A/N: What a weekend! Both my teams (NCAA and NFL) lost, both by a touchdown, both embarrassingly. Still have MNF to see if my Fantasy Football teams are going to lose as well. Pessimistic, yeah, but I'm bitter. Rather lose all my FF teams if it means my two football teams win. Oof.
On the positive side, met my housemate's bf finally. Giggity. Poor guy didn't know what hit him, between her bff and I. We wrecked the new couple in Spades for hours on end. Muahahaha!
And my prize was babysitting duty for the bff's kids. How the bleeding hell that happened I still don't know. One moment we were all gathered at my place, next thing I know, all the adults are gone and I'm left with two rugrats, wondering where their mom just ran off to.
Took them to the movies to see Lion King, cause none of us had seen it yet. I was disappointed. I missed Jeremy Irons. I went home and re-watched "Be Prepared" from the animation like 20x to ease the pain.
All of this is really just an excuse to cover the fact I put this on here Friday as I promised... only to forget to hit "Post New Chapter" like a dum-dum. Took a friend asking me "where the French toast is your next chapter?" for me to realize my blunder. Yes, she actually said French Toast. Anything stronger than "oh snap" and she starts cringing. She's weird. I love her. I'm gonna be in her wedding. She and her fiancée are disgustingly adorable. I'm gonna be her "Man of Honor" hahaha. Her sister can suck it.
Anywho! Here's the latest rendition of the Jade Ashikabi. Constructive criticism is always welcome, as are any ideas. I pretty much know what the destination is, but the journey is yet to be written. New paths are always welcome.
As I was painfully reminded today as I ogled the super fancy 65" computer screen my neighbor utilizes in envy, I am not the owner of recognizable characters. Ciao!
April 22, 2020
'What a crazy life I'm living' Minato thought, looking up at the ceiling, hands behind his head. Without moving, he could tell Shi and Ku were laying on him. Absently, he wondered where Musubi was, but figured she'd either gone training, or her second persona was with Black-sama.
Speaking of the other black-haired man, Minato didn't know what to think. The man didn't have any of Minato's insecurities, was wealthy, and was very comfortable around women. Even Landlady-dono, who scared everyone… except Black-sama.
Or Potter-sama. He didn't know. There was more to it than he knew, but didn't feel it was his place to ask questions about it. Not to mention, whatever history was associated with the name 'Potter' seemed to be a complicated one, as Miya-sama also knew him by that name. So did that other Sekirei, Akitsu.
So did Yume. It gave him a headache.
Ku stirred on his hip, and he shifted a bit until she stopped moving, mumbling in her sleep again. Asama-dono was going to come in and tell them to leave soon, he just knew it, but he would let them sleep until then. Shi was across his chest, looking happy and peaceful. Which was strange, and comforting, he thought. The girl was very shy during the day, and scared of pretty much everything, but right now she looked perfectly content.
The sight made him smile.
Two women sleeping on him, a third he is… sharing?... with Black-sama, and now he's having nightmares about a fourth. He shivered a tad at the thought of the austere woman who repeatedly visited him in his sleep. The dreams were more akin to nightmares: invidious, insidious, and all kinds of hideous, they never ended well for him. All because of the Plan.
The Sekirei Plan.
How had he gotten himself into this mess? Less than a month ago he was stressing out about college entrance exams, living off of a stipend from his mother, and without a girlfriend.
Now… he had three - well, two-and-a-half? Maybe two-and-a-quarter? Musu-Yume was confusing, and Ku wasn't even half grown yet - women that threw themselves at him. Musubi landed on him and Black-sama, Ku had attempted jumping out of a 25 meter-high tree to him, before tackling him once she was on the ground, and Shi just walked up and kissed him out of the blue. It was so weird.
Plus, he was living in an Inn run by a woman scarier than his mother, co-habitating with the most immodest woman ever by the name of Uzume, a professional host named Kagari, a woman who gives his sister a run for her money in perversion, and his three Sekerei.
Which brought him back to Musubi. Or Yume. Musu-Yume? He sighed, rubbing his temples for a moment before returning his hands to resting his head.
It had taken him a while, but he'd eventually realized when Musubi became Yume and vice-versa. Black-sama had said the easiest was in the eyes, and he was right. Musubi's were brown, this Yume-girl's were purple. Their demeanors were different as well: Musubi was very relaxed, innocent and carefree, Yume had a natural sultriness to her, along with a devout resolution and a sense of battle-hardened cynicism. It was an odd dichotomy that gave him whiplash.
He'd only spoken, knowingly, with Yume a couple times, but she was vastly different from Musubi personality-wise.
It was unnerving, talking to two women in the same body. He'd heard of schizophrenia, and sometimes compared it to that, but Black-sama, Yume-san and Miya-dono had all said it wasn't. Yume was a completely separate person that was cohabitating the same body as Musubi. He hadn't heard the reason why, and it was a sore subject between Miya and EJ, so he had dropped it. But something suggested it might have to do with Miya's husband dying, and the thought was more than enough to keep his questions to himself.
EJ Black. He had, admittedly, Googled the man. He was fairly well-known in the medical world, apparently. A prodigy by all accounts, he was considered the leading authority on rare illnesses and diseases, which had brought him to Japan in the first place, to heal Chiho. Sahashi had considered asking his mother about him, seeing as she world in pharmaceuticals, but had relented thus far.
MBI. This whole 'game' stemmed from that company that had kept his mother away for much of his childhood. He'd never known what company she worked for growing up, but now that he had a name, and the reason, so much of the secrecy started making more sense. More than a few times he'd gotten the sense she would choose MBI over him and Yukari in a heartbeat, but would often disperse with that thought as it was likely just him being childish.
But still… how much of his life had revolved, or been affected by, MBI? His mother works for them. His grandmother had hinted she'd met her father through it, whoever he is. Was. Who knew anymore. Yukari no longer cared.
Yukari. Matsu had let slip that his sister had met a Sekirei, though refused to reveal who that Sekirei was. He considered just asking her, but the thought of what she'd do to him once she discovered how many Sekireis he had scared him.
And now, there was another that was terrifying him in his dreams. His nightmares. Tsukiumi. He knew it was her, as it was the same woman that Matsu had shown them all in her room. And just like with Ku, it was getting stronger: that feeling of her calling out to him. Though, he highly doubted the woman needed - let alone wanted - to be rescued, if his dreams were anything to go by.
'I should talk to Black-sama, see if he's had anything similar happen to him.' The guy really did confuse him. He was so confident and comfortable around beautiful women. Worse, or better yet, he wasn't trying to force himself on any Sekirei. Minato had no doubt the man could've had all three of his Sekirei for himself. Considering both Ku AND Musubi had each, at one point, thrown themselves at him, it wouldn't have been difficult.
And Shi. Minato found himself most grateful for Black-sama's consideration regarding Shi. He'd remembered how bad of shape the girl had been that night EJ-sama brought her home. He could've taken her and the girl wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. But, he hadn't. He gave her space, never pushed her, wouldn't even attempt to talk to her if she didn't initiate. And then congratulated Sahashi when Shi chose him to be her Ashikabi. It was weird, how he had three Sekirei and Black-sama only had…
Well… actually… that's where it all got really confusing, he realized. Technically, as Black-sama had said a few times, Matsu was his only Sekirei. But… the whole sharing Musu-Yume had to be considered, so he really had two, as Yume was still alive in some capacity.
Then this Akitsu. He really didn't understand that whole situation. It seemed far too personal, as no one was ever happy when the ice woman came up in conversation. He really hoped it worked out for Black-sama, as he was really broken up about her. Discussing the austere woman was the only time he'd seen the doctor's confidence flounder. Sahashi actually found himself appreciating the man more as a result: it made him seem more human.
Ku mumbled something incoherently, before tightening her arms around his blanket-covered knee. He smiled some more, as Shi also shifted. He absently laid a hand on her back, and her content face turned into a soft smile at his touch.
Which suddenly had the end of a blade on it.
He blinked a few times, then immediately started shaking in fear as he followed it up to its wielder. Only to blink some more at Musubi standing there with Miya's sword in-hand, a wide smirk on her lips that turned into a giggle as his pale face and terrified eyes met hers that were full of mischievousness.
"Gotcha" the woman - and Minato recognized it not as Musubi's but Yume's voice - tittered, and Minato subsequently dropped his head back down in relief, the *thunking* sound waking up his two co-habs.
"Up and at em, Sahashi. Don't want Miya catching these two in here with you do we?" She tittered again at Minato's shudder, and shouldered the sword. "Musubi will be out training with Miya. And Matsu wants a word with you when you're awake. EJ-sama's already in there with her, they're waiting for you."
"Thanks, Yume, I'll be there shortly" he responded. The coquettish woman nodded with a smirk and departed.
'She might be worse than Uzume' the boy thought, helping the two girls to their feet to return them to their rooms, thinking about yet another newly revealed side of Sekirei Number 8. 'Suddenly, sharing Musu-Yume doesn't sound so bad' he chuckled to himself before heading to Matsu's room. 'If that's what Yume is like with her friends, I can only imagine what she's like with her Ashikabi.' The thought had him shuddering.
"Ah, there's our resident harem-master" was what greeted Minato as he entered Matsu's room. He almost turned around and left, as Matsu was topless. Granted, her back was to him, and EJ was blocking most of her, but he could tell. She was too buxom for him not to.
"You're… oooh… one to… yes, more… talk, EJ-sama" Matsu mumbled out. Minato had no idea what he was doing to her, and felt a nosebleed coming.
"Well, if you insist" Harry responded, and the younger man heard some shuffling.
"No! No no, please don't stop sir, that felt sooo good!" Minato wanted to run. He wanted to turn around. So he just stayed facing the wall, holding his nose, fighting his embarrassment.
"Perhaps after Minato leaves. Wouldn't want to scare the poor boy."
"He can watch and learn for his own Sekirei, pleeeeeeease?" she whined. He had no idea what was going on, but definitely didn't want to stick around if they were going to continue.
EJ laughed. "No. Now, pull your dress up, and tell the class what you've been up to."
Another whine, a mumbled "yes, sir", some rusting of clothing, followed by some keyboard taps, Minato was told it was safe to turn around. Upon doing so, he immediately noticed the woman's dress was on backwards and her hair a mess. Pointedly not looking at his fellow male, he took a spot close enough to see the monitor, but not so close to risk being drug into whatever they were doing beforehand. The smirk he could see on Black-sama's face out of the corner of his eye alerted him the elder male was not deceived at all.
"So!" the redhead squeaked, before coughing to regain some resemblance of composure, and sending a pouting face at her Ashikabi's smirk. "So" she repeated more sedately, facing her monitors, "Sahashi, do you remember when we were talking about the unwinged Sekirei that still remained?"
At first he nodded, then realized Matsu hadn't turned around. "Uh, yeah, I think by the end of that conversation there were only six left, right?"
"Correct, and there still are. However, I would wager that number will change shortly." She looked at Harry, who nodded towards her, and she hit a few more keystrokes.
Up on the screen showed a picture of Sekirei 107: Shiina. Next to it was another picture of the same boy, in a dress for some reason, with a girl he recognized.
"Your sister ran into him, literally, several days ago. In fact…" she brought up the ATM footage that showed Yukari and Shiina colliding, a strange interaction, then the duo leaving shortly before Harry and Gabby arrived, "EJ-sama just missed meeting her."
"Small world" Harry muttered, shaking his head with a smile.
"It really is" Matsu agreed. She hit another stroke. "Look who I just found, and who they're talking to. And he's reacting to her heavily. You can see it in his breathing and facial expressions when he looks at her."
Up on the screen was the same duo, and his sister was talking animatedly with a familiar blonde-haired woman, standing next to two other familiar persons. "Wait, isn't that…?"
"Well, I'll be damned" Harry chuckled, shaking his head. "Gabby went with Chiho and Uzume to go shopping. What're the odds? Any chance of getting audio?"
"Sorry, EJ-sama, it's a feed from the mall. They don't usually have audio due to the noise level."
"Bummer. But, this discovery with Minato's sister isn't the only reason we're here, is it?"
She smirked at the elder man. "Of course not, EJ-sama. I always want you here. And what's wrong with having an audience?" she asked sultrily, sending a coy wink over her shoulder towards the younger, who busted into another nosebleed. With a titter, and an "eep!" at being pinched in the side, she giggled as she turned to her screens. Several more keystrokes later, and two more women popped up.
"No, what I wanted to show you two were these two. Number 13: Tsubaki, and Number 9: Tsukiumi. The former is attracting a lot of attention in underground fighting rings, as well as multiple rumors from the darker sides of town. She's currently accredited with the death of six men, and one woman: outside of the rings." Minato gulped, hoping he wasn't being asked to confront her. But the thought was derailed, as the hacker drew his attention back to the blonde. "The latter has torn a path across town the past few days, resulting in over a dozen hospitalized men." She brought up a video that was recorded from someone's phone by the look of it.
"How dare you presume to think yourself worthy of laying thou vile hands upon myself! I should end thy miserable existence and ensure no other women suffer at thy hands! Filthy monkey!" With that, a powerful blast of water shot from her hand, sending the man careening into a wall, before the blonde took to the roof.
Matsu rewound it, pausing on the water blast.
"The dozen attacks I've confirmed are her all were water-assisted. Seven had bystander witnesses, six of which said the attacks were completely unprovoked, that she just appeared near them and started yelling at the guy." She tapped a few more keys, and some reports popped up. "And they're getting worse, more violent."
"All of them are male?"
Matsu nodded, before an alert from another monitor caught her attention. It was next to Harry, so she merely leaned over him, and his left hand settled on her rump. Minato had to tear his eyes from the sight.
"Make that 13 confirmed. This one found in the middle of a street, drowning, saved via CPR."
Both men shared a look. It was clear she needed to be stopped, but how? The only options were eliminating her entirely, or…
"Ashikabis" both voiced simultaneously, and Matsu looked back at them questioningly.
"She's eliminating potential Ashikabis" Harry repeated, and Minato was growing paler. Matsu sat back on her haunches, her Ashikabi's hand sliding up her back, rubbing in small circles.
"How do you come to that conclusion?" she asked, before looking at the other man.
"What she said, and the attacks themselves. These attacks aren't random. Unless she was a rape victim of all of them, and we can't completely ignore that possibility, it's more likely these are men she's reacted to on some level." He tapped the screen with the victimology information, not realizing neither of the other two were paying him any attention, as the redhead was eyeing the other Ashikabi with concern. "Look, three of these guys aren't even from this continent. Four of the others are from other countries here in Asia. Of the six locals, two aren't from Tokyo. One from Tokyo is 17, and another is 42. The odds of all thirteen being in on something as horrible as a rape on one woman is… beyond imaginable. No, I'd wager she's roaming the city, eliminating those she's reacting to as a Sekirei, and taking steps to prevent them from winging her."
Minato was physically shaking now. "Minato… what is it?"
Harry turned towards the young male, who was whiter than Matsu's gown. He cocked his head, before another realization hit him. "You've been dreaming about her too, haven't you?"
Matsu's eyes widened in excited understanding, and she turned to her screens, typing furiously. Harry kept his eyes on his friend.
"She said she'd kill me" he whispered. "I've been dreaming about her for four days now. She always claims she'll kill me."
"Well, we know which of you gets the girl then" Matsu remarked with a laugh. "Shame, that, I had hoped it would be EJ-sama." She didn't look to read the room. "Probably has to do with Minato having all three of his Sekirei in one piece" she theorized, stopping for a moment, looking at the ceiling. "It's really not all that strange, now that I think about it. More than likely the two of you interacted on some level, something simple as a casual bump in the street." She send a look at her own Ashikabi. "After all, that's how I first met EJ-sama here, and haven't looked back since."
"That's ok, if Black-sama wants her, he can have her." Both turned to him, and he was holding his knees up. "I don't really want to die, if it's all the same. Black-sama could handle her much better than I could."
Harry was looking thoughtful, as if seriously considering the boy's words. He turned a quick glance at Matsu, who immediately spun to her keyboard. "Locating Number 9: Tsukiumi."
"If you had a telepathic wave with her, you can use your heart to find her." The soft comment from the doorway had all three spinning around. Musubi was standing there with Ku next to her. "We can go look for the girl from your dream, and somehow, I'll make her our friend."
"You might get killed" Mastu provided, completely unhelpfully. That got her a spank from Harry. Clearly she was of the agreement her own Ashikabi should be claiming the angry woman.
"Don't be mean, Matsu. He's not gonna die." Harry turned towards the boy. "If you want her, we'll go get her." Minato went to protest, but Harry held his hand up. "Just as with Ku, it's you who has been dreaming of her. Not I." He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "I truly hate thinking of the Sekirei this way, but in short, you get 'dibs'."
"But what if she tries to kill me?" he whined, then edited himself. "WHEN she tries to kill me! You saw what she did to those others! And they didn't even have to say anything!"
"That's why I'm going with you, kid" Potter declared. "I'm not saying inveigle her or anything. Just talk. Musubi and I will both be there as backup, but I doubt you'll actually need it."
"And me!" Ku's high-pitched voice threw out as she stood there with arms akimbo. The sight had the group at large smiling at her determination, the tension in the room lightening.
Minato went to protest, but Musubi's stomach rumbled, which completely broke the tension as she covered with her hands. "After lunch, apparently" he added, causing another round of light laughs.
"If you've finished with your secret meeting, everyone, lunch is ready" came Miya's voice from outside the room. Harry shook his head, wondering how much of the 'secret meeting' was actually secret.
As Minato and Kusano leave, Musubi turns to follow but, Harry called her back. "Yume, wait." The shift was mostly subtle, but even from the back both EJ and Matsu could see it. She slowly turned, taking stock of the room at large, before focusing on the duo.
"I see the change-over is getting easier" Matsu commented, and Yume nodded.
"Yes. Since running into Harry, I've become more and more aware of the world around me."
"What was it like before?" he asked.
"Before, I was restricted to only what Musubi took in. Which, I'm sorry to say, is not much. She's not the most observant girl."
"Yeah, we've noticed" Harry remarked as Matsu nodded. "I wonder if some of that is your fault, to be honest."
"Mine?" the violet-eyed woman asked in wonder. "How is it mine?"
"Well…" he drew out, wondering how much he should reveal. "Long story short, I have some history with sharing my body with a second soul." Before either could press, he held his hand up. "Not today. Just know that I've experience with it. And it isn't pleasant. Granted, you did it for a good reason" he reassured the woman, who nodded slowly. "But, as you're no doubt aware, this isn't healthy long-term. For either of you."
"I know, Harry" she answered softly, shaking her head. "But, unless you're able to get my body back, or grow me a new one, I don't know what else to do."
"I know. I'm not accusing you, Yume" he said softly, taking her into his arms. "I've not spoken with Musubi about it, but I can't imagine this being easy on her either. Several times when you've shifted back, she mentions black-outs. I fear she may not even be aware of what's going on. Which, if it were me, would absolutely terrify me."
"That's why you don't talk to Yume very much, isn't it, EJ-sama?" Matsu asked, suddenly understanding.
The man nodded. "It happened to me once. Thankfully, only once. But that was enough. I woke up in a different city altogether, with no recollection of how I got there." He shook his head at the memory. "Anyways, I said not today, and there I go and start rambling. What I wanted to talk to you about was, well, pretty much what you've been doing: watching over Musubi. She is battle-crazy. Not a bad thing, but she'll likely jump into fights she's not fully prepared for.
"Point in fact…" he turned to Matsu, who hit a couple strokes and brought Tsukiumi's profile back up. "Meet Number 9: Tsukiumi. Minato has been dreaming about her, as you probably heard. From what Uzume has told Gabby and I, is that there is a very large power gap between herself as Number 10 and this Tsukiumi Number 9. Would you agree with that assessment?"
The woman nodded. "I'm afraid so." She sighed, thinking on how to explain. "What we have been told, and some of which I came to my own conclusions about, we eight single digits have an advantage over the others: we were already in the fetal stage when we were found. The other 99 were only fertilized eggs. Our further development prevented our "adjustors" from doing too much to us. That includes our overall strength."
"So, in reality, Musubi and Shi could easily be as strong as you two had MBI not fucked with them?"
She nodded. "Pretty much. At least, that's what several of us came to the conclusion of."
"'Several of us'. What do you mean? Who?"
"I think that is quite enough for today, don't you think, Yume?" came Miya's sweet voice. Matsu was the only one who jumped in surprise, but the other two turned towards her. "Lunch is ready, and we don't want it getting cold now before you set out, do we?"
But EJ wasn't ready to give up just yet. "What's your part in all of this, Miya? Yume just said only eight single digits. Matsu also mentioned only 107 'viable' Sekirei. Both of which mean one is unaccounted for… I can only logically assume that one is you in both instances: Number 1. So…" he stepped towards her, seeing Miya's eyes hardening as he did so. "Where do you fit in?"
The two stared at each other for several minutes. Both Matsu and Yume stared on, exchanging several worried glances, before their landlady broke the silence. "We both have questions, Potter-san. Until I have the answers to mine, you will not receive the answers to yours. Is that clear?"
Before he could answer, one of the monitors let out an alert. All three turned towards the redhead, who was bringing it up on screen. "Tsukiumi?" EJ asked, and she shook her head.
"No, it's…" but cut off at seeing Miya's look behind Potter. "It can wait" she added meekly, hitting a keystroke and the monitor went blank.
He turned and looked at the puissant woman again, who met his gaze before turning towards the door. "Lunch is waiting" she declared, leaving the room. Harry shook his head. 'Why am I attracted to such dangerous women?'
"Alright, so who's on bodyguard duty for Minato?" They were all gathered on the porch of Izumo Inn, preparing to hunt down the Water Sekirei. Kagari had ran off again, Gabby, Chiho and Uzume hadn't returned from shopping yet, and Miya had begged off. So the five of them were on their own.
"Hey! I'm not that…"
"ME! I'll guard Onii-san!" Ku's high-pitched voice called out. She was carrying a small, potted plant, and was holding it above her head.
"That's a big responsibility, Ku-chan, think you're up for it?" Harry teased, and she leveled her most fierce gaze at him… which meant it was absolutely adorable and Harry had to fight to keep from smiling at the girl.
"I am a big girl! I will protect my Ashikabi!" she declared. Shi, who'd decided to accompany them (meaning, going with her Ashikabi that in no way, shape or form had anything to do with avoiding being left alone with Miya) was giggling from behind her oversized sleeves, as was Miya from the doorway.
"Don't I get a say in this?" Minato whined, receiving several "NO!"s in return, including Ku's. He sagged his head, before bowing to the little girl. "My life is entrusted to you Ku-chan." She was looking very proud of herself, which sent Shi and Miya into another round of giggles. Harry shook his head while Musubi just smiled.
"Alright then, let's get this show on the road" he said, tapping his ear. "Comm check, Matsu, do you read?"
"Loud and clear, stud."
"You realize everyone else is listening, right?" he lightly admonished, seeing Minato and Shi both getting red-faced. A loud "eek!" told him she'd forgotten that little tidbit, and he shook his head again.
"I think we're set on comms. Last sighting of Tsukiumi?"
"Camera caught her on a rooftop across town." She gave them the location. "You should know, the Lightning Twins engaged her. It didn't go their way. She's currently chasing them around town, causing a lot of property damage."
"We should take the jeep then" he commented, and they headed to the alleyway. As they exited, the other four saw a deep, almost blood-red Jeep Cherokee with black-tinted windows.
"You got another car, Black-sama?" Minato asked in surprise.
"How many times I gotta say drop the -sama, makes me feel old" Harry griped, before answering his question. "And not really. I had this imported a couple weeks ago, but was only able to pick it up last week from Customs. Love this car. It's reinforced, both magically and not, to withstand a missile. Not really sure how well it'll survive a Sekirei attack, but I hope never to test that theory. Though - knowing my luck - that'll happen fairly soon" he mused, rubbing the back of his head before shrugging.
"Anyways, it's magically modified to seat everyone comfortably. So, hop in!" he declared, pulling open the back door. The other four were surprised to see just how much room was actually in the car, that belied what the exterior was showing them. A few moments later all were piled in, and Harry was up front behind the wheel, tearing out into the road.
Forty-five minutes later, after navigating the hell that was Tokyo traffic, which Harry somehow did smoothly (he referenced something called the 'Knight Bus' but he didn't elaborate for the class), they pulled up near an entrance to a Tube Station. Matsu had said the trio was heading in this direction, so they piled out after EJ parked it.
They'd started down a street towards a small marketplace when they struck gold: well, luck struck them, actually.
"Catch him!" a voice none of them wanted to hear called out. Before anyone had reacted, Minato was impacted by a falling body. More specifically a cat landing on his head. A comical interaction later, and half a dozen facial scratches, neither of which Harry interfered with, due to laughing too hard, another pair of hands pulled the ferocious feline out of his hands.
"Thanks for catching him, young man!" Seo congratulated. "Well, you saved me. He's a stray cat. I've been chasing him for three days now. With this I can get the money from the client." The man was digging through his pockets for something, but Harry had already begun tuning him out, looking around for their target. But, his attention was brought back by the same man in a surprise fashion. "Hey, you got more Sekireis now" he said matter-of-factly, looking at Minato.
Then he turned and looked at Harry, cocked his. "And you have one more now as well, though I can't tell if it's an additional, or…" his eyes lit up. "You got Matsu, didn't you?" He smirked, then turned to Minato. "Which means, yours was probably that cute little girl running around Izumo. Uh… I don't know if I ever caught her name."
"Shi, and how did you know that?" Minato asked in surprise, wondering where said Sekirei had disappeared to. "And how did you know about Matsu-san?"
"Moron, I was the one who built her hidden door. Because that Takehito was rough on his workers." Harry felt puzzle pieces sliding together, ignoring the fact that Seo just called Minato a moron.
Minato was shocked. "Takehito-san…" he began, but Seo cut him off.
"Asama Takehito. He was my friend, but he's dead" Seo said morosely, and Harry could tell it was genuine. The man shook his head, before looking at Harry. "I always wondered where you disappeared to, Harry Potter." The statement caught the green-eyed man completely sideways, and it certainly showed on his face. "Takehito told me about you. Miya used to have this moving picture of you and her husband together, laughing about something. Haven't seen one like it since she trashed it. That day… before the accident, he'd wanted your help with something. Said you had a special ability that would have made Izumo the perfect safe-house. Any idea why he'd say something like that?" he asked. It was certainly less of a request so much as a demand.
Before the conversation went any further, twin voices called out, "SEO!"
The group turned, and Things One and Two were dropping to the ground. Seo's demeanor flipped back to the carefree one that they all knew and loathed. "Hey! You girls, look! I caught our money maker! With this, we don't need to worry about meals."
"No time for that, we were found by…"
"Hey! You over there!" came a mature woman's voice from above them. They looked up, and as fortune would have it, another woman was dropping right on top of them, her panties on show for all. "You're interfering! Get out of the way!"
A moment later, she landed right on Minato, who collapsed to the ground, muttering "déjà vu" weakly.
Harry was seriously reconsidering his offer of letting Minato have the first chance to Wing her. The woman that stood over his fellow male was, in a word, daaaaaaaamn. She was Matsu's height, with long, blonde hair to her rear that curled the last foot or so. Her décolletage was obscenely low: Gabby wore bikini tops that covered more. Only the nips and about half of the under-boob was actually covered, the rest was on full display.
He was imagining all kinds of money shots happening between him and the woman. And that was just the top half, complete with a choker. She was wearing a long, black cloak that covered absolutely nothing from the waist down, displaying the mini-skirt that stopped inches below her hips. Two garter belts sat mid-thigh, and knee-high stockings with nearly knee-high boots completed the look.
Yes, he was very much reconsidering his offer. The truculent woman was, predictably, growing irate about something, holding a hand to her chest and backing away from Minato. Then she turned and looked at him, and that ire grew some more as her eyes widened manically.
"Two of you! So! This is how you want to play it! How dare thy villains seek to claim that which is not yours!" She dropped her hands to her side, and they saw water forming around them. "I'll kill you before I let my body be taken! Both of you!" she screeched, and Minato was crawling backwards.
"Prepare yourself, monkey!" the woman screamed at the boy on the ground. With little to no hesitation, she began throwing the watery equivalent of fireballs at him. To say they were literally balls of water, like water balloons without the balloon, would be most accurate. Minato displayed some of his natural physique by dodging them non-stop. Had anyone been paying attention, they would've noticed that Shi had arrived, and was currently aiding Ku in restraining Musubi from attacking the woman. They were under orders not to engage her unless Minato was in a life-threatening situation. And, seeing as he hadn't been hit yet, except being landed on, they were obligated to follow his orders.
At least, two of them were. The battle-crazed Musubi wanted to join in: both to 'save' her Ashikabi, and to get in on the action.
Harry, meanwhile, was of two minds, as he watched the spectacle in amusement. Well, three, if he listened to his second head. He had to give it to the kid, he was quite adept at evasion. Also to his credit, he wasn't necessarily running away from the woman, just avoiding her attacks. In fact, if Harry didn't miss his guess, he'd wager Minato had actually gotten closer to her, and was attempting to start some sort of conversation. Said attempts only further irked the woman more, which brought him back to his thoughts. On one hand, he wanted very much to take her in all the worst ways. But, he dismissed that, as her whole rampage was about not wanting any males to violate her as such.
On another hand, he knew he could take the long road to that. And, she was a single number, meaning she's very powerful. And this was a game, a game that, if he was going to participate in, he wanted to win. Furthermore, truth-be-told, a physical relationship wasn't a necessity. Sure, he'd very much prefer it, but no, it wasn't a requirement for him. His arguments against claiming Shi and Musubi were true: the first was terrified of him, the latter far too innocent. Tsukiumi was neither, as her recent actions had proven. But, she did need an attitude adjustment, which, if the last Potter was REALLY being honest, probably wouldn't happen with him. It'd probably get worse, actually.
Which brought him to good ol' number three; the simple fact was Minato, technically, had dibs. Which… still sounded all sorts of wrong, but Minato was the one dreaming of the woman, not him. Plus, he'd told the boy he'd help him essentially 'claim his woman', so to speak. He sighed. Friendship was complicated. Best to take on a laissez-faire attitude until a situational necessity reveals itself. There was a reason they brought three Sekirei, after all. He was just in case.
"Private link, Matsu."
"Matsu here, what's up EJ-sama?"
"We found her. Well, she found us, actually. She's already threatened both of us. Completely ignored Seo, though, which is reassuring I suppose."
"Seo's there? What's going on? I'm hacking into the satellite feed now."
"Surprised you hadn't already. She reacted to us, both of us, by the look of it. Heavily, if I'm not mistaken. Much like you were in that bath. And it's pissed her off. Like purple-in-the-face rage, pissed off."
"Wow. I had three weeks of suppressed urges to go on. That makes sense, though. Between you two, you have four Sekireis. Just Minato with all three of his right there must've sent her hormones into a hurricane-like rage."
"Like a moth to a flame?"
"Worse, but yes. Your situation is… odd… to be sure. But Minato's is fairly straightforward. Musubi would've made him a candle, Ku a lantern, and now Shi? He's become a small campfire. The more Sekirei he adds, and the more powerful those Sekirei are, the greater the pull."
"So with me…"
"If Akitsu and Yume were still 100% yours, you'd be a bonfire with all three of us, likely because of your own power. There wouldn't be a Sekirei alive capable of resisting you."
"Is this how Mikogami and Higa are getting so many?"
"It helps, yes. Numbers alone increases their appeal, no matter how horrid they may be. They become that play-boy that you know has a terrible reputation, but you want to find out for yourself why that is. Add to that they emit a sort of mating call just by being Ashikabis, and it's a lure. An opening-the-creepy-door-in-the-creepy-house kind of lure: you know it's a terrible idea, but you do it anyway because you're curious just enough. But by the time you come to your senses, it's too late."
He watched as Seo kissed his two girls, and both of them sprouted blue and purple wings. He was amused by Minato covering Ku's eyes protecting her innocence, as the girl stood in front of him, pot on her head and arms outstretched, protecting him from Tsukiumi. Shi was looking a bit red at the sight, ducking her face into Minato's shoulder. Musubi just cocked her head, eagerly watching the going-ons.
"Well… this should be interesting…" he heard Matsu mutter. He assumed she succeeded in getting satellite imagery.
"Care to elaborate?"
"Seo's activated their Noritos. Like in a video game, it's their super ability that can only be activated by the kiss of our Ashikabi."
He watched as the two chanted something, then screamed "Kaminari!" and a large, purple and blue bolt of lightning fired right at Tsukiumi.
To everyone's surprise, Minato jumped in front of it. Harry just blinked, and his first thought wondered if he just witnessed the boy commit suicide. His second was how to tell his sister. The third, and worse, was how to tell Miya. The fourth was the realization the guy probably need medical assistance if he somehow survived it, and darted forward to where the man was laying on top of the blonde, protecting her body. His jacket was shredded, exposing his skin which, to Harry's initial surprise, was bruised, but nothing more.
'Something to think about later' he sidebarred, and pulled the man off of the water woman. Said woman just laid there in shock for a few moments, breathing heavily with eyes wide open, her ample chest undulating in near exaggeration, before slowly clambering to her feet. But he ignored her, checking the younger man over, and found a pulse.
"The next one won't miss" he heard from the twins, and looked up in time to see a hose of water from the - strangely stoic - blonde split the twins, who were dodging it, and hit Seo that was behind them. He couldn't help the bark of laughter that erupted at seeing the man's plight, or his face as the now-drenched cat in his hands managed to free itself and darted away.
"Ahh… it ran away" one of the twins said.
"Shit" the other said, hanging her head.
Seo was waterlogged against a wall, which amused Harry, until Minato's groan got his attention again.
"Whoa whoa whoa take it easy, pal" he admonished, taking the man by the shoulder. "That was a hell of a hit you just took, both from the twins and from the landing. Don't move too fast."
"He tried to protect me." Harry looked up, and saw that dilation he was becoming familiar with in the woman's eyes directed at the boy on the ground, as well as the heavy breathing she was failing to conceal with a hand over her heart. 'Yep, she's gone. He's already got her. Shame that. But, she'll be good for him. They'll be good for each other.'
He thought he heard Seo whining about something, but he didn't care… right up until he was suddenly next to them and slamming Tsukiumi into a wall, hand on her throat.
"You beat up my girls." He slammed her again. "Then you lose our payday." Another slam into the wall. "You have to pay that debt somehow."
Harry found himself in a bind, and confused. Confused, because she wasn't fighting back. 'Wonder if this is the 'Ashikabi with multiple Sekirei' thing Matsu was talking about.' And in a bind, because what if saving her this time created a problem with her reaction to Minato. Friendship with guys was confusing.
"What did you do to me?" she demanded on the man with his hand on her throat. Harry's eyebrows raised as the man just smirked victoriously.
"It doesn't matter what you do. My powers as an Ashikabi were recognized by Takehito; it's quite special."
Huh. Ashikabi with special abilities. If this is a game, then that's a seriously broken mechanic if not… wait, do they all have special abilities?
Harry realized that just being him was a special ability, and mentally shook his head. Something else to look into.
"That's right, I'll wing you like that, and then you'll become my servant, how about that?" Ok. Enough is enough. Harry got to his feet, before a surprise voice caught their attention.
"Leave her alone." It was said with such firmness that there was absolutely no way it could've came from the person he knew it did. Turning with a confused frown, Minato had, at some point, gotten to his feet, and was staring the bigger man down. 'Kid has something. Don't know what, but something. Good on him, growing some cajones.'
"That … that girl is…" 'Oh, come on, don't stutter now!'
"That girls is my Sekirei!" 'Atta boy!'
"Youngling, you're her Ashikabi?" Seo asked incredulously. Harry just rolled his eyes.
"That's right" Minato answered defiantly, stepping towards the man. "Now, let. Her. Go."
"What if I don't wanna" Seo replied with a smirk, but found an arm around his neck.
"Aaand that's my cue" Harry supplied, tightening his grip. "Your part here is done, pal. Let the lovely woman go, or I kill you now and give your Sekirei an upgrade." He smirked cockily. "I daresay they could use it." the man's grip on Tsukiumi's neck loosened, and Harry's around his own neck followed. "Good boy, you can follow orders. Now, I suggest you run along, before…"
"You bastard, Seo."
"Too late" Harry sing-songed, before pushing him in the direction of two very irate women.
His part done, he spun around, and caught sight of Musubi- correction, Yume - doubled over in laughter at what had just happened. He glanced at the blonde and raven-haired woman conversing, clearly not going Minato's way, judging by his frantic defensive movements before her verbal onslaught, before he shook his head and moved to their shared Sekirei.
He heard - and saw the flashes of - purple lightning bolts going off behind him, and knew that Seo was in for it.
"Well, this was all anticlimactic. Shi and I didn't even get to do anything."
Harry snorted, looking at the woman with her arms crossed. "You're telling me. Here I was prepared for an epic fight, followed by lots of clichés, but all we got was a wimp throwing himself in front of - then surviving - a lightning bolt to protect the woman he was deathly terrified to even meet, let alone talk to." He thought it over, eyes skyward, before looking back at her. "On second thought, not bad, actually. But, I did still hope for a bit more action."
"I really wish I had my own body" Yume remarked, leaning into him, slowly rubbing herself on him as a cat to a post. "Musubi is bummed she didn't get to fight, and part of me is as well, but seeing you get all manly like that in defense of a damsel, and of a friend, gets me all hot and bothered." She emphasized her point by fanning herself with her hand. Harry leaned his head back and laughed, before kissing the top of her head as he wrapper an arm around her shoulders.
"I can't deny how much of me wants to go for it, but I highly doubt Musubi is in any way experienced in such arts. Best let her defile her own body on her own terms, I'm afraid." Yume sighed.
"I know" she whined, before tilting her head up to him. "And despite being a perverted asshole, it's things like that that make you such a great guy."
He shrugged. "I try" he remarked dryly, before donning a thoughtful expression. "Sometimes." That drew a snort from the woman, as she straightened up and shook her head as Tsukiumi's voice got louder and louder.
"DON'T FIGHT!" Kusano's scream was heard over all, and the two watched as the lightning twins, Seo, and Shi were all wrapped in limbs, with Tsukiumi and Minato held in vines close to each other. The two followed all the branches back to the simple potted plant in the hands of a small, golden-yellow girl. The youngest Sekirei looked very pleased with herself.
"I stopped the fight" she stated simply, sending them a thumbs-up. Both just collapsed onto the ground, rolling in the dirt as they laughed.
The trip home was tense. Tsukiumi refused to release Minato's arm, even while climbing into the jeep. She instantly recognized the modifications as "sorcery", then she accused Harry of witchcraft, but halted her protests upon the realization of just how comfortable it all was.
Though, despite that initial bout of cognition, Harry learned a very important detail on the trip home: Tsukiumi wasn't very observant either. It amused him that she kept questioning - more like interrogating - Shi and Ku about their Ashikabi, not realizing they were speaking of the man whose arm she was clutching onto. A detail he was going to exploit as soon as possible.
The arrival at the Inn, however, was comical, as Harry saw his chance. Miya was holding a mattenklopper in her hand as she approached them from the side. "You are late" she announced, looking him in the eye expectantly. 'Two birds, one stone' he internally smirked, before stepping to the woman.
"Sorry, honey, Minato had some trouble snagging his fourth Sekirei" he replied, before kissing Miya on the cheek, just missing her lips.
The wizard swore he heard Kagari's jaw hit the porch. And it took quite a bit of his not inconsiderable willpower to turn around to see the facial expressions behind him, as Tsukiumi screamed "FOURTH!?" But it was Miya's look of shock, as Harry was vehemently denying it was also filled with lust, that anchored him in place. The two stared at each other for a few minutes, before Uzume's voice carried out the door.
"Miya! The table is all se… oh!" She caught sight of the new girl. "Well well, Sahashi-san, becoming quite the stud muffin yourself, are we? Trying to show up EJ-sama with how many Sekirei you can get into your bed?"
Harry thought he was going to explode from how much he was fighting back his laughter, as Uzume's cackles, Miya's declarations against all such actions in her domicile, and Tsukiumi's outbursts, filled the air of Izumo's garden.
This time no one was spared, as Kusano got all of them wrapped up, even Miya, having more than just her potted plant to rely on this time. Though, it didn't stop Harry and Uzume's laughing, despite being caught in it themselves. Or Tsukiumi's ranting.
And little Ku just giggled as she ran inside with her little plant.
That evening, Matsu came down to the table, joining Miya, Harry and Kagari. Gabby had gone to their place already to crash, the shopping trip having worn her out. Though, she'd cackled when he told her what happened with Miya, and dared him to do it again. A dare he really wanted to accomplish, but wondered if it was worth his life.
The rest had retired to their rooms, so the quartet could finish the discussion that had begun in Matsu's room, as Miya and Kagari had apparently heard all of it.
"You sure you don't want Minato to hear this?" Kagari asked her as she took her spot next to her Ashikabi. The redhead shook her head.
"From what I heard over the comms between Tsukiumi and Minato, it was all Minato could do to reign her in, so to speak. We can tell the others about this later, but not so he could add another to his collection. Which, I must confess, EJ-sama" she turned to her green-eyed wizard, "that I am surprised you actually let Minato claim her. I'm not upset, just surprised."
Miya and Kagari looked at him expectantly, and he shrugged. "I won't deny I almost didn't. When she landed on Minato, all my perversions came out. That, plus the fact this is a game, I very nearly did." He shrugged again. "But, I told Minato I'd help him. That if he wanted her, I'd help him get her." He shook his head. "I'm not very good with being friends with guys, but there's a code, the Bro Code: he called dibs."
"'Dibs'?" Miya's very venomous word had the two Sekirei shaking, and Harry shrugged again.
"More than once, this 'winging' of Sekirei has been referred to as 'collecting' them. Plus, this is all a 'game' of some sorts. Now, I don't like it, but at the same time, I'm not the one setting the rules. So, for the time being, I'm playing by them until I have the ability and power to change them. Plus," he shrugged, "I think someone with Tsukiumi's constitution will be good for Sahashi, and vice versa. I think Sahashi learned something about himself today."
"An awfully heuristic approach, don't you think? Not to mention nearly fatal."
"I've questions about the 'nearly fatal' aspect of that statement, but that's for another time. As for heuristic," he shrugged again, "he just took another step to being the man his other girls already see him as. Now, he's just put an action to that thought."
Running his fingers through his hair, he looked between all three of them. "On another topic, as of this moment, all three of you represent part of the game." He pointed a thumb at Matsu. "She's already mine. We all know that." He indicated Kagari. "You could be mine, and were I like Higa or this Mikogami fellow, I would just take you. But, despite all of my villainous and scoundrel-esque ways, I'm not that sort of asshole. If I were, Minato wouldn't have any Sekirei at all." He then indicated Miya. "Believe it or not, I believe in women having a choice. I may do all I can to seduce a woman to my bed, or anywhere really, but I will not force them. I will not coerce them outside of those honey'd words. And despite being pieces of a game, and aliens, they… you... are all individuals, with your own lives, and have the ability to make your own choices."
He shrugged again. "No one likes being forced to play a game unwillingly. Especially one where they don't even know all the rules. And worse, one with people's lives on the line." Taking a deep breath, he looked at Miya. "You know that towel that Uzume uses?"
"The one with the creatures on it? Pokemon, I think she called them."
"Exactly" he nodded. "When putting it up the other day, I had a strange thought, on how, in some ways, 'collecting' Sekirei was like collecting Pokemon. The only difference is every Sekirei is akin to being a legendary, as there are so few." Miya twitched at that. He looked at the other two. "Right?" Kagari and Matsu nodded, and Miya was as well, but much slower.
"That being said, what is the purpose of this game in the first place?"
"To see which of us is strongest, of course" Matsu answered quickly.
"For what purpose?" he pressed. "To what end does eliminating 106 Sekirei serve? Why would an Ashikabi be capable of winging more than one if, ultimately, those two or more will be expected to fight against each other?" He ran a hand through his hair. "This battle royale is a 'survival of the fittest', plain and simple. Fine. But, what do they expect? You to actually kill each other, or just knock each other out?"
"We eliminate them by taking their crest, that's in the rules" Kagari voiced, not seeing where he was going with it.
"And you're telling me every Sekirei will go by those rules, correct?" he challenged. "I have only encountered maybe 20 Sekirei, to my knowledge, yet I know for a fact two of them would kill in a heartbeat if given the chance." He saw recognition in both Miya and Kagari's eyes, and Matsu stiffening next to him. "The woman in the woods very nearly killed Sahashi, and would have had I arrived any later than I did. And Karasuba has every intention of winning this game. Now, I am not worried about my girls, however many I have. She won't touch them, because I can stop her.
"But what about everyone else? How many Sekirei can truly stand up to her bloodthirst?"
Matsu, seeing the topic had managed to come around to her intended discussion, pushed her datapad forward, setting it on an inclined stand, before hitting a button that brought up a profile. "She could. Number 13: Tsubaki. AKA The Dark Star."
"A double digit number?" Harry asked curiously.
"From what I've been able to gather, she is the last Sekirei to truly be experimented on. Also from what I've been able to gather, she's the culmination of several of them." She tapped a couple more buttons, and a video feed came up. The woman's was short and stocky, but it was obvious she was very muscular. In the feed she was facing off against several would-be attackers, all wielding bats. To the group's surprise, one of her arms suddenly shifted, and the sharp end of a blade erupted from the other side of one of the men. The two more fell in a similar manner before the rest fled. The feed showed her shifting her arm back to normal, casually wiping the blood off her arm on her leg, then turned and stared at the camera before the video cut off.
"Well… that was interesting" Harry remarked dryly.
"Her body… it just changed form" Kagari commented in shock, and Matsu nodded, returning the pad to her profile.
"I have several other videos of where different body parts can change shape, almost always into weapons of some sort. I would not hesitate to suggest this is possible with her entire body."
EJ sat there for a few moments, thinking it over, before looking at the eldest present. "Is this an ability that is common amongst your race?" he asked cautiously. She slowly shook her head before meeting his eyes.
"No. Shape-shifting into other people, perhaps. There were some capable of becoming creatures or animals. But weapons? No. I have not heard of that before."
He nodded his head, filing that extra info for a later conversation. "It is strange that someone who is practically a living weapon has been set loose on the city" he remarked, thinking of the footage.
"Just another level of madness Hinaka is adding to this 'game' of his" Miya snarled, and he felt Matsu scooting closer to him in response.
"Then I suppose that only fits, as I have a feeling what Matsu is suggesting is madness in itself" he provided, before turning pointedly to the redhead clinging to his arm. "You want me to wing her, don't you?"
She nodded, putting both hands in her lap as she took a deep breath. "I know you're trying to avoid objectifying all of us, EJ-sama. And, we do appreciate it. Truly. But…" she took a deep breath, before looking at her Ashikabi. "May I speak freely, sir? Please?" He nodded slowly, and she took a moment before speaking to the table at large. "Whether we like it or not, as you've said, this is a game. Whether we play or not, it won't stop it. And worse, those that do want to play, or are playing irrespective of their opinions, will drag us into it, one way or the other.
"I submitted myself to you for a reason, EJ-sama. Not just because you're good looking, or because I can take out all of my perversions on you. It's because you do what needs to be done. Sometimes you're the nice, good guy, like with Sahashi-san and his Sekirei. Like with Kagari here. But other times, you're the evil that must exist to fight the greater evils."
He turned a curious eye towards her, and she shrank into herself. "I… have been busy hacking into Monarch's files when you're not around. It hasn't been easy going, but..." She tapped another button on the datapad, and another video footage played, "...I've made some progress." He recognized it from the only time he invaded the Kremlin. It had been botched from the word "go", and he had to fight every inch in, and twice as much out. This segment showed him taking on several soldiers at once, eliminating them as quickly, efficiently, and sometimes brutally as possible.
It ended after a couple minutes, leaving 23 soldiers dead on the ground, and a much younger Harry Potter breathing heavily, covered in blood, but otherwise uninjured but a torn sleeve.
"I only recently managed to dig this up. I'm sorry to spill so much information without consulting you first, but I think you needed to be reminded of who and what you are." She returned the pad to the Sekirei's profile, and he saw a tear trail from her eye. "Doctor EJ Black is a good man. A wonderful doctor, well-respected by the medical community in general. Some of his formulae still boggle the medical world-at-large, though I wager they may have some magical properties to them."
She turned to look at him. "EJ Black is a wonderful man, with a gorgeous girlfriend, a gadabout who lives a salacious lifestyle of sodomy and general revelry." Raising her hand, she placed it over his heart. "But, EJ Black will not win this game. EJ Black cannot fight what is coming, what he knows is coming. He can tend to the wounded, help fix the damage after the fact. But if you want to win, my Ashikabi, if you want to fight the system, it will not because EJ Black did it, but because Harry 'Bloody' Potter did it. Because the Jade Shadow did it."
Pointing at the datapad with a free hand, but not breaking her gaze, she continued. "That man, he is the one I need, the one we all need, to not only survive, but win. Regardless of which man you want to be in this game, I will support you 100% of the way, because both have their merits. But you've spoken of going against the rules as they are set now. If you truly want to do that, it can't be as EJ Black." Leaning up to him, she kissed him softly, with a tenderness he never would've expected from the perverted woman. Her brilliant red wings sprouted out behind her as she hugged him, then stood and went up the stairs. He didn't move until he heard her door close, then turned to the other two.
Both were sitting there in silence, contemplating what was just revealed. Kagari was looking at him with a mixture of emotions, one of which he recognized as the unwinged reaction. There was also fear in there, surprise, awe, and a slew of others he didn't feel like considering.
Miya was deep in thought, not meeting either's gaze. Both hands were in her lap, and she was staring down at the table between them all.
A beeping on the screen caught their attention, and an alert notification of a Sekirei being deactivated popped up. At the moment, however, none gathered particularly cared.
Harry sighed, and looked towards Kagari, who was looking anywhere but at him. 'It's time to get in touch with Hana. Think I've managed to put it off long enough. See what she plans on doing for all of this.'
The pad returned to Tsubaki's profile, and Harry reached out and drug it towards him. Reading over the gathered information, it appeared Matsu suspected her of the recent attacks on known single Ashikabi/Sekirei pairings. Four pairings, now possibly five, with several bystanders caught up in the fights. 'Mercenary work, she suspects. Interesting. But why would an unwinged Sekirei accept payment to eliminate her winged sisters? Another Tsukiumi, perhaps? Punishing the men for winging her sisters? The sisters for subjecting themselves to it?'
Reading over the information, he realized Matsu was likely correct in her assessment that Minato wouldn't be able to handle this woman. Anger issues even while at MBI, killed half a dozen scientists and triple that in guards when she was 'released', though Matsu added a comment that it was likely she actually escaped from MBI than was released. 'Perhaps said merc work is a form of protection from being apprehended? Another Ashikabi protecting her in exchange?'
Perhaps Matsu was right. He'd been so passive about the whole thing, playing defense. But, no game was ever won on defense. No war either, for that matter. You have to attack at some point. And he hadn't been. He didn't question his non-interference in Minato's winging of the four Sekirei, despite having had a chance to claim each of them himself…
Claim them. Internally he was shaking his head. It was one thing to treat a woman like an object when they wanted it. Doing so because of the nature of their birth just seemed… wrong. It felt far too much like the misconceptions about Veela: that they were prizes to be had, sex objects to be claimed and controlled. Just wrong.
But Matsu had, in not so few words, told him that was exactly what he needed to do to win. Not just survive, but win. The Sekirei were pieces of the game, and he needed to treat them as such. And there were only four left to be claimed. The whole idea was ludicrous. Pitting Matsu and Kusano against Karasuba or Musubi in a Battle Royale.
It didn't make any sense. None of it. He knew there were pieces missing. Looking at the landlady, he wondered how many the woman held, and how much of this game she, too, was subject to. How much she could stop. Or worse...
"What are you going to do, Harry?" the woman in question asked him softly. He met her gaze, and it was of mixed feelings: concern, curiosity, and something he continued to refuse acknowledgement of.
"I'm not sure" he answered honestly, pushing the datapad back to the center. On it, pictures of Kagari in his Homura outfit, Kazehana, and Tracksuit girl joined Tsubaki's. Shiina's pop-up made the polygon complete. For now.
Miya looked the five over, for what he wasn't sure, before turning to him. "Yes, you are" she replied, and he just looked down at the table shaking his head.
"For all my faults, Miya, using people like pawns in a game is not one of them. I've been a pawn for much of my life. The thought that I may need to do that myself just sickens me."
"But you will do it." It wasn't and order or an accusation, just a simple statement. He sighed.
"If I must" he admitted with great reluctance. "A large part of me really wants to just say 'fuck it' and just leave, as we discussed. Take as many of you that want to come with, and just vamoose. Poof. Planes, trains, magical transpo, just go, get out of the city."
"MBI locked the city down, remember?" Kagari countered with frustration. He was of two minds about leaving: on one hand, it would be nice to get away once his job as Guardian was completed. On the other, if he wanted to kill Hinaka, he couldn't do it by leaving. Not that he thought he'd live very long in either retrospect.
"So? They can't stop everyone. And certainly can't stop me or Gabby." He looked at Miya. "And I'd love to see them try stopping you."
"My place is here, Harry" she countered with a slight shake of her head. "This place was built by my husband to be a safe haven for Sekirei. I will see that dream realized until this game's completion."
"I was afraid you'd say that" he sighed, dropping his head in the palms of his hands, scratching his head with his fingers. "Something to think about, I suppose. Before this gets too far out of control." Sitting back up, he took on a quizzical face before turning his attention to the first Sekirei. "In the meantime, I think training is in order."
"Training?" Kagari repeated, but Miya cocked her head thoughtfully.
He nodded. "Miya has already been training Musubi. I think the others could use it as well. Not just individually, but fighting as a team." He took the datapad again, and brought up Google Maps to show the area immediately around them. "I own all this property" he informed them, indicating the area between the Inn and his place. "I could demolish the houses between us, and turn the area into a training ground."
"What about the tenants?" Miya asked worriedly. While she'd not been close to any of them, they'd been friendly enough. Harry smirked.
"What tenants?" he asked in response, smiling. "They were encouraged to find other accommodations. One I outright evicted…" and he pointed at the one closest to his house, "because the house might as well have been condemned for how poor shape it was in. And the tenant was an ass. Your neighbors, though, I paid for their moving expenses due to the suddenness. They were unhappy, as you can imagine, but accepted my terms, as I didn't hold them accountable for any other charges."
"You paid the neighbors to leave?" Kagari asked incredulously. Harry shrugged.
"They were really kind, and made excellent biscuits. I explained my reasoning for the request was purely selfish in nature, and offered another property I own in recompense. It's about three blocks away in the opposite direction so they won't be too far dislocated. That plus the moving expenses won them over." He made a show of fixing his collar and his hair. "It helps I'm such a good looking guy as well" he stated as much pompous frat-boy as he could, which earned him a backslap from Miya and a head-banging-on-table by Kagari.
With a chuckle, he turned the datapad screen off, not knowing how to turn it off entirely, slid it next to him, and cupped his hands together in front of him. "But seriously, training. Everyone in his house could use it, some more than others. I know Miya is more than adequate, and I've a few things to teach as well. I'm sure the two of us can learn from the other. On top of that, both of us know how to lead teams, and that's what Minato's Sekirei need to learn how to do: act as a team."
"What about Yume?" Miya asked, and Harry took a moment to consider how to answer it.
"Still working on that, as explaining it all to Musubi so she'll understand it will be difficult."
"Her and Tsukiumi working together will be interesting to see" Kagari voiced, but Harry rounded on him with a mischievous smile.
"Oh? You say that as if you have a history with Tsukiumi. Something to tell the class?" he added with a waggle of his eyebrows, and Kagari sputtered.
"N-n-no! Nothing like that" he backtracked, waving his hands. "Just run into her a lot is all" he provided, as Harry leaned forward, hands cupped under his chin, staring intently at him.
"Oh? Do tell." The soft command with a hint of huskiness had a very interesting and comical effect on the man across from him, as the red cheeks testified, then the subsequent realization of red cheeks. After a few moments Harry let him off the hook, but didn't miss the smile Miya had, eyes screaming 'troublemaker' at him.
"I look forward to seeing just what these 'run-ins' of yours have amounted to, Kagari" he verbosed, getting the man's attention.
"What?" he asked dumbly.
"You didn't think you were off the hook because you were unwinged, did you? No no no. You need training as well. We can come up with some cover story for those who don't know your alter ego, but you could use it as well. Akitsu did a number on you because you turned your back for a split second. While I haven't seen you much in action outside of that, I know your aim with your fireballs needs work as well. So, we'll work on it."
Harry stood up, deciding it was getting late. Kagari looked ready to argue against all of it, and the black-haired boy could see the man's pain. "One last thing, Kagari. Something I spoke with Miya about, but it is and will remain your decision, and only yours." Seeing he had the man's attention, he pressed on. "Gabby and I have a theory about why your winging to her didn't work. It involves details we won't be relaying to either of you anytime soon, just know we have a very plausible theory.
"That being said, it is through that theory that we came up with a solution, one you're very much against: I wing you." Holding up his hand to stop his objections, the green-eyed wizard continued. "As I said, it's your choice. You would still be Gabby's Sekirei, via the bond through me. Should our theory pan out, once I wing you, you won't need me to use your Norito, Gabs could do it.
"Another option I just thought of, one that will hurt Gabby's feelings but may also work, is Chiho winging you. You're very determined to have a female Ashikabi. As a fellow male, I can understand that. If you're dead-set on NOT being winged by a male under any circumstances, it's something to consider. Gabby's feelings versus control of your own life? Not exactly a toss-up." He gave a sad smile. "I don't presume to know all the details, or have all the answers, regarding what's going on with you. But I can't imagine immolation being fun on any level.
"Gabby really likes you. The two of you get along fantastically. And it's funny how far under her thumb she has you. Just think about it, ok?" With that, he departed, heading for home and his girlfriend.
Moments after he left, a sudden beeping from the forgotten datapad drew the remaining duo's attention. The screen reactivated, and an alert popped up, reading: "Sekirei Number 107: Shiina. Winged by Sahashi Yukari."
"And then, there were four."