envelope, holding opposite corners with the tips of her fingers.
"Thou art part of the plot that spirited me to this realm!"
Butters glanced at me and groaned.
Pluto smiled. "I'm the Guardian of the Gates, why would I do a thing like that?"
"Perhaps a Fae Queen and an Archangel called upon thee with an offer of reparations. In common parlance, they wanted to replace their divot. That would put a certain symmetry upon your current offer would it not?"
"Interesting... if convoluted hypothesis."
Butters gave the creepy green-haired girl a long look, but ultimately shrugged.
I smiled at his cool reaction. He had come a long way. I took a new bottle of water and played with the cap. He looked at me and gave a somewhat pained, somewhat bemused expression.
Pluto leaned in. "And lovely speech affection. Isn't that right Sir Knight?"
"It is... new on... her part." Butters frowned. He wasn't as used to scary supernatural women acting all spooky and cryptic. I would have to help him remedy that.
I scoffed. "Please. The Winter Court bears the brunt of combating the Outsiders. Uriel cherishes guarding free will, especially when the Fallen try to break the rules." I made a point of studying my sapphire nails.
"And now thou propose that Tessa, by pure happenstance, discovered a loophole that allows her to call forth an eldritch horror on another plane. Self-same plane this Winter fae just happens to get sent to via a misadventure of her queen's power and Soulfire."
Butters made a choking noise. It looked like I'd have to do a bit more to get his attention.
Pluto spun the envelope. "You don't want my assistance?"
I turned up my nose at her and made an exaggerated fanning motion. "My, it is so hot dear Knight, wouldst thou agree?" I poured the water over my head. It splashed and met the tiara and began to freeze into place. My hair slicked and smoothed down as the ice formed a glossy headdress. Ears and horns poked out from the sides.
I was hoping for something vaguely Egyptian, or at least movie Cleopatra, in style. The headdress flared to either side of my head with silver trim around alternating horizontal bans of cobalt blue and white ice. Pulled down by the ornamentation, my hair fanned out my back in a glossy wave.
Feeling the weight and constriction of the headdress, my back and shoulders straighten to a prim stiffness. I gave a contented sigh and slowly recrossed my legs. This time I knew Butters was watching.
The knight for his part looked at me and blinked a few times. Doubtless, he was stunned by my beautifying of myself.
Pausing to make sure my face was made up, I studied Lady Pluto. She seemed amused by all this.
"I think thou hast been assisting since day one," I purred, leaning forward. My headdress and my choker kept me from bending or turning my neck, but it was worth it. Ice started to freeze along the tips of my fingers, my tail swished angrily, and I could feel my eyes begin to flare as my aura began to crackle.
I'll give Pluto this much. She took in a pissed off sidhe succubus wizard without blinking.
"You overstate things. Your hypothesis would be far more... elegant if you supposed that I merely acted as a beacon to ensure you didn't get... lost when you arrived."
"My arrival was a most undignified fall on frozen mud and detention by the local royal guard," I sniffed.
"Yes, you landed within a hundred kilometers of the target. Quite accurate considering the distances involved."
"It hasn't been the first time you've been at the center of a game like this... BlackStone," Butters noted, hesitating over my middle name.
Feeling a pleasant tingle along my horns, I smiled at the name. It did fit, especially when he used it. My chest felt a bit warm as I let my talons recede. He was right; he didn't know exactly how right he was, but he was right.
"And I'll admit to offering to helping you find the location of the... pre summoning location. And helping you preserve that fragment of Tessa's armor." Pluto's clinical studying of me resumed. "I suppose I should have taken warnings to your... rash exuberance to heart," she said taking in my accessories.
"Thou hast been talking with people from my world," I stated.
"Do you want my assistance or not?" Once more, she waved the envelope.
"At what cost?"
Lady Pluto grinned. "Consider it reparations for me not heeding those warnings about you."
"Fine." I flicked an icicle into the air and knocked the envelope out of her fingers. As it fluttered down I used my tail to bat it into my hands. One corner was sliced off.
Pluto muttered something about demons.
I eyed her but extended a talon to cut the top of the envelope.
Inside was a brief dossier folded over an accompanying picture.
Butters leaned in and gave a low whistle.
I took a moment to stare. And to scoot over so that Butters was pressed up against me. Running my tongue over my teeth, I then blinked. "This... man is known to thee?"
"Known, and I am willing to pay his contract on your behalf." Pluto smirked. "We have a mutual friend."
"I can imagine," I dryly noted. I took a moment to memorize the particulars, specifically to study differences with regard to my own info on this... man. I then folded the papers back into the envelope.
"I can arrange a meeting," she looked me over. "Perhaps later, after you'd had a chance to wash and... change."
I glowered at the green-haired girl. A snarl was cut off as I decided to simply turn my nose up and haughtily dismiss her. Given how my neck was restricted I had to arch my shoulders back, but it was worth it.
Pluto shook her head. "Contact me when you're feeling more... yourself." She then bowed to Butters. "Sir Knight, do take care of your friend."
"I will," he said with a bit of resignation.
Watching her leave, my eyes twinkled as I scooted a bit closer to him.
Butters eyed the envelope. "You really going to take her up on the offer?"
I turned to face him. Well, I rotated my torso and shifted my legs. As fancy as it was, my headdress had some severe limitations. "It is an option, Sir Knight. And additional help would be of use."
He gestured around the grounds. "We're surrounded by mercenaries, you've got a shiny new brood of succubae willing to help, and we've got magical girls falling on themselves to give you more help."
As he spoke, I counted off on my fingers. "Do not forget the Canadian Royal Guard. They seem most intent on bombing first and asking questions later." I tapped another nail.
"Well... after what happened to the town of Lomar." He met my gaze; he could do that now.
I nodded. Well... actually I couldn't nod. Instead, I bowed my head and slowly lifted it back up.
His face clouded. "I thought this might happen."
I raised a trim eyebrow.
"I told you that if you were patient, help would be forthcoming." He tapped the envelope.
I raised a hand and let it flutter. "La, so it is. I made my choice, Sir Knight. We both did."
"You're going to take her offer?"
"I'll talk with my sisters first, but, yes, I plan to at least meet with the man." I shifted my shoulders and sniffed the air.
"Meet with who?" Ranma asked, exiting the building.
"Ooh! Someone's dressing up fancier!" Akane said, following her mother.
"Lady Pluto offers a boon," I held out the envelope.
Ranma took it and was pushed aside as Akane lifted her camera.
Smirking, I reached out and pulled Butters into a hug.
The old camera flashed a few times as Ranma read the envelope's contents and Butters blushed.
Reluctantly, I released the little knight. Ranma handed the letter back.
"Is Lady Pluto's offer in good faith?" I asked.
My sister chewed her lip. "Yes, she'll do what she says. However... she's got an ulterior motive. She always does."
"Who doesn't, dear Sister?" I fluttered my eyes.
Butters let his gaze drift from me to my sister. "You seem pleased by this?" he asked her.
"The hairstyle isn't my taste, but I guess the aesthetic fits her."
I preened at her approval.
"Misako will love it," Akane said sneaking another photo.
"The frippery and flirting is okay? What about the fae-speak? Do I need to remind you what she was like this morning?" Butters asked.
I frowned and gave him a hurt look.
My sister chuckled. "Well, if all she did was flirt and glam herself up, I'll count that as a victory."
I crossed my arms. "I recall thee doing the same when we summoned my queen," I huffed.
The redhead grinned. "Exactly, fun is fun, but it's not like you tried anything."
I worked my jaw. "This was a test. Thou were watching. To see what I would do under the pangs of hunger. Seeing if I could..." I blushed. "Control myself."
"It wasn't me watching you, but yes." My sister shrugged.
I recalled comments she had made earlier in the day about having Morgan shoot off my limbs and shuddered. That might not be what she had setup to make sure I behaved, but it was close enough. My sister was willing to eviscerate me to teach me how to heal. I'm certain she wouldn't bat an eye at more extreme measures if I lost control. Not to mention that the target of my... interest was a Knight of the Cross, a class of people uniquely empowered to defend against the, unwanted, advances of a demon.
My sister took my arm and lifted me up onto my hooves. "Come on, you get cranky when you get hungry."
I grumbled, but let my sister lead me towards the building. At least I managed to ensure that my Knight had a good view as I made sure my new legs had plenty of sway. Still as nice as Butters was, I did want to go back home and find Murphy.
We went down a short corridor, the heavenly scent of cooking flesh swam around my head. Butters followed and I might have added a bit more swing to my step. If I had, well I'll blame that on my new knees. My mouth watered and my stomach growled. However, I kept my composure as I entered a small room.
It seemed to be a barracks lounge. Stuffed comfortable chairs were around a plain table. There was a mirror on the far wall, and an unplugged TV. An adjacent table had steamer trays heated by little fire tins. Everything was piled with meat: trays, platters, plates, cutting boards. It was like a petting zoo had been dressed, butchered and cooked.
I almost wobbled as Ranma led me to a chair. A partially large plate of meat, with its own bowl of broth stood before me.
Ukyou bowed her head. Desiree stood next to her. "Enjoy, and welcome to the family," they both said. I could tell they were impressed by my look. Their smiles told the story.
I smiled at the two girls, relieved that Ukyou's neck had healed.
I slid into the chair and motioned for Butters to take the seat at my right. Ranma sat to my left, her chair pushed right next to me and Akane took the spot across.
There was no preamble. Ukyou nodded to my sister, then she nodded to me. My first instinct was to dig into the pile of pork ribs and steak with my talons. But the Winter Mantle made itself known, and I was struck by the desire to not embarrass my queen. I took a knife and fork and dug in. I ate and ate and it sated me, but I could do more.
My tail straightened and my body flushed with delight. A very physical desire sated, I continued to eat making happy purring noises. I also basked in the presence of my sister and looked to her for reassurance. I also drew more sustenance from her.
Ukyou served me a pork loin with the fatback perfectly rendered into cracklin. I looked at my glass of water contemplatively.
"What's next for her training?" Butters asked.
Ranma reached out and patted my shoulder. "I've got a good idea of her capabilities. She's something special. But there's so much to cover."
I smiled at the tingling contact and shifted a bit closer. My hunger was receding but not fast enough. I picked up a glass and drained it. As I contemplated, Ukyou stepped in with a pitcher and refilled it.
"Like flying?" Butters cut into his steak. I worried that he wouldn't eat enough. Maybe I should talk to Ukyou. I smiled. He had experience with women of a certain type.... That is his girlfriend Andi was a werewolf. And I had used a Hexenwulf belt too... I licked my lips and lifted my glass once more.
"Exactly," Ranma pointed with a fork full of sausage. "The basics are instinctual enough, but there's a whole art to flying. Not just maneuvering, but using your wings in close combat. It adds a whole other dimension of motion." As she explained, she whirled the fork around.
Butters sipped his water. "How long does it take to train a new succubus? If you had the time."
I could feel my sister's gaze, but I was more interested in my meal. And the warm feeling I was getting from her. It sated me almost as much as the meat. I picked up a spoon and sampled some of the broth.
The warm hearty liquid filled me, I murmured happily at the deliciousness. I caught Ukyou's eye. "Wonderful. Truly a restorative. Didst thou know that the word restaurant came from the French restaurer."
My platinum haired niece nodded. "Meaning to restore life. Early French soup sellers said their broths would return one's strength."
"Quite correct in thine case," I happily murmured.
Butters glanced at me. I smiled to reassure him; he seemed a bit fretful.
"Months?" Butters winced. "BlackStone... Harry doesn't have that time."
Eating some pork, I swished the water in the glass. I smiled at him. I was busy letting an image form in my mind.
"It's learning a whole new fighting style, with a whole new body." Ranma leaned back. She absently patted my head as I nuzzled her arm and nibbled more energy from her. "Prior experience does shorten the time. Take someone from the D Program. In that case we've got a candidate who already has martial training and combat experience. Granted, it's not martial training in Succubus Saotome school, but it's something."
Butters looked at me, I smiled. I lifted my glass and drank half of it. Ukyou refilled it with a nod.
"Harry's got plenty of experience."
"Yes, she does."
I tipped the fill glass, water poured over my forehead. Some splashed back and thickened and widened my headdress. The bulk of it sluiced over my face where it froze into a glossy white mask. I winked at my sister, but unlike the mask she wore my jaw-line extended out as more teeth sprouted. Filling in my maw. Thicker lips stretched out as my face was pulled forward, giving me a vaguely lupine or perhaps equestrian continence. My ears had also extended out their points lengthening, but at the very least my new face matched my headdress.
"BlackStone!" Butters cried.
Purring, I smiled and fit a whole beef rib in my mouth and happily crunched it and daintily sucked the marrow. I licked my lips and dabbed at my mouth with a napkin. "Yes my Knight, what is thy command?"
Butters glared at me. He crossed his arms. "Stop playing around, Harry."
I winked and lifted a whole chicken breast and slipped it between my lips. It gave a satisfying crunch.
My sister turned and blinked. "Huh."
My nieces took a new batch of photographs and I leaned back to give them a good shot.
"You didn't expect this did you?" Butters asked Ranma.
Giving a light smile, my sister shook her head. "Not this fast. I guess she's got experience with shape changing magic?"
I went back to the pork loin. This time it seemed to vanish before my eyes.
Butters ran his left hand over his forehead while the other flopped to his side. "Yeah you could say that, not as much as you think."
I gave him a smile as my tail snaked out and wrapped around his wrist. It took a bit of effort but I managed to get his right hand on my leg.
He raised an eyebrow as his fingers found purchase through the clear ringlets. "It's too bad Murph's not here. She wouldn't take this crap from you."
I leaned over to him. "Perhaps I should be punished, my Knight?" With all my frippery, I couldn't glance down and honestly my snout was in the way, but I knew I had to be presenting him plenty of cleavage.
"You're in a relationship, aren't you?" My sister asked my Knight.
Butters turned away from me, but I noticed he kept his hand on my leg; I shifted so his grip went a bit further up my thigh. I also adjusted my ankle so my hoof rested just across his foot.
"Yeah, with a really great girl." He gave a slightly pained expression.
"BlackStone...." My sister's voice was warning.
This time I pouted, but went back to my steak. T-bones had wonderful marrow.
"I can call her off if you want," my sister offered.
Butters sighed. His hand slowly went back down to my knee. Which I shifted along with the leg I had draped over his foot. "She's not doing any mental stuff to me?"
I could see his hand went to his side to touch his sword.
The redhead chuckled. "Nothing. Other than clumsy flirting."
"Strong words, Dear Sister," I huffed, my voice edging soprano in tone; it was a bit hard to keep my tone even given all the changes on my face. "Do not forget the adornments upon thine body when thou attempted to catch mine eye." I picked up my glass. It turned out drinking was also more efficient in this form too.
"At least I wasn't trying to speak all fancy," Ranma muttered before going to her meal. "And my gown was prettier," she waspishly added in a low voice.
I sniffed and turned up my nose. Granted it took shifting my torso and leaning back my shoulders, but it was worth it, especially given how far my snout extended out.
"Well, she has been exceeding your expectations," Butters offered.
My sister looked me over and gave a small smile. "True, and this shows why control is such a key part of our training."
"Control? She seems pretty indulgent to me," Butters muttered as he removed his hand from my knee.
Ranma shrugged. "It's a mix. On the one hand, she overexerted herself and is leaning on her Mantle, heavily. On the other, she isn't trying to eat you."
I gave Butters a coy smile, and let my lips part.
Ranma pointed with a fork. "It's important to remember that we're predators. Very pretty predators. But predators none the less." She eyed my face. "Though we don't normally make it quite so blatant."
"I have some experience with supernatural predators," Butters said. "There's a lot of leaning on instincts and fulfilling their own natures."
I nodded approvingly. That matched my own experience.
"And that's what her training will have to fix," Ranma stated.
"Oh?" Butters asked.
Ranma looked to Akane, who had been mostly silent.
"Training is all about augmenting instincts. Repetition and experience build up new responses and actions. Physical superiority is just a starting point," Akane explained, not looking up from her rack of ribs.
Butters chewed thoughtful. "Okay, so if the right training, equipment, and experience can really help a human against a supernatural creature.... then one of you...."
My sister smiled. "Yes, just imagine the potential."
Then Ranma gave a little sigh. "There is much I can teach... but I fear I don't have time. Still..." she patted me on the arm. "We can lay a good foundation."
Butters looked back at me, which caused me to pause in my third helping of broth. "And we're not even counting her powers as a wizard," he said.
Ranma started ticking off with her fingers. "Right, we've got basic body management: controlling her healing and handling her hunger. Then there's flight and basic physical attacks and moves. And then there's integrating her wizard magic with her demon powers."
She looked at me with sparkles in her purple eyes. "She's going to be a nightmare with that staff of hers."
Taking a break in the meal, I made a happy noise as I nuzzled her side.
"And the dress-up?" Butters asked.
"Let her have her fun." My sister's grin turned vicious. "It's not like it'll last when we get back to her training."
I frowned. Not at the implicit threat of physical exertion. No, it seemed that all that water and broth had started to go through me. I lifted my head. "Pardon sister, but may I ask the whereabouts of thine facilities?"
The redhead blinked. "Uh?"
"She wants to go to the bathroom," Butters flatly stated.
"Bluntly put, Sir Knight," I sniffed.
He sighed. "You're Harry-frikin'-Dresden not some Sihde Lady-in-waiting."
"Akane, could you show her the way?" Ranma asked.
As Akane stood, I got up to my hooves. I then left the room in a huff. Lady-in-waiting? I was Mab's personal retainer. I was far higher than any mere lady of the Winter court.
As my niece led the way, we passed a few of my sister's comrades. They were fine specimens. And surprisingly they did not shy away from me. I actually had to turn away from one exquisite dark-haired young woman.
A soulgaze would have been a distraction. Still I gave her a long smile, bowed to her, and as we passed added a bit more sway to my gait. If anything with my tail and legs that made things easier. Not to mention the click of my hooves gave a certain... forewarning of my presence.
It did make things easier when we turned a corner and instead of running headlong into a pair of strapping mercenaries I was able to slip past them with only a bit of a bump as my hip brushed by the one with olive-green eyes, short blond hair and a delightful scent.
I gave both him and his partner warm smiles until my niece took my hand and drew me past them. I let my tail linger for a bit and curl past them.
She pocketed her camera and giggled. "It is nice to have a fun auntie," she said opening the door to a sparse restroom. "Mother can be such a prude sometimes."
"Thou art too kind." I hadn't expected to be either part of a "fun auntie" but I could take it. I stepped into the bathroom, my hooves clicking on the tile.
Akane laughed as the door closed behind me.
The room was brightly lit, but there wasn't much more than tile walls, a sink deep enough to wash your elbows, shower cubicle, toilet, and above the sink.... I stepped forward. Of course this room had a mirror. I smiled at my reflection. I could get used to mirrors.
I rolled my shoulders, which was a bit hard with my blue and white headdress. Mostly blue eyes on a white mask with a sleek muzzle stared. A white crystal tiara, set with sapphires curled over my brow. Behind it my more elfin ears and horns arced out. My icy wings spread slightly, framing my tall willowy figure.
My neck was fixed by my thick silver and platinum choker, pentacle, winter sigil, ruby and all. Below that a dark blue bustier with sapphire lacework pushed my assets.
Below that was the pale bare skin of my midriff. Around my hips draped a heavy blue skirt and spilling from that were tiny white ice ringlets forming a sheeting mail skirt that ended just above gleaming hooves.
My broad glossy lips curled into a smile and thought of Butters. "Perhaps I underestimated my Knight's devotion to his lycanthropic mate."
"Or perhaps he doesn't like rejected He-Man villains," my reflection answered.
I glared and let my wings fold back against my back.
"Come on look at us." The image in the mirror leaned forward, as my mouth spoke those words. "We look like Evil-Lyn's awkward cousin. The one way too into cosplay."
"I do serve the queen of Air and Darkness," I gave a haughty sniff.
"Yeah, yeah, Mab's the inspiration for just about every dark queen out there. Heck she probably has a training camp where she gives lessons."
" 'Tis a reasonable supposition."
The reflection worked my jaw. "But we're not supposed to take pride in working for her, nor use that as a defense for indulging in dark demon dress-up."
I crossed my arms. And gave her a sidelong glance. Being my reflection, she, of course, mirrored my actions.
"And we're not even flirting properly!" she complained, her tail straightening and pointing up behind her.
"It hardly seems appropriate to blame me for that deficiency," I pouted, which was very interesting given the current size of my lips.
"You think the Winter Mantle knows how to flirt?" she asked.
"It seems to know fashion," I muttered.
That earned me a flat, almost contemptuous, look. Well as flat as a polished lupine/equestrian mask of a face could give.
"I suppose the Mantle of the Winter Court was not created with a fine understanding of dressage, style, or coiffure. Doest thou recommend a complaint be lodged with thy queen?" I airily asked.
"Your dream self wears a goatee and he never heard the end of it. He wears a winter pin and you start fretting like an 80's suburban mom worried her kid's on the marijuana cigarettes and the devilish Dungeons and Dragons."
I gave a dismissive sniff.
"But when you go all freaky-fae and start talking like you're an extra in Shakespeare in the park, oh that's just fine!"
I simply quirked my lips and gave a distant, bemused expression. I was starting to understand why Lea and Mab did the mysterious fae bit; it was amusing.
"Yeah, have your fun, but remember, Sis said you need better control." She lifted my arms and shook them in frustration. "Controlled, all this is an asset."
"Yes, and if not, it is a liability."
My reflection's ire grew. "Hells Bells. Fine, you want to go after Butters. Cool! He's a good guy. Andi would understand; I'm sure. "
"Let's look like someone Butter would want to bang. And flirt properly," my reflection offered.
"I tried looking like Andi. His reaction was quite negative."
"Fine, that was a little on the nose. Obviously that was the wrong look." A devilish gleam entered her eyes. "Maybe we shouldn't look like all wolfish then. In fact...." I looked down and saw my hands opening the cold water tap.
"What is this?" I asked as my hands cupped water in the deep metal sink.
"I'm tired playing the straight man in this bit. You want to obtuse your way through being a sidhe succubus? Fine by me." She then took a large scoop of water and tossed it on her chest. Err my chest. Freezing, the water added itself to my armor. Okay, it added to my bustier.
Stamping a hoof, I cried out in surprise, but my arms repeated the motion. This time the splashes hit my skirting which seemed to push out with more flare. I had a moment to realize that my figure was no longer quite so willowy before my head was plunged into the sink
Water poured over my face. Extending and smoothing the mask. My lower jaw creaked as a few more teeth grew in. When I pulled myself up, my reflection gave a smug, contented smile. With far too many teeth.
Her face had grown out and where before my features were partially vulpine, now they were decidedly equestrian. Especially given the transformation of my nose and the movement of my nostrils. The sapphire accents around my eyes had grown, becoming artistic inlays accessorized with little gemstones. My lips shone with a mirror-like gloss and I could see reflections of reflections in them.
The mirror succubus shifted her headdress back to its proper position. "Clearly if you want him, you'll need to become someone he wants to bang on your own merits."
"I was unaware that my Knight had preferences that lay in this direction," I said my voice high and clear.
"Well, this was to keep us from copying Andi but..." She smiled, and the idle fantasies and little hungers I had bubbled to the forefront.
The fae demon leaned forward until her lips barley brushed against the mirror. "It would be easy to change his mind. Just a nudge," she breathed.
I narrowed my eyes. "No."
She put her hands on the edge of the sink and leaned further in, now her chest threatened to break through the glass. "But the hunger calls. How does Thomas handle it? Do you think he'll give us some lessons?" She winked.
I exhaled adding my own fog to the mirror. "It is tempting. My brother is experienced."
My reflection smirked.
"But not in that way." I pulled back and studied my reflection. The image in the mirror struck a few poses. I may have added a few of the more flaunting ones. While it wasn't as small as Lea's, that nose did look very cute. Though it'd look cuter with my real face and not this mask.
"Besides, my hunger is no longer quite so acute," I added.
The image in the mirror nodded soberly.
"A test? I pray that I don't have more," I sighed.
"The days you stop testing yourself are the days bad things happen."
I decided to go with the old haughty sniff for a response.
"Really? You're going to hide as Miss BlackStone?"
"I'm not hiding."
"You're locked in the bathroom talking to yourself."
"Or maybe you're just more comfortable with the idea of 'Miss BlackStone' having these feelings, instead of you, even if that means hiding behind a mask. It's okay if some random sidhe succubus has these feelings, but not Harry Dresden."
"I'm not hiding!"
My reflection glared back.
A growl escaped my lips as they curled back revealing pointed teeth. My eyes flashed blue. I looked into the mirror.
My shoulders slumped, or as much as they could with all the frippery I was bound up in.
I closed my eyes and centered myself.
There was a pulling sensation as my face split from just below my tiara, between my eyes and down my face. The tugging continued as it rounded my nose, over my snout, crossing my lips and down my jaw.
The polished mask receded as the separation grew. My facial enhancements peeled back exposing my snowy soft skin. By the time I opened my eyes, the mask had just finished retracting into the silver-chased headdress and heavy tiara.
I exhaled. The face that looked back with its delicate nose, sharp chin line and distinctly sihde features was strangely comforting. Even though my mouth did feel a bit too small. As I worked my jaw I noticed cracks forming on my tiara.
The icy material creaked. There were also white spots sprouting on the flared sides and top of my headdress. There was a loud snap and the tiara broke apart into rough sapphire-embedded chunks that tumbled off my shoulders.
The collapse hit my bodice tearing it down and with as shudder that garment also broke up. This time into thousands of fine snowflakes that sheeted down my arms and back.
Below, there was another collapse. I looked down and saw my ice-mail skirting falling in a heap of shattered ringlets. Some hit the floor and shattered with a musical chime, but most simply dissolved into snowflakes that drifted down onto the tile floor.
I blinked, and took a step out of the heap of melting debris. As that happened, my skirt shivered. At first the blue material spread out covering my torso from neck to thighs, and I noted with some regret, returning me back to a willowy form.
Once the blue ice had returned to my Blue Beetle style armored shape, it began to retract and peel back. The whisking telescoping sensation was comforting. It allowed me to pretend I had been using the stuff as combat armor and not for lewd dress up.
I looked to the mirror. Horns, slit eyes, pointed ears, sharp teeth looked back. But my features were human... ish... On the plus side, my dimple was back.
My reflection seemed approving. Though I did glance down at the melting bits of snow and ice with... was it regret?
I noticed the silver and sapphire chunks were also melting. They turned clear and joined the rest of the ice that melted to water and ran towards the drain. I frowned noting two things. One, it seemed I was able to draw in ectoplasm and shape it as desired.
Two, I was, insistently, reminded that the main reason I'd gone here was because I had to pee.
I rushed to the toilet. And after a confused moment where I dumbly stood before it tapping the tile with a foot, I turned around and sat down.
Then flush with embarrassment, I realized that with my armor gone I was back to wearing that blue leotard. Sparring with Ranma had let it thoroughly damaged, including tears to the chest, arms, and one leg.
Peeling it off tore it up further, but there was no way around that. I tossed it onto the floor, on the damp puddle that was all that was left of my clumsy extravagance.
I did my business and finished up.
I suppose I should be glad. Unlike my blood, my urine wasn't some weird color. I half expected it to be some shade of blue.
Standing up, I walked to the sink. I idly pushed the leotard out of the way.
"No funny business," I told my reflection before I started washing my hands.
As I cleaned them I felt the magic tingle. It would be possible to exploit the water to make some rings, bracelets, gloves, or something more exotic, but...
I gave a little sigh and turned off the water.
I then looked into the mirror. My attention drifted down.
"Well, this is awkward."
"You've got two options," my reflection said. "You can go au natural or you can shift into your armor."
"Butters is a fan of Blue Beetle," I noted. I then considered the time I had spent in here and what I knew about my new family's sense of preparedness.
My reflection scoffed.
"But... I've got a better idea," I stepped to the door and knocked.
I waited and cracked the door open a couple inches.
Akane stepped into view. She looked me up and down. "Is there a problem, Auntie?" she lightly asked with a grin.
I flushed from top to bottom. "Could you go to my bag and get a spare set of-"
She cut me off and handed over a heavy-duty hanger. Draped over it was a familiar leather duster and underneath looked to be a complete set of clothes.
"Oh... uh thanks."
My niece wasn't finished. She also stepped aside to retrieve my staff. That she pressed into my other hand and then with an evil gleam she picked up a pair of boots and dropped them into my overburdened arms.
"It's good to see you're feeling better, Mother and that nice Jedi Knight were worried about you," Akane grinned as she closed the door.
I stumbled back a bit and the clothes, boots, and staff fell to the floor in a clatter. I might have growled in frustration.
Another growl may have come out when I realized that the hanger had been prepared with the outer-most layers on the outside, which meant I had to remove the coat, shirt, and pants before I could even start getting dressed.
Also without Misako and her cousins helping, getting dressed was a bit awkward. I initially thought the wings would be the most problematic part, but it turned out that my tail made getting pants on a bit of a trick.
Still, wearing nice black pants and a dark blue silk shirt did feel nice. Especially after I put on the proper underwear. My armor did provide support but... well let's just say that when it came to making an intimate garment ice was a bit... lacking and leave it at that.
I was shrugging on my coat when I looked down and saw that some clothes still remained. I blinked. Getting dressed wasn't like assembling a bike or a gas grill. You shouldn't have parts left over.
I bent down and picked up the socks. I looked at the boots and my frown deepened. Then my gaze went down.
"Ah," I sighed. A pair of glossy hooves peeked out the legs of my pants. "I'm an idiot," I muttered and concentrated.
The familiar sensation of my armor retracting ran over my legs and I sifted my stance as my feet rested down flat on their heels. I wriggled my toes and with a shrug slipped on socks and boots.
I laced them up, picked up my staff, and gave my reflection one last look. My choker shined at my neck. Wings rested back against my long reinforced duster. The clothes were nice, and draped well over my willowy form. Though I did spot a bit of lace accenting around the chest on my blouse.
Still with the staff, coat, and pentacle choker I looked far more wizard succubus than fae succubus. I opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom.
I followed Akane back to the break-room. My boots clomped against the floor. She opened the door and stepped aside.
"Yes, that's exactly the danger," my sister agreeably said. "If she exerts herself too much and she can't find enough to eat..."
"She'll starve?" Butters asked
"Or lean on the Mantle."
"And we saw how much of a mess that is," he muttered.
"Or feast on something else," my sister looked up as I entered. "But the upside is in most fights you'll find plenty to eat."
"Most fights?" I asked, looking around the room.
"On occasion you'll go up against something... indigestible," Ranma glanced at her plate. "Which is why you don't want to use up all of your reserves in a fight."
"Looking good Harry," Butters offered.
I smiled ant took my seat. "You were right. I was... too hungry. Sorry about that." Embarrassed, I sat down and adjusted my seating. The chair was a bit low and I just realized that it was somewhat awkward to sit in as it put my knees up too high. I sighed and wondered if there was something better than pants for my legs.
The short man shook his head. "Oh, that's not the only thing I was right about."
I took sip of the broth that Ukyou had thoughtfully reheated.
"Remember how before you got turned I warned you."
"You gave a lot of warnings."
"I worried that if you got a healing factor you'd get even more reckless," he laughed. "Funny, that."
"I also warned that you weren't thinking things through and that your deal with Mab might come back to bite you on the butt." He idly buttered a roll.
I crossed my arms. "Fine, fine, I was dumb."
He eyed me and I knew he was deliberately not stating the other stuff he was right about.
Before I was turned Butters mentioned that while being the Winter Knight was a raw deal I was "still me enough to enough to not like it, to fight it".
Except all it took was being turned into a sihde succubus and one vicious sparring match, not even a real fight, and I'd turn all fancy faerie, acting just as snooty and crazy-aloof-Winter as one of Mab's pretty goons.
I looked down at my long, elegant fingers.
"It's okay," Ranma assured, patting me on the hand. "It's just a little clumsy flirting. You're with friends and family."
"Yeah, that does run in the family." I allowed a smile. I turned to Butters. "You should have seen how she dressed when we summoned my queen."
"Misako has the photos at home," Akane offered.
"Huh," Butters remarked.
Ranma sipped her water. "I still say that was to help with the summoning. What's your excuse?"
"I was hungry and hitting on Butters," I bluntly stated. I winced. "But hey, I'll blame hunger for how clumsy I was."
Butters eyed me. "You're saying you're still going to hit on me?"
I popped some steak into my mouth. "Well, that won't be fair to Andi would it?"
The knight shook his head.
"That's my excuse," I looked to my sister. "What's yours? I mean you're not still a virgin? Right?" I sniffed the air and frowned. Supposedly White Court vampires could tell. At the very least, Lara was able to determine my friend Warden Ramirez was one, in spite of all his bravado about being a lady-killer.
"No, I am not," Ranma's cheeks pinked slightly.
"Wait but you've got like, half a dozen daughters... Ohhhh..." Butters said with dawning realization. "Sorry."
My sister gave a strained smile but shook her head.
I nodded. I was pretty sure that she hadn't been pregnant, but this confirmed that. Huh, that's something I had over her. Well, if you counted my daughter Bonnie, which I did.
"Laugh it up," Ranma leaned back in her chair. "But finish eating, because we've got more training to do."
My sister eyed me. "And you've already got your wings out. Excellent," she purred with an evil gleam.
"She pushed me out of a helicopter," I groused, leaning on a reclining Adirondack style chair on the back porch. The dark yard spilled in front of me right to the tree-line. To my right the dojo sat unlit. Heavenly smells came from the kitchen; my stomach gurgled.
"Yes, you told me," Butters noted with exasperation.
"My sister pushed me out of a helicopter," I repeated. I looked around the ground. It was odd. Despite the dark, I could see everything, but the colors were muted. Once again, I was struck by my Hexunwolf experience. I should really talk with the Alphas, maybe check out what they had learned over the years of werewolfing. That would also give me an excuse to see Andi.
"I know. I saw you fly."
"I fell. My sister, she pushed me."
Butters tilted his head. "Wait... today she's eviscerated you, broken your bones, taken you on an endurance run up and down a mountain until you collapsed."
"It was more of a hill," I whined. That annoyed me. I had gotten used to running with my brother. He was a white Court Vamp, so no slouch there. Hells Bells, I had been leaning on the Mantle on those runs, and wearing a vest weighted down by a couple hundred pounds.
And despite all that Ranma still found a way to wear me down.
"How about when she held you under water until you thrashed and began to drown?"
"My sister did seem frustrated by how... comfortable I was in the water," I gave a light laugh.
"She cut you, made you heal, then cut again. She made you hold a fireball and mediate and when you lost focus sprayed you with napalm."
"Please, that one was easy," I sniffed. My tail twitched back and forth.
The man eyed me.
I pointed to myself. "Wizard. Mental concentration is what we do."
"She still had a guy with a flamethrower light you up."
"Only because I started juggling."
Disbelieving, he shook his head.
"Besides, I got my shield back up."
"Ah yes, she let you use your bracelet and staff. And how did that go? How hungry did blowing through your magic make you?
I smiled and shifted my seat closer to him. "Is that a proposition, Sir Knight?"
He groaned. "Focus, Harry."
"I'm not the one listing the day's itinerary," I countered, my stomach rumbled again. "A list that has a notable absence."
"My point is that despite all that's been done to you, you're obsessing over your flight lessons."
"Lessons?" My voice raised. "What does thou not understand, Sir Knight? It was a crass act of defenestration," I huffed and stretched my legs. I had taken off my boots and it was nice to get those off my feet.
Butters unzipped a pocket on his vest. He pulled out a candy bar and tore the wrapper. "Here, have a Snickers. You get all fae when you're hungry."
"There's something I would prefer more than a confection, my Knight," I purred. I leaned forward and took his treat.
Holding the bar in my elegant fingers I gave a long wink as blue ice slid from my choker and up the back of my head. It spread over the sides and flared out into my headdress and continued solidifying into a large clear, sapphire studded tiara.
I slowly eased the bar into my mouth. As I chewed, my jaws expanded with the sound of freezing ice. Facial enhancements regrew as my glossy white mask flowed back into place. While my new features took shape my blue armor grew over my body and then receded leaving me with a bustier, flared skirt, draping white ice ringlets, and glossy greaves over my hooves.
Pushing with a leg, my chair scooted closer to his. "Thy generosity is most appreciated," I breathed.
Butters looked at my visage. And blinked. "What are you doing to yourself? I thought you got this out of your system at lunch. If you think this will make me more willing to cheat on Andi-"
I put a finger to his lips, and relished the tingle of the contact. "Peace. Thou have mistaken my intent," I assured in a light, high voice. I shifted my body so I could face him. "Do not worry, my knight. Your nobility is appreciated." With some reluctance, I withdrew my finger.
"Oh... kay," he stated.
"Clearly I was remiss in not making the same offer to thy mate."
"Andi?" Butters shook his head. "Look I'm not sure you're her type."
"Did she not have relations with Marcy at university?" I asked.
"I mean the whole pretty-pony fae thing. Come on Harry, you look like a unicorn, but with two horns."
"I can be quite accommodating," I purred as I lifted my tail and let it arch behind me.
Butters sighed and took out another candy bar. Undoing the wrapper, he handed it over and rolled his eyes as I nibbled it off his fingers.
"Lovely. You are so considerate," I blinked as my stomach's grumbling lessened.
He held out a third bar.
I worked my jaw and leaned back into my chair. "I'm trying to seduce thee again?" I sheepishly asked.
"Blatantly and overtly, Lady BlackStone," Butters's tone was witheringly dry.
"Ah..." I looked down at my clothes. Or tried to. Well at least I wasn't dressed in anything too embarrassing. "But I was just talking about Andi...."
"Oh, that was a new twist. You offered to throw yourself at her."
My broad lips curled into a smile. "But what if she says yes?" I coyly asked.
Seizing my victory I leaned forward and slipped a hand into his vest and took another candy bar. In the process, my lips may have brushed against his. Totally by accident, I had to get in real close to see what I was grabbing.
I slit open the confection and after relishing it, relaxed and let my mask peel back. This time, I concentrated a bit and made sure my tiara dissolved into fluffy snowflakes like my headdress and mail skirting.
I stretched as my armor shifted and retreated.
"You're so abusing that power," Butters noted.
I smirked and leaned back in the reclined seat.
"Given what we can do, that hardly counts as abuse," Cecilia said stepping onto the deck.
"Oh... how much did you see?" I asked my cheeks flushing. I looked over at my sister. My tail twitched angrily. I shouldn't be surprised that someone was watching me. Once again, I was alone, and hungry, with Butters.
But what got me was that Cecilia was the one babysitting me.
I looked up at my sister's amused look and stilled.
"Hmm?" my lavender-haired sister innocently tilted her head. "I was coming out to tell you that dinner is almost ready."
Despite her harmless demeanor, Cecilia was still a brood mother. She was also a peer of Ranma and Eve, two powerful demons. I looked her over and recalled what Misako had said earlier in the day about Cecilia's "subtle machinations".
I was reminded of the White Court. Those vamps eschewed using direct force and instead used catspaws and indirect means. Ranma and Eve were very direct in how they fought, but I knew succubae had mind bending powers that started with seduction and got more dangerous from there.
"Ah, well... good." I glanced over and saw she held some folded papers.
"Though there's no need to be embarrassed. You're young, and little girls are supposed to like horses. Why some of my girls still play dress-up, maybe if you're interested they'll show you their toys," my sister's innocent tone continued.
"Hah!" Butters barked out a laugh.
My cheeks started to turn a deeper shade of blue.
"You'll flirt with me but get embarrassed when your sisters find out." Butters shook his head.
"It makes a kind of sense, Doctor," Cecilia offered. "Recall that Dresden's siblings all have different ways of dealing with their hungers."
"Siblings? Not sisters?" he asked.
Cecilia maneuvered to lean on a support post to the porch's roof and faced both of us. "Your brother is a part of this."
"Yeah," I chewed my lip. It was more fun to go all flirty fae than think about the mess that was my brother's life. "He tried something... different. He ran a salon."
My sister raised a slim eyebrow. "Well, well, clever man."
"It took a lot of work to setup, but when he did..." I shrugged.
"I'm guessing there weren't any, shall we say, backroom extras?"
"Nah, he did low impact, high volume."
"That lessened the addiction too right?" Butters asked.
"Yeah, it was a pretty good deal but then..."
I opened my mouth. I closed it. It wasn't my place to say. A Skinwalker had abducted my brother, tortured him, flayed him, made him go mad with hunger, desperate to feed. And then the Skinwalker fed him; it brought him girls. My brother was too damaged, his Hunger...
He fed. He fed until there wasn't anything left. And then the Skinwalker did it again.
My tail hung limp.
Butters winced but held his tongue. He knew my brother, and I wasn't sure how much he knew about the Skinwalker thing, but he knew enough to know something bad had happened.
"Oh... so that's why Ranma did all that to me." I blinked. Among other things, today's training aimed to show me that, as a succubus, when I got hungry... I would start acting... funny. That I would start to lose control, but more importantly before that happened my judgment would... Well I'd start thinking that my fae godmother was someone worth emulating.
Stupid Winter Mantle.
"Yes?" my sister politely asked.
"Well, let's say my brother had a bad experience. Someone pushed him to his limits and..."
"His instincts took over? He fed without any regard other than preserving his own life?" Cecilia gently asked, taking my hand.
"Yeah... he was pretty strung out afterwards... horrified at... " I squeezed her hand back. "It made it real hard for him to see himself as human."
My sister gave a weak smile. "And that's why our sisters are such fanatics about self-control."
"Self-control? Ranma tried to tear you apart," Butters said.
I shook my head. "Yes, but there wasn't any passion to it. It was just part of the lesson."
"We all have different ways of dealing with our hungers." Cecilia patted my hand.
"Yeah... my brother closed his salon. He feeds directly but he doesn't hurt them. Justine, his lover, also helps him." I looked out onto the yard.
"Meanwhile, our sisters have a different way," Cecilia said. "Like those... monks that deny worldly pleasure..." she snapped her fingers.
"Ascetics?" I asked.
"That's it!" She laughed. "Ascetic succubae."
Butters gave the lavender haired woman a long look.
My sister shrugged. "But really that's them focusing away from feeding via pleasures of the flesh and instead focusing on... well... feeding on flesh."
"Huh? Ranma flirted with me when I was human."
Cecilia waggled a finger. "But she didn't drain you. No, our sisters get almost all of their... extra nourishment via combat."
"They take life force when they kill?" Butters asked.
"Is it any worse than eating their bodies?" I replied, a bit defensively.
"I'd say the real line would the act of killing in the first place," Cecilia stated. "After that it's just a body."
I could see the gears turning in Butter's head. "Your scary blonde and scary redhead sisters aren't comfortable with draining via naughty-fun-times, instead they find it more palatable to just kill and eat people?"
"It's not as bad as you make it sound," I said.
Butters glared at me. "Yeah, I wouldn't have let them turn you, otherwise."
Cecilia shrugged. "Well, Ranma also gets power from her magical girl thing."
"Ahh, a supernatural patron supplying power would help." I nodded. "I could do that. I mean the Winter Mantle."
Butters's glare returned.
"You are," my sister said.
"And not without side effects. Maybe long term ones," Butters added.
Cecilia nodded to him. "Might be a good reason for her to look at other options, yes?"
I looked between the two. "You're saying I shouldn't that I should feed? Like..."
"Like a succubus?" My sister shrugged. "It's your choice. "
Butters snorted. "What do you think you've been trying to do with me all day?"
I blushed again.
Cecilia gave my fingers another squeeze. "It's not like our sisters are deficient. They're perfectly happy and good mothers to their broods. There's worse examples to follow, but I'm betting Ranma didn't even act as if there were other options? That there were other ways to handle our urges and needs."
My hand went to my choker. "I guess I'm a bit different."
"Yes, and I don't mean your faerie powers."
"I am a wizard."
Cecilia's smile got a bit strained.
"Not that. You're more emotional, more passionate. Especially when compared to our sisters."
"Ranma's not unemotional."
"No, but she's very straightforward. Her emotions are blunt and simple. She's also the eldest of us, she has spent over a year honing her skills in keeping her nature in check."
"And Eve is... Eve..." My tail swished as I thought. I twisted and looked back down. How often had that thing given away my mood today?
"You're saying I might not need to take all of Ranma's advice?"
Once again I glanced at the papers in her other hand. They looked like pamphlets.
"Oh, you should. But she is very confident," Cecilia added.
"And cocky," I said.
"Yes, when it comes to things Ranma's experienced in she assumes she knows best, and often isn't wrong. But that means that the few times she is wrong she can be blind to other ideas."
Looking at me, Butters let out another laugh.
I blushed. Sure... that sounded a bit like me as well... a bit.
"I don't want to force you to do anything, I don't want to tell you what to do, but I do want to make you aware that you have choices," Cecilia softly said. "And if you ask I can tell you more about them. You have more choices than Ranma thinks you have, more than you think you have."
"Is this about the training?"
My sister laughed and called me an idiot. "No of course not. You'll need her training. You're a fighter; you might as well learn how not get yourself killed. But then what? You are planning to live after you beat Tessa? What will you do? You'll still be one of us. You'll have to make some real choices."
"Oh." My tail curled and rolled. "You mean when I go back?"
Cecilia gave a little sigh. "Yes, I suppose you won't stay with us."
My wings drooped. "Well..." I briefly considered picking up Bonnie and Maggie and... what, abandoning the rest of my world to its fate? My friends? My brother? My grandfather? Murphy? Chicago?
I'd once said I'd be willing to "let the world burn" if it meant my daughter would be safe. I then saw the consequences of that kind of thinking. Then again, I wasn't sure that this world would be safer. If anything things were falling apart quicker here.
Monsters and aliens were no longer a secret, and countries were getting even more paranoid and aggressive. Hells Bells, even the Canadians were freaking out, willing to put tanks on the streets of their capital city and preparing to bomb their own towns.
But despite all that... even if this world were safer, even if I could grab everyone, convince Murphy and Butters and the Carpenters and... Molly? I slowly exhaled.
No. None of them would abandon their world.
And that didn't even count that Mab would have... problems with me running away. Especially given that I... kind of... fused with the Winter Knight Mantle.
Quietly watching me, Cecilia nodded. "It's okay," she reassured. "You have obligations. Though, you'll eventually have to consider what you'll do when you get back."
Butters crossed his arms and simply looked at me.
I rolled my eyes. "Yes Butters, you were right about that too. Add it to the long list of things I didn't think through."
"Was she always this bad?" Cecilia asked, seemingly with genuine concern.
"Worse," Butters replied.
I huffed. Once again I looked to the papers my sister held. "What's with those? Did you print out your advice?"
Cecilia looked down and laughed. "Oh no... this is general stuff." She then fanned the small pile of pamphlets revealing the titles.
They were made out of folded stock and looked like something anyone could order in a print shop. Honestly, they reminded me of ones I had made several years back.
My old office had a pile of pamphlets just inside the front door. My favorites were "Magic and You" and "Why Witches Don't Sink Any Faster Than Anyone Else - a Wizard's Perspective".
Though given the contents of these pamphlets, I was sure the mercenaries had made them internally under secret conditions by cleared personnel, stored under lock and key, inventoried and signed out only by approved contractors, and then said contractors would hand 'em out to any succubus they met.
I looked at the cover. There was a cartoon succubus named Silva. I opened it. Ah... hello Birds and the Bees and high school health class. "You're giving me 'The Talk'? I'm old enough to know what sex is."
My sister gave me 'the look'. "You're a day old succubus who's playing with her powers like a puppy trying to bite her own tail." She leaned over and flipped to the next page in the pamphlet.
I worked my jaw and tilted my head. "Huh," I said as my tail flexed.
Butters had pointedly averted his gaze.
My sister gave a satisfied smirk. "You were saying?"
"I wasn't that clueless about women!" I pouted. But I went to the next pamphlet. This one was more of a hygiene booklet. Once again, it was illustrated with a funny little cartoon succubus. The captions were in English and a type of mangled Latin that made mine seem polished.
Cecilia laughed "You might know about human women, but succubae are different." Her tone that indicated she was skeptic with regard to the first point.
She turned to Butters. "Do make sure she reads these. I'm afraid we'll have to do all we can to make sure we get through to her."
"Hey!" I groused.
Butters laughed but nodded.
Sprawled on the couch, I rolled on my back. Patting my stomach, I made a contented noise. My tail flopped over my leg and limply flopped off the front of the couch. My coat was hung over the couch-back and I wore my pants and blouse, though I had slipped off my shoes.
"I could get used to meals like that," I murmured as I reached out and pulled a new binder out of the metal briefcase case that had been propped open on the coffee table. I flipped to a new set of glossy, almost waxy-smelling pages.
"Having talented daughters is nice," Ranma noted. She sat on the couch next to me and absently ran a finger behind an ear and around the nape of my neck.
I wriggled my hips so the back of my head rested on her thigh. Despite that, my feet still dangled over the armrest.
"I don't know how you can eat so much," Butters remarked from a chair that sat a bit past my feet.
"Metabolism," Ranma remarked as she wrote out notes. She leaned the pad against the other couch armrest so she could keep a hand free.
The doctor scoffed. "Yes, yes. I know why. It's still just freaky to see pale thin girls pack it away." Butters flipped to a new page and squinted at the lines of spidery text on the printout he was reading. "Just like how it's creepy to have eldritch tomes in three ring binders," he said feeling the texture of the thin paper between his fingers.
My sister looked up from her notes. "Well, we did have a bunch of nice leather-bound moldering tomes. But someone decided to blow them up." She patted my head.
"Hey! You're the one that told me to zap that case!" I pouted. "And without telling me it was full of explosives!"
"Well, did you want Tessa to get away with the books?"
"I didn't expect you to booby-trap everything!" I cried; my voice might have gone a bit higher with frustration.
My sister simply gave me a slightly disappointed look.
"Wait... what?" Butters asked.
I closed my binder. "You know how Tessa attacked their fancy base a couple days before you came?"
Butters blinked. "Uh, yes?"
"Well, she was doing it to steal back these." I gestured to the large briefcase and the binders filling it.
Butters flipped to a new page. "What, did you make copies and then hide a bomb among the originals? So, that if she tried to steal them..." the little man blinked at our expressions.
"It was a last resort," Ranma explained.
"Yeah, they only did that after the missiles, the claymores, the anti-magic mine, the sniper rifles, the machine guns, the satchel charges, and, oh yes, the flamethrower failed," I said.
"Don't forget throwing a gangly wizard at her," my sister added, scratching behind my ear.
"Or the scary demon queen," I countered, rolling over to my side with a happy murmur.
"You're insane, all of you insane." He thumped the binder. "No wonder you wanted to adopt him into the family."
"Don't sell yourself short." Ranma gave a warm smile.
Butters meet her gaze. "Really?"
I pouted as Ranma folded her hands in her lap. "Nariko's very fond of you. As are Ukyou and Nabiki. You have proven yourself, Sir Knight."
"Oh," Butters coughed.
"Take it as a compliment." Ranma chuckled. "I'm blundering about trying to flirt with you."
"Yeah, it's not like she's got a secret plan to wait for the perfect opportunity to turn you," I blinked. I then tilted my neck so I could look up at my sister.
The redhead gave a coy smile.
I looked her in the eyes. "No."
"Right, you're hoping he'll consent to something entirely different for you," Ranma teased.
Blushing, I rolled over. "That's not what I meant." I pouted.
"Do you have to tease her?" Butters asked.
Chuckling, my sister leaned back. She looked at her wristwatch.
"How much time to you have?" I asked. Apparently, she was on the guard duty rota. Which made sense. Someone like Ranma would be skilled at protecting her house and family.
"A bit, then I'll relieve Eve and Nariko.
My sister turned to Butters. "You're an only child aren't you?"
"Teasing is a part of having siblings."
"Your sisters don't tease you. Well, not counting Harry," Butters added after a moment.
I rolled back onto my side and saw Ranma give a little grin. "It's a bit subtle I'll admit."
"Being the eldest has its privileges," I muttered.
My sister shushed me and resumed scratching behind my ears and at the base of my horns.
"And she'll grow out of this?" Butters asked Ranma.
The redhead resumed her writing. "Well, she'll grow up."
"She's Harry," Butters flatly reminded. He sighed. "Murph really should be the one here. She'd be better able to handle this... er handle her." He corrected.
"They're in a relationship?"
I blushed again and drew my knees towards my body. "Between me and Karrin? It's complicated. Very complicated... now."
"It wasn't that complicated when you left."
Turning my head, I met his gaze. "That was before!" I cried, my eyes flashing.
He didn't flinch. "Yes, that was the risk of your choice," he patiently said, his tone gentle.
"But Karrin's not here, and I'm not even sure she'll like me like this..." I whined, my voice slipping.
"It's okay," my sister reassured as she resumed patting between my shoulders, just below my choker. "Don't come on too strong when you come back. Give her a chance to get used to.... you."
"And if she can't?" I asked in a small voice.
"Then that's it, you can't force her. You can't force it to work," her voice was regretful and distant.
After a few seconds of awkward silence, Butters cleared his throat. He frowned at De Cotis' notes. "About this summoning Tessa's doing."
Ranma put down her pen. "Yes? Any ideas? Harry said you were very strong on the theoretical side."
"I've got a good tutor," Butters coughed looking bashful. "But... I don't know how much... energy she got from the Lomar... killings."
"But?" I prompted.
"Well... I think she got the most important parts. She established a link with wherever she's trying to summon. Even drew the link back to our world."
I frowned. "But you smashed everything before you stepped through the gateway."
"That was right after you and Ranma broke up their little party," he frowned and flipped through some more excerpts on the summoning ritual. Or what we guessed the summoning ritual was.
"Will Tessa have to try again? Do another pre-summoning sacrifice?" Ranma asked.
I thought it over. Not nearly enough people had died to give the necromantic power to get what she needed. She would need to kill a lot of people before she could try again. Then again... maybe she'd try a different source of magical power.
"Yes," I said.
"No," Butters said.
"Okay, she only got like, a quarter of the... energy she needed. But she did get enough to setup a link. So in a pinch...."
"She can just make the main summoning a bit bigger?" Ranma asked.
"That'd be risky."
Butters glanced at me. "What part of this isn't? It's not like Tessa is shy about killing people."
My sister nodded, and took down a few more notes.
"She may be sadistic but she's not reckless; Tessa wants her revenge. She doesn't want to get caught," I countered.
"She also lost a major sorcerer," Butters reminded. "Two counting the one you took out in the garage."
I gave a toothy grin. "Yes, thank you so much for killing Thorneboy."
Butters blushed. "That's a lot of magical capability. Thorned Namshiel had to be here to help with the ritual."
"More than that," I muttered.
"Oh?" Ranma asked.
"Last I heard that Fallen didn't have a host and the coin was locked up somewhere."
"Tessa sprung him? She needed his expertise?" Butters ventured.
"Maybe, could be the other way," I flexed my hands. "We don't know how Tessa found out about this ritual. How she learned about this particular world, let alone about contacting the Brotherhood."
"You think Tessa's being played?"
I eyed the knight. "Both my boss and your boss say she's being played."
Butters hissed through his teeth.
"Shame we can't question Namshiel," Ranma idly said as she wrote on her notepad
Both Butters and I stared at her.
"Yeah, bad idea," I shook my head.
"Duh." My sister snorted. "Say we find someone to play host, giving a fallen angel a fresh body is stupid idea. Even if we could contain him, I doubt we could successfully interrogate him."
I made a somewhat mollified murmur. I wondered if our sister Eve would take that as a challenge to her professional skills. Then again, the blonde seemed like a sensible enough woman.
Relief crossed Butters's face. "Yeah, we're not gonna get any answers from him."
"He's sneaky even by nickelhead standards," I grumbled shifting my position.
"Well, yeah, he mentored Tessa," Butters shook his head.
"I also think he was part of the attack on Arctis Tor."
"Mab's after him?
I nodded. "And that means he's got some shady friends," I allowed. Whoever he had been working for, Outsiders maybe, was bad news. Okay, so Thorneboy could be the one to help Tessa "discover" the ritual. Maybe he even fed her feelings for revenge and desire for power.
"Was it too late? We got him, but Tessa's committed," Butters frowned. "Maybe she won't like being told she's played."
"Not if she's too far gone," Ranma said as she flipped back to a previous page of notes.
I shrugged. "She won't believe us, and as you said, she's committed. She tried to kill a whole town. She won't stop, not now. She and those wolves have gone to ground somewhere and have dug-in, plotting their next step."
Butters shifted, still uncomfortable with the idea.
I didn't press. I knew the Knights were all about saving the hosts. Hells Bells, Michael tried to talk down Nicodemus. And I'd bet good money that Tessa, Nicodemus's crazy ex-wife, would be even harder to get through to.
I glanced up and tried to look at what my sister was writing.
Ranma smiled. "Course work for tomorrow."
I must have made a worried little noise because Ranma's expression softened.
"I think you have enough control that we can do a demonstration in the dojo"
"No more tearing me up?"
"Well, not there," She chuckled. "I'd also want to take you to the range," Ranma sighed. "But you can find a shooting instructor on your world."
"While I'd have a hard time finding another brood mother?"
Ranma nodded. She looked wistfully at her list and glanced at her watch, checking how much time she had left. "We'll have some time after we defeat Tessa."
I mulled that over. I had to go back. I had responsibilities, family, and it was my world.
She shrugged. "But again... I'd rather spend that time making sure you're ready... you're capable of going back. You won't have us there to help you."
"I can handle being alone!" I cried, indignantly perhaps, but certainly without pouting
My sister gave a knowing nod. "Yes, that's what we'll have to ensure."
Curling up a bit, I bit my lip. My horns tingled, distracting my introspection. I lifted up and saw Dr. Nodoka Saotome enter.
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend your training today," she stepped up to the couch and looked down at myself and Ranma. I found myself grinning. The older auburn-haired woman returned the smile.
Nudging me to one side, Ranma scooted closer to the edge of the couch.
"Some of the other eggheads and myself were sent to Lomar this afternoon," she explained, sitting down on the couch between myself and my sister. She ran her hand through my sister's hair and idly stroked a horn.
Giving a bit of a jealous grumble, I leaned my head on her leg.
"Did you find anything, Doctor... uh..?" I asked.
"Some information about the crystals they used for the summoning. Unusual stuff but..." she shrugged and glanced down at me. "You know, I wouldn't mind if you called me Mom."
"Uh?" I asked feeling a slight warm tug from her. There was a connection but it wasn't the bright heavy line to my sister. Hells Bells, I had an easier time following my link to Ranma and then trundling up the linkage to her....
Oh... warmth burbled within me as I smiled and shifted.
The older woman smiled. Her grin grew when my sister handed her a silver hairbrush. "Thank you, Ranma." She rolled the brush in her hand. "You poor dear," she said running a hand through my fine pale hair.
"It's..." I trailed off when the bristles sank into my tresses and she started to brush. Arching my back, my legs stretched out; I started to purr.
"You are tense," she said running the brush in long even strokes.
I shifted and murmured happily.
"She doesn't stretch enough," my sister tersely noted.
"I'm sorry I can't just drop into a perfect split," I bristled. My hips still ached a bit at that part of today's lessons.
"With that body you should be able to put your legs behind your head," Ranma sniffed.
The brushing slowed. "And are you working to fix that?" the officer asked my sister.
"It's on the list." My sister sounded sheepish.
"Wait," I shifted slightly. "What was all that stuff we did after lunch?"
"That was just a warm-up. Really, I should teach you yoga." My sister made a frustrated little noise. "But getting your chakras straightened out alone would take..."
I blinked. "You know yoga? I mean sure you wear the tight bodysuits but..."
My sister gave me a flat look. "I have studied under Tibetan yogis. Learning how to channel vital energy and prana are fundamental building blocks to the higher levels of the Art."
"You went to Tibet?"
"Yes, part of a multi-year training trip over China, well, parts of Korea too. Bit of Japan at the start."
The brushing stopped. Mo... Major Saotome shook her head. "I suppose there was some benefit of your father taking you for ten years."
This time I simply stared. "Ten years learning mystic Asian arts? That's some real Doctor Strange stuff there, Sis."
The redhead tilted her head. "Strange-sensei, what about him?"
There was a clatter as a binder slipped from Butters hands. "You're pulling our leg right?"
"Well, he was an instructor and protegee of the master." My sister looked confused.
"You're not telling us you were taught by the Stephen Strange?" he asked adjusting his glasses.
"What? He was another foreigner studying with us at the hermitage. But then Pops stole some book from another senior acolyte, this Baron guy and things...." she shook her head.
Butters narrowed his eyes. "No. You're not telling me you studied with the Sorcerer Supreme or that your father stole a book from Baron Mordo."
"He was going to pawn it for booze... and that's when we had to run..." my sister sheepishly admitted. "Hey! How'd you know the guy's name was Mordo?"
Butters gave my sister a long look. "You're pulling our legs," he repeated.
"Dude, we're in a different world," I said raising my head to get Mother's attention. As the brushing resumed, I started to purr.
"Do you want to go to a comic shop tomorrow?" I asked.
"We're not in the Marvel world," Butters's voice was sharp.
"Doctor Strange existing doesn't automatically make this a Marvel Universe," I sniffed. "It does, however, imply the existence of Dormammu."
"What the hell are you nerds talking about?" Ranma demanded.
"They doubt the veracity of your exploits," Mother explained.
"She's being mean," I murmured rolling over and burying my face into mother's thigh.
My sister sighed. "I trained under a mystical master, well mostly his American protege, in the Himalayas... and my father screwed things up and we had to leave.... in the middle of the night..."
I lifted my head slightly, and saw Butters give a glare. "You're messing with us," he declared.
My sister made a disappointed sound.
"Oh, I'm sure you had an adventure like that, but you just swapped in the names," Butters explained.
"Why would I do something like that?" Ranma asked, assumed.
"Because your sister is a giant geek, and you're teasing her."
Ranma shrugged. "Still, as much as I'd like to teach you..." she looked at her list and grumbled. "You can find a yoga instructor in your world. Either Hatha or Raja would do. I'd avoid the house-wife in spandex crowd. After you get your basic flexibility in, you'll blow past anything a dilettante instructor can teach you."
I heard my sister shift. Again, she was looking at her watch. "I've got to go in a bit. But yeah, I can add yoga to the list of lessons she should find when she gets back home."
"Maybe she can find a decent Parkour instructor too," Butters mused.
Ranma nodded. "That would be better than the grab-bag she's currently got.
Slightly distracted by mother's brushing, I blinked. "Hey. It is too parkour."
"No, that's freerunning," Butters said. "And you don't shout parkour."
"Uh-uh," I drowsily corrected. "It's parkour."
My sister grumbled. "What you're doing is not derivative of the French Yamakasi. And while there is some of the Belle style it's more of the German branch, which means while you could call it parkour, any formal instructor would consider you wrong."
"Neerrrd." I poked her and laughed.
My sister huffed. "It's important to be precise."
"Isn't your martial arts style a grab-bag of everything anyway?" Butters asked.
Blinking my eyes, I simply pressed myself against Mother and let the two bicker. After a while the purring rumble grew within my chest.
"Is that normal?" Butters asked a few minutes later. He did sound a bit relieved, maybe it was because someone else was the focus of my attention.
My mother's voice was soft. "Young succubae can be very needy."
I could hear a bit of regret in her voice as I nibbled and drained.
"Yeah, but this was the sister change," he said.
"Yes, it was," Ranma stated. "Imagine what she'd be like with the daughter change."
I wanted to pout but the feelings I was getting from Mother and sister made it hard for my mood to sour.
"It's also her fist day," Nodoka added.
"There's another thing," Butters softly said. "Harry's an orphan."
I blinked again, wicking the wetness from the corners of my eyes. I nuzzled a bit closer to Mother.
Butters coughed. "I guess BlackStone isn't."
"I'm not… I'm not sure about that," my mother said, embarrassment entering her voice. "I can do my best but... I'm still human."
My sister leaned in and hugged us both.
Flooded by the feelings of both I closed my eyes and allowed myself to drift off. I knew it wouldn't last. For one, my sister would have to get up and patrol the grounds. But for the moment I could relish being close to my family.
End Chapter 11
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf.