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The End of the Circus: A Tale of the Yizibajohei

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DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

The Tomobiki Ginza, a Thursday afternoon in late November after school...

 

Sitting at a window booth in Tampopo's Rāmen and Beefbowl Bar, Moroboshi Ataru could only smile in amusement as his hearing picked up the grumbling of several people from outside the front door. A glance into the main street of the shopping district in this part of Nishitōkyō revealed the core members of that moron's brigade calling themselves "Lum's Stormtroopers" as they scanned around, looks of righteous outrage on their faces. Shaking his head, he turned back to his tea as he waited for supper to be prepared. It had been child's play to ditch his so-called "wife" and evade her latest attempt at trying to cook for him. If Redet Lum — Ataru refused to use that stupid patronymic version of her name, "Lum Invader", when he thought of the warlord's daughter — hadn't realized by now that she simply couldn't cook, nothing he could do would ever persuade her. Having had to deal with all the Oni's eccentricities since she lied to him about their being "married" at the end of the Tag Race over a year ago, Ataru knew that once Lum fixated herself on something, you needed an anti-matter bomb to shake her out of it.

 

And while their "relationship" had been amusing and quite stimulating in many places, it was time to forever skip this stupid scene and get on with more vital things.

 

"Oi! Ataru! Where you are, a-ho?!"

 

Oh, joy! There was Lum's cousin Redet Ten on his rubber ducky-shaped hoverscooter floating over the street as he scanned around for his "cousin-in-law". Wonder what he'd think if he learned the truth of what happened between Lum and I in the Tag Race, Ataru mused as he concentrated, intensifying the metaphysical notice-me-not screen he placed over the restaurant owned by one of his few true friends in this pit of chaos, Kamekichi Tampopo, to ensure the Oni child wouldn't be able to spot him even if Ataru was relaxing at a window seat. Considering how much Ten (as he preferred to be called given what his full name "Jariten" meant in Japanese) cared for Lum — an admirable trait in the end — Ataru knew that if he learned that Lum's claim of marriage over the child of Moroboshi Muchi and the former Yamaguchi Kinshō was illegal under the laws and traditions of her people, he would probably still accept it. Given how much the spoiled brat loved to cause trouble, then claim innocence of it...!

 

He sighed. No, no sense in blaming Ten for wanting attention. Being the son of a widowed firefighter who had a visceral hatred of arsonists like the one who set the conflagration that killed her husband — and her son later developed combustive halitosis capabilities — it was no wonder that the effectively orphaned child acted like he did. In her attempts at trying to insert herself into every aspect of Ataru's life, Lum pretty much elected to be a normal high school student at Tomobiki Senior High School, which wasn't ultimately necessary save for things like history and geography courses to learn the local lay of the land; in the Urusian education system, Lum was effectively ready to either join the Union Defence Forces or move on to some form of university. That left Ten pretty much all alone in the Moroboshi home...and while Kinshō was happy to dote on him — like she had done to Lum to the complete detriment of Ataru — she didn't do anything at all to instill some sense of proper self-discipline in the poor kid. The results of same had been seen on several occasions since he came, especially when it came to one poor swallow who had eaten some space candy and wound up the size of Gojira!

 

Oh, speaking of which...

 

Ataru snapped his fingers.

 

****

 

The Moroboshi home, that moment...

 

"Ooh! I wish I never had him! Where is that stupid...?!"

 

KLONK!

 

A scream escaped Moroboshi Kinshō after a fair-sized cinder block was smashed on her head, driving her into the floor of the kitchen of the Moroboshi home. As blood began to leak from her nose from the impact — unlike Ataru, her mother had not experienced the hellish physical punishments he had endured whenever things had got out of control and people blamed him for it regardless of whatever caused it — an envelope fluttered down onto the floor beside her.

 

"Okā-san! You okay?!"

 

Lum flew into the kitchen, then stopped, gaping at the site of her mother-in-law knocked out on the floor thanks to a cement cinder block. A glance around the room revealed no point of origin for the moulded bit of stone and mortar, which caused the Oni to blink in confusion. Hearing Kinshō groan as she tried to pick herself from the floor, Lum then saw the envelope. Kneeling down, she picked it up, seeing there was nothing on it. Curious — she was quick to suspect some strange entity had teleported the block in and dropped it on her mother-in-law's head — the warlord's daughter opened it to pull out a single sheet of paper. Before she could unfold it to read, Kinshō moaned, "What...?"

 

"Someone dropped that cinder block on your head, Okā-san," Lum helpfully said as the older woman shook her head clear. "It delivered a message."

 

That made Kinshō freeze as she robotically turned to look at the block of cement nearby. As an icy vise of fear snared her heart, she snared the letter from her future daughter-in-law, then opened it.

 

Message from your son:

GROW OLD AND DIE ALONE!

By the way, that's 2,427 times you've said 'I wish I never had him'.

Your friendly neighbourhood Coyote

P.S. Tell the Oni that her "husband" knows of the lie now.

 

Kinshō shuddered, then she screamed in mortal agony, jets of tears shooting out of her eyes, "WHO'LL TAKE CARE OF ME WHEN I'M OLD AND GREY?!"

 

Lum blinked, then she glanced at the message...

 

...before she paled as the postscript leapt out at her.

 

"Darling...!"

 

****

 

The End of the Circus: A Tale of the Yizibajohei

by Fred Herriot

 

With characters and situations created by Regina Magia and Dr. Tempo. Some scenes written by the 17th Immortal and Dr. Tempo.

 

C&C by Rose Ash.

 

Aces in Exile (2010), composed by Joakim Brodén and Pär Sundström. Daisy Bouquet (2001), composed by Nezu Yōko and Mitsutome Kensuke. Glass Shatters (2007), composed by Jim Johnston, David Draiman, Dan Donegan, Steve Kmak and Mike Wengren. All Over The World (1980), composed and produced by Jeff Lynne. Sundown (1974), written by Gordon Lightfoot.

 

 

Based on characters and situations from Bible Black, created by ActiveSoft; Mahō Sensei Negima, created by Akamatsu Ken; The Seventh Carrier, written by Peter Albano; Azumanga Daiō, created by Azuma Kiyohiko; Koihime Musō, created by BaseSon; Kamichu!, created by Besame-mūcho; Mass Effect, created by BioWare; Spaceballs, directed and produced by Mel Brooks, written by Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan; Alpha Flight, created by John Byrne; Cyborg and its associated television series, created by Martin Caidin; MegaMan, created by Capcom; Men In Black, created by Lowell Cunningham; KimiKiss, created by Enterbrain; Colourful Kiss, created by Giga; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, written by Seth Grahame-Smith; Black Lagoon, created by Hiroe Rei; Kantai Collection, created by Kadokawa Games; Maria-sama ga Miteru, created by Konno Oyuki; 2001: A Space Odyssey, created by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke; Sayonara Zetsubō-sensei, created by Kumeta Kōji; Read Or Die, written by Kurata Hideyuki; the Indiana Jones and Star Wars series, created by George Lucas; Zenkoku Seifuku Bishōjo Grand Prix, created by Lyceen; characters created by World Wrestling Entertainment and its predecessor organizations, founded by Jess McMahon and Toots Mondt; MC Gakuen, created by Mizuryū Kei; Sherlock, created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (based on Sherlock Holmes, created by Arthur Conan Doyle); RWBY, created by Monty Oum; Captain Marvel (AKA Shazam), created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck; Sweet Valley High, created by Francine Pascal; the NOëL series, created by Pioneer LDC; Harry Potter, created by Joanna K. Rowling; the Super Real Mahjong series, developed by Seta; The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin; The War of the Worlds, created by Greg Strangis (based on The War of the Worlds, written by H.G. Wells); Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2, created by Takahashi Rumiko; Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu and its sequels, written by Tanigawa Nagaru; Sister Princess, created by Tenhiro Naoto and Kimino Sakurako; Mary Poppins, created by P.L. Travers; The Guns of the South, written by Harry Turtledove; normalman, created by Jim Valentino; Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon; Dial "H" For Hero, originally created by Dave Wood and Jim Mooney, with follow-on stories by Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino, based on characters created by multiple fans; Stargate SG-1, created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner; and Mai-HiME, created by Yoshino Hiroyuki and Sunrise.

 

 

Also including characters and situations from Urusei Yatsura: The Senior Year, created by Mike Smith and Fred Herriot.

 

****

 

Tomobiki, the Moroboshi home, after dawn on Friday...

 

A tired yawn escaped the preschool-aged Oni-Urusian boy as he lifted himself to sit at the side of the kotatsu his best Earth friend had placed in the middle of the bedroom of the man who had saved the planet from invasion by the Union of Uru the previous October.

 

My last day on Earth...!

 

Rubbing his eyes clear, Redet Ten then smiled as a cup of hot tea was placed down before him by the giant mi-ke cat ghost that had moved into the Moroboshi home the previous December, much to Ten's personal delight and the constant annoyance of the person whose room this actually was...

 

...even if it hadn't been used by the child of Moroboshi Muchi and his wife for over eleven years.

 

"Dōmo, Kota-chan! How are you feeling?"

 

Kotatsuneko sighed. Taking the silent communication from his friend, Ten nodded before sipping his tea. He quickly noted that his cousin hadn't slept in her futon; no doubt, she had stayed on her ship in orbit a kilometre above the Moroboshi home in a vain search for her now-missing "husband". Who no doubt had slept in his new home on Ōmure-jima off the coast of Odawara in the Sagami Sea south of Metro Tōkyō itself, spending the first night of true freedom from the madness that haunted his and his effective twin sister's life for over a year, not to mention being united at last with twelve wonderful and near-perfect younger half-sisters, plus get a chance to be with the girls his sisters approved of as potential girlfriends, beings who had been literally reborn thanks to the youngest of the sisters and an ancient weapons project that predated the Dawn of Power by several thousand years.

 

"Yeah, it's kinda sad. I'll miss you."

 

A smile crossed the cat-ghost's face before he took a puff of his pipe.

 

"Yeah, I'll miss Ataru, too. And I really wanted to get to know Tariko-onēchan and all the sisters, too." Ten sipped again from his tea as he heard movement downstairs indicating that Ataru's mother was now up and preparing breakfast. "I just wish it didn't have to happen THIS way. But if Chikage-anekun is right about those spirit oni and everything else that was trapped in this town when those mean creeps trapped Tariko-onēchan here, turning her INTO Ataru like that..."

 

A nod answered him...

 

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT...?!"

 

Ten jerked on hearing that howling shriek from downstairs, then he smirked.

 

"MY MONEY! HOW DARE THEY TAKE MY MONEY AWAY FROM ME?! I WISH I NEVER HAD HIM!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"Honey, stop shouting like that! The neighbours will start to complain again!"

 

Hearing the voice of his cousin's would-be father-in-law, Ten groaned before turning back to his tea...then a churlish smile crossed his face. "Taeim letam...!" he whispered.

 

Let the Show begin...!

 

****

 

Dear Diary,

Today is my last day living on planet Earth.

I'm really relieved at that fact. Much that there were a lot of fun things to do since I came here to check up on Lum-chan last fall, I know now that it's best for all of us to go back to Uru and let everyone here in Tomobiki go on with their lives.

Especially Ataru.

Much that I still find it hard to believe how DIFFERENT Ataru became after that whole thing with Queen Elle that finally got Ayumu-onēchan in to rescue Tariko-onēchan from being married to Lum-chan, I guess this is just for the best.

Too many people have been hurt since we started living here.

Even by me.

Much that I was really scared living close to Mom after my flame-breath developed, I never really realized how much I ended up hurting people because I just didn't understand how things really worked on this planet.

I'm glad that Tariko-onēchan's sisters understood what was going on.

Now that they'll be together with her and Ataru, things should be alright.

I just hope Lum-chan will understand...

 

****

 

The Moroboshi home, after breakfast...

 

"...do this to me after all I've suffered for him?! I wish I never had him!"

 

"If you don't like it, go get a job."

 

"PAY ATTENTION!"

 

"Ooh! That stupid Darling! Where is he?! I'll zap him black and blue when I find him! He's probably chasing after some girl again...!"

 

"Can't you find him, Lum-chan?!"

 

"No, Okā-san! All the tracers I put into Darling's clothes were on his desk when I tried to track him down after I saw he moved all his stuff out!"

 

"ARGH! I BET IT'S THAT COW THAT DID THIS...!"

 

"Honey...!"

 

"WHAT?!"

 

"Okā-san's been dead for five years...!"

 

"IT'S STILL HER FAULT! AND YOUR STUPID SON'S FAULT! I WISH I NEVER HAD HIM!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"OKĀ-SAN!"

 

Ten groaned as he secured his riding helmet in place, then slipped himself onto his duck-shaped hoverscooter, now parked on the front lawn of the Moroboshi home. Ignoring the shouting from Moroboshi Ataru's parents and his cousin as they looked over the various legal decrees that declared the Terran tag race champion an emancipated adult and not obliged to honour any claim of marriage to the warlord's daughter from Uru, he powered his scooter on, then allowed the anti-gravity systems to lift it into the air before he gunned the drive thrusters forward to go on one final flight around town.

 

Avoid the area of the Ginza after nine o'clock, Ten. Don't go near the borders of the town around that time, either. Stay close to the school...

 

Remembering the warning from the second-oldest of Ataru's half-sisters — and the wisest of them all in Ten's eyes even if she was kinda creepy and gothic — the firefighter's son from Onishuto turned to head towards the town park north of the grounds of Tomobiki Senior High School. He knew that the papers officially removing Ataru from the roster of students at that place of education would be found by the secretary as soon as she came into work. Much that Kotatsuneko did suspect that the elderly principal of Tomobiki High would instantly raise a snit after seeing those papers, the young Oni hoped that the older man wouldn't make noise about it. Even if he was annoyed by all the weird incidents that had haunted Ataru for over a year, the Principal also knew what might happen if Ataru found some way to permanently escape the school. Given who and WHAT Ataru's sisters were...!

 

Ten giggled as he looked down, quickly noting the stream of students making their way towards the rustic Taishō-era schoolhouse a few blocks away. Spotting some of his favourites such as Miyake Shinobu, the young Oni sighed before he blinked back tears that were forming in his aquamarine eyes. Much that he knew that this was the best thing for both his cousin and the people of Earth, it hurt...!

 

"Ah! Aria's umbrella!"

 

Ten gasped on hearing that beautifully accented voice, then he looked around...

 

...before squawking on seeing a pink umbrella lifting high into the air thanks to a sudden gust of wind. Gunning his hoverscooter's engines, Ten raced off after it, catching the runaway portable canopy before it drifted way out of anyone's reach. "I got it!" he whooped out loud before moving to collapse the umbrella, then he looked down to see where the second-youngest of Ataru's sisters was now...

 

"Oi! Ten-chan! Down here! Down here!"

 

Ten looked at the park, then he smiled as he gunned his machine towards the ground and the group of five young women standing there...

 

****

 

Tariko-onēchan's half-sisters are all so neat!

And like Tariko-onēchan, they're all Gifted thanks to the Great Crystal of Power on Yiziba, the Forge of the First Race where the Power Jewels were made.

Yeah! I can say the name of the "scary place" and even the name of the "scary people" without being afraid. That's thanks to Ayumu-onēchan when she came to the Onishuto Cathedral back in April (Earth-time) to rescue Tariko-onēchan — when she was magically frozen as Ataru — from being married to Lum-chan.

Much that Tariko-onēchan and Ayumu-onēchan do care for Lum-chan — after all, it was because of them that Lum-chan would never have lived as a cripple even if Lum-chan refused to get a Gift and be like Lady Danu over two centuries ago during the last decades of the Imperial Age — they're more worried about Earth.

I just wish that the dorks that made Tariko-onēchan forget about living on Yiziba before the Tag Race would have realized that.

Even if it would have scared Lum-chan and her dad, Earth would be safe from invasion by the Ipraedies or the Seifukusu.

They're not so dumb as to take on the Yizibajohei!

Especially given what Tariko-onēchan was going to become...

 

****

 

Tomobiki town park...

 

"Ohayō, Ten-chan!"

 

"Ah! Cute alien boy checky!"

 

"Yotsuba-chan, stop that! You already have enough pictures of Ten-chan!"

 

"Ten-chan got Aria's umbrella..."

 

Hearing that from the ten year-old girl with the glittering silver-blonde hair tied in four buns at the base of her skull — with long wavy bangs falling from her temples down almost to her waist — Ten smiled as he parked his scooter in hover mode, then floated off to hand the umbrella over. "Here ya go!"

 

As most of the other younger sisters now surrounding him cheered, Aria des Beauchamps smiled, her royal blue eyes glistening. "Kusun...!"

 

****

 

This is Aria Claudia Jeanne Michelle des Beauchamps, from Paris.

Wow! Why is it people from France always stick so many names on their kids?!

Like I said, she's Gifted. That means she's a metahuman, like the people who worked with Earth's Power Jewel Warrior back during their second world war. She got her Gift from the Great Crystal of Power, which means that even if Aria-nēya is only ten — she had her birthday at the start of the month — she has memories of many past lives that were preserved in the Great Crystal that stretch all the way back to the darkest age on Yiziba, the Dawn of Power.

Even if a lot of people in the Federation and all our neighbours are scared of the Yizibajohei thanks to what those Imperial dorks tried to do to Lady Danu after the Tag Race she lost against the local champion, Aria-nēya shouldn't scare anyone.

After all, she's a trofikinetic!

That means that she has the psychokinetic power to literally turn any bit of organic matter into edible food for people to eat.

Aria-nēya told me that her first-self — the first person to use the power of her Gift — was able to keep people fed during the aftermath of the Dawn of Power, a really bad time there they call the 'Starvation Times'.

How bad was it?

Well, before the Dawn of Power, Yiziba had two billion people living on it. At the end of the Starvation Times and the start of the Great Show of Life, the population dropped like an asteroid to six hundred million !

Even if remembering her first-self's life makes her really sad, Aria-nēya is really proud of the fact that she could stop people from starving.

Though Aria-nēya normally concentrates on making sweets.

That's why on Yiziba, she's called Tamkuo , the Candy Lady.

But since people on Earth wouldn't understand that name, she makes use of the French term Douceâtre when she has to go into costume.

Even if she really doesn't do fight scenes, she's always around to help people calm down after there's a bad disaster.

Like this Voldemort dork that's starting to cause trouble again among the magicals in the United Kingdom like he did over a decade ago.

I hope Tariko-onēchan's friends there can handle that creep...

 

****

 

"Hai!"

 

Ten gushed as Aria psychokinetically produced a beautiful kimch'i lollipop out of the nearby soil, handing it to him. "Ah! Arigatō, Aria-nēya!"

 

Aria smiled as the Oni took the offered treat, then began to eagerly lick it to get the necessary spices into his body since most Earth cooking didn't give him the right nutrients Urusians needed. "Kusun..."

 

"Ah! Ten-chan's sad!"

 

Ten looked at the sandy-haired eight year-old standing close to Aria, a look of understanding on her face. Like the other sisters who had come here today, they were in their normal civilian clothing in lieu of their very form-fitting Yizibajohei battlesuits. Showing that right now would pretty much spoil the surprise, especially when one factored in Lum's childhood "friend" Aruka Ran. A quick glance towards the main street that passed down in front of Tomobiki High some blocks away revealed said rose-haired Seishin-Urusian teenager calmly walking down the street as she greeted classmates, a normal mix of air-headed playfulness with the simmering calculating eyes of someone who liked hurting people on her face. The other sisters were quick to notice, then they looked in that direction. "Poor Ran-san," Saeru Hinako breathed out, her own amethyst eyes glistening with sympathetic tears. "How could her mama do all those awful things to her like that? Didn't she see how bad Lum-san behaved?"

 

"Doubtful," Susumu Marie, the eldest of the half-sisters of Moroboshi Ataru and his twin sister/other-self Tariko Katabarbe present, said with a shake of her head, her grey eyes flashing with repressed anger at the idea of her dear brother being targeted by Ran in her quest to avenge herself on Lum.

 

Ten nodded as he slurped his lollipop...

 

****

 

The youngest of Ataru's sisters is Saeru Hinako. She's from Niigata.

A lot of Ataru's sisters were raised by their mothers and stepfathers in their family homes even if it didn't become apparent until very recently as to what happened when the mothers were magically enticed to go to Ōmure-jima; sleeping with Ataru's dork dad to create baby girls to give the Moroboshi Clan potential new matriarchs. I'm glad that Hinako-onētama's stepdad understands.

She's not that much older than me; Hinako-onētama just had her eighth birthday in August, right when everyone in Tomobiki had to deal with that memory-thing that was under Mendō's stupid cherry tree which tried to make everyone in Tomobiki forget Lum-chan ever existed. She really wanted to celebrate her birthday with Ataru and Tariko-onēchan and the other sisters on Ōmure-jima, but had to help out in getting the Niphentaxian creeps in and around Tomobiki off the planet and back to Phentax Two where they belonged, not to mention remove that 'last solution' that dork Ōgi put in the town's Ginza to make sure that the 'great evil' would never succeed in overcoming his precious 'goddess', Lum-chan.

I bet that Hinako-onētama sure helped out in dealing with those creeps.

After all, she's the Living Spirit of Innocence, Lomroer'bem .

On Earth, she uses the Japanese term Suiki instead of calling herself "Pureheart".

Hinako-onētama's a cosmic metahuman. That means her power could reach out beyond the range of a planet if she really pushed herself. But since she's pretty young still and hasn't really grown into her Gift, she can only affect people in a range that could cover all of Metro Tōkyō if she really went all-out.

And what does her power do?

Wow! You'd be amazed at what Hinako-onētama could do with her Gift!

She can make bad feelings go away, stop people from feeling stressed or depressed, remove any sort of 'evil' taint from anyone close to her — did you know that she has the power to bring a vampire back to true life with just a KISS?! — and just make people remember being in more innocent and nicer times.

No wonder she feels sad for Ran-chan.

Yeah, Lum-chan sure did a lot of bad things to Ran-chan...

 

****

 

"Oh, don't worry about it, Hinako-chan," Marie said as she adjusted the straw hat she had placed over her long raven hair, styled in a French braid down to her waist. Even if she had been cured of her respiratory ailments when she was Gifted four years ago, the teenage special agent of the Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan in downtown Tōkyō — she often worked to keep away other metahuman agents from trying to pilfer Japan's national library of any "special" publications, especially if said agent came from the special operations division of the British Library in London — she suffered from lingering hypochondria; she normally wore heavy shawls even when the weather was warm. "Even if Lum-san's heart is going to be badly shattered today, Ran-san's pretty much secured Rei-san's heart."

 

"Yeah, doing that through the guy's stomach really does wonders, doesn't it?" Yotsuba Dunn mused as she glanced at the passing students, a critical look crossing the half-English teenager's face.

 

Ten nodded. "I'm sure all the restaurant owners in town will be happy," he mused before slurping his lollipop. "Especially Tampopo-san." He perked as something came to him. "Um, what do you guys think might happen once Ataru moves down to live on Ōmure-jima? Will she go down there, too?"

 

Marie shook her head, her reading glasses sparkling as if in reflection of her own amusement. "No, Ten-chan, she'll just move on and find another abused child to dote on as her 'special customer'. After all, Aniue-sama will have Shirayuki-chan to cook for him from now on. He won't ever be starved."

 

"Or be poisoned!" Eigo Kaho mused. "Kaho sure wishes Lum-san will finally learn how to cook."

 

"Hina wants that, too!" Hinako added.

 

****

 

Susumu Marie comes from Hakodate on Hokkaidō.

She's one of the sisters who's suffered the most because of what was going on with Tariko-onēchan's family here on Earth while she was living on the northern continent of Yiziba on her quest to get pretty girls Gifted.

Marie-aneuesama was born with chronic bronchitis, which kept her bedridden for years; she had to do most of elementary and junior high school from her hospital bed. It's a good thing she was really smart. Not as technologically smart as Rinrin-aneki, but Marie-aneuesama is the smartest of all the sisters.

After all, it was Marie-aneuesama who discovered who were all of Tariko-onēchan's sisters living in Japan over the last couple of years.

Sadly, she lost both her mother and stepfather in an auto accident about four years ago. Fortunately, the special trust Tariko-onēchan's late grandmother put into place for her other granddaughters was able to see Marie-aneuesama treated until she got Gifted as the Paper Sorceress, R'behim . Here on Earth, she uses the Irish term Leabharlann to address herself. Given how much she loves books and loves to put herself in a library to read, that makes sense.

Even more so because Marie-aneuesama is a chartikinetic.

That means that she's a psychokinetic who can manipulate paper or any other form of wood products to create anything she wants, even synthetic beings that would be as human to the touch and feel if she pushes herself.

Because of that, she ended up working for the National Diet Library as a freelance agent, protecting the secret and magical stuff inside its restricted sections from being pilfered by magicals or metahumans who'd want that knowledge. Crazy as this sounds, she often ends up fighting against agents of the British Library, who have seemed to forgot that the days of their empire ended decades ago.

Which is really sad since Marie-aneuesama is good friends with the British Library's best field agent, another chartikinetic — not from Yiziba — who's half-English just like Yotsuba-anechama is.

 

****

 

"Ten-chan! What are you doing here?"

 

Everyone perked on hearing that concerned voice, then they turned to watch as Ataru's former girlfriend came up to join them, she accompanied by the tomboyish "heir" of the Hamachaya. "Ah! Shinobu-onēchan! Ryūnosuke-san!" he called out as Miyake Shinobu and Fujinami Ryūnosuke came to a stop before them. "I'm just meeting up with some friends I made after the Pseudo-War, just before Oyuki-chan came and took Lum-chan and Ran-chan back to Uru! They came to see Ataru."

 

They blinked. "Why would they want to see Moroboshi?" Ryūnosuke asked, doubt flooding her voice.

 

"Maybe because we're his half-sisters and we've become more of a family to Ani-chama than those dorks he was born from," Yotsuba dryly noted.

 

That made the older girls gape in shock...

 

****

 

Yotsuba Nemain Dunn is from London, of course.

And she's best friends to Britain's two smartest people, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes.

Yeah, the fame of Earth's best detective sure got out throughout the Galactic Federation and all the neighbouring states. I know that Nassur-chan would like to get a chance to work with Sherlock-san in case some bounty that Nassur-chan has to chase to Earth winds up in London.

Though with Tariko-onēchan's friend from California, Miss Elizabeth Wakefield, about to close off the whole of the inner part of the Sol system from trespass from anyone from the Federation powers, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

I hope.

Anyhow, Yotsuba-anechama got the urge to be a detective like Sherlock-san became some years ago all the way back when she was MY age — she's thirteen now — long before she was Gifted to become the Master Interrogator, Nyuosyo'o . Like Marie-aneuesama, Yotsuba-anechama uses an Irish term for her battle name on Earth, Bleachtaire . This makes Yotsuba-anechama a high-level telepath and empath, which helps her in sniffing out lies whenever she investigates a crime. Which is way better than what her first-self was like before the Dawn of Power. Back then, that creep had been a military intelligence officer in one of the nasty dictatorships on Yiziba who loved to really rip secrets out of prisoners' minds. I'm glad that Yotsuba-anechama doesn't do that unless you really make her mad!

I still snicker every time I remember what Marie-aneuesama told me after that stupid 'pseudo-war' in August about a competition Yotsuba-anechama had with Sherlock-san when it came to investigating a crime that Jim Moriarty creep tried to unleash to drum up customers for his 'consulting criminal' business.

'Consulting criminal'?! Maidens, that's really weird!

According to Marie-aneuesama, Sherlock-san won.

But I think Yotsuba-anechama intentionally lost to Sherlock-san.

I think she's got a crush on him.

Don't tell her I said that, please!

 

****

 

"You're...Ataru-kun's...half-sisters...?!"

 

Shinobu looked as if she had just lost the last element of her innocence.

 

"Hai, Miyake-san, we are," Marie answered as Ten quickly sensed that Hinako was reaching out with her cosmic empathy to keep Ataru's former girlfriend calm enough in the face of such a shocking revelation, which was just a first step towards things that would completely wreck the worldviews of many in Tomobiki when it came to its most infamous "resident". "We're actually just five of TWELVE such sisters to both Aniue-sama and his TRUE twin sister, Tariko-aneuesama."

 

"Moroboshi has a twin sister too?!" Ryūnosuke demanded.

 

"Checky!" Yotsuba asserted with a nod; she was using her own empathy to back up what her youngest sister was doing. "Turns out that Obā-chama hated Ani-chama's and Ane-chama's mother so much, she didn't trust them to make the right choice as to who would marry Ani-chama. Since Sakuya-chan — she's Ani-chama's oldest half-sister — is now the Matriarch of our clan, what she says goes. Since Lum-san lied to Ani-chama when she said they were married last October, Sakuya-chan said that she wouldn't recognize their 'marriage', no matter what those dorks living up the street from here think!"

 

Shinobu recoiled; even if she was feeling quite calm, such harsh terms used to describe Ataru's parents were never heard from ANYONE. "I assume it's Ataru-kun's father who's also your father, right."

 

"Checky!"

 

That made Ryūnosuke moan. "Shit! He got it from his fa-...UURRK!"

 

That was thanks to angry glares from the sisters. "You shouldn't have said that, you dumb tomboy!" Ten warned as he crossed his arms, outrage crossing his face.

 

"Ryūnosuke is no girl!" Aria hissed before turning her back on her. "Kusun!"

 

As a tsunami of guilt warped across the tomboy's face, Yotsuba snorted as she crossed her arms. "Yeah! Can't understand why Ane-chama thinks this lunkhead is worthy of being Gifted! Way she stumbles about all the time, we should LEAVE her in her father's tender 'mercy'!"

 

"Indeed, she has much to learn about what being a real woman is all about," Marie stated as she caked Ryūnosuke in a pile of mud from the scornful look the young metahuman librarian was now giving her.

 

"Oh, Marie-chan, stop that!" Hinako protested. As Ten tried not to smirk at the "good cop, bad cop" routine the sisters were now playing on someone who interested Tariko Katabarbe very much, the Spirit of Innocence added, "Ryūnosuke-san doesn't understand what being a girl's all about! As long as she lives with that dork dad of hers, she'll never learn what it means! Onē-tama wants to save her from that, just like she's saved hundreds of girls since she moved to Yiziba...!"

 

A blood-curling howl of bone-chilling fright echoed through the air!

 

Everyone blinked, then they turned to see a wide-eyed orange-furred ushitora — the form Redet Lum's former fiancé Seq Rei often took when he got upset — standing nearby, caught in the middle of trying to seize some bentō from students wearing the uniform of Onigakkō Public School. As Rei wildly looked around, wondering who had spoken the dreaded Scary Name, Marie sighed. "I've got this."

 

She concentrated as her clothing instantly melted and morphed into a beautiful dark red-and-black plaid jumpsuit with a halter-top design and exposed sleeves, it topped with a black pouch-filled belt and black buccaneer boots. Her glasses morphed into a perfect set of black-frame safety goggles. A open book viewed from the bottom served as her primary identification symbol above her cleavage. As Shinobu and Ryūnosuke gaped at the sight of something that hadn't haunted Terran society since the Second World War, the Paper Sorceress gestured with both her hands, allowing a stream of liquid-like paper to leap out of the ammunition pouches on her belt. As a crowd of people came over to watch what was going on, Marie sent one stream to snare the wailing tiger-cow around the waist as the other stream morphed into a massive spatula. A second later, said spatula began SPANKING the transformed Rei on the butt, causing him to howl with pain and embarrassment at such an act while others watching this all cheered. As Marie's sisters all laughed at what she was doing, Ryūnosuke could only goggle in disbelief at such a display of power while Shinobu looked a little conflicted; much that she knew how much Aruka Ran liked the man, Ataru's old girlfriend had once been attracted to the frontier pilot based out of Toshitto before his gluttony turned her away from him. To see him humiliated like this...!

 

"HEY! HOW DARE YOU ATTACK REI-SAMA?!"

 

As running footfalls heralded the arrival of Rei's would-be fiancée, Yotsuba sighed as she relaxed herself. "Yotsuba will take care of her!"

 

Her own clothes then morphed into a jumpsuit design matching Marie's, though Yotsuba's came with silver epaulettes that stuck out from her neck, they complete with frilly fringes that covered her deltoid muscles. Her uniform was matte black overall with a dull silver belt — lined in pockets — and boots. On her chest was a human eye symbol embossed with what looked like a target icon. As the Master Interrogator moved protectively in front of Kaho, an outraged scream escaped the rose-haired Seishin teenager as she whipped out her personal anti-fortification missile launcher, her pretty face morphing into her birth form with tapered ears and fanged canines. "DIE!" she screamed as she aimed at Marie.

 

«YIZIBA!»

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

A now-frozen Ran turned ash-grey as she seemed to teeter before she collapsed onto her knees, her weapon dropping off to one side. As people gasped on seeing one of the known aliens residing in Tomobiki be brought down by that incredible shout they heard in their brains, Yotsuba marched over to place herself directly in front of the quaking Ran. The rose-haired girl blinked before her chestnut eyes went as wide as saucers before she turned to look up into the face of a girl younger than her with wavy sienna hair tied in twin ponytails at her temples, her face pierced with now very cold caramel eyes.

 

"Aruka-beni..." Yotsuba then purred with a much more mature cant to her voice as she leaned down to glare into the other girl's eyes. "You KNOW how much I can make you TALK..."

 

Ran shrieked as her bladder let go, then she collapsed unconscious on her back. As the crowd gasped on seeing her taken down, Yotsuba winced, waving the air over her nose. "Pew! You stink, umale!"

 

Seeing that, Kaho looked to the east. "AYUMU-CHAN! WE NEED YOU!"

 

A human-sized flash then appeared behind Shinobu and Ryūnosuke.

 

"O-ha!"

 

****

 

Eigo Kaho is from Kyōto.

She's Tariko-onēchan's third youngest sister; she turned eleven back in January.

Kaho-onēchama is one of the really lucky sisters; she's always been loved and cared for by her mom and stepdad even if she only recently learned that she was actually the daughter of Ataru's dork father. She's really genki, always willing to do anything to show her love for people she cares for. She really liked it when she learned about Ataru and Tariko-onēchan, then moved down to Ōmure-jima back in the summer so that she and the other sisters could be there for Ataru when he left Tomobiki once and for all and put everything here behind him.

Kaho-onēchama is a little clumsy at times, but she really tries when does things like cheerleading or play sports. She's lucky that her teachers in Kyōto and down on Ōmure-jima understand she just wants to do her best.

She only recently got Gifted as the Maiden of the Parade, Tyuohuo Nokuoti . On Earth, she goes by the battle name Baton Dancer .

Kaho-onēchama is a ki mistress, but since she's a little young, she uses a focus for her powers. In her case, she makes use of a marching baton, which allows her to focus her energy to make an honest-to-goodness sabrestaff — yeah, just like what you see Darth Maul use in The Phantom Menace! — to duel people with. That's not a normal thing for ki masters on Yiziba to do. One of the people that Tariko-onēchan helped get Gifted from America years ago, a really nice guy named Xander Harris — he's Suoti; Hyena as he would be called on Earth — focuses his power through his fingertips to make long ki claws that can cut through almost anything!

I guess that when Kaho-onēchama grows up, she could do the same thing.

I know Ataru's going to encourage her really good!

 

****

 

"Ah! Ayumu-chan!" Hinako cheered.

 

Shinobu and Ryūnosuke turned around as a rather spacey-looking girl their age walked up to join them, she dressed in casual civilian clothing composed of a skirt, blouse and shawl. "Hey, Hinako-chan!" Kasuga Ayumu called out as she raised her hand in greeting. "What's going on? Lucky thing that we all got school off today! If Kaho-chan called out to me when I was in class...!"

 

"Kaho knows, Ayumu-chan!" Kaho asserted, then she waved over to where Yotsuba was standing over the unconscious Ran. "But Ran-san's being stinky!"

 

The brown-haired native of Wakayama near Ōsaka blinked before she focused her brown-grey eyes on the alien teen at the feet of one of her best friend's little sisters, then she shook her head on seeing that Ran's seifuku skirt was quite soaked. "Oh, man! Yotsuba-chan, what did you do to Ran-chan?!"

 

"Yotsuba was making the stupid umale realize she can't fire an ANTI-TANK WEAPON in the middle of a residential zone, Ayumu-chan!" Yotsuba sternly replied as she looked at the older girl. "You know she's almost as bad of a shot as that space-biker idiot Lum knows! Given what her anger issues are like, Yotsuba's sure people in town wouldn't want to be hurt by this umale!"

 

"Hey! Ōsaka! How the heck did you just APPEAR like that?!"

 

People turned to see a rather handsome young man standing at the stone fence marking the park's borders. Ataru's sisters instantly recognized him as Mifune Hideyuki, a former classmate of their sibling from before April, when he was moved into Ran's homeroom on everyone advancing to the second year of high school. Before anyone could ask what was going on — the fame of the girl often nicknamed "Ōsaka" by her peers at Azuma Senior High School in nearby Itabashi had spread far and wide thanks to her being best friends to the most famous high schooler in Japan alive today, eleven year-old Mihama Chiyo, the first person in Japan to advance FIVE SCHOOL GRADES due to the sheer level of her intelligence! — Aria humphed as she looked away from Hideyuki. "He is not a nice boy!"

 

As Hideyuki gargled on hearing the Parisian's denouncement of him, the other sisters all gave him disapproving looks. "He's just as dumb as those creeps who always pick on Onii-chama because they want to take Lum-san away from him!" Kaho snorted as she looked away from the older boy.

 

"Yeah, you gotta be really, really, really dumb to not know Ayumu-chan's real name!" Hinako added. "Hina really, really, really doesn't like what Tomo-chan always calls her!"

 

"True," Marie stated as she allowed her paper sculptures to disperse, sending Rei smashing head-first into a handy rock to knock him out. As many boys seeing this whooped on seeing the "walking beef-and-noodles shop" brought down like that, she added, "How on Earth Ayumu-san got a nickname like 'Ōsaka' when she was born in Wakayama and spent primary school in Kōbe utterly escapes me."

 

"DAMN IT, ŌSAKA! JUST BE ŌSAKA!"

 

As everyone looked around for the source of that shout from Ayumu's hyperactive classmate Takino Tomo, the native of Wakayama looked to the east, eyes sparkling with mischief. "Tomo-chan, how can I just be Ōsaka?" she called out. "Marie-chan's right! I was born in Wakayama and raised in Kōbe!"

 

As an outraged scream echoed from the direction of Itabashi, Yotsuba moaned. "Oi, Tomo-baka! Volume, huh?! They can hear you over in Diagon Alley!"

 

"OI! WHO YOU CALLING A BAKA, DUNN?!"

 

"No nookie with Ani-chama!" Yotsuba then sing-songed.

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

A pained wail echoed over the scene. "Nookie...!"

 

«Tomo, shut up please!»

 

Marie moaned. "Arigatō, Yomi-san!"

 

«Anytime, Marie-san!»

 

Shinobu and Ryūnosuke blinked, then they gazed at Ayumu. "Um, Ōsaka-..." The former then caught herself. "Um, Ayumu-san, are you a mystery man, too?!"

 

That made Ayumu blink before she chuckled. "Oh, no, Shinobu-chan! There's no mystery men on Yiziba! We're just metahumans!"

 

"Show them, Ayumu-chan!" Hinako urged.

 

"Hai! Hai!"

 

A brilliant flash of energy then encompassed the girl, causing people to blink before the radiance faded, revealing her now in a slate-grey uniform of the exact same cut as Marie's, with white belt possessing just two pockets on her hips and white boots. A white lemiscape insignia was on her chest over her cleavage. Once the transformation of her clothing was complete, Ten whipped out a megaphone, flicking it on. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! The Great Show of the Free Planetary State of Yiziba proudly brings to you the one and only Infinite One, the First Child of the Forge of the Seekers, the Goddess Who Walks Among Men...INFINITY!"

 

Ayumu blinked as a sweat drop appeared in her hair while the younger sisters cheered and Marie and Yotsuba shared an amused look...

 

****

 

Ever since I learned about what Tariko-onēchan was trying to do to protect Earth from invasion, I always wanted to do that for Ayumu-onēchan!

And why not?!

Sure, Yizibajohei are the scariest people in the galaxy, even more so than the Seifukusu, the Ipraedies, a lot of Yehisrites and those stupid Goa'uld COMBINED!

Especially when you consider how powerful Ayumu-onēchan IS!

Why do you think people call her ' the Goddess Who Walks Among Men '?

She's the TOP reality warper on Yiziba!

Hah! You thought that magicals are powerful?! Uh-uh! They're practically 'slights' in Yizibajohei eyes when you compare them to her!

Whenever Nodim — that's how ' Infinity ' is said in Yizibajohei — goes, people tread VERY CAUTIOUSLY around her!

Given that she's said to be powerful enough to REBOOT the UNIVERSE if she lost control over herself, it's a smart thing in the end!

Still, Ayumu-onēchan and her past-selves have all been really cool and laid back people. They gotta be given that they're as close to the textbook definition of a major deity that can exist in this Universe. Not even the meanest 'demons' or other interdimensional critters like what Xander-oniichan and his friends in that Sunnydale place always have to fight want to mix it up with Ayumu-onēchan.

Besides, even before I actually met her after that whole stupid thing about Lum-chan being married to Tariko-onēchan back in April, Nassur-chan told me about the several times that Ayumu-onēchan really broke the mould when it comes to being the Infinite One in comparison to all her past-selves COMBINED!

Before Tariko-onēchan began her quest to get pretty girls Gifted, Yizibajohei always believed that everyone has to stand up for themselves. After all, their first-selves managed to survive pretty much on their own during the Dawn of Power and the Starvation Times. Save for the Nameless — they're people who don't allow themselves to 'resurrect' through the Great Crystal of Power even if they become metahumans from all the mesonium radiation in the planet's biosphere; one of them became Tariko-onēchan's mother after she moved there — even a basic concept like 'community' really never developed as people sought to live on their own.

That's part of the reason people elsewhere hate the Yizibajohei.

They all live in a state of perpetual ANARCHY!

But when it comes to Ayumu-onēchan, she'll surprise you a lot.

Just like her best friend Mihama Chiyo-onēchan found out last April.

Wow...!

 

****

 

"Uh...Ten-chan...?"

 

"Hai...?"

 

"Please don't do that again," Ayumu pleaded. "It's too blah...!"

 

The young Oni quickly nodded. "Poor Ayumu-chan," Hinako breathed out.

 

"TEN-CHAN!"

 

Ten yelped on hearing that frightened shriek, then he looked left and up...

 

...before he squawked as a wide-eyed Lum flew down to snare him in her embrace. Before she could make contact, Kaho grabbed the young Oni away from his cousin, dodging away enough to allow Lum to fly head-first right into the ground! As people winced and the teenage boys from Tomobiki High all screamed out on seeing their favourite classmate wind up in an accident like that, Ayumu blinked. "Gee, Lum-chan! I'm sure Nassur-kun taught'cha how to fly better than that!"

 

"Lum-san's so scared of Yizibajohei that she forgot to stop herself!" Hinako stated as she gazed with concern at the stunned Oni...

 

...who squawked as she bolted up, her head — with a face now quite dirty and streaked with grass stains — then snapping to and fro as she seemed to quake in the wind. Seeing that, all the natives gaped in disbelief. "Holy shit!" Ryūnosuke hissed out. "She IS scared to death of those people!"

 

"Do you blame her?" Shinobu asked.

 

"Huh?! What do you mean, Shinobu-san?"

 

"Don't you remember seeing the wreckage of the old part of Onishuto when we were forced to stay there for a couple of days after Lum tried to force Ataru-kun to marry her?" Shinobu asked. As the tomboy nodded on being reminded of that — she had joined Class 1-4 back in mid-February, then moved on to Class 2-4 at the start of April, a little over a week before the encounter with Queen Elle — Ataru's former girlfriend then added, "I asked one of Invader-taisa's crew about their encounter with the Yizibajohei. It was SUCH a traumatic event in Urusian history that people like Lum are sleep-trained to understand what happened when they're even younger then Ten-chan!"

 

The "heir" of Hamachaya hummed as she considered that, then she blinked as she stared at Ten. "Hey, how come you can say the name of that place, Jariten?! When people on Uru talked of that place, it was 'You Know Where' or the 'Unspeakable Place'. How come you're able to say 'Yiziba' like that?!"

 

"Oh, Ayumu-onēchan did that to me after she rescued Ataru from being forced to marry Lum-chan after that whole thing with Elle!" Ten immediately explained, waiving to the Infinite One in emphasis.

 

"WHAT?!"

 

Everyone turned as Lum spun around to glare murderously at the living goddess nearby...then she turned as grey as stone on seeing her uniform. "Now, Lum-chan...!" Ayumu then began, her voice sweetness and light...even if her eyes now sparkled with barely restrained malice. "You're not going to do something DUMB, are you?" she asked as she calmly crossed her arms. "Well...?"

 

Lum was now as white as a sheet, she slowly moving to back away from the other girl while she waved her hands in a warding gesture, obviously in a vain hope of stopping the current incarnation of the most powerful metahuman to rise on Yiziba from hurting her badly. As all the boys seeing this began to croak, moan and sob on noting that the seemingly invincible warlord's daughter from Uru was about to soil herself in the presence of the spacey native of Wakayama — for reasons that still hadn't sank into them — a growling voice then echoed from the street close to Hideyuki, one which made the sisters all groan. "Oh, spare us, PLEASE!" Marie snarled. "Ayumu-san, if you wouldn't mind...!"

 

"YOU BITCH! HOW DARE YOU THREATEN LUM-SAN LIKE...?!"

 

Ayumu snapped her fingers.

 

"...THAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOA...!"

 

Everyone spun around to look...

 

...then many girls howled on seeing the four core members of Lum's Stormtroopers be LAUNCHED into the morning sky on an artillery trajectory towards Tomobiki High itself. Seeing that, Ten whooped in delight as Lum gasped in horror on seeing her four closest supporters being treated like rag dolls by the most powerful of They Who Must Never Be Named for utterly no reason whatsoever. She then jolted as Yotsuba whooped. "Hah! Looks like the four chief TRAITORS TO HUMANITY are blasting off at last!"

 

"Now, Ayumu-san, PLEASE don't put them through their death scenes!" Marie pleaded, which made Lum gargle as she spun around to note there were two more of the Unspeakable Ones here today. "Remember, His Eminence declared a fatwā when it comes to Lum-san's 'fan club' here in Tomobiki."

 

"Yeah, yeah, Marie-chan..."

 

KK-KLONG! KK-KLANG! KK-KLONK! KK-KRRANG!

 

Everyone winced on hearing the sounds of people's skulls hitting something very hard and metallic from the direction of Tomobiki High School, that echoed with the crunching noise of wood being shattered and gasping yelps of four certain boys nearly getting their spinal columns crushed from being dropped head-first into the school clock tower and smash into the old bell that was contained in the very heart of that structure. As a faint gonging noise then echoed from that direction, many of the girls again howled with laughter on seeing Lum's most passionate supporters being put down like that while many of the boys like Hideyuki cringed at the idea of facing the wrath of someone like Kasuga Ayumu. As Lum collapsed to her knees in horror — not to mention disbelief on seeing how LITTLE people like Aisuru Satoshi and his friends were being supported by their peers — Ten was snickering. "Oh, Maidens! Wait until those lifeless dorks back on Phentax Two learn what you just did to their...!"

 

"TEN-CHAN! DON'T TALK ABOUT...!"

 

KK-KRACK!

 

All the boys present screamed in horror on seeing that a cinder block just smashed down on Lum's head to knock her out! As a barely-recovered Ran gaped in shock on seeing her childhood "friend" smacked down low like that — even if a frightened chill ran down her spine as memories burned into her brain back in her childhood about ONE of They Who Must Never Be Named who did something like that during the near-apocalypse called "the Mother of All Fight Scenes" that nearly destroyed all life on planet Uru twenty-seven decades before as a "joke" came back to her! — most of the girls began to appear hopeful that this "encounter of the third kind" would see the aliens that had haunted their lives for a year driven off the planet once and for all time. As Hinako and Yotsuba — not to mention Ayumu, who also was telepathic atop her galaxy-level reality warping powers and inherent omniscient meta-senses that gave her the ability to know anything no matter which planet, time period or dimension had attracted her interest — quickly sensed, few girls attending Tomobiki Senior High School really liked Redet Lum despite their depending on the warlord's daughter for several things, least of which to keep Moroboshi Ataru in line. In spite of that particular issue, they really didn't care for Lum, mostly due to the near-universal attraction many Tomobiki High girls — not to mention their peers in nearby schools in and around Nishitōkyō — possessed for one Mendō Shūtarō. As had been seen many a time over the last year or so, the scion of Japan's wealthiest family was just as willing to claim Lum for himself, which miffed Miyake Shinobu many times when she dated him before his planned engagement to the younger daughter of his clan's chief rivals, Mizunokōji Asuka, was announced in mid-March. And given that almost all the other boys at school also lusted for the warlord's daughter, the chances of any girl who might want to pursue one of her male peers for a date were well to the left of "nil".

 

And that state of affairs had effectively begun when Lum followed her "husband" into Class 1-4 a little over a month after she first came to Earth.

 

"Ah! Ani-chama! Yah-hoo!"

 

That made the sisters' heads snapped over. "Onii-tama!" Hinako cheered.

 

"Nii-ya!" Aria gushed.

 

"Aniue-sama!" Marie breathed out in delight.

 

"Onii-chama!" Kaho echoed her sister before she blinked, then she whooped in delight. "Ah! Onii-chama is having his date with Jody-san!"

 

People blinked, then they spun around to gaze south...

 

...before gasping on seeing the most despised resident of Tomobiki step out into the open. As many blinked on seeing that Moroboshi Ataru wasn't dressed in his school gakuran, they then gaped on seeing the incredibly beautiful blonde Western girl appearing to be his age now at his side, one of her arms looped around one of his. As Shinobu instantly felt a flush of jealousy rip through her body on seeing that the man she still loved deep down was paying obviously close attention to another woman, the other girls just gushed as they took in such an image. Like Marie, Yotsuba and Ayumu were dressed now, the adopted native of Royal Leamington Spa in England's County Warwickshire — she was actually a native of the Isle of Anglesey off the northern coast of Wales — was in a battlesuit, overall black with dark ruby lines of runes shaped like Chinese characters in nine-fold script running down the sides of her body to the top of her deep burgundy boots; a matching belt was wrapped around her waist even if no symbol was on her chest. Draped over her shoulders was a matching hooded black cape that went to her ankles, it trimmed in the same sorts of runes that trimmed this woman's battlesuit. Her hair was a shaggy bobcut that went to her shoulders, with glittering turquoise eyes piercing out of a face that seemed far more mature than what her physical age would have projected.

 

"DARLING! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT...u-urk!"

 

As the boys seeing this all croaked on seeing Lum nearly soil herself thanks to the lethal stare that was being fired her way by Ataru's companion, many of the girls found themselves grinning as they began to think that this was the woman who just put the warlord's daughter down low. "I would suggest, Miss Redet, you keep a civil tongue like your wonderful cousin is doing right this instant," she said in a voice that was pure West Midlands. "As you were effectively warned yesterday afternoon when my friend smashed in the head of that worthless piece of genetic refuse Ataru now sees as his mother only in GENETICS, he's fully aware of that LIE you spouted last October after you put him through ten days of solid humiliation just because he supposedly 'didn't do his homework'." Scorn dripped each of the woman's words as Lum rapidly began to shake her head. "Oh, no! Don't you dare try to LIE you way out to this one, you foolish child! The universe doesn't revolve around you! It NEVER has! And if you have to watch your culture be subjected to the Mother of All Fight Scenes AGAIN, it will be YOUR fault!"

 

As Lum and the recovering Ran gargled in horror on hearing THAT threat, Ataru took a deep breath. "Ayumu-chan, if you wouldn't mind, could you please teleport Seq-san and Aruka-san off the planet?" he calmly stated as he gazed on his true oldest friend. "Liz is about to close the system to outside intrusion. I can get Onē-san to teleport my so-called 'wife' and her cousin back to Onishuto."

 

"Sure, sure!"

 

Ayumu raised her hand, then snapped her fingers...

 

...and a gasping Ran and a howling Rei — not to mention their spaceships and all of their belongings — disappeared for the last time from Earth!

 

As the crowd gasped, Lum shuddered. "Darling, I don't know what these monsters told you, but...!"

 

"YIZIBA!" he barked.

 

Her voice instantly melted into a howling scream as she collapsed to the ground, tears flowing down her cheeks. As many of the boys started to bellow in outrage on seeing Ataru move to verbally frighten her to death, Ayumu gestured with her hand...which saw a shield rise at the park's boundaries, keeping the warlord's daughter's "fans" from charging in to get her vengeance. As many of the girls then laughed in delight on seeing the boys helplessly smash their fists into something that wouldn't give way, Shinobu shook her head before she gazed at Marie. "What priest were you talking about, Marie-san?"

 

The metahuman librarian perked. "What do you mean, Miyake-san?"

 

"What priest released this fatwā you just told us about?"

 

A cruel smile then crossed the younger woman's face. "His Eminence, Khalīfah Abū Bakr al-Baghdādī," she clearly called out, pronouncing the Arabic syllables as crisply as if she was a native of that region. As Shinobu's eyes went wide with horror, Marie looked towards the crowd of moaning boys who were being prevented from defending their favourite classmate's honour. "Who currently is in charge of Dawlat al-'Irāq al-'Islāmiyya." As people stopped in confusion on hearing that term, a cruel smile crossed her face. "'The Islamic State of Iraq'. Affiliate group to al-Qā'idah in that country." As the crowd then croaked on hearing that this particular priest was an actual ALLY to the maniacs who had launched attacks on America and other nations in hope of removing all Western influence from the Middle East over the last two decades, Marie shook her head. "You can guess what they decreed last October when those four fools Ayumu-san just sent into your school clock tower decided to go forth and effectively betray all of humanity for THIS creature!" She contemptuously waved at Lum, who winced; she herself had known of the maniacs who loved to use Islam as an excuse to kill people.

 

"Before you idiots decide to blame this on Ani-chama, here's a news checky!" Yotsuba added as she glared at the boys. As they shuddered while the metahuman detective used her empathy to make them pay attention and not fall back on normal responses in situations like this, she added, "Ani-chama was CLEARED of any fault concerning what happened last year! As Shinobu-san here can confirm, it was all provoked by Megane and his nerds, then they shoved off all the blame on Ani-chama's shoulders when that hack got his buddies down here to start stealing oil!" She waved to her brother's old girlfriend.

 

"LIES!" That was Koi Shinjin, the most passionate fan of Lum in Class 2-4 below the Stormtroopers. "ALL LIES! IT WAS ATARU'S FAULT THROUGH AND THROUGH! TELL HIM, SHINOBU!"

 

"IT'S TRUE, YOU STUPID, SELFISH FOOL! I WAS THERE!"

 

Hearing Shinobu's snapped reply, all the boys gaped at her while all the girls began to hiss at each other. "Oh, by the way, Miyake-san," Ataru said as he reached behind him to pull out a leather-bound book the size of a hotel bible. "I seriously think both you and Fujinami-san really need to see this."

 

Both girls perked on hearing that, they they turned to look at the tome in Ataru's hand...even if Shinobu had winced on hearing her old boyfriend address her by family name, which he NEVER did to any woman. Noting what it was by seeing the title on the front cover, Lum gargled. "NO...!"

 

KK-KRUNCH!

 

Everyone gasped on seeing yet another cinder block having smashed the warlord's daughter down. As guilt then crossed Ten's face, Shinobu blinked before she reached over to take that book out of Ataru's hand. Seeing the title in both Japanese and a strange script which reminded her of the Devanagari alphabet used in India and neighbouring countries, she blinked. "'The Book of Lum'?"

 

"Look at the index," Ataru advised.

 

Shinobu blinked as she did what he bade, then she stopped, her eyes shooting out of her head in disbelief. "'THE BOOK OF THE SINFUL DOUBTER, MIYAKE SHINOBU, FORMER BELOVED OF THE GREAT EVIL'?!" she shrieked before she then noted another entry. "'THE BOOK OF THE HOLY FRIEND TO THE BLESSED LIVING GODDESS REDET LUM, LADY FUJINAMI RYŪNOSUKE'?!"

 

"WHAT?!" Ryūnosuke screamed; she had moved over to look over her friend's shoulder to see what was going on. "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT, MOROBOSHI?!"

 

"Copies of your diaries."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"What...?" Shinobu gasped as she and her friend stared in disbelief at Ten.

 

Both winced on seeing his eyes flood with pained tears. "It's true! That creep Ōgi and his morons on Phentax Two think Lum-chan's a living GODDESS! Megane and his creeps and Mendō are her 'holy apostles'; I'm the 'holy cousin'; Sakura-nēchan, Cherry-san, Ryūnosuke, Benten and Oyuki-chan are the 'holy friends' and Ran-chan and you are the 'sinful doubters'. They even declared Ataru the 'great evil', their devil!" He waved to Ataru in emphasis. As the sisters all shook their heads, Ten then waved to Hinako. "What's Hinako-onētama gonna be?! The 'wicked sister' or something like that?! Huh?!"

 

"Try as they might, they couldn't stop the mass copying of people's diaries that interested them...until we were able to expel the last of them off the planet during the Pseudo-War," Ataru added. "While I won't judge what the accuracy of your 'books' are, ladies, you can see it for yourself. Try as Ten and Aruka-san and everyone else affected by this insanity could to make someone plead to the lunatic who STARTED this madness to put a STOP to it, he simply wouldn't listen. What's worse, since he became the leader of the most powerful ally the Urusians could ever hope for, it was decided in Onishuto that a policy of APPEASEMENT way worse than what the Allies did to the Nazis before the Second World War would be followed with them!" He nodded to the dazed Lum. "She was ordered by her father to say NOTHING about this, even to ME!" He shook his head. "And she wonders why I HATE her at times?"

 

As Lum croaked on hearing that, Shinobu shuddered as a brilliant battle aura formed around her. "You...!" she growled as she stared at her former rival. "You...!" she hissed as she dropped the Book, her hands grasping for something nice and heavy so she could beat down the selfish monster that had ripped apart so many lives over the last year and more in mad pursuit of her "darling".

 

"Need this?"

 

That was Ataru's companion, who just conjured a very massive iron weapon shaped like a croquet mallet. Grabbing it, Shinobu snapped "Thank you!" before she charged at her formal rival, taking a swing that would have impressed any of the great baseball sluggers...!

 

KK-KRACK!

 

"PEG OUT!" Yotsuba screamed as the howling warlord's daughter was sent flying into the sky to the south towards Tomobiki High School.

 

"DAMN YOU, MOROBOSHI ATARU, YOU BASTARD! SAVE LUM-CHAN!"

 

On hearing Shinjin's enraged howl, all the boys bellowed before they raced off after their favourite classmate...just as the resounding sound of Lum's skull smashing into the clock tower echoed in the distance, that accompanied by a chorus of screams and wails from those Tomobiki High boys who were already on the grounds. As Ten winced on hearing that and the girls seeing this all whooped in delight on seeing Lum brought down low, Shinobu dropped the mallet before she spun and raced off towards her house. Before Ryūnosuke could go after her, she found The Book of Lum thrust into her hand.

 

"Tell her parents!" Ataru snapped. "They need to know everything!"

 

"And check the sky in about an hour!" Yotsuba added. "You're gonna LOVE that!"

 

The "heir" of Hamachaya blinked before she nodded. Moving to race off, she then stopped, looking at Ataru's sisters. "You're lucky, man," she whispered.

 

With that, she was off. Watching her go, Ataru smiled. "You'll be that way very soon, Ryū-chan," he whispered as his companion hugged his arm.

 

The sisters and Ten all snickered on hearing that...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

This story is another attempt at writing something concerning the Yizibajohei (pronounced /yɪ-zi-bɑː'-woʊ-heɪ/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet), which I first introduced in The Doctor Is In storyline when the late Anime Addventure website was active. For those who don't know about these beings, think of the Levramites from Jim Valentino's parody comic maxi-series normalman and you get the right idea, though my interpretation isn't meant as a straight-up parody; there are very dark implications as to how the Yizibajohei are governed. For those continuity buffs, this story is set neat the end of the Yatsura and Ranma manga series (before the "Boy Meets Girl" storyline in the former and the Saffron arc in the latter), during the time of Order of the Phoenix in the Harry Potter timeline, near the start of the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the fourth season of The West Wing, during second year as the characters of Azumanga Daiō experienced same and just before the start of the Mai-HiME anime series; those series will be the effective "anchor" stories of this work. For those personages from World Wrestling Entertainment, their timeline is the same as it was in real life. As I've done before when I've included Yatsura characters in my stories, the influences of The Senior Year are heavy; including in this are the names I've devised for Yatsura characters like the members of Lum's Stormtroopers. Notes about other series included in this story will be referenced to in these notes for your convenience.

 

A nod of thanks to Regina Magia and Dr. Tempo at the SpaceBattles website for inspiring this story and writing a few omake to it. I also acknowledge The Sage of Toads, whose stories Sempai and Sensei also helped inspire certain elements of this storyline.

 

For this chapter:

 

Tampopo's Rāmen and Beefbowl Bar and its proprietor Kamekichi Tampopo were first introduced in my first ever lemon story, The Galatea Syndrome. I brought forth this concept since I simply can't believe that Ataru's luck is so bad that there isn't ANY sort of place in Tomobiki where he can get away from the people who wish to influence his life in one way or another, especially Lum.

 

The common belief now that Lum's "family name" is "Invader" is not proven by the Yatsura manga. I don't believe Takahashi-sensei actually created a sort of clan/family name for Lum or her relatives. The clan name "Redet" was taken from one of the early fanfics written on the Yatsura characters, Just A Dream and its sequel Still Dreaming by Lew Burton. That was one of the series that influenced a lot of things in The Senior Year for both Mike Smith and myself.

 

Fans of Sister Princess will know that each sister has a different way of addressing their big brother (the player in the game, Minakami Wataru in the first anime series, an unnamed elder brother in Sister Princess Re Pure). Naturally, they modified their form of address to speak of Tariko Katabarbe on learning of her. Out of respect for the sisters, Redet Ten elected to use the forms of address the sisters use for Tariko for the sisters themselves. Of course, the family names used for the sisters here in this story are the ones I devised for them in Lonely Souls and other stories I used the sisters in.

 

The Senior Year character and situation notes: The Ipraedies Empire and the Imperial Houses of the Seifukusu Dominion were two of the antagonistic races that appeared in the series, as was the Union of Phentax Two; the Ipraedies were first mentioned in "Benten's Story", the Seifukusu in "Surprise, Darling! You're A Father!" and the Niphentaxians were hinted at in "Final Cinba" before appearing in "What Price For Love?". Mifune Hideyuki is a character from a side story to the series yet to be published. Lum's old combat teacher Nassur first appeared in "Revenge of Memory"; he was the series' second main male character after Ataru. Koi Shinjin first appeared in "Lum's Lesson".

 

As I've done with other alien languages I bring into my stories, I use a character encoding system to create words in Yizibajohei. Basing it on the Japanese translation of terms (or the on'yomi reading of Chinese characters if Japanese translations of terms is in katakana), it goes like this:

 

A and Y remain the same

VOWELS: I=E and O=U (the Ō, which is the Hepburn Romanization of either おう or おお, would be interpreted as it is in hiragana)

CONSONANTS: K=T or CH, G=D, S=R, Z or J=L, N=M, H or F=B and P=W

 

As a way of tossing in a "unique" sound into the language, I encode the consonant element of the "shi" () sound into Yizibajohei as "R'B", which is approximately pronounced /ɯrʔb/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet when it starts a word or is in the middle of a word after a consonant. The glottal stop between the first and second consonants would be a syllable break and the vowel before the "r" would be a sound like the onomatopoeia for a car engine idling, but uttered very briefly. Note the vowel would be dropped if the "r'b" combination appears in the middle of a word after a vowel.

 

Note however that there are times when the glottal stop is not indicated in writing this set of sounds as note the way the adopted name of Tuyuki (Tariko Katabarbe) is spelled in this story.

 

Translation list: Douceâtre — Sweet; Leabharlann — Library; Bleachtaire — Detective; Beni — Yizibajohei honorific suffix meaning "princess", normally used for women who are not Gifted; Umale — Same/Sameness; Fatwā — A religious decree or judgment by an Islamic scholar; Khalīfah — Caliph.

 

Yes, the friend Ten writes of when he speaks of Susumu Marie is Yomiko Readman from Read Or Die.

 

Yotsuba Dunn would meet Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft Holmes well before the start of the Sherlock television series.

 

For those who know the hentai game/anime Bible Black, this is set during the time of the original anime series well before the climax of the series on Walpurgisnacht. However, I bring characters from Bible Black: New Testament such as Josephine "Jody" Crowley into this storyline.

 

As this story starts in late 2012, the organization first founded by Abū Bakr al-Baghdādī in Iraq has yet to transform into its well-known incarnation as ad-Dawla al-'Islāmiyya fīl-'Irāq wash-Shām (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), short-formed as Dā'ish (in English, ISIL). Such a transformation wouldn't occur officially until the April of the following year.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Triton, the Royal Palace in Kōri City, the 7333rd Orbital Day in the Fifth Cycle Post-Migration from Home, the sixth hour...

 

"What just happened, Pukaze?"

 

For the crown princess of the Kingdom of Neptune whose citizens were now forced to live in exile on its largest moon, the information which had just been relayed to her was nothing short of horrible.

 

"It's true, Oyuki," the slightly older version of Oyuki in the militaristic kimono-like uniform worn by the Kingdom's warriors breathed out. While both were outwardly as calm as possible as was always demanded of Neptunian society, they were now very frightened of the implications of what was now occurring in their own solar system. "Starting at midnight Greenwich time on Earth, some sort of shielding system went active at the orbit line of Ceres, which makes starship warp drives and power dynamos detonate the instant they try to make a close slingshot pass of Sol to proceed to Gomiana or Toshitto. Up to now, over a dozen ships have been destroyed." Here, the older woman bowed her head in clear shame. "We have no idea what happened to the crews or passengers."

 

As the others in the Royal Neptunian Defence Force in the room stared wide-eyed at their marshal's declaration, Oyuki shook her head. "Who could do such a thing, cousin? Even if someone has that type of technology, the sheer scale of covering the inner part of the solar system is too much..."

 

"My Princess."

 

Both women turned as a middle-aged man came into the room, moving with very uncharacteristic haste. "What is the matter, Minister?" Oyuki asked.

 

The minister in charge of the Central Warp Chamber bowed. "My Princess, I bear horrible news," he declared, his voice quivering with barely-controlled panic. "An intricate software virus has now been inserted into the Warp Chamber's programming which removed all Earth destinations from the targeting sensors that allows you to visit your friend at her husband's home. When we attempted to send snow to Earth as we normally do, it was actually delivered to Mars." As Oyuki and Pukaze both gasped on hearing that, the minister added, "When we tried to teleport a sherbet to Earth, the poor creature..."

 

His voice then broke as tears filled his eyes. "What happened?!" Oyuki demanded, shocked to see such a disciplined man cry in public like that.

 

He gazed misty-eyed at his future queen. "The creature was sent into the Sun!"

 

Shocked gasps escaped the room. "Wh-why?" Oyuki stuttered, her voice breaking on hearing such a shocking declaration. "Who's doing this...?"

 

Before she could demand more, a beeping noise echoed from one station. The technician responded, then she perked before looking over. "My Princess, Lady Ran is signalling. She says it's urgent."

 

Oyuki blinked. "Put the signal through the main screen."

 

"At once, My Princess."

 

The main view screen clicked on, revealing to Oyuki's sharp eyes a frightened child in lieu of her sometimes-sweet, sometimes-psychotic friend. "Ran-chan?" Oyuki asked. "What is the problem?"

 

"OYUKI! YOU GOT TO PASS THE WORD ON!" Ran shrieked. "THE YOU KNOW WHOS ARE ON EARTH! THEY GOT DARLING TO BECOME ONE OF THEM! WE'RE ALL IN DANGER!"

 

Stunned silence filled the room as people exchanged shocked looks.

 

Neptunians as a whole prided themselves on their emotional control in public.

 

Such had won Oyuki admirers in Japan for her stoic calm even in when she was forced to deal with things that would make other people scream their guts out.

 

However, even they had limits.

 

THIS was it!

 

"WE'RE DOOMED! THEY WHO MUST NEVER BE NAMED ARE OUT TO DESTROY US!"

 

As all the people in the room began to howl in mortal terror, Oyuki sank to her knees as the possible explanation of what was going on sank in.

 

"Daturie...!" she croaked.

 

Oh, yes.

 

Only ONE being in the local cluster could have done this.

 

The Wise Genius of the Circle of Thought.

 

The Academician...!

 

****

 

Tomobiki, approaching Tomobiki Senior High School, minutes before first bell...

 

"Moroboshi-kun! Why on Earth are you NOT in your school uniform?!"

 

Hearing the voice of the elderly administrator who was in charge of what was essentially the most infamous school in the world, Moroboshi Ataru sighed before he gazed in veiled amusement at the Principal. Accompanying him was his date, the woman born Joseffin ferch Marc Mônnewydd and commonly known by the English name "Josephine Crowley", not to mention five of his sisters whom he met in the town park a half-hour earlier when they had got together with Redet Ten in preparation of the day that all aliens from the Galactic Federation states remaining in Tomobiki would be expelled from Earth once and for all. A quick glance to the school's clock tower revealed a rather large hole in one side of the structure by the clock, indicating where Ataru's would-be "wife" and his four chief "rivals" for Redet Lum's hand in marriage had been sent flying through the roof thanks to his true oldest friend and his would-be girlfriend from the month or so before the Tag Race.

 

By now, everyone who had been Gifted thanks to the Great Crystal of Power on Yiziba had donned their battlesuits in preparation for a fight scene, which showed off their bodies quite well. As Suiki, Saeru Hinako wore a snow-white jumpsuit with silver belt and boots, a red heart symbol on her upper chest; she had flowers in her pig-tailed hair which helped project an innocent and pure aura to other people. Aria des Beauchamps wore a blue uniform with gold belt and boots matching the colours of the Ancien Régime of France when she acted as Douceâtre; she had a gold-trimmed blue demi-cape with hood drawn over her long silver hair. And Eigo Kaho was in a dark blue suit with gold piping on the sides, frilly gold epaulettes with braid at her shoulders, gold belt and boots in her uniform as Baton Dancer, crossed marching batons on her chest; her handy baton was in hand and ready for action. Floating close to Susumu Marie and Yotsuba Dunn was Ten, who was grinning madly as he noted the crowds of people acting like it was the end of the world on the front lawn of the school, many boys crying at the fact that their favourite schoolmate was now in the nurse's station after suffering a concussion thanks to smacking head-first into the school's bell thanks to her old rival Miyake Shinobu...whom, as Yotsuba told Ataru earlier, was now at her family home as her parents Toshoba and Kimiki — along with Fujinami Ryūnosuke — were getting an uncensored introduction to The Book of Lum and the warped "church" created in the name of the warlord's daughter from Uru on a planet named Phentax Two.

 

"Why Kōchō-sensei, weren't you told?" Ataru innocently asked.

 

That made the older man perk. "What do you mean?"

 

"As of this morning, I'm no longer a student at Tomobiki High School."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

It was SO silent, one could hear crickets chirping.

 

Then...

 

"HE'S GONE! WE'RE FREE! WE'RE FREE OF HIM! LUM-CHAN'S OURS!"

 

As the boys whooped in delight on hearing that declaration — as Ataru knew all too well, the acoustics at the school could easily snare one's voice and project it at the most inconvenient moment to see people hurt — the sisters and Ataru's date all shook their heads. Ignoring the celebration now breaking out among his former peers, Yotsuba patted her brother's shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Ani-chama. As soon as our friends in Iraq finally get it in gear and send a suicide bomber over to this place, these stupid umale worshippers won't be pumping all that noise pollution to bother good folk from now on."

 

"Indeed you're right, Yotsuba-chan," Marie added as the Principal's eyebrow twitched ominously, his skin paling as he interpreted the potential threat that was about to descend on his precious school. "It's not Aniue-sama's fault that those four so-called 'stormtroopers' actually put DEATH MARKS on all their peers at this place with that fool stunt they pulled last October."

 

"No great loss. In the grand scheme of things, their deaths will matter not a whit," Jody said with an amused tone as she crossed her arms, her eyes slightly glowing with the cosmic levels of magic she commanded. "Indeed, given the sheer STENCH of all the umale that haunt this old schoolhouse, it would actually be a wonderful deed for HUMANITY to see them all killed off."

 

As the younger sisters snickered, the Principal just gazed wide-eyed at his now-former pupil, horrified that Ataru seemed to be going along with this...

 

****

 

Dear Diary,

Seeing Ataru and his sisters finally put down that creepy old principal was nice!

After all, given the stupid 'physicals' he loved to land on Lum-chan and all the others like that 'obstacle course swim meet' from a few months ago, not to mention that raid on that girl's middle school near here last month...!

Well, now that he's learned what those terrorists in the Middle East are planning to do to the school and the idiots inside, he's gonna get a smack down on his butt that'll probably send him to the nearest hotel with the rubber walls.

No great loss.

Oh, forgot to write about Jody-san!

Josephine Crowley is the actual granddaughter of the one normal person on Earth who got as close as possible to understand the concept of magic without actually being magical than anyone else in Terran history. She was born in 1940, which makes her seventy-two years old...but thanks to Tariko-onēchan helping her get Gifted, she now looks like she's seventeen.

She's even an actual duchess over in the United Kingdom, inheriting a major seat in their magical parliament. The Queen even knighted her for services to the nation before she officially became the Duchess of Anglesey; that's an island off the coast of Wales, where her magical school, Meridiana, is located.

Jody-san was Gifted to become the Monarch of the Shadow Court; on Yiziba, she's called Tadi Bolem , which translates to ' Lady Shadow '. She's got powers that nearly match Ayumu-onēchan in many ways even if she's not a real cosmic meta like Ayumu-onēchan and Tariko-onēchan. The Shadow Court are the magical masters of ebony mesonium, which make them capable of using very destructive magic which some people call 'dark'. Jody-san calls it 'cleaning out the dead flesh of Existence' which allows new things to grow.

Oh, forgot! Years ago, Jody-san even helped fight that creep Voldemort. Her group, the Argentium Astrum, did way more damage to Voldemort's people than any other group in Britain who wanted that creep gone.

Hopefully she'll help out now that creep's back...

 

****

 

"Oi, Ataru-kun! Why the heck aren't you in uniform?"

 

Ataru perked, then turned left to see a group of thirty-six women, all second-year girls, approaching from the direction of the Hinan Apartments, a set of high rises that sat on the east side of town near the border with Nerima. "Oh, Okano-san! Minna-san! Good morning to you all!" He waved to the celebrating students inside the school grounds. "Apologies for the impromptu party here, but everyone's celebrating my leaving this place once and for all."

 

"What?!" a tall, slender redhead with green eyes gasped. "You're leaving?! You actually found a way to get out of this loony bin?! How can WE do that?!"

 

All the sisters and Jody laughed on hearing that. "Well, I can't blame you for wanting to get out of this place, Shimizu-san," Ataru noted, which made the sisters nod; the woman who had spoken to him was Shimizu Kaho, a former alumnus of Ekō Girl's High School in Kanagawa, which had been destroyed the previous summer thanks to a terrorist group, forcing the students to disperse to other schools. All of the former Class 1-B from Ekō Girl's High had elected to come as a group to Tomobiki High School, believing it to be a "quiet" place. They were soon VERY disappointed...even if they had been able to effectively avoid the crazy shenanigans which haunted Ataru's life since his "wife" came into it. "I would really suggest you guys move elsewhere as soon as possible, though."

 

"Why's that?" Okano Yuka asked as she crossed her arms. The heroine of the Ekō Girl's High School attack was one of Kaho's two childhood best friends. A shorter girl with shaggy dark red hair in a taper to mid-neck and amethyst eyes behind reading glasses, she was the second-most smartest student in school behind the only declared lesbian currently in Class 2-4, Tsuruya Rumiko. "By the way, why are you girls dressed in those jumpsuits?"

 

"These are our battlesuits, Yuka-san," Hinako said as she twirled around. Seeing that, all the girls gasped in delight as the gentle empathic aura the Spirit of Innocence projected all the time washed over them. "Hina, Hina's sisters, Ayumu-chan and Jody-san are metahumans." As the Ekō alumni gasped, she added, "We just can't wait for Onii-tama to become one, too!" She waved to Ataru in emphasis.

 

The girls blinked. "Ataru-kun, these are...?" one girl began.

 

"My half-sisters, Sanokura-san. Same father, different mothers," Ataru answered as he gazed in amusement at Kaho's and Yuka's other best friend, Sanokura Emi. The daughter of a celebrated enka performer, the raven-haired girl with the blue eyes was a track star atop being a well-gifted pianist. She also dabbed into martial arts; when her old school was under siege, she was able to defeat some of the terrorists using some well-placed roundhouse kicks before she got her friends to safety.

 

"Legally, we'll all be Moroboshi soon enough," Yotsuba jovially added. "Now that we got Ani-chama out of this zoo, he can come attend school with us."

 

"YOU WILL NOT LEAVE, MOROBOSHI-KUN!"

 

Everyone turned to the Principal. Before the sisters could shout the dumb old man down, a girl's voice hummed from nearby. "Oh...what the heck was it that Steve-san always likes to say...?"

 

People turned. "Ah! It's Sakuya-onēsama and Haruka-anegimisama!" Ten gushed.

 

"Ah, got it!" Sukeyama Sakuya then declared as she snapped her fingers. While Tenhiro Haruka giggled in anticipation, the eldest of Ataru's half-sisters pulled out a megaphone, then walked onto the school ground. "HEY, BOYS!" she called out through the device, causing all the boys to stop and look her way.

 

Instantly, hearts appeared in their eyes. "What a babe!" one man said.

 

"She's the babe of babes!" another declared.

 

"If she was elected president, she'd be Babe-raham Lincoln!" a third gushed.

 

"It's so good to be young and alive!" a fourth crooned.

 

As the sisters giggled and Jody shook her head, the tall and well-shaped woman with the long caramel hair done in twin ponytails to her hips and eyes of glittering amethyst smirked. Unlike the others, she was dressed in hip normal clothing that showed off her killer legs perfectly. "Hey, boys! If you want to beat this old fool here apart for all the stupid 'physicals' he forces on you that THREATEN your lives every time he pulls that, give me a 'Hell, yeah'!"

 

"HELL, YEAH!" all the boys instantly howled.

 

Sakuya then waved to the now white-faced Principal. "So what's STOPPING you?!"

 

"GET HIM!"

 

The beatdown that followed was QUITE epic, causing Ataru, his other sisters and Jody to nearly fall on their butts laughing while Ayumu shrugged...

 

****

 

Sukeyama Sakuya is the oldest of Ataru's half-sisters. She's from Kyōto.

She's also one of the sisters that suffered the most because of what Ataru's late grandma did to make sure his dork mother couldn't hurt the Moroboshi Clan.

Sakuya-onēsama was born the December after Ataru was born; her mom was a professional model and her stepdad was a banker. They had a normal life in Kyōto until her stepdad died. Then something really weird happened, making Sakuya-onēsama's mom move to Ōmure-jima — where everyone now believes they were actually conceived — and literally ABANDON her at Welcome House, a youth hostel located on the north side of the old part of the island overlooking the reclaimed lands the Americans created after the Second World War to make a naval base.

No one's seen Sakuya-onēsama's mother since!

That really hurt her a LOT!

However, she was also one of the first of Ataru's younger sisters to be Gifted. Again, as with the others, no one has any idea how Gift crystals wind up on Earth without being put back into the Great Crystal of Power like it SHOULD be done!

Man, it's no wonder Miss Margo really HATES what goes on!

Still, Sakuya-onēsama really lucked out in that case. She became the Healer of Men's Hearts, R'buoho ; here on Earth, you call her ' Courtesan '. She's one of the most powerful empaths on Yiziba, with the ability to manipulate men's minds to make them stop doing fight scenes all the time and find nice girlfriends so they could have kids.

Believe me, she was really happy to learn about Ataru and Tariko-onēchan.

Not to mention her other half-sisters, too!

I really hope she'll be okay from now on...

 

****

 

Ataru suddenly perked as his "girl radar" instantly locked on something flying at him from somewhere to the south at quite the clip. "Oh, no...!"

 

Jody looked herself, then quickly dodged clear to safety as the other sisters all pulled back from their brother, that action making Yuka and her friends blink.

 

"TE-...I-...TO-...KU-...SA-...MA...!"

 

People glanced into the sky...

 

KK-KLONK!

 

...then they looked down to see Ataru now flat on his back, his head and upper chest covered by the white-trimmed grey split-skirt of a woman about his age and height, though she was slender in build. Possessing long haze grey hair in a stringy ponytail that went past her hips and smoky grey eyes behind glasses, she had a giddy look on her face even if her cheeks feel flushed. Gazing at her, Sakuya took a deep breath. "Ami-chan, do you REALLY have to do this...?!"

 

"I assume no undergarments, Sakuya-chan?" Haruka mused as she gazed knowingly at her sister, her voice flecked with the strong middle German accent she acquired from all the years she had lived with her stepfather and late mother in Düsseldorf.

 

"It's Ami-chan, Haruka-chan."

 

"Ah...!"

 

"MOROBOSHI!"

 

People turned to look towards the school...

 

...then they backed away as a snarling shrine maiden and school nurse charged out, a look of righteous outrage on her well-shaped face. As boys watching this all grinned in anticipation, Sakurambō Sakura yanked a ki mallet out of nowhere, ready to smash the younger man now trapped under Ashikaga Ami's body into lower Earth orbit. "YOU PERVERT! HOW DARE YOU TEACH THIS POOR GIRL...?!"

 

KK-ZZAP!

 

The sisters all ducked as a bolt of pure starlight punched out from somewhere to Ami's left, flying over her head to rip right into Sakura's midsection, causing her to scream out in agony as she was flung back right into the stairs leading into the front entrance! As all the boys on the school grounds screamed in horror on seeing their favourite teacher literally shot down like that, Hinako, Aria and Kaho plugged their ears while Ten shook his head. "Boy, you sure can be DUMB, Sakura-nēchan!" he moaned, making Yuka's friends stare in disbelief at the firefighter's son from Uru; they had seen the many times Ten doted on the school nurse, treating her like a favoured relative.

 

"Aria doesn't like it when Akemi-chan swears," Aria moaned. "Kusun!"

 

Eigo Kaho nodded. "Kaho doesn't like it either!"

 

"Neither does Hina...even if Hina understands why Akemi-chan hates people," Hinako added as something flew out of the sky to land on the front walkway.

 

People gaped on noting the newcomer was dressed as Ataru's sisters save Sakura and Haruka were; a form-fitting halter-top jumpsuit with no sleeves. White overall, it came with blue belt and boots, a symbol on her chest appearing to be a stylized 曙 kanji in blue with white piping. She was tall and slender like Ami was, but had bright orchid-shaded hair tied in a side ponytail to her knees from over her right ear, a pair of blue eyes peeking out of a face that was now twisted in a disgusted scowl. As the boys on the field began to back away from the newcomer, Ashikaga Akemi crossed her arms. "You wanna repeat that, you shitty excuse for a priestess?!" A snort escaped her. "Priestess AND school nurse?! You call that 'Shintō', you fucking reject from a porn flick?!" As the boys screamed in outrage on hearing that brutal insult from her, all the girls started to laugh; like when it came to Redet Lum, they really didn't care at all for Sakurambō Sakura given the effect she had on all the boys. "That ain't the Shintō that I know of, bitch! Believe me, MY knowledge of the divine is WAY better than yours could EVER be! Why don't you go crawl over to one of those all you can eat joints you and that shitty useless uncle of yours love to raid all the time?! I'm sure someone's going to STRANGLE your jabroni ass sooner or later! It'll make this town actually SMELL better since you won't be FARTING all over the place with all the food you scam off Ataru's shithead parents and everyone else in town!"

 

With that, she spun around and walked away, leaving Sakura a wreck on the stairs, grey eyes spiralling as a pained moan escaped her. As the boys gaped at Akemi in total disbelief at the fact that this girl had just given a verbal assault to Sakura like NOTHING they had ever heard before, their female peers — especially ones seeing this from the west-side windows of the classrooms — exchanged looks before one senior whooped, "THREE CHEERS FOR AKEBONO-SAMA!"

 

"BANZAI! BANZAI! BANZAI!" other girls screamed out.

 

Noting that, the three youngest of Ataru's sisters blinked as their pulled their fingers from their ears. Seeing Akemi shudder as a bloom of angry ki started to form around her, Haruka shook her head as Ten floated to her side. "Are you still trying to teach Akemi-san how to behave, Haruka-anegimisama?"

 

"Regretfully, it is a failed effort, Ten-chan," the beautiful girl with the raven hair in a high ponytail and the deep amethyst eyes lamented...

 

****

 

Tenhiro Haruka is actually from Düsseldorf in Germany.

Despite growing up in that town, she's about as perfect a Japanese girl — a 'yamato nadeshiko' as they say it here — as one can be.

Haruka-anegimisama's stepdad works for Nippon Steel. He's also a very good martial artist...and like some of the other sisters' stepdads, he didn't really mind in the end when he learned that his 'daughter' was his stepdaughter. Given how much her mother really loved and cared for her, I'm sure that Naoto-ojisama just felt happy that he had a daughter to love and care for.

It was a good thing, especially after Sakura-obasama was killed in that awful automobile accident on one of the autobahn when Haruka-anegimisama was just six.

Poor Haruka-anegimisama...!

Still, it turned out all for the better. After taking a couple years off for bereavement leave, Haruka-anegimisama's stepdad took her out on a martial arts quest, just like Saotome Ranma went on with her dork idiot of a father that finally got her changed into becoming Hayashi Kanami thanks to Tariko-onēchan.

After getting back to Düsseldorf, Haruka-anegimisama continued to practice in things like the naginata, the bō staff and the gunsen to keep up her skills.

That helped her a lot when she got Gifted as the Quarterstaff Mistress, Kaeku .

Haruka-anegimisama picked the French word Fauchard to use here on Earth.

I figured she'd pick a German word...!

Anyhow, she's a telepath and empath, but not really strong; Haruka-anegimisama's real Gift is the battle knowledge she gained that was descended from one of Yiziba's most ancient martial arts forms. And her battle staff was made by Benten's own twin sister Kamen.

I wonder what Benten's going to think when she finds out about Kamen...

 

****

 

"Um...Ami-san?"

 

Ami perked, then she looked up at Ten. "What is it, Ten-chan?"

 

"Don't you think Teitoku would like to breathe sometime today, Ami?" Akemi asked as she crossed her arms, a knowing smirk crossing her face.

 

Ami blinked, then she screamed as she bolted up and away from her beloved admiral, her skirt drifting up high enough to show nearby witnesses that YES, she didn't have underwear on. As the boys seeing this passed out on the ground, bloody Old Faithfuls exploding from their noses, Okano Yuka looked down to see a red-faced Ataru appearing ready to pass out from holding his breath so long. As Marie knelt and tapped him on the nose, the air exploded from his lips in a relieved sigh. "I'm trying to get AWAY from having multiple girls chase after me...!" he then rasped.

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"HE REJECTS THAT GIRL?!"

 

That was one of the boys from Class 2-5, Kanzaki Ryūha. While not a member of the Stormtroopers, the raven-hair lad was always one who openly supported Lum in everything she did concerning her "husband". As other boys' eyes shot out of their skulls in disbelief on hearing that admission from Ataru, one of Ryūha's friends, Hikawa Shin'ya, screeched, "IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!"

 

The boys then launched into massed hysterics, many wailing in fear while others began to run around in circles like chickens with their heads cut off screaming that Doomsday had come. As the sisters and their companions sweat-dropped on seeing this, Akemi walked over to help Ataru get back to his feet. "Boy, those shitty traitors to humanity really need to get a fucking clue at times, eh, Teitoku?"

 

A moan escaped him. "Akemi-san, how many times must I ask you to NOT call me 'Teitoku'?" he moaned as he gave the pretty girl supporting him a weary yet caring look, making her blush. "Much that I understand why'd you're tempted to do that, I'm NOT in the Navy!"

 

Akemi playfully stuck out her tongue...

 

...then she blinked as someone seized her free hand. "Ojō-sama! You must reject Moroboshi! He's a moron! He's a lech! He'll give you...UURKKK!"

 

Everyone tensed on seeing Mendō Shūtarō looking like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming Shinkansen train as Akemi glared murderously at him. "WHY...ARE...YOU...TOUCHING...ME?"

 

All the sisters, Ataru, Ayumu, Jody and Ami drew back, with Haruka pulling Ten clear of the battle zone. Seeing that, Yuka and her friends scrambled to safety as Akemi snared the scion of Japan's richest family by the neck, then she slammed her boot into his abdomen, LIFTING him by impact force into the air. As girls in school native to Tomobiki screamed in horror on seeing their favourite peer being treated like this, the boys gaped in adoration; like the girls felt when it came to Redet Lum and Sakurambō Sakura, the boys as a whole had no use for Mendō Shūtarō whatsoever. In the virtual blink of the eye, Akemi then swung around to perform a perfect sitout three-quarter facelock jawbreaker!

 

"STONE COLD STUNNER!" Koi Shinjin screamed.

 

As a geyser of blood exploded from poor Shūtarō's nose and mouth from the impact, Akemi whirled around, standing to her opponent's right front as her arm snared him around the neck while she ducked under his right armpit. The suddenness of the grab nearly pulled the poor man's body apart due to whiplash, which made his fans seeing this scream in horror as they immediately realized what was coming next. The boys whooped and yelled in delight as Akemi literally FLOATED into the air, angling herself over the surplus Steyr 1500A staff car the scion of Japan's richest family used to travel to and from his home for school. Before someone could scream for the orchid-haired girl to stop, she fell forward, directing her current target's back right at the command car's hood...!

 

KK-KKANG!

 

The front end of the car literally EXPLODED from the impact!

 

"ROCK BOTTOM!" all the boys seeing this howled.

 

Fortunately, no one was hurt; Ayumu had quickly thrown up a deflection shield to prevent heavy hunks of torn metal, burst tires, spraying oil and gasoline and chunks of the engine that burst from the impact of Akemi hitting the vehicle with the force of a dropped I-beam. As Shūtarō's fans in school wailed in horror as they imagined how badly he had been injured — a quick glance over told Yuka that Akemi had pretty much protected him from the worst of the impact even if he bumped his head hard on the vehicle's shredded hood — the boys blew off the roof of the school as they screamed their delight.

 

"AKEBONO COMBO!" Yotsuba screamed out.

 

Another thunderous roar escaped the boys, drowning out the girls' wailing. As the former Ekō Girl's High alumni laughed at the sight of the suave fool being brought down low — to the shock of all their peers, NONE of them ever cared for the man! — Haruka shook her head while Sakuya doubled over laughing. She was quick to recover herself, handing the megaphone over to Akemi as she came over to get it. The orchid-haired teen walked over to place herself in front of the fallen scion of Japan's richest family. As she gave him the finger with her free hand, Akemi then shouted through the megaphone, "And if a shitty merchant's brat like you ain't down with that, I got two words for you...!"

 

"SUCK IT!" all the boys bellowed out on recognizing the favourite taunt of one of World Wrestling Entertainment's most controversial wrestling stables.

 

Laughter filled the air as the Ekō alumni shook their heads in amusement while the girls native to Tomobiki sobbed at what just happened...!

 

****

 

Nearby...

 

"Um...I believe Moroboshi-sama may not be in any mood to meet with you today, Waka-sama," the masked stagehand servant to Shūtarō's younger sister warned.

 

Seeing what had just been done to her brother by the garishly-dressed girl who called Moroboshi Ataru "admiral" for some odd reason, Mendō Ryōko was trying desperately NOT to show any form of panic in the face of what was clearly becoming a very DIFFERENT day than the young heiress of Japan's richest fortune could even have begun to imagine even with all her past experiences with her brother's hated rival. She and her escorts had come here after rumours began to fly thanks to the Kuromegane about Ataru having a strange encounter with metahumans of all things! "Um...that's a point..."

 

«Heed it, Ryōko.»

 

The very theatrical sophomore who currently attended Seiran Girl's High School in nearby Kodaira beyond the western border of the family estate awked on hearing that ice-cold voice echo deep in her mind. Looking around like a panicking mouse sensing a nasty predator coming her way, she then squealed in fright as the darkness in the alley they had been hiding in morphed before a woman in a hooded white cape with red crucifix-like insignia on her shoulders appeared, an icy smile on her face that made the quite sadistic Ryōko instantly realize there were WORSE things in the neighbourhood.

 

«If you don't, be warned: We will DEFINITELY hold a grudge.»

 

The newcomer — all Ryōko could see was a well-tailored horse riding suit with black blazer and knee-length skirt, a plaid waistcoat, calf-high dress boots, a white ruffled shirt with a red tie bearing a white Gothic cross, bangs of lavender hair peeking out from under the hood — walked by the hidden heiress of Japan's richest family and her bodyguards as if they were mere gnats not worthy of her attention. Ryōko tried not to soil herself as a chill seemingly worse than the Arctic in mid-winter flowed past her...

 

...before the grenades she had hidden in her palanquin all exploded!

 

****

 

The front gate of Tomobiki High School...

 

People gasped on hearing those multiple concussive blasts echo from a nearby alleyway, then they looked over. "Chikage-chan!" Hinako called out, waving.

 

Ten perked. "Ah! Chikage-anekun!"

 

Cheers whooped from the other sisters as the woman in the flowing cape came over, the hood falling away from her head to reveal well-styled lavender hair in a bun at the back of her head, two flowing bangs framing her hawkish face down to her breasts, a pair of cold yet warm royal blue eyes peeking out of her face. She appeared to be Ataru's age. "Ya, Ani-kun. Minna. Having fun?"

 

Ataru looked around Hirosaki Chikage to see the semiconscious Mendō Ryōko and two of her bodyguards crawling out of the alley, they entwined with the shattered wreck of the palanquin Shūtarō's sister often used to travel around in. "By the looks of it, you had some fun as well, Chikage-chan."

 

"She was about to annoy us, Ani-kun," Chikage stated as she stopped close to her brother, with Marie shifting over to stay close to her. "Given what Akemi just did to the Witless Wonder over there, I believe she was going to strive to alleviate her boredom on the remainder of us since we put her main target into the cockpit for the foreseeable future." Ignoring the laughter from the Ekō Girl's High School alumni and nearby boys on hearing her call Shūtarō THAT, she added, "Since we're in the midst of performing the final garbage day when it comes to our unwanted visitors from abroad..."

 

"How long do we have anyway, Chikage-chan?" Eigo Kaho asked.

 

"Five more minutes."

 

"Glad you can keep track of it, Chikage-chan," Ayumu then noted. "I always have trouble remembering these sorts of things."

 

The sorceress of Ataru's sisters smirked. "The curse of Infinity, Ayumu."

 

"Yeah, you can say that again...!"

 

****

 

Hirosaki Chikage is the only one of Ataru's half-sisters from Tōkyō itself.

Told you she was really creepy and scary at times.

Then again, she's the granddaughter of one of Japan's most powerful magical warriors, who actually once served under the famous 'Dark Lady of the Orient' that liberated all of Asia — and by extension Africa and many places in Oceania and the Americas — from European magical control in the Wars of Liberation that happened alongside the Second World War and the First Metahuman War.

Ever since she learned the truth that her late stepdad Tomohisa wasn't her real father, Chikage-anekun's been investigating who her true father was, finding out back in March when she met Hinako-onētama during Easter break from school — she goes to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland — and learning that it was Ataru's dork father who was her real father.

Not to mention learning what Nagaiwakai-obāchan did to make sure there were enough 'spares' beyond Sakuya-onēsama to take over the Moroboshi Clan.

Especially with Tariko-onēchan living on Yiziba all those years.

You personally ask me, I think Chikage-anekun would make a much better matriarch than Sakuya-onēsama. It's not because that I don't think Sakuya-onēsama can't do it. It's just that Chikage-anekun has got a real level head.

She has to be given what she became Gifted as after her first year at Hogwarts.

She's the Dark Heart of Pure Chaos, Nosyo'or'bem .

Here on Earth, she calls herself Dragonheart .

Atop being one of Yiziba's top magicals — who is NOT affiliated with either the Shadow Court under Jody-san or the Cosmic Mage Guild under Tariko-onēchan's friend Rose Potter — Chikage-anekun also has cosmic-level omniscience like Ayumu-onēchan has. Given that Chikage-anekun believes she's been resurrected many times over during the last couple of millennia — not to mention her taking four trips into OTHER DIMENSIONS during summer vacations after she started Hogwarts — she's got to be a person who can take even a solar system exploding before her without panicking.

Anyone who wants to try to hurt her Ani-kun will know PAIN.

I just hope she can help Lum-chan now...

 

****

 

"M-m-Moroboshi...!"

 

Ataru perked, then he looked over before sighing. "Sakurambō-san, do you think you should be moving around after Akemi nearly ripped your body in half?" he asked as he crossed his arms...even if Ashikaga Ami was holding one of his limbs as she gave the swaying school nurse a disgusted look. Much that he didn't care for the part-time shrine miko, he knew how much the boys would riot if she was permanently crippled. Not that he wouldn't mind seeing the lifeless fools beyond the school gate beaten down for their inability to see the world as it really was, he didn't care to see any of them killed.

 

Sakurambō Sakura gargled before Kanzaki Ryūha and Hikawa Shin'ya moved to steady her; unlike most of the guys attending Tomobiki High, neither boy was willing to take advantage of the older woman. Chikage sighed before snapping her fingers, materializing a chair behind the older magical; once they saw what had happened, Ryūha and Shin'ya were quick to guide Sakura over to sit down. As the nurse tried to shake her head clear, Ashikaga Akemi shook her own head. "Fucking stubborn bitch, isn't she?"

 

Aria looked over, a pout on her face. "Akemi-chan, don't swear."

 

"Oh, leave her be, Aria-chan," Yotsuba noted before she gazed at the Ekō alumni standing there. In the background, the bell announcing the start of homeroom period rang off, but none of the students on the lawn — to say anything of the still-dazed Principal laid out on the walkway behind Sakura — moved to go into class; given the shattering nature of the events of the last half-hour, this was way too important, especially with the fact that Moroboshi Ataru was leaving.

 

Classes were nothing in comparison to an event like THIS!

 

Before Sakura could say anything, the metahuman detective from London cleared her throat, then she stared at Yuka. "Yuka-san, you saw what happened when Ani-chama met up with Ami-chan here, didn't you?" she announced, having produced a microphone from nowhere while metaphysical speakers blared out her words over the school grounds. "Did Ani-chama in any way, shape or form, do ANYTHING to molest Ami-san when she did her version of the Thunderhips Flying Takedown?"

 

As Sakura awked, her cheeks turning incredibly red, the flame-haired heroine of the Ekō Girls High School terrorist attack from Edogawa in the east end of Tōkyō shook her head. "No! When Ami-san came out of nowhere, she called out 'Teitoku-sama' before she did that flying frankensteiner manoeuvre of hers to drive Ataru-kun back-first into the ground, her crotch shoved right into his face. It was a miracle he didn't suffocate! Hey, why didn't YOU stop her, anyway?!"

 

"She's as strong as Akemi-chan is," Yotsuba provided.

 

Eyes locked on Akemi, then they glanced to the nearly-destroyed command car nearby, with Mendō Shūtarō still unconscious within the wreckage of the engine block. "Er...r-right!" Yuka said as sweat appeared in her hair while some of her friends laughed. "I take it she does this often with Ataru-kun."

 

"Hai, since she met him back in the summer when Ani-chama was taking a well-overdue vacation from this place," Yotsuba declared.

 

"WHAT?!"

 

That was the Principal, who had just surged to his feet, glaring intently at Ataru, almost miraculously recovered from the severe beating he got at the hands of his students moments before, an angry aura forming around him. "He's not a student here anymore, Kōchō-sensei," Marie then declared. "You can stop that now." She then exchanged a knowing look with Chikage. "Or shall I ask Chikage-chan here to get her friend to EXORCISE your precious 'Kota-chan'?"

 

The elderly school administrator screeched in horror as he nearly turned to stone from that threat, which would deprive him of one of his few friends. He shook his head before glaring at Ten. "Young man, what are you doing?! Kota-chan's your friend! How can you stand there...!"

 

"He's floating, you blind idiot!" Yotsuba cut in.

 

As many of the Ekō alumni and some of the boys watching this laughed, the Principal spun on the metahuman detective from London. "Now, see here, young lady! You should be in school now...!"

 

"Got the day off to bring Ani-chama home!"

 

"MOROBOSHI-KUN IS NOT LEAVING!"

 

"You have no right to decree that, sir."

 

He spun around to stare at Haruka. "Young lady...!"

 

His voice turned into a panicked shriek as the German-raised teen's clothes morphed from the stylish Western-pattern civilian clothing she came to town with into the red-trimmed white jumpsuit of the Quartermaster Mistress, her glittering bō staff appearing in her hand as a blazing energy blade emitted from one end to make her weapon a naginata. In an instant, said blade was pointed at his throat. "I believe, Ten-chan, you wished to say something more to this lout," Haruka commented.

 

"You bet I do," Ten snarled, bursts of flame emitting from his mouth. "You old creep! I don't know why Kota-chan likes you given how much you love to HURT your students all the time!" he snapped, making the Principal awk in disbelief. "I can't believe the Parent-Teacher Association actually LIKES the idea of a creep like you being the principal here! Onsen-sensei cares way more for all the students here than a nutcase like you!" Here, he pointed to the gruff vice-principal and current homeroom teacher for Class 2-4, who had just marched out the front door to get all the students on the lawn into classes. "Oji-chan was WAY more impressed with Onsen-sensei than he ever was with you!"

 

As the stocky brown-haired man with the brooding eyes blushed at that compliment from the firefighter's son, many of the students on the lawn nodded in agreement. "Jariten's right!" Ryūha snapped as his peers all whooped in support. "Onsen-sensei may be strict, but he's fair! He had no choice but to go along with the 'physicals' because he'd lose his damn JOB if he tried to fight it!"

 

That made Onsen Mark balk. "Kanzaki-kun...!"

 

"Onsen-kun! Make Moroboshi-kun go to class right now!" the Principal then demanded. "He'll have detention for a MONTH for not being in uniform!"

 

"I can't do that, Kōchō-sensei," the vice-principal then declared.

 

"WHAT?! WHY NOT?!"

 

"Because Moroboshi-kun's been declared an emancipated adult for all the CHILD ABUSE he's suffered at the hands of his fool parents, thus he has no legal obligation to attend either this school or any other school!" Onsen declared, making all the students gasp in surprised disbelief at that statement. "Given that and given the fact that he actually LIVED on that Yiziba planet until he was TRAPPED here before the Tag Race, separated from his own TWIN SISTER like he was just to appease all the aliens, it's no wonder that he wants out of that damned house and out of this damned town!"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"THOSE ARE LIES!" the Principal screeched.

 

"WAIT!" Ryūha snapped. "Ataru, you actually LIVED on ANOTHER PLANET?!"

 

"Yes, I did, Ryūha," Ataru affirmed as a pained look crossed his face. "After I got tired of listening to that YŪJO I once called my mother...!"

 

"HOW DARE YOU INSULT YOUR MOTHER LIKE THAT?!" the Principal roared.

 

KK-KRACK!

 

The elderly school administrator had now been plowed face-first into the ground thanks to a large CINDER BLOCK of all things smashing down on his head! As all the students gasped at such a sight, the sisters turned to the south before Hinako whooped with delight. "Ah! It's Onē-tama! Onē-tama!"

 

"Yah-hoo! Ane-chama!" Yotsuba screamed out, waving.

 

"Ohayō, Aneue-sama!" Marie calmly called out.

 

"Onē-chama!" Kaho cheered. "Ah! Onē-chama's here!"

 

"Nē-ya!" Aria gushed. "Aria needs to make a sweet for Nē-ya!"

 

"Ohayō gozaimashita, Anegimi-sama!" Haruka said with a deep bow.

 

"About time you came for your grand entrance, Onē-sama!" Sakuya jeered.

 

"Ya, Ane-kun! Ready for the big moment?" Chikage asked.

 

"To end the latest Mother of All Fight Scenes we did back in June?" the slender yet feminine obvious fraternal twin sister to Moroboshi Ataru said as she came up to join her siblings, making all the students gape in shock at the sight. "Oi, Chikage, I need some theme music here! You mind?!"

 

"Hai, hai," the metahuman arch-mage sorceress declared, raising her hand.

 

"HOLD IT!"

 

Everyone looked at Ten. "What is it, Ten-chan?!" Hinako asked.

 

The firefighter's son giggled before he floated over to Akemi. "Um, Akemi-san, can I borrow that?" he asked, pointing to the megaphone in her hand.

 

She blinked, then handed it over. "Go for it, kiddo!"

 

"Dōmo!" Ten said before he took a breath, then put the megaphone to his lips. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES!" he declared. "THE GREAT SHOW OF THE FREE PLANETARY STATE OF YIZIBA PROUDLY PRESENTS THE MISTRESS OF CHAOS, THE NIGHTMARE OF THE MOTHER OF ALL FIGHT SCENES, THE TRICKSTER OF THE GREAT SHOW OF LIFE, LADY TARIKO KATABARBE...TUYUKI! ROLL THE MUSIC, CHIKAGE-ANEKUN!"

 

Chikage's fingers snapped...

 

...unleashing a heavy guitar riff over the grounds, making people in neighbouring houses peek out their windows as they wondered what was going on...

 

...before everyone gasped on seeing Tariko Katabarbe's whole body began to glow.

 

In the skies above the Isle,

Aces in exile prevail...!

 

The ground then shook slightly as people gasped on seeing a total of seven buildings — the centre one rising from somewhere in the town Ginza with six others forming a hexagon-shaped circle around it — suddenly surge into the air just as a giant space-warp began to appear far overhead. As everyone watching this cried out in shock at such an incredible display, Ten gaped in horror as it finally hit him, his hand dropping the megaphone as he turned sheer-white...

 

"A starbase self-destruct device...?!" he croaked...

 

****

 

The Miyake home, that moment...

 

"Holy FUCK! Who's DOING that?!"

 

As Fujinami Ryūnosuke and Miyake Shinobu's parents Toshoba and Kimiki gaped in shocked awe at such an incredible display — which simply outdid ANYTHING that had happened in Tomobiki since the Tag Race over a year before — Ataru's former girlfriend was seated on the living room couch, staring with tear-filled eyes at the damned book that had been shown to her by him not an hour before.

 

A tome containing some of the most PERVERSE "religious" words she ever read.

 

A tome based on the DIARIES of her and many of her acquaintances and friends.

 

A tome that was the core theological guidebook to a "faith" that — according to the note that had been stuffed into The Book of Lum by Susumu Marie before Ataru had handed it to Ryūnosuke for Shinobu and her family to see — had ultimately seen MILLIONS slaughtered...

 

...all in the name of a "living goddess" named Redet Lum.

 

Dear God, it's no wonder Ataru-kun hates her now...!

 

Sniffing, Shinobu set the Book aside as she rose from the sofa and walked over to gaze out the window, looking up as the buildings being yanked out of town were sent flying at escape velocity through the huge space-warp now over the Kantō plains, it leading to a point in deepest space where a virtual SEA of alien starships — many shaped like the flagship of Redet Invader when he came to Earth to invade the planet the previous October — in some sort of anchorage near a planet. As flashes of explosions winked in and out on the planet's surface, the buildings were sent flying into the formation...

 

...before the one in the centre detonated in a titanic blast!

 

"Oh, shit...!" Ryūnosuke hissed. "What the fuck is Moroboshi doing?!"

 

Shinobu sighed. "Getting rid of Lum, it seems."

 

Her parents blinked, then Kimiki sighed. "Thank God...!"

 

****

 

The Moroboshi home, that moment...

 

"No...no...no! He couldn't have...!"

 

As Moroboshi Kinshō watched in horror at the sight of THOUSANDS of what appeared to be Urusian starships being WIPED out by whatever it was that had been in that building just torn out of Tomobiki, she heard hissing from passersby as they pointed up into the sky, wondering what was going on.

 

Ataru's mother KNEW what was happening.

 

It was something she had dreaded for over a year now.

 

Something that was about to crash down on her from a direction she KNEW couldn't be fought off by her future daughter-in-law...

 

Not if what the people in Division One of the Public Security Intelligence Agency told her about the planet her stupid boy had exiled himself to for ELEVEN YEARS was anywhere NEAR the truth...!

 

"I wish I never had him...!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

A moan escaped the woman after a cinder block smashed into her head...

 

****

 

Dear Diary,

What the heck was that moron Ōgi thinking of, anyway?!

Oh, right, forgot...

That idiot CAN'T think!

Thank the Maidens for Tariko-onēchan...

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School...

 

"How powerful WAS that thing?!" Kanzaki Ryūha demanded.

 

Marie sighed. "Five hundred megatons of TNT, Kanzaki-san."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"WHO THE HELL PUT THAT THING HERE?!" Ryūha then shrieked.

 

"Here."

 

A book was handed over to him by Chikage. "'The Book of Lum'?!" he wondered aloud.

 

"The full explanation is in a letter folded inside it," the arch-mage sorceress declared before she raised her hand, middle finger and thumb pressing together. "But first...!"

 

SNAP!

 

Everyone perked on hearing her snap her fingers...

 

...then they jolted as a gong sounded from somewhere just as the sky overhead darkened to a cloudy night, a moaning Gregorian-like chant accompanied by trumpets and other instruments then echoing through the air. All the wrestling fans among the crowd were quick to sense whose music it was.

 

"No way...!" a wide-eyed Hikawa Shin'ya gasped.

 

"I thought that was all just a wrestling gimmick...!" Shimizu Kaho croaked.

 

Ryūha turned to stare wide-eyed at Chikage. "He's one of YOU?!"

 

"He is," the arch-mage sorceress declared...

 

...as a space-warp appeared on the north side of the school grounds, making students cry out in awe and delight as lightning seemed to crash down around the very tall and muscular man now stepping out of the warp, dressed in funeral black from neck to toe, a wide-brimmed stetson hat covering his head of long stringy black hair that framed a rugged face barely covered with a well-trimmed moustache and goatee, his ultramarine blue eyes now glowing with what seemed to be infernal fire. The clothes he had on under his normal black ankle-length overcoat composed of a black jumpsuit in the same pattern worn by Tariko, her sisters and their friends, emblazoned with a dark purple T-shaped symbol over crossed spikes with points down on his muscular chest, black belt and boots finishing the ensemble.

 

By then, Tariko had walked up the walkway to place herself right before the just-arrived phenom's path. "Ruodeuto...!" she hissed in Yizibajohei.

 

"Tuyuki..." he growled in an echoing voice that made everyone shiver.

 

She pointed at the old willow tree at the northwest corner of the property. The phenom raised a gloved hand, sending out eldritch lightning to literally destroy the tree with one blow. As students and staff ducked from the fragments, a pained bellow escaped the smoky mist that formed from the tree's destruction, it then morphing into the shape of an elderly man in a white cloak.

 

"A yōkai...?!" Koi Shinjin cried out in disbelief.

 

With a shift of the hand, the new arrival sent the screaming spirit right into the space-warp. As people who could see what was going on gazed into that chasm between worlds, they then shivered on seeing HUNDREDS of dark creatures within, all tied down by glowing black chains that seemed to be burning them alive. Before anyone could summon the courage to ask what that warp actually led to, Tariko then pointed towards Sakura. As the boys all screamed in horror on seeing that Ataru's sister was now targeting their favourite teacher, the phenom then raised his hand in a grasping motion.

 

Sakura cried out as energy lashed right into her back, yanking out the ghostly image of what appeared to be an older version of her dressed in samurai-like armour, reminding everyone seeing this of Lum's best friend from the planet Fukunokami. "Sakura-sensei was POSSESSED?!" Ryūha exclaimed.

 

Another yank saw the shrine miko's guardian angel banished from Earth forever, which made everyone scream in relief as Sakura slumped back down on the chair that Chikage had created for her. Just as people began to wonder what was to happen next, an aged voice bellowed, "EVIL SPIRIT! BEGONE!"

 

"Oh, man...!" Okano Yuka moaned as a diminutive monk charged out of nowhere, his shakujō held high to bash away the evil monster now in everyone's midst.

 

The phenom then spun around, snaring Sakurambō Hayao by the neck. In an instant, the ghostly image of what appeared to be an elderly Buddhist monk in more classical robes was pulled out of the man everyone knew as "Cherry", then contemptuously tossed into the horrible pit that his niece's guardian angel had just been banished to. Seeing this, everyone moaned. "Figures that Cherry was possessed, too!" Ryūha then muttered under his breath, shaking his head.

 

"That's not the last one to be dealt with today, Ryūha," Chikage warned.

 

People gazed her way. "Who else, Hirosaki-kun?!" Onsen demanded.

 

The teenage arch-mage sorceress pointed at the nurse's station. Seeing that, everyone then paled. "Oh, kami, NO! Please, not HER...!" Shin'ya cried out.

 

Tariko snapped her fingers...

 

...making a diagnostic bed appear on the lawn between her and the phenom. As the boys screamed in horror on noting the newcomer's next target was Redet Lum herself, Ten cried; he hadn't been warned about this by anyone. Tariko raised her hand as the phenom approached the unconscious warlord's daughter, creating a shield around the scene to prevent some foolish idiot from interfering in a very necessary task while also bringing Ten over into her arms so he could be close to his cousin while the newcomer did his gristly work. As many boys began to weep, the phenom snared Lum's neck...

 

...then he yanked out what looked like some red-skinned version of her with very deformed facial features, longer horns and canines that seemed like tusks. As the creature screeched in outrage as it tried to lash out at the impudent mortal with the power of a major god, Tariko's eyes glowed, a battle aura that made people step away from her forming around her body. "I do not forget, bitch...!"

 

By then, Sakura had recovered enough to look at the scene. Her eyes were now wide with disbelief and horror. "Ibaraki-dōji...?!" she croaked, shaking her head in sheer shock.

 

"I do not forgive...!"

 

As the writhing creature tried to spin around and grasp the alien girl that had been her effective host for over a year, a lethal smile crossed the face of the Trickster of the Show as an aura making her seem like a male version of herself appeared in the crying oni's eyes. "...and I always win the fight scene!" the woman born a man named Moroboshi Ataru then snarled. "Get rid of her, Mark!"

 

"With pleasure, Tariko," the phenom declared with a smirk...

 

...before he casually pitched the wailing Ibaraki-dōji right through the portal. As all the boys screamed out in delight and Ten cried in relief, the space-warp then closed...but not before those who could directly see into it saw that the evil creature that had possessed the school's most popular student for what had to be a long time being lashed down by writhing black crystalline chains, making her screech in helpless outrage as she felt her very life force drained from her. Once the warp closed, the dark clouds overhead dispersed, revealing a sunny morning in this suburb of Tōkyō.

 

"LUM-CHAN IS FREE! BANZAI!" Shinjin screamed out.

 

All the boys instantly chanted the salute three times as everyone else seeing this applauded what just happened this morning; no matter what one's feelings were concerning Moroboshi Ataru's "wife", no one wanted her to be possessed by one of the great spiritual oni of Japanese classical legend. Nodding in acceptance of that gratitude, the phenom gazed on Ten. "When you go home, Jariten, warn her parents of what happened," he declared, making people fall silent. "Until the planet is cleansed of those creatures that would do aliens harm — and until your own leaders learn that arcane concept called 'civilized behaviour' — this planet will be FOREVER sealed from you and your allies."

 

As the boys gasped on hearing that declaration, Ten nodded. "Hai...!"

 

"Also tell your uncle that Clause Ten of the Tag Race Treaty is now in effect for the next TWO HUNDRED YEARS, Ten!" Ataru called out from the main gate.

 

"N-n-NO...!"

 

Everyone spun around as Lum tried to surge out from under the covers...

 

...then she screamed out as her horn buds were telekinetically yanked out of her skull, making her flop down onto the diagnostic bed as those conical bits of cartilage flew into Tariko's outstretched hand. As she walked up to place Ten on the bed beside his cousin, she then glared down at her would-be "wife". Lum's eyes went wide on seeing the white uniform with the black belt and grey tabby striping lining both sides of the body and outer legs of the Trickster of the Show, her black coyote's head insignia over her cleavage declaring loud and clear to the warlord's daughter who and WHAT this being was. Tariko then leaned down to tenderly kiss Ten on the forehead, he giving her a grateful smile in return.

 

"N-n-no...Darling...no, please...help me...!" Lum then hissed out.

 

Hearing the panicked denial in the voice of her would-be "wife", Tariko glared at her, her eyes glowing with fire, which made Lum squawk in horror as the memories of people who had faced this woman's past-self in the Mother of All Fight Scenes twenty-seven decades ago flashed through her mind.

 

"Ah! Hime's in time!"

 

Heads snapped over...

 

"Shirayuki-nēsama!" Ten called out.

 

Jogging up to them from the main gate was a slender girl of thirteen, dressed now in a black blouse with a white cooking apron. She had beautiful mauve hair in a lob with the fringes curled in at her shoulders, part of it secured with a headband tied in a cat ear bow. Deep purple eyes peeked out of a kind face, one that was instantly recognizable by almost everyone there. "That's Osamu Shirayuki!" Marubeya Momoe, one of Mendō Shūtarō's many fans in Class 2-4, called out from the windows of her homeroom.

 

"The Chef Princess of Nagoya?!" her best friend Gekasawa Kumiko demanded.

 

As people began to excitedly chatter away, Shirayuki then came over to hand a small picnic basket to Ten. "There you go, Ten-chan!" she proudly declared as the young Oni gushed at the sight of yet another of Tariko's and Ataru's half-sisters. "Hime made some nutritious food for both you and Lum-chan to eat once you get home! You tell Lum-chan's parents what happened! Desu no?!"

 

"Hai!" Ten said with a determined nod.

 

"NO...!" Lum croaked out.

 

Snarling, Tariko leaned down to grab her would-be "wife's" hair to smash down her head on the diagnostic bed. As Shirayuki backed away from the scene, the boy-turned-metahuman girl then leaned up to glare intently into Lum's face, making her cry out in mortal terror. "«Remember this, Lum...»" Tariko snarled in accented Urusian. "«I was the one who tagged your horns in the Tag Race!»"

 

Lum's eyes nearly popped out of her head as she saw the ghostly image of the man she loved with all her heart appear around this nightmare holding her down. As Ten shook his head sadly, Tariko raised her hand, showing the horn buds she had telekinetically yanked out of her would-be "wife's" skull.

 

And I know the difference between a tag race tag and a marriage tag!»"

 

"NO...!"

 

KK-KRUNCH!

 

KK-KRUNCH!

 

A mindless howl of pain escaped the warlord's daughter as the source of her powers was shattered into tiny bits by this creature. As the image of Ataru faded from Lum's vision, Tariko leaned back. "Karen will be there for you as soon as she can, Ten," she then declared, raising her fingers. "Stay safe!"

 

"Dōmo, Tariko-onēchan!" Ten said.

 

And with a snap of the fingers...

 

...Lum and Ten vanished from Earth for the final time!

 

****

 

The Moroboshi home...

 

A moaning Kinshō gasped as a flash of light made her look up...

 

...then she screamed in horror on seeing that her would-be daughter-in-law's scoutship had just vanished from its orbit over her house.

 

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...!"

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School...

 

Stunned silence had fallen over the scene as people took a moment to absorb the incredible events that they just witnessed, something that seemed the complete antithesis of the world-shattering events the previous October when all of humankind finally learned they were not alone in the universe. As the boys looked torn between grateful that their favourite schoolmate had been freed of some evil yōkai's possession and heartbroken on noting that the metahumans in their midst had effectively BANISHED her from Earth for the rest of her life, the girls all exchanged stunned and delighted looks.

 

"She's gone...!" Okano Yuka breathed out.

 

"We're rid of her...!" Shimizu Kaho moaned.

 

"No more aliens...!" Sanokura Emi added.

 

All the girls who had just witnessed everything contemplated that...then they exploded in wild cheers as they shared hugs and laughed at the idea of being free of the insanity that had rocked Tomobiki for over a year. As many of the boys began to sob at the fact that they wouldn't get any support from their peers towards getting Lum back on Earth, the phenom that had banished Ibaraki-dōji from this planet nodded before he turned away, summoning another space-warp to teleport out of Tomobiki.

 

"DAME DESU NO!"

 

He jolted to a stop, slowly turning as a sweat drop appeared in his hair to see a mad Shirayuki glaring at him. Before he could protest anything, a large picnic basket was produced out of nowhere and thrust into his hand. "Your wife told Hime that you weren't eating properly, Mark-san! You take that and make sure all your friends eat properly before your matches tonight! Desu no?!"

 

"Ah...ha...y-yeah! Th-thanks, Shirayuki!" he muttered as he took the basket in hand.

 

In a flash of light, he was gone, heading back to the United States. As the students and staff stared in awe at how much the current incarnation of the Great Chef of the West, Syuosekuo ("Küchenchefin"), had stared down the likes of the phenom who effectively commanded the Yizibajohei version of the deepest pit of Hell Itself for all spirits and alien invaders from other dimensions, Shirayuki turned and snared Tariko by the arm, yanking her towards the main gate. "Hey! Shirayuki!" Tariko yelped.

 

"Dame desu no, Nē-sama!" her younger sister snapped as she glared at Tariko. "Hime made a big breakfast for Nē-sama and Nii-sama to eat! We're going to have a picnic in the town park so you can rest after helping free poor Lum-san of that mean oni! Now march!"

 

Hearing that, all the sisters brightened. "Ah! Hina wants Shirayuki-chan's breakfast too!" Hinako called out as Shirayuki yanked Tariko through the gate.

 

"Kaho wants breakfast!" Eigo Kaho called out.

 

"Aria is hungry," Aria added. "Aria likes Shirayuki-chan's breakfast."

 

"Let's go eat!" Sakuya then bade.

 

The sisters, Ataru's date, the two teenager girls who saw him as their "admiral" and Ayumu then headed off up the street towards the town park, leaving behind a group of very bewildered staff and students. After a moment, Kanzaki Ryūha turned to stare at Sakura. "Did we actually SEE that, Sensei?!"

 

"We did," the nurse and shrine priestess declared, standing up as the chair that Chikage conjured for her vanished. "Unlike the end of the Pseudo-War, this is definitely a permanent change for all of us."

 

"Some won't like it," Onsen mused.

 

"I think that now, Mark-kun, Moroboshi and his sisters clearly no longer care."

 

The vice-principal grimly nodded as the people around them shared worried looks...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

In The Senior Year, Mike Smith and I postulated that the Neptunian people as led by Oyuki couldn't have lived on Neptune itself since it was a gas giant planet. These days, Oyuki's people live on Triton, the eighth planet's largest moon. Since Triton is tidal locked on Neptune, its "orbital day" would be measured as one whole orbit around the planet (equal to 5.877 Earth days). A "year" in the eyes of Neptunians would be one solar orbit around the Sun (164.8 Earth years/60,182 Earth days). Thus, the total number of orbital days would average 10,240 "days" (with adjustments for the local equivalent of leap years, of course). Because of the moon being tidal locked to its mother planet, most settlements on Triton would be located on the side facing away from Neptune to get exposure to the Sun.

 

The Senior Year character and situation notes: Pukaze first appeared in "Mie's Story". The Thunderhips Flying Takedown flying crotch-first frankensteiner attack was first shown in "The Return of Kōsei Ryōki". Ōgi ot'ndai-Zkuhsbagh first appeared in "What Price For Love?".

 

In Bible Black: New Testament, Jody Crowley is identified as being the granddaughter of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the founder of Thelemic thought. However, New Testament is set in the same year as this story is set. Given that Jody is clearly magical, I factored in both the universes of Harry Potter and Mahō Sensei Negima to make her mother be the short-lived Nuit Ma Ahathoor Hecate Sappho Jezebel Lilith Crowley (1904-06); and yes, those are her full names. I would have it that Nuit was kidnapped due to showing high magic by a predecessor dark lord to Tom Riddle (Voldemort) in the years before World War One; as I wrote in Magic and Canada, this was the time of "Chaucer's Rebellion" against the Ministry of Magic. Once rescued by the aurors, Nuit Crowley would show acute signs of rhabdophobia (a fear of wand-wizards), thus would be invited to Negi Springfield's alma mater, the Meridiana Academy of Magecraft in Wales, thanks to the influence of Albus Dumbledore through his then-teacher Nicolas Flamel. After graduating, Nuit would marry the descendant of the Duchy of Anglesey, Meridiana's representative seat in the pre-1700 Wizard's Council. As noted in Part One, Jody was born in 1940, attending Meridiana on an advanced course from 1946-56.

 

Translation list: Ferch (name) — Literally "daughter of (name)", this is a Welsh patronymic; Argentium Astrum — Literally "silver star", this is one of the potential translations for the name of Aleister Crowley's first spiritual organization founded in 1907, A∴A∴; Teitoku — Admiral; Fauchard — A type of polearm used in Europe from the Eleventh to the Seventeenth Centuries CE that resembles the Chinese yǎnyuèdāo (also known as the guāndāo) once used by the famous warrior leader Guān Yǔ; Waka-sama — Young Master/Mistress; Yūjo — Prostitute; Küchenchefin — Lady Chef of the Kitchen.

 

The NOëL series of video games were created by Pioneer LDC before the turn of the millennium as the dating simulation game craze started up in earnest in Japan. I've always liked these characters even if they didn't get any sort of serious exposure in the wake of such popular games as the Tokimeki Memorial series, much less Sister Princess. Like I did with other video game characters, I discovered girls like Okano Yuka, Shimizu Kaho and Sanokura Emi when I was teaching English in South Korea between 1996-2005 through art books done on the series. For those who do know of NOëL, the events of this story occur after the third game, Mission On The Line; I just changed the time of that story to the first year of high school for Yuka and her peers in lieu of third year as it was done in NOëL 3.

 

Yes, girls introduced here like Ashikaga Akemi and her sister Ashikaga Ami are the shipgirl versions of the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers Akebono and Amagiri as they're depicted in Kantai Collection, though they are aged up to late teen years in this story. The names given to them are the human names I devised for them in stories like A Girl's Name and The Seventh Shipgirl that appear at this website and at both SpaceBattles and Sufficient Velocity.

 

Kanzaki Ryūha and his friend Hikawa Shin'ya were characters created by Depecheion in follow-on snippets of shorts I wrote at the Anime Addventure.

 

The yōkai of the willow tree that was exorcised in this part first appeared in the Yatsura manga story "Terror of the Willow Ghost" (manga chapter #127). Sakura's and Cherry's guardian angels appeared in the manga story "The Big Game" (manga chapter #11). Marubeya Momoe and Gekasawa Kumiko first appeared in the manga story "Even Though I Wait For You" (manga chapter #27); their family names are my invention.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

The Tomobiki town park, two hours after breakfast...

 

"Goshujin-sama, Shirayuki-sama and Shirayuki-onēsama made a nutritious breakfast for you to enjoy before you go on your date with Josephine-sama." The beaming teenage girl in the maid's uniform said as she curtseyed to Moroboshi Ataru and his current date Josephine Crowley, who were seated at one of the kotatsu that had been teleported over from Ōmure-jima for everyone in Ataru's extended family to use to enjoy the large breakfast created for them by Osamu Shirayuki with the help of her near-namesake Fukushima Shirayuki; blankets were laid out on the ground to protect everyone's clothing. "Namiko hopes Goshujin-sama will gain enough energy for his date with Josephine-sama."

 

Gazing at her former boyfriend, Miyake Shinobu blinked on seeing the embarrassed look on his face while his current companion was trying not to giggle too much at his flustered appearance. Everyone who had been at Tomobiki High School an hour before when Redet Lum was expelled from Earth had dressed down from their form-fitting battlesuits so they didn't draw too much attention to themselves; given how many people living in town these days had taken to the warlord's daughter from Uru, no one wanted to deal with the hassle of Lum's "fans" causing them trouble.

 

Never mind what people's reaction would be on learning that the "cancer of Tomobiki" had thirteen honest-to-goodness SISTERS — including a TWIN SISTER of all things! — who acted more as a proper family to him than his parents Muchi and Kinshō ever did.

 

Why in God's name didn't I really take notice of that before?

 

Shaking her head, Shinobu blinked as Fujinami Ryūnosuke's hand gently came down on her shoulder and gave it a warm squeeze. Smiling at her true best friend to reassure the tomboy that all was well, she then gazed back on the gathering of sisters and friends. That Ataru's father had been manipulated by his late grandmother Nagaiwakai to serve as genetic donor to create would-be heiresses to the matriarchy of the Moroboshi Clan of Mutsu — the only major family in Japan to run themselves that way despite how the Mizunokōji Clan of Musashino pretty much were these days — made his former girlfriend shake his head at how WEIRD this whole day was becoming. Never mind the horrifyingly embarrassing revelations about the existence of a "church" meant to worship Lum as a living goddess...with the "bonus" of denouncing Shinobu as a "sinful doubter" and her old boyfriend as the core devil-figure of that insane "faith". Never mind the fact that some adherents of said "faith" gladly buried a FIVE HUNDRED MEGATON ANTIMATTER BOMB in the middle of Tomobiki in hopes of stopping the "great evil" from forever rejecting his would-be wife. And never mind the fact that all of Ataru's sisters were now METAHUMANS of all things from the ONE planet in the galaxy the Urusians and their allies in the Galactic Federation were mortally terrified of!

 

And the last thing...

 

That her ex-boyfriend was actually ONE-HALF of the being born Moroboshi Ataru before he migrated to Yiziba eleven years ago to escape a growing abusive environment at home, being made by his grieving adopted mother to become a GIRL at age six, letting her grow up as such.

 

Tariko Katabarbe.

 

Not to mention FORCE said boy-turned-girl to become the future incarnation of one of the most feared and respected of all Yizibajohei.

 

The Trickster of the Great Show of Life...!

 

Tuyuki...!

 

'The Nightmare of the Mother of All Fight Scenes', Ten-chan called her, Shinobu mused, remembering that megaphoned shout from the firefighter's son an hour earlier when Tariko arrived in town to properly divorce Lum before sending her back to her home planet...after a certain phenom from America came over and cleansed her of being POSSESSED by a spiritual oni native to Japan! There's definitely no way that Lum or her friends will ever come back, even if Tariko-chan goes back to live on Yiziba full-time. With so many people Gifted now, the Urusians wouldn't DARE risk a replay of that disaster...!

 

As Ataru nodded his thanks to Ashikaga Namiko before he and Jody dug in, footfalls heralded the approach of the sixth of his half-sisters. "Shinobu-san, Ryūnosuke-san, daijōbu desu no?" Shirayuki asked as she gazed at them. "Didn't you enjoy the breakfast Hime and Little Hime made for everyone?"

 

Both Tomobiki High sophomores jolted, then they laughed. "Oh, yeah, we did!" Ryūnosuke said as Shirayuki sat down across from them. "Sorry about that, Shirayuki-san. We had our own breakfast before we moved to get to school right around the time we found out about you guys and that 'church'." Remembering that, the "heir" of Hamachaya then sighed. "You sure they're all gone?"

 

"Desu no!" Shirayuki assured them with a nod. "When all of you were being made to fight that silly Memory thing under the Tarōzakura in August, Hime, Hime's sisters, Nē-sama and our friends around the world got rid of the rest of those observers and freed all their slave assistants, then Ayumu-chan used her Infinite Wave to send them all back home." She waved to Kasuga Ayumu, who was seated at a nearby table with a couple more of the strange girls that had come with Itō Mamoru from Ōmure-jima, all of whom — save Namiko — called Ataru either "Teitoku" or "Shirei-kan" for some weird reason. Shirayuki then sighed. "Hime's just sad that we couldn't take that bomb away from town until today."

 

"Why couldn't you do that?" Shinobu asked.

 

"Well, when Hime and everyone went to beat up those silly Niphentaxians back in June, Haruhi-chan — she's the Weaver, a reality warper like Ayumu-chan, but she has the power of altering timelines and making pocket dimensions — grabbed the bomb from the Ginza here...but from TODAY, not the sixth of June!" As the two Tomobiki High sophomores nodded in understanding, Shirayuki sighed. "So..."

 

"Temporal paradox," Ryūnosuke concluded. "Don't say anything more, Shirayuki-san. We get it."

 

"That's also the reason that Ataru-kun was forced to act like he did after he was trapped here even to yesterday, you mean?" Shinobu added.

 

"Desu no! Nii-sama is really sorry about that, but what could you do in the end? Lum-san had her own time-travel tech and if she suspected that something really strange happened to Nii-sama, she could have gone back in time to investigate and put a stop to it. Haruhi-chan would have been forced to do something really bad to stop her, which would have blown open the whole secret of people like Hime to the Urusians before Elizabeth-san could get her shielding system in place."

 

Ryūnosuke asked, "Who's this Elizabeth girl?"

 

"Elizabeth Wakefield-san. She's from Sweet Valley in California, near Los Angeles." As Shinobu and Ryūnosuke perked on hearing that, the metahuman chef from Nagoya added, "She's the Academician, the smartest person on Yiziba. Even since she learned of what happened to Nē-sama and Nii-sama, she's worked to get that system going, but she needed time to get it fully set up."

 

"Sweet Valley?!" Ryūnosuke trilled before she looked over to her best friend. "Hey, Shinobu-san, doesn't Nishimura Tina-san from our class come from there?"

 

"Hai, she does!" Shinobu affirmed with a nod. "Would she know this girl?"

 

Shirayuki hummed, then she pulled out a device the size of a paperback novel from her skirt, it looking like a rectangular piece of black quartz with a glittering diamond on the front. Placing that device on the table, Shirayuki tapped the diamond, which created a teleportation effect to one side, making a beautiful silk-bound book the size of a large art book appear beside it. Turning the book around, Shirayuki then held it up to allow her new friends to read the title.

 

"'The Book of Pretty Girls'?!" both Shinobu and Ryūnosuke read aloud.

 

"Desu no!" Shirayuki said with an amused smile. "This is Nē-sama's special book where she writes about all the girls she helps get Gifted. All the people who were Gifted thanks to the ones Nē-sama found are listed here too in the annex. Nē-sama also has a 'Pretty Girls to Be Helped' list here, too."

 

Hearing that, the older girls exchanged surprised looks, then they gazed over to where Tariko herself was seated with Sukeyama Sakuya, Hirosaki Chikage and Tenhiro Haruka at another table. "Even if she grew up a girl, she's still a guy deep down," Ryūnosuke noted with a wry smirk.

 

"That's understandable," Shinobu mused. "Most Yizibajohei Gifts resurrect cross-gender. Tariko-chan's last-self — her mother's old lover — was a man, so that's why Ataru became Tariko-...!"

 

"Oh, my!"

 

Both looked at Shirayuki. "What is it?!" Ryūnosuke demanded.

 

The chef put the Book down, then turned it around to allow the tomboy to read what was written there. Blinking in disbelieving shock on seeing 藤波 竜之介 at the top of Page 100, she then scanned what was written there in a somewhat childish scrawl. A moment later, tears appeared in Ryūnosuke's brown eyes as she then read aloud, "'I met Ryūnosuke-chan when she was freezing outside her mean papa's tea shop on the shoreline south of Beppu. She was really, really, really cold since it was still winter even in Kyūshū. Every time she told her meanie papa that she was cold, he hit her and told her to be a 'man'. Can't he see that she's a pretty girl?'"

 

As silence fell over the scene while other people gazed over, the tears flowed down her cheeks as her heart swelled on realizing that a girl of about her age had been quick to see through the disguise that Fujinami Fujimi pushed on his "heir". "'I beat the mean man up and took Ryūnosuke-chan back to the cabin to let her be warm and give her something to eat; she looked really thin to me. Even with Mama being really sick, she told me that Ryūnosuke-chan would be a three-star because of all the things her mean papa does to her all the time, telling her that she's a boy when she's really a pretty girl and hurting her really bad when she tries to make people see that she's really a pretty girl. I'll make her a special cake for her when I can, but I don't want her to be reported missing back on Earth.'"

 

"Sorry I couldn't get back to you then, Ryū-chan. Mama died right after I met you and after I got over it, I went back to Beppu to find you..."

 

Ryūnosuke gazed at Tariko, who had come over on seeing that her sister had brought the Book to Earth, then she nodded. "That's probably when Oyaji moved me to Chōshi."

 

"Yeah," Tariko admitted as she sat down while Chikage came over to join them and Sakuya and Haruka began chatting with each other. "As you'll know now, I couldn't remember meeting you earlier when we met again in February with Lum, Shinobu-chan and Mendō. By the time I could recall what I promised I'd do for you, I had other issues on my mind." She smirked. "The offer's still there."

 

Ryūnosuke blinked. "What could I become?"

 

"The thing that Ane-kun was ultimately denied in the end, Ryūnosuke: Full choice as to how your destiny will evolve," Chikage answered as she sat between her older and younger half-sisters, mentally willing a cup of tea to float into her hand. "The mechanics of Gifting are quite easy to understand. Once your body is prepared to absorb the mesonium from the Seeker's Forge in the pre-Gifting process, your mind will start interacting with the Gift seeds of those who have yet to return in the current generation. Given your strong desire to become a woman in fact as well as name, you'll automatically be latched onto those seeds which are meant to return as a female. There are several possibilities Ane-kun and I are aware of, but I won't spoil things for you. You deserve an unbiased choice in the end. No matter what..." — here, the metahuman arch-mage sorceress smirked — "...you'll finally overcome the handicaps that your father has forced on you and be what you were always meant to be all along."

 

That made the tomboy blink before she gazed on the granddaughter of one of Japan's most respected magical warriors. "I take it you didn't get that chance."

 

"Sadly no," Chikage admitted. "All of us had the luck — or the ill-luck if you wish to see it that way — to find Gift crystals bearing the seeds to give us our powers on our own; there was no one like Ane-kun to come along and help us choose our own destiny. As to why those specific Gifts were given to us, I can't say; there is definitely someone behind this. Those agencies who monitor this sort of thing are trying to trace who it is down; this is as close to Gift thievery as one can get."

 

"It's someone from Yiziba?" Shinobu asked.

 

"Or someone Gifted by the Forge from Earth."

 

"Why?"

 

"One big reason got the Last Checky out of this place an hour ago."

 

That was Yotsuba Dunn, who came over to join them, accompanied by Susumu Marie. "Lum, you mean," Shinobu then concluded, crossing her arms.

 

"And her fucking entourage!" Ryūnosuke spat out. "Oi, Yotsuba-san, you know how this Ōgi's creeps managed to get copies of our diaries to make that stupid 'bible' of theirs?! I don't care for people to be nosing into my diary and I SURE don't care that my words got twisted around like they did, but how...?"

 

"Automated probes controlled from the major observation posts in town," a new voice then hailed, making people look over as a smiling girl about the same age as Shirayuki and Yotsuba came into the park, dressed in a green qípáo-like dress with surplus Army combat boots on her feet, welder's goggles perked on her bowl-cut dark brown hair. "Don't worry, Ryūnosuke-kun. They were shut down when we came to clear the town out of those lifeless jerks back in August."

 

"The whole Phentax system was temporally sealed off since June by Haruhi to make sure no one outside the system found out what we did to them on D-Day," Tariko added before she looked to her genius sister. "You having Mecha-Rinrin keep an eye on Isaac's place, Rinrin?"

 

"Hai, Aneki!" Hatoyama Rinrin, granddaughter of one of Japan's foremost experts in artificial intelligence from Ōsaka, declared as she sat between Tariko and Ryūnosuke. "Isaac-kun and his crew are coming back tomorrow, so I can concentrate more on my own stuff now that he's finished on Remnant."

 

"Who's Isaac?" Ryūnosuke asked.

 

"Isaac-san made Hina's Kasa-tama!"

 

Eyes turned as the youngest of the sisters came over, hugging her own umbrella, a delighted smile on her face as she sat beside Yotsuba. "Your umbrella, Hinako-chan?" Shinobu asked as she felt another wave of the cosmic level of soothing empathy from the Spirit of Innocence.

 

"Hai! Isaac-san came to Hina after Hina became Suiki, then gave Hina Kasa-tama so she could float around in the air around the world and see all the really, really, really neat places Hina couldn't see if she was still normal!" Saeru Hinako declared as she held her umbrella up. It then snapped open, allowing her to levitate into the air a bit before she willed herself back to Earth.

 

The two Tomobiki High sophomores gaped. "Wasn't that dangerous?!" Shinobu asked.

 

"With Hinako's powers, not even the most vicious child molester could bring himself to harm her," Chikage explained. "Though she doesn't do it as much as she started to do this spring just past when she found Fujiko's living kami off the coast of Guadalcanal just beyond the area of Ironbottom Sound."

 

Hinako winced. "It's not Hina's fault, Chikage-chan!"

 

"Relax, Hinako, I know."

 

Shinobu blinked before she looked over to where Fukushima Fujiko now sat. A genki girl of about the same age as Ashikaga Akemi and her sister Ami, she had dark brown hair in a stubby ponytail at the back of her skull and warm brown eyes peeking out of a face that was similar in general shape to the other Fukushima sisters — there were seven — now in the park enjoying breakfast even if the third sister, the hime-cut raven-haired Fukushima Hatsue, was snuggling under one of the kotatsu with only her head sticking out beyond the edge of the blanket shielding her from the slightly chilly morning air.

 

"'Ironbottom Sound'...?" she repeated the name of the part of the infamous "Slot" dividing two sides of the Solomon Islands from Bougainville to past Guadalcanal and Florida Island. "Guadalcanal...?" Her eyes then widened as a possible explanation for this struck her. "You mean she's the...?!"

 

"The living kami of the destroyer Fubuki, second of name, built at the start of the Shōwa era at the Maizuru Naval Arsenal and sunk in the Battle of Cape Esperance in 1942 during the Guadalcanal campaign," Chikage finished. "Another mystery facing us. How were the first generation of battle dolls that were created by the second Doctor Destructo reactivated, then teleported to Earth to merge with the living kami of lost warships whenever Hinako's powers focused on them."

 

Shinobu and Ryūnosuke blinked. Both knew now that after Tariko and Ataru had been separated in the wake of the encounter with Queen Elle, the latter's soul had been placed in a synthetic humanoid body known on Yiziba as a "battle doll". Created by Kasuga Ayumu's first self, these were meant to absorb the souls of children who died before they got Gifted, thus give them a running chance to be Gifted; this was prompted by the death of that Infinity's child thanks to a nasty battle — "fight scene" in Yizibajohei parlance — where too many bystanders got hurt. While not truly metahuman on the scale of Tariko, her sisters and their friends, they were tough enough and durable enough to survive on a world ruled by all-out chaos to get to one of the many Caves of the Future — places where people could directly touch veins of the Great Crystal of Power that had seeped to the surface — and be empowered to protect themselves. Thinking on that, Shinobu was quick to remember that after that whole thing with his other "fiancée", Ataru had become practically superhuman in avoiding things whenever it suited his purposes.

 

And realistically resist Lum's attempts at controlling him, she mused to herself with a smile, wondering what her old rival was going through, having learned she "married" her race's ultimate NIGHTMARE!

 

"What's the difference?" Ryūnosuke asked.

 

"Prior to their being Gifted through the Forge, Fujiko and her sisters and half-sisters had the standard FISS-type powers, plus force blast projection abilities strong enough to equal the Tsar-bómba itself in effect," Chikage answered, making the two non-Gifted girls present wince. They knew that "FISS" was an acronym meaning "Flight, Invulnerability, Super-Strength and Super-Speed"; it was actually the translation of the Yizibajohei acronym "Benokuku" (short for "Betuo, Nokite, Kuoduo ku Kuoruto"). What such implied was an impossibly-strong person with matching physical invulnerability and the ability to survive in hostile environments like the depths of the seas or the near-vacuum of space, plus the ability to fly and run at supersonic speeds in any environment; characters such as Superman and Captain Marvel in American manga were at base classic FISS-types.

 

As was Kasuga Ayumu's classmate, Takino Tomo.

 

"It must have been disorientating for them," Shinobu then concluded, wondering how Sakurambō Sakura would take to the idea of these "shipgirl" metahumans formed from the living kami of warships that had been sunk during that horrid conflict.

 

"Yeah, it was bad at times, but we helped them," Rinrin noted as she pulled out a much larger version of the device that Shirayuki had used to bring The Book of Pretty Girls here. As Shinobu perked before reaching for the Book to scan through the index, then read some of the entries, the current incarnation of the Technological Sorceress of the East, Kamluo ("Schmiede"), added, "Especially when Aniki came down to the island after he and Aneki learned of us in the summer." As Shinobu and Ryūnosuke nodded at that — both then remembered that since that incident, Ataru always disappeared somewhere on the weekends, vanishing so effectively that Lum couldn't begin to find him no matter how hard she tried; even better, Mendō Shūtarō's attempts at helping the warlord's daughter from Uru flopped thanks to his people's overall incompetence — Rinrin added, "That's why everyone calls Aneki 'admiral' or 'commander'...except for Namiko-chan there, who calls him 'master'."

 

The younger sisters snickered as Tariko shook her head...

 

****

 

Outside Onishuto on planet Uru, that moment (local time: Two hours before supper)...

 

"HE DID WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!"

 

"He divorced her."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"I'LL KILL HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIM...!"

 

"Mother of All Fight Scenes."

 

Shocked squeals escaped Redet Lum's parents Invader and Chim on hearing the most FEARED phrase in the local cluster, then they making warding motions with their hands while they both stared wide-eyed at Redet Ten, who was still enjoying the nice kimch'i lollipop Aria des Beauchamps made for him on Earth. Osamu Shirayuki's basket of food sat on the table. Ten's cousin was on the couch nearby, curled in on herself as she sobbed with a mixture of terror and grief at the fact that she had been so easily removed from Earth by the current incarnation of a being that was the ultimate nightmare for all the citizens of the fourth world of Oniboshi. One that she supposedly MARRIED of all things!

 

Such fear was with VERY good reason.

 

The Mother of All Fight Scenes — a month-long orgy of destruction that made the rebellion against the Imperial Houses of the Seifukusu Dominion to the inspin of Earth centuries before (or the Union Revolution that wrecked the Urusian Empire decades afterwards) seem tame in comparison — had been unleashed by about five hundred Named metahumans of the third world of Kaeyu. One of them — in that incarnation, a man — was in his first life a stage comedian from one of the liberal nation-states on the western equatorial continent. Having encountered the then-incarnation of Yiziba's true first metahuman, he became as powerful as the God Who Walked Among Men when he was Gifted over two sagas ago at the start of the decades-long holocaust known these days as the "Dawn of Power".

 

The incarnation of the Trickster of the Show at the time of the first encounter between the Urusian Empire and the Free Planetary State of Yiziba twenty-seven mini-series ago — who had been part of the rescue party sent from that planet to ascertain the fate of the then-Tempest, born Redet Danu of Uru — had been vicious when it came to dealing with local lords, brutalizing many while humiliating all adult females of the major ruling families. With his actions, the "lessers" among the serfs and slaves of the Empire lost what little respect they had for their "betters", ultimately creating a fertile breeding ground for supporters of the Union Revolution five decades later. He was the man who had burned the fear in all Urusians alive at the time when it came to saying "Yiziba" or "Yizibajohei" in public; people who did that got heavy blocks of stone smashed down on their head, which was quite fatal in many cases. Ever since those dark days, the living face of the bloodiest chapter of history burned into the minds of all Urusian children was that of Haddoro Hamee, the fifteenth Tuyuki of Yiziba.

 

"Ten!" Invader snarled. "This is no time for a joke...!"

 

"Ataru's a Yizibajohei."

 

Lum shrieked in agony as Invader and Chim both screeched in fright on hearing That Word escape the young boy. "Hai, it's true!" Ten affirmed, glad that he could use the "scary word" to keep his relatives in line so necessary explanations could be made. Given what the current incarnation of the Master of the Dark Gaol of the Great Crystal of Power, Ruodeuto (the "Undertaker"), had to do to remove the spirit of the second-most powerful spiritual oni from Japanese legend out of Lum's body before she was sent back home, who knew what sort of mental condition his cousin was in now.

 

After a moment of rather amusing hysterics in Ten's eyes — I'm so glad that Ayumu-onēchan got that brainwashing out of me after she rescued Tariko-onēchan, the firefighter's son from Onishuto mused to himself on seeing that — Invader recovered.

 

"HOW?!" he demanded. "HOW IN THE MAIDEN'S NAMES DID HE BECOME ONE OF THEM?!"

 

"When you tried to force Ataru to marry Lum-cha, Ayumu-onēchan — she's the current Infinity — came to rescue him since Yizibajohei don't get married!" Ten paused as another chorus of screams escaped his relatives. After a moment, he added, "But because Lum-cha was made to abuse him so much since he was Yizibajohei..." — again, another pause to wait out screams from the others — "...thanks to all the creepy spirits in Tomobiki that Mister Undertaker had to take out of her before Tariko-onēchan sent her back, Ataru had to become a BATTLE DOLL! Besides, Yizibajohei can't mate with non-Yizibajohei!"

 

Again, another chorus of screams escaped his relatives as Lum's wails nearly shattered the windows of the raised home that the Invader family had made for themselves at the borders of the Terrible Swamps west of Uru's capital city. Ten relaxed himself as he slurped his lollipop. Much that he hated to force this on his uncle and aunt, there was a part of him who was secretly gleeful that they were being compelled to listen to him this time around. Given the fact that they never tried to help Ten's mother Redet Jon overcome her grief from his father's death years ago — not to mention their willingness to ignore so much when it came to Lum after she announced she was married to Ataru even if she originally did it to get away from Seq Rei — making the grownups scared made him feel quite satisfied.

 

After a moment, Lum surged up with a determined look on her face, reaching into her seifuku top. "I'm going back in time and save Darling from those monsters...!"

 

"Haruhi-onēchan's going to stop you, Lum-cha!" Ten called out.

 

Invader gaped. "Who's that?!"

 

"R'buttuo."

 

More screams from Lum's parents as the warlord's daughter herself turned VERY pale on hearing the Yizibajohei word normally rendered in English as the "Weaver". Known more commonly on that world by the tag line "Mistress of Time and Space", she was the second-most powerful reality warper on that planet, just below the Infinite One herself in rumoured overall capabilities. While supposedly not powerful enough — according to the legends surrounding the Weaver relayed by the Vosians — to literally create a new Big Crunch and Big Bang to "restart the Universe itself", she could literally create and seal off alternate timelines, traverse dimensional walls, actually destroy micro-dimensions such as the various spiritual realms that formed around planets thanks to the synergy of faith creating "gods" and "demons" (if they weren't actually alien or interdimensional invaders in disguise) and could sense the use of time travel devices such as Lum's spacializer with ridiculous ease.

 

"No...!" Lum moaned, then she shuddered as anger overcame her. "DARLING NO BAKA! HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO ME?! YOU JUST WANT TO GO CHASE PRETTY GIRLS...!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

Her parents shrieked as a cinder block dropped out of nowhere to smash Lum in the head, sending her falling face first into the hard floor of the living room! "I hope you realize that Tariko-onēchan can still hear you, Lum-cha!" Ten snapped at her.

 

"Ten! Why in the Maidens' Names didn't you say anything to us about THIS?!" Invader demanded as he wondered how his peers in the Union Congress would react to THIS. "You know it's standard procedure to report ANYTHING the You Know Whos do on Earth! Much that you seem to like some of them...!"

 

"Temporal paradox."

 

The older people blinked. "What temporal paradox?" Chim demanded.

 

"Well, when Ataru, Tariko-onēchan, Ayumu-onēchan, Haruhi-onēchan and all their friends went to Phentax Two to have a Mother of All Fight Scenes with those dorks six months ago, Haruhi-onēchan discovered that there was a starbase self-destruct device buried in Tomobiki thanks to that moron Ōgi!" As Lum's parents gasped in outrage on hearing that, the young man added, "But it was a big fight scene when they wrecked the Army of Lum, so Haruhi-onēchan was phasing through time when she snared the bomb...which came from TODAY, by the way!" On hearing that, Invader and Chim shook their heads in mute horror; they had immediately realized that if that bomb had gone off, most Terrans would be dead right now and any hopes of allying with the Urusians would be dashed forever. And while the effective destruction of the lunatic "faith" made in their daughter's name by Ōgi ot'ndai-Zkuhsbagh a decade before had long been a secret wish of theirs, the effective destruction of the Niphentaxian military machine — the most powerful combat force in the Galactic Federation of Planet-states — spelled dark days ahead for the alliance, especially given the strong enmity between many of its members and the Ipraedies Empire which was spinward and outspin of all the Federation states.

 

"What did they do with Ōgi?!" Chim asked.

 

"He got taken to Vos by Karen-onēchan for trail because of the bio-bombing, Auntie," Ten said with a delighted smile. "Believe me, after hearing of what Ōgi created, Karen-onēchan was happy to take the creep to Nassur-cha's father!"

 

"Who's Karen?!" Invader demanded.

 

Ten hummed, then he whipped out his megaphone again, tapping the volume down before calling out into it, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! The Great Show of the Free Planetary State of Yiziba..." — cue in shrieks from his relatives — "...proudly presents the Herald of Fight Scenes, the Announcer of Destruction and the beloved sister of the Trickster of the Great Show of Life herself, Lady Tanenobu Karen...EMBASSY! Roll the theme music, Tariko-onēchan!"

 

A bouncy synthesizer and drum riff then echoed through the air in a beautiful fanfare before a lovely young woman's voice sang out...

 

Mada sukoshi nemui mabuta wo kusuguru,

Umaretate no hikari suteki na asa...

Ude wo kumi nagara hōbatta popcorn,

Daisuki na anata no yumi wo mita...

 

Nē imagoro dokode nani wo shiteiruno...?

 

"Oh, my, Ten-chan! That was such a nice introduction!"

 

Ten spun around as Lum and her parents shrieked at the sight of the very pretty sixteen year-old teenager standing close to the couch her would-be sister-in-law was now crouching behind, an amused look on her very shapely face as her caramel brown eyes sparkled with a mixture of mirth and dark glee. As the natives save Ten nearly soiled themselves on seeing that Tanenobu Karen was in the black jumpsuit with the golden belt and boots and the golden quill insignia on her chest — with matching gold-trimmed black hooded cape slung over her shoulders — of the Herald of Fight Scenes, Gar'be ("Embassy"), the native of Okayama near Hiroshima whose stepfather was a serving diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs politely smiled as she focused on the older people in the room. "Now, Captain, Mrs. Invader, I don't think you'd want me to call in some friends of mine to make you behave, do I?" the nominal "roving ambassador" of Yiziba asked in her normal cute and innocent voice, one that was quickly sensed by the others to possess a core of solid neutronium.

 

As the older people gargled before rapidly shaking their heads, Karen gazed intently at the woman whose coming to Earth harmed her beloved older sister so badly...even if it ultimately gave her an older brother along with an older sister. "Now, Lum-san, you're not going to do something rash, are you? After all the things Mark-sensei just did for you in freeing you of that horrible spirit's possessing you for a year, you're not in command of your facilities. I think you should sit..." In a flash, Lum was sitting on the couch. "Arigatō," she then said with an approving nod.

 

"M-m-Madame Emb-bassy, wh-wh-what brings y-y-you here...?" Invader stammered out as he tried to regain some sense of self-control.

 

"Oh, nothing much," the brown-haired girl with the long braids streaming down from her temples and bangs cascading over her forehead and flowing down to her waist said with a cheery smile. "Other than to make sure you don't hurt Ten-chan here after Ayumu-san was so nice as to remove that horrible brainwashing from his mind. Honestly, why do you people do that to yourselves, anyway?" As the older people both blushed on hearing the genuine concern in Karen's voice as she asked that, she added, "Much that I realize our past-selves back during the latter mini-series of your silly empire were quite rude — though rightfully so given what happened to your kinsman Redet Danu at the hands of her parents and the security authorities here after she married the Rampage of the time and was Gifted as Tempest — we're not interested in starting something silly now. After all, given how you were bullied by those fool Niphentaxians when that stalker Ōgi started that stupid 'church' of his, I think you'd be very relieved that I sent him to Ninsur-ojisan and have him tried for mass murder, not to mention remove all the thugs he sent to Earth to spy on good people there." Her eyes hardened. "And their DIARIES as well? I'm sure Ten-chan here will appreciate it a lot that his words can stay private from now on."

 

An embarrassed look crossed Invader's face as his wife moaned...

 

****

 

Dear Diary,

Well, I'm back home with Lum-cha's parents and Lum-cha, safe and sound.

Just like Tariko-onēchan promised me she'd do.

Now comes the HARD part.

I have to convince Uncle Invader that having the Yizibajohei on Earth is probably the best thing to happen for the Galactic Federation.

After all, those dork Ipraedies and those snotty Seifukusu are just as scared of 'they who must never be named' as everyone else is.

Save the Vosians, the Yehisrites and the Noukiites, of course.

And the Hustari too, I think.

Fortunately, as Tariko-onēchan promised, Karen-onēchan came to help out.

She's Gar'be , the Herald of Fight Scenes; that translates as ' Embassy '.

She's a telepath and empath, one of the strongest on Yiziba. Atop that, she's also the top polyglot on the planet; she can speak any language that she encounters after a quick meeting with a representative of any race or culture just as good as if she was a native.

Even better, her neat stepdad, Ambassador Tanenobu Hideyoshi, is a senior officer of Japan's foreign ministry; after she got Gifted, Hideyoshi-ojichan taught Karen-onēchan all the tricks of being a good ambassador to other people.

I'm glad that Karen-onēchan's stepdad was able to accept her even after she found out the truth about her parentage.

I'm sure that Hideyoshi-ojichan is moving right now to make things really rough for Ataru's dork parents so they'll leave him alone from now on.

Until Ataru finally gets Gifted himself, he's kinda vulnerable in Yizibajohei eyes, even being a battle doll of all things.

Karen-onēchan herself is very genki and really loves both Ataru and Tariko-onēchan very much. Even if the other sisters have good qualities, I think Karen-onēchan is probably the best sister of the whole lot.

Don't tell the others I said that, though!

 

****

 

"Here you go."

 

Invader blinked before reading the title of the big book that had just been teleported in by Karen for him to see. "'The Book of Pretty Girls'?!" he read aloud.

 

"This is Onē-chan's personal log of all the people she's gone to help get Gifted as a way of protecting Earth from alien and interdimensional invasion," the younger woman explained as the captain scanned the index. As Lum came over to see herself, she nearly froze as the Herald of Fight Scenes sent her a warning look to not do something rash when it came to her sister's most precious possession. "It has three parts: The Main Index, the Annex List and the 'Pretty Girls to be Helped' list of potential future candidates to help be Gifted. Please look at Page Two."

 

Lum's parents blinked in surprised confusion, then Invader turned to the page in question. Gaping in shock on seeing リーデット・ラム written at the top of the page in katakana, he immediately scanned what was there, grateful that he had been sleep-trained to understand Japanese when the final plans for the Tag Race the previous year were made. After a second, a volcano of outrage then exploded around him, making his wife and daughter both back away from him as he glared murderously at Karen. "SOMEONE PUT A POWER DAMPENER ON MY LITTLE GIRL?!" he snarled, causing Chim to shriek in outrage and Lum squawk in horror. "WHO DID THIS?!"

 

"Ganzo dai-Louc."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"Why...?!" Invader snarled as he fought to keep his temper under control, the outrage he felt now at what could have happened to his precious little girl when she was just a CHILD — hadn't Karen's sister and the Infinite One of all people came to save her — trying to overwhelm him.

 

"I believe Lum-san had her encounter with Ōgi in the woods here about two weeks prior?" the younger woman then asked as one of her eyebrows arched in amusement; the entry in the Book had the date and time of the encounter in both Yizibajohei and Galactic Federation standard measurements, so it was easy for Lum's parents to conclude when this happened. As they moaned on hearing that, Karen added, "Ganzo-ojiichan saw her as a target of opportunity. Since he knew how his people acted when a 'great awakening' occurs and since allies of his back home warned him this might be the one movement that would unify the planet under a very immature boy's control as the 'Founder of the One True Faith', he felt it vitally necessary to destroy its foundations by crippling your daughter for life."

 

The others in the room winced on hearing that as Lum dropped like a stone into a chair beside the table. As Chim began to weep, Invader started to snarl out a dozen dockyard curses that made Ten instantly blush and Karen herself shake her head in amusement even if she found it quite vulgar to listen to herself; then again, given that she lived at the same place Ashikaga Akemi lived, she was used to crude military profanity. After the large warlord got that out of his system, he then reached over to squeeze his daughter's shoulder in reassurance, which made her gaze up at him before she nodded. "I don't remember this..." Lum admitted, shaking her head in denial.

 

«Allow me, then...»

 

Everyone perked on hearing Karen's voice echo in their minds, then images appeared that cast them back over eleven years in time...

 

****

 

West of Onishuto near the Invader home, an hour after supper (Earth date: Wednesday 25 April 2001, 03:12 UTC [Tōkyō time: Wednesday 25 April 2001, 12:12 PM])...

 

A wailing cry echoed through the Terrible Swamps.

 

It was the sound of a child who had her innocence taken away totally.

 

Someone who — at the young age of six — just learned what sort of real monsters there were in the vast Universe beyond her own world.

 

Someone who would never have a normal life again.

 

A girl who had been crippled for something she simply didn't understand.

 

A girl...

 

"Hey! Ayumu-chan! Can you see who's crying?!"

 

As the shuddering Redet Lum perked on hearing that strangely-accented voice, she blinked on hearing a girl call back in a voice that sounded Urusian. "Nah! I can't see her, Tariko-chan! Hey!" she called out. "Who's crying?! You okay?!"

 

Lum sniffed, then she looked over...

 

...as a girl her age that looked almost Fukunokami — save for normal ears one would find on an Ellsian — walked out from behind a big tree. As she looked around for a moment, she then stopped on seeing the wet-cheeked Oni warlord's child seated on the ground near another big tree, dressed in her normal tiger-striped pinafore. On seeing here, the newcomer walked over to stand close to her, kneeling to stare intently into Lum's eyes. "Hey! You see a girl who's been crying really bad?" she asked before she blinked on noting the fresh tears welling in Lum's green eyes. "Hey! How come you're crying?"

 

"I think she's the girl we sensed all the way back from the cabin, Ayumu-chan."

 

Lum turned...and then blinked on seeing another girl the same age as the girl who just approached her. She was also Fukunokami-like — with Noukiite-type ears — with shaggy brown hair and brown eyes on a rather plain face. Noting the girl that had just come up to her also had brown hair and eyes, Lum then sniffed. "Are you siblings?" she quietly asked, glad that she had a universal translator put into her mind so that she could understand the strangers' words.

 

"Well, we could be," the first girl answered. "But Tariko-chan had to leave home because his parents were dorks. My parents are on Earth. Why are you crying?!"

 

Lum blinked — though a small part of her was surprised to realize these two children were Terrans; far as she knew, the nations of Earth couldn't send people beyond the orbit of their moon in manned ships — then she began to weep as she pointed at her neck. The newcomers looked...before they gaped on seeing the black collar around her neck with the small power unit there, an ominous red light flashing right under the Oni's chin. "A power-dampener?! Who the heck put that on you?!" the second girl with the shaggier hair demanded as she reached over to jab her index finger into the metal of the collar.

 

Lum gasped as the collar broke into two pieces and fell to the ground beside her. She looked to both sides of her to see the shattered sections of the collar that had just wrecked her life on the ground. Remembering what she learned in galactic kindergarten concerning the use of power-dampeners on an Oni child, Lum then blinked as fresh tears appeared in her eyes, then she started to cry again.

 

The newcomers blinked in surprise at that reaction, then the first girl peered intently for a moment, her eyes glowing slightly with a powerful fire. After a minute, she then nodded. "Oh, I get it!" As the other girl looked at her, she said, "Some real meanie put a power-dampener on Lum-chan here to take her powers away because she's so young," she said in a voice that spoke of a strange level of maturity that made Lum stop as she stared in confusion at her. "'Cause her powers haven't had the chance to mature properly, she can't fly and can't hit people with electricity."

 

The other girl look horrified. "Taking a Gift away?! Only Oblivion has the right to do that!" She then stared at Lum. "Hey, Lum-chan! Did some guy dressed in a black uniform like mine and having a black symbol like Ayumu-chan's got on her..." She then stopped as something came to her. "Hey, wait a minute! Oblivion wouldn't use a power-dampener! He IS a power-dampener!"

 

"What do we do?"

 

"Can you zap her with an Infinite Wave?"

 

The first girl hummed, then she reached over to tap Lum's arm. The Oni gasped as SOMETHING powerful surged through her from that contact, making her body spark as just-suppressed bio-electrical powers flared back to full strength and she was able to leap into the air and float there. "I can fly!" she yelped as she started to zip around the tree as fast as a six year-old girl from Uru could go.

 

The two newcomers nodded in delight...

 

****

 

The Invader home, today...

 

"NO! DARLING'S A BOY! I SAW IT! DARLING'S A BOY! HE CAN'T BE A GIRL!"

 

"And when exactly DID you see Onē-chan as a boy?"

 

"WHEN I WENT BACK IN TIME AND TRIED TO MAKE HIM STOP CHASING GIRLS!"

 

"YOU DID WHAT?!"

 

Lum awked in embarrassed horror as she felt her parents stare in outrage at her while Karen and Ten shared a secret smile. "Young lady, there is a REASON that we DO NOT license spacializer use beyond legitimate historical studies of our race's history before the Seifukusu Occupation!" Invader snapped. "I was proud of you for learning how to make one on your own in middle school, but you have NO RIGHT to change history like that!" As Lum ducked her father's angry glare, he then turned to Karen. "I assume this is when Madame Weaver got involved."

 

"Honestly, we didn't know what was going on with Onē-chan in Tomobiki from when she was trapped there and forced to be Onii-chan a month prior to the Tag Race until when Ayumu-san saved her in April when you tried to force a marriage between her and Onē-chan," Karen then explained. "And yes, even if she was born a boy, Onē-chan is a GIRL!"

 

"DARLING'S A BOY!" Lum shrieked.

 

"Are you acting like Ryūnosuke-san's father now, Lum-san?"

 

Lum gargled at that crude comparison, then she wailed as she slumped on the table, burying her face in her arms. Sighing, Karen used her telepathy to make her go to sleep, thus help her recover from what just happened in Tomobiki. Noting that, her mother nodded in gratitude while Ten breathed out in relief. "Please look at the Preface of the Book to understand what happened to Onē-chan," Karen bade.

 

Invader blinked, then he turned the pages to look at the written words in the page before the main table of contents. Noting the words in beautifully scripted kanji and kana, he blinked before he read aloud...

 

To Those Who Will View This In the Future,

I am Ayone Katabarbe, a woman who lost her beloved Haroga'a Hame'e, the twenty-seventh Coyote of the Great Show of Life, in a terrible fight scene two seasons ago. The pain of such a loss made me do something very rash.

But will no doubt allow my planet to finally recover from the Dawn of Power and the infernal sameness that overcame our people in the wake of that terrible time when the first incarnation of the Circle of Thought — ultimately out of very good intentions — ended up locking our people into the Great Show of Life.

In grief over losing my lover, I travelled to Earth, the home of the Keystone Power Jewel Warrior, the Lady Deannette Raeburn of the Dominion of Canada, to seek out a child I could adopt as I never got to chance to bear my lover's child.

Doing so, I visited the great habitation of Tōkyō, where I encountered a crying boy named Moroboshi Ataru.

Said boy had been hideously abused by a verbal attack from his mother Yamaguchi Kinshō, stating she actually wished she never gave birth to him .

Even among the Named back home, to treat a child like THAT...!

Naturally, I offered a chance for the child to live somewhere better where he could be loved and appreciated.

Understandably, he took it.

In my agonizing grief, I ultimately destroyed a family.

And gained a child.

Naturally, given the harshness of life on Yiziba...

 

"I'm blocking that imprinted response, Captain," Karen then said as Invader stared wide-eyed at her. "I can't remove it; only a reality warper like Ayumu-san can as she did to Ten-chan here after the wedding. Please, go on."

 

Invader slowly nodded his thanks, then plunged back into the preface...

 

Naturally, given the harshness of life on Yiziba, I wished to make sure that my new child could survive on this world.

So I did something I believed my lover would approve of.

I pre-Gifted our son with the seed my lover once bore as Coyote.

The next day, I was made to recall one thing about Gifts from the Great Forge.

When a seed literally resurrects in a new body, it most often does that cross-gender .

In effect, my son became my daughter .

When I realized this, I apologized most profusely to 'her'...

Yet to my surprise and delight, she gladly accepted what happened.

She later confessed to me that there had been times when her birth mother had been more kind to her — if such a creature could EVER be kind — yet also wished for the chance to have had a daughter in lieu of a son.

Still, I fear that my daughter will never be able to relate to her birth parents ever again, especially now that she bore the Gift seed of Coyote.

I did do one thing properly as the elders of my habitation have always wanted to see happen given the sameness now possessing the Named of our world: I made sure that my daughter would not have to fully allow the Gift seed to take her and make her the new Coyote until she was mentally and physically ready for it.

She accepted that with ease once she saw some of the Named duel each other in a fight scene in Habitation One.

Because she is now a girl, my daughter also elected to get a new name.

She chose 'Tariko', which in her native language means 'child from outside the village'; here on Yiziba, it's said 'Kasetu'.

Tariko Katabarbe .

I know that deep within her mind, my lover is looking at this and smiling.

Once she fully adjusted to being a girl, she then vowed she would go forth back to her home planet, find pretty girls — whom Tariko always admired and cared for when she was Ataru — and help them be Gifted so that our power can protect Earth from the many threats surrounding it from near and afar.

Hopefully, all those who will soon be listed in The Book of Pretty Girls will also follow in my daughter's path and not let the Gift take them right away.

For this will benefit Yiziba as much as it will Earth.

And hopefully other worlds out there.

To those who read this in the future: Please understand that Tariko is young yet wanting to help you better your lives in a way that will make sure you, your blood relatives, your friends, your habitations and your race will benefit.

You do not understand the TRUE threats to our Universe as we Yizibajohei do.

Especially the threat of the Healer of Destruction.

Batae Erba .

The First of the Gifted.

The Chaos Bringer.

The End of All That Is.

If he or she rises again, nothing will ever be the same.

Be well, all of you. I doubt I will live long enough to see those new friends of my daughter embrace their new destiny, but I believe all will be better in the seasons and series to come.

May the Eternal Spirits of the First Ones watch over you all.

 

"Ataru grew up as a GIRL...?"

 

That was a wide-eyed Chim as she stared in disbelief at their guest. "Hai, Oba-chan," Karen responded. "Onē-chan lost her mother a year after that was written. But she always went forth to Earth — and other planets as your daughter now remembers — to help people. Many accepted her offers. Many others refused; we all believe in full freedom of choice. Then, a month before you and your daughter came to Tomobiki, Oji-chan..." — here, she gazed on Invader — "...someone trapped Onē-chan in that horrible town, brainwashed her into forgetting Yiziba and all her friends, then transformed her back into being a boy, forcing her to live with 'his' birth parents. I know for the fact that Onē-chan's birth mother went along with it in hopes of embezzling the inheritance our late grandmother left for her. Given the rules of how our overall clan run themselves, that woman was hoping to force a marriage between Onē-chan and some pliable woman so she could get that money because Onē-chan was legally underage in Japan. First, it was Miyake Shinobu-san. Then..."

 

She gazed on the sleeping Lum, sympathy in her eyes. "I KNEW we shouldn't have made any deals with that creature!" Chim spat out.

 

"She won't hurt Tariko again, will she?" Invader asked.

 

"Now that Onē-chan's Gifted as Tuyuki? What do you think, Oji-chan?"

 

Hearing that, the large warlord blinked, then he roared with laughter. His wife and nephew soon joined in as Karen giggled in delight. No matter how vicious the Trickster of the Show had been nearly three centuries before, the core of her/him was always that of a comedian who loved to play pranks on chosen targets to bring them down and make them humble. Yes, as a reality warper, Karen's elder sister was a dangerous being. But given Tariko's obvious good and honourable intentions...!

 

Invader then caught himself. "So what's this that Ten here said about my baby being possessed while she was in that town?!" he then asked.

 

Karen sighed. "We don't know the whole story, but we are investigating this now, Oji-chan. This is what we do know at this time..."

 

****

 

On Ōmure-jima, off the coast of Odawara in the Sagami Sea, an hour before lunch...

 

"The 'island of promises'. Strangely named."

 

"Perhaps, Shinobu. But people who come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland do rediscover their centre and make better lives for themselves once they have the mental strength to do so. Despite all the changes our American friends unleashed here after the Wars of Liberation and the Greater East Asia War, the island still seems to do that to people." Here, Hirosaki Chikage gazed in amusement at Miyake Shinobu. "Even you."

 

"You're enticing me to get a Gift," Moroboshi Ataru's old girlfriend mused.

 

A tired sigh escaped the metahuman arch-mage. "I'm afraid you'll have no choice in the manner, Shinobu. You're already pre-Gifted."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"How...?!" a white-faced Shinobu demanded.

 

Chikage sighed as she waved the other woman to follow her down First Street West — all street names on "Promised Island" were spoken of and written in English, a legacy of the American move to fill in land to the north of the old island to make a naval base for them to use — towards a large youth hostel nestled into the side of Stargazer Hill, with a chapel to the left as the viewer approached it and a large rotunda to the right overlooking the old sea wall. A torii-like gate hovered at the end of the street before the front lawn began, it saying on a placard PROMISED ISLAND — WELCOME HOUSE in Rōmaji and katakana. Right now, a small group of the "shipgirls" reborn from the spirits of the living kami of Imperial warships from the late world war were doing exercises close to the rotunda, with an embarrassed Ataru seated beside a lawn table with an umbrella overhead, his "personal servant" Ashikaga Namiko — the reborn spirit of the Ayanami-class destroyer Sazanami which had been sunk by the American submarine USS Albacore at the start of 1944, Shinobu now knew — standing close behind him, ready to serve her "master" with whatever he might desire.

 

"Remember the party you had at Marubeya Momoe's home a week before the Tag Race started?" Chikage asked as she gave the other woman a knowing look.

 

Shinobu considered that, then her cheeks went nuclear as she recalled the morning afterwards. "Oh, Jesu Cristo, no! I had SEX with Ataru?!"

 

"In truth, you had sex with Ane-kun when she was forced to play as 'Ani-kun'. The spells used to transform Ane-kun back into a boy were that thorough, just as Hayashi Kanami's Jusenkyō curse made her a true girl in body as it did in her mind." As Shinobu nodded — everyone in Tomobiki had heard of "Nerima's Week of Hell" at the end of May when the person born Saotome Ranma fully cut ties with his family, fiancées and so-called "friends", then legally became a girl and had her named changed to "Hayashi Kanami" before disappearing, ensuring that none of those who wanted "her" could follow — the arch-mage added, "Even though you were saved from becoming pregnant by the Dragoness' spell that blocks Yizibajohei from having children with non-Yizibajohei, the amount of mesonium in Ane-kun's body was enough to begin the pre-Gifting process once his seed was injected into your womb." As Shinobu shuddered at that cold observation, Chikage added, "That is the source of your ki boosted strength and your growing invulnerability. Have you noticed that in recent times when Lum had her oh-so-wonderful temper-tantrums, you were not as affected as Ani-kun was?"

 

Ataru's former girlfriend — should she really say "former" now that Ataru was effectively free of his "wife" once and for all, especially with Mendō Shūtarō now promise-bound to marry Mizunokōji Asuka? — hummed before she nodded. "Hai, that's true. My pastor believed it was God's gift to me to allow me to survive all that madness." She then smiled. "In a way, he was right. God gave me Ataru to give me strength even if he forced Ataru to ultimately be what he wasn't."

 

"Yes, it does serve many people's purposes to have both an Ani-kun and an Ane-kun," Chikage stated as they walked through the gateway onto the front lawn of Welcome House. "In that, we strangely both have to thank Lum and Venerable Sakurambō for providing the ingredients to allow that to happen. Hai, they were both hurt badly after Ayumu rescued Ane-kun from Onishuto to let the Gift take her and Ani-kun was reborn in the Doll House. They got the chance to deal with that anger thanks to some wonderful fight scenes that came after that." She winked at Shinobu. "Believe me, Shinobu, you'll never have to worry about Elle de Rosenbach ever again. Ane-kun made sure she wouldn't launch an intergalactic war in hopes of gaining more 'cute boys' to put into that refrigerator of hers in Baran."

 

"Oh? What did she do?"

 

"She teamed up with Margo Black, the woman who became Doctor Death back in 2005 after she had been raped by her stepfather." As Shinobu croaked on hearing that — she knew that the Herald of the Final Darkness, Litronie Erba ("Doctor Death"), was seen as the worst heel ever to live on Yiziba...even if the elder daughter of the Vermonter-turned-Georgian veteran of the First Gulf War now living with her twin sister in Savannah was an "anti-face" in this incarnation — the metahuman arch-mage added, "They went to Baran. Margo mercy-killed all the Cute Boys who were placed there to stave terminal illnesses before Elle's madness overcame her. Seeing her do that drove Elle into a coma. Ane-kun teleported the Cute Boys who were imprisoned against their will back to their homes, then threatened Barbara de Esterchild — she's Elle's nanny as you'll remember — with a Mother of All Fight Scenes if they tried to make any moves towards Ani-kun, then they went home. An effective flawless victory. Hopefully, the Royal Senate on that planet will elect a more stable person as their next Rose Queen."

 

"They have an elected monarchy?"

 

"Hai." Chikage then smiled as they approached Ataru. "Ya, Ani-kun."

 

Shinobu smiled. "Ohayō, Ataru. Namiko-san."

 

Ataru gave them a shy smile in return while Namiko curtseyed to them. "Chikage-sama. Shinobu-sama. Would either of you like some tea?" the latter asked.

 

"Some of Marie's mixed cherry tea if you can?" Chikage asked as Shinobu nodded in agreement; she liked sakura-cha, so this sounded interesting.

 

"Hai. Excuse me please, Goshujin-sama."

 

With another curtsey, Namiko raced into the rotunda. A glance at the windows to the left of the main doors revealed a large kitchen, where Osamu Shirayuki was now with Sukeyama Sakuya preparing lunch for everyone. As Chikage conjured up chairs for her and Shinobu to relax in, Ataru gazed worriedly at someone he still deeply cared for even if some of her past actions over the last year made him often think of her as being much a monster as his would-be wife was at times. "You okay?"

 

Shinobu returned his look, then she smiled. "How long is this date of yours with Jody-san anyway?" she asked, making Chikage chuckle.

 

"It'll be short," he admitted. "These days, she lives in Kyōto where she disguises herself as a student at a private school near the Imperial Palace, the Shimogyō Academy. She's helping the Eight Magical Commanderies trace down a very dark medieval tome of magic called the Bible Black." As Shinobu scowled on hearing that title, Ataru added, "It was created during the time of the Crusades by descendants of lilin who once served Duke Agares, the Dark Lord of the Eastern Realms of Hell and one of Lucifer's most loyal servants." Ignoring the gasp of horror from his former girlfriend, he said, "The Bible Black reappeared about twelve years ago in Kyōto after being missing for centuries, where it was supposedly used in a demon-summoning attempt by students of Shimogyō on Walpurgisnacht in 2001; that ended up killing over two dozen people. Jody hopes to find it and destroy it before it kills again."

 

"Jesu Cristo...!" Shinobu breathed out. "Does she need help?"

 

"She's getting it already thanks to a new friend that fell head-over-heels for her when she started classes there; you know how it could be at times between girls." As she nodded, Ataru then winked at her. "She's an old friend of yours, by the way."

 

Shinobu blinked on hearing that, then she gaped, "Tōdō Yuki?!"

 

"SHINOBU-CHAN!"

 

Gasping, Ataru's old girlfriend spun around...

 

...then she squawked as a dark-haired missile nearly speared her with a hug, sending them both tumbling on the ground nearby. As Ataru and Chikage both laughed on seeing that, Shinobu felt her lips being devoured by the lips of who was realistically her first true lover, Tōdō Yuki. A native of Tomobiki who got the chance to attend Shimogyō after her father moved to the old imperial capital city when work for Mitsubishi demanded his transfer to a new office, the champion swimmer had long brown hair tied into twin ponytails at the sides of her temples with crimson ribbons and gorgeous dark blue eyes that Shinobu had always found insanely attractive. It was that attribute which drove Ataru's old girlfriend into experimenting sexually with Yuki before the latter moved to Kyōto the spring before the Tag Race. By her actions now, Yuki hadn't forgot a single thing about her first true lover.

 

"Ah! Cute lovers checky!"

 

Camera flashes went off. "YOTSUBA!" Ataru snapped.

 

Shinobu and Yuki awked before they stared in annoyance at Yotsuba Dunn, who was poised nearby with a camera in hand, raised and ready to take this passionate Kodak moment. Before the former could protest, the latter winked at her before she tilted her head to gaze at the camera lens while sensuously kissing her old lover's lips. The metahuman detective cackled as she snapped off more pictures, which made Shinobu sigh before allowing herself to reciprocate Yuki's actions. Nearby, the shipgirls had stopped their exercises, many of them beaming in delight at the fact that a beloved friend of their admiral's former lover had reunited with her. "THAT'S THE STYLE, SHINOBU-SAN!" Fukushima Miyuki, the tomboyish brown-haired girl who had been the kami of the fourth of the Fubuki-class destroyers (from which her given name was taken...even if it was now written differently), whooped in delight as she jumped up and down in celebration.

 

Banzai cheers followed, which made both Shinobu and Yuki blush madly at such a show of delight from the warships-turned-teenage metahuman girls. Footfalls then heralded the arrival of the youngest of Ataru's sisters. "Ah! Shinobu-san and Yuki-san are back together again!" Saeru Hinako gushed as both girls blushed madly at the presence of the living Spirit of Innocence; much that the native of Niigata obviously liked the idea of people who loved each other expressing themselves publicly like that, they were getting close to the point where the clothes would start coming off and things would get very intimate...which was definitely NOT the thing to do in the presence of an eight year-old girl!

 

"Hinako, can you sense if Memory is trying to affect Shinobu's memories?" Jody then asked.

 

As Shinobu paled — when she had met Hinako a few hours earlier, the false memories of her being together with Moroboshi Ataru in the eleven years he had actually been missing from Earth had begun to be peeled out of her mind — Hinako leaned down to place a hand on her forehead. Said hand glowed slightly as the Spirit of Innocence reached into the older girl's soul, then she hummed before making a banishing motion with that limb. "Curse, curse...GO AWAY!" she bade, her voice echoing with the cosmic power that she commanded as it washed through Shinobu's mind to clear out the uncertainty that had haunted her since that fateful meeting in the town park near Tomobiki High School.

 

Shinobu gasped as something seemed to sear right through her very soul, her strength failing for a moment. Yuki was quick to support her as a pained moan escaped Shinobu, then she shook her head, blinking several times. "Don't force back the memories, Shinobu," Chikage bade as she and Jody moved to stand close to her, with some of the shipgirls shifting themselves over to form something of a protective shield around their spiritual admiral's old girlfriend. "Memory understands that the memories which created it are in many ways false. Anyone who recovers their true memories deprives it of power, so it will try its best to maintain its hold on your soul until your proper Gifting."

 

Hearing that, Shinobu shuddered as she felt a storm of doubt flood her before the memories of that cleansing wave of empathy from Hinako chased it away. Shuddering as it dawned on her that the being everyone in Tomobiki all believed had been finally dealt with in August was still moving to influence people's minds — and possibly worse, make dreams become real again, thus potentially necessitating another Pseudo-War — she took a deep breath. "How bad is it really, Chikage-san?"

 

Chikage sighed before she exchanged looks with Jody. "You want to handle this?"

 

"She's still very precious to Yuki," the adopted West Midlands native noted. "It's best I bring her to my scrying chambers. The distance between Kyōto and Tomobiki will lessen the effects of that thing."

 

"So it's a working date, you mean," Ataru noted as he came over to join them.

 

Shinobu blushed. "Gomen..."

 

"Don't apologize," he soothed as he knelt beside her, placing a warm hand on her shoulder. "Hai, we helped this along by doing that to you, but the real blame lies with the idiots that loved to play around with people's memories, never mind what they did to us." As Shinobu nodded — the "us" was clearly a term Ataru used to describe the time when Tariko Katabarbe had one single soul before an alien lollipop and a cursed cake caused a permanent fracture — he winked again. "You'll be free of the madness that haunted all our lives beyond what came down on us thanks to Lum and her entourage. Hopefully, you'll stay very strong as well, which will definitely keep things safe for you and your family."

 

Hearing that from him, she smiled. "You're the one that was willing to marry me when that happened."

 

"Of course I was," he said with a wink. "Much that we know how desperately you've wanted to have a normal and safe life, you have to admit now..."

 

"It's no longer in the cards," she admitted as she reached up to squeeze his hand. "I have always and will always love you, Moroboshi Ataru," she breathed out as Yuki's hand reached over to cover theirs. "I'm glad you were safe on that other planet even if you were forced to grow up as Tariko Katabarbe." A wry smile then crossed her face as she gazed knowingly at him. "Given how that horrid woman and her husband treated you when you were forced back into that house before Lum came — even if your real mother forced the destiny of Coyote over you like she did — Yiziba was the planet and culture you really needed to grow into what you are now. Not that THING that Lum was ready to chase after."

 

"Hopefully she'll be able to get something better for herself," he admitted as a wan smile crossed his face. "Despite her naïveté and her desperation to be away from what her life was like on Uru — especially factoring in Ōgi and his friends — she is a good person."

 

"You arranging something for her?"

 

"We did a few months ago," he admitted with a wink.

 

Shinobu laughed. "Oh, Megane and his fools would lynch you if they heard that!"

 

"They're about to face their death scenes thanks to Khalīfah al-Baghdādī and his friends," he warned, an even look then crossing his face, which made Shinobu shudder deep down. "According to what Sakuya-chan sensed earlier today, they're nowhere willing to repent their support of Lum even when it comes to hurting everyone all around them. Never mind their unwillingness to admit their own wrongdoing from last October; it struck us as strange that Satoshi found out how to summon a space taxi like that when that sort of knowledge didn't exist ANYWHERE on Earth until that point. We don't waste energy saving people if they don't want to save themselves from their stupidity, Shinobu."

 

She considered that, then she sighed, shaking her head in clear disapproval. "They've been warned. It's on their heads if they don't heed it. I'm as tired of them as you are." She then moved to stand, helping Yuki up at the same time. "So, why don't you show me Kyōto?"

 

"If I may suggest, Shinobu-sama, you may need some tea first."

 

Everyone turned to look...

 

...then they saw Ashikaga Namiko standing by the table where Ataru had sat earlier, a tea service with multiple cups on the table now. Noting that, everyone then snickered as they exchanged looks...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

Translation list: Goshujin-sama — Master; Shirei-kan — Commander; Kasa-tama — Mister Umbrella (in Hinako-speak); Schmiede — Forge/Workshop; Cha — Vosian/Yehisrite version of the Japanese "chan" suffix honorific and meaning the same thing; Walpurgisnacht — Night of (Saint) Walpurga, always held on 30 April each year; DNTK — Short for Dai-Nihon Teikoku Kaigun ("Navy of the Greater Japanese Empire"), the official name of the Imperial Japanese Navy; Chūsa — Navy commander/Army lieutenant colonel/Air Force wing commander.

 

The KanColle shipgirls introduced here as well as those indicated to be present, with their honorary ranks and their human names (including those introduced in the previous chapter):

 

Fukushima Fujiko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Fubuki [DD-153])

Fukushima Shirayuki-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Shirayuki [DD-154])

Fukushima Hatsue-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Hatsuyuki [DD-155])

Fukushima Miyuki-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Miyuki [DD-156])

Fukushima Mayako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Murakumo [DD-157])

Fukushima Itsuko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Isonami [DD-161])

Fukushima Urako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Uranami [DD-162])

Ashikaga Ayako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Ayanami [DD-163])

Ashikaga Shikuko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Shikinami [DD-164])

Ashikaga Ami-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Amagiri [DD-167])

Ashikaga Sayako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Sagiri [DD-168])

Ashikaga Otsune-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Oboro [DD-169])

Ashikaga Akemi-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Akebono [DD-170])

Ashikaga Namiko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Sazanami [DD-171])

Ashikaga Shiori-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Ushio [DD-172])

Akamatsu Tsukiko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Akatsuki [DD-173])

Akamatsu Himeko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Hibiki [DD-174])

Akamatsu Ikue-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Ikazuchi [DD-175])

Akamatsu Inoue-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Inazuma [DD-176])

 

Note that in real life, Imperial Japanese Navy warships rarely made use of hull classification symbols and hull numbers and there was no ship prefix like THG, which is short for Tennō Heika Gunkan ("Warship of His Majesty the Heavenly Sovereign"). The hull numbers assigned here were based on a listing of all vessels of the same type in order of entry of service from the first of their kind as reported in Wikipedia. Thus THG Fubuki is the 153rd destroyer built by or for Japan.

 

Note that in the case of THG Hibiki, since she was turned over to the Soviet Union in the wake of the Second World War and renamed ÈM Vérnyj, Akamatsu Himeko has a Russian-form name, including patronymic: Khímeko Khagémiovna Akamátsu; the patronymic is chosen in salute to her first captain at the time of her commissioning in the Imperial Japanese Navy, Lieutenant Commander Ishii Hagemi. As an aside, the ship prefix ÈM is short for Èskádrennykh Minonóstsev ("squadron torpedo boat"); neither the Soviet Navy at the time of World War Two nor the Russian Navy today makes use of a universal ship prefix, but type prefixes that indicate what the named warship actually is.

 

The Senior Year character and situation notes: Moroboshi Nagaiwakai was first mentioned in "Sakura's Class Reunion" and first appeared in "Tag Race Mark Three". The Confederation of Vos was pretty much introduced with Nassur in "Return of Memory" and remained a source of issues throughout the series. Nassur's father Ninsur was first mentioned in "Nassur's Story"; in the universe of this story, he survived the Battle of Colony Forty and eventually reunited with his son. The Royal Kingdoms of Yehisril first appeared in "Ancient Ties". The Imperial Dominion of Noukiios first appeared in "Arrive Reiko-chan". The Republic of Hustaros first appeared in "Dakejinzō's Story". And issues concerning the Rose Kingdom of Elle (first introduced in the movie Only You) were first noted on in "Incredible Shrunken Lum" and served as an interesting background plot for future stories in the series.

 

Noting the different spelling of the family name "Hamee" from Lum's memories and what was written in The Book of Pretty Girls. An orthographic reform introduced by the Nameless like Tariko's adopted mother Ayone Katabarbe came into vogue where repeated vowels are pronounced as they are individual syllables instead of extended sounds like in Japanese. Hence, the old pronunciation of Hamee is said as /ha̠'-me̞ː/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet while the modern pronunciation is said as /ha̠'-me̞-e̞/ and written "Hame'e" in Latin script.

 

Nishimura Tina is one of the characters from NOëL 3.

 

Isaac Thomas (Doctor Renaissance), created by Dr. Tempo, first appeared in the short story The Deadliest Woman Alive. The story of his training students will be covered in future omake.

 

The concept of "FISS" was first introduced by cartoonist Aaron Williams in his series PS238.

 

Ten's mother Redet Jon (her name is my invention) first appeared in the Yatsura manga storyline "My Mom the Firefighter" (manga chapters #160-161).

 

The translation of the first lines of Tanenobu Karen's theme song "Daisy Bouquet" (first released in the image album Sister Princess: My Sweet Twelve Angels in 2001) as shown here:

 

Mada sukoshi nemui mabuta wo kusuguru,

Umaretate no hikari suteki na asa...

Ude wo kumi nagara hōbatta popcorn,

Daisuki na anata no yumi wo mita...

Nē imagoro dokode nani wo shiteiruno...?

 

(A newly-born morning light

Tickles the still-sleeping eyelids; such a wonderful morning...

Arm-in-arm, we stuffed our mouths with popcorn;

I had a dream about you, my beloved...

Hey, where are you and what are you doing now...?)

 

Yizibajohei time measurements, from longest to shortest: Saga — Millennium; Series — Century; Mini-series — Decade; Season — Year; Story(line) — Month; Episode — Day; Act — Hour; Scene — Minute; Frame — Second; Shot — 1/100th of a second. The lengths of time they represent would be roughly the same as on Earth.

 

Ganzo dai-Louc was first introduced in various stories I wrote in the Anime Addventure when I strove to introduce a figure similar to the famous American abolitionist John Brown (1800-59) when it came to the Avalonians, bioroid versions of the Sagussans I first introduced in The Senior Year; the Avalonians first appeared in "What Price For Love?".

 

The issue concerning Lum trying to change Ataru's behaviour in the past was noted on in the Yatsura manga story "Down The Right Path" (manga chapter #83). The term "spacializer" to describe such time-travel devices was coined by Mike Smith in The Senior Year.

 

Margo Black (née Margo Chapelle) is the "evil twin" that appeared in the Sweet Valley High novel series. She first made her appearance in The Morning After (book #95), she would move to murder and replace the main star of the series, Elizabeth Wakefield, in the novel The Evil Twin (book #100). She would later make an appearance in the second Magna Edition of the series, Return of the Evil Twin; this is where Margo's sister Nora Chapelle was introduced. Given how pretty rough-shod both of them had been treated to make them evil in those stories, I felt both Margo and Nora needed a chance to really shine and be good people...even if their past still darkens their very souls.

 

The Eight Magical Commanderies is my name for all the regional Magical Associations of Japan as introduced in Mahō Sensei Negima combined. Each association bears the proper name "Imperial Magical Commandery" (in Japanese, Teimajutsu-gun). The one Jody Crowley would associate with the most is the Kansai Magical Association (Kansai Teimajutsu-gun; in short, Kanmagun) as led by Professor Konoe Eishun, father to one of Negi Springfield's students, Konoe Konoka. Of course, the magical government for the region around Tōkyō is the Kantō Magical Association (Kantō Teimajutsu-gun; in short, Tōmagun), administered by Konoka's grandfather Konoe Konoemon.

 

Tōdō Yuki is a character from Bible Black: New Testament.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School, the nurse's station, an hour after lunch...

 

"LIES! ALL LIES! HOW DARE THAT BASTARD ATARU DO THAT TO LUM-SAN...?!"

 

KK-KLONK! KK-KRUNCH! KA-POW! SMASH!

 

Wincing on hearing the cinder blocks smash down on the heads of Aisuru Satoshi and his closest friends/allies, Sakurambō Sakura took a deep breath. "Arigatō, Tariko-san," she said as she toasted Tariko Katabarbe with her cup of mixed cherry tea, glad that her half-sister Susumu Marie had hooked the Trickster of the Show on such a wonderfully soothing drink. "I suspect that Shinobu-san and Ryūnosuke-san will soon depart, joining Rumiko-san and Chigaiko-san to go elsewhere."

 

"Actually, Rumiko told me she'll stay here," Tariko noted, which made the others at the kotatsu stare wide-eyed at her; along with Kotatsuneko, there were Onsen Mark and Sakura's uncle Sakurambō Hayao. Nearby, the core members of Lum's Stormtroopers moaned after once more being knocked unconscious thanks to a Terran-born Yizibajohei. "Yeah, she's had no luck in finding a nice girl to settle down with, but her parents have good jobs and they don't want to move. Even if the morons behind us have death marks on their heads thanks to the idiots in Iraq, my friends there might stop them before they do something stupid here. I won't defend them, but their parents don't deserve the pain."

 

Onsen blinked before his eyes widened. "The Angels of Darkness! That was YOU?!"

 

"Hai!" Tariko asserted. "They're actually distant allies of my family here on Earth. As a group, they were the Asāsīyūn, descendants of the disciples of Hassan-e Sabbāh; he was actually a student of that death cheater that taught Aunt Dean all her marital art skills in the last series." As wry smirks crossed the others' faces on hearing the reality warper call the Immortal Master a "death cheater" — something that was universally loathed among Yizibajohei as a whole — she added, "But since bin Lādin's idiots started flexing their muscles in that part of the world, they managed to turn the Ḥashāshīn — you'll know of them as loyal 'fans' of the Asāsīyūn — into going after them because Maryam and her friends are all WOMEN!" She paused to sip her tea as the others snorted in amusement. "Hence, I got in there and got them Gifted. Now they're having a tonne of fun making life very difficult for al-Qā'idah."

 

"Hopefully, it will be enough," Cherry noted. "What of the issues of people having their memories altered before you were trapped here and forced to revert back to your birth gender, child?"

 

"That's a point," Onsen warned. "I still find it impossible to believe that you — as Moroboshi, of course — actually lived on another PLANET in all those years you were on this quest, Katabarbe-kun."

 

"That'll come," Tariko promised them. "I can sense there was a lot of ebony mesonium planted around town to reinforce whatever was done to everyone here. We'll need Margo Black to deal with it."

 

"And she is?" Sakura wondered.

 

A smirk crossed the younger woman's face as she made a dramatic wave of her hand. "The one who caught and compromised to a permanent end — quoting John Cena, of course — Usāmah bin Lādin!" A wolfish smile then crossed the reality warper's face. "Doctor Death!"

 

The others in the room gaped on hearing that dark declaration...

 

****

 

The clock tower, that moment...

 

"Thank you so much for effecting the repairs here, Tsuruya-kun."

 

Gazing at Nanase Mariko, the school secretary and administration officer, the slender woman in the off-grey Yizibajohei-pattern jumpsuit with the pouch-lined black belt, black boots and the stylized lamp of learning insignia on her chest — not to mention protective safety goggles over her eyes that glittered with computer readouts — nodded in understanding. "You have no problem with me turning this into a personal laboratory of sorts, Nanase-san?" Tsuruya Rumiko then asked. "Given that my family live in an apartment and that I don't have any space to set up my own workshop like my friends have..."

 

"More than understandable," the older woman said as she waved Tomobiki High's only declared lesbian down. "I doubt Kōchō-sensei will be able to do much now that he's so round the bend concerning Moroboshi-kun's final departure from this place to be with his sisters on Promised Island. I was able to process Inu-kun's transfer to Kibina High School without issues." A wry smile crossed Mariko's face. "Though the girl's basketball team will notice it soon enough."

 

"Don't blame yourself," the raven-haired woman with the dark brown eyes said as she waved her now-gloved hands to direct the nanites she had injected into the surrounding wood and steel to reinforce them to the strength of high-tensile tungsten, thus making the school building invulnerable itself to any known form of terrestrial attack; given the many times Tomobiki High had been wrecked over the last year, Mariko definitely agreed to Rumiko's proposed modifications once the current incarnation of the Careful Planner of the Circle of Thought, Timlem (the "Sage"), brought them up earlier during the furor over Redet Lum's final removal from Earth and her "husband's" final departure from Tomobiki. "The power of that curse that made us forget Chigaiko-chan's name was wedged right into the very structure of this building by the witch that created that spell last century. Fortunately, Chikage-chan's promised me the necessary wards that I can fit into the building to make sure there's no more victims of that curse while that idiot is still alive and wanting to make trouble for people." In this, the secretary knew, the smartest high school student in Japan was referring to the alumnus known more commonly as the "Red Cloak" who appeared at a Hallowe'en party the previous October shortly after the Tag Race. "If I can get a sample of that fool's blood, I can easily seal the school off from him ever coming back."

 

"Thank the gods for that favour," the older woman said. "Given that classes are pretty much up in the air now and that the weekend's coming on, how soon will all this be finally completed, Tsuruya-kun?"

 

"Give me until tomorrow morning."

 

"Fair enough. I'll write a note excusing you from classes just in case."

 

"Dōmo."

 

With that, Mariko stepped out of the belfry. Watching her go out of the corner of her eye, the third of Yiziba's most legendary polymath hyper-geniuses smiled before she got back to work installing the base components of her central computing systems, which would allow her to keep in touch with her sisters in the Circle of Thought near Los Angeles in the state of California and just outside Sankt-Peterbúrg in Leningrádskaja Óblast'. Once that was done, Rumiko could then move to replicate Elizabeth Wakefield's, Tat'jána Chapáeva's and Isaac Thomas' work in creating her own spaceship so she could jaunt to and from Yiziba, plus aid in the defence of her birth world against those aliens who certainly would NOT approve of the Yizibajohei sealing off the inner part of the solar system from outside intrusion. Because as soon as that selfish bitch Oyuki finally clicked into the fact that it was "they who must never be named" who just sealed off Earth from all contact by races of the Galactic Federation and their enemies, she would be raising Cain all over the local cluster to restore things to "normal".

 

Sheesh! What a bunch of selfish, self-centred idiots! the daughter of one of Nissan's senior executives mused to herself as she began a general diagnostic of one system. They'd be spitting and screaming for war if some of the idiot stunts they pulled here happened on their planets! What the hell makes them think that we'd react differently?! Thanks to those rimrae umale from Phentax Two, everyone out there knows about things like Star Wars! Do they expect us to just IGNORE all the lessons taught in that story when it comes to real 'close encounters of the third kind', especially after that stunt Megane and his fools pulled with that space-taxi last fall?! Not damned likely...!

 

"Rumiko-chan!"

 

Rumiko looked over as the hatchway opened, revealing the head and shoulders of one of the other girls from Class 2-4, bentō in hand. "You forgot to have some lunch," Marubeya Momoe admonished.

 

Smiling in thanks at the tomboyish girl's actions, Rumiko tapped the side of her goggles to command the diagnostic to keep going automatically. She then slipped off her gloves before walking over to sit at the table there as Momoe placed the bentō down. "Dōmo, Momoe-chan!" she breathed out. "So how's the mood in the class? The boys still in denial over The Book of Lum?"

 

"Unfortunately," the raven-haired beauty with the brown eyes who had been voted second-most prettiest girl in Class 1-4 the previous November just after Mendō Shūtarō came into their lives mused as she sat down, an amused smile on her face as she unwrapped the bentō. "Koi, Nishijima and Wada especially; they're now trying to rally all the Stormtroopers' friends into supporting them. They're flatly convinced that it's another of Ataru-kun's tricks to drive Lum out of his life once and for all, plus deny their chance with their 'sweet Lum-chan'." Disgust flooded the belfry deck as she said that. "Still, a lot of the guys in our year have seen the Book. They're just disgusted at the idea that Lum and her friends were BULLIED by their leaders to go along with whatever this Ōgi maniac wanted! I hope you guys really did him in when you hit this bastard's home system back in June."

 

"Oh, we did, Momoe! Damn straight we did," Rumiko said with a proud smile as she recalled that battle in the only tri-star system in the galaxy where most of the planets were inhabitable. She, Inu Chigaiko and Moroboshi Ataru had been absent from classes all week when the sixth-eighth anniversary of the Battle of Normandy came around; the specific day for that battle had been suggested by President Josiah Bartlet to Rumiko's new friend Elizabeth Wakefield to better honour the final liberation of the Niphentaxians' bioroid slaves from their masters. Of course, Momoe fondly remembered that week as the time that Lum and her supporters in Tomobiki found out they were ultimately helpless when it came to forcing her "husband" to bend to her will; try as all of them could — even with Lum's technological advantages — they couldn't find a single trace of the man until the following Monday.

 

Momoe perked as she recalled something else. "Oh, by the way, Ataru-kun's mother is downstairs in the principal's office right now with some parents from the local PTA. AND Kuribayashi-sensei, too!"

 

That made the other woman blink. "That old gunslinger?! What's he doing here?!"

 

"What else? Kuribayashi was called in by Baka Tō-san and his friends to come teach at the school after it started to become really obvious to everyone that Ataru-kun was pulling away from Lum over the last month or so. It really scared a lot of people in the PTA, especially when they saw that all the normal attempts at keeping Ataru-kun down weren't working, especially with his disappearing from town every weekend. Was he visiting his sisters when he did that? Where did he go?"

 

An even look responded. "Is that for you or is that for Tendō Nabiki?"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

Momoe sighed. It was an open secret at Tomobiki High School that the popular sophomore served as a local bookie for the infamous middle daughter of the Tendō Clan of Ōizumi in nearby Nerima. While her peers had done their best many times to make Tendō Nabiki leave Momoe be, the associate member of the infamous "Wrecking Crew" threatened in return to sic Saotome Ranma on them if they continued to butt in on her "business transactions". Of course, said threat turned hollow when Ranma disappeared from Nerima just before D-Day — no doubt to participate in the Mother of All Fight Scenes against Lum's "most faithful" — but given the total refusal of all of Ranma's old family, would-be fiancées and rivals to accept his/her official switch of gender and name to "Hayashi Kanami" (thus making all claims of marriage on him/her void) and her leaving Nerima once and for all, it was only a matter of time before Nabiki began drawing on people's strings outside her home ward to get back atop the game.

 

"For me," she admitted. "Much that I'm grateful for Ataru-kun and Tariko-chan for chasing Lum off the planet — which keeps Mendō-san safe in the end — I'm just curious. Something tells me that Ran-..." — here, she caught herself — "...um, Kanami-chan will come back to deal with Nabiki and the rest of those dolts in Nerima soon enough. Sure, she's called me on occasion since May to get updates on events here in town, but she hasn't made me run bets or anything like that." She then sighed. "Still, as soon as news of what Tariko-chan did to Lum gets out beyond Tomobiki, Nabiki is going to be VERY curious. Is there some way Kanami-chan can come back now to get her off my back?"

 

"I'll call her and ask," Rumiko promised...

 

...before the thunderous noise of glass being shattered echoed over the air, that followed by the sounds of a car crashing! As both girls perked on hearing that, a very heavy guitar riff thundered over the scene, matched with a steadily beating drum...

 

Step up 'cause you're the next one in line for the kill!

You don't believe me but I'm betting that you will...!

Stand up! I'll let you live a little bit with

The pain that I bring you know it's only the beginning...!

 

"Oh, gods! What's HE doing here?!" Rumiko demanded as she moved to look outside.

 

A wild screaming cheer then echoed from both inside and outside the school...!

 

****

 

On ground level...

 

"IT'S STONE COLD!"

 

Students in the yard and peeking out of the west wing classroom windows howled and whooped on seeing another legendary wrestler from the United States march proudly onto the grounds as if he was about to enter the ring at WrestleMania defending his championship. Those screams then went wild on seeing that the native of Texas was dressed in a Yizibajohei-pattern jumpsuit that showed off a well-muscled body for a man in his twenties. Noting that, some wrestling fans found that peculiar as they knew the man born Steven Anderson was approaching his fiftieth birthday. On remembering how the great phenom from America that graced their school hours earlier looked as he was when he premiered in what was then called the World Wrestling Federation, appearing younger than people saw him as these days when he performed, people began to hiss among each other as they tried to postulate what had made the six-time heavyweight wrestling champion so young. Still, that strange visual dichotomy didn't stop a chorus of hearts appearing in the eyes of many girls — even among the female teachers who were seeing this from their classrooms and the staff lounge — at the sight of the rugged bald man with the dark moustache and goatee, especially with the fact that his jumpsuit was coloured in multi-tone shades emulating the scales of a western diamondback rattlesnake from his native state...

 

...which ironically reflected well with his Gift as the Lethal Viper of the South, Tuone'e (the "Rattlesnake"), a ki master of considerable power who could kill thanks to his "finger fangs" that could rend solid materials up to and beyond the strength of tungsten and depleted uranium — not to mention most forms of mesonium — into nothing more than fragments.

 

Before he could get far, a screeching voice bellowed from inside the main door. "YOU BRING MY IDIOT SON BACK HERE, MONSTER...!"

 

KK-KRACK!

 

People outside turned to look...

 

...then they screamed with laughter on seeing that a cinder block had been dropped down on Moroboshi Kinshō's head from somewhere! "Thank God I didn't have to give that banshee a fucking stunner," Steve Austin muttered under his breath as people gathered around him, he raising his hands in the two-fist salute — without the raised middle finger, of course — of his ring persona.

 

Another wild cheer answered that salute from the students, who were streaming out of classes to get closer to the famous wrestling star, they accompanied by some of the teachers. "Mister Austin, welcome to Tomobiki High School!" math teacher Hanawa Mitsu — he was the former homeroom teacher for the previous year's Class 1-4 — called out in accented English as he offered his hand, which the Texan took to give him a firm shake. "What on Earth brings you here today?!"

 

"Came here to look in on a couple people my good friend Tariko took interest in over the last decade, son," Steve answered in near-flawless Japanese, which made all the people around him gasp in delight even if some smirked on hearing those words spoken in a clear Texan accent. "Anyone seen Fujinami Ryūnosuke anywhere around these parts this morning?"

 

"Um...Ryūnosuke-kun didn't come to classes this morning, Sensei," Gekasawa Kumiko answered.

 

"Steve!"

 

Everyone looked up to the clock tower. "Yo, Rumiko!" Steve called back.

 

"There she is!" Rumiko called out, pointing to the front gate.

 

The Texas Rattlesnake perked before looking in that direction...

 

"HOLY FUCKING SHIT! YOU'RE LIKE TARIKO-SAN, SENSEI?!"

 

...then people whooped as a grinning tomboyish girl in a black gakuran — with the jacket open to reveal her undershirt...which didn't mask the dark grey sports bra she had — race onto the property. Before she could come up to her favourite wrestler to shake his hand, the Principal himself suddenly appeared in front of the "heir" of Hamachaya. "Fujinami-kun! Where have you been, young man?!" As people quickly noticed Ryūnosuke's battle aura start to form around her at yet again being called a "boy", the elderly school administrator then snarled, "And where is Miyake-kun?! She should be here as well!"

 

Ryūnosuke quietly replied, "Well, to paraphrase anyone from Yiziba as Sensei here, Rumiko-san and Tariko-san will confirm, Shinobu-san and Ataru are having a nice long nookie scene right now with Ataru's good friend Jody-san and her lover Yuki-san! Hell, it might all the way to an all-out pillow scene!" As Steve whooped in laughter on hearing that and many of the students gaped as their minds quickly interpreted what those phrases actually meant, she added, "Given they've got a year to catch up on now that umale bitch Lum is out of our collective fucking hair and that rich fool Mendō's engaged to that idiot Mizunokōji..." — she ignored the groans from many on hearing the tomboy disparage the school's most popular students so publicly at that — "...I'm sure that when the nesting urge hits Shinobu-san, she'll be having kids with Ataru soon enough!" She then hummed as many of the students gasped on hearing what could soon happen. "Soon as he gets Gifted, of course!"

 

"He's engaged to marry Lum-chan!" one boy screamed out.

 

"No, he's not! Not even under HER planet's laws!" Ryūnosuke snapped back as her hands started to glow, which made Steve's eyes go wide in surprise.

 

"What do you mean?!" another boy demanded.

 

"Duh! Tagging an Oni's horns for marriage in a tag race ain't allowed, dipshit!" she snapped, making many boys moan on hearing of how easy it could have been to land Redet Lum for themselves. "The only time Ataru ever tagged Lum's horns was in the Tag Race! That's it! Any claim she had about her being married to him is a bunch of lies!" A snarl then escaped her lips as the hands glowed even more brightly. "Not that the fucking umale doesn't come from a race of LIARS in the first place!"

 

"Kid...!"

 

Ryūnosuke blinked as she looked in confusion at the visitor from America. "Wh-what is it, Sensei...?"

 

Steve pointed to her hands, making her look before her eyes went wide. "What the FUCK...?!" she called out as she raised her hands, making others gasp at that impressive sight. "Mamoru said this don't happen right away! How the fuck am I getting Gifted NOW?!"

 

"I've seen it happen loads of times before, Ryū-chan."

 

She turned as Tariko walked through the crowd, followed by Cherry and Sakura. As the school nurse and part-time miko drew out her ōnusa to do a magical scan of the tomboyish "heir" of Hamachaya, the Trickster of the Show mover to grasp her former classmate's hands to peer at them with her own meta-sight. "Damn! I guess that brief visit to the cabin actually started the pre-Gifting process for you! The healers in the village near the cabin did give you something to eat."

 

"With the necessary meson put into her to link her to the biosphere, you mean," Steve noted.

 

"What does that mean?" Kanzaki Ryūha demanded as the Principal shuddered in anger at the fact that he was being IGNORED by all his students as they concentrated on the issue with Ryūnosuke.

 

"Tariko here took the kid to Yiziba ten years ago after she beat the shit out of her fool old man because he was making her FREEZE in the middle of FEBRUARY on the damned SEASHORE during a BLIZZARD!" the visitor from America snarled, making many of the students gasp in horror as they stared wide-eyed at the tomboy. As some then glared resentfully at the Principal — it was well-known that the elderly school administrator gladly supported what Fujinami Fujimi always thought about his "son" — Steve added, "She was malnourished, had been through a ton of beatings and didn't have the fucking right clothes for being a GIRL! Tariko got her to the village near where she and her mother lived on Yiziba, then the healers got at her to fix her up. She obviously ate the local food, which has meson in it. Once Tariko's sister Mamoru gave her a slice of the black forest cake Tariko makes to get people pre-Gifted, something inside the Forge must have locked into her right away."

 

"STOP THIS NOW!"

 

Everyone stared at the Principal as all of Ryūnosuke's body started to glow like the Doctor's did in Doctor Who when regeneration was about to begin. As many of the students started to back away on sensing a noticeable heat radiate from the tomboy — making her clothes begin to smoke — Sakura hissed in disbelief at the sheer strength of whatever kami was now starting to fuse with the school's most tragic student. "This one particular spirit has wanted her for a long time...!"

 

"Yeah, kinda figured that out sometime ago..." Tariko said with a smirk.

 

"You can sense this sort of thing, child?" Cherry asked.

 

"Having done this for as long as I have, Cherry, you get a spy lens about these things quickly enough..."

 

"Oh, yeah...!"

 

As people gazed on a now-grinning Ryūnosuke as her brown eyes began to brightly glow with power, the Principal shuddered, pointing at the tomboy. "STOP THIS NOW! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO...!"

 

Tene lomher'buo, Fujinami Ryūnosuke...!

 

A wild laugh of delight escaped the "heir" of Hamachaya — the fate of which now really no longer mattered to her as the flood of her new self's memories began to overtake her, the joy of learning at last what being a woman (even if she'd be a Yizibajohei one) overcoming her — as she spread her arms wide, her clothes combusting as the radiance from her body became blinding, making people turn away.

 

"DON'T LOOK AT IT!" Steve shouted, making others spin away.

 

As Ryūnosuke's clothes were burned away, she licked her lips.

 

"Taeim letam...!"

 

A second later, an Akira wave-like bubble of energy exploded from her...

 

****

 

Kyōto, a block from the Shimogyō Academy, that moment...

 

"Eh?!"

 

Moroboshi Ataru jolted, then gazed on his former girlfriend. "What is it?!"

 

Miyake Shinobu blinked for a moment, then her eyes teared. "I think...I just felt something wonderful happen to Ryūnosuke-san...!"

 

Jody Crowley and Tōdō Yuki gazed intently at her for a moment, then the latter stared at her sempai. "Jody-sama, what does this mean?! I want Shinobu-chan to get a good Gift, for heaven's sake...!"

 

"Relax, student," the mistress of the Shadow Court declared as she squeezed the younger girl's shoulder before she peered intently at Shinobu. "It means that she'll have quite a powerful psionic ability with whatever is trying to lock in on her now. Let's get inside the house, then I can get her into the scrying room so I can see how badly that creature under the Tarōzakura has hurt her!"

 

Shinobu grimly nodded as she followed the others into the traditional family house that the Duchess of Anglesey had rented out with the help of the Kansai Magical Association while she resided in Japan...

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School...

 

Nesu...TOLOSE!

 

Everyone gasped on hearing that booming voice echo over the skies again, then they slowly opened their eyes to see that the area around them wasn't being bathed in blinding light. As many breathed out in relief at not being blinded, they turned to look at Ryūnosuke...

 

...who was now clearly something much MORE!

 

"Whoa! Cool suit, Ryū-chan!" Hikawa Shin'ya then whooped.

 

"Damn! You're gonna be our resident mystery man now, Ryūnosuke-chan?!" Mifune Hideyuki asked.

 

"OI! THAT'S 'MYSTERY WOMAN' TO YOU, MIFUNE!"

 

"HOW DARE YOU BE OUT OF UNIFORM, FUJINAMI-KUN?!"

 

As many of the people there shook their heads at the Principal's obvious stupidity on challenging someone who clearly had a lot of buried anger inside her — and was now a METAHUMAN as her smoky grey uniform with the gunmetal grey belt, boots, tabby cat-like striping on the sides of her body and the black badger's head insignia on her chest over her considerable cleavage now showed — a snarl escaped the newest incarnation of one of Yiziba's deadliest ki masters. "Oi, Baka Jijii...!" Ryūnosuke snarled as she slowly turned to glare at the older man. "Can't you fucking tell I'm a GIRL...?!"

 

Her boot slammed hard into his gut, doubling him over as she lunged over to snare his neck with both her hands, planting that on her right shoulder...

 

KK-KRACK!

 

"STUNNER!" all the students whooped as the transformed Ryūnosuke dropped down on her butt to deliver a vicious neck-breaker right directly onto the Principal's throat, making him painfully rasp as his windpipe was nearly crushed from the impact!

 

Seeing this, Steve nodded in approval. "Good one, kid!"

 

Hearing that made her beam before she sighed. "Need my own finishing manoeuvre!" she noted as she rolled back up as the Principal fell over, grasping his neck. "Ain't fair to steal your shtick, Sensei!"

 

More laughter filled the air as everyone moved to ignore the gasping school administrator. "Ne, ne, Ryūnosuke-chan, what did all that mean, anyway?!" Sugihara Nara, one of the tomboy's classmates from Class 2-4 and Class 1-4 before April, then asked. "All the words that were said...?"

 

"Who was that, anyway?!" Nishihara Ikue, another girl from Class 2-4, asked.

 

"That was the Conservator, Ikue-san," Ryūnosuke answered. "Some people on Yiziba say it's an actual person. Some other people say it's just the very soul of the Great Crystal of Power when it calls out when someone gets Gifted." She smirked. "'Tene lomher'buo' means 'You're ready' or 'It's time'. That's the warning to tell someone the Gifting is starting. 'Nesu' means 'behold'. That declares the Gifting is done. And 'Tolose' is my battle name. It translates as 'wolverine' here."

 

"Hey! We got our own Wolverine now! That's cool!" Hideyuki called out.

 

Laughter echoed over the grounds. "Well, can't really use that name here on Earth," Ryūnosuke then lamented. "Dorks in Marvel Comics might get upset over it." She then hummed. "What could I use...?"

 

"Try Carcajou," Tariko proposed. "It's French Canadian for 'wolverine'."

 

The tomboy blinked, then she nodded. "That's got some style!"

 

"THREE CHEERS FOR CARCAJOU!" Kumiko then screamed out.

 

"BANZAI! BANZAI! BANZAI!" all the other students toasted her with raised arms.

 

As Ryūnosuke laughed on hearing that, a moaned voice echoed from the direction of the main doors. "Give me...my money...back...!"

 

Hearing Moroboshi Kinshō grunt that demand as she slowly picked herself off the steps, Tariko sighed before she perked as Ryūnosuke patted her shoulder. "I got this one, Tariko-san," the latter said.

 

Sensing the approach of one of the people that had kept her idiot son in line until he found some way to escape, the older woman smiled in gratitude. "Oh, Ryūnosuke-kun, there you are...!"

 

PSSSHHEEW!

 

A horrified scream escaped her as foot-long ENERGY BLADES shaped like the adamantium-coated bone claws used by one of the most popular American anti-heroes known burst out of the tips of all the fingers of Ryūnosuke's right hand save her middle one, making a "V" shape under her chin to sear against her cheeks. "Want me to draw the middle one out, slut?!" the tomboy then snarled, her voice starting to boom with the raging life energy that had just been pumped into her.

 

That made Kinshō awk in horror. "Ry-ry-Ryūnosuke-k-k-kun...!"

 

That made the younger woman see read.

 

"FOR THE LAST FUCKING TIME...!"

 

KK-KKRUNCH!

 

The tomboy snared the older woman and did a side slam, smashing Kinshō's head into the steps!

 

"I'M A WOMAN, YOU BLIND BITCH!"

 

"And she can say it as a woman, too," Tariko calmly quipped to Steve.

 

As the retired American wrestling star laughed while crossing his arms, students nearby backed away from such an awesome display as Ryūnosuke grabbed Kinshō by the hem of her blouse...then with an overhand pitch, sent her flying on a mortar shot right back to her family home!

 

"NOW GET OUTTA MY SCHOOL, YOU MONEY-GRUBBING PROSTITUTE!"

 

"FUJINAMI!"

 

Ryūnosuke spun around, her splayed claws soaring right at Kuribayashi Sanjurō's face!

 

KK-KKACK!

 

"GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY SCHOOL, YOU DISGUSTING PEDOPHILE!"

 

As the distant sound of a body smashing through the roof of the Moroboshi house several blocks away echoed in the air, the metahuman hunter pulled the badly-hurt roving substitute teacher — who just got his face smashed in by a ki enhanced punch — clear of the school building, then spun around and with a shot-put pitch, sent him flying to the east in the direction of Nerima!

 

"HE'S A PEDOPHILE?!" Kumiko then gasped, making all the girls present shriek.

 

"Yeah!" Ryūnosuke snarled. "I actually saw him go on a DATE with LUM of all people!" As the boys cried in horror, the tomboy then asked, "You guys want to have something to do with that?!"

 

"HELL, NO!" many of the guys roared out.

 

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, YOU FOOLISH BOY?!"

 

PSSSHHEEW!

 

Once again, someone else was caught by Ryūnosuke's ki claws at the neck. "You wanna say that again, Baka Oyaji?" she quietly growled as she glared into the foolish man's eyes.

 

"Otō-san...!"

 

Everyone turned to see a fuming Marubeya Momoe standing behind her trapped father Marubeya Nobukoto, an aura of rage forming around her. Seeing how incensed his daughter was, the leader of the Tomobiki Parent-Teacher's Association sputtered, "Now, M-m-Momoe-chan, you h-h-have to understand! Th-th-this is the only w-w-way to keep that lech M-m-Moroboshi...!"

 

"Mallet, Momoe-chan?"

 

Seeing the large steel mallet just being handed to her by Tariko, Momoe smiled. "Arigatō, Tariko-chan," she declared as Ryūnosuke pulled back.

 

WHAM! WHAM! CRUNCH! SMASH! KA-POW! KK-KLONK!

 

Everyone winced on seeing Momoe's father now smashed into the concrete stares, a pained moan escaping the broken man as his daughter handed the mallet back to Tariko. "Now THAT, the asshole had coming to him," Ryūnosuke mused, nodding in satisfaction.

 

The others sighed. "We got us our own Hibari Kyōya now," Hideyuki mused as he gazed on his friends.

 

"Is that so really bad?" Shin'ya asked...

 

****

 

Namimori (east of Nagoya), Namimori Middle School, that moment...

 

"AH-CHOO!"

 

"Ah! Are you alright, Hibari-san?!"

 

The school's "demon prefect" moaned before he glanced around the hallway. "I sense a superior carnivore having just risen to bite rude herbivores to death!"

 

Hearing that, Sawada Tsunayoshi nodded in understanding...

 

****

 

In Nerima (six kilometres east-northeast of Tomobiki High School)...

 

"Oh, damn...!"

 

His whole body now ached as if he had smashed into a brick wall.

 

Which was understandable.

 

Smashing head-first into the concrete fence surrounding Fūrinkan High School at terminal velocity from several hundred metres up would do that to anyone.

 

And Kuribayashi Sanjurō wasn't a martial artist.

 

Like...

 

Damn! What the HELL did that stupid boy DO to me?! the substitute teacher wondered as he tried to extract himself from the hole his body had made in the outer wall of the school grounds. He created those weird glowing things out of his fingers...and then...!

 

"Hey, you!"

 

Hearing that voice with its weird mix of Japanese and Hawai'ian, Kuribayashi blinked before he groaned. "Oh, hell...!" he spat before turning to look up into the face of a loon who was principal of his school.

 

A school Kuribayashi had vowed NEVER to work in again.

 

"What are you doing breaking the wall of the Big Kahuna's school?" Kunō Godai asked as he held up one of his special barber shears.

 

Kuribayashi's head dropped in defeat. I need to retire...!

 

****

 

Fūrinkan High School, inside Class 2-4, that moment...

 

"Didn't that guy just fly in from Tomobiki, Dai?"

 

"Damn sure looked like it, 'Roshi. Wonder what made Tariko-san so upset that she'd give flying lessons to that idiot."

 

"It might not have been Tariko-san, though."

 

Humming, both Bosabosa Daisuke and Chanpatsu Hiroshi exchanged knowing looks, then they gazed out the windows once more to see a man they now recognized as Kuribayashi Sanjurō — one of a run of many substitute teachers that their principal had employed at the school to help with discipline before he chanced on Ninomiya Hinako — fighting it out with the "big Kahuna". "I doubt Kanami would want to come close to this town anytime soon. She's having too good of a time over where she is now."

 

"True, true..."

 

"Oi! You idiots know where Ran-chan is?!"

 

Both men blinked before they gave Kuonji Ukyō a look that made the chef from Ōsaka balk as she stepped back from them. "Even if would know such a person, we wouldn't tell a monster like you where he may be," Daisuke then declared in a voice so full of scorn, it nearly buried the okonomiyaki chef under a pile of mud and dirt that made her classmates back away from her.

 

"Didn't you hear?" Hiroshi then coolly wondered. "Saotome Ranma doesn't even legally EXIST anymore! All claims of 'marriage' to whatever poor sod that name got stuck on are all wiped out!" He moved to sit down. "So why on Earth aren't you going back home, Kuonji-san? With you not being forced to marry anyone anymore, your so-called 'honour' is intact and you can start dressing like a proper girl again." He then gave her an amused look. "Or do you LIKE being a guy?!"

 

Many of the girls in the classroom openly winced on hearing that admonishment from the two boys who had been as close as one could get to the would-be heir of the Saotome-ryū of Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū before his final departure at the end of May...when, in an act that still had people throughout Nerima screaming their guts out in denial — as Ukyō herself still did even if it became apparent that she and her would-be "rivals" weren't getting their way this time — that person severed all legal connections to his parents Genma and Nodoka, had himself literally "adopted back" into her father's clan, the Hayashi family of Inari-chō over in Taitō, openly declare that his "proper" fiancée Tendō Akane and her family had no honour whatsoever concerning the fact that they ALL knew about a certain nasty secret Ranma's most powerful rival fought desperately to keep from his fiancée...

 

And then, with the ultimate slap in the face to everyone...

 

...Saotome Ranma legally "died", replaced by Hayashi Kanami.

 

A girl in MIND and BODY, no thanks to the hidden power of Jusenkyō.

 

And given that Kanami proved to be too powerful for the likes of her "grandmaster" Happōsai and the Nǚjiézú elder Nǚ Kělún no matter what the multi-centenarians pulled to corral their "student"...!

 

Things had clearly changed in Nerima after the "week of hell".

 

Case in point: All the men currently attending school.

 

Regardless or not if one had been part of the "Horde of Hentai" who had been mustered by the principal's son Kunō Tatewaki the previous April when it came to seeking Tendō Akane for a date after besting her in battle, the boys' attitudes towards Kanami's would-be fiancée and all those that hung around her dipped way down in the wake of the Week of Hell. That was mostly thanks to learning that Akane's elder sister Tendō Nabiki ran a website concerning the so-called "Nerima Wrecking Crew" which gave out embarrassing details about all the martial arts prodigies that lived in the ward to anyone interested in learning them. Through that, the boys learned that Akane's pet piglet known as "P-chan" was actually the cursed form of her fiancé's chief rival, Hibiki Ryōga, all thanks to the wanderer actually blundering into Jusenkyō itself the very day Ranma was effectively cursed to become Kanami late the previous winter. Soon learning thanks to Ranma/Kanami that Akane's father Sōun and eldest sister Kasumi also knew about Ryōga's curse — yet had simply done NOTHING to try to protect Akane's virtue from a man who had vowed from the very beginning to do anything to destroy Ranma's happiness — the boys instantly turned their backs on those who supported Akane and her entourage, which had made things very frosty at Fūrinkan High since Kanami departed to places unknown at the start of June.

 

Of course, even if Kanami had actually gone forth to tell her friends — who had also been briefly her lovers when she confided to them certain truths after the Week of Hell began — where she currently lived, Hiroshi and Daisuke told her to keep quiet about that.

 

Given that Kanami's would-be "wife" from the mountains of China, Nǚ Shānpú, was well-versed in her tribe's considerable grimoire of herbs and other natural medicines which could be used offensively on any of their perceived enemies, it was just being prudent.

 

There was no way she could learn secrets if said secrets simply weren't known!

 

And given the tale Kanami and her "mirror clone" — who had been given true life thanks to a friend of Kanami's from Itabashi and had been adopted into her "true" family as Hayashi Kikuko — had gladly force-fed the "Blue Thunder" as a way of denying Nabiki any hope of influencing things by manipulating the delusional kendō-ka into bringing the Kunō fortune to bear on the matter...!

 

As Daisuke and Hiroshi moved to take their seats — it was afternoon study hall for Class 2-4 — they ignored Kanami's so-called "real" fiancée, who was seated off to one side, now surrounded by several friends such as Asano Sayuri and Tokoro Yuka. As the girls gave the boys resentful looks at yet another public move to try to shame Akane in support of what had to be the craziest lie yet to emerge because of Akane's obligations to her family and to the Saotome Clan — Hiroshi and Daisuke knew Sayuri simply loathed Ranma/Kanami while Yuka was more a hanger-on than one willing to make her own decisions — the boys relaxed as they moved to get some studying done while Ukyō returned to her seat...

 

KK-KKRANG!

 

The whole school building violently shook from the impact of something very hard on the yard close to the main walkway, knocking people off their feet and out of their desks to spill all over the floor! As everyone moved to protect themselves while some of the overhanging lights collapsed onto the desks above them, a weak "Poi...!" accompanied by a mewling "Oyo...!" echoed from outside close to the main gate. Instantly, Hiroshi was on his feet and looking out over the front lawn...

 

"Okay...!" he breathed out. "We have visitors."

 

Other people got to their feet and looked outside themselves to see what was going on. "Two girls in a very familiar model of jumpsuit, one cute brunette and a very foxy blonde," Daisuke mused, as calm as his friend. "I thought they were keeping the fight scenes AWAY from this place."

 

"Wait...!"

 

"Huh?"

 

"Look at what's on their chests, Dai."

 

Daisuke looked...

 

...then blinked as both women — appearing to be their age — slowly picked themselves out of the deep ruts they just made in the front yard after flying in from the south, moving to brush off their jumpsuits from the dirt that got rubbed in when they crashed. As a scream in the background indicated that Kuribayashi Sanjurō managed to pull clear of the principal and was now running away from Fūrinkan High as fast as he could go — Kunō Godai himself had been smashed into the branch of an overhanging tree, obviously by the girls' hitting the ground — Daisuke was quick to see stylized kanji on their chests above their cleavage. The beautiful tomboy with the curly chestnut brown hair and the matching eyes in the dark green jumpsuit with white belt and boots trimmed in green piping had a stylized 睦月 in vertical reading format, coloured white with green piping, all over a white crescent moon on her chest. The rather foxy-looking blonde with the burning eyes that matched her companion's wore a black jumpsuit with white belt and boots with red piping on the belt and the boot flaps, a white 夕立 also in vertical format with red piping, all emblazoned on a red wolf's head insignia on her chest. As both newcomers shook their heads, Hiroshi read, "'Mutsuki'. 'Yūdachi'. Dai, you get a funny feeling...?"

 

"Hai...!" Daisuke sighed as they shared looks before nodding.

 

"HINAKO-CHAN!"

 

A blinding flash of energy then made everyone — save Kanami's friends as they shielded their eyes just in time from that burst of teleportation energy — scream out in shock.

 

"A-ri-ri? Hiroshi-san? Daisuke-san? What's wrong?"

 

Both men breathed out on seeing the smiling girl floating outside the window, now in her white "fighting" jumpsuit, holding Mister Umbrella up; Daisuke and Hiroshi were both glad that the New Yorker who made that flying device made sure that it wouldn't allow Saeru Hinako to let go of it when she was flying well above a safe landing altitude. Before anyone could say anything more, a growling child-form teacher stormed over, her handy five yen coin ready for action. "You little delinquent!" Ninomiya Hinako snapped as she glared at the little girl. "How dare you float up...?!"

 

"Curse, curse, GO AWAY!"

 

Another blinding flash of light filled the room as people screamed out and covered their eyes, that accompanied by their teacher's pained scream as the Spirit of Innocence lashed out with her empathy to literally burn away what was locking her older namesake down like it did.

 

Opening their eyes, they turned to look...

 

...then they winced on seeing their teacher — now as a very curvy adult, many of the boys were quite pleased to note — smashed head-first into the retaining wall on the inner side of the classroom, having plowed over Tendō Akane and her closest friends thanks to the whiplash that saw the ki manipulations unleashed on their teacher years ago by the grandmaster of Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū fully torn away by the power of the Spirit of Innocence. As Saeru Hinako breathed out on noting yet another person was cured of a very bad problem, she gazed on Kanami's best friends. "What's going on?" she asked.

 

"Excuse me, poi!"

 

Hinako blinked. "Poi?"

 

"Poi!"

 

The youngest of Tariko's sisters turned around...

 

...then she blinked on seeing two girls about the same age as her Onē-tama now floating behind her, friendly smiles on their faces as they gazed expectantly on her. Noting their dress and the stylized kanji on their jumpsuit tops — which was never done with anyone who inherited a Gift directly from the Great Forge of Power — Hinako blinked several times before she read the names, then she moaned. "Oh, no! Hina did it AGAIN!" she breathed out, slapping her forehead with her hand.

 

"I take it these are two more 'shipgirls', Hinako-chan?" Daisuke wryly asked.

 

"Hai! ONĒ-TAMA!"

 

A flash of light — one that wasn't so blinding — caused a girl in an off-white jumpsuit with black belt and boots to appear behind Hiroshi and Daisuke. "What is it, Hinako-chan?" Tariko then asked before she blinked on seeing who was floating behind her. Taking a deep breath as she muttered to herself that it was definitely going to be one of THOSE days, the Trickster of the Show then crossed her arms. "Hinako-chan, what did we ask you to do when Ataru went back to school?" she asked.

 

"IT'S NOT HINA'S FAULT, ONĒ-TAMA!"

 

Sensing she was telling the truth, Tariko sighed. "Okay, I'll handle this," she declared. "YOU TWO!" she barked at the two ladies now floating behind Hinako. "GET IN HERE! FRONT AND CENTRE!"

 

"HAI!"/"POI!"

 

After Hinako climbed through the open window to get inside the class, the two older girls followed, then they formed a line of review in front of Tariko. Snapping to attention, they gave her salutes which would definitely have passed muster at the Imperial Naval Academy at Eta-jima in the days before the Greater East Asia War; knowing what these two girls actually were, Tariko wasn't surprised on seeing that.

 

"Shiratsuyu-class destroyer Yūdachi, Second Destroyer Division...!" the blonde began.

 

"Mutsuki-class destroyer Mutsuki, Thirtieth Destroyer Division...!" the brunette then announced.

 

"...RETURNING TO COMBINED FLEET HEADQUARTERS FOR NEW ASSIGNMENT, TEITOKU!" both women then barked before lowering their arms.

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

Tariko sighed before she put her fists to her hips. "Did either of you sense it when destroyer Fubuki, first of her class, then assigned to the Eleventh Destroyer Division, was revived this spring just past when my sister here was touring over the Solomon Islands?"

 

"Hai!" both girls chanted as if they were fresh recruits at Eta-jima. Meanwhile, people in the class busied themselves helping their friends recover from that ki burst that exploded from their homeroom teacher after Tariko's sister had touched her. Not noticed by others in Class 2-4, many students and teachers from other classes were peeking into the room to see what was going on, chief among them being Tendō Nabiki and her flunkies; Tariko was quick to note that the second daughter of the patriarch of the Tendō family of Ōizumi wasn't doing anything to help her sister recover from being bashed down by her teacher's body. The brunette then added, "We felt it when someone very nice came along and floated over where Fubuki sank north of Cape Esperance back in Shōwa-jūnananen, then this strange power came out of nowhere to take her spirit away and totally remove her wreckage from the ocean floor. We wanted that done to us as well, but that nice person didn't come to us..."

 

Both then tensed on hearing Hinako sniffle. "Hina's sorry...!"

 

"Relax, Hinako. Not your fault," Tariko said as she waved her sister down before she turned back to the newcomers. "So what did happen when you became this?" she then asked the two shipgirls that had been reborn as battle dolls by whatever power was sending them to Earth, waving to them.

 

The blonde nodded. "Well, we kept wishing and wishing to be like Fubuki-chan! After all, we felt how poi she was after your sister came along and salvaged her! Then just five days ago, we felt our souls be pulled out of our wrecks and put into these bodies!" She waved to herself, then indicated her companion, who nodded in eager confirmation. "At first, we really didn't feel very poi because we got turned into this! After all, we were WARSHIPS before we were sunk! Who would expect us to become human beings, much less human GIRLS?! Then after we we floated up to the surface and floated into the air — It's so poi being able to FLY like the warriors of the Thunder Companies, did you know that?! — we then heard this really loud voice say something we couldn't understand..."

 

"'Tene lomher'buo'?" Tariko quoted.

 

"Poi!" the blonde said, nodding. "Then we felt really strange for a moment — That's when we got these cool suits, by the way! It wasn't poi when we got turned into this and wound up NAKED of all things! — and then this voice called out 'nesu' and said some really strange names before we felt really poi! Next thing we knew, we felt the urge to go look for our sisters. I found my sisters..."

 

"I found all of mine except Yūzuki-chan," the brunette added.

 

"Then we came here when we realized we needed to report to Fleet Headquarters."

 

"But we nearly collided with some airplane flying south of Tōkyō Bay."

 

"And landed here," the blonde finished, blushing. "Sorry for the mess!"

 

"Ah! Tariko-san!"

 

Tariko looked over. "Hey, Tatewaki! Sorry for interrupting classes!"

 

"Pah! Pay it no mind, oh Great Mistress of Chaos!" the regal-looking kendō team captain declared as he came over to take her hand, bestowing a kiss on it. He then turned to take Hinako's hand in his own, bestowing that a kiss; such made the youngest of the sisters giggle in embarrassment. "Lady Hinako! Seeing what you just did to my fool father's hideously-cursed teacher, I know you've come this day to breathe new life to this pitiful excuse of a school!" As Hinako blushed at that compliment, he turned to gaze upon the newcomers before his grey eyes widened in surprise before he courtly bowed to the just-returned destroyers-turned-teenage girls. "Mutsuki-hime! Yūdachi-hime! This poor land is truly all the brighter by your blessed return to these shores! I'm sure when Tariko-san informs Tennō himself of this great event, he will call upon the Kami Themselves to grant you and your sisters the good lives you've gained, as They have done to your fleet mates now living with Lady Hinako and her sisters!"

 

"Is there an admiral there, Tatewaki-san?" the brunette hopefully asked.

 

"Indeed there is, oh Blessed Angel of the New Year!" the kendō-ka said, making her blush madly at being called that. "Tragically, he turns out to be a severed soul-fragment of the Lady Tariko Katabarbe of bright Yiziba, the Forge of the First Race of the Universe, now standing here with us today, having been moulded by dark traitors to all of humanity to become that much maligned Moroboshi Ataru!" As the students around them gasped on hearing that, Tatewaki then waved to Hinako. "Fortunately, the living Spirit of Innocence and Joy gracing us now with her divine presence and her beloved sisters — who are also Lady Tariko's sisters — gladly welcomed the poor man when he was allowed to truly live his life as his own person after he was saved by that most foul Queen Elle last April by the Goddess Who Walks Among Men herself as their own beloved elder brother!" As Hinako cheered on hearing that, Tatewaki waved to the open window. "Ask your own valiant fleet mate herself, of course!"

 

People's heads spun around...

 

"FUBUKI-CHAN!" the newcomers screamed.

 

The just-arrived Fukushima Fujiko screamed in surprise as the other shipgirls literally mowed into her with hugs that could crush a mountain, sending all three tumbling down on the floor. As the boys all whooped at the reunion of three of the veterans of the Guadalcanal campaign from 1942, Kuonji Ukyō snorted as she crossed her arms. "Figures that lech Moroboshi had some-...!"

 

KK-KRUNCH!

 

"Hah!" Tatewaki snapped after the okonomiyaki chef from Kansai was smashed down thanks to a falling cinder block. "Again you LIE to yourself concerning the truth of your so-called 'fiancé', Kuonji Ukyō! Why do you not see the TRUTH?!" he demanded. "As I've said again and again since she escaped the grasp of the foul thief and the insane witch he married, 'Saotome Ranma' was but a CURSE forced on the beautiful Hayashi Kanami by her fool sire who was glad to do ANYTHING to make his perverse 'man upon men' to force on fair Tendō Akane here!" He waved to the still-unconscious sophomore he got a crush on over a year ago, now being tended by a shuddering Sayuri and a quiet Yuka. As the other girls moaned on seeing how well the delusional kendō-ka had been taken by that obviously crazy story about what had gone down with their old classmate in the late spring, Tatewaki added, "But fret not! Thanks to Lady Tariko here, dear Hayashi Kanami is forever free of the dark machinations of her honourless thief of a father, her insane lunatic of a mother and that disgusting troll that dares call the Untameable One his 'student'!" A bonfire of ki then exploded around him as all the boys whooped. "Truly, the Kami Themselves have blessed such a wonderful circumstance!"

 

Tariko sighed. "Making work for me again, Tatewaki?"

 

He stopped. "What do you mean?"

 

"That shyster out in the corridor?"

 

He turned to see Nabiki standing at the window, nowhere close to where her sister had fallen. To everyone's amusement, she now looked like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming Shinkansen train at being called out by that thanks to this unknown relative of Tomobiki's most infamous resident. "Ah, forgive me, Tariko-san..." He then perked. "Ah! Fret not, oh Grand Lady of Chaos! I, Kunō Tatewaki, have the one means by which to bring such a foul creature down!"

 

Tariko's eyebrow arched. "Oh? How so?"

 

"By mentioning one particular fact of life on your adopted homeworld, of course."

 

"Oh? What's that?"

 

"THAT MONEY DOES NOT EXIST ON YIZIBA!"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

Nabiki looked as if her own sister had just brained her with a ki mallet. As the others watched totally spellbound, her face cycled in a weird chorus of looks that got people to yank out cell phones so they could take pictures for future blackmail purposes; ever since Hayashi Kanami had left school, whatever influence the so-called "ice queen of Fūrinkan" had when it came to her peers had significantly dropped into the sub-basement. As laughter filled the room and the hallways from that sight, Nabiki seemed to swing around on one heel before drunkenly staggering away, weird sounds escaping her in a funny chorus that reminded Tariko about one particular Bugs Bunny cartoon when the rabbit himself got smashed in the face by a flying I-beam thanks to a cranky construction team supervisor that ripped apart his home burrow while building a new skyscraper in the city. "Damn! Didn't even need to use the old dropped block trick on her," she then said, nodding in appreciation.

 

More laughter filled the air as the boys in the classroom gave Tatewaki a banzai cheer at his putting Nabiki down like that. Watching this from nearby, Fujiko grinned in delight while her old fleet mates blinked in confusion. "Poi! What's all this about, Fubuki-chan?" the blonde then asked.

 

Fujiko sighed. "One of the many things about becoming human that make it all worth it, Kodachi-chan!"

 

Tatewaki blinked, looking over. "'Kodachi'?"

 

"Hai!" the reborn lead of her class of destroyers said before she waved to the reborn Nightmare of the Solomons. "Hamamoto Kodachi," she said, making the blonde blink in confusion before Fujiko waved to the older destroyer-turned-teenage girl. "Kisaragi Mutsuko. Our admiral chose those names for us."

 

The newly-named Mutsuko and Kodachi blinked before both of them blushed. "That's poi!" the latter then declared, nodding in acceptance.

 

"Oyo! Mutsuko's blushing!" the former said as she clapped her cheeks.

 

"Ah! Mutsuko-chan talks like Hina!" Hinako whooped. "Hina likes!"

 

"Um...Tariko-san..."

 

Everyone look at the principal's son. "What is it, Tatewaki-san?" Hinako asked.

 

A pained look crossed his face as he gazed intently at the Trickster of the Show. "Tariko-san, must your brother have named Yūdachi-hime here after my twisted sister?"

 

Kodachi's hair tufts then perked. "Poi...?"

 

"It wasn't intentional," Tariko assured him.

 

He breathed out. "Hai..."

 

"I...know you...!"

 

Everyone turned...

 

...then people blinked on seeing a wide-eyed Tendō Akane slowly rise from where she had been knocked down, she staring with both confusion and recognition at the Trickster of the Show. Seeing that, Hinako blinked as her own meta-sight clicked in for a moment, then she gasped. "Oh, no! Who did that to you, Akane-san?!" she said as she walked over, placing a glowing hand on the young martial arts prodigy's forehead. "Hina will make it better! Curse, curse...GO AWAY!"

 

Akane screamed out as her whole body exploded with ki, blinding everyone...!

 

****

 

The Tendō home, that moment...

 

A violent explosion ripped through the dōjō, disintegrating it in a flash of energy and flame! The shock wave of the blast slammed into the home of the Tendō Clan of Ōizumi, causing the contents of the kitchen to be punched through the wall into the living room and nearly crush the people there...!

 

****

 

Fūrinkan High School...

 

"I DO!"

 

As everyone shook their heads to clear their vision, they turned to look...

 

...then they gaped in wide-eyed awe on seeing the aura of once-contained power that had exploded from Akane's body began to retract back into her. As the nude woman — whose exposure made many boys grin in delight on seeing the once-most popular girl in Fūrinkan High School that way — then found herself cloaked in the dark red jumpsuit with the black belt, boots and gauntlets of one of the most powerful FISS-types to ever live on Yiziba, a whistle through the air made both Tariko and Hinako look up. A flash of light exploded over Akane's head, producing a massive war hammer complete with a handle that was almost as tall as the young martial artist herself. Reaching up with one hand, the transformed Akane smiled as her best friend landed perfectly into her palm, then she made a twirl with it before she gazed upon the the other metahumans in the room, all of whom were grinning...or in the case of Kisaragi Mutsuki and Hamamoto Kodachi, were gaping in confusion at such a display.

 

"What the HELL happened to me, Tariko-chan?!" Akane then snarled.

 

The Trickster of the Show took a deep breath as she rubbed her hair. "Looks like someone played around with something they shouldn't have, Akane-chan. Sorry about that! I thought from what Kanami-chan told me what was going on here after she allowed the Gift to take her back in May that you were holding back because you didn't know she herself was in the Book! Only when she slugged you into the river the day before she left town did she sense what was going on!"

 

That made the current incarnation of the Hammer of Passion, Imdo ("Cremisi"), moan. "Joys of ebony mesonium!" she said before blinking as something came to her.

 

"What ails you, Tendō Akane?!" a joyous Tatewaki — who had nearly screamed out in delight on seeing that his "fierce tigress" was Gifted! — demanded.

 

A growl escaped the reborn hammer warrior as her eyes glowed. "Baka Jijii...!"

 

"What?! Happōsai?!" Daisuke demanded.

 

"No! That piece of lazy garbage I have to call my 'father', Daisuke-kun!" Akane snarled. "How much do you know of what Tariko-chan's been doing?!"

 

"Kanami-chan told us everything," Hiroshi offered as he indicated himself, then Daisuke. "That mirror-clone of hers from April was pulled out of Mirror Mansion by Ayumu-chan! Kanami-chan adopted her as her own sister Kikuko; she filled Sempai here on it."

 

Noting Tatewaki nod in confirmation, the Hammer of Passion sighed. "Good! No need to recap the script in that case!" As Tariko, Hinako and Fujiko grinned on hearing that idiom escape the lips of the "heir" of the Tendō-ryū, Akane took a deep breath as she stretched herself, making the boys goggle on seeing that well-formed body move under the leather-like battlesuit she wore, the black war hammer insignia on her chest above her cleavage flaring. Noting that, a smile crossed her face. "Much that I appreciate the good looks, guys, I hope you realize that I'm really not in the mood for pillow scenes!"

 

"Not that I blame you, Akane-san!" Tatewaki declared before bowing his head deeply to the woman who had once been the object of his affections. "I only give a thousand sincere apologies for my boorish behaviour last year before poor Kanami-san came here in her cursed form! Given how beautiful you are as the Great Kami of the Seeker's Forge turned you into when Tariko-san came...!"

 

"Help me make sure the idiots back at the house don't cause me issues and I'll call it even."

 

"Done!" The senior kendō-ka then took a deep breath. "May I strongly recommend you seek out the Lady Hasegawa Chisame or the Lady Asakura Kazumi who both now attend the tranquil Mahora Academy as soon as possible, Akane-san. The former is the wise and all-seeing Nexus and the latter is the all-reporting Windtalker. They will show you the heinous truth of the foul Hibiki Ryōga's perversions concerning your very person since he came into your life last year and how he took advantage of poor Kanami-san's naïveté to make her promise not to reveal his own disgusting curse to you!"

 

That made her blink before she hissed, "P-chan...!"

 

"It's all on Nabiki's website, Akane-chan," Hiroshi warned.

 

"Right..." the Hammer of Passion breathed out. "Selfish idiot knows I don't care for computers...!" She took a breath. "Might have to commit sororicide along with the act of patricide I'm thinking of now!"

 

"My family will be pleased to remove the bodies, of course," Tatewaki immediately offered.

 

"I might actually take you up on that, Sempai. Now, who are these three here, Tariko-chan? They feel like battle dolls, but their ki's nearly at Ayumu-chan's levels!"

 

Everyone gazed on Tariko, then looked at Fujiko and her companions. "They're kantai musume, Akane-chan," the Trickster of the Show stated. "Kami of warships from the recent world war who somehow got resurrected as first generation battle dolls by someone using Hinako-chan here as a guide of sorts!"

 

Akane gazed on the smiling pre-teen standing there, then she blinked. "You normally don't go for people being Gifted so soon!" she said as she pointed at Hinako.

 

"She's my half-sister."

 

That made the raven-haired woman blink before she sighed. "Your grandmother?"

 

"Fortunately so," Tariko said with an amused wink.

 

Akane laughed, then she gazed once more on the shipgirls, all of whom braced themselves to attention to allow their admiral's friend to inspect them. "Cute...!" she purred, making Fujiko, Mutsuko and Kodachi blush madly as she turned to walk out of the room. "Anyhow, have to go bash heads now...!"

 

"Akane-chan...!"

 

That was a wide-eyed Sayuri, who had been shocked into silence on seeing her friend transform like that. She winced as Akane walked out of the room without acknowledging her. Seeing that, Tariko smirked. "Hyator'bete lu'uem..." she muttered as she waved Hinako to follow her. "Oi, girls! Let's go!"

 

"HAI!"/"POI!" the three shipgirls called out as they ran after them.

 

A snap of Tariko's fingers saw her powers restore Class 2-4 to normal, making the girls scream out in shock and disbelief while all the boys whooped in delight...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

Translation list: Asāsīyūn — Literally "people faithful to the foundation (of Islam)"; Ḥashāshīn — Literally "users of hashish"; Rimrae umale — Literally "copycat same", this is a term used to describe people who replicate the social and technological standards of other societies as the Niphentaxians have often done with the Terrans; Ōnusa — A wooden wand with shide (zigzag paper streamers) used in Shintō rituals; Spy lens — Yizibajohei term equivalent to the terms "inner eye" or "sixth sense"; Tennō — Heavenly Sovereign, Japan's head of state; Recap the script — Yizibajohei idiom equivalent to the concept of refreshing someone about past events; Hyator'bete lu'uem — White noise.

 

Yatsura character notes: Tsuruya Rumiko is my name for the woman who looks like Takahashi-sensei who appears in early manga episodes of Yatsura such as "Food Fight" (manga chapter #106). The Red Cloak appeared in the manga story named after him (manga chapter #41). Nishijima Hiroshige, Wada Keisuke, Sugihara Nara and Nishihara Ikue were characters that appeared on the "relationship chart" Miyake Shinobu drew up in the anime story "Goodbye Season" (anime episode #64); Nara's and Ikue's family names and Hiroshige's and Keisuke's given names are my invention. Kuribayashi Sanjurō first appeared in the anime episode "Oh, Lonely Teacher! Kuribayashi-sensei Appears" (first half of anime episode #16). Hanawa Mitsu first appeared in the manga story "Private Tutor" (manga chapter #48).

 

Kibina High School is the same school that appears in the dating simulation game KimiKiss. In the universe of this story, I set the town west of Shūnan on the Inner Sea coast in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

 

Leningrádskaja Óblast' is the name of a federal subject (a first-level national subdivision) of Russia located in and around the city of Sankt-Peterbúrg (which was called "Leningrád" in Soviet days). In effect, an óblast' (which could be translated as "province" or "region") is the equivalent of an American state or Canadian province, but doesn't have a high level legislative autonomy from Moskvá as a "republic" such as Chechnya would within the Russian Federation; ethnically, an óblast' would be mostly populated by Russians while republics would be populated by other nationalities.

 

Ranma 1/2 character notes: The family names of Saotome Ranma's best friends in Fūrinkan High School, Hiroshi and Daisuke, first appeared in Eric Hallstrom's fanfic Ranma and Akane: A Love Story; I'm unaware if Eric was the one who created those names. The given name to Principal Kunō and the family names to Tendō Akane's best friends Sayuri and Yuka are my invention, not to mention my use of the family name for Kělún (Cologne) and Shānpú (Shampoo). As noted above, Hayashi Kikuko is "Mirror Ranma-chan", who appeared in the "Copy Ranma" storyline (manga chapter #s 367-370).

 

The Thunder Companies were first introduced in The Seventh Shipgirl. In my stories, they were the primary metahuman fighters for Imperial Japan during the Second World War.

 

The Bugs Bunny cartoon Tariko thought of when Tendō Nabiki got the shock of her life concerning no money existing on Yiziba is Homeless Hare, released in 1950 under the Merrie Melodies banner and directed by Chuck Jones.

 

Both Hasegawa Chisame and Asakura Kazumi would be in the third year of middle school at the Mahora Academy in this story.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Ōmure-jima, Welcome House, an hour before supper...

 

"We're sorry for intruding upon you all like this. Please treat us well."

 

The group of twenty-one teenage girls in the two models of Yizibajohei fighting jumpsuits with the kanji of their old ship names on their chests all deeply bowed to Tariko Katabarbe and her sisters (save Tanenobu Karen) in the middle of the rotunda at the old seaward end of Welcome House. "PLEASE TREAT US WELL!" the assembled destroyers-turned-metahumans of the Mutsuki-class and Shiratsuyu-class chanted, echoing the words of the first of the latter class, Hamamoto Miroko.

 

At the head of the round table the sisters used when they had meals, Sukeyama Sakuya bowed her head in turn. "Be welcome here, great warriors of Tennō," the Healer of Men's Hearts and the effective matriarch of the Moroboshi Clan of Mutsu then declared ritually, making the newly-arrived shipgirls stiffen. "Know within the whole of our lands, you will know peace, safety, honour and love."

 

"On behalf of my fleet mates, I accept your welcome in the spirit it was given, Sakuya-himesama!" the one who rose from the kami of the destroyer Shiratsuyu herself replied with a deep bow.

 

As wild cheers filled the rotunda's main dining hall at that act, people then broke up to greet the newcomers individually. As Sakuya herself moved to direct the new shipgirls over to people such as Tenhiro Haruka (who normally handled etiquette lessons) and Susumu Marie (who was in charge of teaching the shipgirls about recent history), a visibly-annoyed Hatoyama Rinrin groaned as she got up from her chair, then walked out of the dining room, heading for the stairs to her third-floor apartment. Noting this, both Tariko and Tendō Akane followed her. "Don't complain about this, Rinrin-chan," the Trickster of the Show said as she and the Hammer of Passion followed the Technological Sorceress of the East up to her bedroom. "If the spirits of these ships desperately want to return, they'll return. Whoever is shipping the battle dolls here clearly wants to help them be human."

 

Another groan escaped the Ōsaka native. "I'm just worried that some idiot's going to start screaming about violating war graves and all that, Aneki," Rinrin mused as they walked past the second floor landing. "We're lucky Tennō understands that what Hinako-chan did wasn't intentional. What happens if it's an American ship whose kami gets turned into a shipgirl? Say Arizona for example?"

 

Tariko and Akane both winced. "That would be a shitstorm to see," the latter mused, a touch of a growl in her voice indicating she was now experiencing that wonderful joy that hit Terrans-turned-Yizibajohei called "Post-Gifting Shock", something that should have washed through her shortly after she was Gifted in the summer of 2003 in the wake of her mother's death. "No wonder you tried to get Hinako-chan to stop," she commented as they finally reached the third floor.

 

Walking to their right, they passed Tariko's normal guest room to the door to Rinrin's bedroom. Once inside, they did a quick left turn into the neighbouring apartment, which the young genius had converted into her personal laboratory; since the Moroboshi Clan owned Welcome House through the Inshin Group — the small keiretsu that controlled one of Japan's largest independent banks, Toranoseishin Finances, with operational headquarters in Tomobiki — there was no need to worry about extra rent charges for family members living there. Once in the warmly-lit space that served as the Technological Sorceress' sanctum sanctorum, Rinrin walked over to her main work station, sitting down as she keyed on her personal computers. Tariko and Akane took a seat in the sofa set to one side.

 

"Still, I wonder how is it that the living spirits of warships of all things are able to come back to life like that," Rinrin then mused as she lowered her goggles over her eyes to scan the recent data transfers from fellow polymaths such as Isaac Thomas and Elizabeth Wakefield. "Yeah, Shintō beliefs do state that a warship has a kami within it, but to actually give it LIFE like that...?"

 

"Chikage told me that she sensed there was extra mesonium lining the hulls of those warships whose wrecks she inspected during summer vacation," Tariko noted. "Not just Japanese warships, but other ones. Even those warships whose hulls have been stripped down by metal salvagers in the East Indies still have mesonium deposits in the sea floor there. You get anything from the folks in Mahora about what those nuts in the Black Dragon Society were doing beyond what Negako knows?"

 

"Nah, Aneki, not a thing." Rinrin then hummed. "All warships, you said?"

 

"Indeed so."

 

"Hey, Chikage-chan!" Rinrin called out, clearly not bothered by the arrival of Hirosaki Chikage, who just teleported in. As the Dark Heart of Pure Chaos sat in a nearby chair, her younger half-sister got back to work scanning things. "Oh, Isaac-kun sent a message. He's hoping that you can spare time to help the people from Remnant get over what they just went through there with that war they had to fight. Given what you learned thanks to your trip to the Galactic Republic and training under Anakin-kun..."

 

"It'll have to be on the weekends; I don't want to spend too much time missing classes at Hogwarts," the metahuman arch-mage answered...

 

...before a beeping noise echoed from her skirt. Reaching into it, Chikage pulled out a crystalline personal administrative assistant device, then placed it on the side table beside her chair before tapping the crystal on top. "Hirosaki," she called out.

 

"Hey, Chikage! How are things with your brother?!"

 

Chikage chuckled. "Quite fine, Pansy. Anything interesting happen in class?"

 

A snort escaped the young heiress of the Noble and Ancient House of Parkinson of Keerford near Liverpool, who was now relaxing in one of many unused classrooms within the ramparts of Hogwarts; thanks to a noticeable drop in enrolment thanks to the Blood Wars of over a decade before, the number of students attending the United Kingdom's wand-magical school were still in the process of recovering. Fortunately for the people in Welcome House, the PAA came with a universal translator function which allowed them to understand each other. "Not today. Professor Sprout was able to keep Um-bitch off her case because you went home for 'compassionate reasons' for the weekend," Pansy Parkinson said as her smoky grey eyes twinkled in amusement. "She's starting to get curious around you."

 

"Understandable. I'm a 'half-blood' by your standards and I happen to 'revel' in living in the 'muggle' world, which violently offends her sensibilities thanks to what her fool father did after he left her mother and brother hanging like they did after it was discovered the brother was a nimmib. A good thing my grandfather found out the truth of her ancestry through friends in Gringotts; it would be something to use against her if she gets too nosy about things. How are things between you and Hermione?"

 

The woman who was the current incarnation of one of Yiziba's more darker reality warpers snorted. "Um-bitch is totally clueless about the fact that 'Mione and I are soul-bonded," Pansy noted as she gently shifted her raven hair around; her image was being projected in three-dimensional format over the PAA's central crystal for the others to see. Chikage knew it was time for breakfast over in Scotland, but Pansy had recently begun to exercise her pureblood rights to dine away from the rest of the crowd on occasion to deal with "family business"...which was just her excuse to get away from the crowds so she could spend quality time with her normal-born lover from Crowley near London. Of course, Albus Dumbledore had winked at such a thing once he learned of Pansy's soul-bond with Hermione Granger; given the support Pansy's parents and older brother Michael obviously gave to Voldemort — Chikage knew the senior from Ravenclaw had taken the Dark Mark the summer just past — keeping a bond with a "mudblood" secret from the pureblood fanatics was definitely vital for both young women.

 

Fortunately, Dumbledore didn't know Pansy's OTHER big secret...

 

"She's starting to crack down on people because of what Neville reported in the spring when Tom had his resurrection party," Chikage noted before sipping her tea. "Has she got to Hermione yet?"

 

"With her being Gifted? The couple of times she tried, Um-bitch got a mild case of spattergroit!" Pansy reported with a grin. She knew that Chikage did her best to keep herself informed of gossip inside Hogwarts, but even the Hufflepuff exchange student from Tōkyō didn't know everything. "People think it's the Weasley twins who did that to her. At least McGonagall has been able to keep Um-bitch away from Fred and George; even if they're 'blood traitors'..." — her voice dripped in scorn on saying that hated term — "...they're purebloods and their father's place in the Ministry is pretty solid, especially since he has support from Neville's grandmother and a few others."

 

"True."

 

"So what's happening on Promised Island? Did those umale get sent back home?"

 

"Took the Last Checky — quoting Yotsuba-chan — this morning our time, Pansy-chan," Rinrin answered on her sister's behalf. As Pansy laughed — the second child of the current Earl of Keerford just adored Yotsuba Dunn, the first of Chikage's half-sisters to be discovered by the granddaughter of one of Yomigawa Tsukiko's most well-respected warriors — the technopath then sighed. "Sadly, we got more kanmusu drop in on us just a couple of hours ago. That makes forty so far!"

 

"What's causing that?" Pansy demanded. A cross-house research group coordinated by Hermione at the start of summer vacation when the news of what Saeru Hinako had accidentally unleashed in the spring was now looking at possible magical sources of the levels of mesonium which had been inserted into warships during the Second World War which ultimately allowed the living spirits of said ships to return with the help of whatever was now controlling the first generation of battle dolls on Yiziba.

 

"Honestly, Pansy-chan, none of us know. Fortunately, we got the room here to take them all in, but someone outside Japan's going to take notice of this sooner or later. If it isn't some scrap metal dealer in Indonesia wailing 'Hey, where's our shipwrecks?!' to the government for it to leak to the media, it'll be those guys from Microsoft who loan out the Octopus to explore the wrecks."

 

"Fortunately, it's late autumn up near Iceland now, so the quest to recover the bell of Hood is being held off," a new voice declared as Yotsuba Dunn herself came into the room. "Checky, Pansy-chan!"

 

"Hi, Yotsuba! Anxious to get back to London soon?!"

 

"Nah!" the metahuman detective said as she moved to sit behind her half-sister as Rinrin typed away. "Mycroft wants me to help coordinate with Marie-chan about keeping those dolts in the British Library away from private collections here in Japan. Konoe-kōchōsensei and the leaders of the Eight Commanderies are raising a snit about their agents always sticking their noses where they don't belong. Thank God that it wasn't Yomiko-san. Marie-chan really likes her."

 

"Thank Merlin for that small favour. By the way, Chikage...?"

 

"Please come over when you're released for Hogsmeade weekend tomorrow. You two can help us with the new kids and you can get the chance to meet Jody."

 

That made Pansy's eyes widen in awe. "JODY CROWLEY?! Are you serious?!"

 

"Very. She's been in country for a year seeking out the Bible Black."

 

The young English magical heiress' jaw dropped. "The Bible Black?! Not even Riddle dared to try to track that thing down! How...?!"

 

"I doubt Tom would have taken interest in it, Pansy," Chikage said with a churlish smile as the others in the room giggled. "It's ultimately a tome of tantric magic! Would something like THAT help that oh-so-delightful death cheater in conquering the world?"

 

Pansy blinked, then she smirked. "No!" A giggle escaped her. "Oh, shit! All the girls in the castle are going to be SO jealous! Me meeting Jody Crowley?! She's the one Riddle was REALLY scared of!"

 

"I assume the boys are getting more concerned about Tom wanting to recruit them."

 

"They are."

 

"I'll do a tarot reading on that, then tell you the results when you come."

 

"Appreciated. See you tomorrow."

 

"Oyasumi!" Rinrin and Yotsuba chanted as Chikage cut the link.

 

The metahuman sorceress sighed as she rose, walking over to the closed window to open the shutters and gaze out at the western coastline of Ōmure-jima beyond the slopes of Stargazer Hill, focusing on the small seashore cottage where all of them had been conceived over the last two decades. "When do Rose and Thérèse intend to make their move on Tom, Ane-kun? The sooner he's gone, the better."

 

"Thérèse should have finally assimilated the last of those soul fragments that idiot created by now," Tariko noted. "Definitely before Christmas."

 

"Excellent. Much that I understand why many in Britain would prefer for that particular apple cart not to be turned over so things remain stable to recover from the Blood War, Tom's return is going to hurt friends. If Rose didn't have that prophecy over her head, I'd deal with him myself."

 

"'Prophecy'?!" Yotsuba snorted, crossing her arms. "You ask Yotsuba, Chikage-chan, it's just a stupid excuse for old fogies to brush off their responsibilities on the new generation. Like the two twerps in Nerima did to Akane-chan and Kanami-chan."

 

Akane perked before she nodded. "In that, I agree. Hard as it is for me to believe, I find myself accepting Kanami now as Kanami and not as Ranma!"

 

Chikage gazed at her. "During the weekend, I'll do a full scan of your body to see what exactly it was that helped your father suppress your Gift like that."

 

"Appreciated, Chikage-san."

 

"You want to call your sister and tell her where you are?" Rinrin asked.

 

A snort escaped the youngest daughter of Tendō Sōun. "No. Since they all knew about 'P-chan', they can stew. I'm sure Nabiki is still out of it thanks to what Sempai did to her." She gave the others in the room a curious look. "Don't tell me that Kikuko-chan actually did pillow scenes with the man!"

 

"Guy thinks with his glands, remember?" Rinrin asked.

 

A moan answered the technokinetic. "Don't remind me..."

 

"Something wrong, Rinrin-chan?" Yotsuba asked.

 

"Ah! I'm still bugged over the idea of more shipgirls showing up as first gen battle dolls, Yotsuba!" Rinrin muttered. "I'd swear Destructo was behind all this." The room instantly chilled on her mentioning THAT battle name. "Mark-san wouldn't know a thing since his first-self never helped create them to fight off the Goa'uld all those sagas ago, plus he didn't know where they were hid."

 

People hummed...before a voice said, "Perhaps an experiment is called for."

 

Heads turned to the doorway leading to Rinrin's bedroom...

 

...where a smiling silver-haired teenager stood, she dressed in the normal white-and-blue seifuku that had been chosen for her and her sisters after they had manifested themselves as living women over the previous year. "Himeko-chan..." Rinrin trilled on seeing Akamatsu Himeko standing there. She then blinked as she recalled what had happened to this particular shipgirl. "That's right! Hinako-chan was able to get you 'salvaged' after Inoue-chan and Tsukiko-chan cried about you not being there...!"

 

"Da," the woman who was the living kami of the second of the Akatsuki-class destroyers, Hibiki, replied in Russian as she walked over to place herself before Rinrin. She then added in her cutely-accented Japanese, "We're all hoping for a cruiser to return and serve as our current fleet leader, Rínrin Mútovna. Since Khínako Mútovna won't go out to find another of our fleet mates to help bring back, we need to find one that isn't seen as a war grave like the others would be seen as."

 

"Who do you have in mind, Himeko-chan?" Yotsuba asked.

 

A smile crossed Himeko's face as her ice blue eyes sparkled...

 

****

 

An hour later, in the dining room...

 

"PRINZ EUGEN?!"

 

"Hai!" Yotsuba declared as she waved to the three-dimensional projection of one of the most famous cruisers in history, that being displayed by Rinrin's large field PAA. As the destroyers-turned-teenage girls gasped in awe on seeing the beautiful three-dimensional image of the third of the Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruisers that turned out to be one of the luckiest ships of the old Kriegsmarine during World War Two, the metahuman detective added, "This particular exercise is called, in salute to her first mission in 1941, Operation: Rheindämmerung; 'Dawn on the Rhine'. Our objective is to see if the living kami of Prinz Eugen can be embodied as a battle doll as you had happen to you. We were able to do it with Himeko-chan here because of her bonds to her sisters. Let's see if we can do this to someone who has no real bond to any of you people here because she is not Japanese."

 

The assembled shipgirls gasped in awe at what the sisters were planning. "Would the Americans mind if we take her hull away, Yotsuba-chan?" a voice then asked.

 

Everyone stared at Akamatsu Inoue. The living spirit of the last of the Akamatsu-class destroyers Inazuma, she seemed the living personification of how "moe" was seen in Japan even if she was physically the same age as Sakuya or Chikage. The true pacifist of all the shipgirls, the beautiful girl with the caramel hair tied in a small ponytail at the crown of her head and a pair of matching eyes was someone ALL the sisters adored, especially the younger of them. "Quick history lesson, Inoue-chan," Rinrin then answered. "Kwajalein Atoll is no longer under American ownership. As of 1979, that whole part of the old South Pacific Mandate has been an independent nation, the Republic of the Marshall Islands." As the others in the room nodded, the technokinetic added, "Yeah, the Americans provide military forces for self-defence and still pretty much controls Kwajalein Atoll where Eugen sank..."

 

The main doors beyond the entrance to the dining room opened. "Taidaima!"

 

The sisters and the shipgirls all cried out in delight as Moroboshi Ataru walked into the dining room, looking somewhat embarrassed even if he did seem refreshed. "Oi! Onii-sama! Where's Shinobu?" Sakuya asked as he moved to sit down beside her to Yotsuba's left.

 

"She's staying with Jody and Yuki-san in Kyōto for the time being," he said as he stretched himself before looking around. "Where are Karen and Shirayuki?"

 

"Shirayuki's cooking. Karen's on Uru keeping an eye on Lum, Ani-kun," Chikage answered. "The word is getting out. Last call from her stated Oyuki's father went to Onishuto to confer with President Lana."

 

A chuckle escaped him. "Good...!"

 

"You're...our admiral...?"

 

Perking on hearing that unfamiliar voice, he spun around...

 

...before gaping on seeing nearly DOUBLE the number of shipgirls that had been living in Welcome House than there were around lunchtime, a group of eleven in dark green-and-white seifuku with sweaters plus a group of ten in black-and-white seifuku. No doubt, Rinrin had created the new uniforms to allow the shipgirls to be told apart by class; the girls of the Fubuki-class wore blue-trimmed white seifuku, the Ayanami-class girls wore brown-trimmed white seifuku and the Akatsuki-class girls wore uniforms similar to the Fubuki-class girls but had thigh-high socks. After briefly glancing at Saeru Hinako for a moment, he moaned. "Okay, how the heck did THIS happen?" he wondered.

 

"We're trying to figure that out, Aniki," Rinrin provided with a shrug. "Mutsuko-chan and Kodachi-chan..." — the two named girls raised their hands to show their "admiral" who they were — "...woke up and became Gifted five days ago after feeling Hinako-chan help Fujiko-chan come back in the spring, then they traced down their sisters — except for one of Mutsuko-chan's sisters — and they were all back 'in service' by yesterday. Aneki bumped into Mutsuko-chan and Kodachi-chan over at Fūrinkan, where Hinako-chan sensed something wrong about Akane-san..."

 

Ataru perked, then he looked to see Tendō Akane seated beside Susumu Marie. "Oh, Akane-san, welcome to the Island," he bade her as he gave her a wave of his hand. "Apologies for not coming after you earlier, but with your sister and all the other hangers-on..."

 

"Don't apologize, Ataru-kun," Akane said, a wary look on her face as she saw the physical evidence of what had happened to her first true friend over a year ago. "Any hope of getting yourself Gifted? What about Shinobu-san? The sooner you're both Gifted..."

 

"The problems with the memory rewrites imposed on everyone in Tomobiki last year are more deeply wedged in Shinobu than we first expected, Akane-san," he answered, making many of the sisters frown on hearing that. "Jody's keeping her in Kyōto for the indefinite future to get it all cleared out."

 

"Do her parents know?" Sakuya asked.

 

"They know. Tōdō Yuki is getting her father to see if Toshoba-ojisan and Kimiko-obasan could get jobs in Kyōto so they can get out of Tomobiki once and for all. The sooner the whole family is out of there, the better." Ataru then gazed on the holographic image projecting from Rinrin's PAA. "And that is...?"

 

"A very honourable ally, Shirei-kan," Fukushima Fujiko declared as all the shipgirls beamed at the possibility to serve alongside Prinz Eugen. "Fortunately, NOT a war grave."

 

That made him blink. "So...?"

 

"Given that the new girls kinda became human on their own, Aniki, we're hoping to do for this one what Hinako-chan did for Himeko-chan after her sisters came back," Rinrin provided, waving to where Inoue and her sisters were now seated. "It was actually Himeko-chan who proposed going after this one."

 

Eyes locked on Akatsuki Himeko for a moment. "And she is...?" Ataru asked.

 

"Prinz Eugen," Chikage answered. "Bismarck's companion on her only mission."

 

"In the middle of Kwajalein Lagoon as we speak, almost at the surface in fact," Rinrin added. "We gotta do a 'May I?' dance first with Uncle Jed before we go..."

 

Someone's PAA chimed off. "Speak of the devil," Marie declared as she pulled her own device, then tapped the crystal to link with Rinrin's, making the image of Prinz Eugen disappear to reveal an amused yet tired American head-of-state.

 

"Good morning, ladies! Pardon me! Good EVENING!" Josiah Bartlet called out from the White House. "Is Karen back from Uru at this time?" he immediately asked.

 

"Still in Onishuto, Uncle Jed," Tariko called out from beside Chikage. "If you can see it now, we've got a lot more new housemates than we had before today."

 

The former governor of New Hampshire peered at the image before him — the sisters noted he was in the Situation Room in the basement of the West Wing — before he blinked. "I know Hinako wouldn't break her word like that, but how on earth did your 'fleet' of shipgirls suddenly DOUBLE, Tariko?!"

 

"That's what we need to figure out, Uncle Jed," Rinrin spoke up. "We want to go to Kwajalein and go salvage an old Nazi cruiser that sunk there after the war."

 

"The Prinz Eugen, Mister President," the voice of the American secretary of defence, Miles Hutchinson, then spoke up. No doubt, Bartlet had been meeting with his main security advisors when the call came in from Ōmure-jima. "After the Nazis surrendered, we got her as a war prize and she was brought to America to be studied. She was a target ship for the Crossroads tests in 1946, sank near the end of the year due to damage not repaired from both tests. There's been calls to get the oil drained out of the hull like the Norwegians did to her sister-ship Blücher in 1994."

 

"So you're trying to see if a sunken vessel that's NOT a war grave could be turned into a shipgirl, Rinrin? Who doesn't have a bond to the girls who are already there?" Bartlet asked.

 

"Hai!" Rinrin called back. "Since we could do it for Himeko-chan, let's see if this works." She waved to the silver-haired adopted Russian destroyer-turned-teenage girl in emphasis. "And we've got to find out who's sending the first gen battle dolls to Earth, Uncle Jed. After all, there's the big fear everyone has that one of our battle dolls might come along and make Arizona disappear from Pearl."

 

"We control Kwajalein, Mister President; it's part of the Reagan Test Site," Bartlet's national security advisor, Dr. Nancy McNally, declared. "The only problem here is that if the hull disappears like that..."

 

"A diving spot, Rinrin?" the president asked.

 

"It's popular, Uncle Jed, but it's off-season," Rinrin noted. "Atop that, the whole island's part of the test range as McNally-hakase just said, so not many people actually go look around the hull."

 

"The whole thing with people like Tariko and her family is going to get out into the open, Mister President," Josh Lyman noted; the White House deputy chief of staff was seated by the main doors to the Situation Room with Leo McGarry. "Especially with what just happened a few hours ago in Tomobiki. People saw that bomb being lifted out of the Ginza and sent through Haruhi's time-warp to deal with Ōgi's fleet. Even if the Japanese government hasn't reacted officially to that yet..."

 

"That's coming soon," Bartlet finished.

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Alright, raise whoever is the commander on the island so we can warn them ahead of time. What time is it over there, anyway?" the president asked.

 

"It's 9:06 PM, Uncle Jed," Rinrin provided.

 

"Flash traffic, Miles."

 

"Right away, Mister President."

 

"Ah! Mister President!"

 

People paused as Osamu Shirayuki walked into the dining room from her kitchen. "Yes, Shirayuki?!" the former governor called back.

 

"Did you enjoy Hime's turkey?"

 

"It was wonderful! My compliments to the chef!"

 

Shirayuki instantly blushed. "Desu no!"

 

Laughter echoed over the airwaves from both sides of the Pacific...

 

****

 

Kwajalein, on the inner shore of Ennubuj Island, an hour later (local time: Two hours before midnight)...

 

"Holy hell...!"

 

"Do not be surprised about these ones, Colonel. Their youth is tempered by the weight of memories that date back from before the time of Christ. They can control themselves."

 

The commanding officer of the United States Army Garrison at Kwajalein Atoll could only nod in agreement as the gold-hued vessel looking like a mix of a submarine and a spaceship came to a hover over the beach nearby, then slowly descended to the sand. As his mind once more ran through the incredible details that had been passed onto him from both the Pentagon and the local Department of Magic — which, under the Specialized Warfare Treaty of 1959 and the magical codicils of the Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1986, was tasked to support the American military forces in the territory when it came to metahuman affairs — he could only shake his head in awe at the fact that the Second Metahuman Age had finally come to Earth...all thanks to one incredible girl from Japan.

 

The sister of the man who saved Earth from alien invasion last year.

 

The same man who RETURNED the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him for winning the Tag Race back to the White House in April out of a very strong conviction that because of his "marriage" to the warlord's daughter Redet Lum, he had actually placed Earth under much greater threat...!

 

Though with the existence of metahumans powered by the planet that gave Canada's most famous soldier her own incredible abilities about to go public...!

 

"You're handling this very well, Colonel."

 

Colonel William Mann chuckled as he gazed on the other incredible visitor who came to the atoll this evening, having teleported in from his "retirement home" in a hidden magical settlement on the border between Minnesota and South Dakota. "I'm probably going to swallow a couple shots of whisky when this is finally all over with, Mister President," he declared with a shake of the head as the boarding ramp of the Plato-Mecha Mark V lowered to allow all its passengers out.

 

He chuckled before a voice called out, "OJII-CHAN!"

 

The frontier lawyer-turned-vampire slayer perked before he turned...

 

...then laughed as a too-cute-for-words strawberry blonde-and-white missile tackled him at the waist. "Ojii-chan!" the girl in the white jumpsuit with the red heart, belt and boots cried out as she seemed to try to squeeze the life out of the much older man.

 

He cackled as the others came over to join him. "You're as powerful as you were when we first met after Isaac gave you your umbrella, Hinako," he said as he reached down, then lifted the girl with one arm to cradle her close. "Lucky thing I'm something of a night owl even these days...oh, my...!"

 

"Abraham...Lincoln...?!"

 

Colonel Mann blinked before he turned to look...

 

...then he gaped at the sight of FORTY girls in matching pattern jumpsuits with kanji on their chests, all now gaping in disbelief at the nigh-immortal sixteenth president of the United States of America. "Oh, my! Ataru, you got yourself quite the fleet here! I hope you're not planning something nefarious!"

 

The only person in normal clothing chuckled as he came up to shake Abraham Lincoln's free hand. "Not a chance, Oji-san," he said; since Yizibajohei battlesuits came with universal translator devices, the commander of USAG-KA and his companion could easily understand what the others were saying. "Hopefully, if this experiment goes well, we'll find out who IS trying to create a fleet of battle dolls here."

 

"Let us pray that God will show us the truth," the native of Kentucky and adopted native of Indiana and Illinois said as he placed Hinako down.

 

"Poi...you're really Abraham Lincoln...?!"

 

That was a pretty blonde in the black-and-white jumpsuit with tufts of hair looking like fox ears at the temples and chestnut brown eyes approaching him. As Mann tensed just in case this stranger did something — for a man who trained as a field artillery officer years before, he had an interest in the history of the Imperial Japanese armed forces, thus he could recognize the kanji on Hamamoto Kodachi's top — Lincoln nodded as he placed Hinako down on the sand, then offered his hand. "Indeed I am, Miss Hamamoto," he said as she offered her hand, allowing him to courtly kiss it. As her fleet mates squealed at the sight of such a show of formal Western courtesies, he added, "I'm sure that regardless of true cause, God and the Kami wished this to allow you to live the life the casualties you suffered in the Solomons before your sinking were cruelly denied." Here, everyone was quick to sense a wave of the melancholy that had haunted the frontier lawyer since his childhood wash over them.

 

A blushing Kodachi blinked, then she smiled, her eyes misting. "I hope so."

 

The others nodded, then the girl with the long ponytails in the halter-top ballroom gown-like dark blue uniform with no insignia on her chest and frilly lace trimming the edges of the top turned to stare at a younger woman in a dark green jumpsuit with white pouch-lined belt and boots, goggles over her eyes as she peered in the direction of the wreck that was barely visible in the evening twilight about two hundred metres offshore. "What's she look like, Rinrin-chan?" she asked as the others all moved to stand in a row so they could gaze upon the rusting hull of what was locally called "RMIS Prinz Eugen".

 

"Well, there's no radiation in the hull," the girl said as she lifted her goggles away from her brown eyes. "The mesonium content is pretty large."

 

"Will Miss von Savoyen-Carignan be harmed when she becomes a battle doll, Rinrin?" Lincoln asked as he walked up to stand beside the girl.

 

Colonel Mann's companion blinked. "'Miss von Savoyen-Carignan'?"

 

Ataru gazed upon the Marshallese shaman who had come to this event, Elder Imata Zedkaia. "As you might know, Sensei, in Japan, having a single name is seen as quite odd and could lead to discrimination because people would believe the person was cast out of the family. I made human names for the shipgirls so that they could be seen as normal girls. After all, would you call Kodachi-chan here just as 'Yūdachi' if she looks like THIS?" He waved to Kodachi in emphasis.

 

The silver-haired charms master chuckled as the woman born from the kami of the fourth of the Shiratsuyu-class destroyers blushed at being singled out by her admiral. "A good point, young man."

 

"The name my brother came up with for our sleeping cruiser out there is 'Olympia Catarina von Savoyen-Carignan'," Moroboshi Ataru's obvious twin sister mused.

 

"That's not properly correct, Anegimi-sama."

 

That was the regal-looking raven-haired woman with the bō staff in the white jumpsuit with the red belt and boots, crossed quarterstaff insignia on her chest. "What do you mean, Haruka-chan?" Ataru asked.

 

"She is named after a very noble prince," Haruka admonished as she raised her finger in emphasis, a bit of her German accent coming into her voice. "As she is technically of the noble blood of Savoy, her proper name is 'Olympia Catarina, Fürstin von Savoyen-Carignan'."

 

Ich bin...keine...Prinzessin...!

 

People gaped as they turned to look out into the lagoon...

 

"Ah! Catarina-san is waking up!" Hinako cheered.

 

As people began to whoop on realizing this particular task might go a lot smoother than some had feared, the waves in the lagoon began to stir as what little of Prinz Eugen's hull above the water glowed a deep yet quite noticeable reddish shade. "Ruby mesonium...!" Lincoln then breathed out as he recognized the material that had been forged in his own blood to finally end the twenty-four year mad rampage he had unleashed on the undead throughout North America in the wake of his "assassination" in 1865 thanks to John Wilkes Booth. "Dear God, she'll be as powerful as young Miss Hayashi and Miss Lehane...!" he then hissed out as Elder Zedkaia began diagnostic spells.

 

A hush fell over the beach as the waters churned. Something then began to pull the cruiser's hull out of its final resting place. The ship began to right itself as the shattered elements of her superstructure and her dislodged turrets holding her primary armament of 20.3 centimetre SK C/34 naval guns virtually teleported back to their proper places. Flashes of energy then produced her missing propeller and the guns for Turret Anton as the ship turned to starboard, the rust in the hull vanishing as the energy that was rebuilding Prinz Eugen made her look as good as the day she was formally commissioned into the Kriegsmarine at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft in Kiel over seventy-two years before.

 

"Sugoi...!" Rinrin hissed.

 

"This isn't the way we came back...!"

 

Eyes locked on what Colonel Mann quickly recognized was the reborn Imperial Japanese destroyer Mutsuki, now a pretty brunette tomboy with matching eyes. The longer-haired woman beside her — the reborn Kisaragi, Mann realized on seeing the kanji on her jacket — gazed at her sister. "Hai, Mutsuko-chan's right," she said as she looked at Ataru's sisters. "Our hulls just disintegrated when we reformed as bioroids. Not literally being salvaged out of the water like this..."

 

"LOOK!"

 

Everyone once more gazed on Eugen...

 

...then they all gaped as what looked like a black hole began to appear to the port side of the cruiser, growing to nearly encompass the whole hull.

 

Tene lomher'buo, Olympia Catarina von Savoyen-Carignan...

 

People gasped as the floating cruiser collapsed on itself, being pulled into the strange black hole. Given that Prinz Eugen topped the scales at a whopping 16,970 tonnes empty — well above limits laid down in various treaties before World War Two meant to retard the start of a new naval arms race — it surprised the people on the beach that the sounds of metal being crushed and compressed weren't echoing over the lagoon. Just as what was left of the cruiser was fused into a brilliant human-sized point of light...

 

Meine geliebte Schwester...ich lebe...für dich...

 

"'My beloved sister...I live for you...'" Mann repeated; he had been based in Germany when he was a battery commander in the Fifth Battalion of the 7th Air Defence Artillery Regiment in Baumholder, thus took the time to learn the language. "What does she mean, Mister President? Her own sisters?"

 

"No...!"

 

That was the purple-haired woman with the hooded white crucifix-embossed cape with the black jumpsuit topped with snarling dark red Oriental-like dragons ascending both sides of her body, the red belt and boots, walking over to stand close to Lincoln, Elder Zedkaia and the commander of USAG-KA.

 

"She speaks of someone else..."

 

****

 

The North Atlantic Ocean at the edge of the Celtic Sea, five hundred kilometres west of Brest in France, at position 48°10' N, 16°12' W, that moment (local time: Two hours before lunch)...

 

Seeing the wildly churning waters several kilometres below his feet, the Master of the Dark Gaol of the Great Crystal of Power could only shake his head as he contemplated the shitstorm that was going to stir up around the world from THIS particular "resurrection".

 

Nein, meine geliebte Freundin...wir werden...zusammen leben...

 

The man born Mark Caloway slightly shuddered as he concentrated on maintaining his position to the west of the watery grave of Germany's most famous warship just as a geyser exploded from the surging waves below, heralding the return ever so briefly of the great fast battleship that had been the object of an all-consuming hunt by the Royal Navy in the late spring of 1941, the shattered hull now whole and pristine. Much to the Undertaker's delight, the swastika insignia painted on Bismarck's weather deck at the bow and stern then burned away, being replaced by the gold shield bearing the black stylized eagle of the modern Federal Republic of Germany. How the hell did she know of that?! he wondered as a space warp formed, forging a link between the reborn battleship and the Seeker's Forge.

 

Tene lomher'buo, Wilhelmina Luisa von Bismarck-Schönhausen...

 

Instantly, Bismarck's hull collapsed, compressing hard as over forty-one thousand tonnes of steel, wood and other materials were crushed and transformed by the massive injection of mesonium from the Forge. Watching this, the phenom was quick to see the mannequin-like battle doll being teleported in to fully merge with the ultra-condensed mass of Germany's largest battleship, transforming it into a beautiful woman. "So you're NOT doing this, eh, Doctor...?" he breathed out.

 

Nesu...BISMARCK!

 

The mini-sun of energy that had enshrouded the crushed mass of the Bismarck and the synthetic being meant to absorb the energy of that matter and make her truly human then faded, revealing a tall beauty that would have definitely matched the concept of "Aryan" back in the dark days of the Nazi regime decades before. Long straight blonde hair flowed down to her hips from a well-shaped face pierced by ultramarine blue eyes now glowing with the sheer nova of power barely contained within her. Her well-sculptured body was now cloaked in a jumpsuit coloured in honour of old Prussia where her namesake was born: White overall, it had black belt and boots, the bugwappen of KMS Bismarck — modelled from the heraldic shield of the House of Bismarck-Schönhausen — proudly displayed on her chest.

 

"Mein Admiral...mein Kapitän...meine ehrenwerte Offiziere und Mannschaft...ich lebe für euch alle...!" the blonde then cried out to the heavens.

 

"They know."

 

Her head snapped to her left — she had been facing towards the North Star — then she blinked on seeing the well-muscled and quite handsome man in the black funeral-like clothing with the wide-brimmed stetson hat floating nearby. At first wary on seeing an obvious American metahuman here — she had picked up on his Texan accent — she relaxed herself as a touch of familiarity overcame her.

 

"We've met, haven't we...?" she asked in accented English as her eyes ceased glowing.

 

He shook his head, an amused smile crossing his face. "You and I, not personally. My first self and the synthezoid whose body you now have did when the false gods tried to seize the Forge of the First Race, where the Undying Lord's power first rose billions of years ago."

 

That made her eyes go wide. "Rittmeister von Taserich's...?!" she blurted out the common name to the Undying Lord before she stopped herself, the massed memories of her crew which had been effectively imprinted themselves into her old hull from the moment her keel was laid until she sank after being scuttled made her pause and think for a moment. "Then...?"

 

"Those empowered by the Forge like myself — by accident and by choice — have agreed to defend all of humanity from many threats, some of them the Rittmeister himself fought when he was first Gifted millennia ago," he warned before offering his hand, that protected by a padded finger-less glove as he normally wore in the ring. "You've got a lot to catch up on, Madame von Bismarck. Let's get you to people who've helped others like you adjust to being human..."

 

That made her look down at her well-endowed "superstructure" and the very athletic body that would have made trainers of the Bund Deutscher Mädel drool in delight in hopes of getting her into the Olympics. She then blushed. "Ah...j-ja...bitte...!"

 

She offered her hand to him...then they both teleported half a world away...

 

****

 

Kwajalein, that moment...

 

Nesu...EUGEN UOLE!

 

Hearing the Conservator's announcement, all the shipgirls on the beach screamed with delight as they shared hugs and handshakes while the bright nova of energy several hundred metres away transformed into something that was both slender like her ship self and as genki as one of two sisters of Tariko Katabarbe and Moroboshi Ataru who hadn't come to this atoll near the Equator to see this being reborn.

 

"Ah! Catarina-san! Catarina-san!"

 

Kasa-tama was unfolded, boosting Saeru Hinako into the air as she soared towards the reborn cruiser. Instantly, a division of shipgirls lead by Fukushima Fujiko leapt into the air after the Spirit of Innocence, moving to form a guard formation around Catarina von Savoyen-Carignan as she shook her head clear. Her strawberry blonde hair waved to and fro as she shook her head, the tsunami of information from the collected memories of all who worked or served on her fusing into her mind as the glow of the power raging in her body disappeared from her beautiful emerald eyes. As Hinako came close to her, Catarina gasped as the aura of peace projected by the youngest of Tariko's sisters washed through her, wiping out the understandable confusion rocking her and filling it with wonder as she gazed out at this lovely starry night over her once-final resting place with literally newborn eyes. She perked on seeing the beautiful girl floating there like the famous "fictitious" English witch-turned-nanny Mary Poppins...which, thanks to the nimmagier that proudly served with her crew in the war, she knew had been a real person, a famous expert on "muggles" who also fought to defend Britain from the ravages of the Magische Reichsarmee under Gellert Grindelwald's command.

 

Catarina smiled at the pretty girl. "Gut-...!" She caught herself, then coughed in apology before giving the young girl a friendly wave of her hand. "Good evening!" she then called out in accented English.

 

"Eugen-sama?"

 

Catarina perked, then she looked left as Fujiko floated over, bracing herself to attention in mid-air as she gave the other shipgirl a formal salute. Quickly bracing herself, she returned the courtesy, her eyes widening for a moment. "You're...Fubuki, aren't you...?" she asked again in English.

 

"Hai!" Fujiko replied in Japanese, knowing that the other girl's jumpsuit would have the translator functions so the cruiser-turned-metahuman teenager would understand her. "Given the absence of destroyers from your service, Eugen-sama, may we have the pleasure to escort you this evening?"

 

Blinking in surprise at interpreting what the other woman had said — she heard the words in clear German but the destroyer-turned-teenage girl's mouth hadn't moved in the proper manner — the blonde nodded. "J-ja! Of course! Danke!" she said, bowing in thanks.

 

Fujiko and Hinako floated over to warmly take her hands, then they drifted back to the beach where the others were waiting. Watching the transformed cruiser approach, the others quickly noted she was in a red jumpsuit with white belt and boots plus gauntlets, matching the modern colours of her namesake's adopted home country. On her chest was a symbol that made Abraham Lincoln's eyebrow arch in surprise. The crest of Prince Eugene of Savoy — which mixed that of all the symbols of the house of Savoy with the core arms of Savoy impaled with those of the House of Bourbon-Soissons — was prominent...yet it was on a white field under a mounting depicting her very namesake in natural colours on his horse as if commanding his armies like he did centuries before. A motto scroll in blue was under the shield, it emblazoned with the words ICH DIENE DER LIEBE in gold. The whole was encased with a blue stadium ring trimmed in gold ship's rope as used with American warship crests, the words USS PRINZ EUGEN over the top arc and CA-161 on the bottom. So she still thinks of herself as being one of us, the nigh-immortal president mused, nodding in delight.

 

Josiah Bartlet would DEFINITELY want to hear of this.

 

Once Catarina was allowed to land on the soft sand, the shipgirls who remained on the beach gave her three banzai cheers, which made her blush madly at such a reception. Looking around, she perked as Hinako squeezed her hand while her umbrella folded up. At that moment, the commander of USAG-KA moved to approach her. Seeing him in his camouflage combat uniform, her eyes picked out the eagle on his rank slip-on, then she snapped to attention, saluting him. "Captain, heavy cruiser USS Prinz Eugen, reporting for duty, sir!" she called out in clear if accented English.

 

William Mann chuckled as he returned that courtesy. "I'm a colonel in the Army, Frau von Savoyen, not the Navy," he declared with a friendly smile, making her gape on hearing him speak German. "And you're decommissioned, so you don't have to report anywhere, especially as you are right now."

 

That made the younger-looking woman blink. "I...don't understand..."

 

"Are you a warship now?"

 

"Of course I...!"

 

She then paused, her cheeks reddening considerably as she looked down to see her bust under her jumpsuit, which instantly made her think of many of the Axis and Allied metahumans who had fought in the Second World War. "Oh...I see..." she then breathed out.

 

Laughter filled the crowd, especially from Catarina's fellow shipgirls. "It always gets to us at the start, Catarina-sama," Fujiko said as she came up to warmly squeeze the other shipgirl's hand. "At least with our admiral and his sisters, you can learn how to be this way."

 

That made Catarina's eyes sparkle in delight. "Admiral...?"

 

Hearing that, Ataru moaned as Tariko patted his shoulder. Sadly, he wasn't silent enough as the newly-arrived shipgirl's eyes snapped over to stare right at him; seeing that all the girls present were in fighting costumes of the same general cut and design as her own while he was dressed in more proper civilian clothes, he clearly had to be the one in ultimate charge of this fighting group. Shouldn't he be in uniform? the transformed cruiser asked herself before seeing the chorus of adoring looks on the faces of almost all the girls present towards him. Noting that, she instantly zipped over to present herself to him, making his sisters giggle on seeing the panicked look cross his face from such a rapid approach.

 

"Kiss her, Ani-chama!" Yotsuba Dunn then heckled.

 

Both Ataru and Catarina gasped on hearing that urge from the metahuman detective. "Now, Yotsuba-chan, stop that!" Tenhiro Haruka scolded. "Anigimi-sama needs to present himself properly to Fürstin von Savoyen-Carignen before he would take her first kiss..."

 

"'FÜRSTIN'?!"

 

That was a wide-eyed Catarina. "But of course, Eure Durchlaucht," Haruka said in very good German with little accent as she gracefully bowed to the reborn cruiser. "You are named in honour of the great Prince Eugene of Savoy, loyal servant of Their Imperial Majesties, the Emperors Leopold, Joseph and Charles, during his many years living in Wien. That you bear His Highness' crest upon your person declares to that you are spiritually of the House of Savoy." She gracefully bowed again before gazing on the others present. "I present ihre Durchlaucht Olympia Catarina, Fürstin von Savoyen-Carignen!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"F-f-Fürstin...?!"

 

Everyone gasped on seeing a barely conscious Catarina lying on the sand, her eyes spiralling. As the other shipgirls blinked in confusion, the commander of USAG-KA turned to stare warily at Abraham Lincoln. "Are they normally like this, Mister President?" he quietly asked.

 

"They're being tame tonight, son," the former president answered.

 

Mann blinked. "Yeah..."

 

****

 

Ōmure-jima, an hour later...

 

"Tadaima!"

 

"Ah! Karen-chan! Okaeri nasai desu no!"

 

Hearing the cheerful greeting from the metahuman chef now in her work area, Tanenobu Karen mentally commanded her costume to transfer into her normal civilian clothes, then she peeked into the kitchen. "Where is everyone, Shirayuki-chan?" the metahuman ambassador asked.

 

Osamu Shirayuki was busy cooking a very large meal for everyone, using her own trofikinetic powers to transform basic potatoes and rice into very nutritious side dishes to hurry up the production time. "They're at Kwajalein right now, Karen-chan. How's Ten-chan?"

 

"He's okay," the Herald of Fight Scenes noted as she opened the refrigerator to pull out a can of her favoured calorie drink. "Oyuki's father is busy meeting with President Lana in Onishuto about our 'stealing' Earth. Lum-san's still in denial about learning the truth of Onē-chan and Onii-chan."

 

"Poor woman," the young chef breathed out, shaking her head. "Hime thinks she'll be in mourning for a long time because of finding out about Nē-sama and Nii-sama. It's sad to do that to her..."

 

"It's necessary, Shirayuki-chan. The damage she and her friends did here..."

 

Both girls nodded. For the most part, incidents caused by the aliens losing control like they did had been concentrated in Tomobiki itself as the various organs of the Japanese government had arranged to keep the "contamination" in a small, contained area. However, as the whole incident with the space-taxi proved, things could get very out of control and spill beyond Tomobiki's borders; many Terran-born Yizibajohei who had interacted with Tariko in the past still kicked themselves in the butt for not sensing something odd going on, especially with the absence of the then-future Trickster of the Show from her cabin for six months. It was better to lay down the law now concerning how aliens could interact with Terrans before someone was killed or there was permanent environmental damage unleashed before the local forces could gain the necessary power to prevent it and punish those responsible.

 

Indeed, Tariko's overall plan to literally SCARE OFF the neighbouring races from interacting with Earth had been quite sound from the very beginning.

 

Now the results would be seen...

 

Knocks echoed from the main door. "Hey in the House!"

 

Karen and Shirayuki perked on hearing that rough Texan accent echo from the foyer, then they squealed on recognizing one of the older people who had been Gifted even if their own beloved sister hadn't been responsible for this one. "Steve-san!"

 

A bald head peeked through the doorway. "Damn! Cooking up a storm THIS late at night, Shirayuki?!" Steve Austin wondered as he walked inside while Karen went to the fridge to pull out another bottle of calorie drink to toss to the Texas Rattlesnake; the six-time world champion NEVER drank beer in echo of his ring persona while in the presence of any of these girls. "How come?"

 

"Rinrin-chan's doing an experiment now over in Kwajalein," Shirayuki stated. "She wants to see if the kami of a warship could be summoned if no one died on it when she sank. We got twenty-one new shipgirls coming back as battle dolls in the last week alone."

 

That made the ki master from America blink. "What?! Who's doing that?!"

 

"It's not the Doctor."

 

"Ah! Mark-san!" Shirayuki said as Karen headed over to make some tea for the just-arrived phenom from Steve's home state who was seen as the sheer heart and soul of the modern incarnation of World Wrestling Entertainment; the Herald of Fight Scenes knew that the Master of the Dark Gaol had a preference for Marie's mixed cherry tea blend. "What are you doing here tonight?"

 

"There's no other evil spirit to send off, is there?" Karen asked.

 

"Fortunately, no," Mark said as he moved to lean down on the work table in the middle of the room beside his old co-worker. "However, soon as I sensed what the others were doing with Catarina von Savoyen, I had to head over the North Atlantic when I sensed someone else waking up from her grave."

 

That made both sisters pause. "Who?" Karen asked.

 

"Bismarck."

 

That made both women's eyes go wide as Steve shook his head...

 

****

 

Inside the dining room...

 

"So you are not a...schiffsmädchen...?"

 

Fujinami Ryūnosuke — now dressed down from her uniform as the Huntress of the Wild, back in her normal mannish clothing as she waited for tea to be made — shook her head. "No, ma'am. Just a normal human girl. Shocked the hell out of me when Tariko-chan and Ataru told me that the kami of ships could and have been coming back as metahumans, though."

 

Hearing that, the tall blonde beauty in the black-trimmed white uniform with the blue shield bearing a white three-leaf clover over three oak leaves in a flipped "Y" formation blinked before she sighed as she raised her hand to gaze at something she never though she would ever get as a battleship. "Have any other schiffsmädchen come back than the destroyers Herr Caloway mentioned?"

 

"I don't know," the "heir" of Hamachaya said with a shrug. "I'm kinda new to this myself; just found out about Yiziba and metahumans and shipgirls this morning after Lum and the aliens were kicked off..." She jolted on sensing a faint aura of outrage then escaped Luisa von Bismarck's body. "Um..."

 

"Did those schmutzige Schlangen come back?!" the adopted native of Schönhausen in modern-day Saxony-Anhalt then coldly declared as her blue eyes started to glow.

 

"They've tried."

 

Both women turned...

 

...then Luisa blushed as the smiling brown-haired girl in the pretty dress came over with a cup of what had to be very sweet tea to place before the transformed battleship. "If you're speaking about the Goa'uld, they've been trying over the last three years to come back and unleash their 'we're your gods, so worship us' silliness so they could have slaves to be host bodies for their young," she said before walking over to place the other cup of tea in her hand before Ryūnosuke. "Fortunately, the American air force has control of our planet's Stargate, so they do their best to keep the Goa'uld from invading the planet. Now that we're openly involved, we'll make sure they'll stay away." She then giggled.

 

"What's so funny, Karen-san?" Ryūnosuke asked.

 

"Well, do you remember Apophis, Ryūnosuke-san?"

 

That made the tomboy blink before a smirk crossed her face. "One of those umale 'system lords' who tried to be a Gift thief since the Dawn of Power, you mean?" she asked as she mixed in some sugar to the tea from the service set on the dining room table. "Yeah, I'm starting to get the memories back from my past lives. Every time that jerk ever showed up, Warwind always stomped him into the dirt, but he got away. I know Ayumu-san's friend Takino Tomo is the current Warwind. She got a chance to go after him yet, Karen-san? Given the dork doesn't know how to DIE right..."

 

"He will be taught, Frau Fujinami."

 

Eyes locked on Luisa as she moved to sip her tea. "You remember...?" Karen asked in a hushed voice as she remembered what Germany's greatest battleship had become.

 

"Ja," responded in a near-growling voice as her whole body began to glow ominously while memories dating back five thousand years echoed in her mind. "They came like plague-filled locusts, moving to turn people into slaves to feed their war machine. The Atom of True Life made the people's bodies reject them, so they tried to exterminate us. That's when the Healer rose and summoned us from the Forge to smash them away...and we smashed them far beyond Kaeyu..."

 

She then calmed down before sipping her tea, clearly unbothered by her frightful display of power. "Wonder if those umale remember," Ryūnosuke mused.

 

"With the way they love to expose themselves to that false mesonium they call 'naquadah' all the time, Ryūnosuke-san?" Karen mused. "Doubtful..."

 

The sounds of the main doors opening made everyone turn as a stream of chattering people came into the foyer. "Tadaima...!" many of the sisters called out.

 

"MEINE SCHWESTER!"

 

Luisa gasped as she rose up...

 

...then was sent flying into the couch on the other side of the dining room by a strawberry blonde missile in a red-and-white jumpsuit. Everyone winced as the veterans of Operation: Rhine Exercise in 1941 stumbled onto the floor, the smaller woman crying her eyes out as she showered Luisa with kisses. "Meine geliebte Schwester...meine Schwester...ich werde dich nie wieder verlassen...!"

 

As the shipgirls watching this all smiled at this tender reunion, the sisters all exchanged amused looks as Catarina von Savoyen continued to kiss away.

 

"Uh...yeah! That...!" Ryūnosuke breathed out...

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School, that moment...

 

"Thank the gods...Ryūnosuke-sama is safe..."

 

Sniffing back the tears that had flown down "her" cheeks for almost an hour since the "heir" of Hamachaya collected all her things to move out of the old storeroom that had served as the Fujinami family apartment since she and her father moved from Chōshi in February, Shiowatari Nagisa could only smile in delight at knowing the woman he loved with all his heart and soul — the woman he actually COME BACK TO LIFE for to be with as had been promised between their fathers before they were even born — was now as safe as safe could be in this world from her father's grief-induced insanity.

 

"Arigatō, Tariko-sama...arigatō...!"

 

Hugging himself, the very effeminate young man who had done his best since he was old enough to understand what was going on to be a "woman above women" to please his widowed father Shin — who had always dreamed of having a daughter as well as a son before his wife Kanako died in a typhoon — took a deep breath as he used some meditation exercises to calm himself down, find his centre and acquire some sense of self-control. Much that he was grateful for the chance to be alone with his fiancée — that was thanks to Tariko Katabarbe's friend from Itabashi, Mizuhara Koyomi; she was the current incarnation of Yiziba's most powerful psychic bar none, the Mistress of the Mind-Dive, Tum Kamtimta ("Soul Searcher") — after his would-be father-in-law "convinced himself" to go out and find a new permanent home for the Fujinami Hamachaya two weeks before, it hadn't given Nagisa enough time to try to convince Ryūnosuke of his sincerity in helping her seek a new destiny for herself.

 

The very destiny that Tariko Katabarbe promised Fujinami Ryūnosuke a decade ago.

 

There were many reason for this. Nagisa couldn't be too open about things even if the potential alien threat had been eliminated in August with the removal of Redet Lum's "most faithful" from Earth; given the warlord's daughter possession of a spacializer — a personal time-and-dimension hopping device similar to the TARDIS from Doctor Who — any move to reveal the Yizibajohei presence on Earth could have caused more problems than it solved until Elizabeth Wakefield got the Ceres orbit line defence field set up and operational. Atop that, Nagisa had long come to see that even if he was a boy, he was effectively transgender in his outlook on life; when Tariko had addressed him as "Serram Shiowatari" — using the honorific always bestowed to "fems" among the Hustari, the only legally and genetically FIVE-GENDER race in the local cluster; such beings were males when it came to reproductive functions but were women in their souls — it was as if blinds that had been over the eyes of the tea shop "maiden" for his whole life had been torn away in an instant, revealing a much more beautiful world.

 

A world that Nagisa desperately wanted to be a part of.

 

And then...there was Ryūnosuke herself.

 

Nagisa hadn't realistically understood how bad his fiancée's father had warped her life around at the start when they had met on the small islet near Ōmure-jima where the Shiowatari Hamachaya had been sited. But after living only a week with Ryūnosuke and her father at Tomobiki High School, he had come to realize that unlike himself — who had consciously made the choice to cross-dress — she had gained NO chance at all to fully explore her femininity. Her father watched over her like a hawk, always ready to pounce all over his "son" to make "him" conform to what the old fisherman saw as what being a "manly man" was all about. The only clear times that Ryūnosuke ever got any positive help from ANY of her peers came from the school's only declared lesbian, Tsuruya Rumiko...who had to use the fact that she was a girl to make Fujimi believe his "son" was being "manly" with such a pretty girl.

 

That no one — not even Ryūnosuke's best friend, Miyake Shinobu — had done anything substantive to free the "heir" of Hamachaya from such an insane and abusive man outraged Nagisa like nothing had ever done, not even his own accidental "death" thanks to sea urchin roe poisoning a year ago.

 

Yet...

 

There had been hope all along...

 

Which had been personally personified by the arrival of the Texas Rattlesnake to school after lunch...

 

When, thanks to one of Tariko's wonderful sisters, Ryūnosuke became much more than she had ever got the chance to be in her whole life.

 

The Huntress of the Wild...

 

Carcajou...!

 

Shuddering as he tried not to drool unashamedly on remembering how his fiancée had looked in that gorgeous grey uniform that followed EVERY curve of her sexy body — one NOT constrained by the sarashi her father had forced her to wear even in the place of simple sports bras to support her bust — Nagisa then sighed as he sipped a cup of tea he had made for himself. A churlish grin then crossed his face as he imagined what would Fujimi's reaction be to learning his "son" was now a metahuman who had speed-learned how to be a WOMAN in a way he could begin to counter.

 

No more tricks...

 

No more lies...

 

A clear destiny ahead for someone who had gained several dozen LIFETIMES worth of experiences as the ultimate ki mistress on a planet like Yiziba.

 

If one could survive THERE, one could survive almost ANYWHERE.

 

And now...

 

Now Nagisa wanted a chance to gain that sort of power.

 

It was practical necessity that forced him to seek out a Gift. As a ghost made corporeal thanks to the power of the Great Sea Urchin, Nagisa was vulnerable in ways that no normal person had to deal with. Never mind the issue of people like Sakurambō Sakura and her uncle Hayao making use of ofuda to literally force Nagisa away from "haunting" his fiancée like he supposedly did, there was the more practical issue of the approach of the Herald of the Final Darkness when the current resident of Savannah in Georgia came in the next couple of days to remove the many ebony mesonium crystals that had been placed around Tomobiki in effect to keep the weirdness that came in Lum's wake contained in that part of the Tōkyō Metropolis...and try yet fail to keep Tariko Katabarbe contained.

 

If only whoever did that had been smarter...!

 

Nagisa sighed as he moved to wipe his eyes down. The pros of becoming a Yizibajohei were all too many. He would effectively become strong enough to block any attempts by his would-be father-in-law to try to corral his "son" through the tea shop "maiden". Given the block that had been placed on all Yizibajohei when it came to natives of that world — even adopted ones like Tariko — actually mating with aliens around the time of the Dawn of Power, there was no hope at all for Nagisa to have any sort of child with his fiancée if they actually formed a relationship; he knew that Ryūnosuke had been quite wary of the whole idea of getting hitched so young despite their "compatibility".

 

The one con...?

 

Nagisa WANTED to be a woman.

 

Even if Yizibajohei women were bisexual more or less by necessity, would Ryūnosuke accept Nagisa if they both turned out to be women, despite the former's several private liaisons with Tsuruya Rumiko...?

 

A sigh escaped him as worry clouded his heart.

 

"O-ha, Nagisa-chan!"

 

He turned to gaze with teary eyes at the living goddess who had just teleported into the room...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

Translation list: Nimmib — Reading of the initials NMMB ("non-magical magic-born"), the politically correct term coined first in Canada for a squib in the universe of my stories; Kriegsmarine — War Navy; RMIS — Republic of the Marshall Islands Ship; Fürstin — Often translated "princess", this is the term for a female member of a noble house ranked below a duke and above a marquess in German nobility; Ich bin keine Prinzessin — I'm not a princess; Anton — The letter "A" in the German phonetic alphabet; Nein, meine geliebte Freundin, wir werden zusammen leben — No, my beloved (lady) friend, we will live together; Mein Admiral, mein Kapitän, meine ehrenwerte Offiziere und Mannschaft, ich lebe für euch alle — My admiral, my captain, my honourable officers and crew, I live for all of you; Rittmeister — Ride Master, the German cavalry title for an army captain; Bitte — Please; Uole — Prince; Nimmagier — Short for nicht-magische(r) ("non-magical person"), the German equivalent of "nimmib"; Magische Reichsarmee — Imperial Magical Army; Ich diene der Liebe — I serve Love; Eure/Ihre Durchlaucht — Your/Her Highness; Schiffsmädchen — Shipgirl; Schmutzige Schlangen — Dirty snakes; Ich werde dich nie wieder verlassen — I will never leave you again; Kapitän zur See — Captain at Sea, the German naval rank title for a navy captain (NATO rank code OF-5); KMDR — Short for Kriegsmarine des Deutschen Reiches ("War Navy of the German Empire"), the full name of the naval branch of the Wehrmacht ("Defence Force") from 1935-45.

 

Russian-form patronymics used here:

 

Rínrin Mútovna — Rinrin, daughter of Muchi

Khínako Mútovna — Hinako, daughter of Muchi

 

Here is the list of all shipgirls mentioned here (and sisters who were unnamed in the narrative) with their honorary ranks, human names and hull numbers (including the two from the previous part):

 

Kapitän zur See Wilhelmina Luisa von Bismarck-Schönhausen KMDR (Kriegsmarineschiff Bismarck [pendant 62])

KptzS Olympia Catarina von Savoyen-Carignan KMDR (later Captain, USN) (Kriegsmarineschiff Prinz Eugen [pendant K93], later United States Ship Prinz Eugen [IX-300/CA-161])

Kisaragi Mutsuko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Mutsuki [DD-141])

Kisaragi Kyōko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Kisaragi [DD-142])

Kisaragi Yayoi-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Yayoi [DD-143])

Kisaragi Utako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Uzuki [DD-144])

Kisaragi Satsuko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Satsuki [DD-145])

Kisaragi Minako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Minazuki [DD-146])

Kisaragi Fumiko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Fumizuki [DD-147])

Kisaragi Nanako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Nagatsuki [DD-148])

Kisaragi Kikuko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Kikuzuki [DD-149])

Kisaragi Miyako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Miyazuki [DD-150])

Kisaragi Nozomi-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Mochizuki [DD-151])

Hamamoto Miroko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Shiratsuyu [DD-183])

Hamamoto Shōko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Shigure [DD-184])

Hamamoto Momoko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Murasame [DD-185])

Hamamoto Kodachi-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Yūdachi [DD-186])

Hamamoto Hideko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Harusame [DD-187])

Hamamoto Sanako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Samidare [DD-188])

Hamamoto Umeko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Umikaze [DD-189])

Hamamoto Yaeko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Yamakaze [DD-190])

Hamamoto Kawako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Kawakaze [DD-191])

Hamamoto Suzuko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Suzukaze [DD-192])

 

As with Japan before the end of the Second World War in real life, Germany never made use of pendant numbers/hull numbers for anything larger than a destroyer, much less made use of a ship prefix such as KMS, which is short for Kriegsmarineschiff (literally "War Navy Ship"); the use of ship prefixes dropped by the wayside after the end of the First World War. In the universe of this story, Germany followed the British example of pendant numbers, with no "flag superior" letter assigned to capital ships. The number indicated here for KMS Bismarck indicate she is the sixty-second battleship built or planned for service with Germany regardless of which actual service such a vessel would sail under (either the Kaiserliche Marine ["Imperial Navy"] serving the Second Reich from 1871-1918, the Reichsmarine ["Navy of the Realm"] serving the Weimar Republic from 1918-35 or the Kriegsmarine ["War Navy"] serving the Third Reich from 1935-45). As for KMS Prinz Eugen, she is given the flag superior pendant "K" for Kreuzer ("cruiser"); the number indicates she is the ninety-third cruiser (regardless of type) built or planned to serve in the German naval forces. When she was commissioned into the United States Navy after the end of the European side of World War Two, USS Prinz Eugen was given the hull classification code IX-300; IX meaning "miscellaneous auxiliary vessel". However, given that she is being "returned to service" as Catarina von Savoyen-Carignan, the cruiser would be given a proper hull code for a heavy cruiser. In the overall sequence of cruiser hull numbers before the introduction of a separate missile cruiser hull code series, USS Prinz Eugen would fall in as CA-161.

 

Note that my depiction of Catarina is a nod to the KanColle fanfic Belated Battleships written by the JMPer, which served as inspiration for my interpretation of Prinz Eugen in The Seventh Shipgirl.

 

The mentioning of Mary Poppins here is a salute to two crossover stories I love where the indomitable Ms. Poppins came to train Harry Potter for the Triwizard, Harry Potter and the Alternative Tournament and its sequel Harry Potter and the Inevitable Battle, both written by Twistyguru.

 

Shiowatari Nagisa first appeared in the Yatsura manga storyline "Nagisa's Fiancé" (manga chapters #341-342).

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Outside Onishuto, the Invader home, before breakfast (T ōkyō time: Saturday, an hour after midnight)...

 

"NO...!"

 

A gasp escaped Redet Lum as she surged up from under the covers, her eyes wide with horror as the last vestiges of a dark nightmare rocked her mind. As she instantly hugged herself, her eyes darting to and fro as if she was afraid the monsters that had been snapping at her would come out of nowhere...

 

Monsters that bore her husband's face...

 

Her husband...

 

No...

 

No!

 

NO!

 

"Lum-cha!"

 

The warlord's daughter gasped, then spun around, hand raised to unleash a bolt of electricity — which she couldn't use thanks to the loss of her horns the previous morning — at whoever was close to her...

 

...then she stopped on seeing who it was. "Oyuki-cha?!"

 

Instantly, she was enveloped in the sleeves of Oyuki's kimono as the crown princess of Neptune hugged her. "Thank the Fates, it wasn't so bad," the latter calmly stated as she moved to thread her fingers through her friend's hair. "Given what Madame Embassy warned your parents about the creature that had been possessing you while you were living in Tomobiki with Lady Tuyuki..."

 

A gargle escaped Lum on hearing that statement. "No..."

 

"Oi! Go easy on her, Oyuki! She just got the damned shock of her life!"

 

Hearing that from her other best friend, Lum smiled as she felt Shigaten Benten's hand land on her shoulder to give her a friendly squeeze. "Wh-when did you g-get here...?" she asked as she gazed on the biker-babe from the Fukunokami capital city of Bensaikyō.

 

"Instant Ran called me and warned me the You Know Whos were on Earth," Benten said as she gave her friend a wry smile. "Couldn't believe it when I heard that your hubby actually turned out to be one of them, never mind 'he' being a she...!"

 

"And destined to become Lady Tuyuki," Oyuki finished in a calm voice as she held Lum tight to prevent the latter from overreacting. "Amazing that she chose to hold off on allowing the Gift to take her until she was mature enough to actually accept the Gift without it overloading her soul." She sighed as Lum shook her head. "Lum-cha, stop that." She paused. "She's here..."

 

Hearing that, Lum's eyes went wide, then she howled in anger as she burst free of Oyuki's embrace. "GIVE ME MY HUSBAND BACK, YOU MONSTER...!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"Ittacha..."

 

Benten and Oyuki winced on hearing that pained yelp, then they walked out of the bedroom to see Lum on the floor of the living room rubbing her head, having slammed her forehead into one of the internal support struts. Before either could comment, a woman sighed. "Lum, you've lived in this house for HOW long now? Don't you know where things are?"

 

"Oh, go easy on her, Tariko-chan! Given what Mark-kun had to yank out of her yesterday, she's bound to be disorientated for at least a storyline."

 

Hearing those voices, Lum blinked, then looked to her right...

 

...before she awked on seeing the woman in the off-white jumpsuit seated on a sofa, an amused look on her face. Beside her was another woman her age, possessing dark brown hair in a shaggy bobcut with a golden bandana pulling some of the hair away from her face, that pierced by very wide and friendly caramel eyes. She herself was in a Yizibajohei bodysuit, black overall with white belt and boots, psychedelic lines of multiple colours wrapped around her torso and legs in a wild pattern that seemed not to have any sort of logic on it. Noting this was the current incarnation of the Mistress of Time and Space seated beside the being who claimed to be her husband, Lum gulped as she raised her hand to faintly wave at the woman born Suzumiya Haruhi in Nishinomiya near Kōbe. "Ah..."

 

"WHAT ARE THESE MONSTERS DOING HERE?!"

 

Lum yelped before she looked towards the main entrance...

 

...then she moaned on seeing the man who would have been her uncle-in-law — he was actually a distant relative through her mother Chim — standing there with several other senior representatives of the "old boys club" that wanted desperately to restore the old Empire to the way it was before the Union Revolution. As Oyuki and Benten both shook their heads on seeing Seq Yethis and his allies there, the current chief of staff to the President of the Union was staring with a mixture of outrage and terror at the living personification of the Imperial Houses' truly darkest hour. "Oi! Umale! Volume, huh?!" Tariko Katabarbe snapped. "They can hear you all the way back at my cabin on Yiziba!" Here, she smirked as all the people in the room save for Lum's young cousin yelped on hearing that word. "Oji-chan, you invite this schlep here while Lum's in the healer's cockpit?"

 

"No!" Redet Invader snarled from next to the communications console.

 

"Now, see here, Invader...!" Yethis snarled...

 

SNAP!

 

In a flash of light, all of them disappeared!

 

As the sounds of people falling onto the rocks that bordered the nearby Terrible Swamps echoed from outside, Invader sighed. "Thank you, Tariko!" he breathed out. "I didn't want to deal with him today!"

 

"I could make his departure rather terminal," Tariko warned.

 

Lum's father cackled on hearing that offer from the Trickster of the Show. "Don't tempt me, young lady!" he playfully snapped even if the other people in the room were quick to note he had been very tempted to see the leader of the Imperial Round removed forever from this life, thus removing a potential source of a new revolution which could prove disastrous for the whole Galactic Federation.

 

"Keep it in mind," Tariko said with a wink as Lum's mother Chim came over with two cups of spiced tea for the guests to enjoy. "Dōmo, Oba-chan!" she said as the older woman held out the tray for her to take one of the cups as Haruhi reached over for the other one. "My sinuses definitely thank you."

 

"A cold?" Chim asked.

 

"Yeah, Oba-chan! Have to start fully adjusting to living back at the cabin again! Tōkyō's too damned WARM for me at times!" She sipped the tea before the specific taste got to her. "Hey! You actually get the real eta leaves imported from Noukiios, Oji-chan?"

 

"Right from a grower that lives near Ryekkyuk," Invader said as he walked over to tenderly help his daughter back to her feet, then put her down nearby.

 

"You can't be Darling..."

 

Hearing that tear-filled moan from her would-be wife, Tariko took a deep breath. "I hope you two wouldn't mind," she then said as she gazed on Lum's parents.

 

Invader and Chim nodded permission. As Lum gazed on them, she then stiffened as something washed through her mind, touching memories from over a decade before when she was an innocent and adventurous child who loved to play around and get into all sorts of incidents that made many people laugh even if her oldest friend wound up suffering in the end thanks to her unstable mother. As the actual events of the first open encounter between Uru and Yiziba since the Mother of All Fight Scenes replayed in her mind, Lum stiffened as she felt energy flood her, making her horn buds regrow, giving her back her powers. As people tensed — when Oni went through this sort of thing, any additional paranormal powers tended to lash out quite harshly to cover the surroundings — Lum's eyes went wide as she focused once more on the woman who personified the darkest time in her race's history.

 

The woman who had helped give her back a normal life...

 

"Tariko-cha...?"

 

Hearing that as Oyuki and Benten both gaped, Tariko opened her arms. "Get over here, Lum-chan!"

 

A wild scream escaped the warlord's daughter as she flew right into her would-be husband's embrace, laughter and tears escaping them both as they enjoyed their first true reunion in over a decade. As Lum's parents and Haruhi all nodded in delight, Oyuki and Benten exchanged shocked looks. "Bensaiten's Grave...it's all true?" the latter then whispered, shaking her head in disbelief.

 

"All true," Chim affirmed with a nod,

 

After a moment of their holding each other, they pulled apart before Lum leaned in to kiss Tariko on the lips. They remained still for a moment as their tongues played with each other, which made the Mistress of Time and Space moan. "Oi! If you two are gonna do a pillow scene, get a room, huh?!"

 

As Lum's parents laughed and Oyuki and Benten both gasped at such an open comment from the Mistress of Time and Space, Tariko and Lum pulled apart before they turned and stuck their tongues out at Haruhi. Seeing that from nearby, Redet Ten nearly fell over laughing in delight...

 

...then everyone tensed on sensing someone teleport in.

 

"Ah! Hime's work is never done!"

 

Ten gaped as people looked over. "Shirayuki-nēsama!" he called out.

 

Everyone turned to see the Great Chef of the West standing there, a large picnic basket in hand. As she was now visiting a planet which had been hostile to Yiziba in the past, Osamu Shirayuki came in her battle uniform, a beautiful lavender suit with dark purple belt and boots, a stylized picnic basket insignia on her chest. "Ohayō gozaimasu desu no!" the native of Nagoya greeted with a wave of her hand. "Hime suspected you wouldn't be in the mood to cook breakfast, Oba-chan!"

 

As Chim blushed on hearing that observation, Tariko smirked before she gave Lum a reassuring look, making the latter shake her head...

 

****

 

Dear Diary,

Well, it's the morning of the first day of us being back on Uru.

It looks like Lum-cha is finally going to recover from what that mean oni did to her while we were living in Tomobiki.

Even better, she now remembers meeting Tariko-on ēchan when she and Ayumu-onēchan came to Uru one day to help heal Lum-cha from having a power dampener being put on her by the man who wanted to liberate the Avalonians from the Niphentaxians.

And while I can tell that Lum-cha might still be wary — I mean, the memories of the Mother of All Fight Scenes and what Tariko-on ēchan's adopted ancestor did back then that are placed in people's heads when they're kids are really INTENSE! — I hope that things will be calm between them.

Given how much people care for Lum-cha, it might keep things peaceful.

I'm sure that Shirayuki-n ēsama will help with that.

Oh, that's right! I forgot about Shirayuki-n ēsama!

Osamu Shirayuki is from Nagoya. She's practically a professional chef, having taken up cooking as a hobby when she was my age, then improved and improved herself in ways that allowed her to start winning cooking contests — including the Iron Chef playoffs — by the time she got into middle school!

It was no wonder that she eventually became the Great Chef of the West, Syuosekuo , when it came time for her to be Gifted.

She chose to use the German word Küchenchefin as her battle name on Earth...and this was way before she ever met Haruka-anegimisama!

Like Aria-n ēya, Shirayuki-nēsama is a trofikinetic. Her first-self saved MILLIONS of lives during the Starvation Times, which makes any version of her automatically respected when s/he ever comes out of the Great Crystal of Power.

If it wasn't for the fact that the Gift crystal bearing the seed of Syuosekuo wasn't just LEFT out there one day for Shirayuki-n ēsama to find — normally, such things should be taken back to the Great Crystal when someone dies — would she have actually chosen that Gift if she met her sister?

You gotta wonder at that...

 

****

 

The Invader house, an hour later...

 

"Oh, man! Roll me to the nearest bunk! That was the best meal I ever had!"

 

Shirayuki giggled. "You needed good food to eat, Benten-san! The times Hime sensed you were in Tomobiki and heard from Nē-sama's friends at Toranoseishin which restaurants you liked to go to, Hime knew you were eating a lot of bad junk! A tough girl like you needs to eat healthy so you can fight people at full strength! Even if you don't get Gifted like Kamen-chan did, you need it!"

 

Invader perked as Benten gave her a curious look. "What about Kamen?" the former asked. "Don't tell me you people know a way to turn a gynoid into one of you!"

 

"She wasn't a gynoid, Oji-chan. Neither were Hensō, Mienai nor Damasu."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"Who are they?" Oyuki hesitantly asked as everyone gazed on the Trickster of the Show.

 

"Your clone twin sisters," Tariko answered.

 

"WHAT?!"

 

That was Lum and Benten, both of whom shot out of their chairs as they stared in horror at the former's would-be husband. "It's true," Tariko affirmed as Chim gaped in disbelief, Oyuki blinked and Invader moaned. "Five years ago, after what Ōgi unleashed on Lecashuto, Nassur got worried that you three and Ran would be targeted by the Mikado or some other fool in vengeance over that attack or some other thing. He proposed making gynoid replicas of you to act as living targets, ready to sub in when a threat was detected. The Zeiwanites couldn't do anything...but lo and behold, Ōgi proposed a solution!"

 

"Except they were bioroids, not gynoids," Ten added.

 

"WHAT?!" Invader snapped. "He told us they were gynoids!"

 

"And Ōgi's record of truthfulness is, Captain?" Haruhi sarcastically wondered.

 

Hearing that, Invader moaned as he sank into his chair. "Oh, Maidens...!"

 

"It's alright, Oji-chan," Tariko said. "After the computer at Home Base detected the truth, Nassur and Cinba contacted Kyech on Okusei, then got them sent over there to let them live their lives. I found out about them through Ayumu around then, then gave them the offer to be Gifted. They took it."

 

The three women affected by this blinked. "They're safe?" Oyuki then asked. "Given what Ōgi's former ambassador to my father was made after Haruhi removed that temporal block on the Phentax system after your friend in America put up that screening system at Ceres, most Niphentaxians see Avalonians as nothing more than robots, not a sentient race in their own right."

 

"Realistically yes," Tariko affirmed. "Sure, there's the chance they could be hurt if a fight scene comes about thanks to some slave-catcher getting lucky, but that's small. Damasu is effectively the president of Yiziba..." She smirked as people blinked. "I took it all out of you, by the way." As the others nodded, she added, "The others live there as well. Kamen is the current Weaponeer, so she's busy making new toys that go 'bang'!" As Benten's eyes lit up in clear interest, Tariko stared in admonishment at her. "No, she's not going to loan you the World-Breaker, Benten! Your aim sucks the big one..."

 

"HEY! I HAVE PERFECT AIM!"

 

A trill escaped the Trickster of the Show. "Sure you do...!"

 

"What of Hensō?" Invader asked, waving down an insulted Benten before the latter could launch into a mad tirade at his would-be daughter-in-law.

 

"The new Tempest. In the very footsteps of Redet Danu."

 

Confusion crossed the places of the non-Gifted there. "But Lady Danu died!" Chim protested. "How in the Maiden's Names did she become one of you?!"

 

Tariko blinked, then she sighed. "Right! You all keep getting taught a damned LIE about what started that mess! Haruhi!" she then called out to her friend.

 

"One Historama coming right up!" the Mistress of Time and Space declared...

 

****

 

Oh, man...!

Poor Lady Danu...!

Oh! Forgot to explain what's going on!

The last Imperial Century — which fell in the latter mini-series of the Eighteenth Series of the Great Show of Life on Yiziba or the Eighteenth Century CE on Earth — was a bad time for a lot of Urusians, especially if they weren't noble-born.

During this time, leaders of the Imperial Houses tried to expand their territory in every direction. Coreward towards Noukiios, inspin towards Dominos, spinward towards Ipraedos and outspin towards Fukunokami. This was a time when the racism and elitism that drives people like Rei's uncle Yethis and his buddies even to this day was at its utter worst .

Sure enough, forces of the Empire ran across the Confederation of Vos, who — along with the Imperial Dominion of Noukiios and the Royal Kingdoms of Yehisril — were trying to force some sort of universal non-interference treaty to protect those who hadn't developed their own warp drive like Earth.

Naturally, the Imperial Round — the combined heads of the noble families who were in charge of the Empire — didn't care for the "lessers" on Vos dictating to them how to behave among potential slave races.

They needed a forward observation post to keep an eye on the Vosians.

Guess where they picked?

Yiziba.

That was a DUMB decision.

Because of their arrogance, the people in charge of the invasion of Yiziba in the 1787th Season of the Great Show of Life — everything's counted from the first year of the Dawn of Power; the Show itself started in the Forty-eighth Season — didn't do ANY sort of advanced research about the planet, what went on there and why. Seeing a world that was pretty advanced technologically yet had no space navy and pretty much was isolated from everywhere else convinced the dorks in charge of the Empire that this was a perfect planet to invade.

Were they EVER sorry about that.

Anyhow, Redet Danu — she's my and Lum-cha's many-times grandaunt — was elected to be Urusian champion. A guy from the northern polar continent named Lir'beta Pietobeesogu — he was the Rampage at the time — was the defending champion.

And the leader of the invasion, a guy named Seq Joth — he's one of Rei's ancestors — never knew Master Lir'beta could FLY!

The tag was made in seven frames and eighty-two shots!

Nearly EIGHT SECONDS!

And while Master Lir'beta was really, really, really nice about treating Lady Danu properly, congratulating her for trying to do her best, General Joth just LOST IT!

" YOU CHEATED! "

That's one thing you NEVER say to most Yizibajohei!

You can probably guess the result...!

 

****

 

"Hey, the house!"

 

Shirayuki looked over her shoulder. "Ah! Jessica-san!"

 

Everyone else turned away from Haruhi's using her "historama" power to show the events of the Mother of All Fight Scenes to see a smiling Western woman with sunflower blonde hair in free wavy bangs down to her shoulders, beautiful blue-green eyes peeking out of a perfectly shaped face with a dimple under the left eye. She was dressed in a sky blue jumpsuit with gold belt and boots, twin lines of golden birds flying up the sides of her legs and abdomen to form an "X" formation over her cleavage, a pair of gold gauntlets on her lower arms. Seeing that, all the non-Yizibajohei save Ten paled in horror as they realized who this woman was the current incarnation of.

 

The Yizibajohei champion at the time of the "invasion".

 

One of the most powerful FISS-types to live on that planet.

 

The Charging Belle of the Heavens, Duohuo...


Rampage!

 

"What are you doing here, Jess?" Tariko asked.

 

The woman born Jessica Wakefield in a fish canning town on the Santa Barbara coast of California near Los Angeles the summer after Tariko was born shrugged. "I sensed there was some reveal scene happening here. After Chikage told me you were coming here to make sure your ex didn't do something dumb after you divorced her, Tariko, I came over to make sure people got the right story."

 

As the Urusians save Ten gulped on hearing that from a woman whose incarnation two centuries ago had unleashed the lion's share of damage on the planet during the Mother of All Fight Scenes, Haruhi sighed. "Just giving them a chance to see the Historama, Jess! Sit back and watch!" she declared.

 

With a gesture of her hand, the Mistress of Time and Space let the playback from over two series ago commence again for the others...

 

****

 

After Master Lir'beta and some friends chased off General Joth's fleet, they all went back to Habitation One where the Tag Race had been done.

And there was Lady Danu, ABANDONED and ALONE on Yiziba!

Fortunately, a lot of Yizibajohei understood right away what just happened to her since they had memories of what happened when people had abandoned their past-selves for all sorts of dumb reasons in the past.

Naturally, Master Lir'beta took her under his wing and let her live in his cabin out in the country; it was actually not so far from where Tariko-on ēchan lives these days when she's not busy on Earth.

And there she stayed.

No one came from Uru to rescue her.

She was actually declared DEAD by the Imperial authorities!

Though, once the Infinity at the time found out what had happened back on Uru, Lady Danu was actually relieved to be seen that way.

You see, back in those days, women never had any real power when it came to the Imperial Houses. If you were the first-born daughter of a lord, you were always passed over for the inheritance until a son was born. Daughters were always married off to cement political alliances between the Houses.

Sort of reminds me of how Lum-cha was always treated here on Uru.

Anyhow, Lady Danu settles down with Master Lir'beta on Yiziba. She becomes quite the novelty among the people living there at the time, being a 'same' on a world with metahumans (except the newborn and very young). Eventually, after living there for three seasons and being part of the local environment, Lady Danu begins to sync with the Great Crystal of Power after becoming lovers with Master Lir'beta. She eventually took the last step and became Tempest.

They got married both by Urusian law (he tagged her horns) and Yizibajohei Nameless tradition right afterwards.

So it's all good...until Lady Danu got homesick and went back to Uru to see her parents.

Hearing about that, General Joth decided he wasn't going to let his 'shame' at 'losing' Yiziba like he did haunt him forever.

So he has her EXPERIMENTED on!

WITH the full agreement of her parents!

And that's when Master Lir'beta and his friends — including Tariko-on ēchan's past-self Haddoro Hamee — come in to rescue her.

And they ALL have bad flashback scenes about what had happened to many people on Yiziba in what led up to the Dawn of Power.

Back then, the various dictatorships were engaged in a METAHUMAN ARMS RACE like what nearly happened on Earth with the Übermenschen Gruppe.

Maidens!

It's no wonder the Yizibajohei went so crazy...

 

****


There wasn't a dry eye in the house, even with Redet Invader.

 

"Well...that does explain a lot of things about your people, Tariko..." his wife Chim said as she tried not to choke on her own tears at the thought of how much her husband's ancestor had suffered at the hands of her own ancestor just because of his "shame" at "losing" Yiziba like that.

 

Not to mention what happened to him during the Mother of All Fight Scenes.

 

"The stupid homr'bu umale was begging for a death scene like that," Jessica said, an uncomfortable look on her face. "Threatening Danu like that, vowing he wouldn't stop until he learned our 'great weakness', then he'd make us go extinct so his people could seize the Great Crystal of Power..."

 

"Fucking bastard deserved it!" Benten bit off to prevent her own sympathy at what happened to Redet Danu — who did get rescued and returned to Yiziba to live the rest of her life with her husband Lir'beta Pietobeesogu in peace and harmony — from spilling forth. "Like you said, Jess! He was begging for a trip to Bensaiten's Grave for causing that shit! Anyone with eyes would have noticed Yiziba was a no-go zone for anyone who wasn't a fucking metahuman!" She jerked before she gazed warily at Shirayuki, remembering how young she was in comparison to her half-sister. "S-s-sorry about th-th-that...!"

 

"Daijōbu desu no!" the chef from Nagoya said as she waved the biker from Fukunokami down. "Hime hears worse from the fishermen who come by the Island to land their catches!"

 

"You live on an island?" Oyuki asked as she wiped her own eyes clear.

 

"Desu no! It's Ōmure-jima, near the island where Ryūnosuke-san met Nagisa-san." Shirayuki then perked. "Nē-sama, did Ayumu-san go see Nagisa-san?"

 

"Guaranteed, Shirayuki," Tariko assured her.

 

Benten and Oyuki blinked. "That's that cross-dresser that got hitched to Ryūnosuke a month or so back, right?" the former asked.

 

"Same one, even if our friends on Hustaros would actually see her as a 'fem' and not a real man," Tariko affirmed. "Unlike Ryū-chan, Nagisa-chan wasn't ever physically abused by his father. He always wanted a daughter...and in a weird way, Nagisa-chan elected to be that daughter as he grew up. But now that he's a ghost made corporeal with Margo about to come drop into town..."

 

"That's Doctor Death," Haruhi added.

 

The non-Yizibajohei shuddered. "Is that a wise idea?" Invader demanded.

 

"Oh, relax, Uncle!" Ten scolded him. "Miss Margo's more an anti-face than a real heel. She's the one who killed Usāmah bin Lādin last spring!"

 

That made the Urusians present all tense. "Oh..."

 

"Invader...UURKK!"

 

Everyone turned to the doorway...

 

...where a dazed and bleeding Seq Yethis now stood with his escort, all of whom looked as if they just went through a Battle Royale hosted by World Wrestling Entertainment and done under hardcore rules, having lasted through all thirty attacking participants. Before the chief of staff to the leader of Uru and would-be emperor of the planet could say anything further, Jessica gazed his way, displaying her uniform to the rude intruders. "Hey...!" the lawyer's daughter from Sweet Valley snarled as she moved to advance on the now white-faced Yethis. "I've seen you before somewhere...!"

 

As the wide-eyed bodyguards all scrambled away from their principal in hopes of avoiding this oncoming beast that had just locked her sights on him, Yethis stammered as he tried not to soil himself, "W-w-we n-n-never m-m-met before, m-m-madame...!"

 

"Yes, we did..." Jessica snarled as a very impressive battle aura formed around her, her eyes now glowing with terrible outrage as her fists started to quake. As the people who had been in the house before Yethis and his goons came in all gaped with both awe and trepidation at the sight of the Charging Belle of the Heavens face down a man who would gladly see the galaxy burn to get his way, her voice took on an animistic growl. "YOU TRIED TO KILL MY WIFE...!"

 

KK-KKRUNCH!

 

Everyone gasped as Yethis howled in mortal agony after his heart was literally ripped out through his spine thanks to Jessica's supersonic corkscrew punch, one that could shatter ASTEROIDS with one blow! As the bodyguards all screamed in gut-wrenching terror before flying out of the Invader home to get away from this horrible monster, the Californian contemptuously tossed out the chief of staff's body after them, the power of her pitch sending the corpse way beyond the outer limits of the property!

 

"Holy fucking shit...!" Benten gasped.

 

Tariko moaned, then snapped her fingers to vanish all the blood and gore from the floor and Jessica's arm. After a moment, the panting Californian took a deep breath as her battle aura faded, then she blinked before she pulled up her hand. A moan then escaped her. "Oh, no! I just got a manicure!"

 

All the non-Yizibajohei face-faulted on hearing that!

 

"Ti'ibie?" Haruhi then whispered to her friend.

 

"With Jess, I have to wonder," Tariko breathed out...

 

****

 

That , dear Diary, is a flashback scene...!

 

****

 

Onishuto, the Union Congress Hall downtown, two hours before lunch...

 

"And that's what happened, Boss."

 

Hearing the explanation from the warlord that had led the first contact with Earth a year before, Grand General Hozan Lana chuckled. "Oh, Des and his friends are just going to be beside themselves," the president of Uru trilled out.

 

Invader chuckled. The meeting was being held in camera in the secure meeting room set aside for the Urusian head-of-state away from potential monitoring by political opponents; the room was swept every day by Lana's deputy chief of staff, Vice Admiral Azu Kakazu...who was the only other person in the room besides the current captain of the battlewagon Kashin and her own top boss. "Well, looks like you're gonna get a promotion finally, Teach!" Invader then said as he gazed in amusement at his old basic officer training course platoon leader.

 

"'Here's to bloody wars and sickly seasons'," the raven-haired tomboy with the caramel eyes behind reading glasses quoted the old British military toast. A moderate Imperial and one of the senior members of her noble house, Kakazu had been the darling of the Urusian infonets for becoming a battlewagon warlord at the youngest age imaginable, even younger than Redet Invader did when he finally was given his captaincy five years ago. Until Seq Yethis had run afoul of Jessica Wakefield, she had always been a background player in Union government politics, ensuring that the machinations of the ultra-conservative members of the Imperial Round didn't derail major government decisions, much less wreck Uru's fragile alliances with other worlds in the Federation; unlike her now-late superior, Kakazu supported the return of the monarchy, but also wanted to keep in place all the legal changes done for the "lessers" in the wake of the Union Revolution. "Not a way I'd personally want to earn my fourth star, but if that's the way Fate made it..."

 

"You're in, Kazu," the bald and muscular man with the raven sideburns and goatee stated with a delighted smirk. While a believer in the current form of military meritocracy that had ruled Uru since the Union Revolution two centuries before, Lana was a man who understood that the people wanted and needed changes in the way society was governed. But when one had to balance the interests of the radical conservatives who wanted their serfs and slaves back and the radical liberals who wanted full multi-level participatory democracy on the same scale as many nations of Earth ran it, it was very hard. Having to deal with Yethis and his many machinations had given Lana an asteroid-sized headache at times. Kakazu may be of noble blood, but she was a very smart woman, perfect to succeed him as President when he finally retired in the next couple of years. As a moderate Imperial possessing a wide level of respect among the rank and file in the Defence Forces and having quite an intergalactic profile as well, Azu Kakazu would lead Uru into a new golden age even if she strove to be the last president of the Union before an Imperial Restoration...IF Invader's daughter was willing to be Empress.

 

Kakazu blushed, her cheeks reddening. Seeing the woman he once had a crush on when he was an officer cadet, Invader blinked on realizing that she actually looked as young as she did thirty years ago when she had been a hard nosed drill lieutenant at the Defence Force Academy. "Thanks, Boss!"

 

What was going on here...?

 

"Speaking of which, where are Lady Tariko and her friends?" Lana then asked.

 

"My daughter's taking the chance to give Tariko and Haruhi a tour of Onishuto; Benten and Oyuki are with them now," Invader reported as a sly smile crossed his face. Now that he had been freed of that childhood brainwashing Urusians were subject to so they could never say a certain planet's name or the demonym for the people living there, he had come to realize how silly he must seem to the likes of his would-be daughter-in-law and her peers. Not to mention the leaders of Earth such as President Josiah Bartlet, who was a good friend of the Trickster of the Show and had supported her quest to see Earth protected from alien intrusion. Especially with the increased levels of Goa'uld activity in the region over the last three years; while a possible invasion from Ipraedos had been the primary reason for the Tag Race the previous fall in Japan, the "children of the gods" who had been the galactic boogeymen from way before the time the Seifukusu had entered space and chased them out of the local cluster five millennia ago were always a concern. "Lady Danu's successor as Rampage and Tariko's sister Miss Shirayuki went home; it's four hours after midnight in Japan right now and Miss Shirayuki's got a tonne of mouths to feed on the island where my daughter's ex-husband now resides. Lady Jessica wants to get started on the weekend where she lives and she needs to fix her fingernails." He shook his head as Lana and Kakazu both laughed in amusement at that little footnote concerning Yethis' demise. "At least Ataru's away from that shrew he called a mother and that spineless husband of hers...!"

 

Lana nodded in understanding; he had got a contact report from both Invader and his wife Chim in the wake of the incident with Queen Elle, so he had a good idea what type of home life Moroboshi Ataru had endured when he had been "married" to Redet Lum. "I expect a full report about the truth behind Lady Tariko and her brother before the next month is out. See if you can get your daughter to add to that since she was the point person in that regard." He then sighed. "Well, as long as Lady Jessica's sister doesn't interfere when it comes to ships passing by their solar system beyond Ceres' orbit, I doubt there should be an issue. Belok and Schwartz aren't stupid enough to try to attack Earth with so many of the Yizibajohei there." Lana had lost that brainwashing fifteen years ago thanks to an encounter he had with Kasuga Ayumu's predecessor as Infinity, Tami Ugadese, over Shingetsu, home colony of Invader's late friend Aruka Mamoru, Ran's father.

 

"As long as there aren't reckless idiots trying to see how far in they could go, it should be alright, Boss," Kakazu noted. "I actually got the chance to speak with Lady Elizabeth's chief gynoid aide, Miss Katy Franklin, aboard her base ship, the Discovery, when His Majesty came in with the news of what was going on. It's a good thing this version of the Academician is a nice person deep down. Much that I'm sure our Noukiite Imperial Marine friends on Jiyū will treat civilians well, anyone who supported Yethis and his clique are in for a very hard time."

 

"No great loss," Lana noted.

 

Rueful chuckles escaped everyone in the room. "One interesting thing about what Tariko's been doing, Boss," Invader noted. "You know about Project: Kamen?"

 

"Nassur's proposal to have gynoid replicas of your daughter and her friends created to distract the Mikado's hunters and everyone else?"

 

"Same. Turns out, that lying bastard Ōgi had bioroid replicas made of them. Nassur-cha and Cinba-cha clued into what was going on, then sent them to Okusei to have them placed under Lady K'ekhech's protection. Shortly after that, Tariko met them and got them Gifted. My own 'daughter' Hensō is now the new Tempest, falling into Lady Danu's place. Ran's 'sister' Damasu is now Lider, the effective president of Yiziba's government. What government is there, by the way."

 

"Avalonians?" Kakazu asked.

 

That made him gape. "Yeah! How did...?"

 

A chuckle escaped her. "I'm an Avalonian now, Invader. That's why I look so young. I helped Skelad Lara save Renning Uday's daughters Shunran and Mayhan when he tried to get them killed, then agreed to have a gynoid replica built by the Zeiwanites made of myself to raise them properly. There was an accident two years ago with Lady Ayumu, which fused my mind with that of my replica's programming." As Invader winced and Lana shook his head, she added, "Tariko came along and got some non-templated Avalonian bioroid bodies from the very man who once tried to cripple your daughter; he did it ultimately because he wanted to free the Avalonians — who are blood-related to the Maidens of the Eternal Voyager themselves — from slavery." As Invader gaped in shock on hearing that — the news of what had happened in the Phentax system months before was just now getting out, making leaders on allied planets scramble like mad as they confronted one of their worst possible nightmares when it came to dealing with the Federation's main enemies — Kakazu added, "It's not as hard as one might think. And with President Miree having taken control of the provisional government of the Niphentaxian Union, with a massive rebuilding program underway using unique starship designs created by architects based in the colonies — all of whom always viewed Avalonians as sentient beings — we shouldn't really have any issues anymore with Dominos and Ipraedos. With your daughter's friendship with Tariko..."

 

"We could milk that to keep the idiots away, you mean?" Invader asked.

 

"Exactly," Lana stated. "We got a signal from INN. Milan Domo's on her way here right now to try to land an interview with Lady Tariko. See to it she gets one with you as well. Be as positive about what she's done for Earth and how much support she has with local governments there. What happened to Yethis was a sad tragedy given his resemblance to that idiot Joth. And with what Lady Haruhi just revealed, we can finally get the truth of Danu's fate out in the open."

 

"Even better, try to convince your daughter to go through a body-swap and become an Avalonian herself," Kakazu added. "Doing that will change her slightly emotionally, but she'll finally shatter the hearts of the remaining Ōgi-alignged Lumites; they were all for suppressing the Avalonians before the Yizibajohei came by to remove the threat of the 'one true faith' from Tariko's brother."

 

"We don't need them now, so go ahead," the president added as a wry smile crossed his face. "You've wanted to do this since the bio-bombing, Invader."

 

An icy grin crossed the younger warlord's face. "That I have, Boss...!"

 

****

 

The city market (a kilometre from the Union Congress Hall), that moment...

 

"That's Tuyuki?!"

 

"And R'buttuo?!"

 

"They don't look like the monsters people taught us about in school!"

 

"Wow! Miss Lum and her friends aren't scared by them!"

 

"They're sure brave...!"

 

Hearing the kids from a local elementary school babble away as they stared in wary curiosity at the two reality warpers enjoying a pleasant morning tea with Uru's most famous daughter and her two closest friends at a street-side bistro set up at the entrance of Onishuto's main city market, Tariko smirked. "I shudder to think of what Hinako-chan would do with this place if she ever visited."

 

That made Lum, Benten and Oyuki blink. "Your youngest sister, you mean?" the crown princess of Neptune then wondered. "She became Pureheart."

 

"Yeah," the Trickster of the Show answered...

 

...before a flash of energy made people spin around!

 

"Onē-tama!"

 

"Speak of the devil," Tariko muttered as Haruhi giggled.

 

The kids looked over. "Who's that, Miss Tuyuki?" one girl asked, pointing.

 

Tariko smiled as Saeru Hinako, Fukushima Hatsue and a third person — all of them were in their battlesuits; the unknown had a hood slung over her head — took a moment to glance around. "Waa...!" the living Spirit of Innocence breathed out as the kids seeing this — and their teachers and guardians — all gushed at seeing how cute and pretty she was. "This is Onishuto..." she then declared. "Hina likes!"

 

The children cheered, which made Hinako blush as Ten floated over to her side. "Um...Tariko-onēchan, would you mind?" the firefighter's son asked as he looked over his shoulder at Hinako's elder sister.

 

Tariko blinked, then she made a gesture with her hand. "Go on, Ten."

 

"Hai!" Out came the megaphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages!" he called out through it. "The Great Show of the Free Planetary State of Yiziba..." — no one in hearing range reacted to that word, which made many look over in confusion — "...proudly presents the Living Spirit of Innocence, Protector of Purity and the beloved sister of the Trickster of the Great Show of Life, Lady Saeru Hinako...SUIKI!" He then waved to the third of the Fukushima sisters. "Currently accompanied now by the first of her battle line, the living spirit of the third of the Fubuki-class destroyers of the Imperial Japanese Navy given life as a shipgirl, the Silent Blizzard, Lady Fukushima Hatsue...HATSUYUKI!" As the people hearing this gasped on hearing where Hatsue came from, Ten waved to the third one before he stopped. "Um...s-s-sorry, Onē-chan, I don't know you..."

 

People blinked before laughter filled the market as more people came over to see what was going on. "That's understandable, Ten-chan. I was flying under the radar since I got Gifted last month before I came in to help Onē-san here sub in for Onii-san in classes so he could spend time with Hinako-chan and the others." At that, she reached up to her hood and pulled it away.

 

People gasped on seeing what she looked like. "Holy!" Benten exclaimed before she gazed at Tariko. "Oi, Tariko! Don't tell me you got your soul split again!"

 

"No, that didn't happen, Benten," the Trickster of the Show said as she waved the biker down. As the crowd all looked at her, then gazed at her effective twin sister standing with Hinako and Hatsue, Tariko gazed at her would-be wife. "You remember the class film project back in March, Lum?"

 

Lum blinked as she stared at the newcomer, then her eyes widened. "But...didn't their souls disintegrate after I shut down the camera?!"

 

"No, koishii, we were spared that fate," the newcomer said as she walked over to sit at the table directly across from Lum, focusing her own brown eyes on the warlord's daughter, which instantly made her blush as red as ripe cherries as she realized what this woman just called her. "Since they plugged up the rakha'ip' that flowed through Tomobiki to help block the shifting of news inside and outside the town..." — here, she used the Noukiite term for spiritual ley lines to make the non-Terrans understand what was going on — "...the natural flow of spiritual energy through there was badly disrupted. It was 'lucky' for all of us that we were preserved long enough for Onē-san and Ayumu-san here to find us after the thing with Elle, then give us bodies." She then shook her head. "Not to mention — and I apologize if hearing of this bothers you — some of your own 'most faithful', who made clone bodies for you and those of your 'holy company' who lived full time on Earth in case something happened."

 

Lum blinked as she took that in, then she gaped. "I have another sister?!"

 

As the people hearing this all gasped, the newcomer nodded. "Hai. Onē-san gave her the name 'Redet Danu' and she was Gifted as Ledo; 'Epimethius' as she would call herself on Earth. I myself became Dikeso; 'Slipstream' on Earth." Here, she winked before a flash of energy saw her transform into a perfect replica of the warlord's daughter, complete with her strapless bikini and calf-high boots.

 

The people seeing this cried out at such a sight while Lum gaped in shock just as the newcomer shifted herself back to normal, donning the jumpsuit with the psychedelic pattern of multiple primary colours, matching hooded demi-cape, white belt and boots, a traditional tàijítú symbol from Taoism on her chest. Gazing deeply into the newcomer's eyes, the warlord's daughter then shuddered as she recalled the last month she lived on Earth, where on many days, her "husband" — no doubt, this woman in disguise — had been quite friendly with her, even going so far as to not chase other girls when "he" was with Lum. Yes, there were the ever-increasing incidents where "Ataru" was snapping harshly back to "his" mother for her rude comments, but given how Lum now saw Moroboshi Kinshō for the petty and selfish woman she really was, she didn't blame Tariko, Ataru or their just newly-revealed sibling for doing that, especially as the moment where Earth would be free of alien influence was approaching. And while it still hurt in a ways, Lum had started to sense that this newcomer had purposefully come from Earth to help her mend from it, allowing relations between House Redet and House Moroboshi to even out after over a year of a very rocky relationship built on a desperate lie...!

 

"Oh, Darling..." she then moaned.

 

"What is it?"

 

Lum gasped as she noted the newcomer had asked that question. A blush then crossed her face before she smiled as she got up. As Benten and Oyuki gave her envious looks — which was instantly picked up on by Tariko and Haruhi, who then shared an amused look — the warlord's daughter moved over to sit into the newcomer's lap, making the people seeing this gasp on noting how close she was willing to be to one of "they who must never be named" even if this was some odd replica of Lum's would-be husband. As the newcomer warmly wrapped her arms around her would-be wife's abdomen, she then concentrated...which made Lum gasp in surprise as her cheeks went nuclear on feeling something VERY interesting press up against her butt. Noting this, Hatsue chuckled in amusement as Hinako huffed. "Onē-tama!" she then scolded as she wagged a finger at the other woman. "If you want to do all that mushy stuff with Lum-san, go back to her room to do it! Hina doesn't want to see it!"

 

Tariko roared with laughter as Ten shook his head, Haruhi giggled, Hatsue smirked and Oyuki and Benten both gaped in shock at such boldness from a person who represented a man who was often quite leery of showing such close affection in public even if he did chase after girls for names, phone numbers and requests to go on dates. "D-d-Darling...!" Lum sputtered.

 

"Oh! Koishii has her horns back!" the newcomer then cooed. "I just have to TAG them!"

 

Lum cried out as her hands moved to cover her horn buds. "Darling! Stop teasing me!" she shrilled as she glared at the other woman...

 

...before her lips were instantly captured by the other woman's own in a very passionate kiss. As the crowd seeing this whooped in delight on seeing someone doing that to the person that was hands-down the most famous Urusian alive today, Hinako whooped. "Yay! We'll have a wedding dress party!"

 

"How about a flat-out wedding?" Tariko then proposed.

 

A shocked cry escaped many in the crowd...

 

...before an outraged voice bellowed from nearby, "HOW DARE YOU?! RELEASE HER NOW, MONSTER! YOU'VE NO RIGHT TO...!"

 

An animistic growl escaped the only shipgirl in their midst as Hatsue's brown eyes glowed a bright silver-white just as the air around her turned as frigid as Triton in summertime, she spinning around...

 

In a flash of light and the loud tinkle of ice forming, the leader of the small troupe of Urusian security personnel — to Lum's shock, it was Pochik Ando, a colonel in the Defence Intelligence Directorate under Azu Kakazu's distant relative Azu Des, Seq Yethis' second in the Round — was encased in a solid block of ice with the head and neck exposed. As the others in the detail scrambled back from their boss, Hatsue turned around, flaring her battle aura to a degree that made everyone gape in awe as they sensed the full scale of the destroyer-turned-teenage girl's power. "LAR'BEKE!" she hissed out...

 

...as a dagger-shaped shank of ice projected from her finger to rip through Ando's neck, causing blood to explode everywhere as a croak of agony escaped the intelligence officer. Then, the dagger turned into the shape of a grappling hook as Hatsue pulled it back through her target's neck, yanking out an eel-like symbiote from the colonel's throat just as the sharp frozen water decapitated him!

 

"GOA'ULD!" one shopkeeper seeing this screamed out.

 

"CALL HEADQUARTERS! WE NEED BACKUP!" the sergeant of the team that had been under the possessed Ando's command then barked to his corporal.

 

The younger marine saluted before leaping into the air and flying off towards the headquarters of the Defence Force some blocks away from the market. By then, the hissing symbiote was in Hatsue's outstretched hand as the raven-haired shipgirl-turned-battle doll licked her lips. "Tasty..." she mewed...

 

...before her teeth chomped into the creature's body behind its head before the dorsal fin, ripping into the flesh with the force of a neutronium vise. As the neck was crushed, the head was severed, a dying squeak escaping it as it flopped to the ground by Hatsue's feet, she yanking the rest of the body clear of her before she contemptuously spat out what she had tried to eat. As the crowd seeing this all gasped in awe at such an act, the shipgirl dropped the writhing body onto the ground as what little blood it had leaked out of severed arteries and veins. She then reached up to wipe her lips clear. "Young one..." she muttered as if she had been sampling a vintage wine.

 

Silence fell as people took that in, then Tariko sighed. "And THAT, dear viewers, is why those so-called 'children of the gods' call us 'Orak'nou'," she mused, making people gaze her way. "The 'unspeakable devils'," she then translated.

 

People blinked, then a wild cheer flooded the crowd, even from the marines who had come with the possessed Ando to "save" Lum...

 

****

 

An hour later...

 

"Hai! Here you go!"

 

"Ah! Thank you, Miss Tamkuo!"

 

"Kusun!"

 

As the last of the elementary school students who had seen Fukushima Hatsue kill off the Goa'uld who had possessed Pochik Ando bowed before racing off to join her peers, Aria des Beauchamps allowed a deep yawn to escape her. "Ah...Aria is sleepy..." the native of Paris moaned before she sat down.

 

"Aria-chan can sleep now," Hinako note. The two youngest of Tariko's half-sisters were now seated at the table that had been occupied by their elder sister and her companions when the incident began; Aria had teleported straight to Onishuto from Ōmure-jima under escort by Ashikaga Shikuko, the living spirit of the Ayanami-class destroyer Shikinami. "All the kids have their candy."

 

"Um...!" Aria then shifted herself to rest against the taller woman with the brown hair tied in a ponytail with a hairband tied in the same cat-ear style Osamu Shirayuki used. "Shikuko-chan is so warm..."

 

Seeing her sister doze off, the living Spirit of Innocence looked around. The mess made by Fukushima Hatsue had been cleaned up by both the city police force and the Defence Intelligence Directorate...whose members, no doubt, were reeling from the shock that one of their senior leaders had been possessed by a Goa'uld of all things. As the adult memories of her past-selves seeped into her mind when it came to encounters between the Children of the Forge and the Children of the Gods, Hinako could only shake her head in sadness. Given that the serpentine symbiotes had simply known nothing more than possessing hosts for as long as they had been travelling in space and through Stargates for thousands of years, trying to make them stop being such bad people was pretty much seen as a lost cause. And with the clear connection between the first generation battle dolls and the first Goa'uld invasion of Yiziba over five sagas ago as her escort to Onishuto just demonstrated, the chances were awfully good that when the System Lords got wind of people like Hatsue, they would do anything to suppress such beings to prevent their whole empire from being smashed down.

 

Which would definitely get Takino Tomo involved.

 

Hinako shook her head as she called up the image of the current incarnation of the Wild Warrior of Passion, Rimbo'o ("Warwind"), in her mind. A one-woman wrecking machine that was simply unstoppable even by the likes of Hayashi Kanami and Faith Lehane when she was going full-tilt, the raven-haired native of Itabashi in Tōkyō itself was perfectly fit to have become one of Yiziba's most powerful warriors when she was Gifted the previous February. Despite being a lackadaisical slacker most of the time who had been as inconsiderate about the consequences of her actions as Tariko Katabarbe had effectively become when she had been brainwashed and forced to play "Moroboshi Ataru", Tomo could be frightfully energetic and competitive when the mood struck her...which was, much to her best friend's constant mortification, quite often since she got a very strong high when the adrenaline began pumping rapidly in her blood or if she was caught in the middle of a very interesting fight scene. Given she was the effectively Yizibajohei equivalent of the Incredible Hulk from Marvel comics, Tomo's ultimate strength level could not be measured; thanks to a special adrenaline boost capability, she had been known to toss around the weight of minor planets when she was on a tear!

 

And she had a particularly BIG hatred of Goa'uld!

 

"Hey, Boss Lady!"

 

Hinako looked over to see where Redet Invader was now standing alongside Azu Kakazu and the current leader of the intelligence security forces in charge of the investigation over what happened to Pochik Ando, Invader's adopted daughter Captain Redet (née Renning) Negau, Lum's adopted elder sister. "What is it, Sergeant?" the green-haired tomboy with the blue eyes asked.

 

"We found another fucking snake, ma'am! It's Colonel Ando's father, Admiral Vel!" the younger officer said as a hovercar came down to a landing nearby, the hatchway opening to disgorge a small section of heavily armed marines and their prisoner.

 

"RELEASE ME! BOW TO YOUR GOD, LESSERS!"

 

Hinako moaned as her own empathy picked up on the radiation-induced madness from the creature now possessing Ando's elderly father, Pochik Vel, a retired admiral in the defence forces and the current president of one of the planet's largest communications systems manufacturers. Thanks to wounds taken when he was a battlewagon warlord, Vel had been confined to a hoverchair since he turned forty; much that his legs had been shattered in a battle with Ipraedies pirates, his mind had been still sharp, which allowed him to advance into the flag ranks as a very cunning warrior even if he was a passionate member of the Imperial Round. But seeing him physically yanked out of the vehicle nearly helpless made many of the people seeing this look away; much that possession by a Goa'uld symbiote was a hideous thing, seeing such a once-proud man reduced to THIS...!

 

"So where's the snake...?"

 

Hinako gasped as people shuddered on hearing that ki charged voice echo through the market, then the youngest of Tariko's sisters turned to look down one alley as smoke dramatically billowed from there, masking the arrival of one of Yiziba's most feared warriors; the Wild Warrior wasn't above using a little theatrics to make her point. As people watched, the slender woman about Tariko's height emerged from the fog, her shaggy bouffant black hair seemed to writhe with the energy about to explode from every cell inside her, a lethal smile on her face showing rather sharp canines as her brown eyes glowed with both an indomitable rage and a frightful cunning that revealed how smart she really was. Unlike most Named Yizibajohei, her uniform consisted of a simple one-piece swimsuit that showed off her developing body very well; she wasn't busty by any stretch of the imagination, but her muscles were very well sculpted. Black thigh-high boots and bicep-high finger-less gloves covered her limbs, silver studded straps wrapped around her thighs and upper arms to keep them in place. A silver studded belt around her waist and a studded silver collar around her neck finished the ensemble. As people instantly backed away in mortal terror from the sight of the Wild Warrior marching determinedly to her target, one couldn't fail to tell that doing ANYTHING to anger this person was nothing short of suicidal.

 

Seeing the oncoming engine of destruction approach him, the possessed silver-haired Oni businessman sneered. "Rimbo'o...!" he growled out.

 

Hearing that, Tomo stopped before she seemed to gush in excitement. "Oh, my! I'm known!" she then squealed, making people gape in shock at her as all the Yizibajohei now on the scene shook their heads in amusement. "I've got FANS! Isn't that COOL?!"

 

Her hand then lashed out...

 

...before Vel screamed in agony after Tomo effectively snapped his arms when she fast-yanked him out of his captors' manacles. "Oh, shut it, you stupid would-be echo voiceover!" the latter moaned as she used her free hand's middle finger to flick his forehead, nearly cracking his skull from the impact. "Bah-blah! Bah-blah! Bah-blah! You're so much a homr'bu umale, I can repeat all your script lines in my damned SLEEP! You might wanna get a better scriptwriter!"

 

"They're too STUPID to consider that, Tomo-chan!"

 

Tomo hummed as she considered that point, then she nodded. "Yeah, yeah, yeah! You can only hope these things would actually get interesting once in a while!" she said as she shrugged, gazing over to Tariko, who was at the table where Aria was now sleeping, enjoying tea with her companions...and yes, Lum was now in the lap of Tariko's newly-revealed sister Hiromi Katabarbe. "Oi! Oi! OI! Hiromi! For fuck's sake, if you're gonna knock her up, GET A DAMNED ROOM, HUH?!"

 

As Invader and Negau awked before they gazed over to see Lum looking VERY content being in Hiromi's arms, Hinako sighed. "Tomo-chan is silly!"

 

That made Tomo glare at her. "Am not!"

 

"Are too!"

 

"Am not!"

 

"Are too!"

 

"AM NOT!"

 

"ARE TOO!"

 

"WHOA, tiger!" Tariko yelped. "Get to the climax of the scene, huh!"

 

Tomo blinked, then she sighed. "Right, forgot!" She looked to where Fukushima Hatsue was...before she sweat-dropped on seeing the living soul of the third Fubuki-class destroyer tucked under a kotatsu of all things laid out on the street behind where Benten was sitting. "Oi! New girl! Front and centre!"

 

Of course, the raven-haired woman appeared almost asleep. "I'll do something..." she said with a yawn, "...starting tomorrow...Tomo-san..."

 

A sweat drop appeared in Tomo's hair. "Man! And people say I'M lazy?" she muttered. She then gazed at Tariko, who winked in reassurance at her. Smirking, Tomo then yodelled, "Oi, Hatsue-chan! Ataru-kun told me he'll have a full-day PILLOW SCENE with you...!"

 

ZZ-ZIP!

 

"Hai, Sensei!" a now VERY awake and alert Hatsue said as she knelt seiza a metre from Tomo.

 

"Good! Pay attention, Student! This is 'Tomo-chan's Lessons doing Goa'uld Interrogation'! You pass this, I'll ask Ataru-kun to give you TWO DAYS!"

 

That made the Silent Blizzard instantly beam. "HAI, SENSEI!"

 

"Okay! Now, I heard from Haruhi that you actually ripped out the lar'beke from this dork's son, then bit into it to kill it, right?!"

 

"Hai!"

 

Tomo hummed. "Didn't taste so good, huh?"

 

"I seem to have been given a taste to enjoy eating them raw, Sensei!"

 

"KEK'ULD!" the possessed Vel shrieked.

 

"Wow! What was Doctor Destructo thinking of back then, huh?!" Tomo mused before she winked at Hatsue. "Now, Lesson One: You have to remember where these idiots love to insert their bodies when they're possessing someone! Like right HERE...!"

 

An inhuman howl of pain escaped Vel as the fingers of Tomo's free hand lanced into his back at the level of his diaphragm. As people watched this, Tomo twisted his writhing body around to show the attentive Hatsue where she had punched in to get at the symbiote's tail. "Lesson Two: You want to make these things sing like canaries without putting them through their death scenes, you start crushing the spine of the lar'beke from the tip up, like SO...!"

 

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! MONSTER! KILLER! STOP THAT! HOW DARE YOU ASSAULT YOUR GOD LIKE THIS?! RELEASE ME! BOW TO YOUR GOD! OH, FATES, IT HURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRTS...!"

 

"Lesson Three: Now, if the host's mind is still there, crushing the lar'beke's tail normally will make it release control of the host...!"

 

Everyone looked at the possessed businessman, whose screams continued to echo with the being still controlling his brain.

 

And his voice still echoed...

 

And echoed...

 

And echoed some more...

 

"And the conclusion here is, Student?!" Tomo then asked.

 

"Hai!" Hatsue said as she shot her hand into the air. "The host is dead!"

 

"Correct!" the Wild Warrior declared. "So now we get to Lesson Four: Making this thing suffer for all the crap it's caused people...even if the host is nothing more than some dictator wanna-be whose whole cause should have gone through its death scene two series ago! Now, when you want to extract the lar'beke, you can pull it out through the hole you make to crush the tail like THIS...!"

 

Vel's wailing soon turned into some sort of perverted warble like some drunken songbird as his head seemed to rock to and fro, blood exploding from his nose and mouth as the being inside him tried to maintain whatever control it had over the host in spite of the horrible pain being inflicted directly on the symbiote itself. Before she got splashed with the blood, Tomo tilted the body so the fluids would drip onto the street. "Of course, you have to watch out for the blood when these things try to burrow its way deeper in to get away from your fingers," the Wild Warrior noted.

 

"Hai, Sensei! Question!" Hatsue said as she put her hand up.

 

"What is it?"

 

"What would the recommended frequency be when it comes to crushing the lar'beke's spinal bones in succession?" the destroyer-turned-teenage girl asked.

 

That made Tomo hum. "You ever get the 10 centimetre 65 calibre Type 98 naval guns fitted to you before you got sunk?"

 

Hatsue shook her head. "No!"

 

"Okay, go at the pace your Type Three guns would fire normally." Tomo winked as she worked another spinal bone in the symbiote, making Vel's scream turn into something similar to a yelping hiccup.

 

"Five rounds a minute! Hai!"

 

"Want some practice, Hatsue-chan?"

 

Everyone perked from the rather gory scene before them before they looked over to the alley that Tomo had teleported into...

 

...before Negau gaped. "Oh, Maidens! Des, too?!"

 

"Hai, afraid so!" the calm voice of the Mistress of the Mind Dive said as she calmly walked towards them, she accompanied by a hesitantly-walking middle aged raven-haired man in rather normal civilian clothing, his eyes glowing as the creature inside it tried to wrest back control of its host from the woman born Mizuhara Koyomi. "And yes, he's as brain-dead as the old fool that you're playing around with right now. Looks like you're up for a promotion, Negau-san."

 

Negau took that in, then she sighed. "I wouldn't have wanted it this way."

 

«Yeah, sure, Negau-san! Pull another one!» Yomi telepathically answered, making Lum's adopted sister blush as she recalled that Yiziba's most powerful psychic could easily read minds from a CONTINENT away on either of her home planets.

 

"RELEASE...ME! BOW TO...YOUR GOD...! YOU WILL...NOT WIN, ORAK'NOU...!"

 

«Shut up!» Yomi said as she mentally commanded Azu Des' body to walk over.

 

As the destroyer-turned-teenage girl now paying attention to the Wild Warrior's "lesson" slammed the soon-to-be late director of the Defence Intelligence Directorate face first onto the ground, Tomo grinned. "Now, adding to the last lesson, Student, there's also the way you can extract the lar'beke out through the MOUTH! Watch what I do with this one!" she declared with a wink.

 

«For those who have weak stomachs, turn away!» Yomi telepathically called out.

 

As people spun away, Hinako gave Aria an envious look before closing her eyes. Hina's glad she's still a kid, the Spirit of Innocence mused.

 

Seconds later, mortal screams exploded from downtown Onishuto!

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

The Senior Year character notes: Seq Yethis, Hozan Lana, Pochik Ando, his father Pochik Vel and Azu Des first appeared in the "Great Father Ataru" storyline that ended the main series. Shigaten Kamen, Redet Hensō, Mienai and Aruka Damasu first appeared in "What Price For Love?" Cinba was first mentioned in "Return of Memory". Redet Belok first appeared in the TSY/Sailor Moon crossover Lonely They Who Guard... Emperor Schwartz of Ipraedos first appeared in "Enter Space-Hybrid Hazel". Skelad Lara and Lum's adopted sister Redet Negau first appeared in "Towards the Unstoppable Future". Milan Domo was a background character throughout the whole series.

 

Translation list: Eta — Noukiite red pepper; Ryekkyuk — The first worldwide capital city of Noukiios, the analogue of ancient P'yŏng'yang in Korea; Homr'bu umale — Literally "scripted same", this is a person who religiously follows a code of behaviour as if it was a military training manual, seen on Yiziba as the worst type of person ever to live; Ti'ibie — Kayfabe; In camera — Inside a room sealed off for secrecy; INN — Intergalactic News Network; Koishii — Darling; Tàijítú — Literally "absolute picture", this is the black-and-white yin-yang diagram commonly used to represent the concepts of Taoism; Lar'beke — Snake leech; Would-be echo voiceover — Yizibajohei euphemism describing people with voices that sound like God did in the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments; Get to the climax of the scene — Yizibajohei euphemism equivalent to the Terran "get to the point".

 

The Yizibajohei calendar dates from 47 BCE on the Terran Gregorian calendar.

 

Azu Kakazu first appeared in the Phoenix From the Ashes side story A Nice Quiet Place.

 

The fembots created by Elizabeth Wakefield to crew her starship Discovery are modelled after the ones that appeared in the "Kill Oscar" and "Fembots in Las Vegas" storylines in the original run of The Bionic Woman. To allow them to interact with normal people when they need to, they were all given family names, such as Katharine "Katy" Franklin (whose "television-self" was played by Canadian-born American actress and former member of The Golddiggers, Janice Whitby).

 

Miree ot'ndai-Bohgar first appeared in Lonely Souls.

 

The film-replica of Moroboshi Ataru/Tariko Katabarbe appearing here — Hiromi Katabarbe/Moroboshi Hiromi — first appeared in the Yatsura manga story "Love and Violence" (manga chapter #78). Also appearing in this story was Lum's film replica, given the name Redet Danu in honour of Lum's ancestor from the time of first contact between Uru and Yiziba.

 

The wedding dress party concept was first shown in "Season of Love" (Sister Princess first season anime episode #7).

 

I invented the terms Orak'nou ("unspeakable devil") and Kek'uld ("god eater"/"cannibal") to serve as Goa'uld terms to address the Yizibajohei and the Niphentaxians respectively; in this, I mixed Coptic words with samples of what little of the Goa'uld language I could find in various websites.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Ōmure-jima, Welcome House, Saturday morning at breakfast (Onishuto time: Two hours after lunch)...

 

"Such a calm breeze..."

 

The blonde Aryan beauty now standing at the old sea wall that formed the outer border of Welcome House's grounds blinked as she gazed towards the open Pacific Ocean beyond the limits of the Sagami Sea, glad it was a clear day so she could take in her surroundings and better adapt to what she had become hours before. While she had been glad to get the chance to nap after she had been brought here by the Undertaker the previous evening after her resurrection over the North Atlantic, Luisa von Bismarck had effectively slept for seventy-one years after she — as Germany's penultimate battleship — had been hunted down and pounded into scrap by the vengeful crews of the Royal Navy. And while the people who lived here like young Saeru Hinako — now off to the planet Uru to look in on her elder half-sister Tariko Katabarbe — had vowed never to violate war graves again, the sheer number of true "dead" from the sinking of Bismarck actually was about HALF of what the records stated.

 

"Will I ever meet you..." Luisa whispered. "Dame Drachentöter..."

 

"Sadly, her identity must remain secret for a time, Luisa."

 

Luisa tensed, then she turned to see a purple-haired arch-mage standing behind her, dressed in her normal Gothic-like noblewoman's clothing, a light smile on her face. "Frau Hirosaki," the battleship-turned-twenty-someting woman breathed out even if she was more than grateful that the Dark Heart of Pure Chaos had spoken to her in German. "It may not be wise to approach me in such a manner."

 

"The newness of your transformation is making you hesitate at this time," Hirosaki Chikage warned as she moved to stand beside the taller woman. "But it's more than understandable. While you were effectively 'alive' as a battleship, you never once were expected to become physically human. While you did inherit the memories of your crew — both saved and lost — to understand the basic mechanics of being human, they were men." Her royal blue eyes sparkled in amusement. "Unless...?"

 

Sensing that unspoken question, Luisa snorted. "Nein. There was no woman who disguised herself to serve, even if such would have been more than understandable in those times. The rage many in the Fatherland felt at being treated like that after the Great War was immense."

 

"And taken gross advantage of by Herr Hitler and his clique."

 

That made Luisa nod. "Ja. I sensed some of my crew come by when Herr Professor Ballard discovered my wreck twenty-three years ago. They knew of the horrible things that stupid corporal and his friends unleashed. My admiral never cared for that nonsense in the first place even if he wished the Fatherland to be strong again." She shook her head. "No wonder Catarina's so ashamed..."

 

"If she ever moves to the United States, she'll be treated well," Chikage assured her. "President Bartlet is a good friend of Ane-kun's and has always supported her quest to see us protected from the aliens. If a new version of the Liberty Legion is formed, Catarina will no doubt be a part of it."

 

"The American team of metahumans meant to fight the Rittmeister's last round of students, ja?"

 

"Ja."

 

"Guten Morgen, Eure Durchlaucht."

 

Luisa gargled, then she looked over. "Frau Tenhiro!"

 

As the battleship-turned-twenty-something beauty flustered in embarrassment at being called "Your Highness" by a bowing Tenhiro Haruka, Chikage smiled...

 

****

 

Inside the main commons of Welcome House...

 

Tendō Akane moaned as she slowly rose from her bed.

 

"Damn...morning already...?"

 

Grunting, the raven-haired tomboy slipped out from under her covers, stretching herself for a moment before opening the blinds over the window of her guest room to gaze out at the back lawn of the youth hostel she had stayed in. Noting Luisa von Bismarck now acting like a flustered child as she tried to admonish Tenhiro Haruka while Hirosaki Chikage stared at this in amusement, the Hammer of Passion could only smile. "You're a really lucky lady, Tariko-chan."

 

A knock echoed from the door. "Akane-san?"

 

Perking on recognizing the voice of one of the cute "shipgirls" that had been there at Fūrinkan High School the previous afternoon when Akane finally recovered from what her idiot father had done to her years ago in the wake of her Gifting, the nude woman walked over to slip on the housecoat she had been given since she had come here only in her battlesuit as Cremisi. "Come in, Fujiko-chan."

 

The door opened to reveal the first of her class of destroyers and the first shipgirl to rise thanks to Saeru Hinako. "Gomen nasai, Akane-san," Fukushima Fujiko said as she stepped inside, a small bag in hand. "Sakuya-san arranged to get some clothes for you so you don't have to wear the battlesuit all the time. Fortunately, both Tariko-san and Shirei-kan knew your sizes through Kanami-san, so we made sure you would get some properly-fitting clothes."

 

Akane blushed at such thoughtfulness by the matriarch of the Moroboshi Clan and her siblings. "Appreciated, Fujiko-chan," she said as she took the bag in hand, then slipped off her housecoat to get dressed; since there were only women in this place thanks to Moroboshi Ataru living in the rotunda at the old seaward side of Welcome House, there was no need to worry about peepers.

 

She was quick to sense the former destroyer blush madly as her well-toned body was revealed, then she posed herself slightly. "Like?" she cooed.

 

Fujiko's cheeks reddened more. "Akane-san is so beautiful...!"

 

That made the youngest child of the Tendō of Ōizumi blush in return at that honest appraisal, then she moved to slip on a pair of sports panties and a matching bra, both fitting her perfectly. Noting there were pairs of track shorts and sweat shirts along with a couple pairs of jeans and button blouses, Akane then gazed briefly at Fujiko to note she was prepared to do some exercise. Quickly donning a red shirt and matching shorts, she then pulled out some socks and the pair of running shoes provided by the Moroboshi Clan before she reached over for her war hammer, which had been leaning against the wall by the window. With that, she reached over to allow Fujiko to take her hand, then they headed out.

 

"Poi! Fujiko-chan!"

 

Fujiko and Akane stopped, turning around to see both Hamamoto Kodachi, Kisaragi Mutsuko and her sister Kisaragi Kyōko come over. Like the first of her class of destroyer shipgirl, the fourth of the Shiratsuyu-class and the first and second of the Mutsuki-class were also in track gear. "Oh, Kodachi-chan! Mutsuko-chan! Kyōko-chan! Ohayō!" Fujiko called out to her old fleet mates.

 

"Everyone else is out on the front lawn ready for calisthenics!" Mutsuko called out. "We can't seem to find Ryūnosuke-san anywhere."

 

That made the "flagship" of the shipgirls on Ōmure-jima blink. "Is Steve-sensei here? He was going to help her adjust to being Gifted."

 

"I haven't seen her..."

 

"HELP!"

 

All the shipgirls gasped. "SHIREI-KAN!" Fujiko screamed out.

 

All four of them then raced for the end of the hallway, where an open window was conveniently located. They leapt through it, flying down to their starboard to land at the main entrance to the rotunda before racing inside, falling in along their sisters who had also heard Moroboshi Ataru scream out. Watching this as she walked along over to see what was going on, Akane nodded.

 

"Good reflexes..."

 

****

 

Inside the rotunda, ground floor...

 

"Oi! Teitoku! What's wrong?!"

 

"Goshujin-sama! Are you alright?!"

 

As Ashikaga Akemi knocked hard on Ataru's bedroom door, footfalls heralded the arrival of a certain metahuman detective from London. "Oi! What the hell's wrong with you guys?!" Yotsuba Dunn demanded. "Some of us are still trying to sleep!"

 

"Teitoku called out for help, Yotsuba-san!" Ashikaga Ami said as her sister moved to force the door.

 

"Catarina-san! Please...we just met...!"

 

All the shipgirls awked on hearing that pleading voice from inside Ataru's bedroom, then Yotsuba grinned in delight. "Ani-chama date checky!" she bellowed out as she leapt down from the second-floor landing, then raced over to shove Akemi and Ami out of the way before quickly twisting the doorknob in a unique way to unlock it before she shoved open the door, camera out and ready.

 

"YOTSUBA!"

 

The camera clicked away several times as the destroyers at the doorway peeked in. "Oi, you shitty Kraut cruiser! What the hell are you doing?!" Akemi shrilled.

 

Fujiko came over to look herself before she blushed on seeing a nude Catarina von Savoyen trying desperately to crawl all over a struggling Moroboshi Ataru, who was at least in his pyjama bottoms. "Catarina-sama! Stop being so forward to Shirei-kan! You just met!" the first of her class called out.

 

"WAS ZUR HÖLLE IST DAS?!"

 

Everyone yelped as a blonde battleship stormed into the rotunda, pushing past the younger shipgirls to gaze into the bedroom before her eyes went wide in horror at what her old companion from Operation: Rheinübung was now doing with their effective new admiral. "OLYMPIA CATARINA VON SAVOYEN-CARIGNAN!" Luisa shrilled, making Catarina bolt up to attention. "WHAT IN GOD'S NAME ARE YOU DOING WITH THE ADMIRAL?! GET OUT HERE RIGHT THIS INSTANT, YOU SILLY GIRL!"

 

"J-J-JAWOHL!" the cruiser stammered out as her cheeks turned as red as cherries.

 

Luisa lunged inside, snaring her friend by an arm and dragged her out, ignoring the fact that Catarina was trying to cover herself with just one of Ataru's bed sheets. As the destroyers got out of the larger shipgirls' way, Yotsuba blinked before she gazed in amusement at Ataru, who was now lying on his bed, panting. "Oi, Ani-chama! Was it good?" the metahuman detective coyly teased.

 

A moan escaped him. "Not this early in the morning, Yotsuba, PLEASE...!"

 

"My, what a passionate young lady! Never expected that from an Austrian!"

 

Yotsuba perked, then she leaned through the doorway to gaze towards Tanenobu Karen's room. "Oi! Giles-sensei! What are you doing here?!"

 

The greying middle-aged Englishman in the grey tweed business suit he always wore when he worked as librarian at Sunnydale High School in a seashore town near Los Angeles smiled as he slipped off his glasses, his blue-green eyes twinkling in profound amusement. "I see you gained a much larger fleet than you had just last week, Miss Dunn. It appears whatever force is sending the first generation battle dolls down here from the Forge is being more thorough than we'd wish."

 

That made Yotsuba sweat. "ANOTHER one...?!"

 

"Yes," Rupert Giles said. "Two of them, in fact."

 

As the metahuman detective moaned, Ataru croaked, "Please, Sensei, keep these ones away from me. I've got enough shipgirl issues..."

 

"Oh, don't worry about that, old boy." Giles then blushed. "It seems..."

 

"Admiral?"

 

Everyone perked, then they turned...

 

"Would you like some mixed cherry tea, Admiral?" the grinning girl looking to be about Yotsuba's age standing by the entrance to the dining room declared, holding up a tray with a piping hot cup of reddish tea. "Admiral Susumu made it for you."

 

As the destroyers all blinked, Yotsuba looked over with her spy glass, then she grinned. "Oh! Yotsuba DEFINITELY has to check this!" she leered.

 

An embarrassed moan escaped the Watcher. "Miss Dunn, please...!"

 

The other shipgirls blinked, then they burst out laughing...

 

****

 

The dining room, thirty minutes later...

 

"So these two just showed up in Sunny-hell two days ago, then started beating up vampires when they came into town, Xander-kun?" Hatoyama Rinrin asked.

 

"Yep," Xander Harris replied as he tried not to blush as one of the two new shipgirls — a very busty woman even if she looked to be the same age as he, possessing blonde hair in bushy twintails that went to her shoulders, blue eyes peeking out of a somewhat chubby face despite her well-muscled body — reached over to squeeze his hand. All the members of the Scooby Gang were seated on the couches that lined the outer wall of the dining area, with the sisters at the tables and Rupert Giles himself at the guest of honour spot beside Susumu Marie, with the cute young tomboy with the electric blue hair tied in twin odangos at the backs of her temples standing close to the elderly Watcher. Much to the two new shipgirls' amusement, Marie's bushy-haired "golden retriever" Michael — he was actually a Yizibajohei ruolosuo, a wild wolf-like being native to the northern polar continent — was busy sniffing up both girls' legs, making the older-looking of the pair blush madly as she shied away from the friendly dog while the younger-looking of the pair giggled in delight. "Made a whole ton of them bleed rivers of ichor from the nose on seeing two nude girls walk up Main Street like that, but we were able to subdue them and get them turned back with some donated blood."

 

"They're not fully Gifted yet, Shirei-kan," Fukushima Fujiko reported as she gazed at Ataru, who was now busy scanning his large PAA as it linked to various sites in the Internet to help him devise human names for these newcomers.

 

"Why are you two holding off?" Sukeyama Sakuya asked them.

 

The one holding Xander's hand blushed deeply. "W-w-well, we didn't know that we could d-d-do that, Admiral Sukeyama!" she said in a timid voice, then she smiled as Xander gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Some of my crew came from Sunnydale. After I fully merged with the battle doll sent from the Great Crystal of Power to turn me into this, the memory blocks that were placed on their minds when they lived there fell away and I realized something really awful was going on in town. As soon as I got close enough to scan what was going on — I wish I had my planes with me so they could have done a reconnaissance in force before I got there — I realized there was some sort of interdimensional gate, like the one that leads into the Dark Gaol the Healer's ally used to imprison the snake leeches when they tried to seize parts of the Great Crystal. That's when I met up with Sammy here..."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"No WAY!" Fukushima Shirayuki exclaimed, her eyes wide. "It CAN'T be...!"

 

"To even STAND in her presence!" Ashikaga Ami squealed. "What an HONOUR!"

 

"Of course she became an elephant lady...!"

 

"ELEGANT!"

 

Everyone looked over to where the Akamatsu sisters were now standing, with the elder of them now flustering in embarrassment. "Keep trying, Tsukiko-san," Tenhiro Haruka bade to Akamatsu Tsukiko, the reborn destroyer Akatsuki.

 

As the childish raven-haired girl with the matching dark blue eyes blushed madly at the encouragement the Quarterstaff Mistress just gave her while her younger sisters Himeko, Ikue and Inoue all shook their heads in amusement, many of Fujiko's and Ami's sisters raced over to stare closely at the reborn "destroyer escort who fought like a battleship" at the Battle off Samar...

 

...then they dropped to their knees and began bowing to her, waving their hands over their heads as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar did to Alice Cooper in Wayne's World. "WE'RE NOT WORTHY! WE'RE NOT WORTHY! WE'RE NOT WORTHY! WE'RE NOT WORTHY! WE'RE NOT WORTHY...!"

 

Laughter filled the dining hall from the normal humans seeing this. "Aw! Cut it out, you crazy Nips!" the living kami of USS Samuel B. Roberts cried out. "I was just doing my damned job! Don't make it look like I was part of the Liberty Legion, huh!" the adopted native of Houston in Texas (her place of construction) and San Francisco (her namesake's place of birth) then cried out.

 

The destroyers still chanted away as they bowed, making her fluster madly as her new friends from Sunnydale laughed at such a show of respect. "Oi! A-man! You make up a good name for the Little Scrapper here, yet?!" a voice called out.

 

Eyes locked on Faith Lehane, who was seated beside Buffy Summers off to one side close to where Sakuya and Ataru sat, with Chikage standing beside the two current living Slayers. "Just got it, Faith-san. For her and her friend here from Taffy Three," Ataru then declared. As the Japanese shipgirls then stared as one at Xander's current companion, they all gasping in awe on hearing that she too was part of the famous Task Unit 77.4.3 at the Battle off Samar back in the fall of 1944 during Leyte Gulf, he stood up, clearing his throat. As the two newcomers tensed, he waved to the reborn destroyer escort. "Miss Samantha Brooke Roberts," he solemnly declared, then he indicated the older-looking shipgirl. "Miss Honore Chloe Zitzewitz," he formally declared with a wave of his hand.

 

That made the twintailed blonde blink, her cheeks turning deep red as she looked away from the nice man who had just named her in partial honour of the woman who had christened her in 1943 at Vancouver in Washington. "Admiral Moroboshi...!"

 

"Hey, that's pretty classy, Gamby!" the just-named destroyer escort noted, which made the Japanese shipgirls gasp on realizing they had just met the first aircraft carrier to assume human form. She then looked hopefully at the elder man standing in the room. "Hey, Admiral, which name...?"

 

Giles sighed. "Which would you be more comfortable with, Miss Roberts?"

 

That made her think before she flustered. "Well, B-b-Brooke sounds nice..."

 

"Okay, Little Scrapper! You're Brooke!" Faith then declared.

 

As people snickered at the Bostonian's automatic declaration, the spirit of USS Gambier Bay then gazed on Xander. "Um...what do you think, Admiral Harris?"

 

The son of one of Sunnydale's more notorious unemployed drunks and the "normal" one of the Scooby Gang despite his being also the Wild Hunter of the Plains then hummed as he considered that point before he nodded. "'Honore' sounds pretty square. 'Chloe' sounds very nice."

 

That made her blink before she rapidly nodded. "Y-y-yessir..."

 

"My! Chloe-san is skittish, isn't she?" Haruka then noted.

 

"Understandable," Chikage mused. "She was sunk in an action where she wasn't designed to operate. While one admires her crew, it wasn't the right sort of battle to operate an aircraft carrier in."

 

"Hey, White Plains did good!" Brooke protested.

 

The Dark Heart of the True Chaos nodded. "True, Brooke, she did, but what if a shell struck one of her ammunition magazines or her aviation fuel storage tanks?"

 

That made all the shipgirls present wince. "Yeah, that's true..." Chloe breathed out.

 

Let me out of here...!

 

People blinked on hearing that roaring voice echo from nowhere in particular, then Chloe gazed at the beautiful Latino girl seated on Xander's other side. "Um, Your Highness, I think Admiral Summers needs to know of your prisoner, ma'am," she then whispered.

 

Hearing that, the Inca princess born Coya Yupanqui in the early Sixteenth Century smiled as she rose from the couch, turning to bow deeply to the elder living Slayer. "Forgive me for my impertinence, my Mistress, but given the horrid wound delivered to your heart at the start of this most dark year, I acted without your orders in capturing your errant beloved with the Sea Angel Chloe's help."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"YOU CAUGHT ANGEL?!" Buffy screeched in wide-eyed delight.

 

The living avatar of an ancient Yizibajohei volcano goddess from the southern polar continent later transformed into one of the Handmaidens of the Master of the Dark Gaol bowed again as the others in the room save the newly arrived destroyer shipgirls from Japan gasped in delight. "Indeed I did, my Mistress! Forgive me for not telling you this, but I wished to make use of the chance to properly torture the corrupted part of Master Liam as my own great master taught me how to do in my first life when the lar'beke came upon our beautiful world and as my own spiritual patron has commanded me," the current incarnation of Raeru Uoto ("Pacha Kamaq") declared, a mirthless smile crossing her face, brown eyes glittering in anticipation of producing quite a show. "If this is done correctly, Master Liam will never again feel guilt at what his horrible sickness forced him to do as 'Angelus'. And with that, the fool wanderers from Europe who botched the revenge scene over a series ago with the poor man will be denied their worthless final vengeance and you will have your lover back."

 

Hearing that, the native of Los Angeles who was one of the best urban warfare fighters on Yiziba atop being a vampire Slayer hummed as she crossed her arms before she gazed on her "successor". "What do you think, Faith?" Buffy then asked.

 

"Hey, any face loves to be a heel if they can get away with it, B," Faith noted with a shrug. "Let Coya go to town. I want to hear the bastard squeal."

 

"Kaho doesn't want to listen to this, Onii-chama," a young voice then declared from nearby. "It hurts Kaho's ears when creepy heels are made to scream like that."

 

People turned as Eigo Kaho got up from the table, a frown on her face. "Here, Kaho-chan, I'll come with you," Ashikaga Ayako then vowed.

 

Kaho nodded as the living personification of the first of the Ayanami-class destroyers came over to escort her out of the dining room. "I'm sure you all have strong stomachs," Rupert Giles calmly stated.

 

"You KNEW?!" Buffy demanded as she glared at her Watcher.

 

"Miss Gutierrez hinted she was going to do that to Angel, Buffy," the Oxford alumnus answered. "Much that I'm surprised she was able to succeed in doing so, I was wary, so I kept it to myself, especially when she described what she was going to do after pulling him out from the Dark Gaol." As others in the room gasped, he smirked. "Then again, luck seems to be with you all in cases like this."

 

That made Buffy stare anew at Coya. "A surprise?"

 

"Only the best for you, my Mistress."

 

The current incarnation of the Mighty Maiden of the Mountains, R'besuoto ("Virago"), then nodded her permission. "Okay! Go ahead!" She then raised her finger in warning, winking at her new friend. "Remember, Coya! I want my lover back in ONE PIECE! Got it?!"

 

"Of course, my Mistress."

 

"Oi, people in Welcome House! Am I in time?!"

 

People looked over to the doorway to see a grinning woman somewhat younger than Marie standing there, dressed in the urban camouflage battlesuit with pouch-lined brown belt and boots of the Voice of the Great Show of Life, Bo'odurba ("Windtalker"), her handy portable camera in hand and sitting on her right shoulder. "Hey, Paparazzi Girl!" Faith whooped as others cheered the arrival of Asakura Kazumi. "You ready to make those stupid gypsies howl like babies?!"

 

The chestnut-eyed would-be reporter with the shaggy red-brown hair in a high ponytail laughed. "Hey, if these so-called 'experts' can botch up a revenge scene like you told me they did with Buffy-chan's pillow scene partner, I'm all for making them look like total morons!" She then looked around the room. "So where IS the Angelmeister, anyway? I hear he's definitely pleasing to the eyes...!"

 

"Mine, Asakura!" Buffy snapped.

 

She got a tongue stuck out in return from one of the students of the son of the Thousand Master while others in the room laughed. "Okay, let's get the revenge scene under way!" Yotsuba then declared with a flourish as Kazumi went over to position herself in a perfect place to capture the best shot.

 

"Skylight sunscreen on!" Rinrin then called out.

 

The overhead skylight darkened to prevent the reflected rays of the morning sun from coming close to Coya's prisoner. The former princess smiled as she gestured with her hand. A space warp then appeared, causing a dark-haired man appearing to be in his twenties to appear, his body quaking as if he had been subjected to WEEKS of exposure to Redet Lum's bio-electricity. As a moaning cry escaped the man born Liam O'Connor in 1727, the handmaiden to the Undertaker chuckled as she walked over to loom over the well-restrained demon-infected master vampire. "Well, Master Liam..." she cooed as she leaned down to breathe into his ear. "How did you like your visit to OUR version of Hell?"

 

Angelus roared as he spun around to glare at the impudent mummy princess that came back to life somehow before the previous Hallowe'en. "LET ME GO, YOU FREAK ZOMBIE BITCH!" the transformed linen merchant's son roared as his "game face" came on. "I SWEAR I'LL KILL YOU FOR DUMPING ME INTO THAT DAMNED PLACE! LET ME GO! I'LL MAKE IT QUICK...!"

 

KK-KRACK!

 

Angelus' head was snapped over by Xander's rabbit punch, making the three century-old vampire gape in shock as the sheer power behind that blow registered deep within his mind...which no normal MAN should ever possess! As he slowly turned around, Xander smirked as he unfolded his fingers.

 

PSSSHHEEW!

 

Angelus screamed in disbelief as foot-long ki claws grew out of the fingertips of Xander's right hand, then he stared wide-eyed at the "normal" member of the Scooby Gang...before he gaped as Xander's clothes then morphed into the brown jumpsuit with the darker brown animal striping on the sides, black belt and boots and black hyena's head insignia of the Wild Scavenger of the Plains. "No...!" the linen merchant's son then exclaimed. "You can't be...there's no way possible...!"

 

He yelped as Xander — who had then sheathed his ki claws — slapped down on his forehead, making the vampire's face go back to normal. "Deadboy, it's mesonium! It's ALWAYS possible!"

 

"And once we inject such into your body, you'll feel HUMAN again!" Coya then cooed as she stared without mirth at the shaking master vampire.

 

Angelus recoiled as he had just been jabbed by a blessed cross or had holy water dumped on him. "NO! DON'T YOU DARE, YOU MONSTER!" he screamed out.

 

"Isn't that like the kettle calling the pot 'black', Sensei?"

 

His head snapped around...

 

...then his "game face" came on as he growled at the black-haired girl seated next to Buffy's watcher. "You got guts saying that having your tea, little girl...!"

 

Marie's hand gestured as a stream of paper instantly flowed out of her pockets into her hand, forging a very thin stake, which then lanced out.

 

"YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH...!"

 

"DO try keep a civil tongue, Mister O'Connor," the Paper Mistress calmly said as the deadly shank she made with her powers punched through Angelus' shirt to probe close to his heart, making the master vampire squeal like the proverbial stuck pig while she drank the rest of her tea. "One would think with your so-called 'refinement', you'd know how to behave in the presence of your betters."

 

"You remember when our friend Miss Black came by to town in March when she and her sister were visiting our friends in Sweet Valley, Deadboy?" Xander then asked. "I sure remember how much you and Bill and Drusilla and the rest of the crew CRIED when they watched Margo MELT your 'friend' the Judge with just a TOUCH!" A faux-sob escaped the "normal" member of the Scooby Gang. "Aw! I saw the great Angelus actually CRY! I even think I SMELT you SHIT yourself when you found out that there were far WORSE things on Earth these days than your precious 'old ones'!"

 

Derisive laughter filled the dining room as Angelus sputtered in disbelief, completely knocked askew by the fact that these supposed "normal" humans now looked upon him as he actually would look on anyone whose blood he wanted to drain. That was NOT something the master vampire was used to; not even the most vicious Slayer was intentionally cruel like this. "Wh-what the hell happened to you, Xander?!" he demanded as his face reverted back to normal, a fist of icy fear gripping his heart as the fact sank into him that these people were honest-to-goodness METAHUMANS — all blessed with MESONIUM in their blood, exposure to which was like hydrochloric acid to any vampire! — like the damned Liberty Legion and the others who had gone crazy during the Second World War...not to mention a near-immortal former president that Angelus and his sire Darla barely escaped from in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. "You can't act like this! You're the GOOD GUYS! You don't do this...!"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"'Nothing is true', Liam, old son," Xander said with a smile that didn't flash in his eyes. "'Everything is permitted.'" He shrugged. "Granted, that's the motto in Assassin's Creed, but it fits us as well."

 

"Holy shit, B!" Faith called out as she and Buffy came over to stand between Angelus and Giles. "I can't believe it! A dude with his amount of experience and he only just figured it out NOW?! Didn't Angel notice all the vampires we were turning back to normal since you first hit Sunnydale two years ago?!"

 

"WHAT?!"

 

That was a wide-eyed Angelus, who was gaping at the Bostonian in total disbelief. "It's quite true, Liam," Giles stated before he nodded his thanks as Ashikaga Namiko came over with a new cup of tea for him and Marie. "Oh, thank you, my dear," the Watcher said before he gazed at the master vampire. "Granted, I myself was quite skeptical about the whole concept, but after Xander here lost his friend Jesse when Buffy teamed with Willow, Tara and Xander to deal with the Master and the Order of Aurelius, they implemented it and it's been quite the resounding success ever since. As soon..." He then blinked as Angelus howled with derisive laughter. "Oh, dear! It appears he's not convinced of it!"

 

The sounds of druids chanting then echoed through the dining hall, that followed by a soulful gong that chilled Angelus to the core of his being...!

 

"Then he will watch as the Whirlwind dies, Rupert."

 

A space warp then appeared by the main doors...

 

...then Angelus gaped in horror on hearing the combined screeches of his spiritual "daughter" and "grandson" — along with a girl from Sunnydale he recently turned — as they were literally pitched out of the tunnel connecting Earth to the Dark Gaol to land beside their sire. Like Angelus, the people born William Pratt in 1852 and the woman born Drusilla Keeble ten years earlier were tied with dark crystal chains glowing with a terrible power that seemed to sap all their abilities. Much to his horror, the younger surviving members of the Whirlwind — not to mention Buffy's and Xander's old classmate Therese Klusmeyer, who had been one of the few in Sunnydale High School to never look down on the members of the Scooby Gang before she "disappeared" a month ago; she was also well-secured — were as pale as real ghosts, showing the very ugly signs of having been deliberately STARVED!

 

"Amazing what a little time travel can do, isn't it, Liam?" a new voice then said as footfalls heralded the arrival of a certain redhead Angelus knew well. "Just send them back in time a month and put them in the Dark Gaol to let them hear the many demons trapped there by the Undertaker and his servants like Coya scream as their very life essences are slowly drained out of them to feed into the Forge of the First Race." As Angelus gulped on hearing the ice-cold tone in Willow Rosenberg's voice, the current incarnation of the Arch-Mage of True Passion, R'bemdo R'bem ("Crimson Heart"), came up to stand close to Marie, her hooded rune-line red cape drawn around her body as if she was hiding something. "Hey, Kazumi! You sure the idiots in Clan Kalderash are seeing this right now?" she asked.

 

Kazumi chuckled as she tapped a control on her camcorder...

 

...which projected the image of a middle-aged man everyone from Sunnydale recognized as Janna Kalderash's uncle Enyos, now seated somewhere in a rather plain home, most likely in Europe; as the others were quick to conclude, he had probably been watching the news in his house when Kazumi's technopathic powers cut into the feed to show what was happening with Angelus. "Hey, Mister Kalderash!" Buffy called out as the older man gaped in shock on seeing people glare resentfully at him. "How's it feel, huh?! Sticking US with the problem of Angelus because you idiots botched the revenge scene back in 1898, huh! Just because you're nothing more than a homr'bu umale in your dumbass 'traditions', it might have helped us if you allowed your niece to TELL US what was happening with the guy! We could've settled the issue back then instead of allowing the rabid dog to run wild like he did!"

 

He sputtered on hearing that accusation, then barked out, "We serve Vengeance, you stupid child! You have no right to judge us...!"

 

SNAP!

 

Everyone perked on hearing Chikage's fingers click...

 

...then they gaped as a flash of light caused Enyos to appear in the air over the floor near to where Therese was, then he comically dropped head-first into the deck behind Rinrin! As a pained moan escaped the older man, Angelus blinked before he then laughed. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen!" the master vampire then leered. "You know, Enyos, Buffy's right! If Faith hadn't shown up back in February to stop me from turning your niece into a beautiful work of poetic art to give to Giles here, you would have joined her in death!" A wild laugh then escaped him as some of the people in the room shook their heads in silent amusement at his forced show of bravado.

 

Enyos moaned as he tried to get up...then he blinked as heavy footfalls heralded the arrival of something that was setting his mage-senses overloading with the sheer volume of POWER contained within the body of whoever had just stepped up to loom over him. Turning to look, he then gasped on seeing the tall blonde woman with the ice blue eyes staring down at him as if he was no better than slime. At that moment, Luisa von Bismarck's clothing melted into a beautiful black uniform complete with white shirt and black tie, black rider's trousers and zip-up jackboots spit-shone to a bright gleam. As she knelt down to gaze intently at him, his eyes went wide with horror on seeing the four "pip" stars of a sturmbannführer on her left jacket collar, the dual Armanen "sig" runes of the Protection Squadrons that served as Germany's secret police in the dark years of the Third Reich on her right collar, the badge of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei on her left breast pocket, the Totenkopf skull-and-crossbones hat badge of that same service on her wedge cap...and worst of all, the black tilted Hakenkreuz on a white circle embossed on a red armband wrapped above her left elbow. As Enyos howled in disbelief and horror on seeing this woman draped in the uniform of the monsters whose magical affiliates nearly hunted his clan to extinction seven decades ago, Luisa smirked as her eyes seemed to bore right into his soul to find what was there very wanting.

 

"Ein wahrer Untermensch...!" the battleship-turned-twenty-something woman sneered.

 

As Enyos shrieked at that insult and Angelus howled with delight, Coya raised a hand, allowing mystic fire to dance over her fingers before she flung it at the screaming gypsy elder's face. A wild yelp of pain escaped him as a strange brand was burned right into his skin over his left eye, it appearing to be a three-layered cockade over a burning sun. Seeing that, Angelus blinked...before his eyes widened in disbelief as his mind locked in on that symbol before he shrieked in mortal terror, shaking his head as he began to struggle to break free of his chains and get as far away from these monsters as he could.

 

The Inca princess pointed in condemnation at him, making many in the room stiffen.

 

"NESU BAMGAM MU R'BETO BATAE ERBA!"

 

"Bamgam giro..." the shipgirls in the room then chanted as one.

 

Angelus' screams turned into a near ear-splitting shriek of mortal agony, that accompanied by Spike's and Drusilla's wide-eyed wails...though the younger vampires were just too weakened by having drank no blood. As the others in the room nodded at Coya's declaration, Ashikaga Akemi marched over to snare Enyos by the neck and boost him up. "Okay, you fucking screw-up of a gypsy!" the profane eighth of the Ayanami-class destroyers made human snarled, her eyes glowing. "You have my creator's mark on you! When you join your fuck buddies, that mark spreads to all of them, even your NIECE!" As Enyos shrieked in terror at what was now being implied, Akemi smirked. "And when ALL of the Children of the Healer of Destruction sees that, they'll know you are ENEMIES OF ALL LIFE, only deserving DEATH!" She smirked as she leaned right into his face. "Better hope that Doctor Death doesn't find you first, shithead!" she then snarled. "She'll gladly show you what she did to Usāmah bin Lādin!"

 

"Begone from our sight, selfish fool!" Coya declared as she summoned energy to teleport the dazed Enyos away. "Liam O'Connor is the beloved of my mistress! MY master has granted Master Liam his pardon and welcomed him to become one of the Children of the Healer of Destruction, as his adopted children shall also become." As the gypsy elder howled on hearing that, the Inca princess smirked. "Harm any of them and you will be hunted down and slaughtered to the last! BEGONE!"

 

In a flash of energy, the elderly man was teleported off Ōmure-jima and sent back to Europe. As Kazumi temporarily cut the feed to the television sets of the various members of the Kalderash Clan, she gazed in amusement at the others in the room. "Doing ti'ibie is so much FUN, isn't it?" she asked.

 

People gaped at her, then they laughed.

 

"You FAKED that...?!"

 

That was a stunned Angelus, who had caught the words the Mahora Academy middle school senior just said after nearly screaming his heart out on hearing the two words that he had been taught by the Master to fear above all others since even the OLD ONES themselves were said to dread the utterance of those very words! "Oh, no, Liam," Coya said as she stared at him. "It was QUITE real! Of course, the Sea Angel Luisa doesn't care a bit to don the uniforms of the maniacs that ruled her country when she was created by the hands of good shipwrights decades ago..." — at this, Luisa von Bismarck's authentic SS dress uniform disappeared to revert to her normal clothes just as the now-quite nauseous transformed battleship rapidly moved to head out of the room for the nearest bathroom, she followed by a concerned Catarina von Savoyen — "...but that performance was actually for YOUR benefit in the end!" She then smiled before sharing a knowing look with Willow. "If you may, my friend...?"

 

"Of course, Coya!" Willow said before she gazed on the dazed Spike and Drusilla, an admiring sigh escaping her. "Oh, my! You and Bill do make a lovely couple, you know that," she said as she focused on the seer, which made the dazed woman blink before she gazed drunkenly upon the red-haired hacker/arch-mage now kneeling before her, blinking in confusion on seeing the friendly look on her face when there had been many times Drusilla tried to kill her. "You look thirsty," she said as she reached under her cape to pull out a quart-sized take-out mug of coffee, opening the lid. "Here, have some..."

 

Drusilla's nose instantly flared on sensing the beautiful tincture of rich human blood in that mug, then she nodded as Willow handed it over. Seeing that, Angelus blinked before his nose picked up a VERY familiar acidic mineral tincture from that blood. "NO! DRU! STOP! YOU DRINK THAT, IT'LL...!"

 

He then howled in mortal agony as something akin to a shank being driven into his soul overwhelmed him as the first of that rich liquid passed Drusilla's parched lips to flood down her gullet and plunge into her semi-active stomach, the tiny particles of the Atom of True Life then seeping through the membranes into the seer's dormant circulatory system. Instantly, the ichor that kept her in an "undead" state began to be transformed as the mesonium in the blood began to purge the dark interdimensional energy that had been passed down through generations of demon-infected vampires from the days of the Great Banishment twenty-five millennia ago. As the tiny segment of energy inherited through the generations and the years from the blood of the Old One known as Maloker — who had banished to a pocket dimension known to later generations as the "Deeper Well" by the man later known as the "Undying Lord" during the last years of the ancient war to purge Earth of interdimensional taint — which kept Drusilla Keeble "alive" in an odd way was morphed and transformed, sending a flood of energy to fully awaken her body's cells and restore them to something akin to normal function...

 

...with an extra prize as well, Ataru mused as he watched this.

 

As Drusilla's skin began to flush with new life after she gladly gulped down the blood given to her by Willow, the crimson-haired arch-mage moved over to Spike, holding out another coffee mug for the former poet to take. He grabbed it without hesitation; even if there was a part of him that tried to make him reject what was being offered, the gnawing feelings of hunger that overwhelmed him since Willow and her lover Tara Maclay caught him and Drusilla, then sent them and others — with the help of the bloody Undertaker of all people! — into that awful place where demons seemed to be chained down and drained of life was just too much for him. Gulping down that life-giving fluid made him gasp in relief as he felt new energy flood his body...before he blinked as a thumping sound started to echo from his chest. "Bloody hell..." he said as a wry smile then crossed his face while Drusilla seemed to moan, not resisting as a couple of the shipgirls moved to shift the seer onto a couch. "Nice move, Wills...!"

 

"Rest now, William," Chikage said as she came up to join them, using her own mage-sight to examine their transformation. "Soon as the rest of the ichor is morphed back to proper bodily fluids, I'll get you somewhere where I can do a thorough examination of you two. I'm sure Willow and Tara have already made this process an exact science, but one can never be too sure about something like this."

 

With that, she gestured with her hand to levitate Spike over to lay down on the couch beside his long-time girlfriend. By then, Willow was busy helping Therese drink down the coffee cup set aside for her. Thanks to her being a lot younger than the two master vampires who had been sired in the Nineteenth Century — and being a native of Sunnydale atop that — she proved to be a lot more willing to drink what was being offered to her despite her sire's plea to Drusilla to not partake. "Oh..." she moaned out as her skin began to flush to a more healthy shade. "My, that's very tasty..." she moaned as she moved to wipe her lips down, then she blinked as she began hearing her heart beat again. "Oh, wow..."

 

"Feeling a little better now, Therese?" Willow gently asked.

 

The raven-haired girl with the brown eyes blinked before she looked around, seeing all the pretty girls gazing her way. "Hey...I don't swing your way, Willow...!"

 

That made others blink before delighted laughter filled the room as the arch-mage used her own power to levitate the other woman over to the couch close to where Spike now lay. At the same time, she floated the last coffee cup of blood over to Buffy, who was moving to kneel down beside her dazed boyfriend. "Okay, Liam...you look a little thirsty there," she said as she popped open the lid.

 

Angelus croaked as the rich scene of that fluid overwhelmed him...before his eyes went wide on sensing the scene of his other-self's lover in that blood. Before what little "rational" side of the monster who had earned the ugly moniker "Scourge of Europe" in decades past could stop his body from reacting, he snared the mug from Buffy's hand, then let it pour down his throat as quick as he could. As his own body began to shift in skin tone as the mesonium in the blood began its work, his eyes went wide as they glowed the reddish-gold they normally assumed when he put his "game face" on before they reverted back to their normal dark brown. His hands jerked, making him drop the mug as a faint scream echoed through the room; those with mage-sight were quick to see the last vestiges of his darker self being yanked out of his body and banished through an invisible warp to the Dark Gaol.

 

"You...should have...destroyed me...Buffy..." Angel whispered as his eyes teared.

 

Instantly, he was in her arms. "I'm not letting you go, you big lug!"

 

He blinked before a relieved sob escaped him, then he held her tight as the people seeing this broke out in wild cheers at this reunion almost a year in the making. "And THAT'S a revenge scene, folks!" Kazumi then declared to her "audience". "Lovers reunited as it should always be!"

 

People gaped at the Voice of the Show before laughter filled the room...

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School, an hour after breakfast...

 

"Oh...morning..."

 

Grunting as she slipped off her goggles to rub her eyes clear of the sleep that had accumulated while her systems were busy fully establishing her special workshop in the clock tower, Tsuruya Rumiko took a deep breath to pump new oxygen into her body, then she stretched herself to get the kinks out of her limbs. Gazing at her own work PAA, she then nodded in delight on noting that all the external defences she had promised the school staff were now fully in place, which would keep out all of the local riffraff, from the morons of Butsumetsu High School at the south end of the city to all the morons who served the Mendō Clan all the time. As she imagined what the scion of Japan's richest family would react once he got the news that he couldn't bring his lackeys onto the school property anymore, the Careful Planner of the Circle of Thought smiled before she stood up, stretching again.

 

"Rumiko-san! Breakfast!"

 

She looked over, then grinned as the hatch into the belfry opened to reveal a smiling Shiowatari Nagisa, who was carrying a tray full of good food. "I see Ayumu-chan got to you finally," she noted as Fujinami Ryūnosuke's fiancé came up and moved to place the tray on the table. "Hard to adjust?"

 

A laughter escaped the tea shop maiden who had been promised to the "heir" of Hamachaya before the children of Fujinami Fujimi and Shiowatari Shin had been born. And indeed, Nagisa was a true maiden now; the gold strapless sundress she had on now barely masked the sloping mounds of very feminine breasts, much less the more slender waist flaring into child-bearing hips. "These battle doll bodies Ayumu-san's first self made are just amazing!" Nagisa said as she moved to pour some sencha for the other woman to enjoy. "It's as if I was born a girl all along. I remember growing up as a boy, even going through puberty and all the things boys experience as they move into adolescence...yet now it's been shifted in my mind to make me re-experience it as if I had been born a girl. Menarche, how one handles menstruation — I hope I don't get PMS, of course — and all the other things..."

 

"Well, I doubt Ayumu-chan's first self never thought it out all the way through," Rumiko noted as the other woman sat down opposite from her. "Itadakimasu!" she then called out before digging in.

 

Watching the only declared lesbian attending Tomobiki High work away at her meal, Nagisa then frowned as she considered how lonely it must have been for Rumiko over the last year and more. Coming to a school which seemed full of normal people at the start...which then became polarized the previous fall when Redet Lum came into everyone's lives, followed by Mendō Shūtarō. With the boys almost all moving to chase Lum and find a way to break her from Moroboshi Ataru — Shūtarō among them — and the girls getting mass crushes on the scion of Japan's richest family when no boy save "Ataru" showing any sort of interest in them, it was clearly a dry well to someone who was looking for some sapphic action. It was no wonder that Rumiko had gravitated to Ryūnosuke when the latter had come to school in February. Since the "heir" of Hamachaya wasn't the least bit interested in Shūtarō and was hell-bent on doing ANYTHING to throw off her father's insane teachings when it came to how "he" was to live his life, Rumiko must have seemed a very safe port in a crazy storm that swirled around Ryūnosuke even after Nagisa had been effectively reborn and had become part of her life.

 

Of course, Nagisa wasn't the least bit jealous when it came to Rumiko being her fiancée's first true lover. One of the smartest high school students in Japan certainly HAD to know that someone like Fujinami Ryūnosuke would definitely be high-maintenance, especially since the "heir" of Hamachaya probably really didn't understand the whole concept of things behind sex. And while understanding the physical mechanics was an easy task, tying it to emotional attraction was much harder. Nagisa had discovered that early on after she had moved in with the Fujinami family after her rebirth on the tiny islet near Ōmure-jima her family had acquired for a very cheap price in hopes of attracting passing fishermen going and coming from Tōkyō Bay. Try as she had might — even if Rumiko had obligingly backed off on hearing of the engagement — she hadn't got far with Ryūnosuke.

 

"She'll have to discover what she is before thinking of anything concerning marrying anyone," the Careful Planner then warned as she fixed the boy-turned-girl seated across from her with a knowing look. As Nagisa gaped in surprise at that seemingly all-knowing comment, Rumiko chuckled. "Sorry about that. Since I allowed my Gift to take me, I've been overthinking about people's relationships as a way of exercising my deductive skills. Given how things are between you and Ryūnosuke, it's too easy to conclude. You may be ready to get a husband or wife. She's not."

 

Hearing that, Nagisa blinked before she sighed. "Agreed. If her father had only been a little bit more understanding..." she hissed out as she leaned her chin on one of her hands, shaking her head. "I was glad when Yomi-san used her telepathy to make Oji-san go away for a while. Ryūnosuke-sama really needs the chance to discover what she is without him leaning down on her like that. Much that I'm prepared to marry her even after getting my wish come true, you're right about her not being close to be married. And with her now being Gifted? I hope the Post-Gifting Shock isn't too bad."

 

"Oh, Steve took her over to his ranch in Texas to give her the chance to work out a lot of her frustrations and maybe go stomp on a few idiots. Maybe she'll help him out with that television show of his, too. Earn some real money for a change, way beyond her father's reach." As Nagisa giggled on hearing that, Rumiko then smirked. "And when he finds out that his 'manly man' is learning how to do that 'fancy pro wrestling' all the way over in America..." Here, she said that in a good approximation of Steve Austin's rough Texan accent, which made Nagisa laugh. "He'll be so beside himself figuring out how to get there that he probably won't pay a single bit of attention to you or how your bust grew so big!"

 

Both women then laughed...

 

...then they perked on hearing a frightened yell from outside.

 

"That's Mizunokōji Asuka!" Rumiko exclaimed. "What the HELL...?!"

 

Both women stepped out of the belfry onto the veranda that overlooked the front doors of the school, quickly spotting the quivering middle school senior now kneeling on the road just beyond the main gate, curling in on herself. Seeing she was dressed in the white-trimmed black seifuku of Keppeki Girl's Junior High School in Niiza north of Tomobiki itself, the Careful Planner blinked. "What the hell is she doing all the way down here?! Her house is at the north end of town!"

 

"ASUKA-CHAN! LEAVE THAT TRANSVESTITE MONSTER! COME TO MY ARMS!"

 

Both women blinked. "Soban!" Nagisa snarled. "I'll get her!"

 

With that, she leapt off the veranda, dropping down to the ground as she charged towards the gate and the crying heiress of Japan's second largest family fortune. As she moved, her whole body began to glow as energy from the main source of mesonium in the universe started to flood her, a Gift seed that sensed Nagisa's strong beliefs in duty and honour moving to link with the boy-turned-girl's soul. Watching this, Rumiko shook her head. "Eager beaver, aren't you...?"

 

By the time Nagisa reached the gate, Asuka had been joined by a shuddering figure in a pink halter top and jean cut-offs, possessing shaggy strawberry blond hair and very warm and welcoming emerald eyes. Said person — a very effeminate boy her age, Nagisa was quick to see despite the girl's clothing — also had physical damage to her exposed arms and legs, revealing artificial musculature, ripped conduits and circuits and flashing diodes indicative he was actually a very advanced android. Noting he was trying to protect the androphobic Asuka from her would-be attackers, Nagisa barked out "GET HER INTO THE SCHOOL GROUNDS!" as she moved to shield them.

 

Tene lomher'buo, Shiowatari Nagisa...

 

"H-hai!" the damaged android said as he summoned what strength he had left to snare the crying Asuka and leap with her past the gate into safety.

 

As Rumiko keyed a control to activate a nasty force field around the school grounds to keep all non-Yizibajohei off the property, Nagisa screamed out as her clothes combusted, her whole body glowing like a sun in the eyes of the oncoming toughs from Tomobiki's "bad luck" school, including the dwarfish fellow with the VERY large lips that led the pack. "TAEIM LETAM...!" she screamed out.

 

Seeing that oncoming comet, Soban shuddered. Oh, SHIT...!

 

A massive ki explosion then rocked Tomobiki to its foundations!

 

Nesu...BURBUO!

 

Fists now covered in white padded gauntlets then lashed out at machine gun speed, sending Soban flying to the south towards his home school as other members of his gang seemed to dance on air from the mountain-crushing hammer blows of the Stoic Guardian of the South, Burbuo (the "Sentinel"), one of Yiziba's most powerful FISS-types. People seeing this screamed out as the very unexpected sounds of metal being sheared apart like tinfoil, energy cells exploding, the sparks of torn circuits and other strange things that soon revealed that all of Soban's gang were themselves androids. As the onlookers morbidly watched, the just-Gifted Nagisa went through them like a cyclone, wrecking all of them in under a minute before somersaulting back, assuming a guard position with her hands.

 

"They're ROBOTS?!" one housewife then exclaimed.

 

"Are they aliens?!" another demanded.

 

"I thought Moroboshi Ataru got rid of them all yesterday!" a third barked out.

 

"Honestly! What's this town come to?!" a fourth demanded.

 

"OKAY, PEOPLE! CUT IT OUT WITH THE USELESS COMMENTARY!"

 

Onlookers perked, then they all gazed over to the main gate of the school, where the famous Tsuruya Rumiko — now in the same type of costume as those nice girls who had visited yesterday when the aliens were finally sent home and that bomb was removed from the Ginza — now stood, a megaphone in hand. "WE DON'T KNOW WHERE THEY CAME FROM! IT'LL BE INVESTIGATED! WAIT FOR FURTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS! LEAVE THE SCENE ALONE FOR THE AUTHORITIES!"

 

"SOMEONE CALL THE POLICE!" one shopkeeper then barked out.

 

As people pulled out cell phones, Nagisa walked over to join her friend, the spare energy of her Gifting slowly seeping into nothingness away from her. "What on Earth's going on here, Rumiko-chan?!" the Steady Guardian then demanded as she thumbed the wrecked androids behind her. "Did you...?"

 

"Help him...please...!"

 

Both women's heads snapped over towards the main doors...

 

...where a shivering and sobbing Asuka was holding her now-unconscious rescuer in her arms. "Please...don't let him die...please...!"

 

Seeing that, Rumiko sighed. "Handle the police," she then ordered.

 

"Hai!" Nagisa called out as the Careful Planner went over to comfort the sobbing heiress and move to examine her android companion.

 

"ROBOTS?! WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?! IS MY STUPID SON INVOLVED?!" a very unwelcome voice barked out from a house some distance away. "I WISH I NEVER HAD HIM!"

 

Growling, Nagisa reached over for an obelisk-shaped road marker by the gate, yanking it out of the ground with one hand before pitching it directly towards the Moroboshi house. A second later, the thunderous impact of the hard stone ripping through Moroboshi Ataru's would-be residence echoed through the air, that accompanied by the pained scream of his mother Kinshō after she was buried by that block of rock. "YOU BE QUIET, YŪJO!" the tea shop maiden snapped. "YOU GOT WHAT YOU WISHED FOR! YOU'RE GONNA GROW OLD AND DIE ALONE LIKE YOU DESERVE!"

 

As the onlookers stared in shock at such a vicious act by the transformed tea shop maiden, Nagisa looked at them. "WHAT?! DON'T TELL ME YOU ALL DON'T KNOW WHAT A SCHOOL DOORKNOB SHE WAS WHEN SHE WENT TO SCHOOL HERE BEFORE SHE WAS FORCED TO MARRY THAT LAZY BUM!" With a humph, the just-resurrected ghost turned and marched onto the school ground to make some tea for herself and the soon-to-arrive police being called to the scene.

 

People watched her go, then they started to madly chatter away...

 

****

 

The Moroboshi home...

 

"Who's going...to take...care of me when...I'm old and...grey...?"

 

Now partially buried into the kitchen floor by the road marker that had been pitched directly onto her head thanks to Fujinami Ryūnosuke's would-be fiancée, Moroboshi Kinshō could only quake as a knock echoed from the doorway. The door opened, allowing someone to walk inside. Not bothering to take off his shoes in the genkan, said person — a handsome twenty-something businessman with blue eyes behind reading glasses, well-styled black hair and a perfect Savile Row business suit — looked into the kitchen for a moment before he walked over to place a pile of envelopes and files on the living room table. "Well, well, well!" he trilled, making Kinshō gasp on recognizing the voice of the chief operations officer of her brother-in-law's keiretsu. "How the mighty are brought down low at last! I knew Tariko-san was going to make the revenge scene pull itself out as long as that issue with the bomb in the Ginza remained unresolved. To see a selfish bitch like you brought down to this, Kinshō! It's POETIC!"

 

She shuddered as she tried to summon what strength she had to burst up at this VERY unwelcome intruder into her domain and chase him off. "You...!"

 

"Don't bother," Yumoa Reigi said as he adjusted his glasses. "The memory wipes on us were reversed back in April while you were stuck in intensive care on Uru. Your attempts at trying to embezzle Tariko-san's inheritance were all stopped and a court injunction was put into place as your behaviour concerning your DAUGHTER was properly investigated. Once the legislation declaring Terran-born Yizibajohei was brought into play, any claims you or that worthless sack of flesh you married had towards ANY money Nagaiwakai-sama left behind for Tariko-san was wiped out. All the money you stole from her trust fund was purged from your savings account!" As Kinshō awked on hearing that, Reigi smirked. "Don't depend on your brother to try to fix things, Kinshō. The whole Tomobiki police box is under investigation for collusion in embezzlement when it came to Tariko-san's inheritance! They won't help you anymore if they don't want to see jail time themselves!"

 

"No...MY money...!"

 

He shook his head. "Pity you never knew that your husband was HYPNOTIZED and made to go to Ōmure-jima to father TWELVE daughters to serve as new matriarch candidates for the Clan," Reigi then added, which made Kinshō gargle. "And the elder of them — now the new Matriarch — declared you and your husband EXPELLED from the Clan once and for all! Whatever deal you made with the Redet family on the Kashin back in April is on YOUR heads, not Tariko-san's! She's free to continue meeting many pretty girls around the world to be Gifted, the Clan is safe from your interference and you get the peaceful and quiet life you've always wanted! You just won't be STEALING money from anyone anymore...save for what Oji-chan gives his brother as an allowance! Then again, he might die soon..." With that, he turned to walk out. "And you'll be in POVERTY as you DESERVE!"

 

Kinshō wailed as Reigi moved to walk out. "Oh, by the way," the chief of staff for the Inshin Group and Toranoseishin Finances warned as he paused by the genkan. "Someone's on the way to have a little chat with you about your involvement in trapping Tariko-san in this town back last September before the aliens came to be stupid. She won't take 'no' for an answer, so if I was you, I'd answer everything she asks when she comes to see you. If you don't, you won't see the next dawn...and there's no power on Earth OR Yiziba that can stop that from happening. Have a nice AFTERLIFE, slut!"

 

With that, he walked out. A gasp escaped Ataru's mother as her mind instantly rolled through what had just been slammed down on her by her brother-in-law's eldest ward...before her eyes then went wide as new footfalls echoed from the hallway leading to the back door. Before she could try to escape what Nagisa had done to her, those footfalls — indicating two people had just stepped in — echoed on the kitchen tiles before a hand snared her by the neck, sending an ice pick of seemingly absolute zero cold ripping through the older woman's body. Before she could try to scream for help, said hand pulled her out of the hole she made in the floor before she was flung back-first into the refrigerator!

 

"Good morning, Miss Yamaguchi," a voice called out in Japanese with a very deep Southern American accent. "My sister and I want to talk to you."

 

Before Kinshō could slide down to the floor, that freezing hand snared her by the front of her neck, boosting her back up to make her stare into a pair of stormy grey eyes that burned with a dark alien fire that made the housewife gargle in horror as she wondered what sort of kami possessed this woman.

 

"Hiya, slut!" the Archangel of Mortality said, her voice echoing with the power she commanded as she glared into the eyes of her first friend's mother. "You've got a LOT to answer for! And believe me..."

 

She leaned up to stare directly into the older woman's eyes, making Kinshō gargle as those grey orbs turned into twin bright mini-suns. "YOU WILL ANSWER THEM!" Margo Black roared.


As Ataru's mother nearly soiled herself as she sensed the true eternal power of the Herald of the Final Darkness, her obvious twin sister — dressed in a white jumpsuit with a bursting sun inisgnia on her chest, red belt and boots completing the ensemble, the belt having the Confederate States of America battle flag as its buckle — moved to make some tea. Shuddering as the impudent raven-haired girl with the grey eyes — an obvious twin sister to the dark demon now holding her against the refrigerator — began the preparation process, Kinshō tried to bark out...then gargled on sensing something freeze her throat. "Oh, do stop that, please," the other woman said as she gazed in amusement at the trapped housewife. "You don't have the authorities on your side anymore. When they moved to trap poor Tariko in this place that NEVER was her home, they defied not only your Heavenly Sovereign's own proclamation concerning those of Earth who became Gifted, but the National Diet's own laws concerning that. Now, we know of some who were behind all this...but they were mind-wiped of any vital information to help us locate the ones who made that decision...but since you're just an INSIGNIFICANT BUG in the great wheel of Life, you clearly know something."

 

"She does, Nora," Margo said as she licked her lips in anticipation. "Since she's friends with Miyake Kimiki, she should know about the Catholic concept of confession. If she doesn't want to become nothing more than goo on the ground, she'll start confessing things." She then chuckled, an evil sound that made Kinshō turn as white as a sheet. "Just like I did to Usāmah bin Lādin!"

 

The older woman's eyes nearly shot out of her head as she realized what this woman had ALSO been. "Yes, Miss Yamaguchi, my poor dear sister is the origin of those 'angels of darkness' rumours from the Middle East. And yes, I call you by your maiden name because the late Lady Nagaiwakai NEVER recognized you as her son's legitimate wife per the bylaws of his clan!" As Kinshō silently shrieked out, Nora Chapelle shook her head. "Oh, do stop that. I do know the neighbours in this town despise your useless and selfish wailing FAR more than they ever did your 'son's' actions since he was forced to reside here. When my sister removes the ebony mesonium used to anchor all the necessary energy fields to keep what happened here from being spread worldwide, the people will remember the truth about how you and Muchi lived here ALONE for over a DECADE! And they'll realize then how much you chased your DAUGHTER away from home once they realize that the lady who effectively DESTROYED that filthy Oni girl yesterday morning is your child! After all, legally, Moroboshi Ataru DOESN'T EXIST!"

 

As Kinshō rapidly shook her head in denial, a beeping sound then echoed from the belt of the Living Dynamo of Energy, Riekbu ("Accretor"). Blinking, Nora reached down to pull out her PAA, tapping the crystal there. "Hello?" she then called out into it.

 

"Greetings, Nora," a VERY familiar man's voice then called out as a hologram then appeared, revealing something that made Kinshō gape. "Tariko just informed me that you and your sister are interrogating our genetic progenitor concerning the illegal actions taken against her over a season ago."

 

"That's correct, Kaeru. We were just about to tell her that you ultimately SURVIVED that terrible fall you took when you were a child, after being saved by your REAL parents and rescued from such an ABUSIVE environment," Nora said as she gazed with pity at her twin sister. "Not as harshly as those filthy Yankees abused and corrupted my poor sister before your sister rescued her seven years ago and got her Gifted, then helped her control her powers with Ayumu's help, but it was quite the abusive environment indeed." Here, the Vermonter-turned-Georgian trader's daughter gave Kinshō a very scornful look as the older woman rapidly shook her head at such a public denunciation.

 

"It was indeed most fortunate that I was rescued by my parents and thus spared what Tariko was forced to endure until her true mother rescued her after his trip to Sagussa." As Margo snarled on hearing THAT planet's name while Kinshō began to silently sob at the idea that her beloved son HATED her in the long term, the man born Moroboshi Kaeru sighed. "Margo, your reaction towards the Daishi'cha is most illogical. I realize you disapprove of the methodology that Head Scientist Yura used to bring new life to that planet in lieu of using the Avalonian bioroid factory, but Ayumu went and corrected that, as did Ride Master von Taserich. What is the issue?"

 

That made the Archangel of Mortality blink before she sighed. "They abandoned her to this piece of filth right here," she said as she glared at Kinshō.

 

"The Daishi'cha operated without proper knowledge, Margo. Still, the issue was effectively resolved when Tariko's true mother shifted her to her cabin in Butodutogasuto," Kaeru replied before a slight smirk crossed his face. "I suspect that your sister sincerely seeks Tariko out as her future life-mate."

 

As Margo turned a deep cherry on hearing that, Nora giggled. "Well, I certainly won't object. I'm sure dear Sakuya and her delightful sisters won't either!"

 

"NORA! KAERU!" Margo screamed out. "C'MON!"

 

Nora laughed as Kaeru shook his head before he perked. "Forgive me, Nora. Naromo wishes to engage in what you address as a 'pillow scene' with me."

 

That made the adopted Southern belle hum. "Well, far be it from me to interrupt such a scene, my friend. You have a pleasant day."

 

"Until we speak again."


The link was cut as Nora moved to pull out cups from the cupboard before she began to prepare the sencha. "Yes, that was your lost son, Miss Yamaguchi. Whose TRUE parents saw you be abusive to your DAUGHTER after Kaeru was healed and they moved to return him to your custody. They had no choice but to conclude you were NOT FIT to be a parent to so many children. A pity they never took Tariko away from you. You have wished for it well nearly THREE THOUSAND times since Tariko fled this world eleven years ago to be with her REAL mother. She kept count, by the way." As Kinshō paled again, the Living Dynamo gazed over her shoulder. "Now, if you DID accept what happened to Tariko and DID accept her as your DAUGHTER, let me introduce you to your potential DAUGHTER-IN-LAW!"

 

A silent gulp escaped the housewife as Nora's eyes began to glow. "As she just claimed before Kaeru called in, she is the slayer of that heretical mass murderer who betrayed the spirit of his faith and brought misery to millions worldwide. May I present my dear twin sister, Margo Elaine Chapelle...

 

"...or as you would call her, Doctor Death!"

 

As Kinshō silently wailed on hearing THAT name, Margo smirked. "Okay, time to talk...or time to DIE! Your choice, bitch!" she then growled hopefully.

 

As Nora calmly sipped her tea, Margo's cackle filled the house...


To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

Translation list: Drachentöter — Dragon Slayer; Was zur Hölle ist das? — What the hell is this?; Rheinübung — Rhine Exercise; Ruolosuo — Bush wolf; Sturmbannführer — Assault Unit Leader, the Schutzstaffel (literally "Protection Squadrons", short-formed SS) officer rank equivalent of an Army major; Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei — National Socialist German Worker's Party, the official name of the Nazi Party that ruled Germany from 1933-45; Totenkopf — Literally "death's head", this is the term for the skull-and-crossbones insignia used by the SS; Hakenkreuz — Literally "hooked cross", this was the right-turning swastika symbol used by the Nazis; Ein wahrer Untermensch — A true subhuman; Nesu Bamgam mu R'beto Batae Erba — Behold, the Judgment of the Children of the Healer of Destruction; Bamgam giro — Literally "to be judged" but meaning "It is judged" in this case; Genkan — The entranceway of a house where people remove their outdoor shoes; Daishi'cha — Great birth mother; Butodutogasuto — The northern polar continent on Yiziba.

 

Yes, Coya Gutierrez (née Coya Yupanqui) is the Inca mummy girl from the episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer of the same name (season two, episode #4). Her birth name and current name are my invention. Her Terran battle name, Pacha Kamaq, is taken from an ancient Inca creator god similar to the Judaeo-Christian god, said to have made the first man and woman that were the ancestors of the latter Inca civilization. Pacha Kamaq was worshipped in his namesake city in Peru from its first settlement before the time of Christ to the time of the Spanish invasions in the Sixteenth Century.

 

The family names of Angel (Liam O'Connor) and Drusilla (Drusilla Keeble) are my creation.

 

Theresa Klusmeyer first appeared in the fifteenth episode of the second season of BTVS, "Phases". The part of that storyline involving Theresa would have gone much differently given what is about to be revealed in this story.

 

The fight between Angelus, his sire Darla and Abraham Lincoln is first mentioned in Magic and Canada and better described in The Lighthouse Beacon of Freedom.

 

Enyos Kalderash first appeared in the thirteenth episode of the second season of BTVS, "Surprise". The events surrounding the destruction of the Judge as noted above (which happens in the following episode of the series, "Innocence") went down about a month before the events of the Yatsura movie Only You in the timeline of this story (early March of 2012).

 

Mizunokōji Asuka first appeared in the Yatsura manga storyline "That Mizunokōji Girl" (manga chapters #224-227); in the timeline of this story, the encounter between Asuka and the people of Tomobiki happened in late March of 2012, just before the start of second year for Tariko Katabarbe et al. Asuka began attending the Keppeki Girl's Junior High School in the manga storyline "Fortress of Fastidiousness" (manga chapters #338-340). In the universe of this story, Asuka would begin attending Keppeki in May of 2012 even if the "physical" that was depicted in "Fortress of Fastidiousness" occurred at the end of October as Redet Ten noted in his diary entry in Part 2.

 

Soban first appeared in the storyline "Get Something On Your Chest" (manga chapters #184-185).

 

Yumoa Reigi first appeared in The Senior Year story "Sakura's Class Reunion". Moroboshi Kaeru and his girlfriend Naromo first appeared in "My Darlings United".

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Nerima, Hikarigaoka Park (two kilometres east-northeast of the Tend ō d ō j ō ), two hours before lunch...

 

"Ah! Negako-chan! O-ha!"

 

Hearing that cheerful call from the living celestial goddess in mortal form, the twenty-something woman with the shaggy dark brown hair and the almost black eyes dressed in a plain black martial arts gi with matching pleated hakama trousers, the black belt tied around her waist bearing the simple kanji 地in gold at the ends turned to watch as Kasuga Ayumu came up to join her. "Greetings, Ayumu. You are well?" she asked in her normal metered and toneless voice.

 

The Infinite One nodded as she sat down at the bench beside the Steward of the Moroboshi Clan, personal assassin to the Heavenly Sovereign and the grandmaster of the clan's in-house martial art, Saikō Jinseijutsu-ryū. Instantly, a flock of birds moved to land on the Wakayama native's head and shoulders, making her blush. "Hey, guys! Stop that!" she pleaded even if she didn't shift her body around to shake them off while people looking her way all gasped at such a sight.

 

As cell phones were pulled out to get pictures made and transmitted onto social media chats, Negako sipped the can of ice tea she acquired at a vending machine. "Tariko's plans to remove the aliens from Earth proceeded well," the ninjutsu grandmaster and Earth's first true artificial intelligence — who, in a way, was an older adopted sister of the Trickster of the Show and her cloned siblings as Negako's own DNA was modelled on Tariko's after the latter's transformation in the wake of her moving to Yiziba — mused as children came close to gaze upon the birds resting on the two older women's shoulders and heads. "Do not alarm them," Negako said with a touch of ki in her voice. "They will be frightened."


The children tensed at that warning, then they nodded as they moved to sit down close by, some drawing out snacks. As Negako and Ayumu watched, a couple of the more adventurous birds flapped over to land on the children's heads to get at what was was being offered, making all of them squeal in delight. As Ayumu giggled on seeing that, Negako shook her head before her eyebrow arched. "Dean."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.


Then...

 

"You've NEVER called me that before, Negako."

 

Hearing that voice with its flat Canadian accent, the children looked over...

 

...then they gasped on seeing the amused-looking twenty-something Western woman there with the military short-cut dark brown hair and the sky blue eyes approach them, she now dressed in a mixture of Canadian Army temporal woodland CADPAT trousers with an olive green Royal Canadian Air Force pilot's jacket, that over a buff gold T-shirt, under which was tucked a pulsing three-layer mesonium jewel mounted on an intricate necklace wrapped around her neck. On the Velcro patch on her left upper arm below the national flag was the red arrowhead formation insignia of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. On the right arm's patch was a low-visibility version of the badge of her home regiment, the 10th Saskatchewan Cavalry Regiment of Canada (Air). Perched on her head was a buff gold beret — the standard headdress colour of her recently-restored corps of service, the Royal Canadian Corps of Air Cavalry — bearing the hat badge of a general officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, a variation of that service's heraldic crest with a wreath of gold maple leaves in lieu of red; this matched the fact that on her epaulettes, there were the three gold maple leaves in a pyramid formation below the crown over crossed sword-and-baton of a lieutenant general in the Canadian Army. Since she was visiting Japan, the Dominion's oldest publicly known citizen didn't have her gun belt with her Clarkson M34 .44 Special revolvers, much less the pure neutronium straight-edged taiken-like blade that had come hand in hand with her Power Jewel, the oldest surviving alien artifact on Earth.

 

"Raeburn-shihan!" one girl gushed.

 

As the children cheered while moving to flock around the leader of the War Hawks, the hint of a wry smile crossed Negako's face. "A slight influence of the power of the Seeker's Forge when Ayumu here brought my essence to Yiziba after my would-be host relocated there thanks to her mother's verbal abuse. Much that I was able to resist seeking out a Named Gift after being given this body, it appears that the background mesonium radiation in Yiziba's environment allowed some of Tariko's and Ayumu's vocal mannerisms to fuse with me. Besides, 'Deannette' is hardly a proper woman's name."

 

A laugh escaped Dean Raeburn as she sat beside her sister grandmaster. Thanks to what happened on her seventieth birthday in 1937 when Negako's effective creator was killed by metahuman agents of the Black Dragon Society, the native of Queenston near Niagara Falls had been declared the senior teacher of the Tensei-ryū, one of the deadliest martial arts forms ever created; Negako's own art was seen as a daughter school of the Tensei-ryū even if Saikō Jinseijutsu-ryū had developed on a separate track than the "mother art". "How is the kid, anyway? Where is she? I haven't sensed her since late last night."

 

"She teleported to Uru to look in on her 'wife'," Negako reported. "Much that Tariko does not have passionate feelings for Lum, she — and Ataru and Hiromi, of course — see her as their one true friend during the time they were 'trapped' in the town between September of last year and April this year."

 

"I just wish I had sensed something sooner," Ayumu lamented.

 

"Do not blame yourself for what happened, Ayumu," Negako said as nearby adults took pictures of Canada's most famous soldier while Dean reached into her jacket pocket to pull out some candy to pass on to the children. "Margo is currently interrogating Kinshō concerning the party ultimately responsible for this. As Stephen Harper ordered Dean and her friends to be on immediate recall standby in case Tariko lost the Tag Race last October, there would have been no issues."

 

"Yeah! With the time bomb of Coyote inside the kid's head, anyone trying to lynch her would wind up being lynched themselves," Dean mused.

 

"What do you mean, Onē-chan? It was Moroboshi Ataru who won the Tag Race!"

 

That was one curious girl. "You are correct and incorrect, Keiko," Negako said, making the girl gasp on realizing the ninjutsu grandmaster had guessed out her name. "The man who was involved in that competition with Redet Lum was born as Moroboshi Ataru. Eleven years ago on his birthday, he relocated to the planet Yiziba, where Dean's Power Jewel was forged three billion years ago by the First Race." She indicated the glowing jewel over the suprasternal notch of Dean's neck. "There, he was adopted by a far more caring person than his birth mother, Yamaguchi Kinshō. However, due to an accident in the adopting, Ataru was made to physically become a girl." As the people within hearing range gasped at that revelation, Negako added, "Thus, Moroboshi Ataru became Tariko Katabarbe...or 'Moroboshi Tariko' here on Earth. She matured as a woman until she was trapped by unknown persons last September, no doubt in preparation to confront Lum. Tariko was magically reverted into her birth form, becoming Ataru again. That state of affairs remained until April and the encounter with Elle de Rosenbach, when Ayumu here rescued Tariko and helped revert her to the way she wished to be."

 

"However, thanks to that bomb that was buried in the Tomobiki Ginza, Tariko had to do an Operation: Fortitude on the aliens to make sure they never learned there were metahumans on the planet like what Tariko and Ayumu are." Here, Dean waved to Ayumu as the latter allowed her civilian clothes to morph into her battlesuit as the Goddess Who Walks Among Men. As people gasped on seeing such a display of power, the Canadian warrior added, "That lasted until yesterday morning when they finally got rid of the bomb, then the aliens were finally sent back to their home planets. Even better, a good friend of Tariko's now in California made sure we don't have to deal with them again."

 

The children cheered as people with cell phones began madly texting away to send information out to friends and over social media websites to relay this incredible tale around the world. "What can you do, Onē-chan?" a boy asked as he gazed on Ayumu. "You're friends with Mihama Chiyo-onēchan, right?"

 

"Hai!" Ayumu said. "Watch this!"

 

She snapped her fingers...

 

...then people gasped as the bright day overhead turned instantly to night!

 

"KID!" Dean snapped.

 

Ayumu giggled as she snapped her fingers again...

 

...turning everything back to normal. "That's some trick!" a teenage boy mused from nearby as people began taking photos of the Infinite One while relaying news of what just happened as people's phones beeped away to indicate questions flying across the Internet and elsewhere.

 

As the leader of Canada's first team of metahumans moaned at such an undisciplined show of Ayumu's cosmic-level powers, a PAA then chimed off. Ayumu pulled it out of her belt, then she tapped the crystal on it as people gasped on seeing that. "O-ha!" she called out.

 

"ŌSAKA-SAN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU DON'T DO SOMETHING LIKE TURN DAY INTO NIGHT LIKE THAT AROUND THE WORLD! HOW COULD YOU BE SO SILLY?!"

 

"ŌSAKA! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU, YOU NARCOLEPTIC BONKURA?! WHAT'S GOING ON?!"

 

"AYUMU-CHAN! WHAT THE HECK, GIRL?! YOU NEARLY FRIGHTENED ALL THE SHIPGIRLS DOWN HERE TO DEATH! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!"

 

"AYUMU! I WAS TRYING TO DO A CELESTIAL MEASUREMENT! DO YOU MIND?!"

 

"Miss Kasuga! Would you PLEASE mind not doing that in the future?!"

 

As the mass chorus of voices shouting at the Infinite One over the PAA links from around the world, Dean winked at the kids. "As you see, kids, she's under control!"

 

People blinked in confusion on hearing the grandmaster of the Tensei-ryū make that comment, then many of them laughed as Ayumu tried not to cry...

 

****

 

Near the Tend ō d ō j ō , a half-hour later...

 

"Honesty! I was just trying to show the kids my powers!"

 

Dean and Negako blinked, then exchanged knowing looks.

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"Ah! Nandeyanen...?!"

 

Both grandmasters sighed as they stared at Ayumu, who was now rubbing the back of her head after Dean and Negako slapped her there, nearly knocking her over. They ignored the stream of curious onlookers who had followed them from Hikarigaoka Park in the wake of the "flash of night" as such was now being called over social media. As pictures were taken of the famous Canadian metahuman warrior, the silent assassin of the Imperial Throne and the Infinite One by people who trailed them — though none got close enough to pester them with questions — they turned down the street towards the gate leading into Nerima's most infamous residence. "There were other ways you could have demonstrated your powers while making your point to those who were curious, Ayumu," Negako stated.

 

Ayumu moaned...

 

...then everyone perked on seeing that there were members of both the local fire brigade and the local police box now standing guard before the open gates of the Tendō home. The smell of burnt wood assaulted their noses, which made Dean blink. "What the hell's going on here?" she wondered.

 

"It appears Sōun's attempt at suppressing Akane's Gift has backfired on he and his family grievously," Negako stated as she quickened her pace, moving through the crowds to get to the police line.

 

A riot trooper noticed her, then moved to block her. "Please stay back. This is a crime scene now."

 

Negako pulled out her wallet to display a special identification card. Seeing that, the trooper's eyes went wide, then he saluted her. "Hai, Moroboshi-sama! You may pass!" he declared.

 

"Dean and Ayumu are with me," Negako announced as another trooper lifted the tape to let her pass.

 

On hearing the former woman's given name, all the crowd gasped before they gazed on the last true heir of the Immortal Master. As Dean gave them a reassuring smile, the troopers nodded as they snapped to attention, saluting her. Returning that with her own salute, Dean ducked under the tape as Ayumu simply floated over it, making the crowd gasp in shock before one man called out, "Look! She can fly! She's just like Akane-chan and her girlfriend! She's a metahuman!"

 

People whooped in delight as Ayumu chuckled in embarrassment before she followed the older women into the grounds of the Tendō home, stopping to see that the dōjō building and a good portion of the main house were now wreckage thanks to some sort of explosion with the blast point at where the kamidana would have been in the training hall. As the older people moved to examine the scene more closely while the inspector in charge came over to brief them, the Goddess Who Walks Among Men looked right to see four people frozen in solid ice near the koi pond where Hayashi Kanami had trained almost daily with her now-estranged father Saotome Genma. Sure enough, one of the people trapped in the ice was Genma; the other three were his wife Nodoka, Akane's father Sōun and Happōsai himself. Seated nearly with a dazed look on her face was Akane's elder sister Nabiki, whose face was twisting in a flowing contortion of looks while a queer chorus of sounds escaped her lips.

 

"Akane-san! Do you need to have all this in your closet packed, too?"

 

"Hai!"

 

Hearing the voices of the Hammer of Passion and the first warship kami to be reborn as a shipgirl back during the middle of March, Ayumu walked over to step through the genkan into the main living room...which clearly had born the brunt of the explosion from the direction of the dōjō; the kitchen itself had been completely obliterated in the blast, with fragments of various pieces of furniture embedded in the walls and scattered all over the back yard. Moving to head upstairs, she tensed on hearing the floorboards creak ominously. A detective examining the scene looked over. "If you can fly, go up that way, Ojō-sama. Most of the house has to be condemned because of the blast."

 

Ayumu nodded, then she floated to the second floor, walking over to peek into the open door of Akane's bedroom. There, the youngest daughter of Tendō Sōun was busy getting all her clothes taken out of her drawers and placed inside one of several chests — obviously charmed by Hirosaki Chikage to allow all sorts of things to be stored there without issues of volume, plus make them incredibly light even for normal people to carry — as the objects of a whole life spent in this house were removed from this room for the final time. Helping her was Fukushima Fujiko, currently in the white-and-dark blue battlesuit marking her as the Blizzard of Death, Roerike ("Fubuki"). "O-ha!" Ayumu called out.

 

Both girls gasped on hearing the Infinite One call out, then Akane sighed. "Oh, good! Can you just send all the heavy furniture over to Welcome House, Ayumu-chan? The sooner I'm out of this place and living somewhere SANE, the better! They're gonna tear it down soon!"

 

"Sure."

 

With a snap of the fingers, the bed, dresser, nightstand and work desk vanished. "We're almost done, Akane-san," Fujiko announced, noting there were just some small items left to put into the chests.

 

"Good," Akane breathed out.

 

"What happened?" Ayumu asked.

 

A disgusted snort escaped the "heiress" of the Tendō-ryū. "Turns out that my idiot father got so upset at my getting Gifted back in 2003 that he used an object the old lech stole from Shānpú's tribe to block my using the Gift and the memories I got from my past-selves." As Ayumu gasped in horror on hearing that, Akane smirked. "When Hinako-chan used her power to get rid of that block, the thing overloaded with ki and detonated, wrecking the dōjō and most of the house." She frowned. "Kasumi was caught in the explosion; she's at Nerima General Hospital right now. The others survived..." She shook her head. "Proving yet again that the real idiots don't get sick or hurt whenever something weird happens."

 

"So home come your dad and the others are on ice?" the Infinite One asked.

 

"I had Fujiko-chan put them there," Akane said as she thumbed her companion as she moved to close one of the trunks. "Soon as I heard what happened, I came here to get all my stuff out. Once he saw me in my battlesuit, Baka Tō-san tried to get the old lech to help him suppress my powers again. Fujiko-chan froze them in place and dumped them outside. Once Genma and Nodoka tried to convince me to find Kanami and drag her back here, they joined the other idiots out on the lawn."

 

"What about your sister?"

 

A disgusted snort escaped the Hammer of Passion. "She can take care of herself. If she doesn't care at all about her family, why should I care for her?" she sneered.

 

Hearing that, Ayumu sighed. Like other Terran-born Yizibajohei living in Japan, she had got the whole sordid story about the "Nerima Wrecking Crew" as soon as the Week of Hell went down and Hayashi Kanami left Japan to join the Scooby Gang in Sunnydale. Tendō Nabiki's website about the martial artists of Nerima and their relatives had come quite handy in filling in the gory details, especially about the mad quest to "unite the schools" as launched by Akane's father and his old training partner after Happōsai was imprisoned in a mountain cave over a decade before. However, since the grandmaster of Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū was under a set of restrictions when it came to developing his art, the "separate schools" story was a lie. Neither Tendō Sōun nor the former Hayashi Genma had gone to the home dōjō of the Tensei-ryū to seek out certification from the trainers there as had been stipulated in Happōsai's own mastery papers issued nearly a century before by the Immortal Master; that had been discovered by Kanami and her sister Kikuko shortly after the Hayashi siblings left Japan for the final time.

 

However, getting the fathers whose mad desire to see their children married had driven a lot of the chaos in Nerima for the last year to see that...!

 

A squealing noise then echoed from outside, making Akane stop before a bright battle aura flared around her, she looking outside. "Hibiki...!"

 

Hearing that name, Fujiko and Ayumu shared a knowing look...

 

****

 

Outside...

 

"Hey! Stop that pig! That's Hibiki Ryōga!"

 

"Keep him from releasing the prisoners, men!"

 

"You hold still, you perverted lecher!"

 

Hearing the voices of the obviously corrupt police that were moving to bring misery to Tendō Akane's family after all they had been made to suffer because of that dishonourable Saotome Ranma — whom he REFUSED to believe had WILLINGLY allowed himself to become a GIRL of all things! — the transformed Hibiki Ryōga quickly dodged grasping hands to get closer to the ice blocks holding down Akane's father and the others so he could free them with the application of the Bakusai Tenketsu strike. Seeing this, Tendō Sōun — all of the prisoners had been allowed to keep their heads above the ice so they could breathe — laughed as relieved tears fell down his face. "That's it, Ryōga-kun! Quickly! Free us all and we can turn Akane back to normal, then unite the schools at...!"

 

KK-KRANG!

 

A pained squawk escaped P-chan after a war hammer was smashed down on his back from a smirking Akane, who was now floating a metre over the ground. As the riot police stopped before they all whooped in delight on seeing that Nerima's newest metahuman had prevented a potential prisoner outbreak, the Hammer of Passion calmly pulled back her weapon, then floated to the ground before walking over, deliberately stepping on the badly wounded piglet before she approached the sergeant in charge of the riot squad inside the compound. "Everyone okay?"

 

"We're fine, Tendō-san! Thank you so much!" He nodded in contempt at the squealing transformed wanderer. "What are your plans for him? Our own prisons won't be able to stop that lech."

 

That made Akane blink as Sōun began to sob on noting that his daughter was still caught in that "foolish girl's delusions" about being some mystery man; the other three prisoners were just too dazed after Akane beat them down after her arrival to say a thing. "Well, we could dump the idiot into the Dark Gaol and see his life force sucked off into the Great Crystal." She then hummed for a moment as she considered that before she shook her head. "Still, there's no way I'd want to pass on the jerk's curses on anyone back home on Yiziba." She shrugged. "Oh, well, there are black holes...!"

 

The policemen all laughed as Sōun goggled in horror on hearing such a dark suggestion concerning his would-be son-in-law's chief rival. Before coming to this place, all the officers present had been briefed by agents of the Interior Ministry in the know about the Yizibajohei version of wrestling kayfabe, where even the kindest "faces" on that planet would do things that would make them seem like selfish "heels" as a psychological ploy to see the fight scene won with ease. Given that Tendō Akane had the reputation of being a very sweet and kind girl despite her anger issues — which had been effectively controlled by Hayashi Kanami when she had been living here — seeing her act as if she just got a brain transplant with her older sister Nabiki would rattle anyone. While many of the crowd now watching this over the fence-line began to cheer at the fact that one of the more dangerous of the Nerima Wrecking Crew had been put down — in the wake of Akane's delayed Gifting, the news of Hibiki Ryōga and his curse had been spread like wildfire across the ward to make sure anyone sympathetic to the man wouldn't come to his aid — she then looked over her shoulder. "We done?!"

 

"All packed up, Akane-san!" Fujiko called out from inside her bedroom.

 

"Ayumu-chan, can you teleport it all off?!"

 

"Sure, Akane-chan!"

 

Sōun screamed out, "NO! I FORBID THIS...!"

 

A flash of energy echoed through the windows, then Fujiko calmly flew through the open portal to come down on the ground, earning her a wild cheer from the crowd seeing this. Akane held out her arm, allowing the first of her class of destroyers to float into an embrace, then they went to "kissing stations"...which is what the shipgirls as a whole called a public nookie scene.

 

As many people hooted in delight on seeing that Akane had obviously found someone who really did care for her, Sōun gaped at the sight before he began to bawl. "WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! MY DAUGHTER'S A LESBIAN! SHE LOVES ANOTHER WOMAN! NOW THE SCHOOLS WILL NEVER...!"

 

Fujiko gestured with her hand to use an ice clamp to shut the man's mouth up. By then, Genma and Happōsai had recovered enough from nearly having their skulls caved in by a rampaging Akane over an hour before. Seeing the very sapphic scene nearby, the grandmaster of Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū blinked before he cackled. "Hah! I knew the stupid girl was a dyke! She's no student of the school, you stupid boy!" he snarled as he glared at Sōun...before he blinked on seeing the man had been rendered totally mute by a face mask of ice. "Sōun! Stop lazing about and free your master now!"

 

The younger man was too out of it to notice his master's raging while Akane and Fujiko continued to kiss away. At that moment, the sound of a stick bouncing off rock made people look over as a diminutive form in classical robes dropped down out of the sky. "Ah! Elder Kělún!" the inspector in charge of the scene called out as Nǚ Kělún came to a rest close to the koi pond, she gazing in amusement at her would-be husband's predicament. "Please don't disturb the crime scene."

 

The village elder nodded. "I will do no such thing. Seeing young Akane in the uniform of one of the Children of the Forge of the First Race explains a lot. I'm curious about why YOU'RE here, Dean."

 

A chuckle escaped the Canadian warrior as she came over, leaning down to hug her old friend before she stepped back, pointing to the badge on her beret. "Something that Tennō asked me to look in on when I got the chance to get away from keeping watch over the successors to the Devil's Brigade, Kělún. Not to mention doing a favour for Indy." Here, she nodded towards Nodoka.

 

Kělún looked over, then her eyes widened. "A relative?!" she hissed.

 

"His granddaughter. And she and her family rejected it since he knocked up her grandmother before the war," Dean answered as she indicated the sword Nodoka carried with her all the time, which was frozen beyond her grasp in the block of ice Fujiko entombed her in. "He got that sword for her family."

 

That made the Nǚjiézú elder blink before she shook her head. "No wonder Junior was so despondent after the war! I assume that all the interesting things he's encountered over the years ended up cursing that blade to affect the members of Nodoka's family as punishment for their hurting him like that."

 

"Indeed they did, Kělún."

 

Both turned as Negako came over to join them, a slightly amused smile on her face. Kělún scanned the approaching grandmaster with her own ki sight, then she cackled. "To see the Promise of Bunka-gonen fulfilled THIS way! How did this happen to you, Negako?!"

 

"I helped her, Hiibā-chan!"

 

Everyone turned to see Ayumu lean out the window of Akane's empty room before she teleported herself down to join them. As her eyes widened in shock on sensing the raw galactic aura of energy burning in this unusually perceptive woman's body, Kělún could only laugh in admiration. "Oh, you disguised yourself too well, child!" she declared. "What happened?!"

 

"After Tariko-chan I met and I went to Yiziba to be Gifted, I learned that Negako-chan's last host had tried to transfer her soul into Tariko-chan's head. I got her out of her last host, then put her into a battle doll!" Ayumu then grinned. "You should have seen what happened next, Hiibā-chan! Negako-chan shocked EVERYONE on Yiziba when she used the background meson radiation to make herself fully organic before she went back to Earth. Yeah, they call call her 'Ledo Kimr'be' over there instead of her given name like she likes, but she doesn't have much in the way of powers beyond what she got from all the knowledge that went into making her as Imperial Special Agent #49 and all that!"

 

As the crowds gasped on realizing that the woman in the black gi and hakama was the one responsible for stopping a metahuman civil war when Shōwa Tennō surrendered to the Allies in 1945, Happōsai's head snapped over before a smile crossed his face. "Um, Negako-chan...would you mind, please...?"

 

"No."

 

That made the aged grandmaster jolt before crocodile tears flowed. "But..."

 

"Dean wishes to address you. Your business is with her, not me."

 

That made him pale as the woman with the beret looked over. "Ah...hiya, Dean...!"

 

A devilish smirk crossed the Canadian's face. "Hey, Happy. Cold, aren't you?"

 

An embarrassed cackle answered her. "I could use a chance to warm up..."

 

"Tough! I survived the winters on the Prairies for ten years...and I was in way worse shape back then than you are now! Suffer!" Dean snapped, making Happōsai jolt on realizing that the ONE person in the world who had any real sort of power over him wasn't pleased at the moment. "Did we forget something over the last few years, by any chance? Especially when it comes to THIS?!" Here, a book appeared in the Canadian's hand as she opened it to show him a particular page.

 

Gazing at it, Happōsai then paled. "Uh...haven't had the time..."

 

"Oh, really?" she trilled. "You know the obligation you had when Papa-sensei gave you your mastery back in '23, dumbass! All OFFICIAL students of Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū must be registered with US before they can go forth to teach others! I don't see either Hayashi Genma or Tendō Sōun on this list, so how the HELL can either of them go forth and claim themselves as MASTERS of your art when they were NEVER registered as your STUDENTS?!" She shook her head. "Happy, this goes WAY beyond mere 'not having the time' to get to Watari-shima to have them registered!

 

"You want to know the SURPRISE I felt when a nice kid came to my office in Ottawa back in June claiming that you had declared her your student...when she wanted nothing more than to RENOUNCE all affiliation with you?!" she then snarled, making Akane and Fujiko break off from their kissing to stare her way. "Naturally, I went to Watari-shima to ask Michiba Hatatsu what was going on! You wouldn't BELIEVE the story he landed on me! Two people who were NEVER certified to TEACH Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū — not to mention their NEVER being certified as STUDENTS of that art! — declaring themselves as MASTERS of separate schools trying to 'unite' them in some sort of marriage...AFTER this poor kid wound up CURSED at Zhòuquán-xiāng of all places!" Dean then smirked as she glared at Genma. "Thanks ultimately to YOUR stupidity, Mister Hayashi! Chinese and Japanese are written with the same script in many places; the meanings are almost all the same! How the HELL could you not understand that place was CURSED when you dragged your kid into it?!"

 

"Kanami's claims of a mental change because of Zhòuquán-xiāng are true?"

 

Dean gazed on Kělún before she nodded. "Yes. If you don't change anytime after an hour from the moment you're cursed, the soul echo of the being that drowned in the spring that was violated fully intertwines itself into the victim's mind. Kanami was mentally a girl the instant she ran into the little porker Akane here just smashed down after he was foolish enough to follow her into that valley. That's where your blood-sibling law ultimately comes from, Kělún...but since Kanami is now Mustang, she's a little hesitant on sharing her blood with your great-granddaughter."

 

The Nǚjiézú elder's eyes widened on hearing THAT battle name. "That makes a load of sense. I assume that in this incarnation, Mustang must be a girl."

 

"Exactly. But the blood relation with Indy is enough to let your great-granddaughter off the hook."

 

"I can get a friend to take the curse away from her, too, Hiibā-chan," Ayumu then offered. "She's in Tomobiki right now beating up Ataru-kun's stupid mother."

 

Hearing that offer from the Infinite One, Kělún nodded. "You are gracious, child. Indeed, given today's revelations, I'm sure than Shānpú will be more than relieved to finally leave this place and return home. Brokenhearted as she is about what befell her 'husband', Kanami becoming Yizibajohei negates any claim of marriage on her by Shān. Since she's Junior's great-granddaughter, the original Kiss of Death can be seen as unnecessary as well as long as Kanami doesn't wish to press anything. As long as Kanami doesn't spread our teachings willy-nilly all over the place where she is now..."

 

"He is...NOT MY GRANDFATHER...!"

 

"QUIET!" Dean barked with enough power to upend the ice cube holding Nodoka in place, sending her head smashing on a rock as the ice shattered, making her collapse in a bleeding heap on the ground.

 

"Kanami-san will be alright, Elder," Fujiko declared, making the Nǚjiézú elder gaze her way, her eyes then widening on sensing the power this young one had. "She's now with the Slayers over the Hellmouth now helping things stay calm there. She also has a very nice girlfriend as well..."

 

"I HAVE A SON...!" Genma bellowed.

 

"QUIET!" Dean snapped again, knocking over the ice cube holding Genma in place, nearly shattering his skull on another rock nearby. "Just for that, I'll make sure you never practice the martial arts again...!"

 

Sōun's and Happōsai's eyes widened as the Canadian walked over to flip the unconscious Genma onto his stomach, then she applied her fingers to several points on his shoulders and the back of his head. "The Shijutsu-soku," Kělún breathed out as many of the people quieted down to hear the Nǚjiézú elder's pronouncement. "The ultimate punishment of the Immortal Master to those who would defy his decrees or the teachings of his school. Far worse than the Ultimate Weakness Moxibustion that Happy put on Kanami back in March. There, Kanami still had the ability to learn martial arts to overcome Happy and regain her strength. Here..." She shook her head, a complete lack of pity in her eyes. "The fool male will FORGET all he knows and NEVER be able to reteach himself any martial skill..." She closed her eyes. "In effect, he is no different than anyone struck down with a variation of Alzheimer's. Thus giving those who were defrauded by this fool enough of a chance to see proper restitution."

 

"A befitting fate for his kind," Akane sneered out.

 

Hearing that, Sōun's eyes shot out of his head, then in a burst of ki, he spat away the ice block over his mouth. "TENDŌ AKANE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING STANDING THERE, YOU LAZY GIRL?! GO AND CHALLENGE THE GAIJIN AND HAVE SAOTOME-KUN RESTORED TO NORMAL!"

 

"No."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"YOU WILL DO AS I SAY! I AM YOUR FATHER!"

 

"I have no father."

 

The angry aura that had bloomed from Sōun as he tried to force his daughter to submit to his will then vanished as his eyes went as wide as saucers on hearing that final declaration. As he shook his head in denial, Akane sneered at him. "You have consistently and constantly LIED to me about Hibiki and his curse, as did your elder and younger daughter! In the face of that, why in the name of the First Ones should I even BEGIN to acknowledge we are of the same blood?! You sat there, pretending that your warped dreams would come true only if you wished it without realizing that more and more people in this town were learning how much you never cared about my honour! It's no WONDER that all the boys went along with what Kanami made them see back in May after she finally decided she'd had enough of your HYPOCRISY and LEFT this place! In a weird sense of the term, Kunō-sempai and all the boys from the Horde cared MORE for me than my own FAMILY supposedly did!" As Sōun squeaked in helpless protest, Akane spat into his face. "As far as I'm concerned, you'll all DEAD to me, Tendō Sōun! And you can't do a thing about it since I was Gifted and EMANCIPATED because of my Gifting! And I REFUSE to bow to this lazy old troll anymore!" She nodded contemptuously towards Happōsai before she gazed at Ayumu. "Ayumu-chan, could you find all the things this lech stole from Hiiobā-san's tribe and send it back to them, please? He doesn't deserve them at all!" she then asked.

 

"Hai, hai..." the Infinite One said as she raised her fingers.

 

"NO! DON'T YOU DARE! THEY'RE MINE...!"

 

In an explosion of ki, Happōsai freed himself, then lunged at Ayumu...

 

...before Fujiko snared him by the forehead.

 

A second later, a geyser of blazing ki exploded into the sky over Nerima, that accompanied by Happōsai's mortal scream of agony!

 

As dust was instantly whipped up all over the place by that burst of power to blind people, Ayumu snapped her fingers to clear the air and do as Akane just asked. People blinked before they looked over to see a burnt husk of an elderly man held in mid-air by the Death Blizzard's hand before a final rasp of breath escaped him, his body dropping to the ground to literally shatter into dust on impact. Cries of shock and disbelief escaped the crowd seeing this as the inspector winced before he turned to stare hopefully at Negako. "Um, Moroboshi-sama, what just happened here...?"

 

"Quite simple," the grandmaster of Saikō Jinseijutsu-ryū calmly declared. "Fujiko here is the actual living kami of the destroyer Fubuki, first of her class, launched at Maizuru on the fifteenth of November in 1927 and sunk in the Battle of Cape Esperance near Guadalcanal on the eleventh of October in 1942." As people hearing this all gasped in shock before they gazed on the pretty brown-haired tomboy who was clearly more than just a friend to the Hammer of Passion, Negako added, "Made human with the accidental help of my youngest adopted sister, Saeru Hinako, in the spring when she passed over Fujiko's wreck site while travelling around the world. However, despite her now being a teenage girl in soul and body, she was formed by the dreams, hopes and desires of thousands of MEN — her designers, her builders, her maintainers, her officers, sailors and naval infantrymen — who served on her from the moment her keel was laid until her sinking. Happy suffered from a fatally chronic addition to absorb female ki. In hopes of overpowering Ayumu, he tried to use Fujiko's ki to empower himself...and was killed when he GORGED himself on her ki, which his body simply couldn't handle."

 

That made Fujiko wince. "Ugh...!"

 

"ARREST HER!" Sōun then screamed out. "SHE MURDERED THE MASTER!"

 

"An accidental death," the inspector declared, making Akane's father gasp at being contradicted like that. "You've no right to demand a thing, Tendō-san. Your position as a member of the ward council was stripped because of your LIES concerning your master and his being the Panty Thief!" As Sōun gargled in disbelief at being called out like that, the senior policeman gazed on Fujiko. "Commander Fukushima, you will need to present evidence when this is brought to the court for review just to observe all the necessary legalities. Is there someone we can contact when we need you to come in?"

 

"I'd rather say things in private, Inspector. I do not wish my friends harmed by a certain someone who currently resides in this place," Fujiko warned.

 

Eyes locked on the still-dazed Nabiki, then the inspector smirked. "More than understandable, Commander," he acknowledged with a nod.

 

"If you can contact Nexus, she can relay it to me and I can bring her over, Inspector," Akane offered before she straightened herself. "Shihan-sama?"

 

She bowed to Dean. The Canadian acknowledged that with a nod. "Tendō-dono?"

 

"As I am clearly not any student of any affiliate of the Tensei-ryū, may I seek out teaching from yourself or your appointed teachers when I feel it is time for me to progress my own journey in the martial arts?"

 

Dean nodded. "You may indeed, Tendō-dono." She then glared at Akane's father. "In my authority as grandmaster of the Tensei-ryū, I declare that Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū is hereby DEFUNCT as no one is officially registered in practising that art! Someone get that sign, please?!"

 

"NO...!" Sōun wailed.

 

"Here ya go, Dean!" Ayumu said with a snap of her fingers.

 

Two martial art dōjō signs appeared in the Canadian's hands, then she crushed them without effort, making Sōun shriek in agony at seeing the visible marks of his and his friend's dreams shattered before his very eyes. As the crowd around them cheered on seeing that Nerima was now effectively free of the hijinks that had haunted it for over a year, a moaning Nabiki shook her head before she looked around in confusion. "Hey! What the...?! What's going on...?" she demanded.

 

"THERE'S NO MONEY ON YIZIBA!" Akane and Fujiko screamed together.

 

A wailing shriek then escaped the middle Tendō daughter as people laughed...

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School, an hour before lunch...

 

In the very late fall of 1998, there had been born a girl named Mizunokōji Asuka.

 

Blessed from birth to possess ki charged physical strength, she had been taken from her father Yūjiro and elder brother Tobimaro to be raised in strict total isolation from all men by her mother Saeko at a remote Buddhist convent in the mountains, thus guaranteeing her spiritual purity to allow her to master such powers so she would be able to succeed Saeko as Matriarch of her clan.

 

All had gone according to plan until after her fifteenth birthday, when she had been allowed to return to her family's ancestral mansion on the border between Tomobiki and Niiza in hopes of introducing Asuka to her future fiancé, Mendō Shūtarō, thus bringing the long-running feud between their clans to an end.

 

Sadly, she soon had a very frightening encounter with Moroboshi Ataru.

 

Since then, Saeko — aided by the Mizunokōji Clan's personal troupe of female security officers, the Kurotenshi — had tried their best to help the now severely androphobic Asuka find a way of mastering her fears so she could properly operate in society as would be expected of a future captain of industry.

 

Unfortunately, the lecherous monster who had become a rival to Asuka's would-be fiancé the previous fall was just impossible to stop whenever he got into the mood to look up the young sports empire heiress to see if he could get a date from her.

 

That state of affairs had lasted to this day, even after Asuka had been allowed to attend a posh private school, Keppeki Girl's Junior High, located on the opposite side of Niiza from Tomobiki itself. Within the foreboding ramparts of the "fortress of fastidiousness", it was hoped that Asuka would be able to get the right training to finally overcome her phobia and be a proper lady.

 

Despite a "physical" launched on the place by the students of Tomobiki High the previous month, Asuka's life had pretty much gone on as planned.

 

Of course...

 

...the truth was far more intricate than what people normally believed.

 

Even someone such as Mizunokōji Saeko.

 

****

 

"HE'S YOUR LOVER?!"

 

Asuka blushed on hearing Tsuruya Rumiko's shocked question, then she shyly looked away. "W-w-well, y-yes, we do in-interface sexually. It's very good physical exercise for me and it helps him maintain his internal functions." As the Careful Planner of the Circle of Thought — joined by her friends from Sweet Valley and Výborg — gaped in shock at such a candid explanation concerning something so intimate from the near-metahuman sports empire heiress, Asuka added, "Since he's an android, I don't risk a pregnancy and I find it easier to control the phobia Tariko-san unleashed on me at the start of the year when she was hypnotized to act as Ataru-san. His lovers interface with me sexually many times, too."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"Then what the HELL was that last month when we came to do that 'physical' at your school?!" Rumiko asked as Elizabeth Wakefield and Tat'jána Chapáeva shook their heads, the other two of the Circle of Thought wondering if they would EVER understand what went through the heads of people in Tomobiki.

 

"Well, I still get very scared of men from time to time, Rumiko-san," Asuka said. "Even if I know now that the 'Ataru-san' I've encountered in town since March was actually Tariko-san or Hiromi-san, I still have flashbacks about when we first met at the mansion. Hai, Tomohotoke-kōchōsensei and the staff and my friends at the school help out from time to time, but I'm still not comfortable enough to be out on my own in public. Whenever I'm with Hikaru or Chikao or Konoe on an interface date, I'm alright...unless someone like that monster that tried to chase me down today tries to attack me." She shuddered as she recalled again being nearly overwhelmed by that horrible creature not two hours before just as members of Soban's gang tried to kill Sakō Hikaru before they raced off to get help.

 

"Asuká Júdzirovna, please describe what an 'interface date' is like?" Tánja then asked. The current incarnation of the Passionate Historian of the Circle of Thought, Kikhodato (the "Philosopher"), was a senior at a girl's private school in her hometown of Výborg near the Finnish border some distance from Russia's old imperial capital. The maternal niece of one of the major crime bosses located in the infamous Thai pirate town of Roanapur, Captain (retired) Sofíja "Balalájka" Pávlova of Hotel Moskvá, Tánja was a tall and slender brunette with grey eyes that had suffered from scorn from peers and elders alike due to her part-Karelian ancestry until she met Tariko Katabarbe sometime after Sweet Valley Summer in 2007 saw Elizabeth Wakefield transformed into the Wise Genius of the Circle of Thought, Daturie (the "Academician"). These days, atop pretending to be a normal high school student and working as a part-time model, Tánja was an under-the-table supporter of Russia's many special military projects that fell under the overall aegis of the International Specialized Warfare Treaty of 1959. "Given what Táriko Ájonovna told me of your mother, she is quite strict when it comes to how you are to be raised. How on Earth do you get away with having sex with an android of all thing, even one who finds it very easy to dress as a girl?" Here, she gazed on the diagnostic bed nearby, where an unconscious Sakō Hikaru now lay, his skin being rebuilt by a special paste that Elizabeth had provided for him.

 

Asuka smiled. "Well, given that Okā-sama and the others just wouldn't understand what Hikaru and Chikao and Konoe really are like, I find a way to make sure I'm not bothered by Kinko-san and the others when I go shopping with my friends to meet the boys and have interface dates."

 

"You use your classmates to help out?" Elizabeth noted, nodding in understanding as she recalled the several times she had encountered strict parents in Sweet Valley whose actions made their children lash out in whatever way possible to live their lives as they chose. "Do they know about them?"

 

A shake of the head responded. "No, Elizabeth-san. They don't even realize that Hikaru and Chikao and Konoe are boys," Asuka stated.

 

That made the three polymath hyper-geniuses blink before they gazed as one at the unconscious android nearby as Rumiko's systems scoured his programming. Save for the more visible laryngeal prominence on his neck and the obvious bulge in his trousers indicating he was sexually male, Hikaru could be easily mistaken as a very tomboyish woman...which, given the example of his own rescuer Shiowatari Nagisa, would make it easy for Hikaru to pass himself off as a girl, thus be not seen as any sort of danger to the rather androphobic staff at Keppeki...to say anything of Asuka's mother herself. "So how do these dates go, anyway?" Tánja asked. "What happened today that caused that creature that Nágisa Sínovna had to deal with to lash out once he noted you and your lover?"

 

As Elizabeth rolled her eyes at her Russian friend's probing into such an intimate subject and Rumiko shook her head, Asuka smiled. "Well, since I have no school today, I arranged with my friends to meet me at the south gate of the mansion grounds where we would go to the Natural Café; that's where Hikaru, Chikao and Konoe live and work. Once we got there and had breakfast, I knew right away that Hikaru needed to have his intimacy programming balanced, so we went up to his bedroom and interfaced. I had two orgasms as a result." As the members of the Circle of Thought blinked in surprise at such a frank admission, the sports empire heiress added, "After he told me he was stabilized, we went downtown to do some shopping; after all, Okā-sama might get suspicious if I go shopping and actually don't buy something." As Tánja nodded, Asuka added, "After that, we headed back up towards the Café while Chikao and Konoe took my friends out to see a movie. That's when that creature came and tried to date me, with his friends moving to hurt Hikaru. We tried to dodge clear of them when Nagisa-san came and stopped them, but Hikaru was hurt and we had to see Rumiko-san, Tánja-san."

 

"So what about those androids I took apart, then?"

 

That was Nagisa herself, who had been seated off to one side, ready to help when the three geniuses needed anything. Outside beyond the gate of the school, elements of the Self-Defence Forces and the Public Security Intelligence Agency were picking through the wreckage that the Steady Guardian of the South had left behind out of two dozen android "toughs" reported to have attended Butsumetsu High School. While there had been times that Nagisa and Rumiko had to go outside to give their statements to the officers of the Public Security Bureau who had been dispatched to oversee the investigation, no one had come forth to ask about Asuka or Hikaru; given the sports empire heiress' known androphobia, the public security authorities knew better than to bother her lest their superiors in government get an irate call from Asuka's mother concerning this issue. Much to Rumiko's surprise, there had been no sign of any of the Kurotenshi since the news of the incident got out into the public media almost two hours ago; given how much people like Makige Kinko doted over Asuka, that they weren't here...!

 

"Well, they're all Shōzoki, including Hikaru-kun here," Rumiko reported as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. "But given the sheer complexity of Hikaru's programming and systems architecture, he's light years ahead of what's been normally encountered from that planet."

 

"'Shōzoki'?" Asuka asked.

 

"An effectively extinct race of reptilian humanoids from a planet about a thousand light-years from Earth, Asuka," Elizabeth explained as she gestured with her hand, pulling up a hologram of the local galactic map before indicating two icons, marked EARTH and SHŌZORAN respectively. As Asuka nodded, the lawyer's daughter from California added, "Technology-wise, they're as advanced as anything that we or our past-selves could create. You've no doubt noticed how easy it is for Hikaru here to pass as fully human." As the young sports empire heiress nodded again, Elizabeth gazed at her. "Some centuries ago, they underwent what they called the 'Great Conversion', where they found the means by which to transfer their living souls into machine bodies; this was a way to allow a sort of utopia governed by logic to be forced on all the people there. Many of the Shōzoki rebelled against being enslaved to such a thing, then sent out small probes to other planets as a way of keep the free elements of their society alive and away from an entity they call 'Mother', the central computing and control unit of their culture. Earth's been a target of such probes. As to the 'why' those boys were made to attack Hikaru here, we'll find out. But given Hikaru's advanced programming..."

 

"They could have been scared of him and his lovers, you mean," Tánja mused.

 

"Or wanted to seek a way to improve their own programming?" Rumiko proposed.

 

As Asuka then watched in wide-eyed wonder, the three hyper-geniuses then began chatting away in what clearly was Yizibajohei as they tossed around theory after theory concerning today's incident. Noting this, Nagisa then came over to place a warm hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Here, let's leave the three brainiacs alone while they brainstorm. Knowing them from the stories of their past-selves, this could take hours. You look like you can use a good tea right now."

 

Asuka nodded as she got up to follow the tea shop maiden out of the clock tower belfry, even as she paused to stare briefly at her lover...

 

****

 

By the main gate...

 

"I DEMAND YOU LET ME INTO THIS SCHOOL!"

 

"I'm sorry, Mizunokōji-sama, but since you have no official business visiting the school, you'll have to wait until Tsuruya-kun is finished with her current project before she can come see you and explain what just happened to your daughter."

 

"ENOUGH! LOWER THIS WHATEVER IT IS THAT'S BLOCKING MY PATH AND STAND ASIDE!"

 

Hearing that screamed demand from the woman with the perennial smile frozen on her face by some sort of palsy, Nanase Mariko shook her head. "I have no control over what is happening, Mizunokōji-sama. You just have to wait," the school secretary — who had been called in by the Tōkyō Metropolitan Board of Education when the news of what happened on the street nearby two hours ago got out over the news — declared. "Given the nature of what has been discovered, the needs of the Public Security Intelligence Agency come first." As Mizunokōji Saeko began to shudder while a faint battle aura formed around her and her small troupe of bodyguards readied their own weapons, Nanase smirked. "Tsuruya-kun is legally obliged and has promised Tennō himself that she will be available whenever incidents of a paranormal nature occur. What just nearly befell your daughter is one such incident, so Tsuruya-kun — aided by her friends Wakefield-kun and Chapáeva-kun — will see this incident investigated in a way that THEY decide will proceed, not what you're demanding. Do you wish to DEFY Tennō's wishes?"

 

Saeko awked on hearing that scornful question by someone who clearly didn't care for her place in the social pecking order in this town, then she shuddered. "My daughter's safety is the priority here..."

 

"She is safe!" the school secretary countered. "She is far safer now than she could be with your own assistants given the twisted teachings they've forced down that girl's throat since she left this convent you trapped her in for so long!" As the other woman gasped in outrage on hearing that comment about her clan's sacred traditions, Nanase went for the kill. "Much that poor Moroboshi-kun might have been the one who unleashed that fear of men your daughter has experienced since her return to society, the fact that YOU never prepared her to encounter men — especially with this marriage arrangement with the Mendō family I've heard about — would make YOU ultimately responsible for all the damages your daughter unleashed on this school every time she came here! And dealing with THAT, Mizunokōji-sama, is MY responsibility! And I refuse to let MANIACS like YOU run rampant on the grounds of MY school anymore! Do you know how much all the damage you lunatics cause COSTS in the long term?! NO MORE!" Her own battle aura then appeared around her, making the crowd watching Nanase give the matriarch of Japan's second richest family such a verbal smack-down gasp in awe. "IF I HAVE TO GET MOROBOSHI-KUN TO SEND THOSE SHIP KAMI METAHUMANS LIKE THE ONE WHO PUT MENDŌ-KUN INTO INTENSIVE CARE YESTERDAY TO COME HERE AND CRIPPLE YOU FOR LIFE TO MAKE YOU LEAVE MY SCHOOL ALONE, YOU PALSY-FACED SELFISH FEMINAZI MONSTER, I'LL DO IT WITHOUT HESITATION! NOW WAIT THERE UNTIL TSURUYA-KUN IS DONE!"

 

Saeko shuddered. "How DARE you...?"

 

"Your pardon, meine Frau...but I couldn't help but overhear your desire to keep your Gymnasium free from damages unleashed by this selbstsüchtige Hexe..."

 

People perked before they looked to the south...then looked up...

 

"Oh, my...another shipgirl?" Nanase gasped.

 

...to see a smiling tomboyish woman of the same physical age as the other shipgirls who had visited Tomobiki the previous day, she dressed in the standard modern Yizibajohei jumpsuit pattern, now floating about two metres off the street. Coloured in light blue with white belt and boots, she had a red shield bugwappen on her chest about her cleavage, it embossed with three stag heads facing the viewer in natural colours surrounding a six-point star in the middle; that was embossed over the white intertwined alpha-numeric code Z1. She had short-cropped silver hair that gave her quite the mannish look even if her uniform clearly indicated she was a woman, sea blue eyes peeking out of a well-shaped face that made many girls seeing this all gush at how handsome this "boy" really was.

 

Spinning around to see the impertinent woman who dared speak out in support of the impudent trollop keeping her away from her child, Saeko looked...

 

...then she awked as the newcomer FLEW down to literally stand in her face, her left hand snapping up with middle finger curled against her thumb.

 

KK-KRUNCH!

 

People gasped after seeing Saeko struck by the newcomer's finger, sent flying right into the engine block of the UAZ-469 command car that had been used to transport the matriarch of the Mizunokōji Clan down from her estate, crushing it on impact! As the Kurotenshi present today squawked in horror on seeing their employer brought down so easily by this stranger, Nanase sighed. "You have my thanks, Ojō-sama!" she stated, making the newcomer blush on hearing the proper honorific for a young woman applied to her. "Um, are you part of Moroboshi-kun's fleet...?"

 

That made the stranger perk. "You mean there are other schiffsmädchen such as I? I thought that Max and I and our friend were the only ones who came back this...!"

 

"Wie heißen Sie?! Was ist deine Schiffsklasse?!"

 

The newcomer squawked as she snapped to attention, spinning south as the older blonde woman approached, she in the black-and-white jumpsuit given by the Great Crystal of Power to the living spirit of Germany's penultimate battleship. "Zerstörer Nummer eins, Leberecht Maass, erster Zerstörer der Klasse 1934!" the newcomer barked out as she snapped to attention so rigidly, one might fear for her backbone. She then blinked on seeing the other woman's bugwappen. "Bismarck...?"

 

Luisa von Bismarck nodded. "Ja! Welcome back, Lebe," she said with a delighted smile. "You said Max is with you as well?" she then asked.

 

"Jawohl!" the living spirit of the first destroyer built for the Reichsmarine after World War Onedeclared with a nod before a concerned look crossed her face. "And another we encountered over the Ostsee near Großendorf in the Polish Corridor near Danzig. We've had the devil's own time trying to make her talk to us since we met her after she beat away some dragons threatening a hidden village of forest elves on the Hel Peninsula! I don't even recognize her bugwappen!"

 

Hearing that, Luisa sighed. "Bring her here. Maybe Prinz might know her."

 

That made the younger-looking shipgirl gasp. "Prinz Eugen?!"

 

"Ja."

 

"Jawohl! MAX!"

 

The whooshing sound of air whipping past two people's bodies made everyone look up, then spin to the west before they gasped on seeing two people drop down out of the sky to join the two shipgirls there, one the same physical age as the one who had struck Mizunokōji Saeko down, the other the same physical age as Luisa herself. The first was a pretty girl the same age as her sister, with bobcut auburn hair and dark brown eyes, she dressed in the same model uniform as the living kami of Leberecht Maass though having an intertwined Z3 in white embossed with a different family crest, one a party per cross in black and white, the black fields to top left and bottom right holding white stars while the opposite white fields had an armoured hand holding a sword up. The second woman was a strikingly tall beauty with long blonde hair with side-locks and decorative twintails over the ears, a pair of piercing grey eyes peeking out of a face that seemed almost totally void of emotion. She wore a uniform with a gold top, blue pants and red belt and boots — the colours of old Mecklenburg, Luisa then realized — with a bugwappen on her chest in the same general design as the younger-looking woman's, though it had red fields with rampant white horses to top left and lower right and rampant black tigers on gold fields on the other fields, the whole embossed with a crowned blue shield bearing a sheep's head.

 

"Lieber Gott im Himmel...!" Luisa gasped. "GRAF ZEPPELIN?!"

 

That made the two destroyer shipgirls blink before their eyes shot out of their skulls before they stared in awe at the taller woman. "Our Flugzeugträger, meine Frau...?!" the kami of Max Schultz, third of the 1934 class of destroyers, exclaimed as she pointed at the woman she had just escorted here.

 

"Ja! They finally completed her?!"

 

"Actually, that didn't happen, Luisa-san."

 

Luisa blinked, then spun around...

 

...before she moaned as a smiling Tenhiro Haruka raced past her to place herself before the living spirit of Germany's only aircraft carrier, bowing respectfully to her. "Eure Durchlaucht, Willkommen in Japan," the adopted native of Düsseldorf declared as Luisa winced at such formalities while the two destroyer shipgirls gaped at such a show of deference to their fleet mate; they had heard the Japanese as a people were very polite and formal, but THIS was clearly not expected. As Hirosaki Chikage smirked in amusement and both Hatoyama Rinrin and Ashikaga Akemi moaned — all had come up from Ōmure-jima to see what was going on after Luisa sensed her fleet mates approaching Tomobiki from the direction of Europe — the Quarterstaff Mistress carried on in German, "I'm sure my dear beloved brother will be happy to serve as your admiral as you adjust your noble self to this remarkable set of circumstances the Fates forced upon you. Do you require refreshment at this time, Eure Durchlaucht?"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"Um...meine Frau...?"

 

Haruka looked over. "Ja, meine Freidame?"

 

That made the kami of Leberecht Maass gasp. "'FREIDAME'?!"

 

"Ja!" Haruka declared. "You are Lieselotte Catrin, Freidame von Maaß zu Korkenhagen." As the just-named Lieselotte gaped in shock at such a title being bestowed to her, Haruka then bowed to her sister. "As you are Melanie Ute, Freidame von Schultz zu Neu Brünken." As the just-named Melanie squawked in embarrassment, the Quarterstaff Mistress waved to the reborn battleship. "Atop being graced by the presence of ihre Durchlaucht, Wilhelmina Luisa, Fürstin von Bismarck-Schönhausen..." — here, Luisa groaned at being called THAT yet again — "...we are now graced with the presence of ihre Durchlaucht, Amélie Françoise, Reichsgräffin von Zeppelin zu Konstanz und zu Friedrichshafen!"

 

"'REICHSGRÄFFIN'?!" both Lieselotte and Melanie exclaimed.

 

"Ah, yes," Luisa trilled as she looked up to the heavens, recalling something from the memories of one of her crew. "The Zeppelin family were imperial counts back in the old days..."

 

"Um...is she okay, Liese-chan?"

 

That was Rinrin, who had walked over to stare into the vacant eyes of the just-named Amélie. "We've barely been able to get her to talk at all since we met her near Großendorf, meine Frau," Melanie said with a shrug as people gazed at the mute aircraft carrier-turned-twenty-something woman.

 

That made the Technological Sorceress of the East blink. "'Großendorf'?"

 

"Władysławowo in Poland, Rinrin-chan," Haruka provided.

 

That made the Ōsaka native hum before she nodded. "Oh, that's right!" she trilled out. "The Soviets scuttled her off the coast of that town in 1947..."

 

"Bitte versenke mich nicht...!"

 

Everyone spun around to see Amélie stare fearfully at Rinrin as she seemed to cringe, slowly shifting herself to hide behind Lieselotte and Melanie. "You will not be sunk again, Amélie," Chikage then calmly called out, making the other woman pause. "You will be given the chance to properly serve as you should have done all along. Herr Oberleutnant Göring is nowhere around to stop you."

 

That made Amélie's eyes brighten as the other German shipgirls snickered on hearing the infamous leader of the Luftwaffe in World War Two be addressed by the rank he held in the Luftstreitkräfte during the Great War when he commanded the famous Flying Circus. She then shuddered as tears filled her eyes. "Ich kann dienen...! Ich kann dienen...! Endlich kann ich...dienen...!" she then sobbed.

 

Instantly, the two destroyer shipgirls who had escorted her from Europe moved to embrace the transformed aircraft carrier as she began to cry...

 

"HOW DARE YOU...?!"

 

"Oh, shit...!" Rinrin moaned.

 

As people scrambled clear to safety, Mizunokōji Saeko leapt out of the wreckage of the command car she was smashed into by Lieselotte moments before, lunging over to snare the impudent girl by the throat and throttle her for such disrespect. Of course, despite her own considerable superhuman strength, the matriarch of Japan's second-richest family was effectively a "slight" by Yizibajohei terms and the now-organic battle doll body that the living kami of the first of the Type 1934 class destroyers had been given when she had been reborn over the North Sea had been constructed by the Healer of Destruction to deliver fatal damage to Goa'uld ha'tak starships with force blasts. As Saeko screamed on snaring Lieselotte by the throat, Amélie's eyes hardened to the consistency of storm-laden clouds as her hand lashed out to snare the matriarch's face and shove her away from her fleet mate...

 

KK-ZZZZAP!

 

"YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH...!"

 

The poor matriarch's body was instantly burned alive by the cutting force of THOUSANDS of volts of electricity on reaching the line of the main gates to the school grounds. As the Kurotenshi screamed on seeing their employer treated in such a vicious manner, the three sisters from Ōmure-jima could only sigh. "Now THAT, she had coming to her," Rinrin calmly noted, shaking her head.

 

After a moment, the burnt husk of the matriarch of Japan's second-richest family — still alive after being electrocuted like that — dropped to the ground in a dazed moan. Before any of her bodyguards could move to help get Saeko back on her feet and evacuate her back to the family estate, Amélie pushed past Melanie to snare the groaning woman by the neck. "Wo lebt dieses Ding...?" she snarled.

 

"The Schloss at the north end of the street," Haruka provided, pointing towards the Mizunokōji estate.

 

"Danke!"

 

With that, Saeko was sent screaming into the sky towards her home. "SAVE THE MISTRESS!" Makige Kinko, the curly-haired leader of the Kurotenshi, howled as the others raced to the escort vehicles that accompanied the wrecked command car to the scene of the horrid attack on their employer's daughter.

 

As people scrambled clear of the vehicles as they were driven off to the north, Amélie hissed as she focused on the distant estate, using a form of meta-sight which would have worked in a similar fashion to the radar which she would have been fitted with had she been commissioned into the Kriegsmarine. Instantly drawing up a mental map of the distance between herself and where she had just sent the screaming little slight away from an area protected by one of the Circle of Thought, the aircraft carrier-turned-twenty-something woman then focused, summoning a tonne of ki to literally drop down on her target with a gesture of her hand as if she was lifting a wine glass to toast the Fürher.

 

"AMÉLIE! HALT!" Luisa screamed on sensing what was happening.

 

Amélie dropped her hand...

 

...before a titanic explosion ripped out the very heart of the Mizunokōji estate!

 

As the crowds screamed at such a fiery display of power, Akemi shook her head in awe. "Damn! So THAT'S what a shipgirl aircraft carrier can do, huh?!"

 

Sweat drops appeared in Haruka's and Rinrin's hair. "Oh, shit...!" the latter moaned as she shook her head. "We're gonna have FUN explaining this one...!"

 

"At least we have enough witnesses to make sure the proper blame for provoking Amélie is placed on the right head, Rinrin," Chikage calmly stated.

 

"Damn straight about that!"

 

They perked before they turned as the inspector from the Public Security Bureau who had been sent to supervise the joint investigation concerning Soban's android classmates from Butsumetsu High School that started this interesting day in Tomobiki. "What do you mean by that, Keibu-san?" Haruka asked.

 

"Instant they learned that there were honest-to-goodness alien androids that were in town, agents from the Mendō Conglomerate stated they wanted to send out investigators to look them over, threatening to call the Prime Minister to get his approval of it," the middle-aged man said with a sour note. "You think we can keep your friend from Germany here to make them behave?"

 

As Rinrin hummed on hearing that, a humourless smile crossed Chikage's face. "We have a better solution," the metahuman sorceress then proposed.

 

"What's that, Chikage-chan?" Haruka asked.

 

"A full AUDIT of BOTH clans' use of the money WE lent them, Haruka!"

 

Haruka and Rinrin blinked, then they snickered as they imagined what the reactions in both families would be. "I'll call Reigi-kun!" the Technological Sorceress of the East then proposed.

 

As she pulled out her cell phone to make a call downtown, the German shipgirls all stared in confusion at them even if Lieselotte and Melanie were still doing their best to keep Amélie calm. "Warfare certainly has changed in the last seven decades," Luisa mused.

 

"You have only seen the beginning of it, Luisa," Chikage stated.

 

"No wonder the kobaloi in Gringotts all claim we have their blood," Haruka noted.

 

Both women then snickered as Akemi laughed...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

Moroboshi Negako is one of my frequently-used original characters, first appearing in The Senior Year story "Spirit-War Tomobiki". Deannette "Dean" Raeburn is one of my oldest creations, who has been mentioned from time to time in my works; her basic background is covered in Magic and Canada.

 

Translation list: Saikō Jinseijutsu-ryū — School of the Path of the Supreme Life; CADPAT — Canadian Disruptive Pattern, the current digital camouflage combat pattern worn by soldiers of the Canadian Armed Forces; Shihan — Grandmaster (of a martial art school); Tensei-ryū — School of the Star of Heaven; Suprasternal notch — The proper name of a person's Adam's apple; Bonkura — Knucklehead/Nitwit/Dunderhead; Nandeyanen — Literally "Why is that?" in Ōsaka dialect, this is also the phrase the straight man (tsukkomi) would often ask the boke (funny man) in manzai (rapid-paced two-person stand-up comedy) to make the joke; Bunka-gonen — Fifth Year of Culture (the Japanese year name for 1808 CE); Ledo Kimr'be — Earth Angel; Shijutsu-soku — (Martial) Arts Death Touch; Gymnasium — A type of school in Germany with a strong emphasis on academic learning, usually covering levels taught in middle and high school in Japan; Selbstsüchtige Hexe — Selfish witch; Wie heißen Sie? — What is your name?; Was ist deine Schiffsklasse? — What is your warship class?; Zerstörer Nummer eins — Destroyer Number One; Erster Zerstörer der Klasse 1934 — First destroyer of the 1934 class; Party per cross — Heraldic term for a shield divided into four fields vertically and horizontally; Flugzeugträger — Aircraft carrier; Willkommen in Japan — Welcome to Japan; Zu — A nobility particle indicating the location of the noble's residence; Und — And; Bitte versenke mich nicht — Please don't sink me; Oberleutnant — Senior lieutenant; Luftstreitkräfte — Literally "air striking forces", this was the name of the German Imperial Army air service in World War One (compare with the World War Two and modern-day Luftwaffe, which literally means "military air service"); Ich kann dienen — I can serve; Endlich — Finally/At last; Wo lebt dieses Ding? — Where does this thing live?; Schloss — Chateau or manor house.

 

Operation: Fortitude is the code-name for two false invasion plans the Western Allied powers developed to prevent the Nazis from determining when and where the invasion of Europe (Operation: Overlord) was to be carried out in 1943-44. This operation, under the aegis of Operation: Bodyguard (which was the overall deception strategy developed by the Allies to keep the Nazis in the dark concerning war plans on the Continent), covered two possible paths to invade Europe, either through northern Norway (Fortitude North) or the Pas de Calais in France (Fortitude South).

 

The relationship between Dean Raeburn's friend and Saotome Nodoka is based on what was introduced in the fanfic Suikoden One Half, written by MadHat886; I used this theme in Phoenix From the Ashes.

 

Watari-shima is the island off the south coast of Hokkaidō in my stories where the main dōjō of the Tensei-ryū is based. The name is taken from an ancient name for Japan's northern main island itself.

 

Michiba Hatatsu is my name for the Dōjō Destroyer who first appeared in the Ranma 1/2 manga story arc of the same name (manga chapters #70-73). I first used this name in Phoenix From the Ashes. In the universe of my story, Hatatsu and his family are special inspectors sent by the Tensei-ryū to monitor the teaching of students in unique martial arts schools (such as Musabetsu Kakutō-ryū) to prevent any sort of major deviation which could disturb the civil peace.

 

Mizunokōji Asuka's parents, Mizunokōji Yūjiro and Mizunokōji Saeko, first appeared in the Yatsura manga story arc "That Mizunokōji Girl"; their given names are my invention. Mizunokōji Tobimaro first appeared in the story "Life is a Ball" (manga chapter #40). Makige Kinko is my name for the leader of the Kurotenshi ("Black Angels"); she first appeared in the story "Let's Have That Bikini" (manga chapter #44). The name of the Mizunokōji bodyguards is my creation, made to match the Mendō Clan Kuromegane (black glasses). Tomohotoke Asuka is my name for the headmistress of Keppeki Girl's Junior High School, who appeared in the "Fortress of Fastidiousness" manga storyline.

 

Russian patronymics used in this episode:

 

Asuká Júdzirovna — Asuka, daughter of Yūjiro

Nágisa Sínovna — Nagisa, daughter of Shin

 

Note that the term used for Tariko Katabarbe here, Táriko Ájonovna ("Tariko, daughter of Ayone"), is actually a matronymic, not a patronymic.

 

The Shōzoki first appeared in my lemon fanfic story The Galatea Syndrome.

 

German warship bugwappen are always based on the family or town crest the ship herself is named after. Since I don't know which family crest would properly apply to either KMS Z1 (Leberecht Maass) or KMS Z3 (Max Schultz), I picked what could be determined via a search on the Internet. Both destroyers were named after Imperial German Navy officers who served and died in World War One; Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral) Leberecht Maaß (1863-1914) lead German naval forces at the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914 while Korvettenkapitän (Lieutenant Commander) Max Schultz (1874-1917) commanded the VI Torpedoboat Flotilla until his death. Note that I use the German grapheme ß (known as the scharfes S ["sharp S"]) with KAdm Maaß's name as that was how it was spelled at the time of his death; the ship name used the double "s" in the spelling. Thus, devising the human name for KMS Z1, I came up with Lieselotte Maaß for stories such as The Seventh Shipgirl.

 

Note also that KAdm Maaß's hometown of Korkenhagen is today the Polish town of Budzieszowce in the province of West Pomerania in the northwest section of the republic near the Baltic Sea. KKpt Schultz's hometown of Neu Brünken is today the town of Nowe Brynki in the same province.

 

The term Freidame (literally "free lady") used here is NOT the proper term for the wife or other relative of a Freiherr ("free lord", often translated as "baron" in English) such as the "Red Baron" Manfred von Richthofen. The proper term for the wife of a freiherr is Freifrau while other female relatives such as daughters or maiden aunts are known as Freiin; both are normally translated as "baroness" in English. I invented this title for use in Germany's magical enclaves in The Seventh Shipgirl; this is the standard mode of address for any magical woman who is NOT of the normally titled nobility. In effect, a freidame would be the effective equivalent of a baronetess in the English nobility system, indicating someone who was knighted by the Crown but is not seen as a titled noble.

 

A Reichsgräffin ("imperial countess") is the wife or other female relative of a Reichsgraf ("imperial count"). This is a title bestowed on nobles during the period of the Holy Roman Empire from 962-1806 whose descendants were later recognized by the German Empire and its component states; one of them was the commander of German naval forces at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914, Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Maximilian von Spee (1861-1914). Nominally the head of an imperial county, these were the noble leaders of medieval fiefs who administratively responded directly to the Holy Roman Emperor without having to defer to local princes and other lords. And indeed, the family of KMS Graf Zeppelin's namesake, Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917), had been elevated to the rank of Reichsgraf in 1792. So technically, Tenhiro Haruka is quite correct in addressing Amélie von Zeppelin as "Reichsgräffin" even if Ferdinand's descendants just use "Graf" or "Gräffin".

 

As noted in Magic and Canada, the term kobaloi (singular kobalos) is the word I use for the goblins as they appear in the Harry Potter series. This is derived from a type of sprite in Greek mythology.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Onishuto on Uru, the Union Congress Hall, suppertime (T ōkyō time: Lunchtime)...

 

"Puppukupu! Pyon, pyon! U-chan is fishing for snakies, pyon! Puppukupu!"

 

Seeing the comical looks on the faces of the security personnel assigned to guard the central edifice of the Union government, Tariko Katabarbe could only shake her head in amusement as the chattering bouncing girl in the dark blue-and-black jumpsuit of the Rainy Scrapper of Spring, Nyuodake ("Uzuki"), moved to take down the considerable number of Goa'uld possessed officials — including several senior members of the Congress, Redet Invader and Azu Kakazu had been quick to note — to literally extract their symbiotes for a feast her sisters both on Uru and on Earth would enjoy. "I'll have to admit this," she said as she crossed her arms, making people gaze her way. "She's enthusiastic in her work."

 

"FILTHY KEK'ULD! HOW DARE YOU THREATEN TO EAT YOUR GODS?! RELEASE US!"

 

That was the Speaker of the Congress, who had been frozen in his seat by Fukushima Hatsue when the fourth of the Mutsuki-class destroyers — who was now calling herself "Kisaragi Utako" — came to Uru from Earth to bolster the shipgirl presence there around the Trickster of the Show, her sisters on the planet and their friends. As soon as she got to Onishuto, the very childish girl with the light chestnut eyes and the long pink-red hair that extended to her knees felt her nose twitch excitedly before she raced into the Union Congress Hall, scaring the hell out of people there before she started extracting symbiotes from bodies, which made the Silent Blizzard race over from the Invader home to help out.

 

Before anyone could shout at the possessed general while Utako continued her "fishing expedition" — naturally, Hatsue was tucked in under her personal kotatsu at the entrance of the hall, dozing off — Redet Ten flew over to loom above the speaker. "Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! U-chan's gonna eat you, pyon!"

 

"PYON!" Utako echoed the firefighter's son as she tore out another symbiote from the back of a congresswoman frozen in one of the seats.

 

"KEK'ULD! ORAK'NOU! YOUR GODS WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOUR IMPERTINENCE!"

 

That made Utako stop. "'Impertinence'?!" she wondered before she looked towards the entrance. "Hatsue-chan, does impertinence taste any good, pyon?!"

 

The raven-haired reborn third of the Fubuki-class hummed before a yawn escaped her. "Maybe you should pull that lar'beke out of the umale's throat and have Ten-chan cook it," she lazily proposed.

 

Utako hummed, then she nodded, a giddy smile crossing her face. "Pyon!"

 

With a leap, she dropped down in front of the trapped speaker, then plunged her fingers into the back of his neck to yank out the symbiote that was wrapped close to his spinal column. As people watching this winced while some looked away — any sort of possession by the "children of the gods" made an Urusian dead in the eyes of the law, so what Utako was doing wouldn't see her charged with any sort of crime...even if some judge, peace officer or lawyer was crazy enough to try to persecute a Yizibajohei of all things! — Utako held up the symbiote. "Puppukupu! Cooked snaky please, pyon!"

 

"Hai!" Ten said before breathing in, then he let go with his flame-breath.

 

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH...!"

 

Everyone gasped on hearing that pained scream before Ten spun around, then he turned as white as a ghost. "MOM?!" he cried out with a mixture of terror and embarrassment.

 

As Invader winced, his sister-in-law Redet Jon — she was his wife's younger sister — stared in horror at the fact that her own beloved son had flame-breath capabilities. "MY SON'S AN ARSONIST!"

 

Ten howled in fright as his mother yanked out her matoi, charging at him to deliver punishment, a fanatic smile on her face. As the Urusians seeing this all moaned — Jon's reputation as a fanatic when it came to arsonists and pyromaniacs was known throughout the Union — Utako blinked before she snarled as she placed the cooked Goa'uld symbiote that Ten just flash-fried on a nearby desk, then she summoned a condensed rain cloud. "U-CHAN CHILD ABUSER SMACK PYON!"

 

KK-KRAACK!

 

"MOM!"

 

"Ow...!"

 

People gaped on seeing a nicely-roasted Jon on the floor of the central hall, having been electrocuted by a blast of lightning from the Rainy Scrapper that made even the worst "divine punishment" unleashed by Tariko's "wife" seem like a pinprick in comparison. As Ten gaped in horror on seeing how fast the fourth of the Mutsuki-class brought his mother down — and under the charge of being a child abuser, which was something he would associate more with Tariko's estranged birth mother Moroboshi Kinshō or Fujinami Ryūnosuke's loon father Fujimi! — Utako sighed as she picked up the cooked symbiote she had just pulled out of the now-dead speaker's body before munching down on the head. After a minute or two, she nodded. "Nice wood taste. U-chan likes this! Oi, Hatsue-chan, pyon!"

 

"Let me try," Hatsue called out as she held out her hand.

 

As the crowd watched the third of the Fubuki-class destroyers munch away on the corpse, a brown-haired woman with brown eyes holding a microphone standing close to Tariko — she accompanied by her camera crew, including a gold-skinned humanoid from Zeiwan who served as her field director, a blob-shaped being of the same race as the infamous space taxi driver Tariko knew of who drove Milan Domo's starship around to news scenes and a tall, tawny-furred feline humanoid from the planet Sakarahaven who served as her camera operator — took a deep breath before she faced the Trickster of the Show. "I take it, Miss Tariko, that Yizibajohei don't care for child abusers," she commented.

 

"Well, unlike the piece of genetic refuse I was born from, Ten's mom does have her many good points," Tariko noted as the cameraman focused his machine on her. "You just have to make her stop giving the poor kid a tonne of flashback scenes every time she tells him scary bedtime stories about tearing apart some arsonist or pyromaniac like the idiots that killed her husband. I mean, does the kid need to experience THAT flashback scene CONSTANTLY every time she visits him?!"

 

As the people around her nodded in understanding, Ten gazed her way, a faint smile crossing his face before he found himself caught in Utako's free arm and hugged. While women seeing this all gushed at what the Rainy Scrapper was happy to do for Ten while the Silent Blizzard enjoyed her charred symbiote snack, Milan hummed. As a native of Kurakoa — one of two worlds inhabited by people who were blood-related to the Avalonians the Yizibajohei had helped liberate in June — she herself had no care for child abusers; such a belief was said to be hard-wired in her very DNA. "Speaking of which, I've learned through Miss Asakura Kazumi about how verbally abusive your birth-mother really was. Is it true that she constantly said words like 'I wish I never had him' and the like concerning you for a total of nearly THREE THOUSAND times since you moved to Yiziba eleven years ago? Even when you were ABSENT from the house?! Isn't that like an average of...?"

 

"Once every two days," Tariko finished for the reporter from the Intergalactic News Network. She knew her friend from Mahora would be tapping into the INN feed through Triton to send into the Moroboshi home, where Margo Black and her sister Nora Chapelle were still interrogating Moroboshi Kinshō. "Hai. Sadly, until I got my mind straightened around, I couldn't make her stop doing that. Of course, after Ayumu rescued me and got me straightened around, I started to pay her back for those insults, usually with my normal trick." As people winced on her referencing her "cinder block dropped out of nowhere on the head" stunt that was her signature prank, Tariko added, "But after we got the Niphentaxians off the planet three months ago, Ataru and I — and Hiromi when she got Gifted and could sub in for him — decided she deserved a little of the same medicine right back. And in PUBLIC, too!"

 

"What did you do?" Invader wondered.

 

"Oh, you should have seen it, Uncle!" Ten called out as Utako carried him over to join the rest of the crowd, her other hand holding the stasis bucket with hundreds of frozen symbiotes within, fresh for a picnic. As Kakazu waved in the security personnel and coroners to deal with the corpses the Rainy Scrapper left behind on her snake fishing expedition, the firefighter's son added, "When Ataru wanted to spend a day with Mamoru-anē to celebrate her birthday in October, Tariko-onēchan took his place in the house, then really let the creep have it!" He snickered as his mother looked over, dazed in horror at the idea of her own son supporting such actions by a disobedient child to a clearly caring mother. "After Tariko-onēchan managed to get away from Lum-cha trying to cook dinner for her — I really wish she'd learn how to cook! — the creep said to her the next morning, 'You're the poster child of an unfaithful idiot of a husband!'" As the crowd shook their heads — the truth about Tariko's "marriage" to Lum was now getting out over the news nets — Ten smirked. "Tariko-onēchan said right back, 'And you're the poster child of a hypocritical, money-grubbing slut who's going to grow old and die alone. That makes me WAY better than you since I'm HONEST about my feelings!'"

 

****

 

Tomobiki, the Moroboshi home, that moment...

 

"WHO'S GOING TO TAKE CARE OF ME WHEN I'M OLD AND GREY?!"

 

"No one is. That's the general idea."

 

As Moroboshi Kinshō swayed between screaming in outrage at her "idiot son's" refusal to support her and wailing that she wasn't loved at all by said son, Margo Black and Nora Chapelle exchanged looks, then they shrugged before turning back to the television to watch INN. Unseen by either the Archangel of Mortality or the Living Dynamo, people passing by the house on the street beyond the front gate all paused to look at where Tomobiki's most infamous resident had lived before they made warding signs with their hands to make the bad kami haunting the place leave good people be, then they raced off...

 

****

 

Back in Onishuto...

 

"What happened, Ten-chan?!" Utako asked.

 

Before Ten could answer, a warbling noise echoed through the air, making people look up through the skylight over the meeting hall. "What the heck is HE doing coming here?" Tariko then asked.

 

"Who is that?" Milan wondered.

 

Utako moaned. "Weird spaceship noise, pyon! U-chan hates that!"

 

As people blinked, a saucer-shaped craft about the size of Redet Lum's mobile saucer home came to a hovering orbit, its outer ring orbiting around indicative of some sort of gravity-repulsion system keeping such a large mass in the air. The bottom hatch then opened, allowing a beam of light to project through the centre of the skylight to touch the deck in the middle of the chamber. That then materialized a tall, blond twenty-something man in a silver-white jumpsuit with buff gold belt and boots, a hooded matching cape with buff trim slung around his neck, a pair of what looked like welder's goggles over his blue eyes and a three-leaf Celtic cross insignia on his chest. After the beam disappeared, he looked around before his nose twitched on detecting the scent of burnt Goa'uld flesh.

 

"Okay, who's been having a bonfire here?" he wondered in a flat New York accent.

 

"Pyon! Make the stupid noise stop! U-chan hates it, pyon!"

 

Hearing that, the current incarnation of one of Yiziba's wisest people gasped in horror as he gazed on the shipgirl. "'STUPID'?!" the man born Isaac Thomas demanded, his eyes wide with disbelief. "My dear Miss Kisaragi, that is the classic sound of one of the greatest mad scientists in fiction...!"

 

"U-chan says it's stupid, pyon!" Utako chanted. "Stupid, stupid, stupid, pyon!"

 

That made the native of Queens moan. "Everyone's a critic...!"

 

Seeing that, Tariko roared with laughter...

 

****

 

Dear Diary,

Well, the first day back on Uru has almost ended.

Boy, a lot of things sure have happened today!

Not only did Lum-cha get a version of Ataru to have for herself in Hiromi-on ēchan — boy, that marei'cha thing Avalonians have sure is like Vosian recognition, isn't it? — but the shipgirls who came to Uru with Hinako-onētama and Aria-nēya found a lot of Goa'uld creeps possessing people.

You just had to laugh as Utako-chan went on her 'snake fishing' expedition to clear out the Union Congress. Hopefully, people will figure out which one of those 'would-be echo voiceover snake leeches' calling itself a 'system lord' caused this so they could go and have that at a picnic cookout.

With Takino Tomo-chan around — her past selves really made life rough for a lot of those dorks like Apophis — it should be an okay fight scene.

But now Mister Isaac Thomas has come to visit Uru.

He's the Wise Lone Sage, Batae Raer'buo ; on Earth, you call him ' Doctor Renaissance '. He's as much a polymath hyper-genius as any of the Circle of Thought like Lum-cha's old classmate Tsuruya Rumiko, but he's always acted independently from them.

According to Tariko-on ēchan, Hiromi-onēchan, Nassur-cha and his wife Cinba-cha, Mister Isaac is pretty much an otaku. That's the Japanese word for someone who is a really passionate fan of something. Normally otaku are as bad as Megane and his dorks were to Lum-cha, but Mister Isaac uses his own passion for things like video games, science fiction television series and movies, graphic novels and the like to inspire him in his inventions.

He not only built himself a TEN-TO-ONE scale starship replica of the SSV Normandy from the Mass Effect game series to do deep space travel with, he built himself a big space station in geosynchronous orbit over Earth at the meridian of New York City to serve as his home base away from Yiziba. He also, as people just found out, built a replica of the flying saucer scoutship used by a Doctor Wily in the MegaMan video game and anime series; this serves as his personal shuttlecraft.

Can't understand why Utako-chan hates the sound of it when it's moving.

It sounds pretty normal to me.

One big change between Mister Isaac and his predecessors is that unlike his past-selves, he's willing to work with people like the Circle of Thought and other hyper-geniuses to make sure what he's doing is alright and doesn't violate any ethical lines. His past-selves NEVER did that before; hence, his tag-line.

Anyhow, ever since he got Gifted, Mister Isaac has gone out to help people get Gifted and learn how to properly master Gifts; much that people automatically get the memories and knowledge of their past-selves when their souls merge with a Gift seed, people still have to adjust to how to use that Gift in whatever current environment they live in. Given how different Earth and Yiziba are...!

He just came in right now from another planet called Remnant, whose population have been at war with nasty creatures called Grimm for centuries. These things are SO nasty that even the Goa'uld avoid the place; the few System Lords who tried to conquer it in the past all disappeared without a trace.

Hopefully, Mister Isaac was able to help the Remnantians be able to expand finally into space. Settling on planets away from the Grimm would do them a lot of good.

 

****

 

The Invader home west of Onishuto, an hour later...

 

"So this war against this Salem woman who's been causing all this trouble on Remnant is over with," Hozan Lana stated as he crossed his arms, facing Isaac Thomas across the living room table as Redet Chim served spiced tea; much to the delight of Lum's mother, the Terrans-turned-Yizibajohei had been willing to have a cup even if they found it really harsh on their tongues, even people such as Saeru Hinako and Aria des Beauchamps. "How soon can the Remnantians develop their own space technology? With the level of technomancy they have..."

 

"It will take a while, Mister President," the New Yorker stated before nodding his thanks as Chim handed him a cup of tea. Currently, his former students — both among the huntresses from Remnant and his first group of students from Santa Clara outside San Francisco calling themselves the "Camelot Wondercolts" as a team — were still aboard the Normandy awaiting the chance to be officially cleared to come into the Urusian capital city; given there were too many people who were still too scared of the Yizibajohei in Onishuto, it was just being prudent. "You have to understand, the war against the Grimm has always been all-consuming with the nations of that planet for as long as they could remember. Any thought of advancing technology towards things like space flight has had to take a back seat to more important matters, especially with the fact that Dust was a finite resource on that planet. I've improved things by showing them how to create artificial Dust and helped them start to seed mesonium farms on the planet to help clear the biosphere from what Miss Salem helped provoke..."

 

"As Isaac just implied, it'll take time," Nassur of Vos noted from his place off to one side. The expat Vosian bounty hunter and old teacher to Invader's daughter had come to this meeting from Home Base, the asteroid headquarters of his hunter's group located near the Urusian colony world of Shingetsu. With him was his wife Cinba and elder son Akisur; while the daughter of the late governor of the lost Colony Seventy-one stood beside her husband, their son was off to one side listening to the shipgirls who had come to Uru as they told him stories about their crews' adventures in the Second World War. "They only just recently discovered their Stargate, Lana; it was set out way in the wilderness in territory Madame Salem had controlled for centuries. With what Isaac was able to tell them about the efforts the Americans on Earth have made with their own Stargate, I'm sure Professor Ozpin and his co-workers could get it going. Once they have it working, Isaac will arrange a first contact between them and Stargate Command on Earth." He then smirked. "I'm sure Colonel O'Neill will impress them a lot."

 

"Knowing Jack, yes," Tariko mused from beside Isaac, making people from Earth snicker as they recalled the times they met the Air Force pararescueman who lead SGC's primary expeditionary team and had been the one responsible for the death of the Goa'uld supreme system lord Ra four years ago.

 

"Speaking of Stargate Command, what of the Goa'uld themselves?" Kakazu asked from beside her boss. Her uniform top now had the four gold nova of her new rank as an admiral in the Defence Force.

 

"As Yomi was quick to learn when she and Tomo came here to deal with Admiral Vel and his son, it was Nirrti who sent those infiltrators to Uru, Admiral," Isaac reported. "She's always been interested in finding ways to develop hok'tar; that's their word for metahumans. Back during the First Invasion five millennia ago, she was tasked by Ra to learn ways to counter the powers of the Healer of Destruction and the first generation battle dolls that crippled their fleet for centuries and helped contribute to their final expulsion from the local cluster once the Seifukusu went after them." As the people there nodded in understanding — much that there was little love these days on Uru for the modern descendants of those incredible warriors from Dominos that made life hell for the "children of the gods" back then, one had to admire the Imperial Houses for maintaining a harsh anti-Goa'uld stance, treating the symbiote race as a "plague" to be exterminated — the Wise Lone Sage added, "While I was busy on Remnant, I discovered a world Nirrti controls where she's actually had some success in creating indigenous metahumans. Of course, since her technology is based on naquadah, the results haven't been as good as if she had any control over mesonium. When I saw that, I decided to 'correct' the issue."

 

"What did you do?" Shigaten Benten demanded...

 

...before a beep echoed from someone's PAA. "Oh, dear," Isaac trilled out before he reached into his belt to pull out the device, then place it on the table. After tapping the crystal, he smirked. "Nirrti! It's been so long!" he then teased as the image of a snarling brown-haired woman in her thirties appeared over the crystal. "You never write or call me! What?! You don't like me anymore!"

 

"IMPERTENANCE!" the namesake of the Hindi goddess of deathly shadow realms snarled as her eyes flared with the power the symbiote within her possessed. "HOW DARE YOU DESTROY YOUR GODDESS' WORK, THOMAS?! DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU'VE DONE?!"

 

"I detected your hidden naquadah bomb inside that poor Hankan girl that was rescued by SG-1 three years ago, then sent it to your hidden scientific research base on Ketu," Isaac calmly replied while people from Earth began to snicker in the background as he got warmed up. "You're now going to say, 'You had no right to do that. How dare you interfere in our quest to suppress the Tau'ri, you monster?'"

 

"YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO DO THAT! HOW DARE YOU INTERFERE IN OUR QUEST TO SUPPRESS THE TAU'RI, YOU MONSTER?!" Nirrti shrilled out before her eyes went wide and the people listening to this shrieked. "DON'T LAUGH AT YOUR GODDESS!" she screamed as if she was a child who just got scolded for painting the walls. "WHO UNLEASHED THE ORAK'NOU, THOMAS?! HOW DARE YOU ALLOW THOSE FILTHY KEK'ULD TO INTERFERE IN MY RESEARCH CONCERNING THE SHATAN'AF?! ANSWER YOUR GODDESS! WHO UNLEASHED THE ORAK'NOU?!"

 

Isaac rolled his eyes before he gave the senior scientist among the System Lords a look as if he was about to lecture a stubborn and selfish child. "Nirrti, you were there five sagas ago when you and your friends tried to be Gift thieves before it was seen as a crime on Yiziba. Who CREATED them in the first place?" he asked, a mirthless smile crossing his face. "Who is the ONLY ONE who holds the key to the First Doll House? Who is the ONLY ONE even the so-called 'old ones' — who would have LAUGHED at you when you were playing your false god games on Earth — are TERRIFIED OF?"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"Batae Erba...!" a white-faced Nirrti croaked.

 

"Yes," he trilled. "So what does that tell you if they're active NOW?!"

 

The female-form system lord blinked. "No! He will not turn the Tau'ri into your kind, Thomas! We will never stand for it! This is a violation of the Protected Planets Treaty...!"

 

"That was a treaty you signed with the Asgard. We don't recognize it. And since we of Yiziba are actually blood-related to our cousins on Earth, do you honestly expect us to stand by and allow you to enslave that planet like you did before Master Tash Ri and his son threw you off Earth five sagas ago?" he countered before smirking. "Now you're going to say, 'The Alliance of Four Great Races will never stand for your interference in the Tau'ri homeworld. Withdraw now.'"

 

"THE ALLIANCE OF FOUR GREAT RACES WILL NEVER STAND FOR YOUR INTERFERENCE IN THE TAU'RI HOMEWORLD, THOMAS! WITHDRAW NOW!" Nirrti shrieked out, making everyone in the room scream with laughter. "STOP LAUGHING AT ME!"

 

"THEN GET A FUCKING BETTER SCRIPTWRITER, LAR'BEKE!" Takino Tomo yelled out from one corner of the room, where she stood with her classmate Mizuhara Koyomi while they had been conversing with Lum's adopted sister Redet Negau.

 

"Speaking of the so-called 'four great races', the Ancients have all 'ascended' to non-corporeal state and are too busy dealing with their Ori rebels to bother too much with the mess they've left behind with the technology you STOLE from them over the millennia, the Asgard are about to be wiped out by these 'replicators' they foolishly created some years back, the Nox pretty much live by themselves and the Furlings are too busy concentrating on making their utopia to worry too much about other species. You don't HAVE them anymore to hide behind, Nirrti," Isaac warned before he smirked. "Of course, there are new species with as much power as they who are ready to step into their place, such as the ch'uokyek of Noukiios and the ib'f of Yehisril...not to mention the Djaf'kalach and the Kal'ma Ra'kalach! I'm sure even the Majujjō could be persuaded to join such an alliance. Not to mention those of us who would love to help put you annoying lar'beke down. Right, Tomo?"

 

"Damn straight!" the Wild Warrior of Passion snarled. "Oi! Nirrti! You pass it on to Apophis! Next time he shows his ass anywhere close to Earth, he's gonna have his DEATH SCENE finally! That's ONE death cheater that's gonna learn how to fucking DIE properly! I'll leave your skanky ass to Isaac here!"

 

"IMPERTINENCE!"

 

"Oh! U-chan thinks impertinence is tasty, pyon!" Kisaragi Utako then called out from beside Akisur. "U-chan can't wait to EAT your impertinence!"

 

"I'll make sure I save the symbiote for a snack, Utako," Isaac promised.

 

"Isaac-kun is nice, pyon!"

 

Nirrti howled in outrage as people in the room laughed. "Now, Isaac-san, stop teasing the little snake!" Hinako scolded. "It doesn't have much of a brain! Calling it names is like picking on a dumb animal!"

 

As the Goa'uld screamed at what the Spirit of Innocence just said about her to the Wise Lone Sage, others in the room nearly fell over laughing...

 

****

 

Colorado Springs Air Force Station, headquarters of United States Stargate Command, that moment (local time: Three hours before midnight)...

 

A hum escaped the leader of SG-1, making the others of his team stare at him. "Is there something amiss, Colonel O'Neill?" the bald Chulakian warrior who had served as First Prime to the currently most powerful of the System Lords asked as he gazed on the silver-haired pararescueman from Minnesota.

 

Colonel Jack O'Neill perked as he returned Teal'c's look, then he shrugged. "I just had a weird feeling, T. That's all," the leader of SG-1 admitted.

 

"What weird feeling, sir?" Major Samantha Carter asked, a wary look on her face.

 

"That Isaac was teasing someone, Carter."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"Doctor Renaissance normally does not tease people," Teal'c calmly observed.

 

O'Neill snapped his fingers. "Unless it's Nirrti or some other brainiac," he said, making the others in the office set aside for Stargate Command's premier expeditionary team nod. "He loves doing that."

 

"His way of predicting what people say is funny to watch," Daniel Jackson mused, a smirk crossing his face. "Remember the time he teased Nirrti after he discovered that naquadah bomb inside Cassandra?"

 

"Oh, that was priceless!" O'Neill noted as the Terran members of SG-1 snickered on recalling that incident two years before when Isaac Thomas — just before he went to Santa Clara at the south end of San Francisco Bay to train the team that would later call themselves the "Camelot Wondercolts" — came to the base and used his devices to extract the naquadah that had been pumped into the orphaned Cassandra Fraiser's body before he used it as a "bullet" in a replica of the Little Boy atomic bomb with a hyper-charged ebony mesonium core as the "target". Once it was ready, he had it sent through the Stargate to the planet Ketu, where Nirrti's largest research facility had been located. Once the naquadah and mesonium had been allowed to fuse, the resulting explosion made Ketu look like the moon of Remnant, rendering the whole planet uninhabitable and effectively wrecking Nirrti's combat forces. "How many times did he make a prediction of what she was going to say in the end?"

 

"Six times," Jackson reported.

 

"Seven."

 

Everyone looked at Teal'c. "You counted, T?" O'Neill asked.

 

"Indeed."

 

Smirks crossed the Terran members' faces on hearing their Chulakian friend's catch-phrase...before the lights began to flash just as a battle alarm echoed. "What the hell...?!" O'Neill moaned.

 

"All personnel! Code Three! Code Three! Unknown intruder in the detention bay! All personnel! Code Three! Code Three! Unknown intruder in the detention bay!" the security sergeant called out from the control room. "Bio-scan indicating Gifted Yizibajohei, identity unknown! Repeat...!"

 

The four members of SG-1 exchanged looks. "Wonder who's visiting," O'Neill said as he got up.

 

The others quickly followed him out of the room...

 

****

 

Several levels below...

 

"Ma'am! Ma'am! Please, stop right there! Please identify yourself!"

 

The tall and rather curvy woman with the slightly tanned skin in the recognizable Yizibajohei-pattern jumpsuit looking to be in her late twenties paused on hearing that question from the security forces sergeant that had just approached her as she was walking down the corridor where the ten detention cells meant to contain Goa'uld-possessed prisoners were located. She slowly turned as her glowing blue eyes focused on his multi-grey shaded airman's battle uniform before she shook her head. "You a Marine?" she wondered as her body tilted in such a way to reveal the crest over her cleavage.

 

He blinked on seeing that such was a standard United States Navy warship's crest, though he was too far away to read the gold wording in the blue stadium ring that would declare her name and hull classification code number. As he tried not to stare at her considerable superstructure — rather hard to do as Yizibajohei battle uniforms of the new generation tended to be quite form-fitting — a hissing voice bellowed from the one occupied chamber, "SILENCE THIS ALARM! RELEASE ME!"

 

The sergeant gulped as the curious look on the newcomer's face melted into something that just chilled his bones as she focused on the place where Daniel Jackson's possessed wife Sha're was now imprisoned. By then, running footfalls indicated a section's worth of security forces personnel had come to support the sergeant who had been in charge of monitoring the detection level. "She's a shipgirl, guys!" he called out as they levelled their weapons at her back.

 

"'Shipgirl'...?"

 

As the security force personnel lowered their M4A1 carbines — everyone in Stargate Command had been briefed on the reborn ship spirits as soon as news of the return of Fukushima Fujiko and her sisters during "Hinako-chan's Spring Break Shipgirl Hunt" got across the Pacific thanks to Isaac Thomas — the newcomer turned to stare once more at them. "Yes, ma'am," the sergeant said as he secured his M9 pistol just as footfalls heralded the arrival of more people, including the members of SG-1, followed by the flag officer in overall charge of Stargate Command, Major General George Hammond. "We're heard of other ship spirits being given human bodies over the last few months, mostly from Japan. When exactly did you get back, ma'am?"

 

She stopped to think about it, her head rocking to and fro, making that high ponytail of reddish-brown hair rock that extended to her waist sway like a cat's tail. "About...four hours ago. Um, I think it was four hours." An embarrassed giggle then escaped her. "We felt it when Eugen disappeared like she did late last night from Kwajalein, then something seized all of us that were there in the lagoon when the tests were done. After this weird voice called out these strange words I couldn't understand — it sounded like God Himself! — I became...um, th-this!" She turned to fully face them, waving to herself.

 

Now able to see her front directly, people were quick to pick out the USS SARATOGA at the top of the ring and CV-3 at the base of her ship's crest, which bore a black trident on a red shield insignia topped by a rooster about to take flight, the shield also containing one silver and four bronze stars at the base indicative of the eight battle stars she earned with the award of the Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal and the "Fleet" clasp applied to the American Defence Service Medal she had also been awarded for her service in the Second World War. Her uniform was composed of a white top over red pants, black boots and a black belt with a buckle bearing a white E on it. "Holy shit! She's Saratoga?!" an airman first class hissed out in awe at meeting the living spirit of one of America's most famous aircraft carriers made human...and a very pretty one at that. "The one they sank at Bikini?!"

 

"Pleasedontsinkme...!"

 

That was the newcomer, who now had a frightened look on her face as she seemed to shy away from them. "Um...Captain Doolittle, you won't be sunk," Samantha Carter said as she came through the cordon of security personnel, holding out her hands in a peaceful gesture to calm the second of the Lexington-class aircraft carriers down. "In fact, given that body you now have, no Terran weapon exists that can even bother you. You're practically as tough as General Raeburn is now."

 

That made the shipgirl before her blink. "Major Raeburn's a GENERAL now?! Oh, my!" She then perked. "Wait! 'Captain Doolittle'?! Why call me that?!"

 

"Do you look like an aircraft carrier right now, ma'am?"

 

"Of COURSE I'm...!"

 

Jack O'Neill instantly smirked as a confused look crossed her face before she looked at herself; he had seen videos Hatoyama Rinrin made of shipgirls now living on Ōmure-jima reacting the same way the adopted native of New York and New Jersey was now to being told they were human. "Oh! I see..."

 

"So what did Ataru name her, by the way, Carter?" O'Neill asked.

 

"'Olive Dionysia Doolittle'," Carter provided.

 

That made the newcomer blink. "'Dionysia'?" she wondered, her face twisting.

 

"We can make it 'Dionne'," O'Neill proposed.

 

That made the just-named Dionne Doolittle blink before she nodded. "That sounds nice, Captain," she said before she noted the uniform. "Er...Colonel...?"

 

"Yeah, Colonel," he confirmed.

 

"RELEASE ME, TAU'RI! YOUR GODDESS COMMANDS IT!"

 

Dionne shuddered as her eyes glowed. "Post-Gifting Shock..." O'Neill moaned. "Oh, great!" He called out, "Captain, what exactly are you going to do to the stupid alien would-be 'god' giving us earaches?!"

 

She turned to flash him a smile that would have been perfect on a pinup model from the 1940s that troops loved to get pictures of. "Why, Colonel, I'm just going to EAT it...!"

 

"NO! KEK'ULD! YOU DARE MAKE ALLIANCES WITH THE E'OUNOU, O'NEILL?!"

 

"I'd be very CAREFUL if I was you, Amaunet!" Daniel Jackson then called out. "Considering we're graced with the presence of one of the Orak'nou...!"

 

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...!"

 

People winced on hearing the possessed Sha're's terrified shriek, then O'Neill gave Teal'c a warning look. The Chulakian warrior nodded as he headed off...

 

****

 

The main briefing room, an hour later...

 

"Hai! Hina's here!"

 

Hearing that cheerful voice, George Hammond turned around, then he rose, his hand reaching out to grasp that of the Spirit of Innocence. "Hello, Miss Saeru," he said with a grandfatherly grin, which made Saeru Hinako blush at such a caring look. "I trust everything's going well on Uru at this time."

 

Hinako nodded. "Un! As soon as Utako-chan caught all the nasty snakies who were possessing people on Uru, she wanted Shirayuki-chan to teach her how to make a picnic for the others in Onii-tama's fleet!" Here, she waved to Kisaragi Utako, who had given the elderly pilot a perfect Eta-jima salute.

 

Hammond nodded before he returned the courtesy the fourth of the Mutsuki-class destroyers gave him. "At ease, Commander Kisaragi," he bade her, grateful that he had got the updated list of human names for these beings via Samantha Carter. "I hope you can be of assistance with our current prisoner."

 

Utako relaxed herself. "I'll be happy to assist with the nasty lar'beke, Hammond-shōshō," she said in her most formal voice without any of the childish inflections she normally used. "Shirei-kan's sister reported to me that this particular one is possessing the wife of one of your senior scientists."

 

"That's correct," Hammond said as he waved the two over to sit at the briefing room table. "Given that this is also Apophis' wife we're speaking of..."

 

"Oh! We should have asked Tomo-chan to come here!" Hinako then stated.

 

"But she can only rip out the snaky from the body, Hinako-chan," Utako warned. "We want to keep Jackson-hakase's wife alive, remember?"

 

That made the Spirit of Innocence blink before she hummed. "Okay! Hina knows what to do! Can Hina see Oba-san right now, Ojii-san?"

 

"I'm having her..." Hammond was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Enter!"

 

The door opened, revealing two female security personnel dragging in the possessed Sha're, who had been stripped of the formal robes that Amaunet wore to mark her station, that replaced by a plain jumpsuit. Even if she was locked down by very advanced gear provided by people like Isaac Thomas and Elizabeth Wakefield that effectively blocked the symbiote from fleeing its current host body to possess someone else, it didn't silence her voice. "RELEASE ME, TAU'RI! HOW DARE YOU TREAT YOUR GODDESS THIS WAY?! RELEASE ME AND YOUR DEATHS WILL...!"

 

"YOU BE QUIET, YOU NASTY, EVIL CREEP!"

 

Amaunet's voice was effectively choked off as a pained look crossed her face while the others in the room shuddered at the invisible wave of power now flowing out of Hinako's body surged through them. As the two security officers smiled at the pretty girl who was making their prisoner shut up, Hammond walked over, with Utako falling in to his left rear in a protective position. "I think that's more than enough out of you, Miss Amaunet," the veteran pilot declared as the possessed Abydonian chief's daughter looked his way. "Considering how afraid you Goa'uld are of death, your reaction to the presence of Captain Doolittle is understandable. But given the sheer level of damage your race has caused not only my people but the slaves and their descendants your kind have hurt over the millennia, you should have realized karma was going to come back and bite you HARD! How nice of the Yizibajohei — the one people you've NEVER been able to hurt — to help us in that regard."

 

Amaunet shuddered. "You are a fool, Hammond! To make an alliance with the Orak'nou will see your world destroyed, just as they nearly destroyed themselves two millennia ago in their 'dawn of power'! You actually WELCOME an alliance with those monsters?!" she hissed out as she tried to escape the bonds holding her down. "We were trying to civilize you...!"

 

«You call what you did to us 'civilizing', Amaunet?»

 

Hearing that voice made the possessed chief's daughter turn as white as a ghost. "Tash Ri...!"

 

Utako gaped in wide-eyed awe. "Rittmeister von Taserich...?"

 

«What a pathetic joke you just made.» As the security people looked around for the source of that voice, the effectively oldest living human being on Earth added, «We were doing quite fine before Ra and his ilk came to our world seeking new host bodies since the Unas weren't sufficient enough for them. And while your need to possess others is understandable, why didn't you listen to Egeria in the first place and seek out WILLING hosts? Egeria and her kin have been quite successful in that regard. Look at the example of how Selmak merged with Samantha Carter's father a year ago? You could have easily done the same thing. If you — and Apophis — had done that, then all the objections concerning your child Shifu would be erased and your race could actually evolve. You wonder why the Children of the Forge look DOWN upon you?» As Amaunet gargled on realizing that the most deadly enemy the Goa'uld ever faced on Earth knew of her child, Josef von Taserich added, «Thanks to what that fool Telchak created, your kind have been KILLING yourselves every time you expose your minds to the false mesonium you call 'naquadah'. It is fortunate that whoever is the Healer of Destruction today is making sure that your foolish mistakes will not harm those you've enslaved or anyone else.»

 

If Amaunet had been pale before, she was now grey with mortal terror. "Batae Erba...?!" she hissed out. "No! You must help us, Tash Ri...!"

 

"Why?"

 

Hearing that voice in the clear, everyone perked, then Hammond turned around...

 

...before he straightened himself and saluted the middle-aged man in the rather dated normal clothing standing by the whiteboard at one end of the room, an amused smirk on his face which was barely masked by his well-trimmed moustache and goatee. Noting the more classic sideburns a man might have worn in the late Victorian era when the German Empire had just been united in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War and the miniaturized badges of the Orden Pour le Mérite and the Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross on his left breast pocket — both won for his participation in leading Prussia's metahuman forces during the Napoleonic Wars — Hammond nodded in admiration. Regardless of the man's ultimately grief-induced actions in World War Two, there was no question that if Taserich had been an American, he would have won the Medal of Honour in some action or another.

 

"Herr Rittmeister, welcome to Stargate Command," the veteran pilot declared as he offered his hand as the fisherman from Rügen during a warm period during the Weichselian High Glacial age came over.

 

"My thanks, Herr Generalmajor," Taserich stated as he gazed in amusement at the human-form ship spirit in a now-organic battle doll body and the youngest of his spiritual "granddaughter's" adopted sisters. Nodding as Hinako gave him a kind smile, he then focused on the stasis bucket hanging from Utako's hand. "You seem to have done a lot of fishing today, Frau Fregattenkapitän Kisaragi."

 

"Loads of snakies for U-chan and U-chan's sisters to eat, Herr Rittmeister!" Utako said as she held up the bucket to display the frozen symbiotes within.

 

Seeing that, Amaunet shrieked. "KEK'ULD! YOU'LL NEVER GET AWAY WITH THIS...!"

 

"Do be quiet, Amaunet."

 

The possessed chief's daughter's voice was cut off by Taserich, who only had to use a small amount of his unbelievable power to silence her. "Sir, could you please remove this thing from Doctor Jackson's wife?" one of the security officers then pleaded. "Given how much she loves to scream all the time..."

 

"Ah! So that's why you spared this one," the immortal Pomeranian baron mused as he concentrated for a moment, his hand reaching towards her.

 

Sha're's body shuddered for a moment before the writhing form of Amaunet was phased right out of her neck through her mouth. "Ah! Snaky to eat!" Utako called out as she moved to snare the struggling symbiote and put it in her bucket...

 

...before a hand snared it, then yanked it over to plunge the head right into Dionne Doolittle's mouth. As Utako cried out at the transformed aircraft carrier's theft of the prized symbiote, Hinako made a face. "Ewww! You eat it RAW, Dionne-san?!" she moaned before looking away. "Hina's gonna be sick!"

 

A wailing scream echoed through the air as Sha're seemed to collapse in the arms of her captors while Dionne munched down the symbiote. "Oh! Nice and aged! Tasty, too!" she gasped after swallowing what was left before a belch escaped her. "Oh! Excuse me!" she said with a red face.

 

"Please tell me we had someone FILM that!"

 

As people turned to see Jack O'Neill and the other members of SG-1 standing at the doorway, a voice then called out, "Always available for news, Jack-kun!"

 

Hammond spun around before he sighed. "Miss Asakura, would you PLEASE announce yourself next time?!" he pleaded as Asakura Kazumi lowered her special video camera recorder. "Much that I'm sure Apophis will be pleased..." — everyone could sense the sarcasm in his voice on saying that word — "...to learn what happened to his wife, we do have security procedures to follow in this place."

 

Hearing that, the red-haired native of Niigata in the urban camouflage jumpsuit of the Voice of the Great Show of Life nodded. Honestly, when would people stop being so damned uptight when her "news sense" made her go out to look in on things that would interest people back on Yiziba and among the Gifted here on Earth? "Hai! Hai!" she called out before she perked as a moan escaped the slowly-recovering Sha're. "Ah! Time for a Kodak moment...!" she sing-songed.

 

Immediately, Daniel Jackson was at her side as the two security personnel moved to remove the restraints; given the presence of both Dionne and Utako, not to mention Hinako, any surprises that Amaunet might have left behind in her host's body could be neutralized quickly. As a pained moan escaped the chief's daughter from Abydos, Hammond walked over to kneel in front of her. "Are you alright, Mrs. Jackson?" the general calmly asked, making her stare in confusion at him.

 

"Who...?" she rasped before her eyes focused on the man now holding her before a grin crossed her face. "Husband...!" she moaned as she slumped against him.

 

As a relieved wail escaped her, people fell respectfully silent...

 

...before a quiet knock echoed from the door, revealing the presence of Master Sergeant Walter Harriman, the senior airman in charge of operating the Stargate's dialing computer here at Colorado Springs. As everyone looked at him, the bespectacled balding native of Swansea in southwest Illinois bowed his head as Jackson moved to get his weeping wife over to a chair while being helped by Samantha Carter. "Excuse me, General, but the officer of the watch is wondering what we're supposed to do with Captain Doolittle's friends," he said, making people gape.

 

Hammond blinked before he gazed on Dionne. "Captain, care to explain?!"

 

The red-haired aircraft carrier-turned-twenty-something woman sputtered in obvious surprise. "I was the only one who deployed here when I sensed the lar'beke infiltrating the base, sir!" she instantly declared. "I swear to you, sir, the others elected to remain at Bikini!"

 

"How many others, Captain?! I think they would have appreciated if you had told us about their transformation so we could get them fed!"

 

"Shirayuki-chan could feed them all!" Hinako then piped in.

 

That made people blink. "How many altogether, Dionne?" O'Neill asked.

 

The adopted native of Saratoga Springs in New York (her namesake town) and Camden in New Jersey across from Philadelphia (her place of construction) hummed. "Well, outside our missing heavy cruiser from Germany, we have one light aircraft carrier, five battleships including one Japanese, two heavy cruisers, one Japanese light cruiser, thirteen destroyers and seven submarines, Colonel. Plus five Japanese destroyers who came as soon as the last of us found ourselves getting our extra powers by that god-like voice; they all came from Japan, having assumed human form about a week ago."

 

"What class are they from, Captain?" Carter asked.

 

"Kamikaze-class. Kamikaze, Asakaze, Harukaze, Matsukaze and Hamakaze."

 

Hearing that, people sighed. "Is this EVER going to end?!" O'Neill wondered before he gazed at Hinako. "Looks like you're up, kid!" the leader of SG-1 bade.

 

"Hai! Hai!" the Spirit of Innocence declared...

 

****

 

The embarkation room, that moment...

 

"They're all of the fucking Army Air Forces?! Where the hell are the damned Marines?! They can guard this damned thing WAY better!"

 

As the security personnel winced on hearing that admonishment from the woman with the long twintailed blonde hair and the blue eyes, the more scholarly-looking woman with the brown hair done up in a bun at the back of the head and the matching eyes behind safety goggles sighed. "Honestly, Nevada, stop that!" she admonished as she gave the older battleship-turned-twenty-something woman a scolding look. "It's good that the junior service has progressed very well." As all the Air Force people present perked on hearing that, she added, "Given this device can connect our planet to other words, its operation should logically fall in the area of responsibility of the Army Air Forces, not the Navy..."

 

"Um...it's just the 'United States Air Force' now, ma'am."

 

That was the master sergeant in charge of the detail watching over the thirty-four women standing on or to either side of the embarking ramp leading to the Stargate. While all the security personnel were holding their carbines at port arms, they were relaxed enough that even the five Japanese teenage women in the older-model Yizibajohei jumpsuit style — one with very flared sleeves and bell-bottom trousers that made them look like alien martial artists — had no reason to concentrate on them even if they stood protectively close to the twenty-something raven-haired woman with the chestnut brown eyes possessing the bearing of someone who was clearly used to being in charge of things, she currently accompanied by a younger woman with short-cropped lavender hair and matching eyes that seemed quite scared of something while she hovered close to her old fleet mate. "Oh, I apologize," the woman with the proud ship name USS PENNSYLVANIA over BB-38 on her ship's crest stated with a polite smile, making the sergeant blush. "It has been some years."

 

"So how come we're smelling snakes all over this place?"

 

That was the very slender woman with the black skinsuit that looked like something a deep sea diver would wear on a trip to the depths; not even her footwear were the flared buccaneer boots that the other vessels had. She had short-cropped two-tone hair, a mixture of gold and brown in reflection of her namesake ray fish, a pair of almost black eyes peeking out of a very tanned face; she wasn't African by any stretch of the imagination, but could be mistaken for a native of Hawai'i. In addition to her new ship's crest on her chest, she also bore the proud hull classification symbol number 305 in white on her upper arms and thighs. "Hai, Skate-dono, there is the filthy stench of the lar'beke here," one of the Japanese women in the traditional battledress said as she scanned the room, her nose flaring. She was a tomboyish girl as people who did understand Japanese could sense by the more mannish tone in her voice and words, possessing shaggy black hair, light blue eyes taking in everything in around her. Her uniform composed of a white top and dark green trousers, the intertwined kanji 松風 on her chest in white-trimmed green over a pine tree in full bloom, displayed in natural colours.

 

"What do you mean by 'lar'beke', ma'am?" one of the junior airmen asked.

 

"They call themselves 'Goa'uld' as a race," the raven-haired Japanese twenty-something woman with the black-and-dark grey jumpsuit bearing the intertwined kanji 長門 in black-piped grey on her chest over the red-and-white mon of the Mōri Clan of Chōshū that had ruled her namesake province at the west end of Honshū throughout the Tokugawa period declared in a cold, analytical voice. "Pretending to be actual kami when they invade planets like the planet that gave us our current hulls, enslaving and killing innocent people by the millions because they simply have the power to do so..."

 

"We've been fighting them for at least four years, Captain Yamamoto."

 

People blinked, then they turned to see a smiling woman walk into the room, dressed in the two-tone blue dress uniform of the majority of the officers in this place, captain's bars on the epaulettes of her doctor's smock slung over her shoulders. Hearing that name applied to her, the living kami of THG Nagato then asked, "'Captain Yamamoto'? I don't understand, Doctor."

 

Doctor Janet Fraiser smiled as the younger-looking women all gave her respectful looks on seeing the Medical Corps badge on her smock pocket, the ones in the more traditional battlesuits bowing deeply to this pretty thirty-something officer. "Well, do you see yourself as a physical battleship, ma'am?" the brown-haired native of Washington state asked as she gazed down at the battleship-turned-twenty-something woman's ample bust line. As the reincarnated flagship of the Combined Fleet at the time of the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941 blushed at that comment and some of the people in the monitor room snickered at that reaction, Fraiser added, "The man who became the unofficial admiral of a lot of your fleet mates plus a selection of shipgirls from your old allies in Germany came up with human names for all of you so that you could fit in much better as you are now." That wasn't the exact truth, Fraiser knew, but she didn't want to confuse these poor women about concepts such as alternate dimensions and what these girls' own counterparts in one particular universe discovered by Isaac Thomas were now forced to do. "I don't know the names of everyone here, but the instant I saw the kanji on your tunic, I looked up your name: Yamamoto Reiko." As the just-named Reiko gasped in surprise, the doctor smiled. "Named in honour of Fleet Admiral Yamamoto and officially adopted into his family by direct order of the Heavenly Sovereign himself, as will your sister Chiyoko when she returns."

 

As Reiko blinked while her eyes teared at the fact that her return as a human had been expected — and even better, APPROVED of! — by the Son of Heaven himself, the tomboyish raven-haired destroyer protecting her hummed. "Truly this admiral is a very wise man. I only pray that there is such a kind man among the good citizens of your land, Sensei, to serve as an admiral for our good friends here..."

 

"I think there's a few good candidates, Commander Taruka."

 

That made the living spirit of the destroyer Matsukaze blink. "'Taruka'?"

 

"Ah! Fraiser-sensei! No fair! Hina wants to tell them their names!"

 

People turned around...

 

...then the Japanese destroyers and the one light cruiser present all screamed out "KAWAII!" on seeing Saeru Hinako come in, escorted by Dionne Doolittle and Kisaragi Utako.

 

The Spirit of Innocence yelped in surprise as the five conservatively-dressed destroyers surged over to boost her off the floor and plant her on their shoulders. As the American shipgirls gaped at such a show of motherly caring towards this little cute girl, a gargled breath escaped the just-named battleship standing close to the Stargate itself as she stared in wide-eyed awe at Saeru Hinako. As people fell silent, Reiko started to hyperventilate before a look of sheer BLISS crossed her face.

 

"So cute...!"

 

And down she went! As people gaped at the sight of the flagship of the Combined Fleet at Pearl Harbour being poleaxed like that, Hinako blinked. "Hina didn't do it!"

 

People turned to stare at the Spirit of Innocence while a wide-eyed Reiko convulsed on the boarding ramp as if she was in the middle of having a diabetic fit...

 

****

 

Ōmure-jima, Welcome House, an hour before supper (Colorado time: Saturday morning, an hour after midnight)...

 

"MORE?!"

 

"Yeah, Ataru. More."

 

Hearing that declaration from the leader of SG-1, Moroboshi Ataru moaned before his forehead smacked into the circular table in the middle of the dining room. Seeing that, Jack O'Neill shook his head. "You know, much that I understand you're trying to live your life the way you want to live it..."

 

"This is karma biting my ass for our not watching our back a year ago," Ataru groaned.

 

"Yeah," the pararescueman from Minnesota breathed out.

 

The younger man shook his head. "Thanks, Jack. I needed that."

 

"Oh, stop that, Onii-sama!"

 

Both turned as Sukeyama Sakuya came into the room, she accompanied by two smiling teenage women in fashionable Western clothing, one raven-haired beauty with stormy grey eyes and a very intelligent brown-haired woman with matching eyes, both walking in hand-in-hand. "We heard your harem has grown quite exponentially since we last talked," Pansy Parkinson gently teased as she and Hermione Granger moved to sit off to the Terran tag race champion's left. "Care to share?"

 

"If you would take some of these girls off my hands, Pansy-chan, I would be a very happy man," Ataru moaned as O'Neill laughed while Sakuya ducked into the kitchen to prepare tea for the second heiress of the Parkinson Clan of Keerford and the normal-born dentists' daughter from Crawley. "I'm just waiting for the special to break out on CNN that the wreck of the Arizona has disappeared from under the memorial at Pearl. Uncle Jed won't like seeing that, I'll bet."

 

"Any idea what's happening here, ladies?" O'Neill asked.

 

Both of them nodded politely at the leader of America's primary extraterrestrial exploration team, a group that even was known among the magical enclaves of Europe thanks to vivid reports of SG-1's operations relayed to the magical news media thanks to the American Department of Magic via liaison officers between Stargate Command and the Seventh Cavalry Division, the United States Army's primary magical combat formation whose plank owners had won their spurs during the latter years of the European side of the Wars of Liberation. "Honestly, Colonel, your guess is as good as ours," Hermione stated as Sakuya came in with a tray carrying some tea. As the dentists' daughter nodded her thanks, she added, "Our research group looking into the resurrection of the ship spirits as metahumans created sensors that could tap into the Trace network that detects underage magic use. We picked up three such ships returning back close to Britain, two in the North Sea a month ago and one in the North Atlantic off Brittany yesterday. The sheer power of that last one was just enormous."

 

Ataru smirked as he straightened himself. "I know exactly who you're talking about, Mione-chan." He then looked over his shoulder towards the open doorway leading into the rotunda. "Luisa-san! Liese-san! Melanie-san!" he called out. "Some fans of yours are here!"

 

Pansy and Hermione blinked as Sakuya giggled and O'Neill shook his head before footfalls echoed from the foyer. "What is the matter, mein Admiral?" a powerful woman's voice called out as three women came into the room, all dressed in rather plain women's clothing even the elder of the two and the short-haired teenager wore slacks in lieu of a flowing calf-length skirt as the other girl wore.

 

The newcomers from Hogwarts looked over, then Pansy gasped. "YOU!"

 

Hermione moaned as her lover pointed at the tomboyish silver-haired woman who had just come into the room. "Your pardon, meine Frau, but we've never met," she stated as she peered intently at the second heiress of one of magical Britain's richest families. "I'm sure we've never met..."

 

"Pansy...!" Hermione gently scolded.

 

Pansy found herself blushing. "I apologize, miss. I have the powers to control the very shadows themselves and I use them to spy on my parents' many 'friends' who now support Herr Vizeminister Grindelwald's successor as this generation's magical dark lord," the current incarnation of the Shadow Hunter, Semtato ("Silhouette"), said with a flustered face as the tomboy's obvious sister moved to bring a chair over so Lieselotte Maaß to sit close to her questioner. As Luisa von Bismarck took her own seat to O'Neill's right while Melanie Schultz stood protectively close to her, Pansy added, "Through my shadow-spies, I saw you in action just as you were Gifted at the beach near Whitby a month ago. You stumbled onto a meeting of the various werewolf packs of Britain that night."

 

"Ach!" the destroyer-turned-teenage girl trilled out, nodding in understanding before a churlish smile crossed her face. "I thought there was something more to those shadows when I was busy fighting those sabbernde tollwütige Hunde!" Her eyebrow arched. "Was there a reason you were sending your scouts to observe that particular rape party that evening, meine Frau?"

 

"What rape party, Lieselotte?" Luisa asked in a cold voice.

 

Lieselotte looked over. "Shortly after my Gifting, I heard children cry out in fear near the beach where I decided to come ashore to get my bearings and determine what to do next, meine Flaggschiff," she explained. "There, I found several dozen Werwölfe having a clan gathering revel of some sort; some of my crew were nimmagier, so I recognized what they were doing. The leader of this lot was a filthy creature — the pack alpha, I would assume — who was singing the praises of a 'dark lord' he liked very much. The children — all younger than Markgräffin Hinako, in fact! — were to be made into new Werwölfe to serve his principal. Naturally, given they were about to be raped, I defended their honour."

 

"What did she do, Pansy?" O'Neill asked.

 

"Well, the full moon was coming on, so they were about to transform, thus allow their infection to be passed on to their new victims," Pansy said. "When she arrived, Greyback realized what she was right away and ordered his people to attack her to transform her; after all, a METAHUMAN werewolf would be quite the ace card for Riddle to use in his war against the Ministry. Of course, given how strong and invulnerable your fleet mate is, their bites didn't even crease her skin even as their teeth and jaws were broken when they bit her." As the leader of SG-1 laughed on hearing that, the Shadow Hunter added, "When Greyback tried to wrestle her down, she grabbed him by the teeth and YANKED HIS FACE APART!" As Hermione giggled and Ataru laughed on hearing that, Pansy said, "When the aurors showed up the next morning to see them all slaughtered like that, half of them lost their breakfasts! I'm sure a lot of people across Britain lost theirs when they saw that on the front pages of the Daily Prophet!" She then gazed at Lieselotte. "Where did you take the children, by the way?"

 

"To the office of the Magische Bundespolizei on Heligoland," the first of her class of destroyers said. "The nimmagier in my crew know how corrupt the law enforcement authorities are in your country, so I felt it was proper to get those poor ones over to my nation so they could be properly cared for."

 

"Amazing that for all the crap he caused, Master Gellert actually made things so nice for magicals and normals alike in Germany," Hermione noted.

 

"What's going on with the yearly sacrifice, by the way?" Sakuya asked; the Healer of Men's Hearts had kept silent as she listened to others talk about what was now called the "Whitby Werewolf Massacre".

 

Pansy and Hermione howled with laughter as O'Neill shook his head; try as he might, he could NEVER understand many British magicals. "'Yearly sacrifice', Frau Markgräffin?" Melanie asked.

 

"Hogwarts has a curse on one of its key teaching positions," the dentists' daughter from Crowley explained. "Defence Against the Dark Arts. We haven't had a teacher last a single year ever since Tom Riddle — he's the dark lord Greyback and his idiots your sister killed last month wanted to serve — tried to get the position back in the 1960s. It's got so bad there that we all jokingly call the new DADA teacher the 'yearly sacrifice' and run bets on what would happen to them by year's end. Ever since Pansy and I started school, we've had ONE competent teacher...and he was a werewolf, in fact!"

 

"Isn't that dangerous?" Luisa asked.

 

"He took precautions, but a long-simmering feud between him and my head of house — he's also the potions teacher — saw him exposed at year's end," Pansy answered.

 

"Lupin wasn't anywhere close to where Liese-san was, was he?" Ataru wondered.

 

"He was at Grimmauld Place in London with his friend Sirius Black to wait out the full moon," Hermione answered. As she was the current Bright Seamstress of Spells, Myuno (the "Enchantress"), the use of a Fidelius Charm on the townhouse residence of one of magical Britain's oldest titled families by Albus Dumbledore to keep the location secret from the Death Eaters had no effect on her. "Once that was done, he would have tried to approach the fence-sitters to pull back from supporting Greyback. Of course, once he saw the pictures of what she did, he proceeded to try to track her down."

 

"If he's that hell-bent on dying..." Lieselotte warned.

 

"He's not evil by any stretch of the imagination," Pansy moderated. "He's one of a very few werewolves who actually had enough magic in him to accept being invited to Hogwarts. Professor Lupin's a real good man deep own even if he really looks down on himself and acts as if the world shines out of Dumbledore's arse all the time. Then again, it's probably a minor magical life debt he feels for getting the chance to make a name for himself despite his 'monthly furry problem'."

 

"Albus Dumbledore? Vizeminister Grindelwald's former best friend?" Luisa asked.

 

"Same man," Pansy provided. "So who are you guys, anyway?"

 

Introductions were then made...

 

****

 

In the highlands of Scotland, that moment (local time: Breakfast)...

 

"Headmaster!"

 

Hearing that high pitched voice from the entrance to his office overlooking the vast grounds of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the elderly headmaster of Britain's wand-magical school politely smiled, one that didn't reach his twinkling blue eyes. "Madame Umbridge, a good morning to you," Albus Dumbledore declared before sipping his tea. "What seems to be the issue?"

 

"One of your muggleborn students is missing this morning, Headmaster," Dolores Umbridge declared as she looked haughtily at the man who had defeated Gellert Grindelwald and frightened Tom Riddle enough to keep the rebellion the man known more commonly as "Voldemort" from turning into another magical world war at the same scale as the Wars of Liberation that paralleled the Second World War. "Miss Granger from Ravenclaw. Professor Flitwick refuses to tell me where she is. If she does not return to the castle immediately, I will suspend her Hogsmeade privileges and have her in detention..."

 

"You cannot do that, Madame Umbridge."

 

The High Inquisitor's eyes flared with outrage. "Of COURSE I can!"

 

"No, you cannot. Miss Granger is listed in the Annex to the Magical Royal Proclamation of 1949 vis-à-vis the Specialized Warfare Act. Mister Holmes recalled her to London this weekend for consultations."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

"WHAT?! Since when do we allow METAHUMANS to come to this school?!" she shrieked.

 

"Since she was Gifted well AFTER she was invited," Dumbledore stated as he gave her a look more befitting to a very inept student. Which in many ways, the half-blood janitor's daughter from London had been when she herself attended Hogwarts in the late 1960s, the headmaster then recalled. "I suspect Miss Granger met Miss Katabarbe sometime before her invite to the school; Miss Granger became Gifted in the wake of the incident concerning the Chamber of Secrets in 2009, after she was frozen by whatever beast had been unleashed by Lucius Malfoy on the muggleborns..."

 

"Ridiculous!" Umbridge spat out. "Lucius is one of the most upstanding citizens in our community! This accusation made by Mister Longbottom concerning what happened in the spring is just a delusion...!"

 

"Shall we ask Madame Longbottom on her opinion of that, Dolores?"

 

That made the senior undersecretary's breath catch in her throat as the nature of THAT threat sank into her. Despite all her power and influence in the Ministry, Umbridge had no real weight she could throw against the major leaders of the Wizengamot, of which Neville Longbottom's grandmother Augusta was one of the top-ranked members given her position as Regent Lady of one of the seven magical marquessates that formed the top tier of wizarding Britain's legislative body. To even think of trying her normal tricks on the future Marquess of Holdenhurst would be political suicide even if Umbridge had the backing of the current Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, and his allies like Lucius Malfoy.

 

Shaking her head, she turned to leave. "Mister Holmes has no right to draw any student from this school even if he or she is subject to that particular muggle act, Headmaster. I'll have to review Miss Granger's right to actually attend classes here. I honestly wish something could be done about that Katabarbe woman. The sheer level of the disruption she's caused..."

 

"Given that Tariko is a reality warper whose total power outstrips that of even Rittmeister von Taserich, I doubt you'd survive such an encounter with her, Dolores," Dumbledore coldly warned, making Umbridge wince on hearing the steel in the old arch-mage's voice, one that had cowed HUNDREDS over the last few decades. "And kindly keep such a fight scene — to borrow the Yizibajohei term for that type of confrontation — out of the school. It's bad enough that you've come here in complete defiance of the school charter by still holding your position as Cornelius' senior undersecretary while serving as a professor. I don't have the allies necessary among the Board to have you dismissed given all the complaints I've heard about your detentions and your clear bias towards the muggleborns." His eyes then narrowed as he coldly added, "You have many secrets of your own, young lady."

 

As Umbridge squawked on hearing that unspoken threat from the former Chief Wizard of the Wizengamot, the headmaster's face turned back to his normal congenial smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, this parchmentwork won't go away on its own. Do have a good weekend, Dolores."

 

As the "yearly sacrifice" scrambled out of the office, Fawkes warbled in amusement as Dumbledore shook his head. He then perked on sensing someone very powerful teleport in. "It's almost time, Professor," a strange woman's voice then declared as someone in a red hooded cloak stepped out of the shadows to stand close to the window. "By this time on Monday, Tom will be no more."

 

Hearing that, Dumbledore gazed on the woman who had been born the Boy Who Lived, a child he had miserably failed right from the moment s/he had been orphaned at Godric's Hollow on All Hallows Eve in 1996. "Praise the Fates for that small favour at least!" he said as he offered his bowl of lemon drops to his new guest. "Is Thérèse ready to deal with her other-self, Rose?"

 

The current incarnation of Yiziba's sorcerer supreme, Lokrole (the "Warlock"), smirked while taking one of the sour candies in hand, her green eyes glittering with the power of the typhoon of magic that swirled deep in her body. "That could be said," Rose Potter declared with a cold smile...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

As established in The Senior Year, recognition is an ability Vosians and those descent of Vos have when it comes to seeking out one's perfect mate after they advance into puberty. It's a telekinetically-based ability that locks on a mate's DNA and other attributes which is said to be so strong and so perfect, it was the source of a saying that is quite popular among Nassur's people: "Recognition does not lie". Mike Smith based this on a similar concept shown among elves in ElfQuest, created by Wendy and Richard Pini. By comparison, the urge to seek out one's marei'cha among Sagussans and those descent of Sagussa is an empathic talent which locks in on the emotional and psychological compatibility of the mate's souls. This is the primary reason that Sagussans are as a whole bisexual while Vosians are almost universally heterosexual with a very small homosexual minority; bisexuality doesn't occur among pureblood Vosians but does appear among those descent from other races.

 

The events of the Remnant War will be covered in the Of Gifts and Semblances side story planned for this series. The Camelot Wondercolts will appear in the Friendship is Yizibajohei side story also planned for this series. Both will be published soon.

 

Akisur first appeared in The Senior Year story "Great Father Ataru Stage Seven: Rebirth". The Majujjō were first mentioned in "My Darlings United"; there, Moroboshi Kaeru mistook Cherry as one.

 

The Goa'uld nicknames mentioned here: Shatan'af ("devil head") for the Urusians, Djaf'kalach ("ice souls") for the Nagussans, Kal'ma Ra'kalach ("children of the souls of the sun") for the Avalonians and E'ounou ("holy devil") for the Niphentaxians.

 

Translation list: Matoi — Signal staff; Ch'uokyek — Great Dragon; Ib'f — Dragon; Shōshō — Navy rear admiral/Army major general/Air Force air vice-marshal; Hakase — University professor; Generalmajor — Major general; Fregattenkapitän — Frigate Captain, the German rank title for a Navy commander; Taisa — Navy captain/Army colonel/Air Force group captain; Vizeminister — Vice Minister; Sabbernde tollwütige Hunde — Drooling, rabid dogs; Flaggschiff — Flagship; Werwölfe — Werewolves; Markgräffin — Literally "countess of the march", the equivalent of a marchioness (a female marquess) in the British noble system; Magische Bundespolizei — Magical Federal Police.

 

Stargate SG-1 minor character notes: Nirrti first appeared in the third episode of the third season, "Fair Game"; she was first mentioned in the fifteenth episode of the first season, "Singularity". It was also in "Singularity" that Cassandra Fraiser first appeared; her adopted mother Doctor Janet Fraiser first appeared in the fifth episode of the first season, "The Broca Divide". Sha're was first introduced in the original movie Stargate; she would appear in the television series in the series premiere, "Children of the Gods". It was in that episode that Sha're was possessed by Apophis' wife Amaunet. Egeria first appeared in the tenth episode of the sixth season, "Cure". Selmak first appeared in the two-part episode "The Tok'ra" (eleventh and twelfth episodes of the second season); its current host and Samantha Carter's father Major General Jacob Carter first appeared in the ninth episode of the second season, "Secrets". Apophis' and Amaunet's son Shifu also had his first appearance in "Secrets". Telchak was first mentioned in the two-part episode "Evolution" (eleventh and twelfth episodes of the seventh season). Walter Harriman was a minor background character throughout the series.

 

Note that the events in the tenth episode of the third season "Forever in a Day" went differently as was depicted in the television episode itself given the interference of Doctor Renaissance (Isaac Thomas).

 

Josef von Taserich (born Tash Ri) first appeared in Wizards and Avalonians III.

 

The list of shipgirls who show up or were mentioned in the scenes at Stargate Command with their human names, hull classification codes and honorary ranks:

 

Captain Dionne Doolittle USN (United States Ship Saratoga [CV-3])

CAPT Rayne Warner USN (United States Ship Independence [CVL-22])

CAPT Jane Sevier USN (United States Ship Arkansas [BB-33])

CAPT Yvette Stuyvesant USN (United States Ship New York [BB-34])

CAPT Sarah Blasdel USN (United States Ship Nevada [BB-36])

CAPT Margaret Penn USN (United States Ship Pennsylvania [BB-38])

Yamamoto Reiko-taisa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Nagato [BB-22])

Yamamoto Chiyoko-taisa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Mutsu [BB-23])

CAPT Amber Seligman USN (United States Ship Pensacola [CA-24])

CAPT Julie Budge USN (United States Ship Salt Lake City [CA-25])

Ōkawa Sakura-taisa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Sakawa [CL-51])

Commander Alexandra Anderson USN (United States Ship Anderson [DD-411])

CDR Gwenaëlle Conyngham USN (United States Ship Conyngham [DD-371])

CDR Melodie Hughes USN (United States Ship Hughes [DD-410])

CDR Hallie Lamson USN (United States Ship Lamson [DD-367])

CDR Julia Mayrant USN (United States Ship Mayrant [DD-402])

CDR Joan Mugford USN (United States Ship Mugford [DD-389])

CDR Crystal Mustin USN (United States Ship Mustin [DD-413])

CDR Rhonda Talbot USN (United States Ship Ralph Talbot [DD-390])

CDR Colleen Rhind USN (United States Ship Rhind [DD-404])

CDR Eileen Stack USN (United States Ship Stack [DD-406])

CDR Johanna Trippe USN (United States Ship Trippe [DD-403])

CDR Amelia Wainwright USN (United States Ship Wainwright [DD-419])

CDR Charlotte Wilson USN (United States Ship Wilson [DD-408])

Taruka Keiko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Kamikaze [DD-132])

Taruka Asami-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Asakaze [DD-133])

Taruka Haruka-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Harukaze [DD-134])

Taruka Tsukiko-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Matsukaze [DD-135])

Taruka Takako-chūsa DNTK (Tennō Heika Gunkan Hatakaze [DD-136])

Lieutenant Commander Paula Schoeni USN (United States Submarine Apogon [SS-308])

LCDR Sydney McCain USN (United States Submarine Dentuda [SS-335])

LCDR Lana Ramage USN (United States Submarine Parche [SS-384])

LCDR Rosemary Close USN (United States Submarine Pilotfish [SS-386])

LCDR Brenda McKinney USN (United States Submarine Skate [SS-305])

LCDR Charlene Freeman USN (United States Submarine Skipjack [SS-184])

LCDR Julia Crane USN (United States Submarine Tuna [SS-203])

 

The Mōri Clan of Chōshū was the noble family that governed Nagato Province during the Tokugawa period. Today, the territory of said province forms the majority of the territory of Yamaguchi Prefecture at the west end of Honshū.

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

Married students' quarters at Hogwarts (close to Ravenclaw Tower), breakfast...

 

"Luna...!"

 

Luna Lovegood perked on hearing her lover mew from what her fingers were now doing, then she sighed. "Relax, Ginny," she cooed as her hands drifted to very sensitive places on her wife's body. "I know. Rose is clearly excited to finally put down that silly death-cheater."

 

Hearing that, Ginny Weasley moaned as she allowed her face to be buried into one of the pillows. "I want to have Rose's first baby!" she whined.

 

The present incarnation of the Far Seer of the Cosmic Mage Guild, Yudim ("Prophecy"), chuckled as she reached over to gently stroke her wife's nexus, making the woman who was the current incarnation of the Mistress of the Fires of Passion, Dumta ("Soulfire"), croak in orgasmic delight. "Don't I fill you with joy every time I use my little love engine inside you, Ginny?"

 

Ginny nodded. "You do...but I still owe Rose the Life Debt, Luna..."

 

"As does Thérèse," Luna reminded her. "Remember, the instant Tom made his first soul-split when Myrtle was killed in 1943, he set himself on the path that would see the true core of Tom reborn as Thérèse once Harry became Rose and was Gifted. Given how Harry was practically abandoned by our society when he was dumped on the Dursleys after Tom so nicely disembodied himself, Rose has no real care about our culture. She won't fight the fight scene the Old Man wants her to fight. Especially if our 'wise elders' ALLOW the Toad to run rampant over the kids here." A lethal smile then crossed the spacey blonde with the blue-grey eyes. "Still, it does give us interesting fight scenes now."

 

Ginny snorted. She and Luna had always been very close, even after the point when Tariko Katabarbe rescued Luna's mother Pandora from her potions accident in 2006, then persuaded the daughter of the owner of the Quibbler to become Prophecy. When they first came to Hogwarts in what would have been Rose's second year in 2008, Ginny was sorted to Gryffindor and Luna to Ravenclaw. However, thanks to the machinations of Lucius Malfoy, a certain soul-anchor hidden in an old diary that had been slipped into Ginny's belongings began to exert influence on the youngest of the Weasley Clan of Ottery Saint Catchpole, which wound up provoking an interesting fight scene in the Chamber of Secrets...

 

****

 

Underneath Hogwarts, Friday 29 Mary 2009, early afternoon...

 

Wow! You're sure a big one, aren't you?! Pretty one, too! »"

 

Hearing that voice from somewhere close to the entrance of the central Chamber, the version of Tom Riddle which had been broken away from the core soul of the being who would call himself "Voldemort" many decades ago in the heart of the Second World War spun around as someone stepped. Blinking on seeing the sweeping floor-length cape, Tom then gaped on noting that cloak was a brilliant crimson shade lined in gold runes, that covering the shoulders of a girl a little older than the stupid blood traitor he used to try to restore himself to life. Said girl was dressed in a form-fitting sleeveless jumpsuit in matching dark red with gold belt and boots of a cut and style that made the orphaned last living heir of Salazar Slytherin pale on remembering the fighting costumes many "mystery men" that haunted North America and Europe in the years leading up to the Second World War wore, especially those who had fought the metahuman allies of Gellert Grindelwald, the Übermenschen Gruppe.

 

Once the head came out of the dark shadows that covered the Chamber like a shroud to reveal a familiar face with shaggy black hair and brilliant green eyes behind what appeared to be welder's goggles, Tom blinked...then gaped as he realized this was a GIRL and not a young boy.

 

"Harry Potter...?" he hissed out.

 

The newcomer blinked. "Once. No more." She then perked as the basilisk that just emerged from the hidden chamber behind Slytherin's image on the south wall of the Chamber moved to strike down the unconscious girl in Ravenclaw blue-and-silver lying nearby, near another girl in Gryffindor crimson-and-gold. "So what in the name of the Forge happened to you ?" she asked before the basilisk hissed. "« Hey! »" she hissed out in parseltongue, which made the ancient snake stop and stare in confusion at her. "« You don't want to bite or eat her, »" the newcomer then advised. "« She's full of mesonium crystals in her blood. All it'll do is undo all the magic your old owner used on you and hurt you. »"

 

The basilisk's eyes went wide on hearing of the accursed crystals that flowed through the blood of the ONE being those like its owner back in the Tenth Century feared above all else, then it focused on the Speaker that just arrived before it nodded as it shuffled away from her. "« Smart, »" the newcomer said before she focused on the now-solid ghost of Tom Riddle as he had appeared when he was in his OWL year. "So what happened to you?" she then asked. "How come you're very disembodied right now?"

 

Surprised at such a friendly tone of voice, Tom relaxed himself. "I'm trying to make myself a proper body so I can restore myself to proper life," he said as he wondered how on Earth he could manipulate this strange girl into helping him or convince her to stay out of his way. "I'd rather not want to live in a diary listening to a petty girl write about her missing 'boy who lived' all the time!" Would saying that trigger a reaction in this newcomer, who seemed awfully similar to the boy rumoured to have destroyed his other-self over a decade ago even if the telltale 'sig' rune scar over the right eye was missing...?

 

The newcomer then nodded. "Oh, you're a horcrux, right? I understand." She then blinked as something came to her. "Tom Riddle?" she asked.

 

"Yes."

 

That made her grin. "Oh, good! I found you!"

 

That response was...unexpected. "You found me?!"

 

"Sure! The part of you that was still in your old body tried to make me face my death scene when I was a baby so he could make his sixth horcrux; you know about the number seven and how it influences magic here on Earth, right?" As Tom immediately nodded, quite surprised at such candour from the young girl, she shrugged. "Well, after a friend of mine pulled me out of a house full of the most rhabdophobic muggles you could EVER imagine meeting...!" She made a disgusted face. "Would you believe they spent the better part of six years trying to beat the magic out of me, Tom?! You lived in that orphanage down in London after your mom passed away, right?" At Tom's feeble nod, the girl shrugged. "Well, when I got my Gift, I had to be a girl because my last-self was a boy. Good-bye, Harry Potter! Hello, Rose Potter, the Warlock! But don't worry! Thérèse — that's what I call the part of you that wound up in my head — got a new body thanks to a friend. But I have to find the other horcruxes and put them into her to make her feel whole and complete! And look here! I found you!"

 

With that, she made a gesture off to her right, causing a pentagram-shaped teleportation circle to appear about a metre away. As Tom watched in wide-eyed disbelief and with a healthy dose of fear — after all, he had gone way out of his way to become immortal to ultimately AVOID being put back together where he could be killed! — a girl about the same age as Rose draped in a plain silvery jumpsuit then appeared as if she was rising up on a lift, possessing Mediterranean-tanned skin, silver hair done in pigtails and deep blue eyes. While a moan escaped the unconscious Luna Lovegood nearby, the newcomer shook her head...before she seemed to focus on the other part of her soul nearby. That made Tom croak in horror as the girl who now called herself "Thérèse Peverell" smiled.

 

"So incomplete..." she hissed in a faint voice...

 

"Oh, my! What have we here?!"

 

Rose blinked, then turned to gaze at the main entrance as a well-dressed wizard stepped in, holding one of those sticks magicals here used as foci for their powers. "Great!" Tom hissed. "Lockhart...!"

 

Rose blinked. "Gilderoy Lockhart?"

  

"The same!"

 

A look of cold fury then crossed Rose's face. "The rapist ?!"

 

That made Tom gape. "I didn't know that!"

 

"Naturally! You were possessing a freshman! Too young for this ponce!"

 

" OBLIVIATE! "

 

 A bolt of energy lashed out at Rose's head. Before she could be hit by it, she swung her hand around to bat the spell away to slam against a nearby wall. Seeing that, the current Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher gaped in shock as Rose turned to fully face him. "Impressive! I'll have to add fighting a rogue metahuman into my next book there! Pity I can't allow you to report to Dumbledore about all the fun that I've had with all the pretty girls here! I hope you understand, of course! Now, if you will..."

 

His voice melted into an ear-piercing scream as his body began to quake...

 

...then he shuddered before his very skin and bones began to MELT into a gooey puddle of liquid at the foot of the Archangel of Mortality herself. "Pity that the Secretary of Magic's niece is a student here," Margo Black calmly said as the stench of rotting flesh filled the chamber, which made Luna groan. The Vermont-born living killing machine then focused on Tom before her eyebrow arched. "Oh, my! Another death cheater ! This one part of your current work project, Rose?"

 

"Yeah!" Rose stated.

 

"Fine!" Here, Margo then gestured...

 

...and the diary that was lying on Ginny Weasley's chest was yanked away and flew right into the American's hand. " NO! " Tom shrieked...

 

...then he howled in mortal agony as Margo's necrosis power began to melt the diary's organic material and burn away the dark magic that he used to keep this soul container effectively intact for multiple decades. As he screamed for mercy and to be allowed to live, his semi-solid body began to melt into sparkles, such being pulled in like a tractor beam into the still form of Thérèse Peverell, flowing into her like a Fundy tide and causing her body to shudder as the mangled soul fragment animating a battle doll merged with the larger fragment from Voldemort's first horcrux. At the same time, Ginny cried out in pain as her body began to glow, causing Luna to stare in wide-eyed horror at her best friend. "Oh, dear...!" she grunted as she pulled out a black device with a glowing crystal on it. "Good thing I properly got you pre-Gifted, Ginny!" she said as she placed it on her neighbour's chest, then slapped it.

 

As the youngest child of Arthur and Molly Weasley was teleported out of the Chamber and sent to the Cave of the Future light-years away, the disintegrating Tom wailed in mortal agony as he felt all the magical links with Ginny snapped like very rotten twigs, then what was left of his soul fragment flowed into Thérèse as she collapsed to her knees, moaning in relief. The basilisk shrieked as it sensed its current master vanish like that, then it reared up to strike at the creature that killed it...

 

...just as another teleportation circle appeared next to Thérèse, revealing a very alive and VERY angry Ginny Weasley, now dressed in a jumpsuit and cape similar to what Rose was wearing, her hazel eyes now glowing with power the likes of which Voldemort could NEVER begin to imagine having.

 

"Oh, bugger...!" Rose moaned on seeing the signs of a very NASTY bout of Post-Gifting Shock raging like a tsunami through the new incarnation of Soulfire, then she magically drew Luna, Thérèse and Margo close to her before using another teleportation circle to get them clear.

 

" DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE...! "

 

 The whole of the Chamber of Secrets was then inundated with a wall of meson-fuelled fiendfyre-like energy that turned the basilisk and what was left of Gilderoy Lockhart's body into instant ashes...!

 

****

 

Hogwarts, today...

 

"To believe that not even the 'experts' in the Unspeakables figured it out," Ginny sighed as she shifted around to stare at the ceiling of their bedroom.

 

Both giggled as they allowed their minds to magically touch the other woman's, their memories falling back on what came after the Chamber fight scene...

 

****

 

Of course, there had been no fear whatsoever about people who might object to the current graduate year students possessing metahuman levels of magic now attending Hogwarts. The Specialized Warfare Act of 1949 meant to govern Britain's metahuman population had been accompanied by a Magical Royal Proclamation released by King George VI which forced the Ministry of Magic to acknowledge that such beings were legally answerable to the Crown ONLY via the Royal Master of the Specialized Warfare Fencibles — now Mycroft Holmes, older brother of the famous Sherlock Holmes — and not any Minister for Magic such as Cornelius Fudge, to say anything of the Wizengamot.

 

Given how much of a money-hungry wuss Fudge was in the long term — as Ginny's father Arthur often loudly complained about to his wife Molly when his children could overhear them — that was something EVERY magical metahuman now living in Britain could be thankful for.

 

In the wake of the death of Gilderoy Lockhart, the destruction of Salazar Slytherin's ancient basilisk and the locating of the first of Voldemort's horcruxes to be fused into Thérèse Peverell's soul, Ginny spent some hours as Rose Potter's guest in the latter's family mansion in Somerset near Glastonbury to recover from her rushed Gifting, plus get explanations. After swearing herself to the service of the Cosmic Mage Guild — a magical oath even more demanding than an Unbreakable Vow — Ginny and Luna teleported back to Hogwarts, acting as if nothing had happened. Fortunately for the youngest daughter of Arthur and Molly Weasley, the whole thing about the Chamber and the "Heir of Slytherin" had been investigated by Luna with help from Rose from a distance and Hermione Granger until she herself was petrified at the start of May. When Ginny vanished and her brother Ronald — who helped Hermione with her investigation — went crazy trying to find her, going to Lockhart to get help, Luna used her meta-senses to seek out her best friend, then teleported down to the Chamber to rescue her. Sadly, she hadn't realized until Tom used Ginny's wand to stun her that the first of Voldemort's horcruxes had long suspected something was way off about the quirky blonde Ravenclaw freshman.

 

Fortunately, once it was revealed that Ginny hadn't been "taken" into the Chamber and that Ron had ultimately panicked over nothing at all — the youngest Weasley boy had been found unconscious at the site where Myrtle Warren had been killed in 1943; people later came to believe Lockhart had stunned him before disappearing — the staff relaxed. Of course, with no physical evidence of a horcrux present thanks to Margo Black, Albus Dumbledore seemed to have no idea what had really happened, much less why. And while it appeared at first that Lucius Malfoy had managed to get away with nearly murdering hundreds of defenceless students by proxy thanks to lack of physical evidence, Ginny used her new powers to secretly torture Voldemort's former lieutenant until he was tricked into giving clothes to his house elf Dobby, who was then promptly adopted by Luna and her family in Ottery Saint Catchpole. Since Ginny showed no signs of any sort of possession, the panic over the whole "Heir of Slytherin" situation died down and the petrified normal-borns were soon restored to active life again. Since Lockhart's body had vanished from the scene even if the entrance to the Chamber had been blasted open left open by the late defence teacher while he investigated what had set off Ron Weasley in the first place, no attempts by anyone sent to Hogwarts from the Ministry revealed a thing.

 

Luna and Ginny felt the issue was resolved...

 

...until they were called to the headmaster's office before the end of their freshman year, where Dumbledore then calmly asked the former, "When did you meet Miss Katabarbe, Miss Lovegood?"

 

That particular meeting soon saw Rose Potter and Thérèse Peverell visit Hogwarts, where many painful revelations about a fateful encounter in Little Whinging between the-then Harry Potter and Tariko Katabarbe after Hallowe'en in 2003 were finally aired to the defeater of Gellert Grindelwald.

 

For the transfiguration prodigy and alchemy master man who had been touted in the magical press as the effective second coming of Merlin since the end of the Wars of Liberation in 1945, learning of the scale of abuse the "boy who lived" had endured at the hand of his maternal relatives until his rescue by the future Trickster of the Show had been a bitter, horrible eye-opening experience.

 

While Rose had definitely NOT been interested in coming to Hogwarts even then — as the Warlock, she had effectively become self-trained due to her past-selves' two millennium's worth of collected memories — she wasn't totally ignorant of events in the magical world.

 

After all, as soon as she was Gifted, the only child of the late Marquess James Potter of Taunton Deane had gone to Gringotts and claimed her family ring, making her one of the "Seven and Ten" senior lords in the Wizengamot...even if she kept her seat in recess to maintain the illusion that "Harry Potter" was safely tucked away in the "muggle world" until the time came for "him" to return "home".

 

When Dumbledore then asked why Rose kept up the illusion even after she had effectively renounced coming to Hogwarts in the late summer of 2007, the Sorcerer Supreme of the Cosmic Mage Guild had been blunt in her reply: "Would you want me to expose those umale to Yizibajohei prejudices, Professor? You wrote Major Raeburn's book on the planet, remember."

 

THAT made Dumbledore visibly cringe as he recalled those days staying at the Raeburn mansion near Fort Saint John in British Columbia in the wake of his defeating his once-best friend at Nurmengard in the summer of 1945, when he learned how VICIOUS a society of metahumans could ultimately be.

 

Especially when it came to dealing with "sames".

 

At the end of the meeting, a very guilt-ridden Dumbledore agreed to keep up the illusion that "Harry Potter" was still missing from the magical world; given that Rose was busy with trying to help Thérèse bring her fragmented soul back together — doing so effectively helping see Voldemort defeated and destroyed forever as the prophecy governing their lives demanded — it was for the best. Ginny and Luna would serve as their leader's eyes and ears in the castle, protecting the students as best as they could without revealing themselves while also searching for potential new candidates to be Gifted. While Dumbledore himself was understandably wary of the idea of having metahumans living in his school given his memories of what the War Hawks and their opponents did in the Second World War, he knew Tariko was keeping a bigger picture in mind as she continued to find pretty girls to be Gifted.

 

Such as Hermione Granger.

 

And Tariko's then-unknown half-sister Hirosaki Chikage.

 

Dumbledore suspected there were more — as did Ginny and Luna — but no one had gone to find them.

 

After all, why provoke unnecessary fight scenes...?

 

****

 

With their hectic freshman year done with, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood spent the summer of 2009 enjoying "slumber parties" at the latter's home in Ottery Saint Catchpole; in truth, they used the chance to exercise their powers on Yiziba and with Rose Potter and the slowly recovering Thérèse Peverell. Ginny was listed in The Book of Pretty Girls as Annex Entry #620-A under Luna's entry when the younger girl got a chance to spend time getting to know Tariko Katabarbe at her cabin on Yiziba. Other than getting Thérèse's help to rebuild her wand to accept the greater levels of magic she now possessed, Ginny carried on as normal as the school had to endure the consequences of the escape of Sirius Black from Azkaban late that summer. While there had been close calls when the dementors sent by the Ministry to find the wayward would-be Marquess Black of Grimmauld got close to students, such didn't see anyone kissed; Ginny and Luna — joined by Hermione Granger, who had been Gifted as the Enchantress after her recovery from being petrified back in the spring of 2009 — were more than happy to chase away the dark soul-vampires...until the arrival of Margo Black saw a good number of them slain, sending the remainder fleeing in terror for their island prison home, much to the frustration of Cornelius Fudge, who had wanted to see the "betrayer of the Potters" killed for his escaping gaol.

 

One Magical Royal Proclamation later — thanks to Mycroft Holmes' suggestion via Rose Potter and Luna Lovegood — the idiot was made to shut up.

 

Sadly, issues with Rose's godfather remained up in the air to this day...

 

Third year for Ginny and Luna was very quiet in comparison to their freshman and sophomore years, which gave them the chance to develop a true soul-bond between each other, being then seen as married by British magical law. To celebrate, Tariko arranged to have them married by ancient Yizibajohei custom by her adopted granduncle Neyanege Katabarbe, the current incarnation of the High Priest of the Great Crystal, Gimtyuole (the "Preacher"). Thanks to a decision made at the suggestion of her grandfather before she went forth to commence formal magical education, the most famous member of Hermione Granger's cadre of peers at Hogwarts would be Hirosaki Chikage, a native of Tōkyō adept in many forms of spellcraft and had a hunger for learning that should have seen her sorted to Ravenclaw if her loyalty to her then-unknown "Ani-kun" saw her become a Hufflepuff. While her classroom work won her praises from all the staff — even the notoriously hard-to-please Severus Snape — the future Matriarch-in-Waiting of the Moroboshi Clan extended her level of self-training by visiting OTHER DIMENSIONS to learn magic native to those realms during summer vacations, spending up to a solar year under the tutelage of a wide group of people, from Doctor Stephen Strange in the "Marvel Comics" universe to Bruce Wayne in the "DC Comics" universe to Imperial Chancellor Cáo Cāo in the universe of the video game series called Dynasty Warriors in the English-speaking world...

 

...and finally to Anakin Skywalker, AKA Darth Vader, in the universe of Star Wars.

 

Where Chikage herself became a Dark Lady of the Sith, Darth Eizō .

 

Not to mention helping Anakin finally dispose of the man responsible for provoking him into effectively killing his wife Padmé Amidala on Mustafar.

 

AND reunite the man with his lost children, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.

 

Of course, Ginny and Luna knew, given that Chikage was also Dragonheart...!

 

Since she was willing to share her knowledge with her peers, Chikage found herself spending her senior year helping direct the first International Magical Fair hosted by Hogwarts at the suggestion of Minister Cornelius Fudge. While such didn't see the Dark Heart of True Chaos expose her own Gift to others, the fair had done much to mend the many rifts left behind from conflicts such as the Wars of Liberation and the Blood War provoked by Voldemort well over a decade before.

 

Such had been enough for the Ministry of Magic to agree to host the Quidditch World Cup in Britain during the summer of 2011, not to mention revise the Triwizard Tournament between Hogwarts and its main rivals, Beauxbâtons and Durmstrang, which was held during Ginny's and Luna's senior year.

 

After a period of peace, the 2011-12 school year was when the Death Eaters who had "claimed the Imperius" in 1996 fully revived themselves.

 

As had been their disembodied leader.

 

As events got underway the previous Hallowe'en evening, Ginny and Luna got a huge laugh when Harry Potter's name emerged from the Goblet of Fire thanks to the younger Barty Crouch — then disguised as retired master auror Alastor Moody — in hopes of drawing the missing Boy Who Lived back into range for Voldemort to kill. When Unspeakables from the Department of Mysteries tried to use the ancient device to track down where the missing lad had gone, the conclusion soon made by elder researcher Saul Croaker was that the long-missing "saviour" of wizarding Britain was dead, most likely at the hands of his long-absent muggle relatives. Of course, no one had any idea where Lily Potter's sister, brother-in-law or nephew were even if there were normal-borns who could access Internal Revenue records. As Ginny, Luna and Hermione knew, the Dursleys had been tortured so much by the just-Gifted Rose back in 2003, they fled Britain for Australia before Dumbledore or anyone else could contact them, then their existences were made to vanish from computer and print records at Rose's command with help from a brainwashed Niphentaxian observer who had inserted himself inside the Home Office (and who was later obliviated of what he did) who could ensure such a sweep happened.

 

"'Magicals is SO stupid'!" Ginny commented to Hermione in a good imitation of Yosemite Sam's gravelly voice after the announcement of the Boy Who Lived's "fate" was made by the Ministry.

 

While the whole of wizarding Britain mourned the "loss" of their saviour, the Triwizard went on. Popular Hufflepuff NEWT student Cedric Diggory would win against stiff competition from Bulgarian quidditch star Viktor Krum from Durmstrang and Fleur Delacour from Beauxbâtons, elder daughter of France's chief magical law enforcement officer. During the Third Task on the last Sunday of June, Hermione's best friend Neville Longbottom was kidnapped by the disguised Barty Crouch Jr to help Voldemort gain his new body using the blood of the scion of the Longbottoms of Holdenhurst atop the bones of the dark lord's late father and the severed arm of Peter Pettigrew, the true betrayer of the Potters.

 

The outcome of that particular event rocked Hogwarts to this very day...

 

****

 

Hogwarts, today...

 

"Excuse me, ladies."

 

Both girls perked on hearing that apologetic voice, then they turned to gaze upon the portrait of Wilhelmina Tuft, the first post-War of Liberation leader of the Ministry of Magic and a supporter of the Magical Royal Proclamation of 1949 that made sure no magical could interfere legislatively with Britain's ever-growing metahuman population. "What is it, Aunt Wilhelmina?" Luna asked; the portrait frame had been empty when she and Ginny had decided to have their pillow scene.

 

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but Albus just got a message from his brother at the Hog's Head Tavern about another of those ship spirits that have become these battle doll creatures from your adopted planet."

 

That made both girls groan. "ANOTHER one...?!" Ginny breathed out.

 

"We'll go down there," Luna vowed as both moved to dress...

 

****

 

 Hogsmeade, the Hog's Head Tavern at the east end of the village, a half-hour after breakfast...

 

"RELEASE HER, YOU MONSTER! YOU'VE NO RIGHT TO INTERFERE!"

 

"You be quiet, staleblood!" the tall and muscular woman in the light blue jumpsuit with the gold belt and boots and the circular crest with a naval crown on her chest above her well-formed breasts snarled, her blue eyes glowing with both power and outrage. "I hardly call using an Unforgivable Curse on your DAUGHTERS to be anything close to proper, even among such inbred fools like yourself!"

 

"FITHY MUGGLE-LOVING MONSTER! AVADA KEDAVRA!"

 

A bolt of sickly green light slammed into the exposed back of the woman with the tomboyish-cut shaggy red hair, making her jolt for a second as the death energy unleashed by Amycus Carrow in defence of his sister Alecto tried to punch through to stop the stranger's heart as it normally would work...

 

...yet did nothing save make the woman turn to gaze upon the current Baron of Norwich as if he was a cockroach she was about to step on. As the gasping Alecto tried to pry those rock-hard fingers away from crushing her larynx, her nieces Hestia and Flora were pulled closer to the entrance of the Hog's Head by a scowling Aberforth Dumbledore, he being aided by several of the house elves the younger brother of Hogwarts' headmaster welcomed as staff over the years. Both Slytherin fifth-year girls were shivering with the obvious signs of intensive Cruciatus exposure, yet no one seemed willing to come over to assist Aberforth in helping them recover. As soon as Alecto tried to make her nieces submit to the will of her master and spend the weekend at the Malfoy mansion in Wiltshire being inducted into the Death Eaters, the stranger — who had been wandering around the village in the Scottish highlands since after dawn — stormed in, threw the elder Carrow siblings out with strength that would overwhelm a giant, then began to publicly berate them for such abuse. Yet, despite the obvious crimes being committed by two people who escaped lifetime imprisonment in Azkaban thanks to "pleading the Imperius" back in the fall of 1996, no one had yet to think to call down to London to summon the aurors.

 

"Impossible...!" Amycus croaked as the stranger's face turned into a scowl...

 

...before a hand grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around.

 

A second later, Hestia's and Flora's father was doubled over thanks to a vicious front kick by an orchid-haired teenage girl in a white jumpsuit with blue belt and boots, the force of the impact making him let go of his wand. As people seeing this gaped at such a muggle attack by the young woman who just FLEW INTO the scene to assist the other stranger, she twisted around, snaring Amycus' head, forcing him into an inverted headlock, then she dropped down on her back, pulling him down with her.

 

KK-KRACK!

 

Amycus gasped as his spine and throat were instantly crushed by the sudden impact against a hard rock on the street, then he was contemptuously tossed aside as the girl rolled back to her feet, spinning around to give him two reversed victory hand salutes as she stuck her tongue out at the pureblood fanatic. "Have a nice AFTERLIFE, shithead!" she snarled in accented English before she walked over to join the other stranger, her foot smashing down on the side of Amycus' head to nearly crush the skull.

 

As people winced on seeing the "former" Death Eater being treated like that, a voice called out from the direction of High Street, "Excuse me! Miss Akebono!"

 

That made Ashikaga Akemi perk before she looked over...

 

...then she nodded politely as two girls dressed like she — with the addition of hooded ankle-length cloaks covering their shoulders and heads, with only their lower faces exposed from the shadows, they projecting the air of professional Unspeakables to the onlookers — approached her from the intersection of High Street and Hengist Lane where the Hog's Head was located. As people exchanged confused looks, Akemi bowed her head. "Lady Soulfire. Lady Prophecy. Forgive me, but Lady Dragonheart sent me here once she sensed another ship spirit had been given the chance to live again as one of us. I just came onto the scene when this foul traitor to the Crown of Britain made use of a Killing Curse on my peer's back when she was upbraiding the other foul traitor now in her grasp. As to the 'why', I can't answer that. I don't apologize for snapping his neck, though."

 

A snort escaped the other shipgirl present. "Use of any of the Unforgivable Curses in this land unless authorized by the House of Lords Wizengamot in a wartime situation is an automatic life sentence to His Majesty's Prison Azkaban or Her Majesty's Prison Gonebren, my ladies," she said with a polite nod of her head, her voice layered with the tones of Merseyside where she had been constructed from 1935-38 at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. "The nimmibs that served in my ship's company knew that. Atop what that fool Miss Akebono just killed tried to do..." — hearing that word made the crowd gasp in shock before several people raced into nearby buildings to get at floo portals to summon the aurors — "...this one here made use of a Cruciatus curse at her own NIECES!" As she shook the struggling Alecto's head around — not with enough force to snap her own spine — she jutted her jaw towards the shivering girls being comforted by Albus Dumbledore's brother. "Tell me, ladies, are the aurors as corrupt these days as they were during the time of the Second World War?"

 

"In many ways, yes, Lady Ark Royal," the lady in the pale silver suit and cape with light blue rune trim, belt and boots declared, her voice having a wispy tone that made the reborn aircraft carrier that helped in the sinking of the battleship Bismarck in 1941 shiver in delight; she had deduced who this shipgirl was thanks to the ship's crest on the woman's chest above her cleavage, which displayed a sailing ship hull surmounted by a crowned building on waves. "How long have you been back?"

 

"About two weeks. After it sank in as to what happened to me — never expected to be made HUMAN after all, much less turned into a woman who could make Vivien Leigh seem ordinary! — I went to Gibraltar to present myself to the Flag Officer there...only to find out that seventy-one years have passed since my sinking thanks to that dratted U-boat and we only have just two patrol boats based there." She shrugged, clearly unbothered by the fact that she was holding Alecto Carrow up in the air while the latter struggled to do anything to get that iron-hard grip off her throat. "So I flew up here to report to the Admiralty before it dawned on me that they would hardly believe my story. Once I recalled there were hidden magical places located in the country, I resolved to find one, then get to someone in authority to find out if we have any specialized warfare forces active at this time. I just discovered this lovely village today, then came to ask about when I discovered what these two were doing."

 

"She's Ark Royal?!" Akemi demanded.

 

"Indeed she is," the disguised Luna Lovegood declared before she hummed. "'Amy Joan Power' is the human name that was chosen for you, I believe."

 

The newly-named Amy Power blinked. "After my first captain?!"

 

"Of course! After all, is 'Ark Royal' a proper lady's name?"

 

A hum responded from the reborn aircraft carrier. "Well, no, not really..."

 

"ARREST THAT MONSTER! AURORS! ARREST THEM ALL!"

 

Hearing the voice of a certain senior undersecretary as footfalls heralded the arrival of a small troupe of aurors, the disguised Ginny Weasley turned to scream out, "LA REINE LE VEULT!"

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

As everyone within hearing range of the Mistress of the Fires of Passion froze still from their inner magic's instantly responding to the Norman French phrase which was the ultimate call of loyalty to the Crown as was enshrined in the Separation Act of 1692 that saw the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy made law within the United Kingdom, the woman in the deep crimson jumpsuit with matching cape lined with dark gold runes, gold belt and boots smirked. "Madame Senior Undersecretary, you are interfering in business concerning people protected by the Specialized Warfare Act of 1949 and its accompanying Magical Royal Proclamation," she declared in a power-enhanced voice that made everyone stiffen. "You're already guilty of VIOLATING the Charter of Hogwarts by holding a teaching position while STILL being employed in Her Majesty's Ministry of Magic." As Dolores Umbridge squawked in outrage on hearing that statement spoken out in public and many of the people gaped at her, Ginny added, "When it comes to the affairs of Her Majesty's metahuman subjects as Lady Ark Royal here is — to say anything of an honoured metahuman guest who is a loyal subject of His Imperial Majesty, the Heavenly Sovereign of Japan as Lady Akebono here is — you have no right to interfere. Aurors, disperse now! Inform the Chief Witch of the House of Lords Wizengamot that Lord Amycus Carrow of Norwich and his sister Lady Alecto Carrow are hereby declared TRAITORS TO MAGIC AND THE REALM for their support of the so-called 'Lord Voldemort' and his foul allies." As Umbridge tried to shriek that such a statement was a lie, Ginny smirked. "In the eyes of Her Majesty, the Lady Hestia Carrow — now being comforted by Master Aberforth Dumbledore — is recognized as Baroness Hestia of Norwich unless she wishes to defer to her beloved twin sister, the Lady Flora. They are also declared EMANCIPATED in the eyes of the Crown because of obvious crimes against their persons by their late father and their aunt now in the custody of Lady Ark Royal." She snapped her fingers. "HOLLOWS, COME FORTH!"

 

People blinked in confusion...

 

...before they cried out in mind-numbing horror as a strange mist rose from the dirt roadway to cover the scene with a very thick, chilling fog. Seconds later, several glowing humanoid figures rose from that blanket of miasma, making people scream in mortal terror as the TRUE nightmare that had haunted the subconscious minds of magical Britons for centuries appeared in the streets of Hogsmeade. The leader of the group then turned and bowed towards Ginny. «My lady.»

 

"Remove the staleblood filth who presumes herself better than their peers from this loyal village, my good man," Ginny then bade as she indicated the now-frozen Alecto trapped in Amy Power's grasp, who looked ready to soil herself at confronting several of the deadly denizens of Britain's most foreboding piece of magical real estate located deep in the moors of Cornwall. "Dump the corpse of her brother off Land's End. The kraken who live out there deserve a good snack, I think."

 

«As you desire, my lady. You heard her, lads!»

 

As a panicked scream escaped Alecto, the other ghostly figures swarmed around her, pulling her seemingly into the very earth itself as others moved to draw Amycus' body into the ground as well, they being teleported out of Scotland itself. While Umbridge sputtered helplessly on seeing two "upstanding citizens" being treated like utter TRASH by the infamous spirits which haunted the site of Britain's oldest magical prison to this very day, Ginny and Luna smirked before they turned to join a now-smiling Hestia and Flora, who were being helped to their feet by Aberforth and his elves. On feeling whatever spell had been used to freeze her in place fade, Umbridge snapped up her wand and aimed deliberately at the crimson-cloaked monster's back, the bloom of the Cruciatus Curse appearing at the tip...

 

...before her wand and hand literally EXPLODED!

 

As Umbridge dropped to her knees while gripping her now hand-less arm, Ginny gazed contemptuously at her. "Nice try, half-blood," the Mistress of the Fires of Passion quietly heckled.

 

People gasped before they stared at the whimpering Umbridge while Amy and Akemi followed Ginny and Luna inside the Hog's Head...

 

****

 

The Hog's Head, two hours before lunch...

 

"Came as soon as I could, girls."

 

Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood — who still kept their hoods over their heads to mask their looks from people who could recognize them — perked on hearing that voice, then they smiled as a woman in an off-white jumpsuit with black trim and boots walked into the bar. "Hey, Tariko!" the youngest daughter of Arthur and Molly Weasley called out with a wave of her hand. "We got the two newbies right here!" She then waved to two gratefully-smiling girls seated with them.

 

"Your usual, Tariko?" Aberforth Dumbledore called out from behind the bar.

 

"Please, Aberforth!" Tariko Katabarbe said with a nod before she thumbed outside. "What the hell's with all the cops shuffling about like lemmings outside?"

 

"Oh, nothing more than a staleblood wanna-be who tried to curse me," Ginny said as the Trickster of the Show took her seat, nodding politely at the Carrow twins, who bowed in return. "Even after I called out the Queen's Code to make them pay attention, she still was going to press a fight scene, especially after finding out that an 'upstanding citizen' like Amycus Carrow was KILLED when Akemi gave him a DDT." Here, she nodded to where Ashikaga Akemi was seated across from Amy Power as the Japanese destroyer-turned-teenage girl briefed the recently transformed British aircraft carrier about life as a shipgirl. "I magically blew up her wand and hand, so she fled to her 'dear Cornelius' in London to get help." She smirked before sipping the butterbeer that her headmaster's younger brother provided for her and her wife after they had got Hestia and Flora inside to help them recover from their aunt's torture. "The aurors are here, but they know better than to try to press for an arrest."

 

"Where's Mycroft?" Tariko asked before nodding as a smiling Aberforth came over with a large mug of spiced mistletoe berry tea. The Trickster of the Show got the owner of the Hog's Head to use hot chili pepper flakes to perk the taste of the tea up when she first visited Hogsmeade three years ago after she got the chance to enjoy Noukiite ginseng tea thanks to that planet's greatest metahuman hero; spiced mistletoe berry tea had become popular among many students at Hogwarts.

 

"He'll be here soon, probably right after the Minister arrives to avenge his 'dear Dolores'," Luna wryly commented. "Should make an interesting article in the Quibbler. The Minister defying a Royal official when it came to an affair that's legally beyond the Ministry's purview."

 

"Riddle's idiots won't like reading that," Aberforth declared with a smirk, staying close to his guests in case they needed something else. "If they read Xeno's magazine at all, of course."

 

"I doubt that. Daddy would never sell magazines to such rude people. The only way they could read it is if their children attending Hogwarts send copies...and I know those people don't have subscriptions."

 

"So how soon can we be Gifted?"

 

Tariko blinked before she gazed on Flora Carrow. Seeing the slight tremors in her hands indicating her aunt's prolonged torture curse was still affecting her — the butterbeer she was drinking had been laced by Aberforth's own homemade anti-Cruciatus potion, which was working on her even if the effects hadn't sunk in — Tariko shook her head. "How long as the stupid umale been doing that?"

 

"Years," Hestia hissed out, her voice hollow. The ring marking her as the head of the Noble House of Carrow of Norwich was on her finger, having magically transferred over after her father expired from asphyxiation an hour before. "As long as I can remember. All we heard all the time was how great the Dark Lord was, how he'd clean our society of the 'mudblood filth' and the 'blood traitors' and how we'd conquer the world. With people like YOU living on it, Lady Tariko? I guessed out about Luna being Gifted almost as soon as we came to school back in 2008. Only logical that Ginny would have been Gifted as well the instant they declared their soul-bond and were seen as married by the Ministry."

 

"Or is that a lie?" Flora wondered.

 

"Oh, no, it's true," Luna affirmed as she grasped her wife's hand. "We just decided to keep our maiden names. When it comes time to have children, we'll choose what to do then. Of course, finding a willing man who is Gifted and would agree to consent to sire our children will be a little daunting, but I'm sure we'll find the right person eventually. After all, we're just too young to consider starting a family now. Look at what happened to Tariko when those fools in Japan trapped her in Tomobiki and forced her back into becoming a boy. Was she ready to marry anyone, much less a woman like Lum?"

 

The Carrow twins gazed on the Trickster of the Show. The "invasion" of Earth the previous October had caused massive shockwaves in magical societies worldwide; while many academics had known other planets bore sentient life thanks to Albus Dumbledore's interview of Dean Raeburn after World War Two, the concept of aliens hadn't sunk in among the average magical until the Kashin appeared over Tomobiki and the news was flashed in the Daily Prophet and other newspapers within a day.

 

Of course, the truth about Tariko had been revealed within days of her being rescued by Kasuga Ayumu from her "marriage" to Redet Lum in April, when it was revealed it had been the Trickster of the Show who rescued Luna's mother Pandora from a spell research accident in 2007. While there had been calls among the liberal members of the Wizengamot like Neville Longbottom's grandmother Augusta to award the Trickster of the Show an Order of Merlin for her actions, such had been shot down by neutrals and darks alike when the true nature of Tariko Katabarbe's mission to Gift "pretty girls" sank in.

 

As the four Hogwarts OWL year girls knew, the memories of what was called the "First Metahuman War" were etched in too deeply among magicals of Europe. The destructive power of metahumans — matched to a shocking invulnerability that was demonstrated by many to even the darkest of spells like the Unforgivable Curses unless the magical had augmented his/her wand or other focus with mesonium to boost the spell's power — so horrified people that there had been calls among even liberal magicals to find ways to cull the development of such "muggle monsters" in the wake of the Wars of Liberation. Fortunately, the various Specialized Warfare Acts passed in the wake of that war — augmented by things such as Magical Royal Proclamations, Magical Executive Orders and Magical Imperial Rescripts as could only be issued by properly anointed or elected heads of state per various clauses in founding legislation such as the Separation Act — saw such a monumentally stupid idea stopped in its tracks.

 

But the fear still lingered.

 

Thinking on that, Ginny and Luna exchanged a knowing look. «If they only knew the truth about Jody,» the latter mused before sipping her tea.

 

«Oh! That'd set the kneazle among the nifflers for sure!» the former replied through their soul-bond.

 

Tariko's eyebrow arched; her own telepathy picked up on those comments. She then sighed as she made a gesture with her hand, summoning The Book of Pretty Girls from her cabin on Yiziba. Another gesture with her hand brought forth two sealed containers with slices of black forest cake in them. "You two had breakfast?" she then asked as she gazed upon the Carrow twins.

 

"Had it before we got dragged here," Flora asked as Ginny handed the cakes over. "What are these?"

 

"Tariko's 'Oh, SO sinful, it should be declared Unforgivable' pre-Gifting snack," Luna provided as she licked her lips. "It has enough mesonium from the Great Crystal of Power to link your souls to it so that a compatible Gift seed that could merge with you can seek you out and empower you. Here's a warning, though: The instant you eat the cake, there's no going back. And once you're Gifted, you can't exchange it for something better. No 'thirty day guarantee' as the normals would call it."

 

That made the twins blink before they nodded as they took the slices of cake in hand. Once Aberforth handed them forks, they eagerly dug in. Watching that, Tariko smiled as she opened the Book, then drew out a pen to begin marking new entries there. Ginny looked over to see which page in the main index the Trickster of the Show was, then she whistled. "Holy! You two just pushed the number of girls that Tariko's helped being Gifted past a thousand! Way to go!"

 

Luna smiled as she waved her hand, making congratulatory balloons appear hanging from the roof before they exploded, displaying streamers declaring in English WELCOME TO THE GREAT SHOW OF LIFE! As Aberforth laughed on seeing that and Akemi whooped in delight while Amy clapped her hands, the front door opened to reveal a smiling raven-haired middle-aged man in a dapper business suit complete with matching waistcoat, an umbrella in hand. Accompanying him was a woman in a black jumpsuit with dark ruby runes lining the sides of the body and the hooded black cape she wore, topped with burgundy boots and belt. Naturally, the hood was drawn over the head of the Mistress of the Shadow Realm to prevent the aurors who were milling about doing practically nothing outside from panicking on seeing one of the most feared dark witches in British history on the streets of Hogsmeade.

 

"Ah, good morning, Aberforth," Mycroft Holmes declared as he moved to sit beside Tariko. "The usual for both Jody and myself, please."

 

"Right away, Mycroft!" the younger brother of the headmaster of Hogwarts said with a nod.

 

Immediately, both Amy and Akemi rose to join them. The transformed aircraft carrier snapped to attention, saluting the man viewed by many in the know as the true heart and soul of the British government. "Chief Fencible Holmes, Her Majesty's Ship Ark Royal, pendant 91, reporting for duty!" she declared with a crisp announcement that would impress the training petty officers at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. "Have the Fencibles been mobilized by the Crown, sir?"

 

"Not yet, Captain Power. You will be required to answer the call should ever such a possibility come, one which our allies from Yiziba are working hard to prevent. Please join us," Mycroft declared. "You as well, Commander Ashikaga. Captain, has the commander briefed you on what her own spiritual 'admiral' and his family have done for her and her fleet mates in Japan?"

 

"She has, sir. Is there such an admiral here or will I respond directly to you?"

 

"I'm sure we'll find someone who can take up such a task. Patriarch Moroboshi is rather deluged at this time with all of Commander Ashikaga's fleet mates now living with him and his family on Ōmure-jima, not to mention five German shipgirls. In the meantime, Lady Hestia, congratulations on your ascension to your family's seat in the House of Lords Wizengamot. I hope you and your sister have no ill-intentions towards the peace of Her Majesty's Realm akin to what your late father pursued."

 

"Of course not, sir," Hestia answered. She had heard of the current Royal Master of the Specialized Warfare Fencibles, one of three of the Great Officers of State who served the Crown when it came to affairs of a metahuman nature; the other two were seen as the Chief Wizard/Witch of the House of Lords Wizengamot and the Magus of the Meridiana School of Magecraft. As anointed in the Specialized Warfare Act of 1949, the Master of the Fencibles could summon Britain's metahuman population to form a defensive regiment in case of another major metahuman war. In the most extreme of cases, the Master of the Fencibles could also summon the Ministry of Magic's auror and hit wizard forces to help defend the Realm; it was THIS overwhelming political power that made Mycroft Holmes so loathed among the conservative members of the Ministry of Magic and the Wizengamot, especially a rabid mugalophobe like Dolores Umbridge. "We've always had moderate opinions when it comes to the entry of muggleborns into our society. I only wish Headmaster Dumbledore was able to offer an introductory course for people such as Miss Granger — she's like Ginny and Luna, isn't she...?" At Mycroft's nod and approving smile on seeing such a sharp mind at work, Hestia smiled before she ate a forkful of black forest cake. "Well, all the muggleborns have had to go and ask people, mostly in Ravenclaw, about proper etiquette and what is seen as 'right' and 'proper' in our society. Having a formal class..."

 

"Blocked because the stalebloods that loom over Albus all the time don't want to allow the 'mudbloods' the chance to be good citizens, thus 'keeping up the scare' and feed Riddle's war machine now that he's back," Jody dryly noted as she crossed her arms.

 

That made the twins perk. "Who's Riddle?" Flora asked; she had heard the name spoken before, but didn't understand whose name it actually was.

 

"Thomas Marvolo Riddle. The birth name of the man who's battle name you're too afraid to speak of," Mycroft noted. "He was head boy at Hogwarts for the 1944-45 year, a Slytherin of course. Born near the end of 1926, he's the bastard son of a normal yeoman from North Yorkshire and a nimmib woman named Merope Gaunt, the last known living descendant of Headmaster Slytherin." As the twins gaped on hearing that revelation, he grimly nodded. "That's correct, girls. Your 'pureblood icon' is effectively a 'mudblood' by your worldview, never mind his being a bastard child atop that." As the two pureblood witches scowled on hearing that — to be seen as a bastard in wizarding Britain was viewed by traditionalists as being no better than a muggleborn in places — Mycroft added, "Fortunately, there's a far more worthy heir of the Dukedom of Kyme Eau about to make her appearance. Blood-descent of Headmaster Slytherin as confirmed per various treaties with the Noble Tribe of Gringotts last year."

 

"How soon could she take her seat?" Hestia asked.

 

"As soon as Mister Riddle is dealt with finally. Sometime this weekend, I wager," Mycroft stated, which made the twins smirk before they dug into their cake. He then smirked as he gazed on his companion. "I'm surprised neither of them have begged for your autograph, Jody. Given how famous you are..."

 

"Oh, Dear Sweet Mercenaries Guild, spare me from my fans!" the native of Anglesey and adopted native of Warwickshire moaned as she slipped off her hood, making the Carrow twins gasp in disbelief on seeing who had accompanied the Master of the Fencibles to this meeting. "Eat your cake, girls. The sooner you're Gifted, the better," Jody Crowley then bade. "I can show you some interesting forms of wandless magic once you're stabilized to better keep away the idiots who might not like the idea of 'uppity blood traitors' acting 'above their station' in the Serpent's Den." As the twins exchanged awed looks at the fact that the woman who led the famous Argentium Astrum of Meridiana alumni in the Blood War against the Death Eaters — not to mention personally dealing with allies of their father and aunt such as the Gibbon family of Craiglockhart, who also escaped lifetime imprisonment in Azkaban for "pleading the Imperius" after the end of the Blood War — Jody winked at them.

 

Hestia and Flora quickly dug into their cake...

 

...before a voice screamed out, "JODY CROWLEY?! AURORS! ARREST HER!"

 

Jody's hand snapped up...

 

...then a dozen wands flew into her grasp. "Are you hell-bent on losing your magic, MISTER Fudge?"

 

Mycroft looked over. "Oh, hello, Cornelius! Come join us!"

 

A gargled croak escaped the Minister for Magic as he stared wide-eyed at the ONE muggle in Britain beyond the Queen herself that he feared above all others now seated in the Hog's Head with the most hated witch in the eyes of "proper" magicals beside him, not to mention a certain Japanese girl whose mission was causing all sorts of headaches in the Ministry of Magic. As Jody calmly floated the wands back to the aurors who accompanied Cornelius Fudge to the "horrible scene" where a "respectable citizen" had been KILLED by a metahuman of all things, Amelia Bones gave her boss an annoyed look; fortunately, she had not been disarmed by the Duchess of Anglesey when Fudge moved to have Jody arrested. "All aurors, move outside and keep the crowds back!" the current regent lady of the Barony of Bute — to be eventually inherited by her niece Susan Bones — then barked out. "The Minister and I have business with the Master of the Fencibles, Lady Crowley, Lady Katabarbe and the others."

 

Fudge spun on her. "Now, see here, Amelia...!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"Oi! Volume, huh?!" Tariko snapped after the blustering man was smashed down by a cinder block. Then, with a snap of her fingers, the Trickster of the Show teleported the idiot back to his office in London. "Umale takes a stupid pill every morning!" she then muttered.

 

"STUPEFY!"

 

KK-KLONK!

 

"As soon as that idiot recovers from being smacked down like that, Shack, tell him he's suspended for a week from work and he'll undergo remedial training with Master Auror Moody once he's back on duty!" Bones coldly stated after John Dawlish was smashed down by another cinder block after he tried to stun Tariko unconscious with a spell; fortunately for the people inside the Hog's Head, said spell had fizzled out long before it got close to hurting the reality warper.

 

"Right away, Boss," a grinning Kingsley Shacklebolt declared as he created a portkey, then he grabbed Dawlish before heading back to London.

 

With a shake of the head, Bones then took note of what the Carrow twins were eating; as the leader of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, she had long been briefed on how Tariko Katabarbe did things when she found someone who was worthy of being Gifted. "May I ask what actually happened this morning?" she then calmly inquired as she gazed hopefully at Mycroft.

 

"Captain Power, would you please brief Director Bones," he then bade.

 

"Yes, sir," Amy declared before she began...

 

****

 

Ōmure-jima, Welcome House, that moment (local time: An hour before supper)...

 

"Hey!"

 

Moroboshi Ataru perked on hearing that welcome voice call out from behind him, then he turned before he smiled. "Hey, yourself!" he called out with a wave, beckoning Miyake Shinobu inside his bedroom. "So what's going on with you? Still being affected by Memory?"

 

"A little bit," his former girlfriend affirmed before she sat down at the end of his bed, gazing around in approval at the sizable room Ataru currently possessed on the ground floor of the rotunda next to the main entrance. It was noticeably larger and brighter than his old room in Tomobiki by some degrees, which made it seem more welcoming to Shinobu, especially given how the presence of Redet Lum, her cousin Ten and the cat-ghost Kotatsuneko often crowed Ataru back in his old residence. "Jody-san gave me a charm that would block any overt attempts at trying to make me forget that you were gone all those years. Now that I'm thinking about that, the details about the times we were 'together' in elementary and middle school were missing even when we were all brainwashed about what happened to you." She shook her head before she gazed in concern at him. "Did Margo-san find out who it was that did that to you when you came to help Rumiko-chan and Chigaiko-san be Gifted?"

 

"It's some secret cabal in the Public Security Intelligence Agency calling themselves 'First District' as a group," he answered as his hands darted over the keyboard of his laptop computer — one made by Hatoyama Rinrin as Shinobu was quick to confirm by the ringed "R-squared" symbol under the screen — to scan through various websites. Since he was no longer a student at Tomobiki High and since he was effectively emancipated, he had no reason to prepare to attend Stargazer West College on Ōmure-jima. With the mass of shipgirls now living at Welcome House, he would most likely serve as their den father/"admiral" until such time as they could realistically take control of their own lives. "Have no idea where they're based at; the idiot that was there when Lum came to Earth before the Tag Race never told Baka Kā-san anything about that. As to why these people wanted us to forget Yiziba, I just can't say. The guy who came to the house last October was made to forget everything about them with a memory-wipe spell, one from someone NOT affiliated to the Eight Magical Commanderies."

 

She nodded; thanks to speaking to Sakurambō Sakura over the last year since the nurse/miko came to work at Tomobiki High School, Shinobu knew about how magicals in Japan governed themselves. "Do you think they might try again against you personally, Ataru? Until you're Gifted, you're vulnerable."

 

"Yeah, that's true," he declared with a sigh.

 

"If such traitors to Tennō dare show themselves, they'll be found and punished for their crimes, Miyake-dono," a strange voice then hailed from the doorway.

 

Shinobu turned as someone walked through the open door to Ataru's bedroom; she had been quick to note that both Tanenobu Karen's and Eigo Kaho's bedroom doors had been open when she walked into the rotunda. Turning around to gaze upon the raven-haired tomboyish girl now in a white-and-green kimono-and-hakama combination that wouldn't be out of place for schoolgirls in the Meiji era who just walked in — complete with lace up high heeled boots barely exposed under the edge of the hakama skirt — Ataru then focused on the small black top hat barely covering Taruka Tsukiko's head. "You trying to be some vaudeville performer, Tsukiko-san?" he wondered.

 

A shy look then crossed the girl's face as she seemed to wilt. "Boku no Shirei-kan, do you not approve?" she asked in a mannish voice that reminded Shinobu far too much of Fujinami Ryūnosuke.

 

He chuckled as he offered his arm. Seeing that, Tsukiko slid over to allow him to hold her close. "I'm not judging a thing. I'm just wondering where on Earth did you get such a hat and why," he assured her.

 

"Oh, it was the novelty store on First Street East," she assured him as she showed it to him. "It seemed to call out to me when Haruka-anegimisama took us there after we got out normal clothing."

 

"That must have turned eyes," Shinobu mused.

 

Tsukiko shrugged. "It appears the people of the island have become used to the idea of beings such as ourselves being effectively based here, Miyake-dono." As Shinobu blushed at that form of address by the reborn fourth of the Kamikaze-class destroyers, the raven-haired tomboy continued, "Which is good. The sooner our loyalty to Tennō is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, the sooner we can form a proper tokusen rentai to see to it the Realm is forever protected from all known threats."

 

Ataru winced on hearing that term escape her. "Tsukiko-chan, would you PLEASE be careful bandying that idea about," he then pleaded as he gazed at her. "A lot of Yizibajohei will really have issues with the idea of any version of what Raeburn-chūjo commands now."

 

Shock crossed her face. "Why, Boku no Shirei-kan?!" she demanded. "Do we not have the right to properly defend ourselves against the alien slime?"

 

"Of course we do! But when you talk about military metahuman units, well..." He shrugged as he gave her an apologetic look. "Yiziba has had a VERY bad history about that sort of thing. You wouldn't really know this as your battle doll self was asleep during the Dawn of Power wherever it was stored, but there's no way in hell that even most Terran-borns like myself would ever join a specialized warfare unit voluntarily. Only in times of real crisis would we do that, but..."

 

"What if there are those who would volunteer right away to form such a unit? I'm sure all the shipgirls here on the island would band together to do such. In essence, we've already done that. We have our flagship in Nagato-dono, an effective aircraft carrier in Graf Zeppelin-dono and a small strike force of heavy vessels in Bismarck-dono, Prinz Eugen-dono and Sakawa-dono. If we could get our own aircraft carriers, so much the better; Zeppelin-dono has no real experience even if her eagerness to serve shines like Amaterasu Herself in the morning! Let us do such, Boku no Shirei-kan! Be our admiral! Everything you and your noble sister have done over the last decade needs support!"

 

"You can't deny that, Ataru," Shinobu warned.

 

Hearing that from his former girlfriend, he blinked before he sighed. "This is one fight scene I can't..."

 

"Hey, in the house!"

 

Everyone perked, then Ataru looked towards his doorway. "What the hell is SHE doing here?" he quietly demanded before barking out, "In here, Okano-san!"

 

Footfalls echoed in the hallway outside, then a smiling woman's head with shaggy short red-tinted brown hair peeked inside, her blue eyes twinkling. "Oi! So this is your getaway home, huh?!"

 

"Yuka-san! What are you doing here?!" Shinobu demanded.

 

A sigh escaped the heroine of the Ekō Girl's High School terrorist attack the previous summer. "Had to get out of Tomobiki for a bit," Okano Yuka declared as Tsukiko gave her a respectful bow. "Things are starting to go really crazy there. With the school sealed off from anyone who's not a student or staff there, the Mizunokōji estate a smoking ruin and rumours about alien androids running around, Mendō's going crazy trying to establish some sort of control over things."

 

"I'd figure he'd still be unconscious after Akemi-san gave him a Rock Bottom into the engine of his command car yesterday morning," Ataru mused.

 

Yuka snorted as a curious look crossed Shinobu's face. "He recovered pretty quick. Your friend didn't hurt him enough," the technologically-inclined high school sophomore who was Tsuruya Rumiko's near-equal when it came to intelligence said as she crossed her arms, leaning against the wall next to the closet. "Soon as that explosion ripped through the Mizunokōji estate, we figured the best place to put ourselves was at the school itself; I overheard Momoe-san talk about Rumiko-chan rebuilding the place to block it off from all the weirdos and aliens who love to trash it all the time. Good thing, too."

 

"What happened?" Shinobu demanded.

 

"The Kuromegane were out on the streets within minutes of that explosion," Yuka explained. "When they saw us heading towards the school, they offered to escort us to Mendō's estate for our 'safety'." A snort escaped her. "He's always hated the fact that none of us ever bought into his suave act. When Kaho told them off, he just appeared right in front of her and tried to put the charm act on." As Shinobu growled and Ataru shook his head, Yuka smirked. "One low blow from Emi and we got to the school, where Nagisa-kun was. He..." Here, she stopped as her cheeks heated. "Um, she...well, you know..."

 

"Nagisa-san's Gifted?" Shinobu wondered.

 

Ataru sighed. "Something about Margo Black you need to know about right away, Shinobu. She does NOT like ghosts whatsoever. It's a perversion in her eyes, so she does everything she can to disperse them and force them to move on into the next life. Nagisa-chan always wanted to be a girl, so Ayumu went to the school last night and got 'him' turned into a battle doll. She was Gifted this morning as the Sentinel; she helped put down Soban and his idiots who were chasing down Asuka-chan because she was dating a cross-dresser like Hikaru-chan." Seeing Yuka's eyes instantly sparkle, he chuckled. "Got a chance to take a look him over, eh?" he then teased, his eyes twinkling.

 

Yuka awked. "Well, y-yeah!" she sputtered.

 

"Asuka-san has a BOYFRIEND?!" a wide-eyed Shinobu demanded.

 

Ataru chuckled. "Wait until you hear this..."

 

****

 

Tomobiki High School, that moment...

 

"YOU CAN'T DO THAT!"

 

"Why can't I?"

 

Mendō Shūtarō blinked as he stared wide-eyed at the twenty-something financial genius who's wizardry with money had helped see his clan become the economic powerhouse it was. And was now threatening to totally destroy his influence over all his peers in Tomobiki with something that was not only just legal but was well past overdue. "How dare you?!" the scion of Japan's richest family snarled. "Do you realize the danger Moroboshi is putting those poor girls through?!"

 

Yumoa Reigi blinked before he laughed. "'DANGER'?!" the Yale alumnus demanded before he leaned over to glare Shūtarō down. "The only danger Yuka-san and her friends were in after Asuka-san's idiot mother was put down like the rabid dog she was this morning is from YOU!" As the younger man shrieked at that accusation, the chief of staff of Toranoseishin Finances smirked. "This comes from MY matriarch, young man. Your clan is to IMMEDIATELY submit ALL records to us concerning how you have spent the money WE lent you to pay for your paramilitary forces and your security forces over the last five years. Your father and your grandfather have already agreed to the audit. Given how much you've loved to throw your money around to show everyone how rich you are, both are now VERY concerned that you're getting totally OUT OF CONTROL!" He then turned to stare at the small troupe of Kuromegane standing helplessly beyond the gate of the school grounds. "Fortunately, we understand things about living expenses. Your people will be placed on paid leave for the next month..."

 

"A MONTH?!" Shūtarō shrieked again.

 

Reigi glared again at him. "Or do we declare that your clan has defaulted on payments to us concerning what we've loaned you people, then call all debts DUE?" he declared, an icy smile crossing his face.

 

Silence fell over the scene as a hollow wind swept over the grounds. Shūtarō was staring in disbelief at the older man, stunned that Toranoseishin Finances was prepared to go to THAT extent to force him to heel. He ignored the very amused look from Tsuruya Rumiko, now standing by the main doors, arms crossed; Shūtarō had miserably failed to persuade his former subordinate in the Secret Peer Guidance Committee to lower her school-wide force-field and allow his bodyguards to sweep over the grounds for clues as to what happened to Okano Yuka and her friends. As for his would-be fiancée, she was hiding in the clock tower alongside her lover Sakō Hikaru, they being watched over by Shiowatari Nagisa. After a minute as his mind tried to figure out the angle his hated rival was taking in this latest move to see his perverted dreams come true — after all, Moroboshi Ataru HAD to be the one responsible for provoking this, hard as it was for the scion of Japan's richest family to believe that the bastard was RELATED by BLOOD to the owner of the Inshin Group! — Shūtarō snarled, "Moroboshi will pay...!"

 

"Miyuki-san?"

 

KK-KRUNCH!

 

"It's dark...it's cramped...I'm scared..."

 

Reigi shook his head after Fukushima Miyuki dropped a giant bell to completely enclose Shūtarō in darkness, one built of material he couldn't hope to break even with a burst of berserker strength as he had shown before. "Once he's sufficiently calmed down enough, throw him off the grounds," the chief of staff then bade as he moved to leave. "I'm sure his sister will be willing to keep him occupied once she learns her precious Kuroko will not be available to serve her for a month."

 

The reborn fourth of the Fubuki-class destroyers curtly nodded, not saying a word so as to help relieve the waves of nyctophobia and claustrophobia now overcoming the scion of Japan's richest family...

 

To Be Continued...

 

****

 

WRITER'S NOTES

 

I said back in Part One that this story is set during the time of Order of the Phoenix where the characters of Harry Potter are concerned. However, when I composed a timeline for this story, I realized that if I wanted the Warlock (Rose Potter, Harry Potter) to be of the same age as Tuyuki (Tariko Katabarbe, Moroboshi Ataru), I had to adjust things around. While the events of OOTP occur at the time of this story, this would actually be Rose's SIXTH year had she gone to Hogwarts (during the time of Half-Blood Prince). As noted above, there was an international magical bazaar held at Hogwarts in what would have been Rose's fourth year, thus shifting the Triwizard Tournament (and the events depicted in Goblet of Fire) to what would have been Rose's fifth (or OWL) year.

 

Year nicknames for any cohort of Hogwarts' students (with English school form names in brackets):

 

First year (age 11-12) — Freshman (First)

Second year (age 12-13) — Sophomore (Second)

Third year (age 13-14) — Junior (Third)

Fourth year (age 14-15) — Senior (Fourth)

Fifth year (age 15-16) — Graduate or OWL year (Fifth)

Sixth year (age 16-17) — Post-Graduate or pre-NEWT year (Lower Sixth)

Seventh year (age 17-18) — Masters/Mistresses or NEWT year (Upper Sixth)

 

A regiment of Fencibles is an infantry unit tasked for defensive purposes against invasion by a foreign power; it is not meant to be deployed overseas. The term was derived from "defensible". Such a concept came into vogue in the mid-Eighteenth Century. Regiments of Fencibles were raised to stand in defence of Britain against Napoleon around the turn of the century. The term "Fencible" was carried over to Canada around this time: Members of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles were involved in the defence of Canada during the War of 1812; their predecessors were some of the original Fencibles who were involved in the defence of the mother country from Scotland. They are perpetuated these days by the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders (SDG HIGHRS), a Militia (part-time) infantry unit based in southeast Ontario and forming part of 33 Canadian Brigade Group.

 

The rankings of the noble houses of the Wizengamot in this story:

 

Noble House (a magical barony) — 1 point in the Wizengamot (34 houses = 34 votes)

Most Noble House (a magical viscountcy) — 2 points in the Wizengamot (18 houses = 36 votes)

Noble and Ancient House (a magical earldom) — 3 points in the Wizengamot (10 houses = 30 votes)

Noble and Most Ancient House (a magical marquessate) — 4 points in the Wizengamot (7 houses = 28 votes)

 

Note that the earldoms and marquessates put together are traditionally referred to as a group as the Seven and Ten. Any large voting block among this group (a quorum of same would be any four of the Seven and Ten such as Lucius Malfoy [the Marquess of Avebury] or Sirius Black [the Marquess of Grimmauld]) or would have the ability to change some of the basic laws that run wizarding Britain such as the legislation which dictates how the Ministry of Magic itself is organized and who can qualify for protections and commerce rights under the Ministry; this particular act is known as The Ministry Governance Act, 1707. This is the legislation that effectively outlawed any forms of official interaction with anyone that attended the Meridiana School of Magecraft due to the more pro-normal stance of sorcerers who graduated from that school (such as the issue with pactio bonds), thus making people such as Negi Springfield an effective self-governing enclave within Britain.

 

The grand total of all noble houses in the Wizengamot — including those houses declared "extinct" due to the lack of magical heirs — would be sixty-nine separate houses sharing a vote spread of 128 "seat" votes. Normal wizarding families (such as the Weasley family) are formally known as Loyal Magical Houses and only have influence on the Ministry when comes time to elect Her Majesty's Minister for Magic (the only pure democratic process in wizarding Britain) every ten years (or whenever the sitting Minister is either impeached and removed from office or dies in office).

 

The names of the noble houses and their locations indicated here are my creation, though they have appeared in other stories where I have involved the Harry Potter characters.

 

Issues concerning the magical duchies mentioned in this story (also known as Very Noble and Most Ancient Houses) will be revealed in future chapters.

 

Translation list: La Reine le Veult — The Queen wills it; Boku no Shirei-kan — My Commander (in Tsukiko-speak); Tokusen rentai — Specialized warfare regiment; Chūjo — Navy vice admiral/Army lieutenant general/Air Force air marshal; Kuroko — Black clothes.

 

The Hollows and Her Majesty's Prison Gonebren first appeared in The Icemaidens and the Philosopher's Stone.

 

The Great Officers of State are traditional ministers of the Crown who either inherit their positions or are appointed to exercise certain largely ceremonial functions or to operate as members of the government. All of the Great Officers are seen as members of the Royal Household. The reason there are TWO magical Great Officers of State is because of the legal separation between Hogwarts alumni and Meridiana alumni as enforced by the act that created the modern Ministry of Magic in 1707 as noted above. Because of the lack of representation in the Wizengamot for Meridiana alumni, the Magus of Meridiana serves as the "minister" for people such as Negi Springfield in the eyes of the Crown.

 

The Secret Peer Guidance Committee first made its appearance in the Yatsura manga story "Food Fight" (manga chapter #106).

 

Chapter Text

DISCLAIMER: Concurrent with fair dealing clauses of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) of Canada and fair use clauses in copyright legislation in other nations, this is a work that was created solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, it is posted freely on the Internet without expectation or requirement of remuneration.

 

****

 

In the skies over Onishuto, midnight (T ōkyō time: Suppertime)...

 

"Wow...!" Redet Ten gushed.

 

As the small troupe of Oni — most of them being members of the Union Marine Corps assigned to the on-board security force of Redet Invader's flagship, the battlewagon Kashin — gaped in awe at the sight of the badly-scarred Niphentaxian destroyer being boosted away from the capital of the Urusian Union thanks to the combined efforts of Fukushima Hatsue and Ashikaga Shikuko, Moroboshi Hiromi could only shake her head. The current incarnation of the being often nicknamed the "Mistress of Morphing" on Yiziba was now riding on the back of Shigaten Benten's aircycle. Redet Lum had wanted to come see what the shipgirls were doing when an alarm had been sent warning of a pending starship crash; her new fiancée and friends had been glad to accompany her. Also seated on the aircycle between its driver and Lum's new lover was Oyuki. "Since when do the Niphentaxians do something like THIS?!" the crown princess of Neptune wondered. "I can understand how heartbroken and disorientated they must be after your brother and sister helped thrash them so thoroughly some months ago, Hiromi-chan, but to try to unleash a HELLFIRE incident here on Uru...?" She shook her head. "That's madness...!"

 

"Yeah, especially with their 'goddess' living three clicks beyond city limits," Benten noted before she perked as the familiar sound of a certain polymath's disc-shaped shuttlecraft echoed from her right. Looking over, she blinked as Isaac Thomas' personal runabout came up to hover close to them, a side hatch opening to allow several people in fighting jumpsuits to emerge, they flying out to form a staggered line above the marines. "'Bout time you guys caught up with us!"

 

"Sorry about that, Benten!" Yáng Xiǎo Lóng called out as she came to a hover beside her new local cluster friends and the adopted sister of the woman who had effectively unleashed a second age of metahumans on Earth, making use of the special modifications Isaac Thomas inserted into her uniform to help her fly. "Much that I'm pretty fast myself, I'm nowhere in Hatsue's or Shikuko's class when it comes to reaction time when a fight scene starts." Here, the current version of the Raging Berserker, Duobyato ("Fortitude"), shook her head. She, her fellow hunters from Remnant and their new friends from Santa Clara had been stunned at the sheer speed the two destroyers-turned-teenage girls showed when the alert came to the Invader home about the runaway destroyer from Phentax Two; while some were fast like Yáng could be, none could match the Silent Blizzard or her younger half-sister, known now on Yiziba as the Mistress of Waterspouts, R'betoba ("Shikinami"). "Damn...!"

 

"TOO SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW...!"

 

Everyone perked on hearing that girlish scream...

 

...then people were literally blasted aside as something flew past them at speeds even an intercontinental ballistic missile or a runaway photon torpedo couldn't match. Benten's aircycle was flipped over, though Yáng was quick enough to fly down and catch Oyuki and Hiromi before they went on a tumble of several kilometres to the ground; the biker girl from Bensaikyō on Fukunokami was able to hold onto her handles, twisting herself around with Lum's help to right her machine.

 

"HEY, YOU FUCKING ROAD HOG!" Benten shrieked. "WATCH WHERE YOU'RE...?!"

 

Her voice faded on seeing the destroyer literally WARPED away! "Holy fuck...!" Benten gasped.

 

"Did Hatsue-chan or Shikuko-chan do that?!" Ten asked, glad that he could fly so he didn't get hurt by whoever just raced past them, creating a sonic boom that — thanks to people being metahumans of one sort or another — hadn't ruptured their eardrums. "I didn't know shipgirls could move that fast!"

 

"Mamoru-chan's clocked Miyuki-san and her sister Urako-san at speeds of up to Mach Ten when they're in atmosphere!" Hiromi grunted as Yáng put her and Oyuki back on Benten's machine. As Lum moved to hover close to her fiancée, the film replica of Moroboshi Ataru added, "That was a blonde that just passed us. Only blondes among the shipgirls now are Luisa-san, Amélie-san and Catarina-san from the German group or Mayako-san, Sayako-san or Himeko-san from the ones Hinako-chan found."

 

"Mayako-san, Sayako-san and Himeko-san are silver-haired, Hiromi-onēchan," Ten advised as he moved to stay close to his future cousin-in-law. "Whoever that was had to be doing Mach TWENTY!"

 

"Mach Twenty-eight, kid."

 

Silence.

 

More silence.

 

Still more silence.

 

Then...

 

Everyone turned to see a smiling teenager now floating about a metre away from Benten's aircycle, having silently warped herself there after disposing of the alien destroyer by sending it crashing at terminal velocity onto one of the asteroids in the outer belt ringing the Oniboshi system. Slender like the other shipgirls who came to Uru over the last day were, she had long, straight blonde hair that went to her hips, grey eyes peeking out of a face with a little baby fat on it — the sign, Hiromi knew, of a shipgirl that hadn't served long as a ship — and was in a silver and sky blue uniform with a dark blue mountain insignia on her chest over her cleavage, that with the blue-piped white intertwined kanji 島風 in vertical reading formation. Her uniform was akin to what Takino Tomo wore as Warwind: A single-piece swimsuit with a high-leg cut that exposed a lot of acreage of skin, that topped with blue-trimmed silver thigh-high boots possessing red racing stripes and bicep-length gloves of the same pattern. As Hiromi and Yáng blushed on seeing how provocative her uniform was, the newcomer then leaned up to gaze into the former's eyes. "Are you my admiral?" she asked, a hopeful look crossing her face.

 

Hiromi blinked while the others watching this all moaned...

 

****

 

Aboard the Free Planetary State of Yiziba Starship Normandy , in orbit over Uru, an hour later...

 

"Permission to come aboard, Doctor?"

 

"Granted. Welcome aboard, Mister President."

 

Hozan Lana smiled as he walked over to grasp Isaac Thomas' hand. Accompanying the gregarious Oni supreme warlord who was Uru's head of state was his new chief of staff and the just-elected Speaker of the Union Congress, Major General Hoth Julan, a scarred Seishin fifty-something who reminded the Wise Lone Sage of many senior Yehisrite warlords his past-selves encountered over the centuries. "It's strange for me to actually thank one of YOUR kind, Doctor," the silver-haired beefy-looking man said as he shook Isaac's hand after he had greeted Admiral Azu Kakazu. "You said to Lana here that you might have discovered what provoked that idiot captain to try to drop his destroyer on the capital city."

 

"I have a strong suspicion, General," Isaac stated as he waved his visitors out of the materializer room towards the main pilotage on the ten-to-one scale replica of the original SSV Normandy from Mass Effect. "Fortunately, the newest shipgirl to join the Moroboshi siblings' 'fleet' managed to crash that thing into a small-enough asteroid that the whole ship wasn't destroyed. We got the flight logs salvaged and my android crew are now retrieving bodies for autopsies."

 

"We'd like to have our own doctors watch over this," Kakazu warned.

 

"Fair enough. Just keep the Round away, please."

 

The visiting dignitaries from Onishuto laughed at the American's request. With the deaths of several senior members over the last day, the Imperial Round of Uru was effectively leaderless, which would allow more moderate members — people who, while wanting the restoration of the monarchy, did want to maintain the rights given to all Urusians in the wake of the Union Revolution — to take control of the group and ease off the potential threat of civil war, the unleashing of which wouldn't do the Galactic Federation any good. "Don't blame you for asking that, son," Julan said as they boarded the turbolift.

 

In a minute, they walked onto the main bridge of the starship, where a large mass of metahumans stood as they either chatted with each other or watched the androids Isaac created to crew the Normandy work at their stations. Redet Invader, his daughter, future daughter-in-law and Lum's best friends stood around the central display station in the middle of the bridge, it projecting a holographic image of what appeared to be a human, though the face and other elements of the body were hideously deformed. "Captain, report," Lana snarled as Invader straightened himself to attention.

 

"Boss," the younger warlord said with a grim nod before he contemptuously waved to the hologram before him. "Say hello to another race of 'umale' our friends from Yiziba have encountered over the years: The Sidines." As the new arrivals stared at the hideously twisted face and body, he added, "They're a race of empathic vampires according to the Doctor and Ms. Groom here." As Hiromi blushed at being called that, the captain of the Kashin added, "They don't kill their victims, but they emphatically plunge them into deep depression to feed off the emotional output. As far as the Doctor can conclude, this one fellow made the crew of that destroyer Commander Sumie just wrecked on Katte lose all belief in my daughter as their 'living goddess', driving them to crash their ship on Onishuto in vengeance over the 'lies' that they were forced to adhere to by Ōgi and his idiots. This one's corpse was found in a lifepod; he was about to eject from the hull when Commander Sumie sent it into the side of Katte."

 

"At least she didn't wreck the prison there," Kakazu wryly noted.

 

"It's like Alcatraz, you mean?"

 

That was Toyama Sumie, the recently-reborn experimental destroyer Shimakaze made human, who was now standing beside Fukushima Hatsue and Ashikaga Shikuko off to one side of the bridge, with Ten floating close to the former's shoulder. "Same concept, Commander Sumie," Lana said with a polite nod to the woman who had effectively saved over ten million lives and prevented nuclear winter from descending over Uru. "What made you come our way, by the way?" he then asked.

 

The blonde shipgirl shrugged nonchalantly. "Oh, I was bored." As people on the bridge all staggered on hearing that surprising admission, Sumie added, "I was busy checking out this place where a sun was actually encased in a big metal sphere at the other side of the galaxy..." — here, she made a big encompassing circular motion with her hands — "...when some short monk teleported in and told me that there was trouble happening over this planet where Hatsue-chan and Shikuko-chan were. So I flew over here and saw them trying to push the ship away from your city, then pitched in to help. They were so SLOW!" Here, she gave her fellow shipgirls a condescending look, getting nothing from Hatsue while Shikuko puffed her cheeks in annoyance at the younger destroyer's display of arrogance. "Good thing I can fly way past light speed to get here real quick to do that."

 

People blinked. "A sun encased in a big metal sphere...?" Kakazu wondered.

 

"That sounds like a Dyson sphere of some sort," Hiromi commented.

 

"The Planet of Shadows."

 

Eyes locked on Isaac. "You mean the place where Master Kyōsur's people were said to have hidden the Sceptre of Lecasur after the Mikado took power, Doctor?" Lana asked.

 

"Same place, Mister President. How long before you got here did you meet this Majujjō, Sumie?" Isaac then asked. Noting the confused look cross the blonde destroyer's face, he added, "The short monk?"

 

She seemed to think about it, then shrugged. "Ten minutes."

 

That made people on the bridge — even many of the Normandy's android crew — stare in disbelief and shock at the newcomer. "You were able to warp seventy thousand light years in just TEN MINUTES?!" Mimir Shepard, the gynoid replica of the main character of Mass Effect (when depicted as a woman) who was in operational charge of the Normandy, demanded as she stared wide-eyed at the blonde destroyer-turned-teenage girl. "You must be a reality warper, Commander."

 

Confusion crossed Sumie's face. "What's a reality warper?"

 

People staggered again. "Well, it's like..." Hiromi began.

 

TONG! TONG! TONG!

 

As people perked on hearing that knocking sound echo through the bridge, the android in charge of main sensory looked over. "Doctor, there's another woman with the bio-readings of a first generation battle doll now floating beside the main airlock. Her fighting aura matches that of Commander Toyama. It appears she wishes to come inside," he helpfully reported.

 

"Put an image of her here," Isaac bade as he waved to the central display.

 

"Yes, Doctor."

 

People looked over as the image of the Sidine corpse found aboard the runaway Niphentaxian destroyer vanished, transforming into a woman who could be Toyama Sumie's own twin sister save for having blonde-streaked raven hair and dark blue eyes. Her uniform was of the same pattern as what Sumie wore, thought it was black overall with dark blue highlights, gunmetal grey racing stripes on her thigh-high boots and a crescent moon insignia on her chest, with script written over it in black-trimmed dark blue. However, the script there wasn't kanji, Isaac immediately realized. Instead, there were two blocks of characters that reminded the Urusians there of formal Noukiite script: 사풍.

 

"'Sap'ung'?" Hiromi read aloud.

 

"She doesn't look Noukiite!" Ten protested.

 

"It's not Noukiite script, Ten," Isaac warned. "That's Korean."

 

"Who is she, Sumie-san?" Oyuki asked.

 

"My sister," came the curt reply.

 

The other shipgirls gazed her way. "How?!" Shikuko demanded. "You were a one-off design!"

 

"Project V6."

 

"That was cancelled!"

 

"The kami were still there. Muwol-sŏnsaengnim brought them back."

 

Hiromi's head snapped over. "Su Muwol?!"

 

"Hai!"

 

TONG! TONG! TONG!

 

"Let her in, please!" Isaac bade.

 

"Yes, Doctor," Mimir said before barking commands.

 

As two of the bridge crew headed aft to receive their new visitor, Lum gazed in confusion at her wife. "Who's he, Darling?" she asked.

 

"He's a 'she', koishii," Hiromi explained with an amused smile, instantly making Lum blush. "Su Muwol-ssi is a shaman from Taegu that Onē-san met in her travels six years ago. She was going through a shinbyŏng experience when Onē-san first met her. After she recovered, she was allowed to apprentice under an elder mudang knowledgeable in the traditional rites from her province." Grateful the ship's translator system would render the Korean terms into words the visitors from Uru and elsewhere could understand, she added, "After she began to apprentice under a cleric at Samsŏng-gung in Hadong, Onē-san gave her an offer. Ironically, she became the Yizibajohei analogue of a Korean shaman; she even took the name 'Mudang' as her battle name. She's almost as powerful as Ō'oji-san."

 

"Wow...!" Ten gushed.

 

"Yeah!" Sumie added. "After I got my uniform after whatever it was brought me back and I found out I was faster than anything that lives, I felt Sŏnsaeng-nim call out to me from her temple. Nice place in the mountains, too." As people gazed intently at her, the destroyer-turned-teenage girl added, "Well, I was lonely since I didn't have sisters, then Sŏnsaeng-nim did some divination to find out if their kami existed. She found them — all SIXTEEN of them! — then got them drawn to the temple, where they got bodies like mine, then got Gifted!" As Hatsue and Shikuko gaped at her, the fastest destroyer in the Pacific War added, "I came up with their names since they never got named, then Sŏnsaeng-nim gave them their human names after finding out they existed in something called an 'alternate dimension'..." — here, a confused look crossed her face on saying that — "...where a nice admiral thought up human names for all the shipgirls that lived there. Sŏnsaeng-nim said he was related to a friend..."

 

"That's the counterpart to our admiral," Hatsue provided. "Hiromi-san's older brother, Moroboshi Ataru. All of us who came back from the Imperial Navy are with him and his sisters on Ōmure-jima."

 

"Oh...!"

 

"Ah! Ŏnni! Annyŏng!"

 

People gazed towards the back of the bridge to see Sumie's sister standing by the hatch leading to the main corridor, her hand raised in greeting and a friendly smile on her face. "Ah! Yura-ya! You're slow!"

 

"Am not, Ŏnni!" the newcomer said as she lowered her arm, giving her sister an annoyed pout. "I was stopped by some creepy snake over in the Carina Nebula who wanted me to bow to her because she said she was some sort of god! I had to ram the ship and blow it up so I could get the creepy snake to stop yelling in my ears like that, then snacked on it before I came here!"

 

"Did you get the snake's name, Sap'ung-nari?" Isaac asked.

 

That made Sumie's sister blush violently at such a formal type of honorific applied. "Sŏnsaeng-nim...!"

 

"She was adopted into the Yŏn'il Sŭng family," Sumie helpfully provided.

 

"Sŭng Yuna," Hiromi then concluded, nodding in understanding. "'Sap'ung' in Japanese is 'Yūkaze'. In Yizibajohei, that's read 'Yo'obo'o'. What can you do, other than move at hyperwarp speeds, Yura-ssi?"

 

"Yura-ya and I can make wind move in space," Sumie provided.

 

The non-Yizibajohei present there gaped. "You can manipulate the SOLAR WIND?!" Kakazu demanded.

 

"Definitely cosmic-level powers," Isaac noted.

 

"Is that a good thing, son?" Invader asked as he warily looked at his host.

 

"On Yiziba, Otō-san, we call dealing with things like this a 'sleepy episode'," Hiromi wryly noted.

 

"Or as they would say it on Earth, confronting something like that is 'a slow Tuesday'," Isaac added.

 

The non-Yizibajohei present all moaned...

 

****

 

Colorado Springs Air Force Station, that moment (local time: Three hours after midnight)...

 

"Thank you, my son! Thank you! THANK YOU!"

 

There wasn't a dry eye among any of the shipgirls in the main meeting room as Sha're's father Kasuf as he tried to squeeze the very life out of his son-in-law. As Daniel Jackson tried not to gargle at the strength of the older man's embrace, his wife tried not to smile too much at such antics. "Good Father, please!" she then pleaded. "My husband is a man of knowledge. Even if he has worked with his countrymen in fighting the false gods, he's not as endurable as Master Teal'c is."

 

Kasuf blinked before he chuckled in embarrassment as he let Jackson go. He then felt his cheeks heat as appraising looks came upon him from four very beautiful women standing nearby, all looking to be his daughter's age and dressed in very form-fitting clothing that covered their bodies save their shoulders and arms. The colours on their uniforms were a mixture of primary shades, with strange gold-trimmed dark blue stadium ring-like insignia on their chests with golden words on the rings top and bottom, displaying symbols within the rings whose significance didn't make sense to the Abydonian leader. The sturdy-looking brown-haired woman with the warm green eyes had a red uniform with dark blue trim, boots and belt, white stars on the trim and belt. Her slightly taller friend with long blonde hair done in twin ponytails at her temples, possessing warm dark blue eyes, had a dark navy blue suit with green belt and boots. The third, a woman equal in height to the second, had shaggy short-cropped brown hair and green eyes, wearing a dark navy suit with gold belt and boots. And the studious one with the dark brown hair done up in a bun at the back of the head, wearing a pair of black trimmed goggles over her dark grey eyes had a dark navy suit with a gold belt and black boots. The way all four of them were gazing at him made the leader of the people of Abydos wonder if they wished to court him.

 

Sha're had been quick to see that. "Great Ladies, you flatter my father with such appraising looks."

 

That instantly made the four battleships-turned-twenty-something women yelp as their cheeks flushed before they looked away, a sputter of denials escaping their lips. As Kasuf coughed to recover his own composure, Jack O'Neill shook his head in amusement while Samantha Carter hid her own smile and Teal'c remained as calm as ever. The bald Chulakian then blinked before he gazed on Margaret Penn, the reborn USS Pennsylvania. "Captain Penn, are you subject to the Dragoness' spell?"

 

That made Margaret perk. "What spell, Mister Teal'c? Who's this Dragoness you just spoke of?"

 

"She was said to be one of Destructo's Chosen, Captain Penn," Carter answered. "At the time of the Dawn of Power, she was Gifted with a total control and mastery over what Yizibajohei call the 'pure chaos' — magic, in other words — by your body's creator in his third known incarnation. After an incident where aliens tried to steal an element of the Great Crystal of Power, she placed a spell on all Yizibajohei which blocks them even to this day from having children with non-Yizibajohei."

 

Margaret blinked before she gazed intently on the other shipgirls present. "Does anyone know about this particular person?" the reborn flagship of the Battle Force at the time of Pearl Harbour asked.

 

Everyone shook their heads. "Since their bodies were in storage deep within the Great Crystal of Power — if what Mister Caloway told us about them when Hinako found Commander Fukushima Fujiko off Guadalcanal in the spring is true — they might be affected. They might not be," Jackson concluded. "Then again, are these girls ready to consider motherhood? They just got turned into shipgirls not a few hours ago after Ataru and his sisters retrieved Captain von Savoyen from Kwajalein. It took his sisters some months to teach Commander Fukushima and her sisters and half-sisters how to be comfortable being human, never mind being METAHUMANS, after being raised from the living spirits of warships."

 

"Agreed," Major General George Hammond breathed out; he was seated at the head of the table. As Kasuf was welcomed to come sit beside his daughter at the table, the commander of Stargate Command added, "I've recommended to the President that we ask Mister Moroboshi and his family to temporarily take charge of our guests to help them better get used to their new circumstances." As all the shipgirls stiffened with apprehension, the elderly pilot added, "It's not meant to say that we want to abandon you girls. It's just that we don't have the facilities or personnel here to help you better adjust to your surroundings. It's easy to create new identities for you under the auspices of the Liberty Legion Memorial Act with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. It's worlds harder to adjust to having you live as people, never mind you all being women when you were crewed by men."

 

"What happened to the Legion, sir?" Sydney McCain, the reborn submarine USS Dentuda, asked.

 

Before anyone could answer, a klaxon echoed over the room. "General Quarters! General Quarters!" the voice of Master Sergeant Walter Harriman echoed over the meeting room as warning lights began to flash. "Unknown alien attack group now approaching Earth! All personnel, stand to combat readiness! General Hammond, to the control centre! All personnel...!"

 

Hammond was on his feet and running out of the room as quick as he could move, with the members of SG-1, Jackson's wife and father and the shipgirls all behind them. Within moments, they were in the control chamber overlooking the embarkation room, where a platoon's worth of air force security personnel were already mustering with weapons at the ready. "Report, Master Sergeant," the veteran pilot demanded as the shipgirls broke up into two groups, with the cruisers, destroyers and submarines all moving to augment the guard force in the embarkation room while the battleships and the two aircraft carriers followed the flag officer into his combat information centre.

 

"Sir, we just got a signal from CANSOFCOM concerning six ha'tak-class warships now approaching Earth," MSgt Harriman stated. "They're coming up from well below the plane of the elliptic," he added as he indicated the computer screen before him. "Approximate point of landfall if they maintain course would put them over the South Atlantic Ocean just beyond the Río de la Plata."

 

"Uruguay and Argentina," Margaret Penn declared as the other shipgirls grimly nodded. "Do we have communications with either nation to warn them that the lar'beke are coming in such force, General?"

 

"Unfortunately not, Captain," Hammond declared. "This project is considered above top secret when it comes to making things open to the public. No one outside certain military special forces such as our Canadian friends — not to mention all of the Terran-born Yizibajohei living on Earth now — are aware of the existence of the Goa'uld or any other group we've contacted."

 

"Looks like it's about to go public, sir," Yvette Stuyvesant, the reborn USS New York, noted.

 

"You guys feel comfortable enough to fly up there and stop them?" O'Neill asked.

 

The four battleships and two aircraft carriers exchanged looks. "Not really, Colonel," Dionne Doolittle then confessed with a helpless shrug. "As Doctor Jackson just said in the briefing room before general quarters was called, it's only been a few hours since we all were transformed into this. Much that we seem to have the hang of flying around in atmosphere and teleporting into places — the subgirls helped us with that — I doubt we could feel comfortable enough pressing a fleet action against those things..."

 

"And hope to ensure we get them all before they could commence shore bombardment and bring people to harm, Colonel," Sarah Blasdel, the reborn USS Nevada, added.

 

"Damn it, Cheery, we're supposed to be ready for action at any time!" protested the last battleship, the reborn USS Arkansas now known as Jane Sevier. "We're going to let THOSE things walk over us?!"

 

"Captain Sevier, much that I appreciate your willingness to get into the action, it has been five thousand years since you — in part! — last fought the Goa'uld," Hammond quickly moved to calm the brown-haired dreadnought down. "Can you really look at yourself and say that you're ready to fly into SPACE — where no battleship has EVER gone before — to fight those things?"

 

"Um...General...?"

 

Hammond looked over. "What is it, Airman?"

 

"Sir, I'm linking into Thoughtmistess-prime Wakefield's geosynchronous inner sensor network right now," Airman First Class Rachel Hayward — one of the several Terran-form Avalonians assigned to Stargate Command — stated as she indicated the computer screen before her. "There's a strange energy nexus now forming in the Río de la Plata close to Montevideo. Look here."

 

Hammond looked as others came over to see what was going on, including Margaret Penn. Noting where the nexus of energy was forming, the lead of her class of super-dreadnoughts traced a finger roughly parallel to the southern shoreline of Uruguay. "Within the twelve mile limit," the dark-haired adopted native of Newport News in Virginia (her place of construction) and Boalsburg in Pennsylvania (nearly in the centre of her namesake state, where two of her old 14 inch/45 calibre rifles were on display at the Pennsylvania Military Museum) declared. "Do any of you remember a story about a Nazi cruiser being scuttled back in '39 just off Uruguay?" she then asked her fellow shipgirls.

 

The others perked. "Right! One of the Deutschland-class cruisers, the 'pocket battleships'," Jane said as she came to look over Margaret's shoulder. "Third of the class as I recall, but I forgot her name..."

 

"Admiral Graf Spee."

 

Eyes locked on Daniel Jackson. "What does this mean, my son?" a confused Kasuf then asked.

 

The anthropologist from New York City caught himself. "Good Father, these ladies with us, as you heard earlier, are the living spirits of great warships who felt it right and proper to return to us with the aid of the Great Forge of the Tears of the Stars, being forced to assume human form as they returned to us and Gifted with great power," he said as he waved to the reborn battleships and aircraft carriers in the room. As Kasuf's eyes went wide with more than understandable disbelief, Jackson added, "The one now rising from her grave off the city of Montevideo served an enemy power of ours, but her crew fought honourably during her time in service. That will reflect in the spirit of the ship herself..."

 

"Can we get any local television networks there?" Samantha Carter demanded.

 

"We got TNU morning news right now, Captain," another Avalonian who worked at Stargate Command, Master Sergeant Joan Turner, called out as she brought up something on her screen. "Seems..."

 

Her voice faded as the images showing what was now happening some kilometres beyond the entrance to the Bahía de Montevideo played out before her, a panicked woman's voice — no doubt, one of the announcers for the morning news for people on this VERY unusual day in Uruguay's capital city — echoing in fast Spanish on the screen. As MSgt Turner tapped the controls to turn on the universal translation system — one of many gifts from Isaac Thomas to Stargate Command — the waters of the bay began to bubble over as if something very BIG was about to surge up inexorably from the depths...

 

****

 

At position 34°58' S, 56°17' W (ten kilometres west-southwest of Punta Brava Lighthouse in Montevideo), that moment (local time: Breakfast)...

 

An aura of crimson energy shaped akin to a domed stadium began to form over the wildly churning waters of the Río de la Plata, which made the crews of the few ships anchored beyond the entrance to the Bahía de Montevideo quickly scramble to pull up anchors and quickly manoeuvre their vessels to safety. As a helicopter from the Televisión Nacional Uruguay approached the scene, the cameraman leaning out of one of the side hatches focused on the centre of whatever it was that was surging up from the depths of the bay. As the reporter beside him described the basics of what was happening, something clearly ship-sized began to appear in the churning sediment-filled waters, it growing...

 

...until a large tower-shaped fore-structure burst free of the waters!

 

"Dios mío...el Graf Spee...!" the reporter gasped.

 

"The German ship the government wants to salvage?!" the cameraman demanded as bright silvery energy flowed and warped around the emerging superstructure of the third of the Deutschland-class heavy cruisers, making elements such as her radar and rangefinders that had been taken off in prior salvage operations reappear as if she had just emerged from the Reichsmarinewerft yards in Wilhelmshaven, fully fitted out for service in the then-renamed Kriegsmarine in 1936.

 

"The same...but HOW?!"

 

By then, the seemingly magically-rebuilding warship had emerged from her watery grave up to her old waterline, her hull pristine and intact instead of having been snapped apart thanks to the scuttling charges detonated in the area forward of her aft turret mounting three 28 centimetre 52 calibre SK C/28 rifles. As energy warped over the hull to remove the rust, sediment and sea life that had grown on and inside the cruiser over seventy-two years, her bright gold-white-and-red bugwappen glittered in the morning sun, displaying the crowned red cocks of the Spee Clan of Altenhof quartered with three red lozenge shields in "V" formation on gold fields of Troisdorf near Cologne. Under the area of her bridge, the now bright haze grey hull got a white bordered black pendant K88 emblazoned there. And at the stern, the ship's heckadler — which had been salvaged in 2006 by the Uruguayan government, it being stored in a warehouse partially masked so the infamous swastika could not be publicly displayed — morphed into a modern black German bundesadler on a gold shield. As the pilot of the helicopter — who was trying NOT to let what was happening off his craft's bow distract him to the point where he'd end up crashing his ship into the waters below or on the deck or upper works of the reborn cruiser — manoeuvred his machine to allow the cameraman to get all the details in, the crimson energy bubble that surrounded Graf Spee began to collapse as a strange hole in space appeared over the funnel...

 

Tene lomher'buo, Huberta Margareta von Spee...

 

****

 

Approaching Earth to the southeast of Montevideo, that moment...

 

"What is going on?"

 

The Jaffa in control of the sensors of the largest of the sextet of ha'tak now approaching the Tau'ri homeworld bowed his head to the living god approaching him. The klaxons fitted into the bulkheads of the pel'tak were blaring loudly even if the child of Ra and Hathor couldn't remember exactly what that specific signal meant. Then again, he had many underlings who could interpret such trivial things. "My lord, we're detecting a high source of ra-naquadah now forming in the sea at this bay here!" M'zel stated, pointing at the screen, now displaying the South Atlantic Ocean close to the triangular-shaped continent that once served as the heart of the realm of Supay, a system lord that later rebelled against Ra's supreme leadership and joined forces with the accursed Egeria and her "Tok'ra". "There are signs of a space warp also forming there, but the systems can't trace where the warp is coming from..."

 

"My lord!"

 

"What?" Heru'ur snarled as he gazed on the woman in command of communications aboard his ship.

 

"We're monitoring live communications from a country called 'Uruguay' concerning an incident near their capital city happening at this time," Tir'na responded, her eyes wide with confusion. "Supposedly, a great sea warship that was sunk off the city many years ago is now being risen from its grave, reforming to the point as if she was when she was first built. A 'pocket battleship' named Admiral Graf Spee." She then tapped controls to allow the transmission to echo over the bridge.

 

"«...looks as if she was just commissioned,»" a man's voice echoed over the speakers, the on-board translators rendering his Spanish to a language the ship's crew could understand. "«The crimson field now forming around Graf Spee appears to be of the same consistency as a pure ruby, but there's...»"

 

Tene lomher'buo, Huberta Margareta von Spee...

 

As Heru'ur turned white on hearing the voice of one of the beings that ALL Goa'uld feared, the TNU reporter's voice halted for a second, then he called out, "«A voice just called out! I don't understand the language, but it just spoke a woman's name, someone directly related to Graf Spee's namesake, the late Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee...WAIT!»" he then cried out. "«Some sort of space warp just appeared above the Graf Spee, directly above her funnel! I...oh, my God! It appears to be some sort of mannequin or robot, a female-shaped one, now emerging from the warp...!»"

 

"NO!" Heru'ur screeched. "YOU WILL NOT STOP ME, ORAK'NOU! ALL WEAPONS! LOCK ON THAT WARP AND FIRE! DESTROY IT! NOW!"

 

As the crew leapt to action to aim the ha'tak's staff cannons to commence shore bombardment, the reporter's voice echoed over the bridge, "«OH MY GOD! The whole of the Graf Spee seems to be compressing and collapsing, its mass melting and merging into the robot or whatever-it-is now floating over where she was scuttled! And the robot...! Dear God! It's transforming into a very beautiful woman, about eighteen or twenty years of age, silver-haired with a red streak over the left eye, the eyes ice blue...! I've never seen ANYTHING like this before...wait! She's having a costume form around her! Looks like what a mystery man would wear from the time before the Second World War! Green overall with a white wavy centre stripe, white belt and boots...and...and the Graf Spee's crest on her chest! My God! The Graf Spee has become a HUMAN BEING! Is this even POSSIBLE...?!»"

 

Nesu...SPEE BYATORITO GAEKUTO!

 

"NO! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE ON IT! DESTROY THE ORAK'NOU!" Heru'ur screeched.

 

"«Again, the alien voice just spoke out!»" the TNU reporter continued his attempt at describing events he barely could understand while the bridge crew moved to carry out their god's orders. "«All the crimson energy that formed around the wreck of the Graf Spee has disappeared, literally flowing into the body of...well, I assume we must call her now 'Señora Huberta Margareta von Spee' if what the alien called out before this unbelievable transformation — this ACT OF GOD...!»"

 

"I AM THE ONLY GOD!" Heru'ur screamed in outrage.

 

"Lar'beke...schmutzige Schlangen...!"

 

"«Wait! Señora von Spee is looking up into the southern sky...!»"

 

"Weapons locked, my lord!" Ryn'tak bellowed from the main weapons station.

 

"FIRE!" Heru'ur bellowed...

 

****

 

Over the Río de la Plata, that moment...

 

Margareta von Spee's eyes widened as something — was it some strange echo of her FMG 39 G(gO) radar? — picked up the incoming bolts of HUNDREDS of weapons pouring down in her direction from the squadron of ha'tak now in orbit over her planet. Realizing instantly that if something wasn't done, Montevideo and its surrounding territory would be turned into something akin to the Western Front during the Great War — how could she understand this so quickly? — the reborn panzerschiffe held out her right — starboard? — hand, allowing the storm of power that raged through her body — hull? — to lash out in a nearly invisible torrent of energy to spiral into the heavens and the oncoming attack.

 

As the excited reporter screeched what he was seeing into his microphone, the wave of displaced air soon widened and flattened out, forming an impossibly wide and vast shield of energy that seemed to cloak the whole of the Río de la Plata with something as hard as depleted uranium. It was just in time. As the crew of the TNU news helicopter gaped in awe and trepidation, massive nuclear-sized explosions billowed very high in the sky, spread out over a total of hundreds of kilometres from Buenos Aires across the Río de la Plata west of Montevideo all the way out beyond Punta del Este on the edge of the Atlantic itself. "¡Santa María nos preserva!" the reporter gaped. "Are aliens attacking us?!"

 

"Ja, they are."

 

He and the cameraman turned to see Margareta gazing at them; her energy-enhanced voice echoed well in their ears despite the noise of the Bell 212's Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6T Twin-Pac turboshaft engines. "Meine Herren, it is best you land your machine and stay on the ground until the schmutzige Schlangen now in orbit over our heads are dealt with," she advised with a mixture of Limburgish and Low Rhenish reflective of her namesake's ancestral home town near the border with the Netherlands "They care not for people, only for their own greed and lusts. Your country is neutral in whatever war they wish to unleash. As a good...well..." Here, she blushed as she looked down at her quite healthy teenage girl's body — hull? — covered with a uniform emblazoned with her bugwappen on the forest green-and-white of the Rhineland where the Spee Clan first rose. "Um...!"

 

"ORAK'NOU!"

 

Margareta's head snapped up as that booming voice echoed over the scene...

 

****

 

Colorado Springs Air Force Station...

 

"Heru'ur?" Jack O'Neill asked.

 

Daniel Jackson nodded. "Heru'ur."

 

"Indeed."

 

Both the anthropologist and the pararescueman automatically smiled at their Chulakian friend's common assertion, then O'Neill gazed on Samantha Carter. In the background, George Hammond was now on the red phone having a very terse conversation with Josiah Bartlet at the White House; the President was now getting calls from counterparts in Montevideo and Buenos Aires asking what was going on. "What do you think, Carter?" he asked, crossing his arms with a smile.

 

The native of Uxbridge — she had been born in England when her father had been assigned as a junior officer at the local terminus for NATO's communications network in the like-named Royal Air Force station at London's western end — perked before she gazed at her boss. "What is it, sir?"

 

"Is she a battleship?" the native of Minnesota asked as he indicated Margareta von Spee's image.

 

She shook her head. "I'm not an expert on German warships, sir."

 

"I'd rate her as one now."

 

People gazed on Sarah Blasdel, then the others in the room nodded...

 

...before footfalls made people turn as a wide-eyed Amber Seligman — the reborn heavy cruiser USS Pensacola — charged up into the room. "What is it, Amber?" Margaret Penn then asked, seeing the panicked look on the rose-haired adopted native of her namesake city in Florida as well as her place of construction at Brooklyn. "Oh, dear! What on Earth happened now?"

 

"Um...all the subgirls just disappeared, Boss!" Amber said, thumbing towards the embarkation room.

 

O'Neill ran over to where MSgt Walter Harriman's station was, looking down to see only a bunch of very confused shipgirls, none in black diving suits. "Now, where the hell did they go off to?"

 

"Um, sir..."

 

"What is it, Airman?" Carter asked as she gazed at A1C Rachel Hayward's screen. "What the...?"

 

O'Neill looked over as Jackson walked over to join his co-worker. "Carter?"

 

"Sir, sensors now indicate seven first generation battle dolls having boarded all of the ha'tak, two on the lead ship of the formation," Carter reported as she pointed to the display showing the six Goa'uld warships now in orbit over the South Atlantic just beyond the outer atmosphere.

 

"The system confirmed the bio-signs for Commanders Schoeni and McCain now on the lead ship, Colonel," Hayward added as she gazed on O'Neill.

 

"What the hell are those sub-thieves up to now?" Jane Sevier demanded...

 

****

 

Aboard Heru'ur's flagship...

 

"HOL! ARAY KREE!"

 

"AH, SHADDUP, YOU STUPID SNAKE-SLAVE!"

 

The Jaffa that had reacted immediately to the sudden arrival of a teenage woman in a black skinsuit with bared arms and shoulders screamed as she lashed out with her hand to rip into his abdominal pouch THROUGH his armour, grabbing the larvae inside him and yanking it out! As he then shrieked in pain as his prim'ta was removed so suddenly from him, others grabbed ma'tok staffs and levelled them on the woman with the orange-shaded blonde hair and the amber eyes. "ORAK'NOU KEK!" one of the Horus Guards screamed out as his friend collapsed into an agonized daze on the bridge deck.

 

Heru'ur himself spun around. "ORAK'NOU! HOW DARE YOU ATTACK YOUR...?!"

 

His voice caught in his throat as Paula Schoeni smirked while she held up the struggling larvae...

 

...then he bellowed in outrage as the adopted native of Kittery in Maine (her place of construction as USS Apogon) opened her mouth to literally BITE the larvae in half behind the dorsal fin. "FILTHY KEK'ULD!" Heru'ur screeched in understandable horror as he levelled his gold kara kesh at the reborn submarine's head while many of his bridge crew aimed their ma'tok staffs and zat'nik'tel pistols at her. "HOW DARE YOU EAT ONE OF YOUR GODS?! JAFFA KREE! ORAK'NOU KEK!"

 

A storm of energy fire lanced out to slam into Paula's face and body, which made her wince at the start as she recalled her crews' memories of early science fiction films such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers where aliens made use of such weapons on their enemies. However, as she was a first generation battle doll created by the Healer of Destruction who had been purpose-built to destroy ha'tak and other Goa'uld starships without suffering injury in return — never mind she being the spiritual personification of a Balao-class submarine that displaced 2,429 tonnes fully submerged and armed — the assault of such man-killing weapons coming at her at machine gun speeds, never mind she being assaulted by a company's worth of enemy troopers, was no different than dealing with a summer shower in the Pacific during one of her war patrols. Within a half-minute, the Jaffa who were trying to strike her down for her act of barbarity in actually EATING a prim'ta began to realize that their assault on this creature wasn't doing her harm, which made some of them lower their weapons as they tried to conceive of how it was possible such a being could withstand their defence of their god...!

 

The forward part of the pel'tak then exploded inward, killing a dozen Jaffa thanks to flying debris even if the hand-held device Heru'ur possessed instantly threw up a shield to protect him. As smoke billowed through the space, several Jaffa spun their weapons around to assault whoever it was that just killed their brothers and sisters to send more torrents of energy at the newcomer, who soon emerged from the smoke to reveal a green-and-white jumpsuit with a proud noble bugwappen on her chest, her blue eyes glowing with rage as she gazed upon the animals who DARED tried to fire on neutral cities and towns in their mad attempt at trying to stop her from returning to duty to serve her fatherland.

 

"Guten Tag," Margareta von Spee called out, an icy smile crossing the pocket battleship's face for a moment before such a look melted into a glare of cold fury. "Now..." the third of the Deutschland-class cruisers then snarled. "Surrender and lay down your weapons. Or with God as my witness, I'LL FORGET THAT I NORMALLY OPERATE UNDER CRUISER RULES AND SEND YOU ALL TO YOUR WELL-DESERVED PLACES IN HELL BY SINKING YOU ALL WITHOUT CHANCE OF RESCUE!"

 

Heru'ur snarled as he levelled his kara kesh at her. "I AM YOUR GOD!"

 

A burst of brilliant energy exploded from Margareta von Spee's eyes to slam into the chest of Ra's son, pulping his armour like it was tissue paper and sending him flying at near-sonic speeds into the rear bulkhead of his bridge. His body seemed to liquefy at the harsh impact before it collapsed in pieces on the deck, making the Jaffa all cry out in horror on seeing how easy it was for the pocket battleship to slay their god with just a GLARE. A hiss then made them gaze upon the shattered head of Heru'ur as his true form tried to slither out of the broken jaw, the tiny symbiote now bleeding from several wounds thanks to shattered bones from its host. Before any of the slave warriors could move to snare the struggling creature and get it to safety, Margareta walked over to pick the struggling symbiote up...then, with a look of total contempt on her face, she crushed the skull with just a simple squeeze of her hand!

 

"You are now DEAD, mein Herr."

 

Dropping the symbiote onto the deck, the third of the Deutschland-class cruisers turned to glare at the surviving Jaffa on the bridge. "I said..." Margareta hissed. "Drop your weapons. NOW!"

 

The clatter of dropped ma'tok staffs and zat'nik'tel pistols onto the deck echoed in her ears, making the pocket battleship nod in approval as Paula relaxed herself. "Congratulations, Captain von Spee."

 

That made Margareta look her way. "You are...?"

 

Paula quickly saluted her. "Lieutenant Commander Paula Schoeni, United States Navy; formerly United States Ship Apogon, hull number SS-308, twenty-fourth of the Balao-class fleet submarines."

 

Margareta returned her courtesy with a polite nod. "Honoured, Frau Korvettenkapitän Schoeni. I assume that when that strange voice called me 'Huberta Margareta von Spee' when I was fully transformed into this..." — here, she waved to herself — "...that such would be my name since I'm practically as human as any of my crew..." She then stared at her well-formed teenage breasts. "Save for my being a woman, of course," she then mused, a wry smile crossing her face.

 

"We're not the only ones who've undergone this, ma'am," Paula warned before she looked around, her amber eyes narrow as she reached out to find her sister. "Oi! Dentuda! Where the hell are you, you stupid eight-ball?! We got the conning room secured!" she bellowed.

 

"Found a baby, Apy!" a voice echoed back with a mix of New England and Middle American accents.

 

That made Margareta pale in horror. "A CHILD?!"

 

"That is the harcesis."

 

That was Tir'na, who was being helped by M'zel; both had been at the edge of the detonation zone when the pocket battleship smashed into their lord's flagship and ploughed her way onto the bridge.

 

"'Harcesis'?" both Paula and Margareta asked, clearly confused...

 

****

 

Near the summit of the ha'tak's central superstructure...

 

"Release...us! Bow...to your...gods! Your...impertinence...!"

 

"Hina said 'Be quiet'!"

 

Agonized gargled breaths escaped the Goa'uld underlords there as they felt something as unyielding as purest neutronium seize their throats to silence them. As Eigo Kaho shook her head in pity at the sight of both Zipacna and Klorel — the latter now possessing the body of Sha're Jackson's brother Skaara — now being brought low by the power of the Spirit of Innocence, Saeru Hinako pouted before she gazed down to wiggle a finger over the burbling baby boy now in her arms. "Did the mean, scary snakes try to hurt you, Shifu-chan?" the native of Niigata cooed as she tickled the child's nose.

 

As Shifu giggled at that contact, Sydney McCain could only shake her head, her dark blue eyes sparkling with amusement. While the group of Jaffa that had been helping both underlords of Apophis — who were captured by Heru'ur's people when they encountered them on the once-lost planet of Kheb after Ra's son heard of the harcesis his rival helped birth with Amaunet — were now dazed by Hinako's power, the two Goa'uld were doing their best to fight off the aura of pure innocence that washed like sulphuric acid over their very souls. Noting how much they were hurting, the living soul of the fifty-first Balao-class submarine smirked. "Doesn't feel so good being at the receiving end of it, does it?" the raven-haired adopted native of Groton in Connecticut then teased as she leered at the two "gods".

 

Klorel sneered. "You will...not be allowed...to take...this world, Orak'nou...!"

 

"HINA SAID 'BE QUIET'!"

 

As Shifu cried on noting that the very nice older girl holding him was upset, a shriek escaped Apophis' son as he jolted like he had just been electrocuted, then he collapsed to the deck. A second later, a writhing symbiote slithered out of its host's mouth, which got Sydney's attention. As Hinako and Kaho gasped, the former training submarine for the American naval reserve snared the struggling symbiote, then she stuffed the head right into her mouth, her jaws snapping off the head with just one bite! Fortunately, the two younger sisters of the Trickster of the Show had turned their heads away before Klorel was killed by the reborn submarine, though the slight distraction was enough for the namesake of the Mayan devil-god of the earth to yank up his kara kesh to strike down the little monster threatening to take away the accursed harcesis and expose the truth of the Goa'uld to the whole galaxy...

 

PSSSHHEW!

 

A shriek of agony escaped Zipacna before he looked down to see his left hand severed and cauterized at the wrist, it dropped to the deck off to one side. As the loud humming noise of a crimson-bladed sabrestaff echoed through the air, a cold voice then chuckled in amusement. "That is not allowed, weakling," an echoing woman's voice seemed to overwhelm the underlord's ears as he found himself looking up at a woman the same age as the Orak'nou that had eaten his lord's son, her face cloaked in a white hooded cape over a black uniform with red dragon-like insignia on the sides of her body.

 

She then gestured with her hand, causing Zipacna to croak as something crushed his throat with frightful ease, then that something literally YANKED OUT his symbiote from the body. As the host collapsed to the floor, that glowing energy blade was raised, then with one sweep, the symbiote was sliced in half before the parts were floated over to a smirking Sydney. Naturally, the submarine was more than happy to enjoy the extra snack as the Jaffa gaped in disbelief at such a terrible show of power. "What...a-are you...?" Kav'da, first prime to the now-deceased namesake of the Mayan devil-god, hesitantly asked as several of his fellows all tried to shuffle clear of that deadly killer blade.

 

The hooded head turned to reveal two glowing amber eyes, which made the Jaffa all croak before they prostrated themselves to what — in their eyes — was clearly an insanely powerful System Lord disguised as one of the feared Orak'nou. After a moment, the churning power of the Force faded from Hirosaki Chikage's royal blue eyes as she deactivated her blade, securing it in her belt. "I am no Goa'uld, Master Kav'da," the granddaughter of one of Japan's most famous magical warriors then calmly declared as she reached out with her power to augment Hinako's own empathic aura to calm the understandably frightened warriors down and prevent them from launching a very unnecessary fight scene so close to a defenceless child. "I am many things. The sister to the one protecting little Shifu being one." As Kav'da and the others gargled at the thought of causing such a powerful being to turn her rage on them by attacking her sister, Chikage smiled as she slipped off her hood. "As you just saw and as some of you know, your 'gods' are not deities but alien parasites who forced your ancestors to bow down to them and stifled the development of your home societies to aid in their quest for galactic power and domination. You wonder why is it my adopted race cares not for your 'gods'? They have not improved themselves in the five millennia since Ra and his allies first tried to seize the Great Crystal of Power, the Forge of the Tears of the Stars, drawing the wrath of the Healer of Destruction to scatter them over the galaxy. Do not follow their doomed path in the future. It will NOT end well for you."

 

"The Lady Dragonheart is correct," a new voice called out, causing the Jaffa to stare wide-eyed at the infamous shol'va who betrayed Apophis to ally himself with the Tau'ri and start the current war between them and the System Lords. He had just walked up to gaze into the guest quarters/prison set aside for Apophis' children, accompanied by two of the other members of SG-1. "The Children of the Forge of the First Race do not care to acknowledge the existence of false gods. If ever the Healer of Destruction rises from the Forge, even THEY dread such a happenstance...for not even the ANCIENTS themselves would be able to stop the Healer of Destruction were he or she to rampage across the galaxy!"

 

That made Kav'da turn white. As a first prime, he was privy to information none of his subordinates would know of. "You mean...Batae Erba, Teal'c?!" the native of Revanna hissed out, his eyes wide.

 

"Indeed."

 

Of course, by then, both Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter were helping the dazed Skaara up from the deck. "Oi! Daniel!" the pararescueman then called out towards the doorway to the guest room/prison as the Abydonian chief's son slowly shook his head, finally waking up from a three-year nightmare that seemed to never end. "We got Skaara back! Klorel's gone finally!"

 

Hearing that welcome voice, Kasuf's son looked up before his eyes locked on the older man helping him. "O'Neill!" he cried out before moving to straighten himself to give the man a proper salute.

 

"Whoa! Whoa! At ease, Airman!" O'Neill bade as he playfully rubbed the young Abydonian's head. "You're walking wounded now! Stand down and relax!"

 

"You two met, Colonel?"

 

That was Sydney, who was leaning against the bulkhead as she calmly enjoyed the rest of Zipacna's symbiote. "Several times, Commander McCain! By the way, nice boarding action! Warn us next time you do this, huh?" the pararescueman from Minnesota then bade as he and Carter helped Skaara sit down on a nearby chair just as running feet echoing from outside heralded the arrival of the fourth member of SG-1, who was now accompanied by the flagship of the Battle Force at Pearl Harbour.

 

"Skaara!" Jackson called.

 

Skaara looked over. "Brother!"

 

The two soon were embracing as tears flowed down their faces. Seeing that, even the Jaffa who once passionately served both Zipacna and Klorel found themselves smiling in sympathy at such a reunion...

 

****

 

The bridge of Heru'ur's ship, an hour later...

 

"I am here, O'Neill of Minnesota!"

 

O'Neill perked on hearing that aged voice. "Hey, Bra'tac! What the hell are you doing here?!"

 

As Teal'c's former teacher smartly walked onto the bridge escorted by several of his students, the Jaffa already there gaped in shock on seeing the aged Chulakian greet the infamous Tau'ri warriors as if they were the best of friends. "You are also shol'va, Master Bra'tac?" Tir'na whispered.

 

Gazing at the wide-eyed girl who was now being helped by one of her brother warriors recover from whatever had smashed its way onto the bridge of this ship, Bra'tac sighed. "I was born a slave, young one. I will die free," he declared before gazing at the leader of SG-1. "Tell me, O'Neill of Minnesota. When were you going to inform me you had allied with other Orak'nou beyond the Wise Lone Sage?"

 

"We were ordered to keep silent about the presence of other Yizibajohei on our planet by General Hammond," O'Neill replied, a knowing look crossing his face as if he wanted to add, You have your secrets. We've got ours, too. You expect us to blare them out willy-nilly to everyone we know? "How on Earth did you get here from Chulak so fast? We were going to pass on what happened to Heru'ur, Klorel and Zipacna to you when it was done and things were fully secured here."

 

Bra'tac smirked. "One does not defy the Infinite One when she comes to you, O'Neill. Not even Apophis is stupid enough to defy the First Child of the Forge, especially if she is angered for any reason."

 

"How many of the Orak'nou are here, O'Neill?" Kav'da wondered.

 

"A lot of them," the pararescueman answered. "Mostly thanks to Madame Tuyuki."

 

That made the Jaffa freeze in horror. "Who was so stupid enough to anger the Trickster of the Show to cause her to convince her kind to extend their protection over Earth?!" Bra'tac stuttered.

 

"Tuyuki was not angered by any of the false gods, Master," Teal'c moved to assure his old teacher. "When she was a child, she was chased out of an uncaring home here on Earth, then adopted by one of the Nameless who lived in the old territory of Nesetimtuto who had been the lover of the old Tuyuki. Once adopted, she was given the Gift seed of her would-be father, then grew into the new Tuyuki not several months ago per the wishes of her mother." As the other Jaffa gaped at such a tale, Bra'tac's successor as Apophis' first prime smiled as he added, "Since that time, Tuyuki recruited many Tau'ri — who share the same blood as the Orak'nou — to become like her to defend Earth. The Infinite One was the first to be recruited, Master Bra'tac. As were her beloved sisters here." He waved over to where Chikage, Kaho and Hinako were standing, the latter holding the now-peacefully sleeping Shifu.

 

Staring at the child whose very existence would cause ALL the System Lords to move against Ra's would-be successor as their supreme leader, Bra'tac sighed before he gazed on the other Jaffa. "How was it possible that the harcesis was taken from the Great Oma?" he demanded.

 

"Our lord learned through spies among Amaunet's people the Great Oma again secured the harcesis on Kheb, Master," Tir'na explained. "We had the luck to catch her unawares. Our master made use of special weapons he had built which mixed naquadah with ra-naquadah to seize the child and wound the Great Oma so the harcesis could be made hostage to force Apophis to submit to our lord's wishes."

 

"Then my killing of this schmutzige Schlange was for even more honourable reasons," a cold woman's voice then echoed from nearby, making many of the Jaffa there shudder in fear.

 

Bra'tac spun around...

 

...then he blinked in understandable confusion. "I am familiar with the fighting uniforms of many of the