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 12: Fey and Brooding, Part B
I walked up a shaded path. The larger Saotome-Tendo residence sat kitty corner across the street from the cottage I was approaching. Looking down, I saw the cropped bases of perennials that had been prepared for winter.
The house itself had cedar shingles for roofing and siding. It gave the little house a comforting smell that matched its quaint appearance. It reminded me of the vacation houses on the lake in the Indiana and Wisconsin suburbs of Chicago.
It also reminded me of Murph's house. Oh, it wasn't as cute as the gingerbread styled house that Murphy had inherited from her grandmother, but the incongruity was similar. I noted that there wasn't a name on the door, or any lettering on the welcome mat. The place was neat; it looked quiet, unassuming.
Which was a bit superfluous given this cluster of houses had been turned into a private lane complete with fences and gates. The patrolling mercenaries, demons, and other security systems were a bit more discrete, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of the houses on the little street had armored vehicles stuffed in their garages, ready to deploy.
I reached the door. I noticed it was solid without any inset glass or flanking windows. I'd also be pretty sure that the door frame was reinforced too. Not out of any hope of stopping a determined attack, but it would buy time to evacuate or counter attack. I had done something similar on my old apartment. Well, I'd also added wards in addition to the reinforced door.
I also noted that there weren't many windows that faced the street, especially on the ground floor. And the few that did were narrow, set high, and seemed a bit thick. As their first fight with Tessa proved, my sisters were big believers of defense in depth. It should be no surprise that the home of my most paranoid sibling would be... prepared.
I lifted my fist, but the door opened before I could knock.
"Ah, BlackStone, a pleasure to see you," Eve warmly said as she stepped back to let me in.
Crossing the threshold, I stared. My sister was wearing a dress. Her long blonde hair was down, and to repeat myself: she was wearing a dress. There had been less shock when I had seen Murphy in a dress.
With a crisp hem a few inches below the knee, it was a light blue floral print dress with little strappy shoulders and a glossy leather belt cinched around her waist. Her hair had a surprising amount of body as it tumbled down her bare shoulders and back.
The door closed behind me. I glanced and saw deadbolt locks, bracing bars, and that it was indeed thicker than normal. I then turned back to my sister. Hells Bells, she was wearing an apron too. It had a scalloped edge with little ruffles.
There was also a bit of a bulge in the front at where her belt was. Ah, so that's where she carried her gun. I glanced down. On the other hand, her skirt was flounced enough that I was pretty sure she also had a thigh holster as well.
"Ranma's been very impressed with your work," she said, taking my arm as she led me away from the somewhat cramped alcove that made the cottage's entranceway. I noted that, unlike Ranma, she didn't insist on removing shoes.
I also noted she was wearing high heels. Ones high enough to put our eyes at the same level.
"This is how you dress off-duty? I never figured you for a Hausfrau."
My sister's lips quirked in a smile.
Oddly enough, she wasn't wearing much in the way of makeup. Not that she needed any. I mean that was a given with our kind.
"Sometimes, like when we're all here," Eve clapped her hands as we entered a cozy living room. "Girls, we have a visitor. It's Auntie BlackStone."
"You're enjoying that name way too much."
The blonde gave a restrained smile that actually went to her eyes. "It's an adorable alias your friend came up with."
My tail flicked as I studied the room. The lighting was low and intimate, except for a large oak desk flanked by gooseneck lamps that cast down bright white light. The ceiling was a bit low in the room and there wasn't much in the way of windows, but there were stuffed couches, a heavy bookcase and other accoutrements. Prints hung on the wall, there were a couple landscapes that flanked a small window. However the walls were dominated by two large frames.
Both were seascapes. Both had ships sinking. Both looked to be from World War Two. Over the desk was a four foot print that had a bright day and calm seas with dive-bombers cruising over a carrier that was aflame by a hit near the stern. Given the giant rising sun painted on the deck it had to be Japanese.
On the opposite wall was a print of a battleship on a grey day. Smoke billowed out of the back as it tried to push through wallowing grey surf. I didn't know much on my history, but even I recognized the Bismarck.
"Huh," Mulling over the symbolism, I turned away from the pictures. My sister was German and had.... issues with her family. And our sister Ranma was Japanese, but she didn't seem to care.
Two of Eve's girls were lounging on the couch. The shorter, younger one with black hair was curled up against her taller bright green-haired sister. Said sister was swearing a charcoal and grey suit with matching stockings. She sat with her legs folded up under her.
At the desk was the auburn-haired sniper. At first I thought my niece had disassembled a sink drain or some other bit of plumbing. But no... neatly placed on the polished butcher-block style oak surface were the parts of her rifle.
The immense barrel rested in a set of pads and the scope had been packed in its own velvet-lined tray. I then noticed that the desk wasn't a desk at all. There were no drawers. It was more of a bench. There was a padded vise to my niece's left, and to her right was a hinged magnifying lamp she was using to examine some bit of machined metal.
The younger girl curled on the couch stirred. Stretching, Sophie blinked at me. She was wearing a red sweater over a set of black tights. "She is tall." Her gaze went over me and seemed to hover around my tail. "Flashy too."
Looking up from her book, Morrison nodded. I noticed her green hair was more glossy than usual for us... for succubae. She smiled, her bright green eyes shining. "Hello Auntie Dresden," she said with a little bow of her head.
"Please, call me Harry."
Morrison chuckled at that.
"See, she's going by her old male name too," Sophie teased punching her sister in the shoulder.
"Huh?" I blinked
"Oh don't mind that, Morrison hasn't decided if she wants a new name," Eve explained as she led me to a couch that was angled to face the one my nieces were on.
"Can I get you a refreshment?" she then asked the perfect picture of a poised happy housewife hostess. "I do have some lovely liquors. Maybe some peach brandy? Or if you prefer I have some sausage I can heat for you. If that's your preference. Or some lovely cheese." Her voice lowered. "Perhaps something with a bit of age and substance?"
I squinted my eyes and blinked. My tail curled up and started to wrap around my leg.
Morgan looked up from the workbench and turned to face the rest of us. "Mother, quit teasing her."
Eve slowly shook her head. "Now, now girls, there's nothing wrong with being nice to family. "
"Especially with the youngest member of our family," Morrison said.
"She does need our help and support," Eve readily agreed. "I'll get something for us to drink," she spun on a heel and slipped out of the room.
Shifting on the couch, my wings were pulled closer to my shoulders. I did feel like I was being teased.
"It's okay," Sophie smiled. "You're coming along well. It's just..." she glanced at the door her mother had left.
"The sister turning does have a downside," Morgan noted.
"Yeah, it's more costly and complex, and it's easier to screw up," I added in a quiet voice.
"In addition to that," my sniper niece's voice was flat. She had short pageboy style red air and cool blue eyes. "Yes, you're not as dependent on a mother figure as we are, but... you're still a succubus. You still crave a mother"
I blushed. "Dr. Saoto- er... Nodoka... Mother has been very helpful."
"Alas, she's still human," Eve said, returning with a pitcher and glasses on a platter.
My sister poured a glass of some spice-smelling cider and handed it to me. "Don't let my girls get you down. Seeing you just reminds them of being that age."
I took a sip. The warmed cider was heavy and good. Also I was pretty sure it had some amount of alcohol in it. "That age?" I looked at my nieces. "They're older than me..."
After serving her daughter, Eve sat down next to me. Smoothing her apron, she bore a patient, indulgent expression. "Yes."
"Sorry, it's just..." I shifted to a straighter sitting position.
"It has been a busy day," my sister agreed.
"Yeah, so, how old am I?" I asked. My nieces' disbelieving expressions made me want to curl into a ball. "Am I the thirty-nine-year-old I was before this?"
Again, my sister shook her head. "No. You are not."
My sister shifted closer and draped a wing over my shoulders.
I took a moment to relish the warmth and sip my cider. It felt like my fingers were greedily sucking the heat in through the cup. Despite being a bit large, I leaned on my sister and enjoyed the tingle as I drained her.
"You can say it," Morgan stated, her voice gentle.
I took a sip of cider, using both hands on the glass. "I'm a baby succubus."
My sister's wing drew me in closer and I started to purr.
"There's no shame in that," Eve stated. "We all start young and emotional, but we grow."
Nodding, I simply nuzzled her.
After a bit I felt better and shifted my seating. My sister's large blue wing was still draped over my body like a cloak.
"Ranma, she knew?"
Eve simply looked at me.
"Right, of course she knew. She was in sensei mode all today. She had more important things to tell me than the obvious."
"Or maybe Sensei Ranma wanted her little sister to figure it out for herself?" Eve suggested.
I frowned. "She did teach me the importance of managing my powers by beating me up."
"Yes, she's a fan of the Socratic Method." Eve laughed. "Well, with more hitting."
"I guess she underestimated my thick-headedness."
"Did she?" Eve took a sip. "Despite worries about how you... changed. You've been making excellent progress. You've exceeded her expectations She's very proud of you. We're all very proud of you."
Smiling a little, I blushed, and my tail swished about.
"Which means for tomorrow, she's come up with something to really challenge you.
And then I whimpered.
My sister chuckled. "Really? Like you'll shirk from a challenge."
"Well... no..." I pouted.
"And there's your research with Doctor De Cotis. One upside of that pre-summoning you stopped was that we learned more about what Mrs. Lartessa's ritual will require," Eve noted.
"Wait, you want me to train how to be a succubus and continue my research?" I asked, in a completely even voice, without any whine.
"You've had your day off, tomorrow you get back to work," my sister, mildly said.
"Today was not a day off," I harrumphed. But it was hard to keep my mood sour being with my sister.
"Didn't you sleep in most of the morning?" Morrison asked.
Eve gave a little smile.
I glared at my niece. "I was sleeping off being turned into a demon," I hissed.
"Cecilia did say you were going to be more... emotional than us," my sister noted.
I frowned. Okay, I did tend to be a pretty passionate person. Some might call me pig-headed and self-righteous, but I preferred to say I had a strong will and a keen sense of justice. There was also that my magic came, in large part, from my emotions.
There was also... how do I put this delicately? Two of my sisters seemed kinda fanatical about keeping their emotions in check.
I could understand why. I've seen my sisters' souls. Ranma's was an eldritch tree rooted in blood and corpses. I wasn't sure what my soul looked like to her, but whatever she saw, my eldest sister liked it. Most people were stunned and haunted by the experience. She was the only person I'd ever met who was disappointed she'd only get the one opportunity to Soulgaze me.
Eve's soul was a clean, neat, sterile place with only the barest touches of, for lack of a better word, humanity. With both sisters, I got the impression that they knew, intimately, what would happen if they lost control.
Granted, that was something I could relate too. Playing host to the shadow of a Fallen Angel would do that. Not to mention the Winter Mantle pressing its own predatory, passionate instincts and drives on me. Hell's Bells, even back when I'd first started as a private eye wizard, I'd lost control and burned a mansion down. It was an occupied mansion, and not everyone who died was a vampire.
"What made Cecilia think that?" I asked.
"She has more experience on the softer side of our powers," Eve said.
I nodded, that was Cecilia. Not as direct as her sisters, but she knew just what kind of damage our kind could do. Not the physical, but the mind-bending mental and psychological damage. I frowned as I recalled some of the comments Misako had made about her "devious" aunt.
What if my mind had been warped?
I looked around and realized I was nuzzling a large, blonde demoness. I lifted a hand and ran it over one of my long-horn style horns. They were very sensitive and the contact tingled.
Stars and Stones... my brain had been warped. This morning I didn't have a passel of sisters. This morning I was human; I was male. Now? Well, it certainly wasn't a human brain in my skull.
Oh sure, it's probably pretty close, but the hormones and other chemicals were different. A neurologist could point to structural differences. If an MRI wouldn't explode with me in the room, I'm sure they could have made plots of how my brain was as a human versus how it was now.
Hells Bells, I'd bet good odds Company had some reports on exactly that subject. There certainly were enough demons working for them.
Plus, I spent a good part of the day having my physical differences beaten into me, literally.
And here I was warmly snuggling with a woman who just yesterday I thought of as standoffish and scary. The question wasn't: "Has my mind been warped?" The question was: "How much had my mind been warped?"
It was a scary thought. For anyone it would be, but for a Wizard, with all the ego and pride, and fear of mind-bending black magic and supernatural predators it was even more acute.
"Adapting to the change is remarkably easy," I muttered. The realization disturbed me, but perhaps not as much as it should have.
Eve tightened her hug. "I warned you."
I nodded. "Butters did too. He was nice enough not to be too blatant in his 'I told you so'."
"He's a good friend."
I frowned, not sure if she was putting subtle emphasis on the last word or if I was reading too much into it.
"It's good to have people to help you through this," Sophie reassured. "So you don't... forget yourself as you adapt."
I looked at my niece, then at her sisters. There was pity mixed with just a hint of jealousy in their expressions. It was well-concealed and I might not have noticed if not... if not for the fact that I was empathically linked to them.
But I could understand their feelings. I was only dealing with a sister change. Their transformations had been even deeper. So, on the one hand, they took pity on me because I didn't have a mother to support them like they did. On the other hand, they were the tiniest bit jealous because, while I was a baby succubus, I didn't need a brood mother like they did.
"You're adapting," Eve agreed. She noticed my mulling. "BlackStone?" she asked.
"I'm questioning my lack of questions," I murmured.
Eve crossed her legs. "Do tell?"
I sighed and leaned on her. "I've... changed; I've adapted."
"Adapting. You've still got plenty more growth ahead of you," Eve gently corrected.
I pouted. "But... I'm finding I'm okay with it. I mean I don't have to be here with you? I could have...."
"Spent more time with Doctor Butters?"
"It disturbs her how okay she is with it," Morgan said as she assembled her rifle.
I watched her dexterous fingers manipulate parts without the little auburn-haired sniper even really looking at what she was doing.
She shifted in her chair. Pale blue eyes studied me. "You feel you should be questioning this more, questioning who you are. You feel you shouldn't be okay with being a succubus. And yet you are. So now, you question your lack of questions. You wonder what kind of person you are now."
I nodded and turned to Eve. "Remarkably easy? Is it by design?"
Eve nodded. "New succubae that happily adapt did better than those who did not. They went on to make more succubae."
"What, it's an evolutionary thing?" I could see how over the generations there would be a bias towards new succubae fitting in with their broods better and better.
Eve shrugged. "Partially. It also looks like it was bred into us when our species was first made. The records are... murky. Even if it wasn't part of our creation, later brood queens would see the advantage of new converts adapting more quickly and with less mental damage."
I sniffed and sipped my cider.
Eve renewed her hug. "Do not think these feelings are not real. Would you dismiss my daughters? Ranma's daughters? I am your sister."
I shivered as her emotions washed over me. Intellectually, I could try to dismiss them, that they were the product of how our kind had been created, adapted, and shaped. I didn't have these feelings before I was made into a succubus. I could try; instead, I purred and enjoyed the contact.
it was because I had been an orphan for such a long time, and it was only in
the last. I paused I had known Thomas was my brother for nearly a decade. Wow
has it been that long? Still, he had
been my only living family. Until my
daughters. And until... today.
So, I think I can be cut some slack for wanting to be close to my new family.
And, introspection could wait. Though I did make a mental note to talk with Cecilia.
"Where do Cecilia and her girls live?" I drowsily asked.
Eve raised an eyebrow "They moved into a house on our street. Further down the road."
"We could get a place for you and your daughters, but you have duties on your world." My sister shrugged. She would miss me, but she understood duty. Though I was pretty sure she didn't know how many obligations I had. More than just my work for Mab, I also had a scary island prison to keep an eye on, and, of course, a city to guard from supernatural threats.
"Yeah," I agreed, idly thinking about moving here. If things were different... still having all of my sisters living so close to each other...
Well on the one hand, it allowed for mutual, more efficient, defense. On the other, it made for one target. Though, I was pretty sure they had safe houses and other caches scattered about. Hells Bells, we'd summoned Mab in a warehouse they had procured.
I frowned. "Eve... how do you buy all these properties? I mean, underground bases, compounds out in the woods, private streets, warehouses. Do your mercs really have pockets that deep?"
"It's about finding the proper partners. The training grounds you used today is technically seized property. It was originally owned by a cult."
I nodded, remembering the bomb damage to that hilltop and the collapsed tunnels and bunkers.
"Consider these houses; I purchased this house, the Tendo family owns the one Ranma and her brood lives in, and Cecilia got a loan for hers."
"And the other houses? Heck, how did Cecilia get a mortgage? It's not like she's got much of a credit history."
Eve smiled. "As I said, partners. Drake Kuno is a long-time friend of the Saotome and Tendo families, and an associate of the Company."
I raised an eyebrow. The name was familiar. "Nariko's father? He's a land developer. He's in that deep with you all?"
My sister nodded.
"And what does he get out of it?"
"Patriotic duty? Helping fight against alien invaders," Sophie suggested.
I gave my diminutive niece a long look.
Eve coughed. "It does help that many of our properties are technically leases. And the cost of our facilities is, ultimately, billed to the government."
"Ah," I nodded.
I'd seen enough to know how "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone's land scams worked. If you set the scam er... deal up right, you could profit on the purchase, rent, and sale of the same piece of land. I shouldn't be surprised that a bunch of mercenaries would use tactics similar to the Chicago mob.
"This isn't the first... useful partnership on Drake's part. Two decades ago, he sold several properties in Tokyo to build the funds to start making purchases around Ontario. He managed to convince the Tendos to come over."
"Right, the family the good Lieutenant comes from." I was starting to see Lt. Tendo's trepidation. Her sisters were alive, they were still her sisters, but they were... different. I lifted my head.
"Wait... he's Nariko's dad right? How does that work?"
Eve looked at me with a patient expression.
"Jokes about Ranma being a virgin aside... I didn't think she had been a demon long enough to..." I slapped my forehead. "Of course! He's Nariko's father from when she was human."
My sister nodded ever so slightly.
"That means Nariko's got two mothers?"
"Technically, but Drake is a widower. She died when Nariko and her sister were very young."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." My tail drooped in sympathy.
"It's part of why Nariko's so attached to her mother."
Nodding, I felt a bit of gnawing in my stomach. "Yeah... I lost my mother too. I never really knew her," I said drawing more from my sister.
"You do have Major Saotome."
I smiled remembering her brushing my hair. "Yeah," I said a bit dreamily. "And she's a much nicer surrogate mother than Lea."
I winced. "My frmermrmr," I muttered.
"Pardon?" Eve asked, an edge slipping into her voice.
I looked guiltily to the side. "My fairy godmother."
There was a pause in the cozy room.
"You mean that literally, don't you?" Morrison asked.
I simply gestured towards my pointed ears.
"You've had a long association with the faerie?" Eve asked.
"Sidhe," I corrected. "Yes, she's technically a faerie, but that's like calling a human a primate. And as insulting."
Eve nodded. "You had a difficult childhood," she stated.
I grumbled. Of course she knew. She had Soulgazed me and said gaze had taken the form of a report. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a whole section on my being orphaned and bouncing around the system until a wizard named Justin DuMorne found me. He had found another orphan with magical talent: Elaine.
And then I'd bet Eve read another section about how DuMorne taught us magic, and then tried to enthrall me and Elaine. I escaped. DuMorne sent a monster after me. Long story short: I looked for help, someone to give me power. And I found... well I found Lea.
"She made it harder?" my sister ventured.
"She helped too... in her own way," I sighed. Well I'd thought I found her, but really... Lea had found me. "Lea was friends with my mother."
My sister nodded.
"I didn't realize it at first, but she had been watching me for a long time." I sipped more cider. "She took her duties as my godmother seriously. Not that she'd tell me."
"Why not?" Morgan asked as she checked over her rifle.
"Because she's a sidhe. All the fae are big on bargains and debts, and hate giving straight answers."
My nieces nodded while Eve looked thoughtful.
"Plus Lea's barking mad. She's better now, but she's still real scary."
"Oh?" my sister's tone was mild, but I could hear the interest behind the word. Eve concealed it well, but she was a passionately curious person.
"Long story. Basically, she got hit by a mental whammie from a booby-trapped artifact. A lot of bad stuff happened before Ma- er, my queen nailed it down." I winced at my slip. Saying the name of a magical being got their attention, especially one of the fae. That's why the ritual I used to talk to Mab was, fundamentally, just calling her Name.
The rest was just adding power and clarity to the call. To make it into something that would grab her attention. Course, you could do more than just "grab attention". Hells Bells, that's why knowing an entity's true Name was so dangerous. Summoning and binding were the start of the damage one could do.
"A denarian coin? Or something similar?"
My tail flicked. "Similar," I admitted.
"Another entity dwelling in an artifact offering power?" my sister asked.
"Bad guys love the classics," I stated trying to keep my voice even. I wasn't technically lying. However, the Nemesis entity wasn't stuck in the athame Lea was given. The dagger was just what it used to infect her.
My sister renewed her hug and made a thoughtful noise.
Despite my nervousness, her presence was relaxing. I took a bit of time to just luxuriate in the feelings. Then the phone rang.
I glanced over and watched as Eve reached and picked up a simple corded phone that had been sitting on an end table. As she quietly talked I heard electronic chirps coming from my nieces.
Morgan and Sophie took out radios and started talking. Everyone's voices were calm, but I could feel the tension in the room rising.
"Understood, transferring to a new phone," my sister said as she lifted her wing.
I frowned as the hug ended and the blonde stood up. She then hung up the living room phone and strode to the kitchen. It only rang once before I heard my sister pick it up.
"What's going on? We find out where Tessa is?" I asked, turning back to my nieces.
"Auntie Ranma's talking with someone," Sophie said as she pulled off her button-down sweater, revealing that she was wearing a leotard instead of tights. Also that she had a pair of shoulder holsters strapped over her torso.
"You were sprawled on the couch wearing that rig? How was that comfortable?" I asked
Morrison looked up from the bag she had stowed next to the couch. "With a proper holster you can take a nap without discomfort or retention worries."
"Huh," I straightened my posture as I sat up. "So, what's going on?"
My nieces looked at each other.
"Well?" my voice sharpened a bit.
Cradling a phone between shoulder and ear, Eve stepped out of the kitchen. "It looks like your godmother has dropped in for a little visit."
My tail went limp. "Oh?"
"At least that's what the sidhe Ranma's chatting with said," my blonde sister seemed to gauge my nervousness. "She seems concerned about you."
I looked down at myself. "Well, damn."
I stepped out into the night. The scent of stained wood decking and cedar shingles tickled at my nose. However, there were two more scents that got my interest and my tail straightened.
A wooded path snaked out of Eve's backyard and in the distance I could just make out a fence-line with the muted colors of my night vision.
Straining, I tiled my head and, focusing on hearing, Listened. The shaking and rubbing noises of tree branches losing their last leaves mixed with the dry rustling of dead grasses and undergrowth. It turns out that my hearing had enhanced as well as the rest of my senses.
"Really? You knew him as a teenager?" I heard my sister Ranma ask.
"Does anyone ever know a teenager? Especially at sixteen," a smooth, familiar voice replied.
That was met by my sister's deep chuckle. "That is a dangerous age," Ranma said with what sounded like wistfulness.
"What do they say 'Old enough to think you know better, young enough to have no idea how wrong you are'?" the other woman asked.
"Did he really simply ask for power? No strings or stipulations?" My sister laughed again.
There was a brief pause. I could now just barely hear their steps. I shouldn't be surprised. Given who my sister was talking to, of course they would both be silent if they chose to be.
I glanced over at Eve. Putting away the electronic scanner, she had stepped to the side and was sniffing the air.
"It did rank among the more foolish of bargains. However, I'm sure thou wouldst agree that training her is a unique experience."
My eldest sister snorted. "Thick-headed, stubborn, arrogant, but... she does learn eventually."
Her companion gave a thoughtful, and far more ladylike murmur. "A score and one year, that is the time between her first lessons at my hand and enlightenment as to what I was really teaching her."
My sister whistled. The sound cut across the cool night. "And that's with your help."
Two figures emerged from the woods. Both had long, slightly curled, dark red hair. Wearing her Kevlar bodysuit, armored skirt, and vest my sister stood on the left. Her wings were out and her tail hung low and straight behind her. To her right was a taller and more ethereal figure. Slit amber eyes glinted in the dark, and she had sharp features and a petite, and too familiar, nose.
I strode off the deck. "Oh come on! You call those lessons! You tortured me and told me it would give me power."
Leanansidhe, my fairy godmother, strode forward. "And you defeated the warlock DuMorne." She wore a gauzy, abbreviated red gown with blue accents. In the darkness it looked pale and even more spectral.
"Yeah, but you didn't make me more powerful."
Lea sighed. "We have had this discussion, Poppet."
"Yeah, yeah, you gave me the confidence to find out the true power was within me all the time." I pointed to Ranma. "At least when she beat me up it was because...."
I trailed off and gave an inarticulate shriek. "Oh, you cheating little shrimp! You were running the same con as Lea!"
"I would say that verifies your identity," Ranma dryly remarked.
"There is a reason I did not correct thine supposition," Lea remarked as she strode up to me. Her feet were bare, though she seemed to pay the cold ground no mind.
Ranma nodded slightly. I also noticed her tail had become a fraction less tense.
"Come, let us get a good look at thee," the sidhe extended a hand and took my chin.
Eve caught my eyes. For a split second the tension in the air spiked.
I gave a little shake of negation. This was Lea. Yes, she was scary. Yes, her morals were, at best, alien. Yes, she was, even by fae standards, a little bit mad. But she was still my godmother. And she took her duties seriously.
Looking up, Lea shifted my chin and made a study of my face. She eyed my horns and then her eyes lowered and seemed to see through my clothes. "Not bad work. A bit on the nose," she said focusing back on my features.
Despite myself, I smiled at the attention and approval.
She looked over my clothes and gave a delicate shrug. "Presentable, but such beauty should be dressed in more than 'presentable' clothing."
"Hey! Pants are functional," I pouted.
Lea gave me an indulgent smile. "I do hope that one day thy raiment is as elegant as thy form. Whomever designed that is an artist."
"Oh, she did that to herself," Ranma said.
"Do tell?" Lea's attention returned and this time there was a new respect in her eyes. She reached up and took my shoulder. "Well, I am flattered, Poppet."
"I uh... didn't mean to take your nose," I mumbled.
"And thy mother's chin and cheeks?" Lea's expression grew a bit distant. "I miss her as well."
I nodded in sympathy. However, I did not give a goofy grin and preen at my godmother's approval. I certainly didn't pose and shift my hips as she circled around me.
Lea laughed. "And so tall? Though being lean and sleek does suit a predator such as thee," she purred slipping a hand along my tail.
My wings popped out, and I totally didn't blush and nuzzle her.
She absently scratched behind my ear. "At least you can claim some benefits from the tragedy that befell you."
"You knew!" I cried, stomping a hoof on the deck.
Quirking her lip, Lea simply looked down and raised a slim eyebrow.
I could just imagine her making a comment about how my slacks clashed with my hooves. However, she surprised me with what she actually said.
"Lovely footwear Poppet, but doest thou find pants constraining, given thine legs?"
"No... of course not." Coughing, I eyed my godmother. "How long have you been following me here?"
My godmother smiled.
"You always loved staying near me, watching me."
Lea's grin grew, showing delicately pointed teeth. "Would thou deny me the enjoyment of watching my goddaughter?"
Eve's expression was opaque. She turned to Ranma. My sister's tail flicked back and forth for a moment, but she nodded to the blonde.
"BlackStone," Eve stated.
"Oh! Is that a new title?" Lea gushed.
"Shall I invite her as a guest?" Eve asked, idly smoothing her dress and apron. Though the cynic in me guessed she was also taking the opportunity to do a check that her holsters were still in position.
Not that that mattered, I was also certain that my sisters had other security arrangements in place. No doubt setup as Ranma escorted Lea. For example, I knew they had snipers other than my niece. Still, aside from that, the question of hospitality was a key one.
Many supernatural powers were restricted by thresholds. Some couldn't cross them at all without an invitation. Some left behind a large portion of their powers. Some, like the White Court vampires, merely lost a part of their powers.
The fae... they were restricted in a different way. Without being invited, they were compelled to do no harm against the household. However, said restriction only lasted for the duration. It would also be taken as an insult; they could easily just leave the building and get their revenge later.
On the other hand, supernatural beings took the duties of guest and host as almost adamantine.
"Yeah, you won't cause any trouble?" I asked Lea
"No more than thee," Lea assured.
Eve gave my godmother a level gaze.
"I suppose I could hold myself to a higher standard than that. Thy sister is very young," Lea graciously allowed.
"Miss Leanansidhe, I would like to invite you in as a guest," Eve said with a gesture as we stepped along the deck.
Approval sparkled in Lea's eyes. "And I would like to accept thine invitation and catch up with my goddaughter."
Sitting on the railing, Ranma groaned. "Look, just invite her in," she ordered her voice gaining a sharp edge. However her tail was still hanging loose behind her.
Eve exhaled. "Of course. Lea? Would you care to partake our hospitality?"
Lea laughed. "I care very much."
"Fine, be that way!" My redheaded sister threw up her hands and flipped off the railing, landing onto the grass.
"I'm supposed to be on guard tonight anyway.... I won't have to listen to two of you..." she muttered before crossing the yard and making for the trees. Her body slipped into the shadows and quickly out of view. I tried to look for her, I even tried Listening and sniffing but there wasn't even her sound or scent in the air.
"Is she always so moody?" Lea asked.
"Is she?" Eve retorted.
I groaned and looked at the wooded path with longing. I could sympathize with Ranma's frustration. Even if I was surprised at the crack in her self-control. And was a bit jealous at her ability to simply slip away.
I rubbed my forehead. "Lea would you like to come in and be our guest?"
"I would like that."
Eve cracked a smile.
I grit my teeth. "Would you be our guest?"
"Let us find out," Lea glided towards the door.
Intrigued, Eve walked up and opened it.
For a second Lea paused at the threshold. "Yes, I would," she said and crossed.
"Interesting," Eve said as she entered.
"I would say so," Lea agreed, giving my sister an approving nod.
"What just happened?" I asked, entering the clean, sparse kitchen.
"You invited her into my house," Eve stated as she went to the stove. A pot of cider was simmering and she ladled some into a cup.
"And it looks like thou possess the authority to make such an invitation," Lea noted, gracefully accepting the cup.
I blinked. That was.... Normally, only those who lived in a house could invite others. There were exceptions, but they were only for close family members. "Uh..." I eloquently muttered.
"What brings you here?" Eve asked a few minutes later when we were seated and she served a platter of apricot pastries. "I fear to presume that you were brought here simply because BlackStone mentioned you in passing."
"Is that such a dreadful proposition?" Lea asked, nibbling on the pastry. Again, she nodded her head in approval.
"I would presume that my sister's Queen has a vested interest in her well-being. That is her ability to continue fulfilling her duties as the Winter Knight."
"Not an improper presumption."
"And my sister recently contacted her Queen, telling of grievous injury with demands of succor," Eve said as she served me cider and pastry.
Lea looked to me. "Thou seem intent on pushing the limits of thy place Winter Knight." She laughed. "And amusingly, it seems thou convinced the Mantle to go along."
"Hey, I didn't do this." I crossed my arms.
"Yes, that's the problem," Eve noted. "Thus we have a queen who knows her Knight was sent off and injured in the course of his duties. A knight with a history of making poor and rash decisions."
"You made me wait a full day and get Butters to agree to it," I grumbled as I crossed my legs. I bounced one hoof over the other.
Sitting down, Eve held out her palm and gave a "do you see" gesture.
"I would not deny that my Queen has an interest in the condition and disposition of her knight," Lea stated.
"Noted," Eve sipped from her glass.
"Mab sent you to spy on me!" I said.
Eve and Lea exchanged suffering looks.
"Would it be wrong for her to be concerned about you?" Lea asked.
"Concern isn't part of her vocabulary," I snippily said, my voice rising.
Lea simply gave me a disappointed look. We both knew better. While Mab was very remote, very proud, very cold... she still cared about certain people. That was why the situation with her daughter Maeve became such a mess.
Lea turned to my sister. "She is very young."
"Not even a full day; she will grow."
"La, that is the way of things."
"Perhaps we should retire to a more personable and comfortable room?" Eve suggested after sipping some cider.
"Is that a forward proposition?" Lea playfully asked.
"Merely an offer for you to spend some quality time with your goddaughter," my sister stood up and started filling a fresh pitcher of warm cider and loading a platter with more pastries.
"How could I refuse such an offer," Lea smiled.
"Huh?" I blinked.
"Come," the sidhe said as she stood and took my hand. She then followed Eve into the living room. I clopped alongside my godmother.
I absently noticed my nieces had left the room. However my attention was distracted when Eve sat me down next to Lea before refilling our glasses and putting little plates with pastries on the maple coffee table before us.
Leaning onto my godmother, I gave a happy murmur.
"My... she is a treat."
"Yes, she is," my sister agreed as she took a seat on the second couch opposite us. But not before she placed something in Lea's hand. It was a silver handled hair-brush.
The same brush Mo- Nodoka... had used earlier in the evening.
"I suppose I shouldn't be worried about you giving an unfavorable report to your queen," Eve confidently said as she crossed her legs and smoothed her dress.
"I couldn't speak for my queen," Lea smiled as she inspected the brush. She laughed. "Well, not unless authorized or compelled to do so."
"Like when she was too angry to speak and had one of her malks talk for her," I softly said.
"There are other situations where our queen has required a proxy," Lea said as she put the brush into my hair and started giving long slow strokes.
Purring, I leaned over and stretched out, taking up much of the couch.
"Other than when she's full of rage and pain?" I asked, my voice high and innocent.
Lea smiled. "Yes. Perhaps you'll find out."
I blinked up at her, my eyelashes fluttering.
My godmother laughed, and quickened the brush-strokes. "Oh, thou are a delight!"
My cheeks flushed.
"I suppose any questions with regards to the queen's approval of her knight can be remedied in person?" Eve absently asked before sipping some cider.
Lea gave a predatory smile as she put her cup down. "I will admit that imagining, no, anticipating what my queen will do with her new pet does bring me amusement and pleasure," she punctuated her declaration by reaching over and picking up a glossy hoof and inspecting it.
"Pet?" I squeaked as my voice hit soprano. At least my ankle and knee joints were now flexible enough that she could pull one of my hooves towards her.
"Hush, Poppet," Lea assumed as she released my leg so she could brush with one hand while the other ran along the tip of my ear and the base of a horn.
My purring grew louder as I nuzzled closer and slipped my head onto her lap. Her gown was soft at least.
"Now, DarkStar pledged to my queen to impart 'some wisdom' on her knight," Lea looked down at me and smiled. "I do wonder if this exceeds the terms of the bargain."
My sister paused as if to consider. "Ah, but those lessons were provision that included to not to not detain or permanently damage the Winter Knight."
"Would thou say the injuries at the Denarian's hands constitute DarkStar's lessons?"
"No." I shifted to gaze up at my godmother's eyes. Eyes so much like mine, and for the first time I regretted the inability to Soulgaze with one of the sidhe. "I was the one that demanded to be changed," I stated, my voice ringing high and clear.
"Thou art one for reckless bargains. One could call it endearing," Lea said as she continued her ministrations.
I blushed but focused. "In fact, my sisters didn't change me at all. Technically, they merely provided the energy, the potential."
Lea chuckled. "Yes, thou said thee didst it to thy self."
"Well..." My voice drew small, like a little girl admitting something naughty. "It wasn't me... not exactly."
My godmother blinked. She then took in my choker, my pointed ears, my slitted eyes, the way my skin was tinged blue, and the rest. "Oh."
Lea laughed. "Thy queen may have some questions with regard to thee usurping the Mantle in such a way."
I crossed my arms. "When I asked her for help, she said I already had the full measure of Winter power. Way I see it, the Mantle's mine," I stated, totally not sounding like a pouty pre-teen.
My godmother gave a tut-tut noise as she brushed my hair. "Thou have much to learn."
"Not you too!" I groaned in frustration as my voice cracked. "First Ranma, now you. What, will I have to learn all sorts of sidhe rules and protocol? Courtly dances, and deportment. How to use a fish knife and when to use the salad fork." I asked, not whining
Lea slowed the brushing. "My, she is a needy little thing," she remarked to my sister.
"She is young, maturity will come," Eve said.
"I have known her for much of her life, of his life," Lea's fingers ran over the choker that encircled my neck. "Pardon my skepticism."
"Then it is fortuitous that you are aware of her special needs," Eve smoothly said.
"Hey! Stop treating me like a baby!" I cried, well not literally. Okay, not much. Well, there was a bit of a sniffle when my high, bell-like voice cracked.
Both my sister and godmother gave me "the look".
"Hush," Lea then reassured as she put her arm around and rocked me as she brushed.
Reluctantly, I resumed my purring.
"Arguably, thou shouldst already know such things about the Winter Court, Dame BlackStone," Lea continued.
"Lloyd Slate didn't," I pouted.
"Measuring thy self against your predecessor, might, perhaps, be an exercise in futility," Lea said as the brushing abruptly stopped. She lifted my chin and renewed her inspection of my features.
"Sure, the last Winter Knight was a thug and monster. Oh, and a traitor. I'm just a demon. I guess that means I'll be held to a higher standard."
"Yes, thou will." Her hungry, slightly mad, eyes met mine. "Moreso if thou presume to be one of the sidhe. Proper dress alone..."
I looked away, guiltily. "I'm, er... not exactly. I mean not really..."
Lea laughed. "Yes, yes. You are still a mortal. A lovely loophole." She nodded to Eve. "I'll admit your House is more charming than most of your kind."
Lea's smile was pitying.
"House BlackSky. Your grandmother," Eve reminded. "Far less gaudy than those of House Luxon. Though not as scheming as House Elena."
"Oh," I said in a small voice. Great, another powerful and scary authority figure in my life. I blinked. "Wait, Mab expressed knowledge of BlackSky upon her summoning."
Eve and Lea gave me looks that seemed to say "yes, and?".
"Perhaps a history refresher?" Lea suggested.
"We can add it do her study list."
"Do I not have any say on what ye would teach me?" I demanded, in a confident and even tone. Honest.
Lea giggled at my outburst. "And what would thou like to learn, dear Poppet?" she asked, running a finger over the length of a pointed ear.
I shivered, but there was something that could be useful, especially with this new form.. "Godmother, how do I cast a glamour?"
"That is knowledge, value." Lea smiled, flashing her delicately pointed teeth. "What would thou bargain?"
"You won't teach me just because I'm your godso- er goddaughter?" I asked hopeful.
Lea patted me on the head. "You are precious, Poppet. But, perhaps, not that precious," she added with a playful grin.
Eve tilted her head, the ghost of an amused smile on her face.
I exhaled. "I know you like dressing me up."
"An activity you so rarely let me indulge in," Lea sighed.
I shivered. In fact, I could only recall her dressing me up once. That was when she provided myself and Susan with enchanted armor and clothes... right before Chichen Itza. Before we rescued Maggie from the Red King. Before I killed Susan. Before we killed the Red Court.
"Ah," Lea's lips parted with anticipation. "Do you suggest a deal?"
I licked my glossy lips. "Yeah, glamours are about changing one's appearance, so you can indulge in dressing me up as you teach me."
My godmother looked a tiny bit disappointed. "Ah, but it's not real garments. Only seeming."
"She does possess other clothing powers," Eve suggested.
Lea's brows raised in interest. "Oh?"
"You mean like how Misako and Priscilla were adjusting my coat and shirt to fit me?" I asked.
"That or how Ranma can magically summon gowns and bodices, or how you can summon ice dresses and gowns," Eve dryly remarked.
I swallowed as Lea grinned. "Yes, Poppet, let us make this deal," she purred, her eyes flashing greedily.
My stomach grumbled as I looked at my reflection. Well, it was a reflection. A tall light-haired blonde with dark eyes looked back at me with a dimpled smile. Wet lips were pale red, a... natural color.
Her skin was an odd beige color, tinged with pink. I blinked. Her eyes were too round, as were her pupils. Her ears were too short. The reflection wore a blue sweater and a pair of shorts that weren't quite as abbreviated as Daisy Dukes, but still showed plenty of long shapely legs.
"I look weird," I said, my voice catching. My head felt muffled, both from keeping the Veil-like spell up and from hiding my horns.
Lea leaned up against my shoulder. "But you make such a pretty human."
I shifted to look sidelong at her and glared. My godmother was still in full sidhe form. Where I looked... plain.
"Oh she's jealous!" my niece Misako cooed, as she stepped up to us. Her made-up features frowned. "She's blushing all blue."
"Correct, precious one," Lea nodded to my niece. "A minor detail, but one that could expose her."
looks funny on human skin tone," Nabiki noted.
"Concentrate, Poppet!" Lea flicked me in the ear. "You must keep the image in mind. Concentrate on the details."
Grumbling, I focused and the blue tinge on my cheeks shifted into a more human red.
"Are thou satisfied? Have we done enough dress-up?" I asked, my tone even and mature. Though I might have stomped a high-heeled foot. At least I didn't sound one bit pouty.
"We have not begun to do enough to satisfy me," Lea whispered in my ear.
"Another gown then? Perhaps some evening wear?" Misako suggested.
My tail would have dropped had it been out.
"How about less formal?" Nabiki offered.
My spirits perked at that. However, my hunger was getting a bit more acute.
Misako sniffed the air. "Oh?"
"A nice yukata," the young woman offered.
Lea's expression turned appraising.
"A what?" I asked. I inhaled and my stomach grumbled louder.
"Think of it as a simple kimono," Misako explained. "Lighter, easier to wear."
"But breakfast," I whined.
"Thou wanted to be taught glamours," Lea chastised me.
"And I can pass as human!" I stomped a foot.
Lea gave me an amused smile.
Misako waved her hand. "You look a bit too farm-girl blonde, auntie."
I rolled my eyes and let the spell shift. Glamours were like veils in that both bent light to create illusions. However, where a veil made yourself invisible, a glamour... shifted your appearance.
Think airbrushing a model for a magazine cover as opposed to removing a Russian general who had fallen out of favor with the Politburo. Both involved manipulating what people saw, and both were hard requiring lots of fiddly little bits of detail-work.
However, I had experience with veils, and while I wasn't great, I could make 'em.
But more importantly…
I watched as my reflection shimmered and my features paled. Hair turned from blonde to Alice blue. Skin went from creamy beige to snowy white. Figure shifted to a more lithe and taller form. Lips darkened to a glossy blue, and the skin on my eyelids darkened.
More importantly, I was a succubus. I wasn't quite sure where my innate powers ended and the glamour took over, but they seemed to work hand-in-glove.
I concentrated and held my form. My ears wanted to return to their pointy shape, and given how Lea had flicked them I was pretty sure they actually were in their true form. Almond-shaped eyes looked back at me, but I made sure my pupils looked round, instead of slit.
"Watch your blusher," Misako reminded. "Blue blush is fine, but blushing blue isn't something humans do."
I huffed a bit and shifted the way my cheeks were colored. I exhaled. The muffled feeling had lessened. It took less power to maintain this form; it was closer to how I actually looked.
Lea stepped back and inspected my form. She then glanced at my nieces. "Is it that draining, Poppet?" she asked me.
"It wouldn't be if I hadn't spent the last two hours beforehand playing dress-up," I said my voice pitching clear and bell-like, until it cracked towards the end.
"Mind your tone," Lea smiled and laughed as if appreciating a joke. "Still, if the rest of thy family can pass as human, then perhaps this form would suffice."
I grumbled, annoyed that it took a glamour for me to look as "almost human" / "not technically uncanny valley" as the rest of my sisters and nieces.
"Perhaps if thou had not let thy Mantle choose thy form thou wouldst not be in this predicament."
"But then she wouldn't be all sidhe and blue," Nabiki said.
"Yeah, just think of what she'd look like as a normal succubus."
I stared at my reflection. This mess was my fault. I thought I could just be turned into a succubus. Well, really I just wanted to undo the crippling injuries Thorned Namisiel gave me.
Problem was, the Sister change didn't work that way. It wasn't my sisters turning me into a succubus. I was supposed to turn myself.
And... well... I dropped the ball.
But what if I hadn't? I gazed at my reflection. Well, I probably would have looked like how I thought a succubus should look.
And sure I'd seen quite few women swing the succubus look. Even before my sisters, there was Jenny Greenteeth of the Winter Court, and Rosanna of the Denarians. But... when it came to succubae, I'd have to say my brother's sisters came to mind.
Hells Bells. Would I have looked like Lara?
At least I'd still have dark hair. Though it'd be long and glossy, in that perfect slightly curled style. I'd be pale, but more of a natural pale and less freshly fallen snow. There'd be makeup, but it'd be subtle just enough to give people the wrong, or perhaps the right, idea.
I tilted my head. I wouldn't be as tall. Sure I'd still be tall, maybe six foot, but the Mantle made me nearly six and a half feet tall. Also without the Mantle's influence...
Well, I wouldn't be quite so lithe of figure. I looked down at how my reflection was filling that sweater. I exhaled and the muffled feeling around my horns abated.
"Now what's this?" Misako asked looking between myself and my reflection.
I blinked. A White Court vampire looked back at me.
She was a more willowy than Thomas' other sisters, but she had the same rich dark hair and silvery-flecked eyes. The overt allure was there.
However, she also had a pair of long horns, wings, and a tail. Some White Court vampires, those of House Raith, might play at the succubus bit, but they didn't have the demonic accoutrements.
Dark peach-colored lips parted. They certainly didn't have fangs.
"She looks kind of cute," Nabiki admitted.
"Exploring thy brother's side of the family?" Lea teased.
"Uh... yeah," I coughed. "Girls, this is what a vampire of the White Court looks like."
Misako looked skeptical. She then poked one of my blue wings
"Right," I concentrated and my demonic extras vanished. I focused on my glamour and my reflection's teeth shifted to something more human.
A young Raith sister stared back at me. For a moment I froze. And my stomach picked the perfectly wrong moment to protest its Hunger. My eyes flashed silver. I shivered and let the glamour drop.
The reflection shimmered. Hair paled, and features shifted.
"Never thought I'd be happy to see my gangly, fae-featured, longhorn and hooves self," I exhaled and stretched a leg. "Now can we get breakfast?" I asked shifting my stance. Stupid tight pants.
"Not going to try something more exotic?" Lea asked, her disappointment evident. "The poor Whites are so pedestrian," she pouted.
Stepping away from the mirror, I glared at her. Sidhe eyes meeting sidhe eyes.
"Fine," Lea gave a flippant shrug. She turned back to the sweater and pants I wore. "La, at least we can get you into something more comfortable," she said taking my arm and reversing my direction.
Lea eyed my sweater. "Thick and knit tops are not thy style."
"It is a bit heavy," I admitted.
Her gaze lowered. "And perhaps something with more room for the legs?"
"Something short? To show them off?" Misako offered.
"That would look lovely, Precious." Lea nodded.
Of course my godmother liked the most twisted and aggressive of my nieces.
Misako beamed. "And maybe some stockings?"
"Lovely as that would be." Lea laughed. "I was thinking the opposite garment style."
Looking at my reflection I swallowed.
Lea and Misako were fussing about me when Nabiki opened the door.
I could feel who was arriving which was why I let them continue their work. Having my hair brushed was very calming.
My coiffed niece and glamoured godmother stepped aside. Lea idly spun her silver hairbrush while Misako anxiously tapped her fingers on the side of her makeup case.
Butters stepped into the room with Cecilia at his heel. "Harry breakfast is..." He looked at me and paused. The knight then turned to the other women in the room then back to me. He blinked.
Smiling, I stepped forward. "Something disquiets you, my knight?"
He looked out the window, the sun was just rising. "Well, I never picked you for a morning person."
"A necessary, if draining, habit of this family," Cecilia remarked.
He looked around the room, seemingly avoiding returning his gaze to me. "I hope you slept well," he said noting the still-made bed in the room.
"Oh, very well." I blushed. Succubae sleeping habits were... comforting, if a bit crowded. In retrospect, it was obvious why Ranma's daughters knew I wasn't sleeping with her when I was human. It also explained why despite having so many people living under one roof, this house had a lot of spare bedrooms.
He nodded. "That's, uh good."
I smiled and gave a little twirl. Drawing attention to how my duster, and the rest of my clothes flowed about. "Lea's lessons were informative, I've learned a lot about glamours and how to change my appearance."
"You don't look anything special," he blurted out.
The mirth evaporated from my face.
Cecilia forced a grin. "My, I hope you've got more tact with your girl, young man."
Realizing he was surrounded by lovely, irate, and slightly mad women. Butters waved his arms. I'll admit it was amusing to, for once, be on this side of the "guy says something stupid to a bunch of women" equation.
"No, no. What I mean is she looks normal," he said, flustered.
I crossed my arms with a huff. My tail drooped as I looked down at my clothes.
"Oh geeze. Come on Harry." He looked up at me. "What I mean is you've spent how long with your godmother, the fashionista grenadier, and the adorable ice bomber?"
"I told you we should have gone with a mini skirt," Misako grumbled.
"Maybe the kimono would have impressed him," Nabiki quietly added.
"Or at least put her hair up," Misako added.
"I think she looks good with it brushed out, it gives her hair more body, and shine."
Lea raised a hand. "Hush girls, subtlety has its rewards."
Butters eyed Lea. Despite myself, I smiled. His growing resolve was impressive. Even a few years ago he would have had problems dealing with a high sidhe like her.
He then nodded to her. "You may be correct, as there is artistry and subtlety about her."
"I hardly got to do anything," Misako grumbled looking forlornly at her makeup box.
For a moment my smile grew. Then I caught my reflection. "Wait Butters! This is subtle?" I stomped. "I'm wearing a skirt."
"And a lovely one," Cecilia agreed.
I smiled at my sister and stepped closer to the knight. It was more comfortable to walk with less... restriction. Though the glossy dark blue material did swish about my legs. At least I managed to convince Lea that I was fine with an ankle-length bottom hem. Even if Nabiki pressured me into adding some ruffles.
The knight shrugged. "You've got hooves, horns, and a tail. A pretty blouse and skirt are kinda minor compared to that."
Close enough to loom over him, I shifted my stance so my knees and ankles were a bit more bent. It still placed me well above his height, but at least it wasn't quite so intimidating. "So, you approve?" I asked, in a confident and not at all needy voice.
"It's better than you putting on some gown, headdress, and pony mask and throwing yourself at me."
Lea made a thoughtful murmur.
Cecilia caught my godmother's eye, raised an eyebrow, and gave a slight nod.
"I liked her gowns," Misako grumbled.
"Time and place, Precious. Time and place." Lea assured.
"Oh, my queen hosts several... intimate events where an elegantly equestrian theme would be most suitable for her knight."
Laughing, Butters patted me on the shoulder. "See, this is what happens when you show your fairy godmother that you have magic dress-up powers."
Instead of giving a biting retort I simply leaned into his contact.
Approaching Cecilia, Lea stepped around the two of us. I noticed her intrigued glance but more of my attention was on Butters' reaction.
The knight pulled me into a somewhat awkward hug. "Come on, let's get some breakfast," he assured me.
"Well, if thou insist, Sir Knight," I smiled as we stepped to the door. My nieces followed us.
"It is a nice skirt," Butters hesitantly assured.
I raised an eyebrow.
He coughed. "It is. I'm just... well after yesterday..."
Stopping just outside the door. I continued to give him a silent look.
Butters sighed and looked to my nieces besieging.
"He means you spent yesterday turning your hair fluffy and red at him, plumping up your breasts," Misako smiled viciously. "Oh and turning yourself into a unicorn."
I blushed. "Oh... Akane saw.... she told you?"
"You also did it last night before dinner," Butters remarked.
"Yes, then," I laughed nervously.
"Well, there was the second gown you made this morning. The tight white one with the matching-"
I held up a hand to silence Nabiki and looked back and saw Lea and Cecilia were still in the bedroom. The two were quietly chatting.
"Are you coming?" I asked, vaguely disquieted by my sister and my godmother having a discreet conversation.
The lavender-haired woman gave a shy smile. "I might have some contacts. Why? What are you looking for?" she asked Lea.
"I might need thine advice on that." Lea took hold of the door. "Pardon, Poppet, but allow me some surprises."
"I'm not so sure I like surprises."
Cecilia smiled. "It's okay, Dear. You'll like this one," she reassured as Lea closed the door.
"Uh?" I asked, worry underscoring my voice.
"Don't be such a baby," Misako slapped my shoulder.
I glared at her.
Her smile froze as her tail stiffened. "Well... even if Auntie Cecilia is plotting something, it'll be nice."
"You said she was the devious one."
"But that doesn't mean she isn't nice about it."
I continued to look at her, and Misako wilted a bit.
Butters tugged at my arm. "Come on.... you'll feel better with some food in you."
"Yeah..." I agreed as we went down the hallway. Reaching the top of the stairs, I hesitated.
Misako's eyes went down to my hooves. Giving a little smile, she moved Butters's hand so it was at my elbow and... well she didn't quite push us down the stairs but she was a bit emphatic.
"Yes?" Butters asked.
"Auntie's a bit clumsy, just in case she trips, you can help," Nabiki smoothly said.
I gave him a weak smile.
He looked up at me and shook his head. "You know when I took this job I didn't expect I'd be helping baby demons figure out how to walk on their cute little hooves," he said as we descended the stairs.
Misako had ran ahead of us, bounding down two steps at a time. She had pulled out a camera and it flashed and clicked.
"Why does it feel like we've been setup on a date?" Butters asked.
"Don't blame me, I was with Lea and them since I got up," I said concentrating on hitting each step evenly. In some ways a hoof was a lot more challenging to work with than a foot.
"True, you're not exactly subtle, are you?" Butters smiled as we reached the bottom of the steps.
"I can be subtle!" I said, without stamping a hoof.
"About romance?" Butters asked.
I grumbled. But the smells coming from the kitchen had increased, and did mollify me as he led me towards them.
I could feel that my other two sisters were in the kitchen. Stepping in, I gave a bit of a disappointed murmur.
After seeing Eve "let her hair down" last night, both figuratively and literally, seeing her in her severe bun and grey suit-skirt getup was somewhat of a let-down. Ranma, on the other hand, was actually wearing a pale ruffled dress with a matching lacy apron.
Hearing a familiar noise, my eyes were drawn down and I saw silvery hooves peeking out of the bottom hem of her long dress. She also had a second pair of great spiraling horns out and her hair was up in a loose crimson bun garnished with lavender ribbons.
I blinked and watched my sister open the oven door.
"Did you learn anything fun?" the redhead asked as she pulled out a pan full of cinnamon pastries.
"Uh, yeah," I inhaled the savory aroma. I also must have come off as a bit lost because Butters pulled me towards the kitchen counter, where some plates and utensils had been set.
"Sure looks like it," Ranma said with a smile as she eyed my skirt.
I blushed as Eve fixed my coffee. "Remarkably subdued," she noted.
"Don't worry, we got plenty of time doing some fun dresses," Misako assured as she snatched a cinnamon roll. Nabiki gave her a frown but she took her own plate of provisions and went to the kitchen table where their sisters were already eating.
"It's good that your godmother was able to enjoy spending time with you." Ranma eyed me to convey the unspoken "without damaging anything."
I nodded. "So uh... what's with the getup?"
"It's my turn to cook breakfast," Ranma said as she filled my plate with pastries and fried bits of porkflesh.
I eyed her dress. Then looked down at my own. "Huh." My stomach's protesting cut off further introspection.
"Great another one going on about long skirts and hooves," Eve muttered.
"I know!" Misako shouted from the table. "You'd think miniskirts would be the most complementary!"
Ranma shrugged. "It's only two of us."
"We both know Cecilia prefers longer skirts." Eve sipped her coffee. "And just what are she and Miss Leanansidhe up to?"
"Some sort of surprise," Butters said as I continued to eat.
Eve made a thoughtful noise.
"As if we don't have a busy enough schedule," Ranma sighed.
"Miss Lartessa has given us a one day reprieve so far; I doubt we can count on many more," Eve stated.
"Denarians are jerks like that," I muttered, chewing on a wedge of ham. "Drop in unannounced, never make appointments, ruin vacation trips."
Eve reached over and gently closed my mouth.
I blushed, then sipped some coffee. "So, what punishing training do you have for me today Red?"
"You should touch base with Dr. De Cotis and Dirac," Ranma said.
"Another meeting of the eggheads?" I asked and smiled at Butters. "You'll like Dirac he's a magic geek like you."
"Still, I would love to get your flying better, and work on your team tactics," Ranma nodded to Butters.
"I can fly," I grumbled. "You pushed me out of a helicopter."
"Fly. Better," Ranma corrected. "However..."
"Lady Pluto wants you to meet with her associate," Eve briskly completed.
"The mercenary she wants to hire for me."
"In about an hour," Ranma hesitated. "She wants you to go alone with her."
Eying Butters' mostly untouched place, I licked some icing off my lip. "Why?"
"She said she'd prefer the meeting to be private. Especially if you decline his services."
"Huh." I speared a sausage and chewed it. "You trust her?"
The coifed redhead sighed. "I have some... minor concerns but if I were in your shoes I'd go alone with her."
"But neither of us are wearing shoes," I joked.
My sister gave me "the look".
I sighed. "Right. Pluto's a spooky creepy girl, but she's probably not a bad guy. Still..."
"I feel like I'm 'on rails' here Red, that I'm less making decisions and that events are being managed for me," my tail flicked in irritation.
Ranma sipped her juice. "You made the choice to be one of us."
"It's not like you mind the training. You complain, but you're like a sponge; you soak in everything," she sighed. "That's why we have to make the most of the time we do have."
Eve put down her mug. "So yes little sister, you are being managed," she said, bluntly.
Eating another cinnamon roll I waited for her to continue.
"We know we can't stop you from fighting Miss Lartessa, not now."
My tail curled as I thought that over. I was pretty sure she was lying. Okay, I was more physically powerful now, especially when compared to my injured state when I was human, but this power came with new vulnerabilities. I'd lay good odds that if anyone could shut down a baby succubus it would be her elder sisters, especially if the three of them worked in concert.
"Thus, we're doing our best to make sure our little sister will be able to survive her next fight."
I opened my mouth to protest.
Ranma cut me off. "Yes, you can heal, but if you don't know your limits, you could easily starve. Trust me, you do not want a starving, out of control succubus on the battlefield."
I felt the room get tense as the broodlings looked towards their mother, worry radiating off their horns.
"Uh, yeah I'll be careful," I assured. I gathered this was something she had experienced, personally.
My sister looked at me with a not quite believing expression.
Eyes slightly wide, Butters's expression turned thoughtful as he looked between us. He picked up a bit of sliced and fried steak.
"I'll be extra careful," I pouted.
Wordlessly, Butters dumped a few rashers of bacon on my plate, and then tossed on a couple of breakfast sausages.
I turned up my nose at him. Well, I did that after eating a few slices of bacon.
"Really? Not gonna make a lewd joke about me giving you sausage," Butters teased.
"Please, I have some taste, that's more a Bob level joke," I said, referring to my former magical assistant. Butters now possessed the skull, and the pervy spirt of intellect that dwelled within.
I frowned. "Oh man, Bob's going to have a field day with me." The sprit was extremely knowledgeable about magic, but he was also obsessed with the female form. Though that might have been my fault, given I first got the skull when I was a teenage boy, and well... the skull is shaped by whoever holds him.
Instead of laughing, Butters looked a bit embarrassed but had to nod in agreement. He knew just as well what Bob was like. Stars and Stones, he was the one that introduced Bob to the internet.
Since Butters knew Bob back when I had him, the spirit didn't change much when he took custody of the skull. Or I should say, Butters already had a mental idea of how Bob should act. Which was good, that meant if the skull ever returned to me Bob wouldn't change that much because its holder was a succubus.
Ranma looked into her mug. "Well, we do have a bit of time before Puu... before Pluto shows up. Perhaps we can go to the dojo?"
I may have made a little whimper. "But I can't be torn up, not if I'm going on a meeting."
My sister smiled. "Oh, I've got something gentle in mind."
My tail drooped.
"Now, now, I'm thinking of some more simple yoga. You know, get your flexibility up." Teeth flashed as her grin grew.
"What a lovely idea," Lea said as she and Cecilia entered the kitchen. "You did seem very stiff this morning, Poppet," she said, somehow finding a place next to me.
"Improved flexibility has many benefits," Cecilia added as she helped Ranma serve Lea, then helped herself to some breakfast.
Lea nodded as she nibbled on a cinnamon roll.
"And doubtless it'd help with whatever scheme you two are cooking up," Ranma noted while Eve smiled approvingly. The redhead then swept her hands over her dress and the pale material split and flowed as it morphed into her violet lycra bodysuit. Her hair tumbled down her back, and her larger pair of horns vanished.
"Oh sister, you exaggerate" Cecilia gave a shy, utterly innocent grin, that almost fooled me, and I had overheard her and my godmother plotting. My unassuming sister was scary at being... unassuming.
Snorting, Ranma turned to me. "Don't worry, we're just going to establish a baseline. Find out your limits of flexibility. Later you can work on expanding."
I swallowed. "See Red, I know what it means when you want to test someone's limits."
Stepping through the portal Pluto had summoned, I shivered. I was used to opening Ways between realities, but the iridescent slit Lady Pluto made felt... alive. She also took a bit more time and cast some sort of spell with her staff before marking the edges of the portal with a series of glyphs.
Stomping my hooves, I got the tingling to stop in my legs. I lifted a leg and stretched it out. There was a bit of a pop and I rolled my shoulders. Ranma was right, I was a lot more flexible now. Still, I'm not sure the best way to teach me that was to twist me into pretzels. I looked over and saw Pluto wave her staff and close the gash.
The staff then shimmered and melted shrinking into a garnet tipped charm hanging on a silver chain that she slipped over her wrist. She adjusted her coat and stepped over to study me.
Her gaze swept from my pale, almost white, Alice blue hair, past my gleaming choker, down my leather duster, over my lacy dark blue blouse and glossy maxi-skirt, and finally ended at the polished hooves that just peeked out the ruffled bottom hem.
"Jut making sure you can pass. You'd be amazed how often your nieces will forget that they've got horns or wings out." She meaningfully looked down at my legs.
"I somehow doubt their mothers would train them to be that sloppy," I crossed my arms.
She simply continued to look down. "And you had that... godmother was it? Helping you this morning," she murmured.
"They can pass for stiletto heels!" I stomped. I had added sharp burrs extending down the back of my hooves, and really the shape and a mild glamour was enough.
Lady Pluto's comment about Lea got me thinking. What was my godmother up to? She left the house just as Pluto had arrived to pick me up. Maybe she had gone back to my world. Maybe not. I did note that none of my sisters even tried to ask what Lea was up to. It made me wonder if the Company had even bothered trying to surveil her, or did they realize it's futile to try to track a powerful fae who can veil herself.
Then again those mercenaries didn't strike me as quitters.
Moving to studying the sides of my head, Pluto chuckled. "Shame, you didn't do something about the ears."
"Hey, I've got a glamour over those, and I brushed my hair forward!" I cried. Really with the glamours my godmother had taught me I could walk down the street in my full Blue Beetle armor and not be noticed. Though it didn't seem wise to push my luck, not on my second day.
Pluto rolled her eyes and muttered about demons. She reached into her pocket and handed me a pair of sunglasses. "At least you're not stuck on all thee and thou."
"Put 'em on," Pluto ordered as she stepped out of the alley.
I reluctantly complied and followed her. She had a point, my eyes were unmistakably fae and if my glamour wasn't.... quite up to snuff... well people noticed eyes more than they noticed feet. Or in my case hooves.
We exited the alley and she went left down the sidewalk.
I looked around. It was a city, but the buildings looked old brick and stone. Things seemed bright, if a bit worn. On the other side of the street was a narrow canal. Probably Europe. Maybe Venice? Amsterdam? Though none of the signs looked to be in Italian or Dutch...
My stomach grumbled and I wished I had had a larger breakfast, but I shrugged and followed Lady Pluto. I smiled as we passed some people about their business. Inhaling, I relished the fresh air and the rich scents. My hunger burbled and I found my eyes drawing to store windows and linger on the food within as we walked past. For a city, things smelled okay over here.
Pluto led me towards a small outdoor cafe that was at the corner of two winding side streets. It was nice to get a bit of walking in, and enjoy the.... scenery. Even if the smooth stones did make or awkward footing, but my legs were nimble enough and I got to get in a bit of people watching. Absently, I noted a bit of understanding with my brother's views on the same subject.
Pluto found an older man sitting alone at a table. Leaning his back to the wall, he read from a newspaper and sipped from one of those tiny European coffee cups. The cup looked even smaller in his big, scarred fingers.
A large polished oak cane with a silver topper in the shape of a dog's head was hooked over the edge of the table. Sensing us, he folded the newspaper, removed a black wide-brimmed hat, and gestured for us to sit.
Thin lips parted to give a smile with an amused gleam. His hair was long and pulled back in a ponytail that was almost all silver. A neatly trimmed grey beard adorned a lined face. He looked about twenty years older than me. Well... older than I looked as a human. I'm not exactly sure how old I look now.
I mean an adult succubus could look whatever age she wanted, but I wasn't exactly an adult succubus.
Adding to his battered, but roguish look were scars running across his cheeks and the sable eye patch that covered his left eye. His skin was tanned and rough, as if he'd spent many years of hard living. Even sitting down, he looked tall. The grey suit he wore was finely tailored, but did nothing to hide his strong, wiry frame. A silver pocket square was neatly folded in his coat pocket.
The bespoke styling did hide his shoulder holsters pretty well. He wore no tie with his black button-down shirt, which was also tailored to hide a soft bullet proof vest he probably wore. That is unless the man was bulkier than I had guessed.
His eye tracked the both of us, though he spent more time looking me over. He seemed to pay particular attention to how my long skirt moved when I walked. Did he know my joints were different? Most people hardly noticed. His lips curled into a satisfied smile that felt... odd.
"My, what trouble did ya get into?" he asked in a deep, somewhat raspy voice, dropping his hat onto the spare seat he'd draped his black jacket over. His gaze flicked to my choker and he seemed to nod at the pentacle over winter snowflake design.
Once again, I could feel his gaze follow my legs as I smoothed my skirt and sat down across from him, and crossed my legs. Lady Pluto sat to my right.
I blushed at the attention. Hoping both that my glamour ensured the skin tone stayed human and that he did not notice anything amiss with how my ankles worked.
"I heard you were willing to do work?" I asked, adjusting my duster's belt so I could sit more comfortably.
"I am a man with many hats, but today, for you, I'm here as a mercenary, well perhaps an assassin." His almost piratical smile returned. "Now, what'll I call you, Miss?"
"BlackStone. Dame BlackStone," I stated, automatically and with as much authority as I could put in my high voice.
Lady Pluto picked up a menu and flipped to the tea page.
His eyebrow moved in such a precise move that it had to be an exact tell. "And how can I help the Winter Court, my lady?"
"How do you know this is for Winter?"
The large, roguish man gestured towards my choker. "Call me experienced with ladies of Winter."
My blush grew, and I wondered if he could see through my glamour.
"Let us presume that if Dame BlackStone is acting under the auspices of Winter then it is in her legitimate capacity as the Winter Knight. However, that does not necessarily put your actions under the obligations, or protections, of Winter," Lady Pluto explained.
"If I take yer contract," the man clarified.
"If you take the contract," Pluto happily agreed.
The man leaned back. "It'll depend on exactly what that contract entails." His eye fixed on me. "Dame BlackStone, who are you fixin' for me to fight?"
"Oh, nothing much." I smiled. "Wolfmen cults, Denarians, and Outsiders. Think you can handle it?"
His eye widened slightly and the man sipped from his tiny cup. "Well, I may need to raise my fee," he admitted to Lady Pluto. "Given all this, I've got more questions."
"I have answers," she replied.
"Yeah, no need for you to go in blind," I added.
He smiled, evidently approving of my quip.
"Good, good." He lifted a hand and held out two fingers to Pluto.
The girl nodded to him.
"Good news." A smile grew over his scarred face.
"Hmm?" I asked tilting my head.
He put the cup down on the saucer with a dainty clink. "It looks like you've bought a two for one deal."
End Chapter 12
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf.
And a bit of further news, the remaining chapters and the epilogue of Blood Debts have been written and are in editing / prereading. So good news. In time, will be able to read this story to completion.
Thanks to everyone for their comments and help with this!