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 9: Choices, Part A
The blonde demon looked me square in the eye. I could sense just a bit of relief in her expression. Like her sisters, she preferred direct eye-contact. However she had, until recently and deferring to me, avoided it. Things were different now.
Now, I needed her to do this. The Soulgaze hit and I was pulled into those deep blue eyes. My vision blurred; I lost the feeling of my body.
And then I found myself sitting in a hard metal chair.
I blinked. That is both my eyes blinked. I looked down and found two legs, two hands. In light of that, it made sense that I was sitting instead of lying on a bed. I shifted in my seat. The throbbing background pain was gone. Sure, Butters and the mercenary doctor, Covington, weren't exactly stingy with medication, and sure I had my own ways to manage pain. But I knew I had been hurt, and bad. The chair was uncomfortable though.
I looked around.
The room was square, grey, drab. It was almost a cube. The walls were painted concrete. A steel-trimmed, grey desk divided the room. A blocky bulk, it looked like it had been taken from a battleship. Hells Bells, the thing was bolted to the concrete floor.
Which, I noticed, was slightly sloped towards a drain that sat a couple feet in front of my chair. Vertical file cabinets lined three of the walls. A row of bookcases filled with heavy hardcover books lined the wall behind the desk. I noticed that the room had no door.
I then looked at the desk itself. There was a blotter in the center. A row of mechanical pencils, a sleek green phone, and an open ledger were to the right. To the left was a collection of framed photographs. I noticed that they were all of the brood. There were pictures of Eve and her daughters, Eve and her sisters, and mixed pictures of various broodlings. There were portraits and impromptu pictures of them while training.
On the edge of the desk facing the chair was a row of... tools. The collection of knives, prods, needles, shears, nails, and vials gleamed in the light. I looked down and noticed that the chair I was sitting on was also bolted to the floor.
Sturdy steel loops that connected to handcuffs and shackles were also threaded through the chair's frame. Thankfully, none of them were actually around my arms or legs.
I looked back up and studied the woman behind the desk. The tall well-endowed figure was familiar as was her crisp, grey uniform. I did noticed that there was a bit more amusement in her blue eyes, and that her blonde hair wasn't pulled in quite so severe of a bun.
"Mr. Dresden," Eve drawled as she pulled the ledger closer. "You have killed in cold blood. You tortured one man by beating him with a baseball bat and tortured a ghoul by burying it in an anthill."
I shivered and looked around the room. Soulgazes worked both ways, but they didn't usually involve a conversation. Though they can be altered. I had such a dialog with my brother when I gazed him. My mother had set that up, in case her sons ever met.
The demon's voice was dispassionate as she flipped a page. "You slit a helpless man's throat to take his power, killed a lover to commit genocide, murdered a man by having your dog break his neck, ah, and you also eviscerated Leonid Kravos and then ate him."
"Hey, that was Kravos' ghost! And the damn sorcerer ate part of me first. Besides, it was my ghost anyway.... kinda," I muttered.
Looking expectant, Eve folded her hands.
"Great, so I Soulgaze you and get told more about myself. Are you that secretive?" I grumped.
"Really Mr. Dresden? You can do better than that." She leaned forward. "You're not the simple-thug you present yourself as."
I eyed her. Then studied the contents of the room again. The neat files, the pristine desk, the "interrogation" tools. "You're a piece of work aren't you?"
"It's not like you're unaware of what I am. When we first met, you called me Ilsa did you not?"
"That was a joke," I muttered. Then I heard a song. It was somewhat familiar.... It was one of my brother's custom ring tones. The one he used when the other side of his family called. The vampiric side. I'd heard it a couple times when they'd rung Thomas... before my powers killed his phone, again.
It was the national anthem of Nazi Germany.
I gave the blue-eyed blonde torture demon a half-lidded stare. "Really?"
Eve actually looked... bashful. "We don't get to pick our parents do we? Or our grandparents."
Despite myself, I nodded. My mother was known for... pushing the limits of the Laws of Magic. And my grandfather... well Ebenezar was the BlackStaff. He was the one person on the White Council authorized to break the Laws of Magic. I'd personally seen the man kill over a hundred men with a single spell, and that was just the tip of the blood on his hands.
"I suppose grandfather Konrad wasn't so bad," Eve actually gave a wistful smile.
"This tells me you're not a World War Two aviation buff."
I blinked. "No..."
"Oberst Konrad Jarvis was one of the top Aces of the War. Yes, he killed many, but haven't we all? Now grandfather Koning...." she looked away.
Images flashed past me. Experimentations, exsanguinations, camps, surgeries, necromancy... a lingering shadow.
Eve flashed her fangs as the vision was pulled back. "Humans are quite capable monsters are they not, Mr. Dresden?"
"Uh yeah..." I shook my head. Necromancers were lurking about in both our worlds' versions of World War Two.
I looked to the pictures. There were no pictures of Eve's human family. I studied the picture that had Ranma and Eve. The blonde was clutching the redhead, holding tight.
"You asked to be turned." I exhaled. "You weren't even hurt were you?"
"Sometimes, the apple doesn't far from the tree, Harry," Eve said. "Sometimes, you can choose your family. Sometimes, prodigal son doesn't want to return."
"You didn't want to be a monster," my mouth felt dry. "That's why you became a demon. What kind of life does that?"
Eve gave a weak smile. "A lonely one, Harry. A very lonely one."
I was pulled back into my body. Pain flared up and my vision reduced. I slumped on the bed and lifted my head. Eve sat on the edge of the bed. Straightening, she bore a quizzical if somewhat satisfied expression. We were back in the guest room in Ranma's house. The same one I had stayed in the first night. Except now, there was a lot more medical equipment.
She bowed her head to me. "Ranma is right about you."
"Glad," I worked my jaw. "So... were we just chatting in an office?"
"Is that what you saw?" A blonde eyebrow rose. "Fascinating."
I resisted making a Spock joke. For one she didn't have pointy ears. Which was a bit odd, I knew Ranma had them when she was feeling extra demonic. Then again, Eve didn't strike me as the flashy type. Probably had to do with being male as a human.
"Yeah, we had a nice chat. What did you see?"
Eve's lips quirked. "A report. Very thorough."
The stern blonde laughed. She held my wrist. Her touch was warmer than I expected. "I would be happy to have you as a sister," she promised with a gentle squeeze before standing.
"Provided, you'd accept having me as yours," she added smoothing her suit coat. I detected just a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
"You're not the only one with skeletons in your closet."
The blonde gave a single chuckle.
"Really... I'm still more scared about the whole...." I admitted gesturing down over my body. My arm's sweep may have ended at about crotch level. "You've gone through the sister change. How did you handle it?"
"Remarkably easily." Eve's expression sobered. "The change does that. Perhaps I should say, it ensures it."
I looked over the buxom blonde poised in her charcoal suit-skirt. She was effortlessly graceful. Even without trying, she was alluring, and that was without any of the mental whammy tricks I'd seen the White Court pull. "Predatory advantage?"
Eve nodded. "We are mimics. Certain instincts are... advantageous. Hunting, feeding, being comes easily. "
"But the Hunger?" I knew my brother struggled with it. But the White Court vamps had a separate entity within them demanding to be fed. The brood however...
"Is a desire," Eve stated sounding somewhat confused.
"No, I mean, you don't have a voice demanding you to feed? Pushing your every action?"
"You have seen us in action, seen us at rest. How controlled by our baser instincts would you say we are?" Eve asked, mildly.
I frowned. It was a good question. The brood seemed to prize self-control. Though self-control was a keystone of martial arts and military discipline. "I guess what I'm worried about is what I'd be like..." I swallowed. "As a succubus."
There I said it. I was asking to become a succubus. Stars and Stones. What did it say about a plan that both Mab and Butters thought was insane?
Eve tilted her head. "You sell yourself short, Harry. You've endured worse. You've thrived in spite of worse. You'll thrive after this. You're too stubborn to give up."
She smiled. "If that's all, I'll send Cecilia in, yes?"
"Yeah," I said distracted by the future. Defeating Tessa was only the first part. I still had to get back to Chicago.
Eve looked pensive. "Be careful with her, she's had... a troubled life."
I might have considered her words, but I was busy thinking about afterwards.
Hells Bells, I had to see Maggie and Bonnie. Well, at least Butters was here. That'd smooth things out with the Carpenters.
I was mulling things over, so I didn't notice the door open and one demon leave nor the time that passed before the next one entered. Looking up, I saw a lovely woman with curly lavender hair. Her proportions weren't quite as generous as either of her sisters, but she was still a succubus.
However, where Ranma was confidently self-assured and Eve was utterly implacable Cecilia was actually apprehensive.
"Take a seat," I offered.
She sat down in the chair next to the bed.
I looked her over. She had a bit more makeup than her sisters and wore a nice white dress. She looked the most "Mom-like" of the trio. Which I suppose wasn't hard given Ranma's sharp aggressiveness and Eve's Valkyrie sternness.
I frowned, recalling Eve's parting words. What did it mean when someone like her said someone else had a "troubled life"?
"Do we have to do this?" Cecilia asked. "I trust my sisters, and I know that you've fought with us..."
I held up my hand. "Well, I'd like it, but... we can just keep a secret. It's just the two of us right?"
"What are you afraid of seeing?"
"It's not that." The demon shook her head.
Ah. "You don't need to be embarrassed by anything I see. I'll keep it a secret."
Her laugh returned. "Of course you would. We'd be family."
I worked my jaw. "You've already agreed?"
Nervousness dissipating, Cecilia rolled her eyes. "Sometimes my sisters are far too cautious. Afraid that any slip up and they'll crush someone, hurt someone." Her gaze went distant. "They don't know the real damage one of us can do."
She shrugged. "You asked for it, and despite the drama of waiting for your doctor friend's Okay, we both know you're fit to make your own decisions."
Her attitude was a bit more my preference. All this introspection was making me uncomfortable. "What if I regret it?"
Cecilia gave me a pitying smile. "Oh, to have that luxury."
"If it's not fear about seeing what's in my head, and not embarrassment about me seeing what's in yours, then why don't you want to Soulgaze?" I asked, more curious than anything else.
Cecilia's eyes went down as she adjusted her skirt hem. "I don't want to hurt you," she said in a quiet voice.
I managed to keep myself from snorting. I had 'gazed quite a few tough customers, and a lot of broken people. There was the torture my brother was under. There was seeing the enslaved soul of a Denarian's human host.
That didn't even count the things I had seen with my Sight. I had filled quite the bookcase of terrible, forever-vivid memories: unspeakable horrors, gut-wrenching physic torture, death and more.
So, my initial reaction was to dismiss the demure demon's worries.
But then, I considered things before speaking.
Hey, blame the medication. Or maybe that this was serious business. Or maybe that I didn't like hurting women. Hey... I don't have to blurt out every thoughtless idea that enters my mind.
One thing stuck out. Most of the brood didn't exactly talk about how they had lost their humanity. Ranma mentioned something about past lives, but Cecilia was like Eve, before that Soulgaze at least, I knew nothing about how she had turned.
Given things like the D Program, I knew it was a sensitive issue. Except, Cecilia wasn't part of the D program. Morrison and Morgan were the first, and Cecilia was older than them.
"How did you become a demon?" I gently asked.
Despite her current human-seeming appearance, I could just imagine her tail uncoiling.
"I was taken. I was turned by Alexia," she said spitting the name with venom.
"Alexia was Ranma's cousin. Well, a cousin from back before she reincarnated, back when she was DarkStar. I'm not sure about how all that ancient history works but Alexia cared about it," Cecilia shrugged.
"Alexia was another succubus?"
Cecilia gave me "the look". She sighed. "Alexia was banished. Growing up, she heard the stories about DarkStar, grew jealous about how grandmother BlackSky lionized her. Then she found that DarkStar had returned... and was working for the humans."
"She wanted revenge?"
"And to prove herself. Prove to grandmother that she was strong, that the banishment should have been lifted."
"Why was she banished?"
"She was a poor mother."
Cecilia leaned forward. "You don't understand. Over our daughters... we're powerful, wizard."
"The connection? The empathic bonds?" I had felt the link Ranma had with her daughters. And the one bit of "humanity" Eve had in her Soulgaze was shown by pictures of her family.
"Yes, mother and daughter, sister and sister. Mates. All linked," Cecilia gave a sad smile. "Now consider the opportunities for abuse."
"Like fishhooks in the brain, all the brood mother needs to do is... tug."
I winced. I'd seen something similar with the Red Court vamps. They were all linked and abused each other. Well, until someone exploited that link, and they all died.
"Broodlings are precious. But consider if someone just bit humans and made daughter after daughter after daughter. Not as people but as clay."
"That's the transformation where the mother forces the change?"
"Force. That hardly describes it." Cecilia looked bittersweet. "So many of us died."
"DarkStar was alone. She was young. Alexia thought..." Cecilia closed her eyes. "Alexia thought that she could kill her with weight of numbers."
"They were freshly turned?"
I thought back to seeing the redhead tear through a dozen hulking wolfmen. Sending baby succubae against a someone like that...
"It was a slaughter?"
"It built up to it. Alexia changed tactics, she changed those close to Ranma," Cecilia looked down. "It got worse."
I nodded; I knew how personal the redhead took things.
"As they fought, more died. And Ranma got more daughters. Alexia got more as well or at least daughters she paid attention to. Ones she dressed up and played house with."
I could feel the hate and jealousy roiling off of the woman.
"She even stole one of Ranma's daughters and added her to a group that she groomed as daughters. Real daughters, not minions that she made and threw away." A growl edged her voice.
"You were made into a minion?"
That sad smile returned and she shook her head. "I wouldn't be here today, nor would my daughters."
"Ranma killed them all?"
"Not personally, and Akane, Nabiki, and Misako were saved but..." Cecilia sighed. "Alexia didn't realize what she started."
"Ranma ate her?"
"Ranma ate her."
I nodded. Part of me felt very satisfied by that. Alexia had used her powers to cause pain and destruction. She'd hurt women and children. She'd also inadvertently done a lot to strengthen Ranma, to drive her further from her humanity.
Throwing a constant supply of minions at a young demon, forcing her to fight, to feed, forcing her to make and adopt daughters, causing her to rely on the Company more and more...
"Alexia helped make Ranma who she is?"
"Did your enemies make you?" Cecilia reached out and put a hand on my leg, just above the stump. "If you go through with this, will you say Tessa made you one of us?"
I pulled back a bit from the contact. "If you weren't fighters..."
Cecilia flexed her fingers. "We were sex demons."
"We were used for sex. Rewards, recruitment, entrapment, blackmail, raising money." She looked past me. "Even recreation. Alexia's personal recreation."
I coughed. That was all too familiar of some of the less savory parts of the White Court, or the Denarians for that matter. "And when she died?"
"We were living elsewhere. We escaped notice. We weren't important. As the eldest I took charge. I..." She gave me a soft smile. "I took care of us," Cecilia said with some pride.
"Then we got noticed. Then the Canadians arrived. Then the DarkStar that killed so many of our sisters came for us."
"She didn't kill you," I offered, lamely.
Cecilia laughed. "No, she didn't. She wasn't the monster Alexia made her out to be."
I reached up and took her hand. "It's okay, we don't have to do the Soulgaze."
Exhaling, Cecilia shook her head. "I've already told you everything. It's just..." she swallowed. "It's one thing to say it, it's another to experience it."
I winced. She had a point. Each Soulgaze was different, and sometimes they were excruciatingly intimate.
"I don't want to hurt you."
I couldn't dismiss her concerns. "I know, but I have seen worse," I assured her. The hell of it was... I had.
The demure demon nodded. She slowly exhaled and looked up. Lavender eyes met mine. I felt the tug and after a moment's hesitation went with it.
Pressure hit me. I fell into darkness. I saw people stripped of their humanity, their personalities; their beings twisted and abused.
I felt the fishhooks in my brain as a titanic demon with yellow-blonde hair and tanned skin twitched her puppets. Flesh warped; they danced; they died.
The tanned demon abandoned her toys. I was filled with the sick desire and longing for the one that abused me. Alexia had tormented Cecilia, she had humiliated Cecilia, she had used Cecilia...
But she was still Cecilia's mother. And Cecilia still craved her approval.
The dominating presence pressed down on Cecilia and crushed her. Who she was evaporated. The support and love a young broodling required was gleefully withheld as Alexia focused on her favorite toys.
A core of resilience burned within Cecelia as others fell to their baser instincts. She still had a bit of hope, that she would get through this.
Then their numbers began to dwindle. Alexia threw more and more at the Enemy. But the Enemy was not sated by the deaths of toys.
The Enemy grew closer.
And then the presence was gone. It was like the sun going out.
Alexia was dead.
For a time Cecilia was alone with her girls. She had the core; she stepped forward and became for them what Alexia would not. I saw the young demoness bloom into motherhood.
Pride and hope grew within the little brood.
And then the Canadians came. Soldiers burst into their comfy home and the fear returned. The Enemy had returned.
The Enemy relented.
I saw how Cecilia clung to that narrow reed of hope.
It took root and grew.
The Enemy accepted her and hers.
The darkness ebbed and pulsed as I felt the broods intermingle. Connections grew between them, emotions flowed, trust built. Reveling in the warm cozy feelings I drifted out of the Soulgaze and it felt like I fell back into my bed.
Sweat had beaded on my brow.
Cecilia was blinking to herself. She looked up, eager but nervous.
"It ended nice," I allowed.
The demon gave a little laugh. "So did yours. Well, until you came here. Even your romantic life was.... improving," she allowed.
I felt a bit of pain. What can you say when you've had multiple lovers brainwashed and one turned into half vampire, then full vampire, then dead by your hand. "Yeah..."
She looked thoughtful. "Though, you seem to have the same hang-ups my sisters do." Nodding to herself as if she came to a decision, the demon brightened. "Still, your daughters are lovely."
I took her hand. "So are yours."
Her cheeks pinked ever so slightly. "That's all three of us. What's next?"
"I've gotta get Butters to sign off and then..."
Her expectant look returned.
"Then I've got to make sure I want to do this."
Patting my hand, Cecilia laughed. "Oh Harry, you're going to do this. You wouldn't have bothered with all this effort to get cold feet at the end."
Cecilia left the room, and only a few minutes had passed before the door opened.
Butters slipped in. He looked a bit winded and was drinking water from a plastic bottle. He was dressed in loose cargo pants and t-shirt. I saw the hilt of his Sword sticking out of a pouch on his belt. Well, it was more like a holster.
I grumbled. It looks like everyone was into holsters but me.
Butters blinked. "Uh, how is your morning, is everything okay?" He asked slipping up to me. A flashlight came out of his pocket and he gave me a once over before checking the chart that rested on a side table.
"Sure. I managed to get to the bathroom all by myself. And it only made my ribs feel like they were halfway on fire."
He nodded and put the chart down. "You've Soulgazed all the sisters."
"Am I next?" His tone was matter of fact.
I frowned. "No.... I'd prefer saving that for after."
"If I do this. Wouldn't it be a good idea to have someone I trust Soulgaze me? Make sure I'm okay. Make sure I'm...."
Butters clenched his jaw but he nodded. "Make sure you're you. I can't fault the logic," he admitted. "It's just a lot of responsibility."
I spread my hand. "Hey, it's the big leagues. You knew the job was dangerous when you took up the Sword."
He tapped the hilt thoughtfully. "Yeah, I've been thinking about that. What my job is as a Knight. What we're supposed to protect."
"It's all about free will isn't it? Sure we fight monsters, but ultimately it's making sure people can choose. We're opposed to the Fallen, not the hosts."
"Sucks when a host can give up the coin and play possum though," I noted. It was a standard tactic. If a Denarian forfeited the coin and surrendered, even if they fully intended to recover the coin... a Knight couldn't touch 'em.
Butters grabbed the hilt of his sword. He drew it.. "Michael told me that the hardest part was knowing when to stand back." He contemplated the length of wood with a little nub of metal sticking out. That metal was all that remained of the original steel katana blade. Before it was reforged into a katana it was a tsurugi known as Kusanagi.
And before that... well it depends on which religious view you take. There's the history that Shinto attributes to Kusanagi. Meanwhile Fidelacchius is one of three Swords, each of which has a Nail worked into the hilt. Yes, those nails.
We both knew that misusing the Sword was how it had gotten broken in the first place, and that Butter's faith that he could make a difference was what reformed it into its new form. I noted he didn't activate the glowing blade it now possessed. He sighed and gingerly placed the hilt onto the end table next to my medical chart.
"As Knight of the Cross and wielder of Fidelacchius," he adjusted his glasses. "I can't stop you. You are free to make this choice."
"Oh-kay....." I drawled.
He picked up my chart and made a show of going through the pages. "And as your doctor, I have observed you post-injury for long enough to conclude you are lucid and in control of your faculties. Thus you are fit to make life changing decisions with regard to your own welfare."
The chart was put down just as gently as his Sword. "But Harry, as your friend I can't agree to this."
"You don't trust them?"
"I hardly know them!" Butters waved his arms. "I've been here, what, two days?" Seeing my ire he shook his hand. "No, I'm not saying they're bad. My girlfriend's a werewolf, I'm friends with an incubus, and my mentor and assistant is a talking skull. They're not the problem here."
"Then what is?"
Butters rubbed his forehead. "Did you ever think that maybe Mab's right? Maybe you're supposed to be on the bench for this one?"
"Look, you getting too hurt to fight has happened before."
"Yeah, and I made a deal with a Faerie Queen. A deal that had more strings than this one."
Butters looked skeptical but then he shook his head. "Not that, afterwards. You know the injury that was so bad you were dead for a year."
"Oh, that." I had been shot and Mab had healed me. My spooky island had helped. That's part of why I was so pissed at Mab's refusal to help now, cryptic comments aside.
"You were gone for a year. And after you got back you also spent a lot of time on your spooky island. You've been benched before."
The little pathologist cut me off. "Exactly. You were gone. I know you were on your island because you were... sick."
That was a polite way to phrase it. In reality, I was pregnant.... Don't look at me like that. Bonnie's a spirit. It was different. She doesn't have physical body. It was more Athena and Zeus and less like Schwarzenegger in Junior.
"But that's my point," Butters continued. "You were too hurt to do the job and I stepped in."
"You were doing the Batman gig pretty well when my ghost showed up," I said.
"I was scared out of my mind and leaning heavily on Bob's help just to survive." Butters snorted.
"And now you're a Knight."
"And now I'm a Knight," Butters agreed. "Maybe that's why I was sent instead of Sanya. I've played the 'Harry Dresden' understudy gig before. I was told I'd have the opportunity to help a friend, and here we are."
I considered it. He had a point. The Knights were always sent for a reason. "You don't think I should do this?"
"I don't think you have to do this."
I shook my head. "No. Those times I didn't have a choice. When I was dead, I couldn't go out."
"You weren't dead, only mostly dead."
I laughed. "Right, I was slightly alive. But that's the point, I was stuck on the island. My body anyway. With Miss Ice-Queen and Demonreach keeping me alive.
"And later? When you were... overdue with Bonnie?"
I laughed. "Same deal. Demonreach was the only thing keeping the pain down. Well, until Queenie came and had a job for me to do."
"So, to stop you from meddling... you need to be, literally, physically constrained."
"And even then, my ghost will still find a way to haunt you," I declared, crossing my arms. Or crossing what was left. I may have made some spooky noises.
"And what about your magic?" he asked.
I stilled. "What about it?"
"You won't be human. Could you still be a wizard? What if it's not just your manhood being given up?"
I shook my head. "They can do magic."
"Different magic." Butters looked thoughtful. "Their magic seems to be more extensions of their powers. More instinctual."
"Thomas can do magic," I said, quietly.
Butters raised an eyebrow.
"He's a minor talent and his training was... rough. And he's embarrassed to use it around me."
"Because you're both pig-headed and prideful," Butters snorted.
"But he can do it, and if a White Court vampire can use magic then a succubus should be able to," I stated, with confidence.
Butters stared. "You don't know that for sure."
I looked down. "I have a pretty good idea."
"I can't imagine how worse you'll get after this," Butters grumbled. "And that's not counting the healing factor. You'll get even more reckless, won't you?"
"Huh," I hadn't considered that. I was so focused on the change itself healing me that I hadn't really considered the powers. Hells Bells, I'd seen Ranma grow an arm back within minutes. Even her daughters could get sliced and battered and come back.
Butters scoffed. "Of course you haven't thought about it," he said reading my expression.
"It sounds like an upside," I defended.
"This isn't like the Winter Knight. You can't scam your way out of it," he said harshly.
He gave me a half-lidded gaze. "We both know you're looking for a way to no longer be Sir Harry."
"My boss isn't as nice as yours," I admitted.
He scoffed. "Sure, the odds of you getting out of knighthood is slim, but they're still better than the odds of you..."
"Turning back into a human?" I exhaled.
"You never found a cure for Susan. And she was just half vampire."
I looked down. Strictly speaking that was a lie. I had found a cure, back when I first visited Mother Winter and Mother Summer. Unfortunately, I had to use that gift on another, someone who, ultimately, became another faerie queen. Well, until she died too.
Despite all that, Butters had a point. It's not like curing supernatural transformations was easy.
"There's another thing..." Butters' voice lowered. "Would you even want to?"
I kept my head down.
"You've been with these girls longer than I have. Do they seem unhappy to you? How many of them were once human?" he asked, his voice soft.
"All of 'em I think."
He gave a nod. "How many of them would go back? If offered a cure, how many would want to become human?"
I didn't have an answer.
"That's the difference, Harry. Sure, being a knight is a worse deal for you. But you're still you enough to not like it, to fight it. Oh, you like the powers, but if given a chance to be rid of 'em, rid of being under the Winter Queen, you'd take it."
I nodded. That Molly was the Winter Lady complicated things, but if I could be rid of the Winter Mantle...
"What about this? If you go through with this and later on get offered a cure, offered to be turned back to human would you do it?" His tone was gentle, but insistent.
"She said it was remarkably easy," I muttered.
"Eve. She said accepting the change was 'remarkably easy'. And something about new instincts and adapting," I explained.
Butters gave me a flat "I told you so" look.
I laughed. "Is that it? You're concerned that I haven't thought things through?"
"Yes!" his tone was emphatic.
I laughed again. "Dude, it's me. You should be glad I'm giving it this much thought."
"Only because you're being forced to," Butters sighed. "Have you considered what you could lose here?"
I looked away. There was more than my gender at stake today, but what choice did I have?
Butters sighed. "Funny when the scary demon lady shows more restraint."
"She's just met you, that's why she's overestimating your debate skills."
"Butters, I have to do this," I pleaded.
"And I refuse?" He leaned against the wall. His hand not quite hanging by the hilt of his Sword.
"I have to stop Tessa. What happened to that town was just the start. If she gets her big pet monster she'll cut across the world, both worlds. Sure, she's telling herself it's to get Nicodemus but we know the type of mayhem she likes. And that's assuming what she summons is what she thought she was summoning. I've got a pretty good idea that Tessa's being played and what she'll pull in will be even worse. I want your help but..."
Butters met my gaze. I closed my eye and tilted my head.
"Ranma won't turn you. And I doubt she'd play rules lawyer and have someone else turn you for her," he stated with absolute certainty.
Sometimes trying to bluff a Knight of the Cross really sucked. "Fine. If you refuse I'll have to... improvise." There were other powers here. I wasn't sure what Serenity's deal was. But I knew her "assistant" Lady Pluto was a serious player. She was a Gatekeeper in her own right. She had also implied a willingness to... help the last time we met.
I did know that Serenity was a patron and endowed others with ritual magic. Lady Mars and Lady Jupiter and the rest of her retinue were beneficiaries of her power, Ranma too. However, that plan was even more nebulous and risky.
"If your Plan A is 'turn into a succubus' I fear for what your Plan B is."
Recalling what Lady Pluto looked like with my Wizard's Sight, I laughed nervously. Compared to Pluto these demons were far more... human. And there were other ways. There was power on this world, and I knew certain dark rites. But after Lomar... well what would I be willing do to if Butters denied me?
"Harry, if I agree... then I've got some of the responsibility for this. For what happens to you; I don't want you to screw up your life."
I stared. "Screw up my life?" I asked, a smile slowly growing on my face. "I'm a six-foot-nine, thirty-nine year old out of work private investigator stuck doing the bidding of the dark queen of the evil fairies with only two working limbs, a crappy loaner office, and a spooky island to my name." I waved my stumpy arm over myself. "Do your worst."
Butters froze. Then his brain engaged and he laughed. Eight years ago, he stumbled into bunch of necromancers scheming to become a new god of death. After being attacked by zombies, one of which was a coworker, he demanded to know the truth.
I cautioned him that being clued into the magical world would change things for him that it might "screw up his life." His reaction... well... it was a lot like mine just now.
Straightening his glasses, Butters regained his composure and tapped the hilt of his sword. "Ask me."
"If you want my consent, give me the courtesy of asking for it."
I closed my eye and centered myself. I realized that I could be petulant and act insulted. Make Butters storm off and it'd be over. Well, it'd be over for me. Butters had a point. Between my allies, new and old, there was a formidable force arrayed against Tessa.
"What do you want?" Butters asked. His voice was mild but those four words... there was a hook in them.
I exhaled. "I want to be healed."
He waited, his gaze patient.
"I want to be turned into a succubus." I paused, mulling over the words. "I want you to agree to it. I want to be able to fight."
The tips of Butter's fingers tapped the polished smooth wood. "When I asked to be told about the supernatural you told me the truth, even when you thought it was a mistake. You helped me, even when you afraid I was a coward." His voice was quiet.
His words cut into me. But... when I first met him he was scared, he was ignorant. He did freeze and want to run. It took years for him to grow, to meet his potential. But I guess he'd never have reached that point if no one had trusted him at the start. "Butters..."
He lifted his hand off the Sword to silence me and stepped closer. "No. It's okay. I won't stop you. You have my consent."
After going to the bathroom, Butters helped me back to the bed. It was a bit embarrassing, but he helped me handle the crutches, especially given I couldn't grab the left crutch given my mangled hand.
I slipped further onto the mattress and exhaled.
"There are prosthetics," Butters offered.
I glowered at him.
"I know, I know. The physical therapy to get used to them would take too long, and limbs aside your ribs are in no condition to fight," Butters sighed and looked towards the door.
"I thought you agreed?" Ranma asked as she stepped into the room. "Have you changed your mind?"
Butters gave the redhead a long look. "No, just checking to see if he has." He rolled his shoulders.
"Prudent. It is a weighty decision," an older woman said as she entered. Carrying a briefcase, she had shoulder length auburn hair in a slight wave. She had the grey pants, lab-coat and shoulder holster that I thought of as uniform of the Company eggheads.
"Doctor Saotome," I nodded.
Ranma smiled at her mother and slipped closer to the older woman.
"Dresden," Dr. Saotome bowed her head then turned to Butters. "Doctor Butters."
"Uh, hi," Butters extended a hand.
"Sorry for all the trouble," she said shaking his hand.
"It's not your fault."
"I'd like to say things aren't normally this bad but..." Dr. Saotome gave a rueful smile. "Anyway, my daughter speaks highly of you, both of you. And my other daughters too."
Ranma blushed slightly and hugged the older woman.
I frowned a bit. It was somewhat hard to tell how old Dr. Saotome was, but she still seemed too young to be Ranma's mother. Then again it was rather hard to tell how old the redhead was.
But slow aging was a part of the supernatural gig. Hells Bells, wizards also lived longer than normal humans, and aged slower too.
Dr. Saotome stepped up and walked next to the bed. "This is it, Mr. Dresden. You've gotten the approval of my girls and your friend." A strange, almost jealous, look crossed her face. "Are you ready? It's quite the commitment."
"Mr. Dresden. There is no turning back." She sat down on the bed and adjusted her white coat. "Now, I will be happy to have you as a daughter. And I'm sure you'll be happy to have me as a mother however..."
I murmured. Mother. I never knew my mother. She died when I was very young. My father also died. I spent the bulk of my childhood an orphan.
"However," Dr. Saotome continued. "That is in the future. The time for questioning this decision is now. You can't delay it, not forever," she added, looking down.
"Because he won't question it later. She won't question it," Butters corrected himself.
Both Saotomes, mother and daughter, looked at me, expectant.
The redhead made a satisfied noise and leaned closer sniffing the air.
"Again, you've got it backwards." Ranma snickered. "But we'll work on that," she said before going to the doorway and leaning over the threshold. She waved her hand and stepped back
Cecilia and Eve followed her into the room. I saw Nariko standing out in the hallway. The three succubus sisters looked at me; I could feel the weight of their almost hungry intent. Their horns were out; their tails swished behind them.
Butters' eyes went from the demonic trio to me then back again.
Ranma met his gaze.
For his part, Butters stared back.
"You can stay and observe if you like," Ranma said, amicably enough. However, I saw the tip of her tail flick with apprehension.
Frowning, Butters eventually exhaled. "Nah, I'd get in the way. Maybe I'll go back to the dojo." He then grinned. "I can't believe you have one of those. Murph'd freak out."
Ranma chuckled. "Nariko was looking forward to more sparring." She stepped to the side and waved through the open door.
Butters took a step out of the room. His hand fell on the Sword hilt. The little doctor turned to me. "Harry... I know you're too stubborn to back out now. But don't do anything stupid." He frowned then looked to the demon sisters. "Try to make sure he doesn't do anything too stupid."
"Hey!" I cried.
Butters gave a melancholy laugh and followed Nariko out of the room.
"Well, that could have gone better," I grumbled. "Hopefully, I'll stay tall," I added to myself.
Ranma sat to my right on the bed. "He's worried about you." She ran her long fingers down my arm and looked over, sizing me up, like a piece of meat or maybe a pile of clay.
The redhead chuckled. She looked over her shoulder. "Are you going to stay?" she asked her mother, her voice hopeful.
"Of course," Doctor Saotome said, her voice a bit too smooth.
I wondered if there was something else at work.
"Now Mr. Dresden. The sister change is rare enough. My daughter's only done it once before. Would you mind if we took some readings?" she asked, pulling out one of the mercenaries' little scanning devices.
Ah. Well, that made sense. "Uh... sure, but my powers might interfere..."
"I've heard about your issues," Dr. Saotome wryly noted stepping back and closing the door. She set the scanner down and put the briefcase atop a dresser. She opened it, revealing another scanner inside one of Dirac's dark red circles. The scientist flipped a few switches.
"Huh, planning ahead." I had suspected the mercs would try something like that.
"It's not like we've been fussing over this for a day," Cecilia remarked as she sat down to my left.
"Frankly, I'm surprised we got the green light this early in the morning." Eve stood at the foot of the bed and leaned forward. Her tall form loomed over me. Her lean, sharp face looked hungry, but I could see a hint of nervousness peeking past her facade. "Shall we?"
"Oh yes, let's," Cecilia purred.
Ranma gave a toothy smile.
My heart began to speed as I realized this was more than having three hungry demons intently staring at me. They started to edge closer. Eve slipped onto the foot of the bed.
"Last chance to back out," Ranma stated, her voice deepening. Her eyes began to glow.
The pressure from the three succubae increased "Do it!" I cried.
Ranma's eyelids closed halfway and she gave a satisfied noise.
"Backwards," Eve purred. Her eyes were luminous and she started to climb forward on the bed.
"Cecilia," the redhead stated.
The lavender haired woman flicked out a claw and started cutting my pajamas.
"Hey!" My protest was cut off by Eve lunging down, pinning my shoulders to the bed. The pressure pushed higher as auras began to flare around the trio. My body warmed as my flesh tingled.
Ranma slipped in, her face inches from mine. "Okay Harry," her breath was warm on my face. She ran a hand down my cheek, down my chin and over my neck. "We're going to push... you can't fight it; you'll have to work with it."
I nodded, transfixed by her gaze. The bed felt softer. Everything tingled; it was like luxuriating in a warm bath.
Ranma's eyes flashed, turning into solid purple glowing orbs. The other two followed. The bath then felt like a Jacuzzi. It was as if warm jets pulsed against my skin. Distantly, I noted that I was naked.
The demons pressed closer and I, not so distantly, noted they were naked too. The Winter Mantle surged, relishing the contact of three beautiful women. I leaned back as Eve's hands went down my torso. Despite the warmth, my skin felt cool.
"That's it," Ranma purred. Her voice seeming far away and yet echoing through my mind.
Everything tingled. And I made a happy murmur. The phantom pain I had been feeling shifted, becoming more of the warm prickling. I felt my toes curl and flexed my fingers. An image was pushed into my mind. It was...
The chill feeling of my skin increased. I felt the image, I knew... my mouth felt dry. More energy pushed into me. I squirmed and shifted and took more in. Then something... snapped, the floodgates opened and I arched my back. Something seemed... off.
"Now... join us...." Ranma whispered into one ear.
"Join us sister," Cecilia whispered in the other.
I waited for them to change me, but I felt like I had missed something. Then I felt the change happen....
Flesh flowed, pleasure mounted. Bones grew and shifted. I cried out. The Winter Mantle surged. I became a passenger and sunk deeper in as my body greedily sucked in more energy. My tongue ran over sharp teeth, and wider lips parted. I leaned up and they contacted the redhead's lips. I felt her pleased reaction, and basked in it.
Giving a triumphant purr, the redhead returned the kiss. My other sisters pushed in as my body took in their energy and reveled in their body-heat. Everything felt cool and crisp. The Mantle pushed and a hungry growl escaped my lips.
That was followed by a high cry as my temples burned as horns emerged. My sisters released their wings and in an almost sympathetic act of jealousy my back was ravaged with an ice cold tingle as my own pair burst forth.
My backside shifted as Eve worked her hands and teased out a tail. The Mantle reacted and I felt myself drift deeper into the bliss as my sisters cuddled and fed me. Ranma worked over my horns while Cecilia whispered in my ear.
I closed my eyes and contently purred before nuzzling back. It was easy to just go with it, easy and pleasurable. The reassurance and love from my sisters lulled me to sleep. My eyes fluttered up and I saw my sisters parting as Nodoka stepped forward. The contact with her tugged at my heart. It wasn't as vivid as those to my sisters but...
The purring increased as she hugged me and then I pouted as she withdrew. Fortunately the others lay down and I happily drifted off, curling up against them. The dreams that followed were mostly of me lying with them, though there was a coldness within me that happily drained their warmth.
There was also a sense that I'd forgotten something, but that was hard to focus on. I simply nuzzled in closer and ignored it.
Consciousness briefly returned. Ranma kissed me on the forehead and asked if I wanted something to eat. I yawned and pouted; my tail swished.
Cecilia offered to help me get dressed.
I gave another yawn and instead fell back to the bed and slipped next to Eve. To my disappointment the taller blonde got out of bed.
Despite that, I gave an annoyed growl but spread out on the bed.
"Was it really that draining?" Ranma asked.
"Look at her," Eve stated.
"Oh, I am," Cecilia sounded pleased. "She's impressive."
I smiled at that, though my eyes felt heavy.
"She's falling asleep already," Eve's words were soft.
"Let her nap?" Ranma suggested.
Eve and Cecilia nodded, "We can get things ready, you watch her."
There was more but I was more interested in how soft my pillows were.
Consciousness returned as I woke up a second time. The bed was soft but cool. Shifting around, I pouted. My sisters weren't...
Pulling myself up, I blinked. I could feel them. There were pulls from Ranma, Eve, and Cecilia. There was an emotional tie with each. Pale hair falling around me, I looked around the bedroom. They weren't in the room, but they were close. Maybe downstairs. There were smaller tugs from their daughters, my nieces.
Struck by the concept of daughters, I exhaled and shivered. I wanted to go back to mine. My body buzzed and the sheets slid off my form. I looked down and saw sleek glossy blue armor with black accents over a lithe female form.
I paused, I could feel my sisters, but something felt... not absent, instead the feeling was as if something that was once there was now no longer... separate. I shrugged, and then a tail the same blue flopped into position from behind me.
The fins were a clear, powder-blue crystal. I reached out and touched the fins. Four long fingers flexed. They were tipped with blue-black talons of glossy ice. Still... I had a whole left hand again. That was nice.
I laughed. It was a rich, if high, sound. Really, ice claws were the most mundane thing. I had those as a...
I blinked and exhaled, then inhaled deeply. Which did all sorts of interesting things to my torso, ice armor or no. Sensations pounded at me, my sight was sharper. Scents were far more powerful, including those of my sisters. There was also the buzzing coming from my horns.
I closed my eyes counted prime numbers. My tail swished with each count like an oversized metronome.
When I got to seven thousand, nine hundred, nineteen, I reopened my eyes and took stock of the room. There was the large bed, a pair of dressers, closet, pile of my clothes and equipment, and a dressing mirror in one corner.
I wasn't normally one for mirrors. In my line of work having a mirror in your house was like leaving your window open in a bad neighborhood. Too many things took it as an invitation to cause trouble.
I jumped off the bed. It took me a second to realize that I actually had two working legs. My joy dampened when I bent forward and looked down. The blue armor ran down over my ankles and ended in a pair of dark blue hooves. Silvery greaves were bound around my lower legs with silver loops. Extending down, the greaves covered the shins above hooves. They were dark, shining with a deep, almost glossy, iridescence.
My cheeks felt flush as I nervously laughed. Then gathering myself, I moved towards the mirror. Each clomping step was met with rolls and sways as various... things rocked back and forth. Incongruently, my tail merrily swished back and forth.
I reached the mirror and stopped.
"Holy Blue Beetle," I squeaked out in a girlish voice. I swallowed.
In the reflection stood a very tall, long-limbed woman. If I had to guess I'd say she...err that is I stood at six foot five. I was almost willowy, except my form was a bit too muscular for that. I definitely had curves, but to my relief I was about the least endowed of my sisters.
Yes, relief, that's why I ignored how the reflected demon's metallic sapphire-blue lips pouted in disappointment.
Powder blue translucent wings rose out of my back. I shifted my shoulders and figured out how to flex them. "Blue armor with black accents, clear wings," I frowned at how high my voice was. I coughed.
"Yeah... that's third Blue Beetle. Well, if Jaime Reyes were a demon lady..." I said still getting used to my voice. At least it was now more of a contralto... though that meant I sounded a bit like Eve, or Gard.
My reflection frowned. "Are you sure Jaime's the best analog you want to pick?"
Out of habit I glanced away from the woman's eyes. The reflection, being me, mirrored the action. "Why? Because that Blue Beetle got his powers via an alien entity that burrowed into him with aims of subverting his will?"
My reflection nodded then smiled. Hells Bells, I had a dimple.
I laughed and studied the rest of my face. My skin had paled to the white of fresh snow. There was also an utter lack of scars. Not just on my face but anywhere... the accumulated damage from decades of fighting monsters... gone.
I gasped. My features were striking: sharp cheekbones, self-amused smile, narrow chin. I looked a lot like my mother. Well, her and my godmother Leanansidhe. I had Lea's delicate little nose.
And my eyes... for starters I had two again. I blinked each eye, enjoying having that ability once more. They were dark like my mother's. And still brown like before, but there were some bright blue flecks that sparkled within.
And while I wanted to assume that the shape was an illusion due to the azure eyeshadow I had on I knew better.
No, I had the almond-shaped, slightly slitted eyes of the sidhe.
Then I saw the pointed ears peeking out of my pale hair. It's funny that those little points gave me more disquiet than my slender, almost longhorn style, indigo horns.
My pupils widened, almost becoming rounded. "Okay... what's with the faerie stuff?" I asked running a clawed hand through my hair.
Even that was Winter Fae. Periwinkle roots paled to fine strands that were white tinged with a hint of blue. I think the shade was called Alice Blue. My pale hair fell back and brushed just between to my wings... er between my shoulder blades.
"Seriously... I look like a sidhe succubus. What the hell?"
"Can't the great Wizard figure it out?" my reflection teased flashing a smile that revealed large gleaming fangs among delicately pointed teeth. Once again I was reminded of my godmother.
"My sisters aren't like this," I murmured.
I looked up, my reflection approving.
"There are two ways of being turned."
I tapped a hoof on the ground. "Three if we include getting pregnant."
My eyes rolled in my reflection. "Focus Harry."
"Right. Well, there's the mother turning and the sister turning. The first is when a succubus forces the change on another. It's faster and less draining on the mother but..."
My reflection nodded approvingly. "But it enthralls the new broodling. She's dependent on her mother, she was created, shaped, by her mother."
"But in the sister change...." My tail started to droop in realization.
"That's right, in the sister change the demonic energy is offered. But it's up to the new demon to shape herself to... become," my reflection swept her claws over her form.
I lifted my arms. "I did this?"
My mirror image snorted. "No, you got lazy. Did you want to be this?"
"I wanted to stop Tessa; I wanted a cure!"
"Exactly." My reflection smiled. "You let yourself be changed, you took in the energy but then..." My hand then spun in a hurry up motion.
I exhaled. "So there I was presented all this power, but I didn't truly..." I swallowed.
One of the things I knew about magic was that a spell didn't work unless you believed, fully believed, not just that it would work, but that it should work, that it was right for it to work. That's what made magic so powerful, and what made Black Magic so insidious. Necromancers, for example, truly believed what they were doing was right.
Now, not all magic worked that way. But a lot of it did. More importantly, mine did. And what happened to me was magical...
My reflection looked expectant.
"And there I was, being changed into a passionate, supernatural predator."
"If only there was a part of us that was a passionate, supernatural predator," my reflection said as I touched my neck. My mother's silver pentacle amulet adorned the front of a wide, shining platinum choker that encircled my neck.
The front of the choker actually extended a bit down my neck like a decorative gorget. The bottom of the curved choker segments met flush with my armor. Looping fae script, inlaid with gold, flowed along the edges of the choker. In the center of the gorget surrounded by more gold inlay was a flawless four-pointed amethyst star.
Up on the choker proper, the open spot in the pentacle amulet's center was filled with gold and set in the very center was the blood-red ruby my mother had also left me. Surrounding the ruby, the gold setting held a sapphire Winter snowflake that sparkled merrily in contrast with the almost sullen ruby. The gold accents themselves contrasted with the silver-hued band of the choker..
"The Mantle," I stated, withdrawing my talons. I then realized that's what was missing. Ever since I became the Winter Knight, the Winter Mantle was a part of me. It allowed me to ignore injury, push my physical limits, it even augmented my powers. It also was aggressive, base and predatory.
Now... now, it was no longer a distinct part of me.
My reflection chuckled and I pushed my will.
The Mantle responded obligingly. The blue armor retreated and pulled back, segments collapsing, folding, and even melting. The ice pulled back towards my spine. More pale, fresh snow-colored skin revealed itself.
I did notice that I kept enough ice around my waist to simulate a bikini bottom and there was a bit of blue armor up top that could pass as a bustier. My talons thinned and retreated into dark obsidian-blue nails, and my hooves sublimated, revealing arched feet. Wings vanished as the translucent sections retreated and the supports folded in.
The transformation was actually pretty slick and reminded me again of the Blue Beetle. At least I had some influence on my transformation. I gave a relieved sigh as my heels hit the floor. I did notice that my choker still flashed around my neck. The gorget had retracted, leaving just the choker with my mother's pentacle and ruby.
"Are you the Mantle?" I asked the mirror
My reflection gave me "the look". It was disturbing how effective that was on my face. Then again I was a tall demon chick.
"No, I'm a tall demon chick," My reflection said echoing my thoughts.
"Oh, you're me."
My reflection rolled her eyes.
"Still, I didn't expect I'd become fae. That could be all sorts of problems," I said looking over my form. At least I got my wish that I stayed tall. Though this might have been too tall. But there might be a way around that...
"Focus Harry, who cares how tall you are?" my reflection growled.
"Right, being fae. Well, I suppose there's an easy test." I looked straight at my reflection. "I am five feet tall."
"I am male," my reflection said.
"I am human," I replied.
"I do not think Butters is cute."
My reflection stuck out my tongue. I noticed it was a shade of blue. "Fine Sanya."
My cheeks flushed, tinging blue.
"He is the only Knight of the Cross, active or retired, to not be in a relationship," my reflection offered.
"We're not having this conversation."
Once again "the look" returned.
"Right, I'm just talking with myself," I shook my head. "Okay so, I can lie."
"Including to yourself," my reflection murmured.
I glared. My reflection glared back.
"That means I'm not fully a fae..."
"Changeling?" my reflection offered.
"Yeah, part mortal part fae. You can Soulgaze a changeling. And they can..." I blinked then turned to the mirror.
My reflection's sihde eyes twinkling with the delight of anticipation reminded me of Lea. It was a bit disturbing. The fangs didn't help either.
Leaning over to the dresser I picked up a folded index card. It was a spare I'd pocketed from notes I'd been taking... before Lomar.... before I'd gotten hurt.
I raised my other arm. There was another test. One I had been afraid to try. Failing this test was something I didn't even want to consider. Sure, I tried to sound certain to Butters, but this test scared me. I snapped my fingers and concentrated my will. "Flickum bicus," I intoned.
The card burst into flames. It immediately began to curl and collapse.
"Gah!" I shook the card, ice shot out my fingers and enveloped the charred mass. Soon I had what looked like a pile of ash entombed in Lucite.
"Huh..." I placed the block of ice onto the dresser. Fire and ice.
"There's another test..." my reflection teased as I picked up another card.
This time I stared at the card for a few more seconds. I still had my magic. I could still wield the powers of creation.
I was still me.
One thing kept me from grinning like an idiot.
Okay, I was talking to my reflection while burning index cards, dressed in an ice bikini. I had the idiot thing pretty well covered.
I took a breath, and this time only eked out a bit of power. "Flickum bicus," I said trying to draw on my Soulfire. It had been gifted to me by an archangel after I had lost the Hellfire powers that came with touching a Denarian coin.
If I still had that...
The card sparkled and flared. Silver fire merrily burned over the entire card. However, instead of turning to ash the card simply shimmered and slowly darkened.
"Hah!" I cried jumping up and down as my tail swished to and fro.
"You're a demon happy about controlling fire," My reflection deadpanned.
"No! I'm a demon that can still use mortal magic and angel magic!" I laughed shaking the card at my reflection.
Which just meant that my reflection mirrored my actions.
Deflated a bit, I snuffed the flames out and dropped it next to the ice block full of ash. Which I noticed wasn't melting.
"Is this really that surprising?" my reflection asked.
"Just nice to know," I shrugged. "I should have Butters Soulgaze me. That'd be the next test."
I felt my palm hit my forehead.
"Poor, dumb Harry. Soulgazing a succubus was one of the first things you did here."
I chewed my lip. "It's not that... I want him to check me out."
"Phrasing?" my reflection asked.
I ignored her. Well, me. "So, we've got a type of demon that have souls, can use mortal and angelic magics..."
"Why, it's almost like they're part mortal," my reflection deadpanned. "But where have we seen something like that?" she asked sweeping a hand past a pointed ear.
"They're a species of Changelings?"
My reflection shrugged. "Something like that. Sure, they talk as if we're full demons, but you've seen our sisters in action. You're not that demonic."
I nodded to myself. There could be something in the past history of the succubae, how they... we were first created.
"Probably. You can ask." My reflection shrugged. "It's not like this is the first supernatural species that you've seen which feeds on sexual energy and you can Soulgaze."
"Thomas," I said. My brother is a White Court vampire. Mab also said he also was mortal enough to be the Winter Knight, that is if I ever quit the position. He could also do magic, not well, but he could do it.
"Yes, she did," My reflection agreed. "And no we're not," I said touching my choker. My hand then ran down my torso and arm. Not only was my skin the color of fresh snow but it felt as soft and fluffy.
"Okay, I'm still a wizard. Still the Winter Knight. Only now I'm a sidhe succubus too," Sapphire lips curled into a cocky smile. Part of me was very pleased with that. I spun on a foot and walked towards the door.
"I'll definitely have to thank my sisters for this," I purred exiting the bedroom. It was only when I had gone halfway down the hallway that I realized I was still, technically, nude.
Concerns about decency vanished from my mind as I was drawn to the kitchen. Enticing scents tickled my nose and there was a pull that drew me in.
A bare foot crossed the threshold. I knew who was waiting for me before I stepped into the room. For one I could smell her, for another I could feel her presence.
Sitting at the table, a redhead was looking up from her coffee. She tilted her head, examining me critically.
My heart raced and my tail straightened.
"My, so exotic. Tall though," she took a sip from her mug.
Then the redhead pounced. Her chair fell back with a clatter as she leapt up, slammed into me, and wrapped her arms in an embrace.
My arms slipped over her and pulled her closer. She was soft and warm. Or maybe I was the former. She was definitely the latter. Part of me relished drawing the heat from her. Hells Bells, my tail had started to wag.
The redhead.... Ranma... my sister began to purr. I noticed that the tips of my nails had sharpened and I was idly running them down her back. Then she rolled her tail around mine and we both began to purr in sync.
I reveled in the feelings she was giving off. I don't know when exactly but we found ourselves lying on the cool tile floor. That made the height disparity was less awkward.
Gazing at her, I gave a contented sigh. I could feel the love that suffused her, taste the power that came off her in waves, and bask in her shear presence.
I swallowed. I was very much the little sister in this relationship.
Looking into her eyes, I realized I was actually draining her. Nipping bits of energy from my sister. Languidly stretching, I shifted to nuzzle under her chin while my claws continued to explore.
Warm lips pressed mine. My whole body tingled, but I felt it the most at the roots of my horns and the base of my tail.
"We can't indulge ourselves too much, dear sister," There was a trace of reluctance in Ranma's voice. She then pulled herself into a crouch.
Sitting up, a tiny growl passed my lips.
The redhead simply looked at me.
Under those purple eyes, I froze.
"Control sister; remember who you are," she held out her hand.
Swallowing, I took it and she pulled me up and then towards the table.
I blinked and took stock of the other pleasing scent in the room. I sat down.
"Making yourself whole would make anyone hungry," Ranma smiled as she pushed the white paper bag towards me. She then went to the fridge and returned with a paper cup.
I had already opened the bag and withdrew the contents. A familiar scent drew me in. It was something I had smelled for years. But now... now there was extra depth. It was like going from seeing in black and white to seeing in color.
My sister had a little smile as she watched me carefully unwrap the quartet of Whoppers and line up the cartons of Burger King fries. The toppings, the ratio of ketchup to mustard, even the extra packets for the fries were there.
"You knew?" There was one thing missing however...
"I remembered what you ordered before we went to the park." She patted my hand. "And I know you'd appreciate something... familiar."
"But there's no crown," I said, and totally did not whine in a rising voice. I certainly didn't pout either.
Reaching out with a languid smile, Ranma ran a fingertip over my choker. "Well... if you insist... we could take care of that.
Coughing, I looked at the kitchen wall clock. "It's before noon? How did you get a lunch order?"
"We can be persuasive," she added with a wink. "Well, I bribed them to switch over early."
I smiled. Then my stomach gurgled. I fell onto the food. I'd like to say my ravenous behavior was the fault of my newly demonic nature. But I knew I had such hungers as a human.
Idly munching on a clawful of fries, I looked down. I could see pale skin and the swell of my blue armor. Alice blue hair fell around me. Even the shadow I cast on the table was different. Slimmer. And the shadows cast by my horns stuck out to either side.
"You are impressive," my sister noted after watching me eat.
I looked down at the demolished fast food. "Yeah, if the Denarians hold an eating contest they'd better worry."
"Perhaps." Ranma chuckled. "But I'm thinking of your training." She reached out and ran a finger over my arm. I almost purred at the contact. Even the warmth of her touch felt like it left a trail down my arm. The tip of her finger pressed into the yielding snowy-soft skin.
My sister looked from my armor to the snowy skin of my arm and made a thoughtful noise. "The Winter Mantle?"
"Uh yeah... it was a major influence when I changed," I nervously laughed.
"You haven't seen the half of it, it expands to like full armor."
"Well up to here," I held a hand to my neck.
Eyeing me, my sister laughed. "Yes I can imagine with a choker like that you don't need more protection. Still..." her thoughtful expression returned.
And then she stabbed a finger towards my arm. The point struck my forearm.
I gave a surprised noise. Which was neither girlish nor high pitched.
I flashed my sister a hurt look, but she was instead running her finger over my forearm.
I could see a vividly-blue bruise blossoming into place. I guess I should be thankful that my sister hadn't extended a claw and flayed open my skin. Still, there was something different about the contact. It felt... harder.
"Interesting," she noted running her finger over my forearm.
Looking closer, I could see that the bruise was already fading. Also the tip of her finger no longer sunk into my skin. My arm had gone from feeling like fluffy snowflakes, to hard-packed snow.
"Automatic response, that's good," she pulled her hand back. "Still, that'll make you a bit more sensitive than the rest of us."
Her thoughtful expression became anticipatory and... hungry. "We simply must begin your training, Dresden. Your limits..." my sister smiled. "I'd take you to the dojo now but..."
"But?" I licked my lips.
She took a sip from her mug. "Someone else is using it. Someone you should talk to."
"Oh...." I swallowed and my tail drooped.
"It's okay," my sister took my hand. "He knows you did this, he knows you're okay. You just need to show him."
End Chapter 9
And here... we... are. Yeah... Butters and Ranma tried to caution Harry. But... we all know how stubborn Harry is. And yes there are several alternative solutions. But... they all have downsides. Even the most tame one that Mab suggested (Course the downsides to that are a bit moot given Harry's mistake)
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, Ellf, and Toxinvictoria . Special thank to: Ellf and DCG for their work on this concept.