Akari awoke from a dream, or perhaps it was a vision. In any case, it retreated from her mind quickly, as if fleeing from the gentle voice that was calling out to her in the distance.

Inara's voice! Akari thought. Her thoughts were slow and sluggish, and her body even more so. She willed herself into an upright position and rubbed her eyes. She squinted against the morning light that slipped through the gaps in the curtains, then finally saw Inara peeking through the slightly ajar bedroom door.

"Sorry for waking you, my dear," Inara said upon making eye contact. Her gold eyes shined and a gorgeous smile blossomed across her flawless lips. "I have a bit of a surprise for you, if you're free."

Akari scrambled to get her thoughts in order. "Uh, yeah, I think so. Let me get dressed."

Inara somehow managed to smile even wider as relief and excitement washed over her expression. "Dress warm. We're going into town, and it's a bit chilly this morning."

Then Inara withdrew from the room and closed the door, but Akari could sense that the goddess was waiting right outside.

Alright, don't want to keep her waiting. Akari hopped to her feet, shed her pajamas in a flash, and started digging through her dresser drawers for an outfit.

Warm was a requirement, but she also wanted to look nice. It wasn't every day that Akari got to spend time with Inara in public. But she also felt the weight of urgency on her actions. Inara was waiting, and seemed to be in a hurry for some reason.

Maybe she's got a reservation at a breakfast place? The thought kicked Akari's movements up considerably, like a foot slamming down on the accelerator. Not that Akari had ever driven a car. The closest was a racing game at the arcade.

I bet Hanako likes the arcade. She never closed off her inner child, like most people. I should ask her to go sometime.

Akari shook that line of thought away. She had more pressing concerns, like the lovely goddess waiting for her on the other side of that door. She threw on her selected outfit and started for the door, planning to complete her look in the bathroom.

Already sensing Akari's thoughts, Inara called through the door, "I'll be out by the torii gate when you're ready."

A few moments later, Akari had to catch her jaw when she saw Inara's ensemble in the sunlit mist of a gorgeous winter morning. The fox goddess wore a long seafoam green sweater that contrasted wonderfully with her fiery orange hair, along with a swishy chocolate skirt that reached her ankles, but only after first clinging tightly to her wide hips and flaunting them for the world to see. Akari could clearly imagine the gossiping voices of her former classmates were they to see this sight, and the word on all their imaginary tongues was 'MILF'.

Akari forced herself to keep moving toward the torii gate while trying to walk smoothly and elegantly to show off her own outfit. A black long sleeve shirt and a puffy white vest kept her top warm, and a mid-thigh length purple skirt over black leggings protected her legs. Short black and fur-topped boots would keep her footing sure on the walk into town. Her purple hair was parted off-center and tucked behind her ears, cute and youthful.

"You look perfectly lovely," Inara said as Akari closed the distance. "And modern in a way I appreciate but can't quite imitate yet."

Akari's black and purple color scheme gained another color as her ears and cheeks flared hot. "T-thanks, Inara. You look very beautiful today." Before she could babble on about how Inara looked beautiful every day, she quickly added, "Or I guess I should call you Kitsuna while we're in public."

"Good point. I'll hide these too." Inara's ears and five tails vanished, then she offered an elbow for Akari to hold. "Shall we? We've got a reservation to get to."

Their destination was a cafe that specialized in breakfast and tea, and the reservation had been quite necessary since the place was both popular and tiny. A black-haired waitress in a crisp black and white uniform guided them to one of just a dozen tables, and she looked a little surprised when the two women sat together on the booth seat on the same side of the table.

Inara cuddled close to Akari's side while they looked over the menu together, then insisted on being the one to tell the waitress their order of two hot green teas, two quiches, and a European pastry sampler to share.

"I'll have that right out for you," the waitress said. Then she got a knowing look in her eye and added, "Are you two recently reunited? This is exactly how my mother is when she comes to visit."

"Uh." Akari had very mixed feelings about that mistaken interpretation. Yes, Inara often acted very motherly toward her, but they were lovers. And there was the matter of all Akari's unprocessed feelings about her actual mother, and the hole that her passing had left.

"Oh, no, that's not it," Inara said gently, waving one hand. "We're not related. Just very close."

The waitress squirmed a little in embarrassment. "Right, of course. Sorry for presuming. Be right back with your tea."

Once she was out of earshot, Inara let out a quiet laugh. "I may have gotten carried away doting on you. My apologies."

Akari found herself giggling. "It's fine. I kinda like when people misread our relationship. It's like we're in on a secret together."

Inara smiled a fox's grin. "We share far more than just one secret."

"Oh, Michi!" Inara's excited voice rang out across the clearing. Michi slowed from a brisk run to a stop.

"Yes, Miss Inara?" the dog spirit called back from the treeline. She walked back toward Inara, who was closing the gap with a large canvas bag in hand.

"Since the weather's so clear today, I would like to invite you for a hike up a nearby mountain and a picnic lunch," the goddess said. She was already dressed for the task, in a pink t-shirt, a gray cotton hoodie, and tight red and black leggings. She had likely conjured the look from an image she found online, but Michi thought it looked pretty good on her.

Michi's ears perked up. "That sounds awesome. Can I invite Akari?"

Inara gave a soft smile. "I'd prefer it to just be the two of us, since I haven't spent any private time with you lately." Inara winked and four tails swished behind her, and the smile took on new meaning. "And we can have some fun on the picnic blanket later…"

Michi glanced around and saw they were alone. Workouts tended to get more than just her heart excited. Her hips and tail moved on their own, wiggling eagerly.

"That sounds better than awesome," she panted.

"Mistress Inara! What a pleasant surprise," Usagi said. She'd just finished washing herself and had been about to get into the bath for a soak when Inara entered the bathing room.

Inara smiled back, then sat down on a wooden stool in front of a faucet. "Usagi, would you be a dear and wash my back?"

"Of course!" Usagi pivoted and beelined for Inara's nude figure. Once her eyes had taken in that amazing hourglass shape, she couldn't help but notice the two tails barely covering the goddess's bottom. Two tails meant Inara was in her dominant mood, Usagi's absolute favorite.

"Is this water a good temperature?" Usagi asked as she ran a soapy sponge across Inara's back.

"Yes, it's lovely. But scrub harder. Put your whole body into it."

Usagi's heart was hammering in her chest, and she was sure Inara could feel it through the large breasts pressed against her back. "Like this?"

"Yes, that's perfect," Inara breathed. "And make sure to get my front too."

"Your front?!" Usagi gasped in hopeful disbelief.

"And everywhere else," Inara answered simply. Suggestively.

Usagi went still. "What if the others walk in?"

Inara let out a low chuckle. "Don't worry about them. I have measures in place."

Then Inara's twin tails wrapped themselves around Usagi's butt and pulled her close, pinning wet skin to wet skin. "I never said you could stop scrubbing."

"Thank you for coming, Hebi."

Hebi gently closed the door behind herself, sealing the room. She turned to face the goddess, who was kneeling on a cushion in the center of the expansive bedroom. "Of course. What's up, Boss?"

Inara bit her lower lip and said, "I've been… causing trouble. Nothing terrible, but nothing good either. I think I need some… corrective discipline."

"Oh?" Hebi circled the goddess, reading her expression, her posture, and her three fluffy tails. She was in a submissive mood, but a feisty one too. "Tell me your transgressions, and I can create a plan for correcting them."

Inara's cute little pout became a bratty smile. "It's a secret."

"A secret…" Hebi hissed.

Inara lowered her chin and peered up at Hebi, fluttering her eyes. "Maybe I'm still being a bad girl. What are you going to do about it, Mistress Hebi?"

Hebi smoothed her skirt down her thighs, took a deep breath, and set to work. A subtle smile stayed on her face the entire time.

"Where the hell is everyone?" Seshi grumbled to herself as she climbed the front steps of the shrine. She was dressed in a standard miko outfit, conjured by her magic on short notice.

I can't believe I was the only one around to explain our shrine's whole deal to a curious elementary school teacher, Seshi thought. I think I did a decent job, but still.

Seshi continued into the spacious front hall, which was kept dark outside of visiting hours.

When did she say she wanted to bring her students to visit? Thursday, I think? This one or the next? Seshi shrugged. Eh, I'm sure it'll be fine either way. There's only what, five or ten kids per class?

Suddenly, Inara was right there at Seshi's side, and she slipped an arm around Seshi's waist. "Looking good, Seshi," she said.

"Oh, thanks."

Inara followed the compliment with a whisper. "Can you sexy up that miko outfit a bit? Just for me."

Seshi raised an eyebrow, but happily did as asked. Huge patches of cloth vanished, leaving just a strappy framework of red elastic and white silk that was nothing more than miko-inspired lingerie. She swirled around to show it off, but didn't even make a full turn before Inara grabbed her around the hips and started kissing her bare shoulder, right there in the main hall.

"Whoa, what the crap, Inara!" Alarm bells were ringing in Seshi's head, louder than the little voice that was chanting, 'hell yeah!'

Golden eyes glinted in the low light. "What can I say? I'm in a mood for passion, for fun, for you…" Inara's seven tails writhed behind her like a showgirl's feathers come to life. "I can change my outfit to match yours."

Inara's regal kimono vanished, leaving scandalously skimpy lingerie behind, white and gold and lacey.

Seshi liked the look, what little she could see of it mid-embrace, but she had bigger concerns.

This ain't normal, even for Inara's passionate mood, she thought. And since I'm kinda going steady right now, it definitely ain't cool to go any further without Kasumi's consent.

Seshi had been meaning to have a conversation with Kasumi about open relationships, but it hadn't happened yet. And Seshi wasn't going to take any chances.

The cat spirit wriggled out of Inara's grasp, then stepped backwards toward the shrine entrance. "Oh, sorry, I've got plans with Kasumi already. Relationships sure are a pain, ain't they?"

With a flash of magic, the sexy miko lingerie was replaced by a full coverage punk-rocker outfit full of black leather and spikes, then Seshi jogged away. Her boots left heavy echoes ringing through the hall where Inara stood alone.

Inara's face fell and she chewed lightly on her lip as her hips wiggled with need.

Seshi did actually have plans with Kasumi, but not until much later in the evening. And she couldn't drop by early either; Kasumi was busy with a sculpting project and took her deadlines very seriously.

So, to kill some time and get Inara's 'passion mode' off her mind, Seshi made her way to the so-called Field House, Shika and Nezumi's temporary dwelling. She texted Nezumi to say she was dropping by, and was surprised by a near-instant response.

Great timing. Got a strange issue here and need help. Hurry.

Seshi rushed over, using a light glamour to avoid startling any humans with the sight of a sprinting punk rocker. Then she opened the weathered steel door to the old maintenance room and went stone still.

The room was small enough to take it all in within a single glance, but Seshi was having a very hard time processing everything contained in that glance. Shika and Nezumi were there, as expected. But so was Inara.

How'd she get here before me? Seshi wondered for about a half-second.

Inara, with one fluffy tail sticking up behind her, was up to her shoulders digging around in a large box of phone and PC parts while a frazzled Nezumi gently tried to stop her. A few feet away, another Inara with eight tails was sitting on the bed and watching Shika attentively. The deer spirit seemed to be entertaining 'innocent' Inara with a story while 'curious' Inara found her own entertainment among the tools of Nezumi's trade.

Seshi blinked and failed to speak for a moment, then said, "Oh. Yeah, I can see why you wanted help."

Two sets of black-tipped ears swiveled her way and two pairs of golden eyes took Seshi in.

"Hi there, Seshi," said one.

"Hello, Seshi," said the other. Then they both went right back to what they'd been doing. Eight-tail was looking up at Shika with near reverence, like a child admiring her older sister, and one-tail Inara had moved on to another box, now with a handful of phone parts clenched in one hand.

Nezumi gave up on trying to keep one-tail out of her stuff and approached Seshi. "So, got any ideas? Has Inara ever split into two like this before?"

The poor mouse looked beyond frazzled and more than a little terrified. She had a natural fear of predatory animals and powerful spirits, and Inara was a whole lot of both.

Seshi frowned. "Uh, I'm pretty sure there're more than two of her right now. Seven-tail Inara was grabbing on me back at the shrine just a few minutes ago." She swallowed. "And I get the feeling there could be even more of her right now, out with the other girls."