Chapter 1: The Black Crow
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Liked what you saw did you?”
Takeshi quipped the moment Dan had returned to the car.
“I knew he was good looking, but damn, the pictures don't do him justice. He's fucking gorgeous.”
Takeshi snickered and ignored Dan's foul language.
“Oh, and he has Sora with him.”
“I know, I can sense her.”
They quickly found themselves on the starting line next to Hiroto's matte black R35 and their starter stepped out in front of them and took the usual position.
The young woman was wearing some rather interesting clothes, a long, black, qipao and a selection of goth style accessories, a very long black wig, and a pair of black, costume wings on her back.
As both drivers flashed their lights to show they were ready Dan could feel Takeshi's energy spike.
“Go get him, show him what you have become.”
“Karasu Tengu! tai Kuro Ryu!”
She announced the racers before starting the countdown.
This time there was no holding back, both cars took off like bats out of hell and by the time they reached the first corner they were practically trading paint to try to get the advantageous line.
A sharp flare of power brought in the extra weights through the teleportation circle, giving Takeshi the weight advantage for a moment, just long enough to force Hiroto out of his favorite line, and the moment Takeshi had it he reduced the weight again.
It was the first time he used abilities beyond what he had been capable of before his change, but this time his opponent was not human, and the note Dan gave to Hiroto had been a warning not to hold back, and it let him know that they were aware that he was a youkai.
“Damn, he did not like that...”
Dan muttered as he could feel the sharp flare of youki behind them as they forced their way into Hiroto's line and took the lead.
Losing his favorite line put Hiroto of his pace and for a moment he was unbalanced, but it didn't last very long, and soon Takeshi found himself fighting for every millimeter of road.
In the end though Hiroto's car just couldn't keep up with the modifications done to Takeshi's R35 and when they reached the finish line Takeshi was almost a full length ahead, causing quite a massive reaction among the spectators who were expecting their local favorite to finally knock the outsider down a peg or two.
The two cards didn't stay though, in accordance with the bet that had been included on the note they drove away to a private location.
They watched Hiroto get out of his car and moments later Sora came out as well and landed on his shoulder and Takeshi and Dan quickly joined him at the benches they had parked by.
“You drive well, and that car of yours is something special.”
“Thank you Hiro.”
Hiroto instantly froze, not many dared call him just Hiro, and from what he had heard about the one he had raced against they were both supposed to be polite and well spoken.
“Who are you?”
“Aw, don't tell me I went through all the hassle of remembering you only for you to forget me?”
While he spoke Takeshi allowed the illusions to drop, revealing his true face and aura.
“Yes Hiro, It's me, I remember everything.”
Sora was instantly on Takeshi's shoulder, rubbing herself against his face and he reached up and scratched the small feathers of her head and neck, but Hiroto was staring at him in silence.
“Hiro, do you remember what you promised me?”
Takeshi wasn't bothered by the lack of reaction, the true purpose of how they chose to confront him was to force him off balance.
The question spurred an instant reaction and Hiroto kneeled down while removing a bracelet from his wrist and presented it with his head bowed and his wings appeared behind him, held low in a fairly submissive pose.
“Kiryu Takeshi will you be my mate?”
The choice of words prompted Dan to step forward and place his hand out in front of Takeshi, preventing him from accepting the bracelet.
“My Alpha is not permitted to take a mate without the permission of his chosen family.”
Hiroto instantly focused on Dan and his aura gained a sharp edge, Takeshi just offered a teasing smile though, amused by the almost overly formal language Dan was using.
“We have agreed that we will not allow you to mate based on old memories. We will however permit a courtship, allow you a chance to get to know each other again, to prove yourself worthy. Show us just who Hiroto of Fuji is.”
Hiroto's eyes instantly went back to Takeshi.
“I'm afraid so. I promised my chosen family that I will never take a lover, or mate, that they don't approve of.”
There was a sharp trickle of fear from Hiroto that made Dan offer him a reassuring smile.
“Don't worry Hiro-san, we have agreed to allow the formation of a courting bond, your youma will not be refused a proper bond. We do not intend to leave room for your elders to interfere again.”
Hiroto immediately relaxed at the promise that his youma would be permitted to bond with Takeshi.
“As you wish. I will accept whatever trials you put before me to prove my worth as a mate.”
The very serious reply threw Dan off for a moment and he couldn't help snorting in amusement.
“You misunderstand, there will be no trials to prove yourself, unless you consider living with others and showing your character to be a trial.”
Hiroto managed to look very confused so Takeshi took pity on him and deviated from the plan to allow Dan to do the speaking.
“What my dear mate here is trying to say is that my loved ones wants to get to know you first before deciding if they will let you into the family.”
Dan hissed slightly at the interruption which made Takeshi laugh.
“Please amo, have some mercy on poor Hiro, remember, he is very Japanese.”
Dan paused for a moment, feeling Takeshi's emotions over the bond, then he nodded and lowered his arm.
It was a struggle for both of them to play their roles, but it was needed to ensure the balance of their family.
“Hiro, when my memories returned the first thing I remembered was how deeply I loved you. And as my memories of you returned I still felt the same deep love. And I know your kind are not fast to change so I have no doubt that you are still someone I can love just as deeply.”
Takeshi was struggling to speak so openly of his emotions, but he knew he had to.
“But I am not the same as I was then, I have grown, changed, become so much more than I was. I have taken on responsibilities, duties and oaths. I am soulmated, pack alpha, head of a House of my own.”
“I know, I have kept an eye on you. I know I need to get to know you again, I need to respect your bonds, but I too have no doubt that you are still someone I will love, and my youma refuses to turn it's back on you.”
Hiroto's words made Dan relax, it would seem there wouldn't be any immediate issues at least.
“Sora, would you go to Dan please?”
The crow quickly hopped over to Dan's shoulder, allowing the two males the freedom to move, and form the bond needed.
Dan watched in silence as auras rose and Takeshi accepted the offered bracelet before leaning in and sinking his fangs into Hiroto's shoulder, marking him as simoro, then offer him a similar bracelet and baring his own neck to be marked.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Once the bond was formed Dan stepped forward again and unleashed his true form before letting his power bare down on Hiroto and much to their relief he submitted without resistance.
“Welcome to the family Hiro. Now, I wanna meet your youma.”
The change in Dan's demeanor and speech made Hiroto do a double take then smile and nod.
“Now you seem more like someone Take would choose.”
“Sorry about that, had a role to play.”
“Don't we all.”
Hiroto was quickly relaxing, and with a deep breath he prepared to release his youma.
“Now, it may be a bit over the top, I haven't allowed it to rise in a long time.”
“It's okay. We know it won't hurt Take, and it won't do anything to me 'cause that would hurt him.”
When the youma rose it began pushing its power against Dan, but he just allowed his own power to rise and once it was flowing freely there was a small spike of energy as the raijū appeared at his side, it had been hiding in his power so that it wouldn't reveal who Dan was.
The youma tried one last push, but when Dan's power remained soft, but unyielding it backed down and moved toward Takeshi.
“Hello old friend.”
Takeshi reached out and gently caressed Hiroto's face, looking deeply into the eyes that revealed it was the youma in control before leaning in and kissing him softly which made the youma's energy settle down into something soft and content.
“Don't worry. I'm sure my loved ones will come to care for you just as easily as I once did.”
The youma made a soft cooing sound and began nuzzling Takeshi's neck.
“Dan would like it a lot if you do that to him too.”
Takeshi whispered softly, making sure Dan wouldn't hear him and was rewarded with a questioning hum.
“Remember how you felt kissing Sumi-ane?”
The soft sound that followed was decidedly pleased and Takeshi knew Hiroto's youma would do as he had suggested.
When the youma started moving toward Dan Takeshi reached out for Yami, since they were no longer hiding their identities there was no need for Yami to stay in Miami with the others.
The energy that answered him was happy and eager, but Takeshi knew that such a long shadow travel was beyond Yami's ability right now so he would have to seek out Ylian or Emelie for help, which meant it would be a few minutes before he arrived.
A surprised yelp from Dan turned Takeshi's attention back to the males in front of him.
Dan was blushing vividly but it only took a few moments before he calmed down and wrapped his arms around Hiroto.
“It's okay, we all love cuddling.”
The youma's hum instantly turned happy but Dan gently flared his aura to get it to focus again.
“You have to promise to be careful with the girls, it takes time for them to trust unfamiliar males because they all had some pretty horrible experiences at the hands of human traffickers before they came under Take's protection.”
Dan spoke slowly, and took care to be extra clear, remembering that Takeshi had explained that the youma was more beast like and didn't think and understand like a human did.
The sharp flare of anger followed by a gentle calm told them the youma understood, and moments later it withdrew slightly to allow Hiroto to rise again.
“My youma wants me to tell you it understands, and that it will take care to protect your loved ones.”
Dan didn't answer though, instead he was blushing again as Hiroto was still nuzzling his neck.
“You know, I was telling you the truth when I said you are just my type.”
Dan's blush turned even darker which made Hiroto chuckle at him.
“I see why you love this one so much, he's quite interesting.”
Hiroto was just about to brave the pain and give Dan a kiss when Yami appeared next to Takeshi which made him turn around, and Dan finally sucked in the breath he had been holding.
“This is Yami, until recently he was my youma.”
Yami adamantly denied being his youma, but Takeshi had no doubt that he was, he was convinced that Yami was the youma of the youkai fragment of his soul.
There was a slight hesitancy before Yami stepped forward and started examining Hiroto's scent and aura.
“A shadow, and a strong one. A very good companion.”
He scratched behind Yami's ear before turning back to Dan and Rai.
“And what about your companion Dan?”
“He's the real Rai.”
Hiroto offered Rai his hand and after a few moments the raijū moved forward and examined him, then turned his back and smacked him with one of the front appendages, delivering a fairly sharp jolt that made Hiroto's hair and feathers frizz with static.
“I guess I need to prove myself to him as well.”
“Indeed. There's also Gere and Freke, another pair of shadow demons, and there's Kara, a blessed crow, and we have Honey, a demonic sugar glider, and Leiia, a hellcat. And a pair of titanoboa girls.”
“An interesting collection.”
“That it is.”
Takeshi hummed in amused agreement.
“Who is Kara?”
Sora was instantly curious about the prospect of meeting a fellow crow.
“Kara is a Japanese crow that my lovely mate Nel saved in Ginza when she got trapped in a restaurant and broke her wing trying to escape. Since then she has been given the blessing so she's more like a demon.”
“I want to meet her!”
“She is looking forward to meeting you too. But she is pretty sure she met you when she was still a mortal bird living in Ginza. She remembers meeting a crow hanyou who fled when the other crows came close.”
The happy caws that followed had everyone smiling.
“One thing though Sora, Kara has a bit of an odd way of speaking, always using names instead of pronouns, and I want you to be nice about and ignore it. Don't correct her, just speak normally with her.”
“It's okay. It took me many years to learn to speak.”
Sora continued to ask all kinds of questions and they were more than happy to answer them.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“If you don't mind me asking, what are your plans now?”
Once Sora had settled down Hiroto brought the topic back to the important matters.
“Well, the goal is to bring you with us to Miami so you can get to know everyone, and of course, screw your brains out once they give their okay.”
The teasing reply made Hiroto huff in a very familiar manner.
“But first we need to drop by Haruna and meet a friend.”
“You may know of her, a feisty young woman who drives a silver gray Miata.”
“The one with the perfect lines? Aya-san?”
“Yep, she's the one. We intend to offer her to become a test driver for Mandrake, give her a competitive car.”
“She might not accept that, from what I know of her she loves that car.”
“Indeed she does, but we can make an upgraded copy of it, that way she can have it both ways.”
“Yeah, she would probably accept that.”
Hiroto agreed that offering her another Miata but with with the same tech as in Takeshi's R35 would probably work.
“Take, would it be acceptable if we trade passengers while we drive there?”
“Dan with me and Sora with you, give us a chance to talk more privately.”
“It would have been fine with me, but I was thinking we would all go in the truck.”
“But it only holds one car...”
“Indeed, but Angel will be driving my R35 and we will load yours in the truck.”
“Angel, why don't you introduce yourself to Hiro while we wait for the truck to arrive?”
The indicator on Takeshi's watch told him it would be a few more minutes before it arrived, which should be enough for a basic introduction.
Once the truck arrived they quickly loaded Hiroto's car and invited Hiroto and Sora into the cabin.
“You guys know how to travel comfortably.”
“Yeah, we're somewhat spoiled in that regard.”
While Takeshi took a seat next to Hiroto Dan walked up to the tiny kitchenette cupboard and activated the summoning circle embedded in the counter.
The spike of unfamiliar energy had Hiroto nearly jumping out of his skin, which had Takeshi snorting in amusement.
“What was that?”
“A teleportation rune. How do you think I made my car heavier than yours to push you out of your line?”
“I knew something wasn't right about that!”
He wasn't upset at the revelation though, the challenge he had agreed to had said that powers were allowed.
“A brilliant tactic though.”
“Thanks. I'm not so sure I would have been able to win without it.”
“Nah, you would still have made it, you're every bit as good as me, and your car is better.”
Takeshi was about to respond when Hiroto's attention suddenly switched to Dan and he began sniffing at the air.
“Smell something you like?”
Takeshi recognized the scent of fresh gong, it would seem Dan was going to make them a nice treat.
“Yeah, I don't recognize it though.”
“It's just a little snack, some sashimi, a few nice dips. A little something while we talk.”
Dan didn't reveal any more details about what he was making, and after a few minutes he put a large platter of gong slices on the low table and it was soon joined by a few different dips, some soy and a piece of fresh wasabi.
Hiroto quickly snatched one of the slices of meat and gave it a sniff, then put it in his mouth.
“This is really good, and it has power in it, almost like youkai flesh.”
“It's similar, it's from a demon rodent called gong. A staple food in the demon realm.”
Hiroto just hummed and moved on to a slice of liver.
“Sora, I made these for you.”
Dan placed a smaller plate on the table with pieces that had been cut smaller to be manageable for Sora and her joy was obvious.
“Take, I have spoken to Aya and she will meet us at the lake tomorrow morning.”
It was a 140km drive to get back to Haruna so it would take them a while and Aya had headed home after watching the race between Takeshi and Hiroto so she wasn't all that keen on staying up for some 2 hours to meet them.
“Okay, thanks Angel.”
While Takeshi spoke to Angel he noticed the way Hiroto tilted his head and he remembered that it was usually followed by a question of personal nature.
“Would it be safe to assume we won't be doing much sleeping?”
“Indeed, we don't sleep much. But we usually do spend a few hours resting at night to maintain a cycle.”
“How much do you sleep?”
Hiroto was clearly curious about how much Takeshi had changed.
“We usually sleep in 3 to 4 hour passes. How often depends on power level, I used to sleep once or twice a week, but breaking the seal allowed my power to increase again, so now I don't sleep more than once a week unless I spend a lot of energy, I still mediate and rest though.”
“So pretty normal for a higher level demon or youkai.”
“You will find that we live very much like a demon pack.”
“Including usually sleeping all piled up in a den and the occasional rather public sex acts.”
Dan quipped with a wide smile.
“By the way, how big is your pack?”
“We're in the process of bringing the girls into the pack now, when done there will be 20 of us.”
“An impressive pack. And a lot of work.”
Hiroto laughed slightly, well aware of how much work it was for an alpha to take care of their pack.
“I have plenty of help. Dan here is one of three official betas.”
“Three? How are you managing that?”
“Dan is my beta, Manda is Em's beta, and then we have Em's susai, Ylian, who picks up the slack and backs them up.”
Takeshi quickly explained to Hiroto about somewhat complex structure of their pack and house.
“I always knew you were better suited to be Setai-nushi than Kage.”
“I much rather just be alpha and lover.”
Noticing the instant drop in Takeshi's mood Hiroto reached out and brushed his hand against his cheek.
He moved slightly so he could wrap his arms around Takeshi and it didn't take long before he melted into the touch and allowed himself to be lulled into a near sleep state before curling up next to Hiroto and placing his head in his lap.
When Hiroto glanced at Dan he received a smile and a nod before Dan shifted into his raijū form and curled up next to his alpha, and moments later Rai and Yami joined him.
With a soft sigh Takeshi relaxed even further, then glanced up at Sora who was perching on the back of one of the seats.
“Sora, you can come here too. And don't worry, were all used to sharing a bed with crows and ravens.”
He placed one of the pillows close to his face and patted it and his aura shifted into a deep sense of contentment when she landed on it and made herself comfortable next to his hand, allowing him to slowly sift through her feathers.
“Hiro, will you tell me about what you have been up to since my memory was sealed?”
Taking a deep breath Hiroto began speaking in a soft voice, further lulling his audience into a deep state of calm, the only motion was the occasional shift of position, and Takeshi moving a bit to give attention to all of his companions curled up around him.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
A soft knock on the door to the truck told them that Aya had arrived.
“Come on in Aya-chan.”
The door opened and Aya gave them a mock glare for the choice of honorific.
“I thought I told you to drop keigo.”
She was about to say something more when she noticed Hiroto and fell silent.
“Aya, this is Hiro, you may know him as the driver of the car I was racing last night.”
“Ohayou gozaimasu Hiro-san.”
“Ohayou gozaimasu Aya-san.”
Takeshi and Dan patiently waited for the two to exchange greetings and once they had Hiroto added that he was fine with Aya dropping the honorifics and she agreed that he could do the same.
“I can see why you would race all of Japan to get him back.”
Aya's smile was somewhere between shy and teasing as she made her observation.
“Indeed. Quite a prize catch.”
The fact that Hiroto actually blushed slightly instantly earned him some friendly teasing.
“So I guess you asked me here to say goodbye then?”
They could all feel the hint of sadness in Aya's aura as she spoke.
“Yes, and no. There is more we want to talk about. Starting with who we really are.”
“Well, I know your names aren't Ryu and Rai.”
“Indeed, that cute bundle of fur in his lap is the real Rai.”
She glanced at Rai before looking up at Dan.
“And you are?”
“My real name is Dan Lindgren, Beta of pack Kiryu, and that thing over there is my alpha.”
“Kiryu?! As in Okinawa Kiryu, Guardians of the Ryujin Shrine?””
She instantly looked at Takeshi with wide eyes.
“Indeed, I'm Kiryu Takeshi, Alpha of pack Kiryu, Yemo of House Shamarai.”
Aya looked utterly bewildered, and she was clearly unsure of how to respond.
“It's okay Aya, we are still the same. But I'm afraid this is just the beginning, there is more we need to tell you, show you.”
“So it's true then? The rumors that Kiryu Takeshi isn't human?”
The straightforward question made Takeshi laugh and slowly shift back to his true appearance while he spoke.
“Indeed it is. But you already suspected that, didn't you?”
“Yeah, you guys are way too good in bed to be ordinary humans.”
Her words had Hiroto struggling not to laugh, but Takeshi and Dan were used to her quirks and rather risqué humor.
“Oh, is that all..?”
The teasing quip made Aya laugh, then she went silent for a moment, clearly considering what she should say.
“Not really, I could feel you guys were different, And I can feel that Hiro is different too. My great grandmother always told us that her first husband, my great grandfather, was part youkai, but no one believed her.”
“But you did?”
“Yeah, it explains was too much.”
Takeshi allowed his aura to brush against her, but he didn't want to dig in too deeply so he couldn't really tell.
“What do think Hiro, could she have a youkai ancestor?”
Hiroto allowed his aura to reach out, gently tapping hers with his youki, trying to elicit a response.
“If she does it's distant. I can't feel a youki response so I would need to do a deeper search of her aura.”
“You can actually find out if it's true?”
“Of course. But it requires a deep search of your aura and that can be very unpleasant.”
Together they explained to Aya what they would have to do, the risks if done wrong, and how it could make her feel, but as Takeshi had suspected she readily agreed and together with Hiroto he began searching her aura.
“Ah, there it is.”
After about 10 minutes of gentle searching Takeshi found a flicker of youki deep within her aura, wrapped tightly around her soul and he began gently coaxing it, trying to get it to come up to the surface layers where he would be able to make it visible to her.
“Oh, it looks like foxfire...”
Aya's soft exclamation made them all smile.
“That's because it is. Whoever your youkai ancestor was they were Kitsune. Maybe they are even still around.”
“Is there any way you could find out?”
“There is. I know a kyūbi who can help us. But to do that she needs a sample of your foxfire.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Start with touching the foxfire with your finger, envision a flame at the tip, like a match or lighter.”
Takeshi carefully guided her through the same lessons he had given the girls
“That's it, now you need to get that little flame to move into this crystal.”
It took a few tries to get the small spark of foxfire into the crystal, but once they managed Aya was smiling widely.
“You should keep doing that whenever you have a moment to yourself, try to make it move from one finger to another. It's an exercise taught to young kitsune to help them build up their reserves and develop control.”
“Can we get back to the point now?”
Dan smiled as he pointed out they had deviated pretty far from the intended topic.
Curiosity was flickering though her aura.
“We didn't ask you to meet us one more time just to say goodbye, we have an offer for you.”
“What kind of offer?”
Takeshi tutted lightly at her for interrupting him which had her blushing, and glaring at him for not answering her right away.
“How would you like to become a test driver for Mandrake and test consumer adaptations of the tech in my car.”
“I don't know... Your car is really nice, but I like my little roadster, she's all energetic and cute...”
The small pout and the way she described her old 2032 Miata had everyone snickering.
“Well, the whole idea is for you to test aftermarket upgrades.”
“I'm not altering Mia!”
Her instant outrage made Takeshi and Dan laugh.
“We had a feeling you would say that. We're not expecting you to make modifications on your Mia, we will supply you with another car, same year and model, to work on and test.”
“Okay, I guess I could go for that. But why me? It's not like I'm all that fast.”
“Simple, you are a skilled driver, very technical and your accuracy is remarkable, this makes you a perfect candidate for being a test driver. As for not being very fast, your little Mia just doesn't have the power to compete with newer cars.”
“I guess... But I still love her.”
“She suits you well, small, but spirited, and with a nice, perky, rear.”
The teasing quip made Aya laugh, but it didn't last very long.
“I'm going to miss playing with you guys.”
“I bet you will.”
Takeshi teased lightly, Aya had an insatiable appetite for sex, which was one of the reasons she raced the tōge, it gave her access to young men who thrived on taking chances, adrenaline junkies who would be all pumped up after the races.
“You could always give us a booty call if gets too bad.”
Dan was more than happy to keep up the teasing, it was rare that he found himself genuinely interested in a female, attracted yes, but not interested in a long term relationship.
Takeshi had teased him mercilessly about it though, but he had also been a great help with sorting through the feeling, helping Dan realize what he was actually feeling, realize he didn't want a girlfriend, or mate, but rather a long term lover.
“That's a long flight with you guys going back to Miami...”
“Good thing we don't need to fly to travel between Miami and Tokyo then.”
With a teasing smile Taakeshi allowed his power to rise and reach out for the shadows around him, then he gave Dan a good shove, making him vanish into the shadow.
He waited a few moments to see if Dan would come out on his own before reaching out and open a different one for him to step out from.
“We can travel like this pretty much anywhere in the world as long as there is a shadow, and we know where we are going.”
“Oh, that sounds useful.”
Aya looked between them for a moment, then smiled and reached into her pocket for a deck of cards and a small bag of dice.
“Are we going to play one last game?”
She flicked the deck open and used it as a fan to hide her smile in a gesture of mock innocence.
The deck of cards and dice that Aya had were not normal ones, instead they were part of a very raunchy version of a party game for swingers, all depicting various sexual activities.
“What about you Hiro, will you join us?”
“I'm afraid I can't, my promise to await the approval of Take's family, and my youma's choice, limits my ability to partake in such activities.”
“Okay, hope you can touch yourself at least, I love watching.”
“She also loves being watched.”
Takeshi quipped teasingly, unless Hiroto had changed more than he seemed he too enjoyed watching.
“How fortunate then that those are traits I share.”
“Hiro, why don't you give us a bit of a show to get things started?”
Takeshi couldn't help recalling the first time he actually saw Hiroto, how he had been unable to look away from the unfamiliar male removing his clothes to wash himself.
It hadn't been the first time he had been joined the shrine onsen by a visiting youkai, but none of those had commanded his attention the way Hiroto had, the only one who had come close to it was Aoren, who he had shared the occasional exploring touch with.
“Oh, you wish to show me off?”
“I merely wish to share what I felt the first time I saw you.”
The teasing honesty made Hiroto pause and look at Takeshi.
“You really enjoyed watching me get undressed that much? I wasn't even trying to put on a show...”
“You didn't notice?”
Takeshi was a bit surprised that Hiroto hadn't noticed just how affected he had been.
“I caught the scent of your arousal, but beyond that I was far too distracted to determine to what extent I was affecting you, and what little focus I had left was spent on keeping my youma under control and make sure I didn't go too far with you.”
Takeshi couldn't help smiling at Hiroto's admittance that he had been close to losing control completely.
“In that case I have something I want to share with you.”
Part of Takeshi was eager to show Hiroto his new abilities, and another part just wanted to share all those feelings he had been unable to express.
“Oh, now I'm curious.”
“You're always curious.”
Takeshi quipped back before slowly reaching out toward Hiroto.
“Hiro, I need you to drop your defenses and trust me.”
“I have always trusted you without reserve.”
Takeshi could feel the spiritual shields falling away as he touched Hiroto's face, and when he allowed his memories to flow through the touch the tengu's eyes widened noticeably before closing.
“This is how you made me feel.”
For a moment there was just silence, then Hiroto's eye's opened, shining with emotions and a hint of tears.
“Thank you for showing me this.”
Hiroto took a few moments to raise his defenses again before continuing.
“That's an impressive ability. Can you do it without someone's defenses being down? Or without touching?”
Hiroto's curiosity was contagious but Takeshi didn't want to go too deeply into the topic at the moment, preferring to let Aya have their focus
“I can, but a lack of defenses makes it easier to control the flow, so does the touch. If I push my memories on someone who is resisting it can be very painful, I could even hurt them if I push too hard. But we can talk more about that when we get back home. Today needs to be all about Aya.”
Hiroto was quick to agree which made Aya blush slightly, then flash him a hungry smile.
“Does that mean I get a show?”
“I do believe it does.”
Hiroto returned the smile before giving Takeshi a gentle nudge, telling him to back away and make himself comfortable.
“I can see why you enjoyed this. He is crazy hot.”
Aya's pleased hum when Hiroto turned his back to them and pulled his shirt away, revealing large wings tattooed on his back, had everyone smiling.
“Indeed, inhuman beauty is a common trait among youkai.”
Takeshi was paying close attention to the way the black ink enhanced the play of the muscles on Hiroto's back.
“He didn't have that ink back then though.”
“I got it to remind me of you.”
Hiroto spoke softly while arching and stretching in an ancient dance to music only he could hear.
“Why don't you show us your real wings?”
Hiroto continued to move for a while as if he hadn't heard Takeshi, but then the air behind him began to shimmer with youki and the large, black, wings appeared.
Takeshi could hear Dan sucking in a breath when the wings appeared, and he found himself every bit as affected.
“Take, is Hiro the reason why you love being touched by wings?”
“Yeah, he is. Now shut up an enjoy the show.”
The teasing scolding made Dan huff, then laugh and lick the spot on his throat that he knew Takeshi enjoyed.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
By the time they were done playing it was late evening and Aya was exhausted, but happy, and the others were calm and sated.
“Aya, when we leave Angel will arrange transport for our cars to Miami, but I would like you to have this truck. This cabin is safer than a hotel room, or some strangers car, Angel is constantly monitoring it, and she is armed. She can protect you if something should happen.”
The way Aya engaged in some rather risky behavior had Takeshi and Dan a bit concerned so they had spoken to Angel and the others, and they had all agreed to give Aya use of the autonomous truck to give her a bit of safety.
“We have grown to care about you, so we want you to be safe. But at the same time we can't ask you to change who you are. What we can do however is offer you a bit of protection.”
“Are you sure? I mean, this cabin is larger than my home...”
To afford her lifestyle and car Aya lived in one of the new micro-apartment complexes just outside Tokyo which was basically a capsule hotel designed for long term residence, it had the slightly larger capsules of a luxury capsule hotel, but it was still tiny.
Each capsule was 2×3 meters with a 2 meter ceiling, each of them containing a bed that folded up against the wall when not in use, a small desk, small refrigerator and a small sink with a tap for drinking water.
Each floor also housed a community sitting area, kitchen, showers, toilets and on the bottom floor there was a laundromat and a parking facility for bikes and electric motorcycles, it wasn't much, but it was cheap, leaving her plenty of money to pay garage rental and other costs for her car.
It also had on site security guards so it was nice and safe.
“Of course we are. And don't worry about things like tolls, parking fees, water refills and such, Angel has authorization to charge all those costs to one of my accounts, so as long as it's not cash payment she can easily pay, and if cash is the only option she can help you make a withdrawal. The monthly fee for your garage and housing has also been rerouted to one of my accounts.”
“Aya, I have more money than I need, I'm more than happy to spoil those I consider friends.”
“If you really want to spoil me, financially I mean, there is one thing you could do for me...”
Aya kneeled down in front of Takeshi and bowed her head.
“And what is that?”
“Help me pay for having my sōsobo's kimono properly restored...”
“What kind of kimono?”
“I inherited all of her kimono, but my mother hadn't taken very well care of them so they are in pretty bad shape...”
“Now now Aya, that's not what I asked, was it?”
“How many, and what kinds?”
The way Aya acted made him pretty sure that there was a significant number of kimono, and probably old, high quality, ones that were expensive to properly restore.
“The oldest is over 500 years old, a Shiromuku, but the Kaiken and Sensu are missing.”
The shiromuku was the traditional white shinto wedding kimono with several layers of brocade silk embroidered with white silk thread, the missing kaiken was a small hidden dagger, and the sensu was an ordinary hand fan with white silk.
“There's also a matching Iro-Uchikake that's almost 300 years old...”
The iro-uchikake was a colored outer kimono that was a more recent tradition at weddings.
“There's also a collection of kimono of various ages between 100 and 200 years old, including a Furisode, Kuro-Tomesode, Hōmongi, and a five kamon Iromuji.”
“That is an impressive collection. It deserves to be tended by an expert.”
“I know, I have been saving up for a while, but I don't know where to start...”
“Fortunately I do. Angel, would you give her the address and number to my tailor in Ginza please?”
“Take them to him and he will see to that each piece is tended to by an expert. Give him this and he will know I sent you.”
Takeshi handed her one of his crystal coins, it would tell the youkai tailor that he had sent her.
“I will have a word with a smith friend of mine about replacing that kaiken with something appropriate.”
Bowing down completely Aya switched to a highly formal form of Japanese and thanked him properly.
It took almost an hour before they were done saying their goodbyes and Takeshi offered Hiroto his hand.
“I need to touch you to bring you through the shadows.”
“Hmm. But when you pushed Dan..?”
“That's 'cause I have shadow abilities. I just can't seem to open the doorways myself yet, once open I can travel freely though. But I need someone to let me out too.”
“Oh, okay. Let's go home.”
Hiroto took the offered hand and allowed Takeshi to bring him into the shadows and Dan followed behind them.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
When they stepped out of the shadows in the smaller room at the entrance to the underground den in Miami they instantly found themselves face to face with Emelie, Amanda and Ylian, and none of them were holding back.
Faced with the sudden mass of demonic energy Sora panicked and took of into the den while Hiroto's youki spiked sharply, bringing out his wings in preparation to fight, moments later he felt the energy of Takeshi's bonds with his pack and scrambled to get his youki under control and into a non-threatening pattern.
“Apologies, your energies surprised me.”
“That was the point.”
Em's teasing tone made Takeshi tut at her slightly.
“Now now love, be nice to poor Hiro and don't scare little Sora like that.”
When Takeshi mentioned that they had scared Sora the energies instantly died down and the welcoming committee instantly turned around toward the agitated crow hanyou.
“Oh I'm so sorry Sora, we didn't mean to scare you.”
The rapid caws were a mix between a warning call and a scolding which prompted everyone to carefully school their energies into calmer patterns, patterns that spoke of pack, belonging, safety.
“Kara, can you try to talk to her? I think she might be too far into her instincts to understand us. It might be easier for her to understand a fellow crow.”
Nelly's suggestion rewarded her with nods and soft agreement.
“Kara will try.”
While Kara tried talking to Sora Hiroto was watching with quite obvious concern.
“Don't worry, I'm sure she will calm down once she realizes she's not in any danger.
Emelie took charge of talking to Hiroto, a slight edge in her aura telling Takeshi that he needed to stay back and keep his silence.
“I know. It's just... She has taken this entire thing very hard.”
“She has never had a flock other than you, Take and Sumi-chan, has she?”
“Not really, no. She grew fond of the people at the Kiryu Shrine, being forgotten by them threw her into a severe depression, and not being allowed to approach any of them for the risk that they would remember and tell Take was even harder.”
“But she did on occasion, didn't she?”
Meeting with Sora reminded Emelie of the first time they took the girls to Ginza, the crow that had watched her and Takeshi on the deck of the Tiamat.
“She would sneak close and flee if noticed.”
“I think we have come across her on occasion.”
“Oh? She hasn't told me about anything like that.”
“She probably didn't want you to get in trouble.”
“Sounds like her. Would you care to share what happened?”
“It was the first time we brought the girls to Japan, to shop in Ginza, the first night there we were watched by a crow youkai, and now that I have met Sora I can tell she was the one watching us. I'm pretty sure I have felt her energy at other times as well in Ginza.”
“She does spend a lot of her time there as it's one of the places where she has a high chance of seeing him.”
“What about you Hiro, have you ever come across him, or us?”
“I have. It was a long time ago in Okinawa. I was driving outside of Naha with a group of racers when we met a limousine, the passengers were Sumi-chan, Take and his unit.”
“So you saw my mother then?”
“I did, you look a lot like her.”
When Emelie didn't answer Hiroto reached out for her and brushed his fingers against her face.
“I'm sorry you never got to know her. No child should have to go through that.”
Feeling a flicker of emotion in Emelie's aura spurred Hiroto into action and he wrapped his arms and wings around her despite the sharp warning pain from his youma, then moments later the pain vanished when Takeshi touched his shoulder, relaying trust and approval.
“Hiro, I have no objections to you touching the members of my chosen family, nor do I consider it a betrayal if you were to be intimate with them. Quite the contrary, we are all used to being close, to touching, including hugs, kisses and sleeping together as a pack. Just be careful with the girls. Also, since I have multiple mates and lovers it would be good for you if you and your youma can accept being shared.”
Takeshi's breach of the agreement to let Emelie handle things earned him a sharp hiss, but he could tell it was more a scolding warning than actually upset, but he did turn his head slightly in submission, and she accepted it with a gentle touch of the sharp tip of her tail.
She allowed herself to be held though as it seemed to calm Hiroto down as well, something that didn't surprise her in the least, his basic personality seemed pretty similar to Takeshi's.
When Sora seemed to have calmed down a bit Emelie untangled herself from Hiroto's arms and wings and approached the two crows slowly.
“Sora, are you calm enough to control your instincts and listen now?”
Putting her hand in her pocket Emelie fished out one of the strips of dried gong that she always carried as treats for the various animals and demons that shared their home and offered it to Sora who accepted it and began picking it apart.
“We didn't mean to scare you. Our little stunt here was to test Hiro, to see if he can handle suppressing his own instincts and fall into line as the lowest ranked member of our extended pack. Which he respond nicely to by the way.”
“I know. I just got a bit scared of all the power. Didn't expect everyone here to be so strong...”
“It's okay sweetie. Just try to remember that we will all be more than happy to use this power to protect you if you ever need it.”
“I know, Kara explained it. But I might still get scared sometimes.”
“Don't worry, we understand that, and if you do, we just do what we did now, pull back a bit and wait for you to calm down. Assuming it's safe to do that of course, but even if it's a dangerous situation we will do it as soon as it's safe to.”
“Good. Now how about we get you introduced?”
“Take, I think this is your cue to start talking.”
“Hai hai sweetie.”
With a nod Takeshi stepped forward and pulsed his aura once to gain everyone's attention.
“Everyone, this is Hiroto and Sora.”
“Please, there is no need for honorifics, just call me Hiro.”
“Just Sora is fine with me.”
“How about Sora-chan?”
Takara was more than happy to play the more childish role and suggest they use -chan with Sora and the way the crow hanyou instantly seemed to be very fascinated by the tiny scrap that remained of the dried gong was quite telling.
Had she been able to blush she would no doubt have turned bright red.
“Sora-chan it is then.”
Takeshi teased softly before starting on the introductions of his family.
“This is my co-alpha and soulmate, Emelie Eriksson, she is the first person I courted and mated.”
“Please, just call me Em.”
“Then of course we have Dan, my second mate and beloved beta. Amanda is Em's beta, and my mate, then we have Ylian, yi is the third beta and one of my mates.”
After the introduction of Ylian there was a slight detour to explain about shadelings not having sexes, then the introduction moved on.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_The Black Crow_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Introductions took well over an hour, but eventually did manage to get through them all and continue to the tour of their Miami home.
“You have built yourself a beautiful home.”
“We have a very good architect.”
The reply was paired with a teaching shove that sent Ethan stumbling forward, almost making him bump into Hiroto.
“You are an architect?”
Hiroto reached out, ready to stabilize Ethan if needed, but his blessed reflexes kicked in in time for him to recover his footing.
“Yeah. Met this whackjob while I was an intern and took a chance to show him my own work while waiting for my firm's appointment.”
“Would you care to share how you ended up being one of his? You clearly haven't lived with them the entire time since Nel is not related to any of the females here.”
For a moment there was a sharp surge of pain in Ethan's aura which instantly had Hiroto apologizing.
“No, it's okay. It's a long story and only the last chapter is bad, and the epilogue is great. Talking about it with someone who wasn't involved might do me good.”
“I would be honored to listen, and maybe be able to offer a bit of wisdom. Most tengu are followers of Shugendō and many have chosen the calling of the Yamabushi. ”
“I'm sorry, I'm not that familiar with Japan and it's traditions, much less the youkai ones.”
“Shugendō is a religious and spiritual practice that focuses on gaining wisdom and spiritual power through asceticism and endurance, and training mind and body in harmony with nature itself. And the Yamabushi are mountain hermits, hailed as healers and seers, often sought out for their wisdom which is said to come from communicating with the Kami.”
“The last part is mostly legend though, the Yamabushi simply have a lot of time to think about things, and they tend to have a less egocentric way of thinking that along with being object and having nothing to gain makes them suitable for solving conflicts.”
“Sometimes the Kami did chose to offer a tidbit or another when mortals were being too stupid.”
Hiroto listened calmly while Ethan spoke of how he had met Takeshi, his mixed feelings for him, especially after he met Susan, then he spoke of how happy he had been to learn that Susan was pregnant, the rush to get married and the boundless pride and joy when he held Nelly in his arms for the first time.
“I was completely clueless to the truth. When Take told me it broke me, and I sought him out for balance, like a drowning man grasping for anything to stay above the surface.”
When Hiroto turned to Takeshi with a hint of a glare Ethan started laughing.
“Don't worry, he was upfront about desiring that outcome.”
“I would have told him no matter what, he deserved to know the truth. And yes, while it's not something I'm particularly proud of part of me was happy to find out Susan had betrayed him, because I knew that finding out would drive him into my arms.”
They could all feel Hiroto's youma rise and none of them batted an eye when it wrangled control away to speak on the matter of betrayal, telling them that humans should learn about loyalty from the tengu and everyone agreed that many humans could do with lessons.
“You need not worry anymore, the one I chose will not betray your trust.”
“I know, that's why I chose him as well. A knight in shining armor to protect my heart while I heal.”
“And once healed, will you offer him your heart?”
Everyone was suddenly dead silent, waiting to see if Ethan would answer the question.
“I'm not sure, but I think I might eventually.”
Takeshi couldn't help feeling a surge of emotion at Ethan's words, even the slight hint of hope that his feelings might be returned made his heart soar.
“That would no doubt make him a very happy male.”
Ethan didn't seem to realize what he had said until Hiroto's youma mentioned how it would make Takeshi feel, and when he realized he turned brilliant red, then a peregrine falcon took off toward the roof of the central building.
“Excellent shift, you have gotten faster.”
Takeshi called after Ethan with a smile, he really had improved a lot, he used to have to sit down, shift, then take off, now he was able to shift straight into flight.
“But Hugin really isn't a good role model for coping mechanisms.”
The teasing addition earned him a somewhat defiant cry from the perched peregrine.
A sudden smack to the back of the head courtesy of Hugin's wing made Takeshi grumble and mock complain which only made everyone laugh and by the time they were calm Hiroto's youma had retreated and given control back to their logical side.
Nelly was struggling to contain herself as her father finally spoke about the topic of his feelings for Takeshi, and acknowledged the possibility for more than friendship.
After watching Ethan take off to the roof she turned around and studied Hiroto while his youma retreated, considering what to do about her urge to thank him for making her father speak.
While he was distracted by Takeshi mock attacking Hugin in retaliation to the wing smack she made up her mind and ducked under his wing and popped up in front of him and gave him a soft kiss.
For a moment she was surprised by the way he jolted back and hissed slightly, then she remembered just how extreme tengu views on fidelity was.
“Oh no! I'm sorry, I forgot...”
“It's okay, it's just an acquired reflex. My youma didn't actually react as it knows Take does not disprove.”
“Oh, good. I just wanted to thank you for helping my dad talk about his feelings a bit.”
“You're welcome. I'm just happy I could be of assistance.”
Nelly paused for a moment, unsure of how to continue as she wanted to thank the youma specifically.
“Uhm, Hiro, does your youma have a name?”
“Not really, why?”
“I would like to thank it for asking Dad about his heart.”
“It hears anything I hear so it knows.”
“I would still be useful if we have a name to call your youma as you are distinct personalities.”
Emelie's addition quickly garnered the agreement of the others.
“We used to call Yami Beastie while he was still a part of Take.”
Maria added how they had treated the shadow beast within Takeshi and after a moment Hiroto nodded and reached for it.
Everyone just waited in silence while Hiroto spoke to the youma and when he opened his eyes again there was a distinct feel of anticipation in the air.
“My youma agrees with you that it could be beneficial if you have a way to address it and has agreed that you may name it, but it reserves the right to veto any suggestion.”
The sudden silence had Hiroto confused for a moment, then he realized they were using the silent communication shared by the blessed which made him almost nervous, but very curious.
“Go on Taka, it was your idea.”
Once they spoke up again they did so while pushing Takara out in front of them.
“I was thinking...”
“Go ahead Taka-chan. I won't bite.”
“Well, your name is Hiroto, but you told us to only use Hiro, so I thought maybe we can call you youma Roto. I mean, you're both part of the youkai Hiroto, and with Hiro and Roto you would be equal parts. And part of each other...”
Hiroto could feel his youma agreeing right away, and when Takara continued to explain why she picked Roto it radiated a very pleased feeling.
“That is really good thinking, and Roto agrees with you, and is very happy with the name.”
The brilliant smile made Hiroto smile back at her and ruffle her silver hair.
“You will have a clever tail in no time if you keep that up. Though, maybe you should find a different way to name your own youma should it prove strong enough to manifest, having two Kara could be confusing.”
“I already call her Zerda because she looks like a fennec.”
“Oh, she is clear to you in your mind already?”
“Mhm. Mommy says that means I'm strong.”
“Indeed it does little kit.”
“Mommy says my Sanbi no Nenrei will probably be my fifth tail.”
“She is probably right, you will no doubt grow into a vixen to take great pride in.”
For a moment Takara smiled and blushed, then her expression turned contemplative.
“I think she's worried I will turn out to be a Yako, they tend to develop early...”
“Taka, being a yako is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean you suddenly become evil, it just means you are different than the zenko. The yako have always been feared, and hunted, so in return they tend to be stronger. Not only to be able to defend themselves, but to be able to balance the zenko.”
Takeshi didn't say anything as hearing it from another youkai would make a greater impact on the worried girl.
“I don't know...”
Her hesitation made Hiroto sigh softly while trying to figure out a different approach.
“Look at Take, he's an assassin, a killer, but that doesn't make him a bad person, does it?”
“No, Take is a good person!”
“That's right, and yet, most would say he is evil, a monster, simply because he doesn't hesitate to kill bad people. Yako are similar, but because they have been hunted, and hated, for such a long time they have grown to resent others and stick to their own.”
“If I become a yako I won't do that! I will be a good yako!”
“Of course you will, you have a good heart, and a loving family who will never abandon you.”
The turn of topic set off all kinds of warning bells in the back of Takeshi's mind, he had seen the Fates meddle far too many times to believe in coincidence.
“My little treasure really will become a yako, won't she?”
Eriko's silent voice carried all of her worry and concern.
“I think so. But we will stand by her side, she may become one of theirs by tradition, but I will not allow the House of Shadows to isolate her, or corrupt her with their legacy of mistrust.”
“I'm still worried that the others will shun her...”
“If they do, then I will shun them. I don't care if she's yako, she can still be our beautiful little silver treasure.”
While Takeshi and Eriko had their little silent conversation Hiroto had continued to talk about his experience with yako, telling them of one he considered a friend who he had had a lot of wild adventures with as a youth.
“Now, you need to be a bit mindful of the yako as they operate by their own rules, and tend to kill if offended, and they are kitsune. But, you should be respectful and mindful, not fearful.”
“So, a bit like the fae? They don't like it when people try to flatter them or grovel.”
“That's right, yako tend to detest sycophants, but they melt like butter in the face of honest praise.”
“So if we meet one we shouldn't hesitate to pay them an honest compliment?”
Takeshi decided to take advantage of the slight lull in the conversation to break in and direct attention elsewhere.
“Hiro, if you are done telling the girls tall tales we really should start preparing food.”
“Of course alpha.”
There was a teasing edge to the reply, but everyone did as suggested and began heading toward the main kitchen.
Chapter 2: Heart of a Youma
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Heart of a Youma_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
A soft knock at the door to his study made Takeshi look up and acknowledge Hiroto.
“What can I do for you Hiro?”
“May I join you for a bit?”
“Of course, but you will have to curb your tendency to get bored as I have work to do.”
“I will. I have a feeling that Saitou-sensei's scoldings for disrupting your studies would be nothing compared to Em's wrath if I disrupt your work.”
“Indeed. My beloved soulmate has a glorious temper.”
“And you love her all the more for it.”
“Of course, I have always liked them feisty.”
“Well, you managed to collect some nice ones.”
Hiroto's half complaint, half praise made Takeshi lean back for a moment and laugh.
“Yeah, I have been fortunate.”
“So, what are you working on anyway?”
Hiroto had managed about 5 minutes before he started fidgeting and seek some sort of distraction.
“I promised D that I would work on building a body for our daughter.”
“Okay, now I'm confused...”
Hiroto's aura was a total mess of confusion and a hint of frustration.
Hiroto's grumbled Asshole only made Takeshi smile wider.
“Hai hai, love you too.”
Hiroto just continued to grumble, but there was a distinctly happy edge to his aura.
“Angel is the result of an AI code that D wrote for the GCTI, but they couldn't control it so they scrapped the program. Then Matthews got his hands on it and brought it to me and together with D's spirit I built a computer that would enhance the capabilities of the AI. Now she considers herself our daughter.”
By the time Takeshi was done talking Hiroto was shaking with suppressed laughter.
“You would be the one to adopt an AI without second a thought.”
“Don't talk to my dad like that!”
Angel's protective scolding was backed up with a sharp jolt of electricity that made Hiroto's hair stand on end.
“Itte te te!”
“I told you I like them feisty, why would my dear little daughter be any different? Especially considering her mother's temper.”
“Point taken... Now please, have mercy on me sweet Angel.”
Takeshi could tell by the tone in her voice that she had already forgiven Hiroto, but he took a moment to tell her a bit about his old love.
“It's okay sweetie, he really didn't mean anything bad by it. He, just like me, is a tease, and he is very good at deadpan deliveries, without being able to read his aura it's very hard to tell the difference.”
“Hmpf, I guess I can let him off the hook for now.”
“That's my sweet little girl.”
The somewhat amused scoff from Hiroto only made made Takeshi smile wider.
“So, what are you doing?”
Hiroto repeated his question, now with a hint of frustration.
“Well, I'm multitasking.”
Hiroto instantly went all out whine mode at the less than revealing answer.
“Now now Hiro, don't be impatient.”
The tengu just grumbled and glared in response to the teasing scolding, but his aura sang with anticipation, amusement, and a deep contentment mixed with an almost giddy feeling.
Hiroto had always enjoyed their mock arguments, though at the moment he tended to end up frustrated at the end as Emelie had demanded that they not have sex until she okayed it, and she wouldn't do that until the others agreed to Hiroto staying with them.
It was her way of testing Hiroto's determination while also making sure Takeshi wasn't overwhelmed by old emotions.
“Like I said I'm working on the design for a body for Angel, and I'm also testing Mandrake's latest invention, a neural interface that hopefully will prove to enable direct communication between a computer and the human brain.”
“Oh, that sounds interesting.”
“It's still in early stages though, I'm testing it since my brain can heal any damage it might cause without loss of ability or memories.”
“Is it working?”
“Yeah, somewhat. I'm able to access the data, but it's hard to arrange it, my access is random and I'm so far unable to arrange the information into something useful, but part of the trials here is to teach the computer how my mind works, to develop coding that can interpret my mind so that the computer can understand exactly what information I want.”
“That sounds like it can become a major technological leap if you succeed.”
“Indeed. But for now it's not viable as the implantation process would cause brain damage in a mortal human.”
Takeshi turned around and moved his hair out of the way, showing the cable and plug that was connected to a metal contraption at the base of his skull.
“Just uncomfortable, and the insertion hurt quite a bit, but once healed the pain stopped.”
Hiroto nodded in understanding before his aura lost its serious edge again.
“So, what kind of data are you trying to access?”
“Well, I want Angel's body to be as close to human as possible, and as a part of that I'm looking at artificial organs to see if they can be adapted to fulfill functions needed for her body to function.”
He paused for a moment and detached the neural plug with a wince.
“Angel, would you bring the data up on the projectors please.”
The projectors came to life showing a wide range of artificial organs.
“The main concern right now is power generation, the quantum computer core needed to run her program needs quite a bit of power, and the nanoscale mainframe we are building to act as her brain has very specific requirements.”
“You have any ideas what to do?”
Hiroto didn't really understand what he was seeing, but he still encourage Takeshi to tell him about it, if not only to listen, to feel included, and he knew it sometimes helped to have someone to bounce ideas off, even if they didn't understand the details.
“We are thinking about adapting an artificial heart, circulatory system and respiratory system into a Sanctuary crystal generator. Instead of circulating the liquid fuel inside the cell we would dye it red and circulate it through the body as if it was blood, giving her a pulse, and the ability to blush.”
“And where does the respiratory system come in?”
“The lungs would be integrated into the system, allowing her to inhale and enrich the liquid fuel, and replace it in case of damage. She will also have a stomach with a chemical decomposition chamber.”
“So she can eat to replenish raw materials, and emergency energy?”
“Indeed. We have also made orders to a wide range of adult toy manufacturers for samples of the various compositions of artificial skin.”
“Is that really appropriate?”
The teasing tone made Takeshi sigh and throw one of the crystal paperweights at the grinning tengu.
“We want her to have skin that feels as close to human as possible, and as strange as it may seem, the sex industry has done the most work in developing artificial substances. The medical industry has been focused on growing real skin from stem cells and that would require a far more complex system in order for it to thrive.”
“Oh... I didn't consider what it would take to keep it alive...”
“We did consider a cyborg design originally, but we quickly abandoned that in favor for an android design as keeping living organs healthy requires a more complex design. We may be able to in the future though, Mandrake has a highly skilled cybernetics department.”
“Maybe if you skip using mortal human tissue and start with something stronger?”
“I have considered that, but I think we need to wait until the existence of demons is a bit more common knowledge before we take that step.”
“Something for your new Hawaii to pursue?”
“Indeed. But it's not so easy to generate the energy required by demonic or youkai tissue to thrive. I think we will need a bit of extra help for that.”
“What kind of help?”
“The extra terrestrial kind.”
“Mhm, Atlantis is capable of generating Bio-Etheric energy through artificial means.”
The answer made Hiroto sigh, then lean back a bit.
“The whole story, please...”
Takeshi was more than happy to tell Hiroto about their visit to Atlantis.
“Take, I'm sorry to interrupt, but Sarah and Maria wanted me to rind you that you promised to spend some time in the workshop today, and their study time is up in 15 minutes.”
“Thank you Angel. Hiro, let's go grab some snacks and head to the workshop, we can continue the story there.”
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Heart of a Youma_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“You think we have enough snacks?”
Hiroto quipped in obvious amusement as Takeshi had piled up all kinds of snacks on one of the serving carts.
“Maybe, we'll see.”
When they entered the workshop that had been set up for the twins' book project Hiroto paused in genuine surprise before walking over to the sewing frame and brushed his fingers over the surface before turning to the book press and placing a hand on the screw handle.
Maria instantly focused on Hiroto and began telling him about their project.
“Mhm, we are going to make some really nice books for Take's study so he can have vintage style books that match his bookcases instead of mismatched modern books. We're also going to make the books to write down the Shamarai Chronicles in.”
“Ah, preserving the story of your house, that is a noble pursuit.”
“Do you know about traditional Japanese bookbinding?”
“Indeed I do. During the Heian period my tribe were tasked with writing books for the Imperial Court and binding the volumes was a task often given to the youths, and one I didn't mind. I also studied Western bookbinding.”
“In that case, could you look at our sample books tell us what you think?”
Takeshi just smiled and took a seat at the table as Maria dragged Hiroto over and pushed him into one of the chairs then hurried over to Sarah to help her pick up the books and spread them out on the table.
“Now these are just prototypes to test the methods and making sure Angel can do it so we used lower quality materials in case we broke things or it didn't work.”
“They are well made. Have you decided on what materials to use?”
“Yeah, we will be using leather from a demon realm snake that has a really nice texture and is naturally resistant to water and fire.”
“What about the paper? It is very important to have good quality paper when creating books that need to last.”
“We know. We have worked on making our own version of paper.”
“Oh, would you tell me about that?”
“Well, paper for books needs to be stiff enough to hold its shape, but soft and flexible enough to bend and roll without cracking or creasing. And it has to be tear resistant, and resistant to elemental factors such as water, fire and dirt. And it needs to be non-yellowing, as well as non-bleaching.”
“That's right, do you have a good solution?”
“Well, we started by looking at rag paper, then we worked out from there.”
Maria brought out a folder with paper samples and placed it on the table.
“This one is the one we have settled on.”
She picked up a few sheets of a crisp, pure white, paper and handed one to Takeshi and one to Hiroto.
“It has a lovely feel. Firm, but soft to the touch and flexible. And the color is amazing.”
“Go on, you can test it properly, we have prepared a small stack of it.”
Sarah's soft addition made both males nod and begin to abuse the sheet of paper they had been given.
“It's remarkably tear resistant, it's even hard to cut with my claws... What in the world have you used to make this?”
Hiroto was genuinely surprised at the resilience of the paper, Takeshi however knew what they had used to make it so he wasn't the least bit surprised at the result, he was still curious about confirming that it was as good as they believed it would be.
“Well, first we made a double weave of demon silk.”
Hiroto's genuine interest had the twins eager to show and explain.
“Yeah, it combines the usual vertical warp and horizontal weft with a diagonal weave as well. This gives both flexibility and tear resistance.”
“So it's more like a fabric than paper, but how did you get the stiffness and this wonderful surface?”
“If you just relax I'll get to that...”
Maria just nodded in acceptance to Hiroto's apology.
“The silk is just the base of the paper, it's woven directly in the frame of a modified deckle, then a special pulp blend is added.”
Takeshi couldn't help puffing up slightly with pride as Maria took on a very professional air while she explained the process of making the paper for their chronicles.
“The pulp made from two different demon realm trees, one that looks like a pure white birch tree, and one that looks like a pure silver fir. This wood pulp is mixed with raw silk protein and a mixture of clay similar to Kaolin clay, and the pollen of a demon realm flower.”
“That's a rather unusual addition.”
“Hiro, no interrupting.”
“The clay helps give the paper that soft surface, and the pollen creates a really intense ultramarine pigment that makes the white clay seem even whiter.”
“That's good thinking, adding a slight blue tint makes white appear whiter, and it should give really good contrast.”
This time Maria just growled at Hiroto who instantly ducked his head with a somewhat sheepish smile.
“The silk protein makes the pulp bind strongly to the silk framework, then it's baked in high heat for about 2 hours before drying for an additional 10 hours.”
Maria took a demonstrative breath before leveling one last glare at Hiroto.
“Now you can talk.”
“You have managed to create an amazing artisan paper, but the process is rather involved. Each of those deckles would produce 8 leafs, for a total of 16 physical pages, or 32 print pages. This means that a single 500 page book would require you to manufacture, fold and cut 16 sheets. That's a lot of work.”
“Don't worry, the deckle papers are just for samples, we are building a miniature paper machine based on the Fourdrinier design as well as a weaving machine to make the silk base, once completed we will be able to produce 500 leafs per production cycle, enough to make to make 4 books.”
“And 2 cycles a day, so a total of 8 books.”
Hiroto continued her line of explanation.
“That's right. And if we need to make more faster we can always build a few extra machines. But binding the books will take time, even with Angel helping us. We won't be able to make as many as 8 books a day.”
“We were planning on making enough paper for 1000 books of this smaller size, and 100 copies that are twice the size.”
“Roughly equivalent to Folio and Octavo, right?”
“Sounds like a good plan. I'm sure our dear Take agrees.”
“Of course I do. My brilliant little girls always come up with good solutions.”
Sarah and Maria both went bright red at the praise, then spluttered and pushed on with their demonstration and ideas for how to work the leather to get the look they wanted for the books.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Heart of a Youma_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Hiro-kun, can we play with Roto-kun for a while?”
Takara approached Hiroto with master level puppy dog eyes and the tengu folded like a cheap suit.
“Of course Taka-chan.”
Taking a calming breath Hiroto allowed the eager youma to rise and resigned himself to the back seat for the next couple of hours.
He didn't really mind though, he had quickly found that retreating and allowing his youma control around Takeshi's girls was almost relaxing, sitting back and watching it play and interact with the children of House Shamarai he felt a deep joy from the creature who was his instincts manifest.
The fact that the youma had been very easy to deal with since the play sessions began was just an added bonus, and it also became easier to communicate with it, and it was quickly gaining maturity, and control, something youma were not known for.
“Thanks for playing with us Roto-kun!”
After a solid 4 hours of play Emelie had stepped in and told the girls to start preparing dinner.
“Spending time with you girls is always a treat Taka-chan.”
Knowing that the youma was always frank and honest had the girls blushing slightly and Takara fled to her fox form and took refuge among her mother's tails which earned her a few teasing quips.
“Roto, would you please allow Hiro back in control so he can help with dinner? No offense but I don't want you in the kitchen while making dinner.”
“Of course alpha. No offense taken.”
“You are welcome to join the others for cooking lessons if you promise to behave though.”
“Really!? I promise!”
“Okay, but for now, Hiro back please.”
The youma quickly retreated and the wild edge of Hiroto's aura settled down and gained a sharper edge that spoke of control.
The last time the youma had been in control during cooking had not ended well as it was insatiably curious, and without Hiroto's calming and controlling influence it acted on its urges, tasting everything, and adding all kinds of things to the cooking pots when no one was looking.
It had ended with total chaos, hours of cleaning, and an emergency order of pizza.
“Welcome back Hiro.”
“Thanks Em. You have a good hand with my youma.”
“Dealing with your youma is a lot like dealing with a highly intelligent child, and I have plenty of experience with rambunctious little geniuses.”
Hiroto huffed slightly at his youma being compared to a child, but he couldn't deny the truth of her words, dealing with his youma was a lot like dealing with a child, all impulse and very little control.
“I guess. But I must say, since coming here it has been a lot less troublesome to deal with. Almost like it's growing up and becoming more mature.”
“I think it understands the need to become more, the desire to be capable of not just defending itself, but others as well if something was to happen, and to do that it needs control.”
Em's words had Hiroto humming softly, then walk toward the kitchen in silence, deep in thought.
She didn't call him out on the somewhat rude exit, instead she rounded up the cooking crew for the day and herded them to the kitchen.
After dinner Hiroto was still uncharacteristically silent but he was still trying his best to interact with the girls, though, they could tell his mind was elsewhere so they did their best not to bother him too much, leaving him to his musings.
While everyone settled down into playing games and unwinding for the evening a silent conversation was held discussing Hiroto's mood, and together they agreed to cut him a bit of slack from the rules they had demanded he agree to.
“Hiro, we have been talking a bit here, and we have agreed that tonight you may share Take's bed for the night.”
Emelie instantly had Hiroto's full attention.
“But keep in mind, you may kiss and cuddle, but there will be no sex. And that goes for Roto as well.”
“Yes alpha. We will not abuse this trust.”
“That goes for you too Take. You will not make this harder for him.”
“Don't worry, I won't. After all, I want it to be permitted on a more permanent basis.”
“And Hiro, I know you don't like this, but I hope you understand we don't demand this of you out of malice, but because we care.”
“I know, and I understand. As much as I hate it, Take is worth every moment of it.”
Emelie teased lightly before giving Hiroto a shove that sent him tumbling into Takeshi's lap.
Takeshi snickered when Hiroto squirmed around and settled down with a sigh for the umpteenth time.
“Then stop being tense and let your wings out.”
“I promise, no one here cares about the size of your wings.”
Takeshi gently nudged Hiroto again, and this time the tightly coiled youki unfurled, and revealed the true form of the tengu's wings.
The rapt attention of the others quickly turned to confusion as no one could see anything strange about his wings.
“Uhm, Hiro, could you explain what's supposed to be wrong with your wings?”
Maria was the first to ask.
“Yeah. You have beautiful, big, wings.”
Sarah addition made Hiroto flinch slightly.
“Hiro, do you want me to explain?”
Takeshi knew why he was so self-conscious about his wings.
With Hiroto's permission to reveal the issue Takeshi carefully moved him into a more comfortable position before addressing the girls.
“Girls, have a seat please, and no questions until I'm done talking.”
After a moment of scooting about Takeshi had everyone's attention.
“To maintain their bloodlines Karasu tengu have a very high level of inbreeding, as a result their wings are usually very small, it's almost unheard of for a pureblood tengu's wingspan to exceed their arm span.”
He could feel the questions in the air so he flared his aura slightly to remind them to let him finish.
“Tengu are powerfliers so they can fly despite their small wings.”
There were several nods and the energy of the den settled back down into calm attention.
“Hiro here is a genetic throwback, having what is referred to as wild-wings or beast-wings, fully formed wings with a wingspan that is sufficient for flight without being bolstered by youki. Unfortunately over the years it has come to be seen as a sign of impure blood, and those with larger wings shunned and treated as if diseased.”
Takeshi wasn't the least bit surprised at the outraged reaction, he had felt the very same way himself when he found out.
“Don't listen to those idiots. Your wings are beautiful, and unlike those idiots you can still fly even if something saps or binds your youki.”
“I like how your wings look like a crow's, but softer somehow.”
“Indeed you have very interesting wings.”
When Hugin spoke up and mentioned finding Hiroto's wings interesting the tengu finally began to relax, the feeling of being accepted by others with wings soothing him.
“See, I told you. You don't need to hide your wings here.”
Takeshi had been trying to get Hiroto to stop hiding the true shape and size of his wings, but the scars ran deep and he had not been having much luck, but now that the truth was out he could feel Hiroto calming down.
“Hiro, can I touch your wings?”
Nelly's soft question made Hiroto shiver slightly, uncertain how to react to the somewhat forward question.
“I can tell you are tense, and I was thinking that maybe a bit of a preening could help you relax. It always works on Hugin.”
Hugin's embarrassed chirp only made her smile softly at him.
“I know it's something pretty intimate, but if Take takes you as a mate we will become co-mates, family.”
“I know tengu don't need to preen, but you should accept, my dear little raven tells me our mate has become very skilled at it.”
With Takeshi's soft suggestion Hiroto gave in and repositioned himself so that he was leaning against Takeshi with his wings exposed.
“I'll be careful, but make sure to tell me if I do something you don't like.”
While Nelly began gently sifting through the black feathers Takeshi distracted him with soft kisses.
“Hiro, is the base of your wings sensitive like the mashen of a demon?”
Hiroto's confusion made Takeshi smile into his hair.
“Don't worry Nel, the base of Hiro's wings is sensitive, but not quite as sensitive as Hugin's is.”
Hiroto's mock whined when his question was ignored.
“Mashen is the Urui word for the base of the wings, which as you know is a sensitive area for most fliers.”
Hiroto reacted the same way as Takeshi used to do at the mention of the demonic language, snorting in amusement.
“It's okay, as promised I will let you know if there's any discomfort.”
She brushed her fingers along his back before carefully touching the base of the wings to gauge the reaction.
Nelly's humming comment made Hiroto blush slightly, and when Hugin moved closer he grew slightly tense, concerned about having crossed some line, but the angel just sat down behind Takeshi and began rubbing his shoulders.
“I'm sorry Hugin, is her touching me like this bothering you?”
“A bit, but not more than what I can handle. I know she won't betray me, but being close, being part of it, helps soothe ruffled instincts.”
“Ah, my sweet little raven, so mature.”
The indignant caw that followed Takeshi's soft quip was definitely not suitable for innocent ears, but Takeshi just huffed and leaned into the calming touch.
By the time Nelly was done preening Hiroto's wings the tengu was almost asleep against Takeshi's chest and he only stirred slightly when she leaned in and placed a soft kiss just above the base of his wings before reaching out and tapping Hugin on the shoulder to rouse him.
“Come on love, let's leave those two to their own devices.”
She gave Hugin a moment to focus before pulling him away to their own private corner of the den.
“You have a strange family...”
Hiroto had been dozing off for the better part of an hour before he spoke up.
“Finally figuring that out are you?”
Takeshi 's only answer was a soft kiss.
“I can understand their lack of judgment over my wings, they were not raised among youkai, but I don't understand their fascination with my youma.”
The lingering confusion in Hiroto's voice made Takeshi chuckle softly.
“Your youma is you in your purest form, nothing held back, open and honest with it's feelings, no masks, nothing hidden.”
“It's also the aspect of you that they will have to deal with if something was to happen, getting to know it can be very important if we ever find ourselves in a dangerous situation where it rises in self defense.”
“But that's not all, is it?”
“No, it's not. They recognize that your youma is a distinct entity with its own thoughts and feelings and they don't just want to get to know it, they also want it to feel apart of life here, of the family should they agree to permit the mating.”
“Do you think they will?”
For the first time since arriving in Miami Takeshi could feel a flicker of true fear in Hiroto's aura.
“I'm sure they will eventually. You just keep showing them all that you are, let them see all of you, including the darkness. Trust me, they won't shy away from it, from you.”
Hiroto just nodded silently and Takeshi allowed silence to settle over them, gently pulling the solemn tengu closer.
“Hiro, do you think you and your youma can handle me kissing you without losing control?”
“I think so...”
Taking a calming breath Takeshi leaned in and gave Hiroto a soft kiss, focusing on the memories of his own feelings the first time Hiroto kissed him, keeping the kiss gentle, and almost chaste.
As the kiss continued Takeshi could feel a strong emotional buildup that quickly reached an almost desperate level.
“Hiro, kiss me...”
For a moment there was no reaction, then a sharp gasp followed by powerful surge of emotions as Hiroto grabbed Takeshi's head and returned the kiss.
The emotional transfer through the kiss was almost electric and the intensity of the emotions made Takeshi's heart ache and his body burn with desire.
When they finally broke the kiss off both of them were smiling and breathing heavily.
“Take... My youma... Wants to...”
Hiroto was trying to speak between gasping for air.
“Go on, let it.”
Takeshi knew from his experience with Yami in the beginning of his relationship with Emelie that allowing the youma to be an active part of building the relationship made things a lot easier.
He knew that Hiroto had been suppressing his youma almost completely since they were separated, and it was his opinion that Hiroto needed to reconnect with it properly.
The process had begun as the girls frequently requested to play with Roto, but it was also something that needed a bit more dedicated work.
Moments later Takeshi could feel the sharp edge of control fade from Hiroto's aura and as it softened and gained a wild, playful, edge, the features of the youkai's face softened as well and moments later the eyes changed from a medium brown with a hint of red into a pure red.
He watched the eyes widen slightly as the youma tilted its head in question.
“Can you behave if I kiss you?”
The soft nod held a hint of uncertainty, but it was enough to tell Takeshi that it would try, it just wasn't entirely confident about being successful.
Gently cupping the familiar, but different, face, Takeshi leaned in and claimed the lips, carefully savoring the difference in flavor.
“You taste like Mentaiko.”
Takeshi was slightly surprised by the flavor, it had a fresh, salty ocean flavor with a bite of spice and heat that brought to mind the cod roe that had been salted and marinated in chili oil, it was very different from how Hiroto usually tasted, which was very much like a quality musk melon.
He could feel a flicker of uncertainty so he quickly added that he found the taste to be very agreeable.
“Actually, I like your flavor better than Hiro's, he tastes a bit on the sweet side, and I prefer savory flavors.”
He could feel the smile against his lips, and he found himself smiling as well, and part of him was curious about how those different flavors would blend, musk melon with ikura was a treat he enjoyed, but despite being roe as well ikura had a very different flavor from mentaiko.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Heart of a Youma_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Girls, how would you like to try making a few Japanese treats?”
Once everyone was awake and gathered around for breakfast Takeshi took a moment to see if he could lure a few of the girls into his latest side project.
“What kind of treats?”
Sarah and Maria were instantly curious, but that was expected.
“Last night I learned something very interesting about Hiro and Roto.”
“Kissing Hiro tastes like a ripe muskmelon, while kissing Roto tastes like Mentaiko.”
“Remember that spicy, chili roe topping you had on the chicken skewers at that yakitori stall just outside the temple last time we visited the Tori no Ichi?”
He could see the wheels turning as they tried to remember.
“Oh! I know! That's the one with spicy chili, right?”
“It was yummy!”
Leaning forward Takeshi offered a teasing, conspiratorial, smile.
“Last night made me curious. Ikura goes well with melon and I want to find out if mentaiko does as well.”
“Oh, you want to know what it might taste like to kiss Hiroto if they truly become one?”
The only time they used Hiroto's full name was when they wanted to emphasis that they were referring to both the controlling personality, Hiro, and the youma, Roto.
“What ingredients do we need?”
“I'll go grow some fresh hot peppers!”
“We need to call the fish markets and have them post that we are looking for cod roe skeins.”
Takeshi just shook his head with a smile as he watched the slightly chaotic result of his request.
“Okay girls, let's slow down a bit and not get ahead of ourselves.”
The active and conversation instantly ground to a halt and everyone's attention was focused on Takeshi.
“Angel can contact our suppliers and let them know we are looking for quality roe, ideally fresh.”
“Okay, I will. But it might take a few days to get items of suitable quality.”
“Don't worry, it will take a while to prepare the stuff we need as we need to make a good Rayu first and that will take about two weeks.”
“That was the chili oil, right?”
“I'll grow the peppers!”
Anne repeated her request and Takeshi gave her a placating gesture.
“Of course sweetie. Do you think you can make them the takanotsume type, and seedless?”
“Of course, that's pretty easy.”
“Excellent, we don't want the seeds in the oil and removing the seeds from the amounts of chili we need would be a lot of work.”
“How much do we need?”
“It takes about 20 kilos of fresh chili to make 2 kilos of powder and it takes about 1 kilo to make 10 liters of oil.”
“And we need a lot of it?”
“Mhm, might as well make a nice big batch.”
“Is there anything else I need to do with the peppers other than dehydrate them?”
“A bit, but nothing complicated, we want to smoke dry about a quarter of it, toast another quarter, and the remaining chili we just dehydrate normally.”
“I can do that.”
“What else do we need?”
“We will be making something in between the Japanese and Chinese versions so we will need coriander seed, cinnamon, star anise, black cardamom, sanshō pepper, garlic and ginger as well. This will be heat infused into a neutral oil, then once it has cooled down we will mix in some toasted sesame oil.”
“Oh, that sounds really good!”
“How do we make that stuff when the oil is done?”
“First the oil needs to sit for about a week, then we will mix it with shoyu and mirin, then we clean and salt the skeins and marinate them in the mixture.”
The way the twins were almost drooling at the description had everyone smiling and teasing them, accusing them of being gluttons.
“Uhm, Take, could we try to make a chili oil using those small white chilies that look like maggots?”
Maria's question was slightly hesitant, as much as she loved food she was a bit hesitant about cooking and experimenting herself.
“Of course. They have a lovely citrus character that should go well with most seafood.”
“I'll add those to the grow list, but I could use an assistant for picking the chilies.”
“Kara can help!”
“Yeah, help eating them. Every time you help me pick chilies you eat half of what you pick.”
Kara loved chilies, and just like regular birds she was immune to the heat of the capsaicin.
“Kara promise Kara won't eat that many.”
“Okay, you can help.”
The happy caws made Anne smile, then turn to Sora.
“What about you Sora, do you want to help too?”
“I guess I could. I rarely get to help with things...”
“It's a deal then, and don't hesitate to ask or offer help if there is something you think you can do. Everyone here is expected to pull their weight, Kara and you are mostly excused due to the limits of your bodies”
Sora quickly promised she would be a good picker, and soon the two crows were bickering about who would be the best chili picker, everyone could feel that they both were happy though.
“Don't worry sis, I'll give you a hand too.”
Alice offered to help her sister with the harvest as well, knowing that the crows, while more than happy to give a hand, probably wouldn't be very effective.
“You should make sure to pick plenty of citrus as well, a mix of those chilies and zest should make a nice, bright, oil. You can try adding things like ginger as well.”
The continued hesitance made Takeshi sigh.
“My sweet like little Maria, the best way to learn about cooking is to experiment. You don't need to worry about ruining ingredients, we can make as much as we need, and if something turns out really bad we can always recycle it into energy.”
She didn't answer, but the glance to Hiroto was telling.
“Sweetie, we didn't scold Roto for experimenting as such, he was scolded for experimenting with the food we were about to eat without asking, and for making a huge mess.”
Takeshi could feel a rapid shift in Hiroto's aura telling him that the youma had forcefully taken control.
The youma apologized while bowing deeply in front of a somewhat confused Maria.
“My actions have caused you discomfort and worry.”
“Don't worry about it Roto, we know you don't mean any harm. It's not so easy for you to handle being without Hiro's tempering influence. But I'm sure you'll get used to it with time.”
The exchange of apologies and reassurances continued for a few minutes before Hiroto managed to wrestle control back from his youma, a clear sign that it had calmed down.
During the interaction between Maria and the youma Takeshi had been doing some thinking, and he had come to a decision.
“Okay guys. I'm invoking my full alpha privileges.”
He instantly had their full attention, he rarely made unilateral decisions so they were all curious about what he had in mind.
“The holiday season is hereby dedicated to kitchen experiments.”
There was a moment of absolute silence as everyone took in the somewhat odd alpha order, then everyone broke down into laughs and snickers.
“Any valid objections?”
Takeshi knew there would be none, but he asked anyway to keep in line with the agreements they had made about him making unilateral decisions.
“I have a written examination next week that I need to study a bit for.”
Amy wasn't really objecting, only pointing out that she had a test that needed to be done and education was among those things Takeshi considered to be the most important.
“Alright Amy, you make sure to take as much time as you need for studying until you are done with that.”
“Thank you alpha.”
Her tone was amused and soon everyone was talking about their studies.
The initial plan had been for everyone to attend regular schools, but between all the construction work, and the shattering of the seal on Takeshi's memory those plans had been derailed and instead the girls were doing online studies combined with on site classes which allowed them to do most of their studying from home if they wanted to, but at the same time gave them full access to the campus and school facilities if they felt like it.
But in the end they didn't feel very comfortable there as their familiars had to hide, and Kara and Honey were not welcome at all.
They had agreed though that they did want to go to a normal school at some point, even if it meant pretending to be younger at some later point, ideally at a time when the existence of things like their familiars was common knowledge.
Takeshi wasn't entirely happy about the change in their plans, but had relented in the face of their worry about Nelly not having Honey at her side, or Kara having to be without Nelly as much as studying full time on campus would require.
Their concern was genuine, they still wanted to study as much as they could, and they did go to several classes and seminars on location, meeting other students and had slowly begun to build connections outside the pack, connections with regular people.
The fact that they were slowly building a social network outside of their family had made Takeshi give in and stop pushing for them to attend regular schooling.
“Take, do you remember the promise you made about pizza back when we first came to live with you in Hawaii?”
Julia broke away from their debate about lessons and studies and turned to Takeshi.
“Which promise? Have I failed to keep a promise to you?”
Takeshi's voice was instantly very concerned that he had failed to uphold a promise.
“Oh, no not like that.”
Julia instantly broke into a wide smile and Takeshi let out the breath he had been holding.
“Do you remember the first time Manda asked for pizza?”
“Yeah, we had home made pizza since we couldn't get takeout delivered at the island.”
“Mhm, and you mentioned that you would be more than happy to take lessons in making proper pizza if we wanted you to. I guess you didn't actually say it was a promise though.”
“Indeed I did mention that, and yes, you can consider it a promise. None of you ever asked though.”
“Well, now I'm asking, and I'm asking that I get to learn too.”
“As you wish. Maybe see if the boys down at that pizza shack on the beach are willing to let us rent their place for a day and teach us how to toss a proper pizza?”
“That sounds great!”
“What about the rest of you? Do you want to try to set up a pizza workshop?”
“Kara will help eat them!”
Kara's offered help had everyone laughing.
“Of course you will you little glutton.”
“Good thing you are a blessed or you would be too fat to fly.”
Nelly and Hugin half teased, half scolded her, over the past two years that had begun to treat her more and more like a daughter of sorts and she had been more than happy to settle into the role.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Heart of a Youma_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
It was quickly decided that they would have pizza for dinner and talk to the owner when they did before they started making plans for their month of kitchen madness.
“So, is there a specific kitchen you would like to start with?”
“Can we go to Tromsø and make stews?”
For a moment Takara's request had everyone very confused.
“Why do you want to go to Tromsø?”
“Because stew tastes better when you're cold...”
Takara answered without missing a beat as it was the most obvious thing in the world which made Takeshi smile.
“Indeed it does. So how many in favor for heading to Tromsø to cook hearty stews and soups?”
Everyone were quickly agreeing that soups and stews was a very good choice to start with as they were well suited to experimentation, and they also agreed they were winter food, best enjoyed somewhere cold.
“Tromsø it is then. Anything else you want to add?”
There was an instant buzz of voices, but a slight flare of Takeshi's aura silenced them and moments later Amanda spoke up as she was the highest ranked out of the girls.
“I would like to learn more about pickling and fermenting, not just vegetables but stuff like meat and fish as well.”
“That's another good one for experiments and endless possibilities, but it is a bit time consuming as it
takes days, even weeks for the pickling and fermentation processes to complete. But we can always start a few batches and keep working on it over time.”
“Well, I have been thinking about that a bit while watching you make miso paste...”
“And you have an idea?”
“Well, don't keep us in suspense.”
“I was thinking. We use sanctuary crystals to generate a stasis field that effectively acts like a chronoshift, greatly slowing down the passage of time inside the field, to the point where a single minute inside the field is weeks outside of it.”
“I think I know where you are headed.”
Takeshi hummed softly, if her idea was what he believed it was it could be very useful, and he wanted to slap himself for not thinking of it himself.
“Oh shush don't spoil it!”
“I won't, it's your idea.”
“I was thinking if it's possible to slow down time to a near standstill, maybe it's possible to do the opposite, and accelerate time within the field, allowing us to speed up the process.”
“I'm no expert at temporal mechanics so I quite frankly have no idea how the stasis field actually works. But we can ask the Mother if it can be done.”
“Kara will ask.”
Kara, being a blessed and having been given some familiar aspects as well was very skilled at communicating with the Avatar of Life without needing to be in the Sanctuary.
“Okay, go a head.”
They could have used one of the familiars to connect directly to the Mother, but letting Kara do it helped the crow feel involved, as her personality grew and evolved she had begun to feel like she wasn't doing enough to pull her weight.
“Mother says it can be done, and Mother says Mother will teach Em how to do it.”
“Thank you Kara. I'll meditate on it right away, maybe we will be able to make an experiment today.”
Emelie offered Kara one of the small bits of dried meat she always carried and Kara happily hopped over to take it, and receive a scratch as well before returning to Nelly.
With the crow suitably rewarded Emelie brought out one of her small sanctuary crystals and began shaping it.
“You do stuff like this a lot?”
Hiroto shook his head in amusement at the way they made quite sudden plans.
“Every now and then.”
Emelie hummed at him while manipulating the crystal into a large fermentation crock to show Julia how to make the basic design.
“I think the way you live is really starting to grow on me... It's free in a way that really appeals to my instincts.”
“That's good, it would be hard for you to fit in here if our lifestyle does not appeal to you.”
“For him I would find a way to manage.”
“I have no doubt you would, but isn't better to feel at home without struggle?”
As Hiroto fell silent Emelie focused back on the crock she was making, showing Julia how to make the crystal mesh that would keep the contents from floating up to the surface.
By the time they were done making some basic plans it was time for lunch, then everyone joined Emelie and Julia in making the various crocks and cans needed to be able to experiment with pickling and fermenting.
“Let's see if we can get that inverted stasis field to work. Any suggestions what we should try to make?”
The twins' suggestion earned them some sighs as most of the others weren't big fans of the dark, strongly flavored, miso, but they agreed it would be a good test since black miso took years to ferment.
“Okay, someone fetch one of the big containers with bean kōji. Hiro, do you remember where we keep the soaked soybeans?”
“Of course. How much do you want me to get?”
Due to the amounts of nattō they ate, usually about 1 to 2 kilos of it each day, they always kept a few containers with soaked soybeans ready to be steamed and fermented, usually always having several containers in rotation. One container being consumed and added each day, one in fermentation, and a few more in various stages of maturation.
They also had 4 large crocks with regular miso in a similar rotation system, each large enough to last for about 3 months, ensuring a constant supply.
“Grab all of them, we want to have plenty in case something goes wrong.
Each of the 5 containers held roughly 2 kilos of soaked beans and the large pressure cooker could handle the entire batch.
When Amanda and Hiroto returned with the kōji and soy beans everyone had gathered in the kitchen and they quickly rinsed the beans and put them in the pressure cooker.
“Have you decided if you want to make chunky or smooth miso?”
Takeshi had taken over the management role from Emelie, she would pick it up again once the miso had been packed into the crock and it was time to try to accelerate the process.
“We want smooth.”
Since the twins were the ones who wanted black miso they were allowed to make the calls on how they wanted it
“Okay, go set up the grinder and remember to sterilize it, we don't want any unwelcome guests.”
The twins hurried to start the work, and also handed out a few tasks to the others, effectively dividing the work between them.
“Angel, would zap the prep area please, and keep the air bug free.”
Miso was usually prepared in the fall or winter, when the cold weather reduced the amount of bacteria in the air, but Miami never really got cold enough for that.
“Of course Take.”
An intense flash of UV radiation effectively killed of any unwanted visitors in the preparation area, and lower intensity constant light made sure there were no new arrivals.
“May I make a suggestion?”
Hiroto was watching with great curiosity.
“Of course Hiro.”
“If you want to make the best black miso out there you should try to use Hatcho kōji instead of regular kōji, it's better suited for Mamé miso.”
“Uhm, we don't have that...”
The twins' mood instantly dropped
“I have a friend who is fond of Hatcho miso, if I get a lift back to Japan I can grab some nice kōji from his stores.”
“Take! Please? Can we?”
“Well, this is supposed to be about experimentation, so how about we get some of that kōji and compare?”
Everyone winced slightly at the volume of the twins, the twins included.
“Ylian, would you care to take Hiroto to Japan to pick up the kōji?”
“Of course not, assuming he trusts me enough to allow me to carry him through the shadow.”
“If Take trusts my safety to you, then I will trust that I am safe.”
Hiroto was having some issues getting used to the pure demon members of Takeshi's household, especially Hugin and Ylian as they were both mated to Takeshi, Munin caused some issues too, but he didn't have quite as strong effect.
“Come, I need to touch you to bring you with me. And you need to open your mind to me so that I can see where we need to go.”
Hiroto offered Ylian his hand before letting his mental shields drop slightly and moments later they vanished.
“Hiro is starting to fit in really well.”
“I kinda like Roto more than I do Hiro... Not that I don't like Hiro, he's nice and all.”
Carol's admission caused quite a bit of teasing.
“I like the way Roto's carefree and playful. Hiro is more... I don't know...”
“Cold? Stern? Jaded?”
Takeshi supplied, he had a pretty good idea where Carol was going.
“Yeah, Roto is more like a child. Not childish though.”
“An innocent curiosity, viewing the world with a sense of childlike wonder?”
“That's a pretty accurate description of the difference between them. Remember, Hiro is the dominant aspect, the one who needs to stay in control to keep their power hidden, and keep it from hurting someone. But also keep Roto from lashing out. It's not without reason the youma is the one who is dominant in matters of the heart. It's all heart and feeling, and prone to lashing out with their power if provoked, or hurting, Hiro shields Roto from the world, and the world from Roto's emotions.”
Takeshi's explanation had everyone nodding in understanding.
“And don't worry, Hiro can be plenty childish when he feels comfortable and safe. I think at least a few of you have noticed that he is gradually starting to loosen up, and it will get better as he grows more confident that Roto won't hurt any of you.”
“So asking Hiro to let Roto be in control and interact with us can help him get comfortable faster?”
“Indeed. It's very good for both of them. Though, ultimately the best would be if they are able to merge more completely, gain the ability to truly share control.”
“Like you and Yami did before he moved to his own body?”
“In a sense, we got pretty good toward the end, but it was still not a true merge as my soul was fractured, incomplete, making Yami incomplete as well.”
Being spoken of as Takeshi's youma had Yami huffing and grumbling as always, but everyone agreed that he had to be Takeshi's youma.
When Ylian returned with Hiroto an hour later everyone were gathered in the kitchen, working on preparing vegetables for fermentation.
“One nice big barrel of top quality Hatcho kōji as promised.”
Hiroto placed the large wooden barrel on the bench in front of him before reaching into a hidden pocket and taking out a few small sachets similar to the popular flower wheel origami incense sachets.
“And I managed to talk him into letting me have some of his favorite Kōji kin as well.”
Each sachet contained spores for a specific strain of kōji mold, allowing them to grow their own.
“Great, put those in the stasis cupboard and let's get to work.”
Emelie directed Hiroto to the correct cupboard.
“We should start with a batch of our usual recipe, since we know how that's supposed to look and taste.”
Takeshi took back control of the preparations and directed them to start making his usual miso paste.
Emelie instantly backed him up and soon they had the mix of mashed up soybeans and kōji ready to be placed into the crock.
“Remember to make sure there's no air in the mash.”
He watched them make balls and throw them against the bottom and sides of the crock, then pack it down and add a bit of salt on the surface, then activate the crystal mesh to push it down and make sure no air would get in contact with the mash, while allowing the liquid to separate.
Emelie closed it up and activated the chronoshift, accelerating the passage of time inside the crock, making a whole year pass in a mere minute.
“Okay, that was a bit draining, but I think it worked.”
Opening the crock revealed a thick layer of Tamari on the top and the deep, dark color along with no sign of unwanted molds was promising.
“Oh, it smells amazing! Even better than it usually does.”
The twins were hanging over Emelie's shoulders as she took a ladle and scooped up the dark liquid into a bowl.
“It does indeed seem to be an excellent result.”
Takeshi sniffed and hummed before asking Emelie how much she had accelerated time.
“This is one year.”
“The quality is definitely better than usual.”
“I think the rapid process prevents any contaminants from taking hold, even with the water seal over such a long time as a year small amounts of contaminants get into the crock, affecting the quality.”
“And how bad was the drain?”
“Oh, it's not bad, it was just more than expected.”
“Okay. I do believe we have a new method for making our miso and tamari.”
He quickly turned to Amanda and kissed her deeply, relaying his gratitude for the idea.
“Okay, let's try to make the Kuro miso and Hatcho miso.”
Takeshi quickly directed them to divide the remaining mashed up beans into 4 equal parts.
“Let's use regular kōji on two of them, and Hatcho kōji on the other two, then we age one pair for the usual 3 years, and one pair for 10 years. Think you can handle that sweetie?”
“Yeah, it won't be a problem.”
Under Takeshi's watchful eye 4 sizable batches of miso was prepared and force matured, and the result seemed very promising, though they agreed they would wait until breakfast to try it, after all, pizza was on the menu for the evening.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Heart of a Youma_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Don't worry Hiro, it doesn't look like much, but it's clean and their ingredients may not be the prettiest or best quality, but they are nice and fresh.
Hiroto had given the somewhat run down looking place a decidedly suspicious glare.
The lack of an answer, and the subtle sniffing as they entered had everyone smiling and poking teasingly at Hiroto, but he quickly relaxed when he didn't pick up any off smells.
They placed their usual huge order and spread out over the outdoor seating area, and when the food was brought out for them they asked to have a word with the owner when he had a moment.
“You want us to teach you how to make pizza?”
The owner sounded quite surprised, and hesitant.
“Yeah, I once promised them I would learn how to make proper pizza so they can have pizza when we are somewhere where there's no good takeout available. And now they are collecting on it, and decided they want to learn as well.”
The owner hummed softly while scratching his jaw, he was clearly still somewhat hesitant, probably due to the strict regulations about food workers having to be certified, which meant that they would have to stay closed in order to be able to allow anyone into the kitchen.
“We will naturally cover all costs for salaries, ingredients and such, loss of income from having to stay closed, as well as add a nice profit.”
Showing that he was aware of the regulations earned Takeshi a few nods and he could tell that the owner was giving more serious consideration.
“We do need to do some maintenance work on the outdoor seating area, which means closing the entrance off. So if it's okay with you guys to wait a bit we could kill two birds with one stone.”
“Sounds reasonable to me. How much time would you need?”
“Well, with all the regulations for construction at the seafront area a couple of months. First we need to get a licensed architect to sign of on the designs, then they need to get cleared by the City Council to get a permit, and then we need to hire a crew...”
The was a ripple of disappointment through the auras of the group when they heard how long they might have to wait.
“I'm a board certified architect, I can give you a hand with drawing up a design that fulfills the city regs for this area, and Angel has the city computers wrapped around her virtual little finger, she can make sure the application is handled right away.”
Ethan immediately offered his assistance, and Angel agreed she would help as well.
“If you want to I can put you in contact with a really good crew. They did a lot of the work on our place, they do good work and they work at a fair price. And you might as well add any other construction work you need, if it's more than you can afford I'm more than happy to offer a beneficial financing plan.”
Takeshi added his own offer and for a moment the owner just stared at them, then agreed to both their aid, and to teach them every trick in the book about making pizza.
“Does this place always get this rowdy?”
Takeshi was slightly disturbed by the obviously drunk patrons making a ruckus at the outdoor seating area.
“Nah, it's mostly out of town surfers, this weekend is their annual unofficial freestyle championship. They surf all day and party all night.”
“Do you want an extra hand with security?”
“Are you telling me one of you guys is a licensed security guard?”
The owner gave them a very suspicious look.
“Yep, both myself and Dan are fully licensed.”
“You people are insane. But if you're willing to work late for nothing but pizza and beer after hours, then we could really use a hand until this crap is over.”
”A hand you will have then. We will have to drop the girls off back home and get changed though.”
“I'm not licensed, but I'm good at spotting trouble and I could give them a hand.”
Hiroto quickly offered to help, but was instantly shot down by Emelie.
“No Hiro, you are with me tonight. We need to talk.”
Hiroto instantly froze and gave Emelie a very hesitant look.
“Oh, that sounds ominous.”
The owner teased and Hiroto nodded slowly.
Hiroto's shuddered agreement that Emelie's demanded sounded rather scary earned him quite a bit of teasing.
Chapter 3: Smile of a Goddess
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“You be careful now.”
“Don't worry, we will.”
“Angel, you make sure to keep an eye on them”
“Of course Em. I'll make sure they don't cause too much trouble.”
“Oi, we know how to work security you know.”
Takeshi and Dan both grumbled and complained as they got ready to head back to the pizzeria and once they had left Emelie motioned for Hiroto to join her in her private bedroom.
“Hiro, you need to relax, I can feel that Take is sensing you over the forming bond.”
“I'm sorry alpha...”
“Act instead of apologizing. And don't worry, you're not in trouble. I simply want to talk with you and Roto a bit so take a deep breath and relax.”
She reached out with her tail and gently turned Hiroto's face so that he was looking at her.
“There, that's better.”
“So, you wanted to talk?”
“Indeed. Come, join me.”
She patted the empty space next to her on the large bed and after a moment of hesitation Hiroto joined her.
“Please, I would very much like it if you can handle being closer, holding me.”
There was another slight hesitation then Hiroto wrapped his arm around her and moments later his wing was draped over her and she squirmed around a bit until they were both comfortable.
“As Take's soulmate and first mate it's my duty to make sure my co-mates are well cared for, and if you become his mate that will include you. So I need to learn a bit more about what you, and Roto, need to be happy, healthy.”
“For instance, do tengu go into heat?”
“Some do once mated. I don't know if I will.”
“Is it possible that Roto knows?”
“Yeah, that is a youma thing. Give me a moment.”
Emelie took care to pay attention to the way Hiroto's aura shifted as the youma rose and when it began sniffing at her neck she relaxed and tilted her head slightly to allow it to explore.
“Hello Roto, were you listening to my question?”
“And can you answer it?”
“Yes, we are capable of going into heat, but we will not do so unless triggered by a receptive, fertile, female.”
“So no heat outside of reproduction?”
“Would a receptive female trigger you even if you are not mated to her? For instance could Jenna's cycles trigger you to go into heat if you are mated?”
“I honestly don't know. I don't know of any tengu ever sharing a mate before, or being shared.”
“So it's possible then?”
“See, already one possible issue identified so that we can make sure it won't cause problems.”
She could feel the slight shifting in Hiroto's aura that signaled that the youma was about to retreat.
“Please, stay a while Roto. I need to talk to you as well.”
Emelie continued to ask all kinds of questions about what it meant to be a youma, about his needs, his desires.
“You're an interesting creature, and I'm sure you will fit in just fine here.”
“Thank you alpha.”
“Please, call me Em.”
“As you wish.”
Slowly turning around Emelie reached out and cupped Hiroto's face with her hand.
“There is one more thing that I need to do to test you, and this is one that you may find very uncomfortable.”
“I need to know how you will react to a rise in my seductive power. Usually I suppress most of it, but if I'm hurt, or weakened it may rise out of my control. There have also been incidents when I detect someone being in heat.”
“I'm going to allow that aspect of my power to rise slowly, you let me know if there are any negative reactions.”
It didn't take long before the youma began squirming, clearly growing increasingly uncomfortable.
“Talk to me Roto.”
“Your power.. It makes me want to...”
“Touch, please my desire for closeness?”
“And the discomfort?”
“Take isn't here...”
“So you can't confirm that he does not disapprove.”
“Use the bond, reach out for him. He knows what I'm doing.”
She could feel the slight shift in Hiroto's aura as Roto sought out Takeshi through the slowly growing bond.
“So, what is he feeling?”
“And if I do this?”
She moved slightly and gave him a soft kiss.
“So, feeling that from him, do you think you can handle if I push you a bit, actively use my ability to lure you into feeding me?”
“I don't know.”
She pulled back slightly and began brushing her fingers through his hair.
“Are you willing to let me test you?”
She intentionally kept her choice of words a bit more formal to keep him focused, and enforce that she was speaking as a superior, not a friend.
She watched him take a deep breath, then nod softly.
“That's good. Don't worry, I will be careful not to push too hard.”
She kept brushing her fingers through his hair as she allowed her seduction to rise further and then focused it with intent, and when she gave his hair a gentle tug he responded by kissing her.
She kept pushing until Roto moved, pushing her down into the bedding and breathing heavily above her, but when he moved to take things further she cut her power and began to gently talk him down.
“Ssh, relax. You don't want to go any further, let the heat subside. You want Take to be the first one you sleep with while you are fully risen.”
It was slow work to talk the instinct driven youma down, but between kisses and some rather enthusiastic touching he began to calm down.
“There, that's it, nice and calm.”
“Thank you for stopping me...”
“I told you I wouldn't let it go too far, didn't I?”
“And are you okay with everything?”
“Yeah, it's okay.”
She continued to run her fingers through his hair for a moment before pushing on.
“Could you give the reins back to Hiro please? I need to talk yo him a bit more.”
It was obvious that Roto didn't want to recede, that he was perfectly happy where he was.
“Don't worry, I'm sure Hiro will allow you to rise again if you want to spend the night like this.”
“You don't mind?”
“Not at all, I enjoy cuddling and it doesn't matter to me which of you is in control of your shared body. But I have a feeling that you need it more than he does.”
Her words had the youma blushing slightly, and she could feel it retreating and allowing Hiro back into control.
“Welcome back Hiro. I hope my testing your youma didn't cause you too much distress.”
“Nah, none at all. It was actually a pretty good feeling. Offers hope.”
The smile was a bit more guarded, but it also had a teasing quality that made Emelie smile back at him.
“Good. Hope is good.”
“Mind if I ask you what you hope for, apart from mating our Take? What kind of hope that feeling gave you?”
Hiro fell silent at her question, then he sighed deeply.
“The first time I felt Take's aura I knew that was the aura of my true mate, I know he is your soulmate, but as far as my... As far as Roto is concerned he is our soulmate too...”
“That could be a side effect of him being a soul-chimera, one of the soul fragments could be that of your soulmate, and another fragment that of mine...”
With the shattering of the seal and Takeshi remembering the past they had quickly come to theorize that it was possible for him to have multiple soulmates.
“I have never heard of anything like that before, but it makes sense.”
There was another slow breath, then he continued.
“Realizing that the aura belonged to another male I resigned myself to the fate of being a dead branch.”
Emelie found herself almost overwhelmed by the familiar pain of longing to be a mother and it quickly became obvious that Hiroto had noticed as his aura quickly became unstable as the youma rose slightly in concern.
“It's okay, it's just... I want to be a mother, but being a lilim my chances for a successful pregnancy are low.”
“But you are so powerful?”
“And that is the problem. The raw power of a female lilim becomes toxic to the developing fetus, if it's not powerful enough to withstand the power of it's mother it will perish. And my strength means I need a very powerful demon to be my partner in order for my offspring to stand a chance of surviving. And even Lilith doesn't know if Take is demon enough to give us a fair chance.”
“So becoming pregnant isn't the issue, carrying to term is. And you don't want to risk miscarrying.”
“I'm so sorry...”
“It's okay. And I'm glad I was able to show you that there is hope for you too to become a father.”
“That obvious huh?”
Hearing her channel Takeshi's mannerisms made Hiroto laugh and hug her, and soon they were talking about everything and anything.
“I think we should sleep a bit, Ylian and Manda will keep watch. And Hiro, please let Roto rise for tonight.”
“I will. I'm still trying to get used to all this, but having my youma be more active feels surprisingly good. And the way it, he, has developed is nothing short of amazing.”
“He's maturing now that you allow him the chance to.”
“Yeah, I guess. He's so much clearer, articulate, easy to understand, and he seems to be developing control and discipline...”
Hiro was clearly concerned that a more controlled Roto would affect his ability to call on his power.
“Oh, I have no doubt he will lash out without any hesitation should it be needed.”
“You're probably right... I'm just a bit concerned, he is my link to the source of my power, he can draw more freely from it...”
“I know, now imagine being able to have that access to that raw power paired with the control and discipline to wield it efficiently without having a constant struggle between yourself and him for control. Imagine being able to let loose the sum of your power without needing to sorry about harming an ally, or innocent bystander.”
“That would indeed be a good thing...”
As the tengu relaxed Emelie tutted lightly at him.
“Time to let Roto rise and have a few hours of nice relaxation.”
The aura shifted slowly, and moments later Roto's red eyes were studying her with thinly veiled curiosity.
“Come on Roto, let's get some sleep, shall we?”
The youma didn't answer her, instead he leaned in and examined her scent.
“Oh, what are you curious about?”
“Your scent, it's sad...”
“I know. Speaking of having children does that to me. I want them very much, but I don't want to suffer through losing them.”
Roto instantly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, then tucker her head under his chin.
“Don't worry, I'll be fine. Let's just rest.”
Feeling arms, wings, and power, wrap around her and pull her close as she began to doze off she gained a deeper understanding for why Takeshi loved the tengu the way he did, and it further cemented her acceptance of the addition to their family.
She intended to keep him squirming a while longer though.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Morning mate, how did it go last night?”
Emelie chirped happily and pounced on Dan who was trying to eat his breakfast while fending of Rai who was trying to steal the best bits as always.
“Plenty of drunk and rowdy, but nothing serious, most of them were easy enough to talk down. How about you? How was your night with our probationary tengu?”
“Emotional and enlightening.”
Dan just huffed at the lack of a proper answer.
“I like him, and I have decided to endorse the mating.”
The silent addition made Dan smile and pull her closer for a kiss.
“Guess you wanna keep him squirming for a while?”
Emelie gave Dan a teasing nudge of her power before jumping away from him and pouncing on Takeshi.
Dan's soft muttering was accompanied by a strong surge love over their bond which she echoed back at him, both of them acknowledged that the love they shared was different than their love for Takeshi, but also that it was strong and true.
She quickly shimmied into Takeshi's lap and trailed kisses along his jaw in greeting.
“Morning love. How was your night with my little tengu?”
“Like I told Dan, emotional and enlightening.”
“Is that all?”
Takeshi's obvious fishing had Hiroto on his toes, eager to hear what she had to say.
“No, you were right, Roto has a very interesting flavor, and he's a really good cuddler.”
She reached out with her tail and brushed the sharp tip gently against Hiroto's face.
“And Hiro is a good listener, and he has a good heart.”
The very happy flavor of the kiss that followed made her smile, then tut at Takeshi.
“He's not out of the woods yet.”
“As you wish love.”
She knew Takeshi could tell that she had accepted his beloved tengu, and she was pretty sure he understood why she was asking him to wait despite having made up her mind already.
“Now, I believe we were having a miso tasting this morning?”
She quickly changed the subject before Takeshi had a chance to ask more questions that she didn't feel like answering at the moment.
“Indeed we are.”
Takeshi's soft huff was the only clue that he knew perfectly well what she was doing.
“Okay girls, miso time!”
Amanda quickly headed to the kitchen and a few minutes later she returned with one of the heavy duty serving carts holding several crystal soup kettles, all the fixings to make dashi, various toppings, and jars with each of the different miso pastes they had made.
Water was quickly added to the kettles and the crystal activated to heat it and various combinations of kombu, katsuobushi, niboshi and shiitake mushrooms was added to infuse flavor to the stock.
“Take, do we have any of those clams left?”
Maria was looking through the various ingredients and didn't find all the items she wanted.
“Of course, I'll go get them.”
Takeshi quickly headed toward the large, cold storage room to fetch the small clams that Maria favored.
“Oh, sorry Maria, I forgot those.”
Amanda apologized for forgetting Maria's favorite ingredient for miso soup based on niboshi dashi with its slightly more fishy flavor profile.
When he returned he watched as a few of the small clams fell victim to sharp claws and blessed strength before being dropped into a crystal bowl of dashi and once again the bowl began to glow gently as it heated up and brought the stock to a simmer, quickly cooking the fresh mollusk.
The Sanctuary crystal tableware had a wide range of advantages, not only was it nearly indestructible, it could also be used to chill, or warm, the contents by altering the internal temperature.
The same method was used for most pots and pans, reducing their dependency on electricity and gas for cooking, the most notable exceptions were the stone oven which had a compartment for burning wood as well to give the perfect flavor and a few special built wok burners.
“This miso is amazing!”
The twins were very vocal about their opinion of the result of the experiment.
“Indeed, this is definitely a superior product compared to the miso I have been making.”
Takeshi was quick to agree, he made pretty good miso paste himself, but the new method gave a far cleaner flavor, and the black paste turned out down right amazing.
“I find myself agreeing, this is some of the best miso I have ever tried. And I have tried a lot of it.”
Hiroto's praise had Amanda blushing before thanking him with a slight bow.
“With your permission, and some travel assistance, I would like to take a sample of this back to Japan, that old Mujina will be green with envy. And he will be endlessly confused as to how you made it so fast.”
“Uhm, what does Mujina mean?”
Eric had arrived earlier to spend the day with Dan and the others and now he found himself somewhat confused.
“Mujina is a Japanese badger.”
Takeshi explained with a smile.
“Oh, so a youkai then?”
“Indeed. Their nature is similar to that of the Tanuki. Not all that strong, but good shapeshifters that know how to make good use of the power they do have.”
“Tanuki was those raccoon dogs, right?”
Eric didn't say anything more, instead he just sighed and shook his head, which instantly had Hiroto curious, and slightly concerned.
“I'm sorry if I overstep, but is something wrong?”
Hiroto was slightly uncertain how to relate to Eric, he was clearly bound to Dan, but not formally part of what would be considered Takeshi's pack or House, and he didn't want to overstep as Dan had a say in whether he would be allowed to complete the courting and become Takeshi's mate.
“Not at all, all of this stuff with demons and other worlds is still a bit much to wrap my head around sometimes.”
“Ah, understandable I guess. But you are handling it?”
Hiroto nodded slightly, reminding himself that Eric was human, and had most likely been unaware of the existence of the so called supernatural before being exposed to Takeshi and the others.
“Yeah, most of the time. And when it becomes too much I just follow Em's sage advice and accept it as is and figure it out later.”
The quip about Emelie's advice to just accept the oddities and roll with it had Ethan and Dan snickering in amused recognition, and soon everyone was laughing.
“On the topic of accepting our crazy...”
Takeshi interrupted Eric and Hiroto's conversation to invite Eric to their little Tromsø vacation.
Eric sighed deeply which made Dan place his hands on his shoulders to help him relax.
“Would you like to spend the holidays with us in our Tromsø cabin?”
“Tromsø, where the heck is that?”
Dan supplied the answer while nipping at Eric's neck, trying his best to encourage his lover, and potential mate, to agree to go with them.
“Doesn't that mean it's gonna be colder than hell?”
“Not really, Tromsø has a coastal climate so it's fairly mild. It's usually around plus 5 to minus 10, but it can drop to 20 below though if they get a coldspell.”
“Mild?! That's crazy cold!”
For a moment Takeshi looked confused as it was not particularly low temperatures, then he realized that he had listed the Celsius values, and Eric, like most Americans, was used to Fahrenheit.
“Ah, sorry, forgot you're used to Fahrenheit. Angel, could you recalculate the temperatures for Eric please?”
A display instantly came to life showing weather data for Tromsø.
“As you can see it's usually mild for being so far north. The winter averages tend to sit around 40 Fahrenheit high, and the lows dropping down toward 20, but it can drop below 0.”
“Oh, okay, that doesn't look too bad.”
“So, would you like to join us?”
Eric gave Takeshi a very tired glare and a huffing sigh, a habit he had picked up since starting to hang around Takeshi and the other.
“I'll have to talk to Dad first.”
“Of course, and he's welcome to join us as well, if you think he can handle the truth.”
“I know he can, if he's exposed gradually, but not like this, not all of it out of the blue. So far he only knows you as the crazy rich guys.”
“Okay, nice and slow it is then. Just let us know when you feel ready for us to start revealing ourselves.”
They could all tell that something was still on his mind though.
“Eric, remember what we said about speaking your mind?”
There was another deep sigh, then Eric took out his phone and brought up a link.
“Could you guys use your connections to get a room for Dad at this place while I'm gone?”
Angel quickly scanned Eric's phone and displayed the page for everyone to see, showing a location in the mountains northeast of Yellowstone.
“It's listed as sold out for the holidays, but places like those always keep something open for special guests, and I'm guessing you guys are good at scoring those kinds of deals.”
“Nice place, looks a bit like where we are going.”
Dan snickered as the wooden, ski lodge style, resort hotel showed was one of the buildings they had used as inspiration for their Tromsø winter home.
“Angel, would you have a look in their computers and see what the real booking data looks like?”
Takeshi knew that the online booking page probably didn't show all the available rooms.
“They really are booked pretty solid. It will be hard to get him one of those rooms for more than a few days, much less the full 3 weeks we have planned.”
Eric's aura instantly folded in on itself in disappointment.
“Easy there Eric, she didn't say it was impossible.”
Takeshi spoke while sifting through the data, which only displayed regular rooms.
“Ah, here we have something.”
Eric's aura instantly sparked back up and reached out for Takeshi in eager hope.
“There is one Winter Wonderland tour package left, running from the 17th to the 6th.”
“Isn't that their fancy ass, super expensive, all inclusive VIP package that costs a bloody fortune and change?”
“I can't pay for that. I have enough saved up for a regular room for the duration, but that's just way too rich for me.”
“Don't worry, we will pay for it. Consider it our Christmas gift for your dad.”
Takeshi quickly assured Eric that he didn't have to worry about the cost.
“More like a bribe to ensure our Dan gets to spend the holidays with his favorite human.”
Emelie's teasing quip had Eric blushing, and accepting their invitation.
“That's a good boy.”
Emelie patted him on the head with her tail which made him huff and blush as the contact gave him a slightly stronger dose of her base seduction.
“Now what am I supposed to give him...”
Eric mock grumbled.
“Why don't you get him a few of those monthly food and drink subscriptions? I'm sure he would love that.”
Eric's father loved surprises and whenever he received something he didn't know exactly what it was he was like a kid on Christmas.
“Could you help me add some nice saké to that?”
“Of course, I can have a word with my supplier. Maybe add stuff like shōyu ”
“How about we each pick one subscription for him?”
Dan's suggestions was quickly accepted and with Angels help they picked a selection that looked good.
“Oh, look at this list.”
Maria showed a page she had found that showed a wide range of what they called Carnivore Club subscriptions.
“They have all kinds of fish and meat.”
A quick look at the list showed items such as smoked fish, jerky, sausages, various smoked meats, and a selection of meat subscriptions.
“Oh, he would love these!”
“Okay, let's pick a few.”
Everyone quickly dove in and before long they had picked 10 of the subscriptions to add to the list that already contained two different cheese packages, a pair of tea packs, coffee, saké, sourdough starters and hot sauces, they had also added snacks and candy from Isabelle and Takara.
“I think I'll go for these pairing packages.”
Eric pointed to 3 packages promising pairings of whiskey, bourbon and wine with various cheese, chocolate, meat and fruit preserves.
“Ah, excellent choice. I think I'll order a few of those for us as well. We are always looking for good suppliers.”
Takeshi quickly had Angel order a whole bunch of them so that everyone could sample it.
“Do you want me to pick your dad up and fly him to the resort? They have a helipad that's large enough to take the Blackout.”
“That would be awesome!”
“Can you have him ready to head out tomorrow evening? We have some work to do tonight.”
“I'm sure he will be good to go once he knows where he's going.”
“Great, it's settled then. And you be ready to head out Monday morning.”
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Ah, good morning Eric.”
Takeshi waved at Eric as he stepped out of the K-XV and moments later Dan joined him and helped him get his bags out of the car and placed them on the cargo cart that Angel was controlling.
“Damn, you guys know how to travel in style!”
Eric stared at the plane that was currently halfway out of the hangar.
“But, I thought we were going to travel with that fog thing of yours...”
Eric tilted his head slightly in Takeshi's direction while watching the bags being loaded into the plane.
“We usually use the mistpool or shadow travel when we can, but this time it's not feasible as we have neighbors who would be suspicious if we suddenly are there without anyone seeing us arriving.”
“Ah, that makes sense.”
Eric shook his head slightly at himself for not considering that aspect.
“Guess I'm getting too used to your kind of crazy.”
Takeshi placed his hands on Eric's shoulders and stepped closer so that he was pressed against the young man's back.
Eric's uncertain voice when Takeshi brushed his fingers along his neck made him exhale slowly, then step back, but his touch lingered for a moment longer.
“Your courtship with Dan makes my instincts want to claim you for the pack in a formal manner, which requires you to submit to me.”
“I guess that would require more than just baring my neck?”
Eric didn't turn around, but he did turn his head to the side, baring his neck.
“Yeah, your aura, soul, needs to submit as well. And my instincts would push me to try to make the claim sexual.”
“I don't think I can do that, not yet...”
Takeshi reached out again and touched Eric's shoulder and this time he gave him a short nod so he leaned in and placed a kiss on the exposed neck before gently nipping at it.
“Thank you for soothing my instincts.”
Eric instantly turned beet red and grumbled a bit before answering.
“It's not all that easy at times, but I'm getting used to it.”
“Keep in mind that you don't have to. I will respect whatever lines you choose to draw.”
“I know. I think that's why I can do it at all...”
“Okay, that's enough deep emotional stuff.”
Emelie interrupted them and grabbed Eric, dragging him to the boarding stairs and into the plane.
“Holy shit! This thing is amazing!”
Eric stared with wide eyes as he stepped into the plane, a retrofitted 747 that was one out of 3 that Takeshi had purchased at scrap value after the company that owned them went belly up following a series of severe incidents due to lack of maintenance.
The old jets had been retrofitted with Sanctuary tech engines, and large parts of the air frame had been replaced with Sanctuary crystal to make it lighter, and the wings re-designed to increase overall performance and range.
The interior had been completely ripped out and replaced with luxury seating, a dining area, lounge and bedroom, changing it from a 400 seat passenger hauler, into a 50 passenger flying luxury limousine.
Even the flight deck had been modified for increased comfort, though, Angel usually did the flying.
“Come on, you need to sit down for takeoff, then we can show you the rest.”
Emelie tapped Eric's shoulder to snap him out of his somewhat overwhelmed state.
Eric headed toward the nearest seat, still not entirely there.
“You can come up to the cockpit and watch the takeoff if you want to.”
“Of course. Come on.”
Emelie guided him to the cockpit where Takeshi and Dan were waiting.
“Welcome on board Eric, have a seat, we should be getting clearance in about 5 minutes.”
Eric quickly took the offered seat in the middle behind Takeshi and Dan.
“Thanks Angel. I'm guessing you do the actual flying?”
“Yeah, but regs still require me to have these meatsacks here for takeoff and landing...”
The grumbled complaint, and the way she called Takeshi and Dan meatsacks had Eric laughing and moments later he began asking all kinds of questions about the technical aspect of the plane, and before long the radio came alive.
“Shamarai 1 and 2 are cleared for takeoff.”
“Roger that, initiating swarm logic.”
Angel quickly answered the call and the plane began moving into the runway.
“Huh, 1 and 2?”
“Yeah, we are flying two planes, the second one has the smaller bus, the K-XV and a bunch of other stuff.”
“So, who is babysitting the other one?”
Eric was confused as everyone had been on board when he boarded.
“I'm only required to have babysitters when I have passengers, the other plane only carries cargo.”
Once they were in the air the second plane came up on their left, it too was a 747 in a fairly standard cargo configuration, but with the upper deck passenger saloon.
“Fancy... But, couldn't we just have gone in that one? Looks to have enough seating for all of us...”
“It does, it seats 25, but with far less comfort. And this baby offers an excellent opportunity for you to join the mile high club.”
Eric was instantly spluttering at the very open suggestion that he should spend the flight having sex, but when he looked at Dan and saw the raw hunger and desire in his eyes he went dead silent, and a bright blush crept up his face.
“Have fun kids.”
Takeshi's teasing quip earned him plenty of complaints, but the pair were quickly scampering toward the bedroom hidden away in the tail of the plane, which meant running a veritable gauntlet of teasing calls and quips.
“Welcome to the Mile High club.”
Alice teased Eric once he and Dan rejoined the others.
“So, how many of you guys..?”
Eric was blushing vividly as he took a seat in the lounge area where everyone were gathered.
“Why all of us of course.”
Amber continued the teasing.
“Well, all of those of us who actually do have sex.”
Julia was still struggling with intimacy and despite trying several times she was still unable to actually have sex, but no one held it against her, instead everyone offered their unwavering support.
“Aw, don't worry Julie I'm sure you will get past it eventually. And that crazy alpha of yours will wait till the end of time for you.”
Eric instantly offered his support as well when he picked up on the slight hint of sadness in Julia's tone.
For a moment it looked like she was about to say something else, then she changed her mind and looked away with a blush.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“So, anyone care to give me a few more details about this crazy trip I have allowed myself to get dragged into?”
Eric tossed his question out once the teasing had abated slightly.
“Well, we decided to do some cooking experiments and Takara raised the valid point that soups and stews tastes better when it's cold outside.”
“So you just decided to spend a month in your crazy big cabin?”
“But first were doing a stopover in Gothenburg. We need to do some clothes shopping and I want to drop by Saga and see my girls. They turn 16 this January.”
They had visited Hawaii regularly and they knew the truth of their birth, and Takeshi had offered them and their mother the blessing, but they had all agreed that they wanted to grow up normally, complete school and all that first.
“Who knows, maybe they will tag along.”
Emelie intended to invite her old friend to join them.
“I like Iðunn and Eir, they are nice.”
Takara had some issues with the names, and Eric's look told them he would probably have a bit of a hard time as well.
“Dang, some Swedish names are tough...”
“Don't worry, they're not common Swedish names, they're actually old Norse. Iðunn is the Goddess of Eternal Youth, and Eir is the Goddess of Healing. Their mom, Saga, has a thing for Norse mythology.”
“And to complete it all, Saga is the Goddess of wisdom.”
“Angel, do you have any current pictures of them?”
Moments later the holographic display came to life and showed two girls dressed up for Lucia.
“Wow! You make some seriously good looking kids...”
Eric stared at the 3D images with a somewhat slack jawed expression.
“Is that their natural eye and hair color?”
Takeshi just smiled at Eric's somewhat rude question.
“Mhm, red amber and platinum blonde.”
“Damn..! They're gorgeous.”
“Those are my little teen girls you are drooling over...”
Takeshi mock growled at Eric which earned him a somewhat sheepish smile and hands raised in surrender.
“But you're right, I do make pretty amazing kids.”
“So shopping and meeting the kids, then continue to Tromsø?”
Dan was the one to push the conversation back on track.
“Yeah, that's the plan, so we will be staying one or two days. Unless you want to drop by your old stomping grounds first?”
“No, not as long as I still have family there.”
Eric's concerned tone made Dan turn to him with a soft smile.
“My family never really accepted my choices, nor my sexuality.”
“How about we talk about less depressing things? Like how much clothes we need to buy your frozen ass to keep it from falling off.”
“Oh, are you saying Eric is a Fryslort?”
Emelie instantly picked up on Dan's teasing.
“Oh yeah, big times.”
“Hey! What you you accusing me of now? What's that you're calling me?”
“Fryslort roughly translates to freezerturd, It's a term used in Sweden for people who can't handle the cold very well.”
“Guess that's me then...”
Eric didn't deny his dislike for cold weather.
“Oh don't worry, D was the same way, she hated cold weather, and M loved it, just like my sweet little Em. But don't worry, we will make sure to keep you nice and warm.”
Takeshi teased lightly, making Eric blush and accuse him of being horrible.
“Angel, what is our estimated landing time?”
Takeshi took a quick look at his watch before looking back at Angel's display.
“If the weather holds, which it appears like it will, we should land in about 2 hours, that's roughly 9pm local time.”
“Good. Then we can drop by and say hello, head into town and get something to eat, then get some rest and head out shopping in the morning.”
“Take, can Hugin and I take the GT-R?”
Nelly piped up when they began making plans for their short stay in Gothenburg.
“Of course. Hugin, will you be okay in that small car?”
“Uncomfortable, but I have been practicing, I can do it.”
“And if it becomes too much for him I'm fine with carrying a raven around as well.”
“Okay, if that's what you guys want. Em will you handle the bus?”
“Sure, guessing you will take the K-XV with Hiro?”
“Unless anyone has any objections?”
“Okay, it's settled then. But Nel, you drive carefully! The tires on the GT-R can adapt for winter roads but that does not mean you don't need to be careful.”
“I know love, I know.”
Nelly gave him a somewhat crooked look before smiling at him and leaning in to trail kisses along his jaw.
“Can we drop by the game shop?”
Takeshi wasn't the least bit surprised by the twins' request.
“Of course, I have been meaning to talk to the owner anyway.”
“Are you going to offer him the blessing?”
Takeshi had told the owner the truth a few years ago and he had handled it really well.
“Yeah, I am.”
“Yeah, he's a good guy.”
“Indeed he is.”
“He will be more like Ethan if he accepts, won't he?”
Amber's question instantly had everyone's attention.
“Probably, his soul doesn't have a lot of power, so the blessing will focus on survival, just like how it did with Ethan. And if he does accept I will be focusing on giving him the wolf aspect as it is one that is fairly easy to hide and doesn't require a lot of learning.”
“I hope he does...”
“I think he will, he's getting old, arthritis and loss of eyesight is making it hard for him to build his miniatures. Becoming young again and being given a new identity would allow him to keep doing what he loves.”
The twins quickly derailed the conversation by going into what items they wanted to buy, both for making miniatures, and additional clothes.
It didn't take long before everyone was involved and before they knew it Angel announced that it was time to put the seat belts on and have her babysitters report to the cockpit.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Won't we clog up the street?”
Hiroto's concerned question as they turned into the narrower road of the small suburban neighborhood made Takeshi smile.
“Yeah, that's why Angel will be taking the cars and the bus out to a commuter parking next to the tram station while we're here.”
“Ah, I see.”
By the time they pulled up by Emelie's old house Saga's twins were already heading out toward them, heedless of the cold and Takeshi quickly found himself with two very happy teens trying to strangle him.
He gave each of them a tight hug before nudging them to move so he could get out of the car and allow Angel to drive it away.
“Hej hej Dan.”
“Hej på er med.”
They switched to Swedish to greet Dan and Emelie, then went back to English and started asking questions about Eric and Hiroto.
“Okay girls, how about you let us get inside before you start the interrogation? We're really not dressed for Swedish winter just yet.”
They both apologized before grabbing Takeshi's hands and dragging him into the house and soon after Eric was making a mad dash for the warmth of the house, the others were a bit more laid back though, unbothered by the cold..
“You know you could have called...”
Saga's complaint was paired with a wide smile as she greeted Takeshi with open arms.
“I know, but I felt like stirring things up a bit.”
“Don't you always?”
“Guilty as charged.”
He quickly wrapped his arms around her and gave her a deep kiss.
“How have you been?”
“We're good for the most part.”
“And the not so good part?”
Saga sighed and looked toward her daughters who were eagerly engaged with the others, asking a million questions about Eric and Hiroto.
“Ah, I can imagine they are popular.”
“A bit too popular, and I'm getting a bit worried about the change of schools after the summer. There's been so many incidents...”
“You could take the Blessing and come with us to Miami...”
“I want to, but I'm not so sure they will go for it. And this is something we need to do as a family.”
“Of course. How about you spend the holidays with us and I can talk to them about it? Unless you have other plans...”
“No plans other than grabbing one of the Julbord, but knowing you they won't miss it.”
“We're planning to stay a few days for some shopping, we can arrange one of those as well. You want me to call their school and get them excused for the rest of the week?”
“Wait and see what they say first, okay?”
“Ah, don't want to make them feel like we're making plans without them?”
“Well, let's go ask them then.”
Together they headed toward the stairs that lead down to the basement lounge, Saga and the girls didn't use it much, but it was the only room large enough to house all the guests with reasonable comfort, though, when they got down there Takeshi noticed that several of his pack had opted to shift into animal forms to take up less room.
The exposed beams of the ceiling made an excellent perch for the various birds and was now home to crows, ravens, owls and a peregrine falcon along with a few familiars and Ylian had shifted themself into an extra couch.
“Iðunn, Eir, how would you girls feel about getting the rest of the week off from school and come with us to Tromsø for the holidays?”
Both of them instantly gained a contemplative look and moments later their familiar, Fenrir, joined them and they began brushing their fingers through his fur, telling Takeshi that they were communicating silently.
It had caused quite a bit of confusion when Takeshi had brought them to the Sanctuary to get a familiar and their combined blood had given birth to a single creature, part dragon, part demonic wolf.
It's true form was a large black wolf with leathery wings and a mix of scales and fur and the sealed form was a fairly large black wolf.
“Can we still have our Julbord?”
Iðunn spoke up first.
“Of course. How about we go shopping tomorrow, then have Julbord on Wednesday evening and fly out to Tromsø after that?”
“Sounds good to us.”
Eir quickly answered for both of them.
“It's settled then.”
The way Iðunn and Eir were squirming made it quite clear they had more to say and when Takeshi gave them a questioning look Iðunn blurted out their question.
“Can we have some new clothes too?”
“Of course. You make sure to make a list of everything you want.”
“Angel, can you help us?”
“Of course. I have a full inventory of your clothes.”
A display instantly came to life showing a full inventory of Iðunn and Eir's wardrobes.
“Okay, how about you girls have Angel help you while we head into town to find a hotel and then we can meet up in the morning?”
They both objected rather loudly.
“We have something to show you first, come on.”
Saga motioned for Takeshi and the others to move from the various couches and chairs spread out in the basement lounge.
“Okay Angel, showtime.”
On Saga's command a section of the back wall folded away and revealed storage space intended to hold most of the furniture, and a few drone wheels came out and under Angles control they cleared the floor and brought out piles of bedding.
“You built a den for us?”
Takeshi's aura was swimming with emotion and when all three of them nodded he grabbed Saga and kissed her deeply before giving his daughters a tight hug and a kiss on the forehead.
“So, will you stay tonight?”
“Of course we will.”
With the furniture moved away everyone quickly helped spread out the pile of bedding and soon they were settling down, and Takeshi patted the bedding next to him.
“Iðunn, Eir, why don't you come join me here?”
After a quick shared look the pair quickly made their way through the piles of bodies and made themselves comfortable next to him before pulled them closer so that they were resting their heads on his shoulders.
“So, have you collected any interesting stories since last time we met?”
He was instantly bombarded with a detailed account of everything they had been up to.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Anyone else want to come with me, Sarah and Maria to Spelgrottan?”
With breakfast, and the call to the Iðunn and Eir's school, out of the way Angel was bringing the vehicles back to the house and they were now deciding who would go where to keep from overwhelming the smaller stores with the full group.
“You will take a beta with you.”
The familiar exchange made everyone smile and a quick glance at the 3 betas gave them a demonstration of the usual game of janken to pick a beta to accompany Takeshi.
“Have fun Manda.”
The teasing quips earned Dan and Ylian a few solid slaps before she climbed into the K-XV together with Takeshi, Sarah and Maria.
“Okay, we'll see you guys at lunch.”
“Have fun everyone, and be nice.”
“We will Alpha!”
“Hiro, you protect what is mine.”
“I will, I swear.”
With Hiroto's promise Takeshi motioned for Angel to close the door and drive them into the city and basement store.
“Ett ögonblick, jag kommer, jag kommer.”
Entering the store they heard the usual calls from the small workshop.
“Oh, it's you guys. Welcome back!”
Takeshi instantly noticed that the owner, Mathias, was looking really bad, it was quite clear he was sick.
“Oh no, what's wrong?”
The twins instantly picked up on his pain, and poor health and instantly began questioning him about it, and with a sigh he gave in.
“It's metastatic prostate cancer. Doctors estimate I have about 6 months left...”
Takeshi was nearly overwhelmed by the sharp surge of pain and concern from the twins as they moved closer, weaving their auras together into the healing rainbow energy, focusing on taking Mathias' pain away.
“You should have called us, we can help you.”
“I just got the verdict last week, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.”
Takeshi reached out as well, allowing his power to join the twins, helping them carry and soothe Mathias' pain.
“Do you want me to help you?”
“Doc says there's nothing that can be done apart from pain management.”
“I can heal you, make you like us, make you young again, make you an eternal.”
For a long time Mathias just sat in silence, alternating between staring at them, shaking his head, and hiding his face in his hands.
“I don't want to close up my store...”
“You won't have to, we will give you a new identity, arrange all the papers to make it look like you left the country to try an experimental treatment, and leaving the store to a fellow enthusiast.”
“You have a good heart. You care about the community and the youths who live here, care about giving them purpose, showing them how to use their hands to create rather than destroy. The world needs more people like you.”
“You don't have to make up your mind now. I can give you a treatment that will help suppress the cancer and fix the pain for now, but it's a temporary fix.”
The promise that he didn't need to decide right away made Mathias relax and nod.
“I guess that's okay...”
“So, how about I treat you now, then buy enough junk for the twins to get you in the black for the next year or two, then we drop by on our way back home after the holidays and hopefully you have made up your mind by then?”
“Yeah, that sounds okay.”
“Why don't you girls go pick out the stuff you want while I talk to him about what needs to be done?”
“Manda, keep an eye on them please.”
He watched them head back into the store before turning to Mathias and explaining about how his blood could heal.
By the time they left the store Mathias' eyes had regained their sparkle, and his skin wasn't quite as ashen, but it would take a few days for him to recover without the infusion of raw power that Takeshi used to grant someone the Blessing, with only his blood to do the healing it was slower, and less complete.
It would keep him alive for a few more years though, and it would keep the pain at bay, but it didn't fully eradicate the cancer, only suppress it.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“So, did you get all the clothes you need Eric?”
“Yeah, I think I'll manage. Dan bought all kinds of stuff, half of which I have no clue what it is...”
“Dan was born up north so he knows how to dress for cold weather.”
“I'm sure he does, and I'm pretty sure he's trying to spoil me...”
Eric grumbled, but the way he was smiling made it quite clear that he had enjoyed having Dan shopping for him.
“Mhm. Remember, he's a sharp beta and that means he has some alpha instincts. One of those is the instinct to prove his worth to a potential mate, to prove he can provide.”
“I know, he explained it to me.”
“And how does that make you feel?”
The clear teasing tone in Takeshi's voice made Eric blush slightly.
“Good... Really good...”
“Getting used to pack dynamics?”
Takeshi brushed his aura against Eric's and was pleased when it responded with a calm submission.
“And what about my little Ásynjur, did you find everything you wanted?”
Iðunn and Eir both blushed for a moment when Takeshi called then ásynjur, the old Norse term for female members of the main pantheon, though Iðunn wasn't always considered to be one of them.
“We have most of the stuff.”
“Still need new boots.”
“What about you Saga? Anything you want?”
The slight blush told him there was something she wanted, but didn't feel comfortable asking for.
“Come on sweetie. What is it you want?”
She sighed and gave him a crooked look before bringing up a page on her phone and having angel transfer it to him.
The page showcased a series of hand crafted jewelry based on Icelandic rune staves, with the Vegvísir, Pathfinder, as the dominant theme, but there were also several items with the Ægishjálmur stave, generally translated as the Helm of Awe or Helm of Terror it was a symbol of power and protection, the ability to scare away the enemy.
They were quite expensive, but no so much that Saga couldn't afford them with the money he sent her and the girls every month.
“If you want them, why don't you just buy them? The money I transfer should be plenty enough.”
“That money is for the girls, and our living costs, I don't feel comfortable spending it on expensive luxuries like jewelry.”
Her refusal to spend on herself made Takeshi huff and sigh, it wasn't the first time he had had that particular debate with her.
“Angel, where is the nearest store that carries that collection?”
A map instantly came up on his phone showing a store not too far away.
“Saga, Iðunn, Eir, once we are done eating we are going there to buy you a pile of jewelry.”
Iðunn and Eir were instantly cheering, but Saga was grumbling and glaring.
“You know I reserve the right to spoil anyone I care about rotten.”
The choir of voices made Saga huff, then smile at him.
“Fine, you win.”
“Of course I do.”
The grumbled Asshole just made him smile, and give her a quick kiss.
“Saga, I can tell there's something more you want.”
Takeshi had watched as she kept looking at a heavy gold ring with the Ægishjálmur on it, a ring that definitely was not her style.
“No, it's not...”
“Not for you?”
“Come on sweetie, talk to me.”
“I want to buy it for you... But it just feels so wrong buy you a gift with your own money...”
“Saga, how many times do I have to tell you this is your money to do with as you please? Besides, I don't care where the money came from, it's the intent of the gift that matters.”
When she didn't answer he picked up one of the rings that looked like the proper size for his pinky and put it on his left hand, testing the feel of it, and checking how it looked together with the other rings he was wearing before moving it to his right hand.
“I think those two works well together.”
The only ring he had on his right hand was the heavy fae signet with the shamarai flower on his index finger, on his left hand he wore a Sanctuary crystal replica of the ring from the set he had bought for Emelie on the ring finger and rune band matching the one he had bought for Dan on the index finger.
When Saga didn't answer him he just handed the ring to the storekeeper and asked it to be added to the items he was about to buy.
Once they left the store Takeshi took the ring out of the box.
“Angel, would you inscribe this with Saga, Iðunn and Eir please?”
He gave the ring to the drone that was hovering at his shoulder, one of the larger security drones, which quickly used a pinpoint laser to make the requested inscription.
“Thank you sweetie.”
The metal was still slightly warm when he put it on and used his aura to ensure it wouldn't get damaged or slip off.
“And thank you sweetie for the beautiful gift.”
Saga blushed slightly, but she didn't object when he gave her a tight hug and when he leaned in to kiss her she surrendered to him and returned the kiss with the same deep rooted hunger she always did.
“Mom, are you in love with Dad?”
To anyone else it may have sounded like an absurd question but Saga just chuckled and pulled away from Takeshi.
“No, I'm not.”
“Then why have you never dated anyone?”
“Yeah, and you're always totally desperate when you see him.”
“That's all his fault, he's just too damned good, totally ruined me!”
The heartfelt apology made Saga pause and stare at him.
“I never wanted you to be lonely because of me... I should have held back...”
Saga just sighed and called him an idiot, which earned her a questioning look.
“I'm perfectly happy like this, you, and Em, have given me everything I need. My girls, the means to care for them and always be there for them, the freedom to bring in a man should I want to. Sure, I haven't found a guy that can hold a candle to you, but that's just me being picky.”
“As long as you are happy I guess...”
“I am. You gave me the best things in my life.”
Accepting her words he pulled her closer, but before he could kiss her again their were interrupted by Iðunn.
“I don't understand. I know you love him!”
Takeshi and Saga shared a rather amused look before explaining to Iðunn and Eir the difference in their eyes between loving someone and being in love.
“Yes, I love him, but that's different from being in love with him.”
“And I do love your mother, but she knows as well as I do that I'm not in love with her. And neither of us mind having the occasional romp, enjoying each others company on a physical level, but without wanting a romantic relationship.”
“So it's more like friends with benefits?”
“Yeah, a really good friend who you love as a friend, enjoy having sex with, but don't feel drawn to in a romantic way.”
“I'm not sure I understand...”
“Don't worry sweetie, you are still young, understanding comes with time and experience.”
“Feel free to ask me things though and I will do my best to explain. I'm really not very good at this whole emotions thing. It's still hard for me to talk about it, I'm better at showing how I feel, usually through kisses.”
Iðunn and Eir instantly turned beet red and Takeshi couldn't resist teasing them slightly by giving them a hug and a kiss on the forehead.
“Can you sense it? What I feel?”
Both of them nodded slightly, then gave him a brilliant smile that made his instincts soar.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Smile of a Goddess_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Iðunn, Eir, would it bother you if I sleep with your mother here in the den?”
Takeshi knew Saga didn't mind being intimate among the others, but he didn't want to make the girls uncomfortable as they were not used to such things.
“Mom! You'd have sex with him with people watching?!”
“I have before. It's a pack thing, it's perfectly normal for them, and I don't really mind if someone I trust sees me have sex.”
Both girls instantly went impossibly bright red which earned them a few amused chuckles.
“Don't worry, we won't be intimate in the den if it bothers you. You feeling comfortable to relax and sleep in the den is far more important than us sating our somewhat overactive sex drives.”
“How much sex do you guys usually have?”
Saga's soft hiss earned her quite a bit of teasing before things settled down and they began explaining about the normal sex life of the pack which earned them some brilliant blushes, and a few embarrassed squawks.
“Don't worry, we have private rooms at the winter lodge for such activities, and you can choose to sleep in your own rooms, either singles, or share a double, or down in the den with us. And it will be up to you how much intimacy will be allowed in the den if you chose to sleep there, which we all prefer if you do. Our instincts tells us to keep pack together, and as my daughters you register as pack even if you're not formally marked as such.”
“So, your decision?”
Takeshi added a teasing tone to his question.
“Get a room!”
He could feel that their rejection wasn't all that serious, telling him that they would probably be okay with the intimacies of the pack in the den as long as they kept it somewhat discreet.
“As the ladies wish.”
A soft flare of power signaled him calling on the shadows, and moments later he vanished along with Saga, reappearing in her bedroom.
“I wish we could do that...”
“It's possible that you will be able to if you accept the blessing.”
Emelie knew about Takeshi's plan to make them a formal offer of the blessing, and that he intended to push a bit more this time around so she was more than happy to help out a bit.
“And if we're not?”
“You are Take's daughters, you have power in your souls. If you do not gain the ability naturally I can gift you with shadows, like I did with Dan. It will eventually allow you to use such powers.”
Ylian quickly promised to grant them the shadows if they didn't gain them on their own.
“I still can't open the door myself though...”
Dan's addition quickly had the conversation focused on their various abilities and how they developed over time.
“Okay girls, it's getting late. You should sleep.”
“No buts Iðunn. You are mortal, you need sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day.”
Emelie scolded gently.
“Don't worry, we can revisit this topic as many times as you want to.”
“Manda, why don't you sing something to help them relax?”
Emelie patted the pile of bedding where the furry members of their family was already resting, figuring that Iðunn and Eir would feel more comfortable there now that Takeshi and Saga was not in the den.
“One lullaby coming up.”
Iðunn and Eir gave them some rather crooked looks, but the moment Amanda began singing they relaxed and a few minutes later they were deep asleep, but still wearing a slight hint of a smile.
“I can see why he calls them his little Goddesses...”
Hiroto hummed with a smile of his own.
Chapter 4: A Light in the Polar Night
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_ A Light in the Polar Night _)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Don't eat too much now, wouldn't want you to get airsick because you overindulged. We can make plenty more once we get there.”
Takeshi cautioned Iðunn and Eir to take it easy when they went for their 5th refill of ribs, meatballs, smoked, and cured salmon, one of them stacking their plate with meat, the other with fish, then sharing the spoils.
“But it takes a week to make the salmon...”
“Don't worry, we have some really good shortcuts.”
They both gave in and pushed their plates over to Takeshi who quickly polished them off before nudging the others to round off the meal so that they could head to the airport on to Tromsø.
“Would you like to visit the cockpit for takeoff?”
Angel had alerted Takeshi that they would be getting their clearance within a few minutes so she needed him and Dan in the cockpit.
“Is it very different from the Blackout?”
“Not really, more buttons and displays, and it's not VTOL, but other than that it's not really all that different.
“We'll stay here then.”
“Okay. See you soon.”
Once they were clear of the airport Angel would handle the flying alone and her babysitters could rejoin the others.
“Everyone, you may want to look outside.”
About an hour into the flight Angel called for everyone's attention, and following her suggestion they turned off the movie they were watching and deactivated the blackout layer in the windows.
Looking out the windows revealed a beautiful display of colors around them.
“Angel, would you move us into a tighter formation and turn off our position lights please.”
Takeshi found the bright flashing of the anti-collision lights to be quite annoying and they took a lot away from the beauty of the northern lights outside.
Moments later the flashing stopped and Angel informed Takeshi that she had alerted flight control that Shamarai 1 had an electric problem with their lights and that Shamarai 2 would move into close formation to ensure they would be easily spotted.
Eric was obviously quite taken with the display.
“Indeed, I have not seen a display this intense before.”
Hiroto was watching the northern lights with a hint of awe in the face of nature's beauty.
“Solar activity predictions indicate that we will have excellent chances of seeing the northern lights during our stay.”
There was quite a bit of cheering at the news that they would get to see the northern lights quite a bit, they all enjoyed calm activities at night, and watching the spectacular show of nature was just the kind of thing they loved to do.
The show was still going strong by the time they arrived at their lodge and Dan just shook his head at Eric before wrapping a shivering Leiia up in a thick blanket and placing an insulated pad down for her next to the very distracted young man and leaving them with Hiroto to watch the sky.
It wasn't really all that cold, but Leiia was still young and there was quite a bit of snow which she wasn't all that fond off, her natural element was the hot aspects of fire, so she had a deep, instinctive dislike for wet and cold.
Once inside Dan helped divide up the luggage that Takeshi had brought in using the rune circle and get it all moved to the appropriate rooms.
“They're kinda cute together...”
With the luggage stuffed away Takeshi and Dan headed back out to pick up their wayward lovers, only to find them standing next to the bus, Eric leaning back against Hiroto who had his wings wrapped around them both to ward off the chill.
Sharing a look, and a soft smile, they walked up to the bus and took up a similar position next to Eric and Hiroto and soon Dan and Eric was leaning comfortably against Takeshi and Hiroto, while also leaning against each other.
“How about we continue this at the main deck, with Eric wrapped up in a heated blanket?”
Dan could feel that Eric was starting to get chilled despite the protection offered by Hiroto's wings.
“Sounds like a good idea. I should have worn more clothes...”
“It takes some getting used to.”
Takeshi half scolded, half soothed.
“Mhm, it's important that you get used to wearing several layers or you will be getting too hot inside, and chilled when you get outside.”
Dan agreed with Takeshi and began nudging Eric toward the large building.
“Thanks for looking after Eric.”
Takeshi gave Hiroto a soft kiss to relay the full extent of his gratitude.
“I think I'm starting to get used to this whole pack idea...”
“Don't worry. Your caring nature is a perfect fit for a pack.”
“I have a feeling your pack is hardly representative...”
Takeshi agreed with a laugh, his pack was far from normal.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_ A Light in the Polar Night _)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Takeshi had placed Saga and the girls in a pile of bedding that had been treated with the blood of the lava worm, making it slightly warm to the touch, there was also fire crystal in the floor that gave of a gentle heat.
“Yeah, it's cozy.”
“Almost a bit too warm.”
“I don't think you need those sweaters while you stay under these blankets.”
Iðunn and Eir quickly removed their thick sweaters, but Saga was a bit more hesitant.
“You want something hot to drink?”
“Do we have any Glögg?”
Iðunn instantly asked for the flavorful mulled wine that was the traditional Swedish Christmas drink.
“Of course. Do want classic red, or white?”
“Red, and lots of almonds.”
“Okay, I'll be back soon.”
Takeshi quickly turned to Eric.
“You want something as well?”
“Hot cocoa please.”
“American or Swedish?”
“I'll have the Swedish one please, it was easier to drink and not as crazy sweet.”
“Okay. And the rest of you?”
There was a chorus of requests and Takeshi quickly asked Angel to make a list for him.
When Takeshi returned with several large containers with hot drinks everyone were leaning back, watching the sky and talking about what they wanted to do during the next few weeks.
“Drinks are ready.”
There was a slight stampede for the various drinks while Takeshi and Dan served the mortals theirs but soon they were all relaxing again.
“So, what do you guys want to start with?”
Takeshi gently flared his aura to make sure everyone was on task.
“I think we should start with making good broths.”
“Yeah, bone broth with marrow!”
“Dad, you promised we could have more salmon!”
As usual Iðunn was the first of Saga's girls to speak up.
“Of course. I will make a few batches tonight, and they will be ready for breakfast tomorrow.”
“Can you make a batch with hot lime?”
“You mean with lime zest and chili?”
“Sure, I can make some of that. Any other version you would like?”
“I don't know...”
“How about I make those regular ones tonight, and we can experiment later?”
By the time their debate about experimenting with salmon was done everyone were snickering at the way Iðunn and Eir would take turns talking, and occasionally finish each other's sentences, acting very much like the stereotype of identical twins.
“Can we make dumplings too tomorrow?”
Julia tossed another suggestion into the conversation which quickly earned her a choir of agreements.
“Soup and dumplings sounds like a good idea.”
“If we're going to live mainly of soups and stews we really need to make good bread.”
Takeshi's aura stirred slightly when Saga finally spoke up and got into the debate and the edge of joy had the other responding in kind.
“Yeah, we will be baking bread every day, we always do.”
Emelie quickly assured Saga that there would be no lack of fresh bread.
“Not just plain boring white bread I hope?”
“Hell no! We make proper bread with stuff like spelt, rye, barley and sourdough. Whole grain naturally. We also use some demon realm grains which offer better nutrition for demons and other creatures with higher needs.”
The bread topic instantly had Emelie and Saga bickering the way only old friends could with Emelie playing the affronted card at the suggestion that she would bake anything but proper bread.
“Is it all dark bread?”
Iðunn was clearly not quite as taken with the darker breads as her mother and Emelie.
“Not at all, we make all kinds of bread, including white breads, we just don't make those flavorless, nutrient void, additive laden, monstrosities you find in your average store.”
“So we can still get toast melts?”
Takeshi barely even noticed that it was Eir that continued
“Of course. We will need to make some tools though as we don't actually have one of those sandwich toasters.”
“What kind of tools?”
“Well, the easiest would probably be to make something out of Sanctuary crystal.”
“Oh like a... Uhm...”
Iðunn quickly looked at Eir and made a few gestures but she looked equally confused.
“Uhm, what's Halster called in English?”
“I don't know...”
Takeshi couldn't recall an English name for the mesh thong contraption commonly used to grill fish.
“Mom, do you know?”
“No clue... How about you Em?”
“None whatsoever, Dan?”
“Nope, how about you Angel?”
“I don't believe there is a specific English name for that type of grill basket.”
Angel quickly displayed the type of grill basket made for fish that was commonly called a Halster in Swedish.
“So, how were you thinking of using something like that for making your toast melts?”
“I was thinking a big thong like halster, but with solid plates with toast shaped indentation and little edges to make sure it seals the fillings in. Then we could put it in the fire, or maybe make it with those crystals that get hot. That should work, right?”
“I don't know. Why don't we make a few and see?”
Takeshi wanted to encourage them to experiment.
He quickly brought out a handful of the small crystal grains they used for making Sanctuary crystal items and before long they had several versions made.
“Now, we don't have any suitable bread ready yet, so you will have to test them tomorrow.”
“Okay, we're getting kinda sleepy anyway...”
“I bet you are, it's getting late.”
“I'm with them, I'm really tired.”
Eric quickly agreed, and the huge yawn that followed made everyone chuckle.
“How about we head back into the den and rest a bit, and let the poor humans sleep?”
Takeshi gave Iðunn and Eir a gentle nudge and they both yawned as if on cue.
“Yeah, that's probably a good idea.”
“So you have decided to keep sleeping in the den with the rest of us?”
“Yeah, we'll try at least, if you promise not to have too much crazy sex in there.”
Everyone quickly promised not to have sex in the den.
“We don't want to mess up how you usually live though...”
“How about we make sure to take it easy, and you tell us we have rooms for a reason if you start feeling uncomfortable?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
A new round of promises were quickly offered which made Iðunn and Eir blush slightly and nod their acceptance.
“But, what about the bread, and salmon?”
Takeshi almost sighed at the sudden turnabout, but before he could say anything Emelie piped up from her end of the deck.
“Don't worry, we'll make sure all of that is ready when you wake up. Remember, we don't need much sleep.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot...”
“We don't need to sleep yet, but a few of us will stay in the den to rest, keep you company, and soothe the instinctual need to keep pack together, safe.”
“That's good, now get your pretty little asses inside and get ready for bed.”
“Oh stuff it you old prude.”
The habitual scolding had everyone snickering and when he flexed his claws in mock threat there was a stampede heading toward the artificial hot spring where the communal showers were located, each room had a small bathroom with a shower as well, but they were used to sharing.
“May I wash your hair?”
Ylian carefully approached Saga who was preparing to wash her long hair.
She blushed for a moment then nodded and turned her back to them.
“Can we wash your hair?”
Sarah and Maria approached Iðunn and Eir to offer them the comforts of pack grooming but were met by a moment of hesitation, but looking at their mother getting her hair washed by Ylian made them give in.
Their hesitance earned them knowing smiles and an explanation.
“Remember, grooming is an important part of pack bonding.”
“Because it makes us smell a bit like you, right?”
“Mhm, but it's also the touching, being close, helping each other.”
“Just look at Eric and Take.”
Takeshi had managed to talk Eric into allowing him to wash him while Dan took care of Emelie.
“Eric looks like he's enjoying it...”
“Take is really good at using his claws just right, it feels amazing.”
“And he's trying to seduce Eric into sleeping with him too.”
“Does it bother you that the pack isn't monogamous?”
Maria's question held a slight edge.
“No, not really. It's just.. We know everyone's okay with it but it still takes a bit getting used to seeing it.”
The edge was instantly done and she took a dollop of shampoo and began working it into Eir's hair.
“Of course we are, we were raised by your dad...”
The teasing quip soon had both pairs of twins laughing and mock wrestling, getting each other completely covered in suds and before long most of the pack had been pulled into it, feathered and furry companions included.
“Aw, poor Yami, soaking wet really isn't your look.”
Yami's massive wolf form looked downright pathetic with the fur soaking wet and splattered with white suds.
Hugin's shriek when Yami rewarded his teasing by shaking the water and suds from his fur, covering Hugin's freshly cleaned wings in the mixture, had everyone wincing at the tone and sheer volume.
There was a moment of pointed silence, then everyone broke down laughing at Hugin's misfortune.
“Come here mate, I'll get your wings nice and dry again.”
Nelly cooed softly at him, calling up her wind based abilities to let a warm breeze ruffle the feathers a bit and he quickly moved over and sat down in front of her, letting her wash and preen his wings.
“Enjoying the view?”
Noticing how his daughters looked at Hugin's naked form Takeshi couldn't resist teasing them a bit which earned him some rather impressive blushes.
“You know, it's perfectly fine to appreciate a beautiful body. And I happen to know he won't mind if you take a closer look. He, like most demons, have very little inhibitions regarding nudity.”
Iðunn huffed, then blushed even brighter when Hugin moved his wing slightly to give Nelly better access, something that gave Iðunn and Eir a perfect view of his back.
“Are those tattoos?”
The somewhat desperate change of subject to something safer, that still allowed them to watch Hugin, made Takeshi smile.
“No, those marks are a claim, and a promise. I made those by forcing my power into him, though it was his will that gave them form.”
“They are really beautiful.”
“Yeah, they look good on him.”
Their words triggered a subtle darkening of Hugin's skin, nudity in itself didn't bother him, but he was still somewhat shy at times, and being so openly appraised by Iðunn and Eir made him blush.
Takeshi whispered softly, he knew Hugin heard him anyway but the purpose was to get the girls attention as he slowly moved closer and began to brush his fingers through Hugin's wings and slowly make it to the mashen, which made power pulse through the markings, making them glow red.
“Will we get markings like those if we are marked as pack?”
“Not like those, those are different. The mark of my pack is that pattern of black scales from their shoulder down the back.”
“Like your tattoo?”
“Mhm. Though, technically mine isn't a tattoo either. It's a claim and a power mark, showing that Kiryu has given me her power, and claimed me as hers, showing that I have been deemed worthy of her legacy.”
“Demon markings are complicated...”
“Indeed, but not as bad as it seems. I can teach you about them during the holidays if you want me to.”
“For now, how about we get you ladies dry and sleeping?”
They objections to having to go to bed made everyone smile, and after a moment Iðunn and Eir broke into smiles as well.
Once everyone was dry again they headed toward the den, but it was clear that Yami and the other beasts were not quite ready to settle down, all of them wanting to head out and explore a bit.
“Yeah yeah, calm down Yami. You are not going anywhere without your harnesses.”
The large wolf instantly froze with a soft whine, he hated the harness with a passion.
“I know you don't like it, but you need to wear it so that people know you are not wild wolf, not a threat. And that goes for the rest of you too.”
Takeshi nailed the gathering of antsy creatures with a demanding look.
“Yes Kara, even you, you will need to wear at least the leg bands, as will Sora. Ideally I would like you to wear the vest as well.”
“Kara don't like them.”
“I know sweetie, but it's for your safety.”
“Even my brother and I will wear the bands if we take to our raven forms while here.”
Hugin reached out to soothe the somewhat upset crow.
In Miami their animal family rarely left their private island unless accompanied by the others and now they wanted to take the opportunity to roam and explore a bit.
Even in Miami they would usually wear the harnesses to show that they were pets and not to be harmed.
The harnesses also had built in lights similar to the LED collars that were popular with dogs, those were not popular with the predators though as they made it very hard to stalk prey, even if it was just for fun and not for food.
Even the light vests made to allow the crows to fly while wearing them had reflexive thread and lights in them, though the switch to activate the lights were within their reach so they could turn it off themselves as the light could be a risk to them, making them more vulnerable to predators.
“Well, do you want to go out and explore tonight?”
Takeshi held out Yami's harness and with a huff he approached to have it put on.
“And the rest of you?”
There were plenty of huffs and grumbles along with begging whines, but soon they all wore their harnesses, Leiia included and headed out to explore, though Takeshi suspected Leiia would return pretty fast.
“Yami, would you watch over Leiia please? She's not used to being out alone.”
Eric's somewhat hesitant question earned him a soft, huffing, bark that he knew to mean Yes.
He watched the large wolf walk over to the slender feline and watch over her as she explored the tracks of an arctic fox.
“Don't worry, Taka and I will join them too.”
Eriko's soft words made Eric breathe a sigh of relief, he trusted that Yami would protect his familiar, but knowing that the shrewd old fox was with them made him feel better.
They watched for a moment as the two kitsune borrowed the form of arctic foxes and allowed simple lighted collars to be placed on them before heading out as well.
“I do believe we were putting our little humans to bed?”
Takeshi teased softly and nudged them to keep going to the den.
“Manda, can you sing for us?”
They had settled down to relax when Iðunn spoke up, and the question came with a slight hesitance.
“Of course I can. And you don't need to be ashamed for asking, the others ask me from time to time too, it helps them relax.”
She slowly allowed her voice to rise, mindful not to allow too much power into it as the humans were far more susceptible to the effects and she didn't want to sedate them too much, only make them relax and before long the humans were deep asleep.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_ A Light in the Polar Night _)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
As suspected Yami returned with Leiia about an hour later, then vanished to rejoin the others in their exploration and Dan quickly grabbed the large feline before she could crawl under Eric's blanket which earned him a soft yowl in objection.
“Leiia, come here for a moment, you need to get dry and warm up a bit before joining Eric or you will wake him up with your wet and cold fur.”
The objections instantly stopped and she allowed herself to be placed in front of the fireplace and soon she was purring loudly as Dan rubbed her dry with a towel.
Satisfied that everyone were relaxed, and the humans sleeping, Takeshi carefully untangled himself from Saga and their daughters to head to the kitchen.
“Em, would you care to help me prepare the salmon for the girls?”
“Not at all, we need to do quite a bit of baking as well, I want to make saffron buns.”
“Anyone else feel like helping us make an extra nice breakfast?”
A few moments later Alice, Amber, Nelly and Jenna joined them, though Jenna mostly joined them to make sure the somewhat restless Isabelle didn't wake anyone up in the den.
Shortly after Hugin joined them as well, clearly feeling a bit lonely without Takeshi and Nelly with him in the den, and with him came the young phoenix as well.
“Låga, don't eat the dough, you know it makes you sick.”
Emelie gently scolded the phoenix, who had been named Låga after the Swedish word for flame, the little rascal loved to eat uncooked dough, but her high body temperature and lack of certain digestive enzymes made it rise rapidly in her gut, making her bloated and gassy.
As she grew older her internal temperature would increase though, eventually making her able to eat pretty much anything as it would be incinerated inside her body.
The defiant chirp told her that the chick had no intention of obeying so she just shook her head.
“Suit yourself, and don't say I didn't warn you.”
A warning was all she was about to give as long as it wasn't something that was actually dangerous.
By the time the mortals woke up and entered the dining area they were met by a huge table piled high with all kinds of food and they were all in agreement that the amount of food was excessive.
There were several baskets with still warm bread, plates with meat and fish, both cold cuts and and steaming hot, several containers of warm drinks and broths.
“Don't worry, we will polish off whatever you guys don't eat.”
Emelie chirped happily from a pile of pillows where she was nursing a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
“Yeah, we know, but this is still crazy...”
Takeshi agreed while handing Eric a big glass of fresh juice.
“But I'm a firm believer in spoiling family and loved ones.”
He carefully gauged Eric's reactions as he leaned in and gave him a soft peck and when the only reaction was a slight blush he pushed slightly, deepening it to a proper kiss before pulling back and giving him a nudge toward where Dan had hidden away with his usual morning coffee.
“Dad, why do you keep trying to kiss Dan's boyfriend?”
Iðunn's question made Takeshi pause for a moment and give Saga a quick look, he didn't want to tell the teen girls more than Saga felt appropriate.
“It's okay, they're old enough to hear it, but no need to be explicit.”
He nodded in acceptance of her limitations.
“Remember when I explained about my being polyamorous?”
“Usually when a pack has a polygamous or polyamorous alpha the entire pack tends to have such tendencies.”
They both nodded their understanding.
“Now, why do you think that is? And why is it important that the pack members share that trait with their alpha?”
“Well, the alpha would seek out individuals that fits into the pack well, and if the sexual preferences are too different they wouldn't fit in very well.”
“That's right, what else?”
There was a long silence as they considered his words.
“Oh, I know!”
Eir raised her hand with a slight wave, a gesture that made everyone smile.
“Go on Eir.”
“If someone is in a relationship with a poly who has many partners they could easily end up feeling ignored or lonely if they only have a single partner themselves as the poly partner would divide their time between all partners.”
“So you are encouraging Eric to accept having multiple partners so he won't feel lonely when Dan is with one of his other partners?”
“That's part of the reason, but there is also a strong instinctual aspect, a pack usually consists of the alpha pair, siblings, mates and offspring, with only close blood relatives being off limits to the dominant alpha.”
“So instincts are telling you that Eric should be yours too?”
There was another long silence, but the way their auras moved told them they were discussing something between themselves.
“What about us if we were to fully join the pack?”
“Well, you are my daughters so my instincts don't see you as potential partners, but the others definitely would, especially Dan, Manda and Ylian who are very sharp betas, meaning they have a lot of alpha like attributes and instincts.”
“Manda? But she's...”
“Female, like you..?”
“Just like me our pack is fairly blind to genders, and the urge to claim you is more about the stability of the pack than about reproduction, especially while you are too young to fully register as breeding females.”
He watched as they mulled over his words for a moment before continuing.
“Does it bother you that I'm just as attracted to males as I am females, or others such a Ylian?”
“Of course not!”
They both blushed and fell silent.
“You don't know if you would be?”
The total silence that followed told him that was not the case.
“You're like me and you're worried how others will react if they find out?”
The bright crimson blushes told him he was right and after a few moments they both nodded.
“If people can't accept who you are that's on them, not you. And those who can't accept you as you are are not worthy of your concern.”
Ylian spoke up before Takeshi had a chance to answer them.
Eric made his opinion known and soon everyone was showering Iðunn and Eir in agreement, pride and approval.
“There is something I would like you to consider while we are here.”
Takeshi took the opportunity to talk to them about accepting the Blessing and becoming true pack.
“I would like you to consider accepting the Blessing, and then come live with us in Miami, as pack, once you have finished the spring semester.”
Both of them instantly looked at their mother.
“Yes, that includes your mother as well.”
Saga gave him a somewhat crooked look before speaking up.
“I will gladly accept the Blessing, but I don't think I'm ready to become pack just yet.”
Her hesitance made Takeshi smile widely at her.
“I know, and you probably never will, it's not in your nature. Not everyone is a pack creature, some are loners, wanderers who would only be held back by the bonds of a pack.”
Saga's relief was instant, and very obvious, she had clearly been worried that he would see her reluctance to become pack as rejection.
“Will you at least consider this?”
“So we can finish school first?”
“Of course, and you can continue studying in Miami if that's what you want. All of us do a lot of studying, though mostly distance as being separated at various schools messes with the instinct to keep pack together.”
Gymnasiet was the Swedish equivalent of High school, an optional 3 year education following the mandatory 9 years of basic schooling that was required for higher studies such as the university.
“If you wish to attend, I won't stop you, but I would prefer if you at least accept the Blessing before that, and ideally I would like you to attend high school or study from home in Miami instead.”
“For your safety. Your mother is concerned about the high amount of incidents with girls and young women being attacked at the high schools here. And after looking into it I agree with her, I don't want you to attend these schools without at least the extra protection of the Blessing. And if it was my call you wouldn't attend at all, but it's your life, your choice.”
He took care to emphasize that in the end it was their choice.
“You're really worried, aren't you?”
“And you would let us choose anyway?”
“Yes, but I would try to find someone who can watch over you discreetly to make sure you are protected.”
“Okay, we will think about it.”
He hugged both of them tightly and when Fenrir whined he moved slightly so the familiar could crawl halfway into his lap to be closer.
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“So, are we ready to make stock?”
Everyone had gathered in the large kitchen to take part in the first stage of their soups and stews kitchen adventure.
“Alright, let's cook.”
Takeshi echoed the eager calls and activated the teleportation runes that brought in a huge pile of bones and meat from their demon realm stores.
“What kind of meat is this?”
Iðunn poked at one of the large Manata femurs, somewhat awed by the sheer size of the bones.
“That's manata, a kind of large buffalo that roam the plains the demon realm in giant herds.”
“Is it safe to taste it raw?”
As always Eir quickly picked up where her sister had ended.
“One moment, let me check. It's usually safe, but there's always a risk that it may be contaminated with something that might harm a human.”
Takeshi quickly sniffed the meat and allowed his aura to flow through it and found nothing that could be harmful for humans.
“It's safe. Do you want to try it as sashimi?”
“The marrow too?”
“Okay. Ylian, would you hold one of these for me please?”
Takeshi pointed toward one of the large bones, each of them over a meter long and almost 30 centimeters in diameter.
Ylian picked it up and held it out vertically in front of them and a moment later Takeshi drew his blade and cut the length of the bone with a lighting fast slash.
Having Ylian hold on to the bone was the easiest way to cut it as they held the bone securely without hampering Takeshi's motion when cutting it, their control of their form allowing the blade to pass safely through their body.
Eir called out in alarm while Iðunn darted forward to check on Ylian.
“Don't worry, yi is a shadeling, remember? Yi's natural form is incorporeal, it takes a lot more than a regular slash for me to cut yi.”
“Please don't scare us like that...”
“Okay, I'll try to remember to warn you before doing something like that again. But I will have to in order to cut these bones, it's the best way to split them.”
Taking a thin, flexible, blade that could be bent so that it shaped itself after the inside of the bone he cut away the marrow, then cut it into thin slices and placed on a plate before cutting up a piece of finely marbled meat.
“The meat looks strange...”
“That's probably because you're not used to seeing meat being marbled like this. Human realm meat simply doesn't come with this type of marbling.”
A Japanese meat grader wouldn't give it the highest rating because there wasn't enough fat, but Takeshi enjoyed the way the fat was extremely evenly distributed throughout the meat while it still remaining fairly lean, giving it a honeycomb pattern with small packs of muscle fiber surrounded by a layer of fat.
The perfectly formed pattern had unsettled him at first too, but with time he had grown to appreciate the tender meat that had a natural saltiness and a gentle flavor that made it well suited for sashimi, though, it couldn't compare to the deep flavor of a mature gong.
“Maybe, it looks, I don't know...
Iðunn continued when her sister's voice trailed off.
“Mhm, symmetrical patterns like this can often feel unnatural despite being surprisingly common in nature..”
“It's beautiful though...”
“Indeed it is.”
He offered them the plate he had just prepared and they quickly took a slice of the meat and tried it as it was.
“It's really good.”
“It tastes like there's already salt on it.”
They were a bit more hesitant about the marrow, but it didn't take long before they took a small piece each, their expressions revealed they were not too fond of it though.
“It's okay I guess...”
“But taste is nice, very subtle...”
“Maybe you would enjoy it better cooked and served on bread?”
“Guess we can try at least.”
Iðunn and Eir were rather picky eaters compared to the others, but at least they were willing to try things, and disliking something served one way didn't keep them from trying it prepared another way.
“Let's cut up the rest of these bones.”
Takeshi nodded toward the crate packed with femur bones.
“Ylian is going to hold those while you cut, tight?”
“Yes, yi will wrap around them and keep them at a good angle for me to cut them into slices for easy cooking.”
“Of course sweetie.”
“Don't worry, there is no way he can cut me unless he wants to, that blade is part of him, and it knows me.”
“It still looks scary...”
“That's quite understandable.”
Ylian soothed the girls before picking up one of the bones and holding it out for Takeshi, and moments later they placed a big pile of equal slices onto a large pan before tossing the two end knobs to the beasts that were eagerly waiting for treats.
“Kara, Sora, do you want some too?”
“Kara want one!”
A pair of ends were quickly cut so that the crows could access the marrow without the bones wobbling around.
“Leiia, here's one for you.”
When Leiia got hers Isabelle voiced a soft, pleading, mewl that had all of them smiling and moments later she was curled up next to the others, eagerly licking the marrow out of a piece of her own.
A large pile of other bones were hacked up into suitable pieces as well, those would be used to make a proper bone broth.
“So, what should we do first when making bone broth?”
“Do we need to soak the bones?”
Amber was inspecting one of the slices of bone, noting the pink color of the marrow.
“Nah, not when making broth, that's mostly just to make them look nicer when you serve the marrow.”
“Then we should start by roasting the bones, right?”
“That's right, they need to be roasted until nicely browned for a richer flavor.”
“And add garlic!”
“Yeah, roast garlic with the bones.”
Everyone were starting to talk over each other so Takeshi flared his aura to silence them before continuing
“How about we split it up into batches first, then we can try different methods and combinations?”
Everyone nodded silently, slightly subdued by the spiritual scolding.
“10 different batches should be enough.”
Crystal pans were quickly shaped from the basic grains and the bones divided into various combinations before everyone divided into groups to make the different version they wanted to try and before long large pots were slowly simmering, generating their own heat.
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They had decided not to speed up the process so once the pots were simmering they retreated to the den to play games and talk but the energy of the pack just wouldn't settle down, no one really felt like just being lazy.
“Dad, can you teach us to drive the snowmobiles?”
“Of course. Eric, you want lessons too?”
“Dad showed me when I was a kid. I might need a few reminders though.”
“Okay, snowmobile driving it is then.”
Once outside Takeshi couldn't help noticing the way the mortal humans looked at the not so mortal pack with clear envy over how they could wear light clothing despite the chilly weather.
Part of him couldn't help being happy about that as it was another reason for them to accept the Blessing.
After several hours of driving in the polar night with only a few breaks for something hot to drink and small snacks Takeshi chased his daughters back into the warmth of the den.
“Any ideas what you want to eat tonight?”
The pots were still simmering and would be until the next day so they needed to come up with something to eat.
“Can we have Shabu Shabu?”
Maria quickly requested the classic Japanese hotpot, knowing that it was something Iðunn and Eir loved, but almost never had the courage to actually ask for.
“Of course, anything else?”
Takara's addition made everyone smile, the two dishes were both considered hotpots, the main difference was that shabu shabu was cooked in a light dashi style broth in a pot while the sukiyaki was cooked in a dark soy based sauce in a pan.
“You want to add Yakiniku as well?”
Yakiniku was pretty much a grill version of the previous dishes, all of them were cooked by each person adding a small amount of meat or vegetables to a community pot or grill, then dipping it in various sauces and eating.
“Okay, it's settled then unless someone has any objections?”
There were no objections so Takeshi quickly gathered the assigned cooking crew for the night and headed into the kitchen to prepare it.
“Remember, use the red bowls and plates for demon realm ingredients that are not suitable for mortals to eat.”
“But what about the broth? Don't we need separate pots?”
“Don't worry, were not using any poisonous ingredients so the transfer into the broth won't cause any issues.”
None of them were actually dangerous, but they were very hard to digest and could make a human sick.
Takara was obviously not to happy about the restriction in ingredients.
“I know you like some of the poisonous ones, but you will have to do without for now.”
“Yeah, it's more important that they are safe.”
Amanda scolded Takara gently when Takeshi didn't.
“I know... I wish they would just take the Blessing so they can eat it too!”
“As do I sweetie, as do I.”
Takeshi sighed deeply and instantly found himself somewhat crowded as Amanda and the others on kitchen duty quickly closed ranks on him and offered their support.
“I'm sure they will. They are obviously curious about our abilities, our bonds.”
“Curiosity alone isn't enough...”
“Oh shush, trust the pull of your blood to bring your family to you.”
Ylian's scolding made everyone but Takeshi smile, and after a moment he huffed and surrendered to their logic.
“So, did you have a good time today?”
Takeshi handed Eir a plate with deep fried banana and ice cream for desert before striking up conversation again.
“It was fun!”
“Will you teach us to drive a car too?”
“Of course. Any vehicle you want I will teach you how to drive, or pilot.”
“Even the Blackout?”
“Of course, and the Valkyrie too if you want to.”
“Even the big plane we flew here?”
“Mhm. You will have to wait a few more years to get a license for them though...”
The cheering that followed was loud enough for Takeshi to scold them and remind them of the sensitive ears of the Blessed.
“It's okay, just try to remember, It can be quite painful.”
The subdued feel of their auras made Takeshi move over and give them both a hug, making sure to allow forgiveness to saturate his aura as they were not as sensitive as the others.
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“I'm gonna explode if I eat any more...”
Iðunn's groan when Emelie placed a large platter with a wide selection of Christmas treats on the table made everyone smile.
“You know, you are allowed to wait a while. There's plenty enough for everyone.”
Takeshi teased while reaching for one of the dark chocolate truffles made with less sugar to suit his tastes.
“I know, but it smells soooo good...”
The soft whining only widened the sympathetic smiles as the both Blessed and demons could eat extreme amounts of food in a single sitting without getting sick.
“How about we distract you with opening our presents?”
Everyone had agreed to do it the Nordic way and celebrate Christmas mainly on Christmas eve.
Everyone quickly gathered closer and turned their attention to the Christmas tree.
The large, somewhat overdecorated, tree was peeking out from a huge pile of gifts that had been bought from all over the world thanks to their ability to shadow travel once they had been seen arriving in Tromsø by plane.
The small pile of gifts that Takeshi and the others had brought from Miami and bought in Gothenburg had quickly transformed into a minor mountain, but no one minded as Iðunn and Eir seemed to take great joy in guessing which gifts were theirs.
Instead of writing names on the gifts each of them had been marked with a nanoprint QR code that only Angel could read, which meant that other than Angel, only the one who had bought the gift knew who it was intended for.
Adding the fact that most of the gifts had been wrapped by Angel they had managed to add a sense of suspense for everyone.
“Now we just need an old grandpa to play Santa.”
“Well, Ylian is the oldest, so maybe yi should have the honor?”
“But he... Yi doesn't look old...”
“Remember, my physical form is just a representation of my will, I can freely alter my appearance.”
To prove their point Ylian changed from their semi-male appearance into a fully female one, then over to a male form that they slowly aged into a representation of Odin who served as the gift bringer in old Yule traditions.
After a few moments their form settled down into the image of the Wanderer, one eyed, long white hair, dark gray robes complete with a wide brimmed, floppy, felt hat and a staff.
Moments eager calls were heard as Kara decided she would play the role of Odin's ravens and she was soon joined by Sora, Gere and Freke, completing the image of Odin Allfather.
“Our dear shadeling mate makes a pretty good Odin, don't you think?”
When Dan didn't answer Takeshi turned to look at him and found him staring slack jawed at Ylian.
“Ylian, I do believe you have broken our mate.”
Though Dan and Ylian had yet to complete their mating bond everyone considered them as mates, they were simply waiting for Dan to reach a point in the development of his shadow abilities where he would be able to complete the mating in the shadeling way.
Dan seemed to be completely enthralled by Ylian's display but when the shadeling flared their aura and gave their courting bond a gentle tug he snapped out of it with a vivid blush.
“I'm not broken...”
The teasing exchange earned them a few coos which only made Dan huff and grumble even more.
“Okay, I think that's enough teasing. Susai, would you begin please.”
Emelie was just as eager as Iðunn and Eir to get the gifts going so she stepped up and flared her wings in a manner that made it perfectly clear that anyone who objected would be out of luck when it came to sex for quite a while.
“Angel, a hand please.”
“Of course Ylian.”
A small drone quickly flew over to them and when they picked up a gift from the pile it quickly scanned the tiny code and displayed the information for them on a small screen.
“First one out is for Iðunn from Kiryu.”
Iðunn's attention was instantly fully focused on Ylian and the others were also very curious about why the old Ryujin had participated.
“There is a rhyme included for this gift.”
-From life, this blade
-For you, I made.
While Ylian read the short text Angel quickly used one of the larger drones to pick up an identical gift intended for Eir.
“Ah, and one for Eir with the same text.”
Ylian handed out the two gifts and Takeshi smiled as they both tore into them with eager energy and before long they held a pair of slender daggers.
Pulling the blades from their round sheaths revealed a tri-edge blade with a cross section that looked very much like the broadheads that were popular for bow hunting.
“Be careful, those are made from Bloodstone so they are extremely sharp. You will need some lessons in how to handle them.”
Takeshi cautioned them against playing around with the beautiful, and deadly, black blades.
“Okay. Give Kiryu a big hug from us next time you meet her.”
“Jenna, this one is for you from our dear alpha.”
Jenna didn't open her gift right away, telling the others she would open hers when all the gifts had been handed out as there were a lot of gifts to hand out, it would take much too long to get it done if they opened everything as they received them.
Most of the others agreed that it was probably faster if they opened it after they had all been handed out, but no one had any objections that Iðunn, Eir, Takara and Isabelle wanted to open theirs right away, as did Kara, Sora and the beasts.
About halfway through the pile Ylian picked up two identical gifts that were shrouded in shadows, making it quite obvious that it was from them.
“Iðunn and Eir, these are for you, from me.”
They turned the small packages over a few times, trying to figure out how to remove the shadows.
“Uhm, how do we open them?”
“Touch the shadows and tell them what you want, tell them to open.”
For a moment nothing happened, then a gasp as the black substance turned to a mist before creeping of the surface and wrapping around their wrists in the form of a pair of wide, black bangles.
“Wow, they are pretty...”
“You can make them change shape to anything you want, but I'm afraid you will have to settle for black as these are simple shadow.”
Encouraged by the unusual wrapping they quickly began unwrapping the soft contents, revealing a large hooded cloak and what looked like a set tight fitting, turtleneck thermal underwear, but those who were no longer human could feel that it was not regular clothes.
“They feel strange. But super soft.”
Iðunn buried her face in the pure black clothing.
“What are they made from?”
“It is shadowsilk armor. Once worn it cannot be seen unless you want it to be, and it's tough and durable enough to protect you from most human realm weapons.”
The eager gratitude made Ylian's aura flicker slightly in embarrassment.
“How did you manage to acquire those so quickly?”
Emelie couldn't contain her curiosity, she knew how hard it was to make the type of shadowsilk used to make the items.
“Oh, I asked Father, he was more than happy to help me provide suitable gifts for the daughters of my mate.”
Hugin and Munin instantly stared at the items with an awed look.
The sudden attention had Iðunn and Eir squirming slightly.
“Ylian's father is a very powerful creature, and it is rare for him to lend his power to the creation of such items. The power of the creator is imbued into the items, I have no doubt that armor would offer excellent protection against most demon weapons as well.”
Munin explained why he and Hugin reacted the way they did and.
“Indeed it will, but only for a limited time as you don't have the reserves needed to power it against prolonged demonic attack, but it should be enough to bring you to safety. Especially since those bangles contain a shadow anchor, if you are in mortal danger they will bring you into the shadows where you will be safe. Take, Em and I will be able to feel if that happens and come pick you up.”
“What about Dan?”
“Yi will feel it, but yi won't be able to get to you until yi learns to open the shadows.”
By the time all the gifts had been handed out the younger girls were buried in gifts and when the last gift was handed to Eric Saga stood up and walked over to Takeshi.
“I know this might not be considered a gift as such, but knowing you, you will probably be just as happy anyway.”
Takeshi was very curious about what she might have in mind, especially when she kneeled down next to him.
“Your offer of the Blessing. I have decided, I accept.”
Takeshi instantly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer.
“Do you want to do it right now? It might make you sleep for a while.”
“I know. I want to do it now.”
He had explained to Saga and their daughters how it was done so he carefully leaned in and stole a few drops of her blood before sinking his fangs in and pouring power info her body and soul.
It only took a few moments before her body began to change, and soon he had a large, white, serpent wrapped around him and the crown shaped crest on her head told him she had taken the form of a Vitorm, the white serpent hailed as the Lord of Snakes in Norse mythology, said to possess the power of Sight and Healing.
“How about we have a bit of a snack while we wait for her to wake up?”
Emelie had a smile that told everyone that she had cooked up something special so they quickly agreed, eager to see what she was up to.
“Dan, Amber, would you get plates and stuff please?”
A few minutes later Emelie returned with one of the serving carts stacked high with large crystal pans and the moment she lifted the lid they could all smell the lovely aroma of saffron and almonds.
Dan was instantly eager to sample the golden rice pudding.
“The red pan is Take's. You know how he is with sweet foods.”
The teasing quip had everyone smiling and offering sympathetic quips about how he must hate Christmas and all the sweet food.
“I can always eat you instead.”
The teasing quip aimed at Julia left her spluttering at him while rapidly turning bright red.
“Dad, be nice!”
Iðunn and Eir instantly defended her and scolded Takeshi for teasing her, which only made him smile wider, beaming with pride at the way the acted like pack.
Takeshi knew that Julia very much wanted to sleep with him, but any time they tried she would panic, but that didn't stop her from trying again and Takeshi found himself hoping they would find a solution that would allow her to overcome her trauma.
About an hour after her change Saga stirred again and with Takeshi's help she quickly returned to her human form, though her eyes were nearly bisected by narrow, slit pupils.
Other than that she hadn't changed much visually, her musculature was bit more defined and she had small, but sharp claws and her teeth were slightly more fanged in appearance.
Takeshi could tell he skin was tougher, and her joints more flexible, he could also smell a faint hint of something dangerous, telling him she had venom in those fangs.
“How about you try to focus on making your eyes look human?”
After about 10 minutes of trying and failing Saga sighed and gave up.
“This is hard...”
“Don't worry, just keep trying. If you don't manage we will just have to make a pair of contacts for you.”
“I know. It's just very tiring to focus like this.”
“It will get better once your energy reserved have a chance to build up.”
He gently brushed his thumb across her lips before lifting the upper lip slightly to get a closer look at the teeth.
“I can smell venom from your fangs so I would like to sample it, test it's potency and effect as well as build my immunity to it.”
“Okay, be careful.”
He gently pressed the pad of his thumb against one of the fangs and once it pierced the skin he flared his aura slightly to trigger a defensive reaction from her, making the venom flow.
“It's a fairly standard paralytic venom. It won't kill, just disable.”
The slightly distracted tone made Takeshi smile knowingly at her and offer her the inside of his wrist.
“Go on, bite, drink, it will help you get your strength back.”
She instantly bit down, and while she drank deeply everyone started opening their gifts.
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“We're having Lutfisk for dinner today, right?”
Iðunn's question made Dan smile widely, the gelatinous fish was a favorite of his.
“Of course we are.”
“With allspice and béchamel?”
“Naturally. And almond potatoes.”
The eager anticipation of dinner had everyone smiling as they were just about to have breakfast.
“Are we having seafood for New Years?”
When Eir continued the questions about food a few minutes later she was rewarded with quite a few snickers and amused sighs.
“Indeed. There will be crab, lobster, a mountain of shrimp and prawns. There will also be things like Uni, oysters, mussels, clams and scallops along with various fish varieties.”
Takeshi quickly began listing some of the planned foods for the big New Years dinner.
“What about roe?”
“There will be plenty of that too. I have selected several varieties, including a selection of sturgeon caviar.”
“That better be from a no-kill producer!”
The mention of sturgeon caviar instantly had Iðunn firing on all cylinders.
“Of course. It's not all that well known, but all other production methods were banned in the Hawaii Treaty.”
Despite the development of techniques to harvest the precious roe without harming the fish many producers continued with the method of just cutting it out of the fish to reduce production costs.
“Oh, yeah, I read that in the lessons Angel made for us. I forgot... Sorry I snapped at you...”
“Don't worry, it just shows that you care. And I think you will approve of this producer, they only produce small amounts to finance their breeding project, most of the roe is used to breed new sturgeons.”
“Oh, okay, that sounds good.”
“Will there be baked potatoes with Kalix roe?”
“If that's what you want, we will make sure there's some baked potatoes for you.”
The lightning fast twists of topics only made Takeshi smile, both of the girls were quick thinkers but their attention span wasn't always the best.
“Will there be anything else?”
“Jepp, I will be making Plankstek with all the fixings, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, and of course, button mushrooms in garlic butter and Bearnaise sauce.”
Plankstek was a Swedish version of an old Dutch dish that featured a large piece of fine grilled meat such a tenderloin served on a wood plank with Duchess potatoes and a wide range of side dishes.
“Auntie Emmy is the best!”
Emelie just sighed and mock glared at Iðunn and Eir for calling her Emmy.
“What about fireworks?”
“That will be handled by Dan and Eriko.”
The pair instantly found themselves bombarded with questions about how it would be done but they were being quite secretive, not wanting to ruin their big show.
Takeshi hadn't said anything, but he intended to make the traditional Osechi Ryori as well, the large, multi tiered, boxes were similar to a Bentō box, but were far more elaborate, each dish carrying a symbolism that together represented the hope for health, happiness and wealth for the rest of the year.
It was eaten on New Year's Day as there was a belief that the events of the first day of the year foretold what the rest of the year would be like, an abundant meal would ensure they would not hunger, and the small dishes represented things like fertility, health, productivity and wisdom to ensure good fortune for the year.
He had also prepared a small gift consisting of a commemorative gold coin engraved with the year, as well as the Japanese Zodiac for the year which was the Earth Tiger.
It was just a silly superstition, but it was widely believed that receiving a gift from a Tall, dark and handsome, male on the first day of the year was one of the most powerful luck charms for the following year.
Something he was more than happy to play along with just to see his chosen family smile.
“Mom, Dad, will be allowed to have a proper toast this year?”
Takeshi and Saga shared a quick glance before looking at their daughters with a mock sigh, pretending as if the question was troubling.
“I guess you can have a glass of the sparking wine that Em makes if you promise not to tell anyone.”
Neither of them actually had any objections to Iðunn and Eir sampling alcohol, but they both enjoyed teasing so they didn't even try to resist the opportunity.
“Can we play Munchkin?”
The hushed conversations around the table went dead silent at the sudden twist of topic, then everyone broke down laughing which had Eir looking very confused and somewhat concerned.
“Of course we can. What better way to spend time with this horrible weather than with games?”
The weather outside was downright horrible with high winds and wet, slushy snow and while not all that cold the moisture and wind left you chilled to the bone.
“We can play with you.”
Sarah and Maria both offered to play Munchkin as well as they enjoyed the rather silly game and before long Takara begged to play with them as well.
They quickly gathered a wide range of snacks and warm drinks, then relocated into the main sitting room where a fire pit offered them a cozy warmth and gentle light, though there were a few extra lamps on the tables to give the humans the light they needed.
Chapter 5: Eyes of a Dragon
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“Oh, look, it's stopped snowing!”
Eir's happy calls only confirmed what the others already knew, the weather had cleared up and promised a clear, but cold New Year's Eve.
Much to their relief temperatures had dropped sharply after Christmas Day, replacing the wet slush with a deep cover of pristine snow.
“Indeed it has, it looks like we will have excellent weather for the fireworks tonight.”
Takeshi handed Eir a mug of steaming hot chocolate then gave Iðunn hers.
“Dad, can we talk for a bit?”
“Of course. Do you want to talk in private?”
“No, it's fine.”
With a nod Takeshi sat down in the pile of pillows and moments later he had both of them halfway in his lap.
For a while he just watched them in silence as they were clearly debating something between themselves.
“You know, as much as I enjoy a good, silent, cuddle it might be easier to do this talking if you use your words.”
Both of the girls instantly froze then looked up at him with somewhat sheepish smiles.
“Sorry, we got distracted...”
The slight teasing tone earned him twin glares and some less than gentle moving around.
“So, have you figured out how to say what you want to say?”
Takeshi had a pretty good idea what their silent conversation had been about, they had something important to say and they were unsure how to say it.
“We need to ask a few more things about the Blessing and being Pack.”
“Of course, ask away.”
He had spent quite a bit of time showing them and teaching them already, answering their questions and was pretty sure he had explained everything, but if they had further questions he would do his best to explain.
“Please let us finish before you react...”
The soft request made it clear that whatever they were about to ask was something they were worried would upset him.
“Can we accept the Blessing without becoming Pack, like Mom did?”
Before he had a chance to answer Iðunn raised her hand to stop him before continuing.
“It's not that we don't want to become Pack, it's, well, we...”
Her voice trailed off and moments later Eir picked up the lost thread.
“If we become Pack now, that would make it hard for us to complete the last semester without having you guys stay with us, wouldn't it?”
Takeshi waited a moment too see if they had any more they wanted to say, but when Iðunn nodded that they were done he took a calming breath.
“That's right, the pull of the Pack bonds would be very disruptive if you were separated from the Pack, especially while the bonds are fresh.”
He paused for a moment to let them absorb what he was saying before pushing on.
“As for accepting the Blessing without becoming Pack that will always be an option for you. The Blessing is your birthright, one you have shown yourself worthy of without any doubts. And just as the Blessing is a choice that's up to you to make, so is becoming Pack, I would never force either of those on you, nor would I ever condition one to the other.”
For a moment he was met by wide eyes, the girls unaccustomed to hearing him speak so vehemently, then they broke into wide smiles and hugged him tightly.
“In that case, can we take the Blessing now, then come join you in Miami after the spring semester is done?”
“Live with you there and get a proper feel for living as pack?”
“Of course you can.”
The intense scent of the joy tickled his nose and he couldn't help smiling and pulling them closer.
“Do you want to do it right away?”
“As you wish. Do you want to head back to the den?”
“No, we need to go outside...”
“Be close to nature...”
There was an almost desperate edge to their words that told Takeshi that they were sensing something, and that it would be for the best to follow what they were feeling.
Less than 10 minutes later everyone had gathered at the main deck and the fire pits were lit for light and warmth.
“Eir, since you are the elder you will need to go first, and I would like to sample a drop of your blood first, it will make it easier for me to adjust the power to you.”
“Remember, it may feel really strange for you due to the effects of the Hunter's Lure. I will try to suppress it as much as I can, but at the same time I don't want to suppress it too far as that would make it hurt a lot.”
“Mhm, we remember.”
Eir nodded and bared her neck and shoulder to him which made everyone chuckle softly as she bared her left shoulder which was for claiming someone as pack, or mate.
“Sweetie, wrong side.”
She quickly shifted around slightly before offering him the proper side for the Blessing and after a few moments to control the effects of his vampiric abilities he allowed slender fangs to sink into the offered flesh and sample her blood.
As he began to pour power into her he could feel a growing sense of concern from the others as the process took much longer than usual.
He could understand their worry, but all he could do at the moment was to focus on projecting a calm confidence to let them know he wasn't concerned.
Simply put Eir, being his daughter, was very well attuned to his energies so she could handle a lot of power, but at the same time she was human, and fairly young, meaning she could easily be overwhelmed if he didn't control the flow.
He fully intended to give her as much power as she could handle, and he had a feeling it would end up draining him pretty badly.
By the time he carefully set Eir aside everyone was hovering as close as they dared, and they all breathed a sigh of relief when she mumbled softly and curled into his side before promptly falling asleep.
“Is something wrong?”
Iðunn was clearly very worried.
“Not at all, it just took a while to give her as much power as she could handle.”
“To be on the safe side I need you to wait a little, allow me to refill my reserves so I don't run out of energy to give before you reach your limit.”
The drain on his reserves had been quite intense, and he could tell that he had drained more than half of his spare energy.
At the mention of needing to refill his reserves Takeshi was instantly approached by the more powerful members of his House and Pack, all offering him to feed of them which he quickly did while flooding the bonds with a deep sense of gratitude.
“There, all good to go.”
Just like with Eir it quickly became obvious that Iðunn would be able to take a lot of his power and he calmly kept pushing until her soul told him it couldn't handle any more.
After helping her get comfortable at her sister's side Takeshi leaned back to watch over them as they slept, eager to see what they would become.
It didn't take long before light brown feathers started to appear and a few minutes later heir forms shimmered and were replaced by two massive Golden Eagle's, it was a bit hard to tell, but he estimated they were about 25% larger than normal for an adult female.
“It's good to see their primary form is that of a flier.”
Takeshi only listened to the reactions of the others with half an ear as he watched the fairly dark brown color bleed from their feathers, leaving a mix of deep copper and gold that faded to almost silver in the lighter areas, especially at the base of the tail.
The abundance of white, or in this case, silver, in the plumage was typical for juvenile and subadult birds and would be replaced by a more even brown coloration as they molted into their adult plumage.
It only took a few minutes from the shift before both of them began to stir, and when they opened their eyes a dark red amber was revealed, and the way the color shifted and changed made it quite obvious it was not the eyes of an eagle, but those of a dragon.
Slowly finding their baring in their new forms Iðunn and Eir began voicing soft calls and trample about in the bedding, and pulling at it with sharp beaks when their claws got caught in the soft fabric.
Takeshi slowly reached out and began brushing his hand over the small feathers on their heads, mindful not to trigger unfamiliar instincts.
“That's it, do you want me to help you move to something more solid to perch on?”
The silent plea was accompanied by soft calls.
“Okay. Now, I want you to climb onto my arm, and when I lift you it's going to feel very unsettling and your instincts will tell you to flap your wings and dig your claws in. But please try to resist the urge, your talons are sharp and your wings strong, you will cut up my arm pretty bad if you do.”
“Can't you just grab us over the wings and pick us up that way?”
“I could, but that will definitely make you panic until you get used to separating the instincts of the bird from the human mind.”
“Okay, we will be careful.”
“I know you will. And don't worry, I will heal fast if you do cut me. I know how hard it can be to handle new and unfamiliar instincts, and those of a raptor are strong.”
While he spoke he carefully helped Eir climb onto his arm then cooed softly at her as he lifted his arm and brought it close to his body, knowing that the closeness would help her suppress the urge to flap her wings.
“There you go, nice and calm.”
He slowly walked toward the crystal perch that Emelie had prepared while he spoke to them.
“Okay, nice and slow now, please don't smack me in the face when you hop over to the perch.”
The soft teasing earned him a decidedly annoyed squawk and once she had her feet securely on the perch she stuffed her tail feathers in his face before turning around.
He grumbled softly before going back and helping Iðunn as well.
“I know you want to fly, but I need you to shift back to human first. You will need to take it slow so you don't hurt yourself.”
“We need to fly...”
“Ssh, easy. I know the urge is strong but it will fade once you shift back.”
Takeshi had decided he would wait with the closer inspection of their forms until later as they were clearly having some issues with the urge to fly.
“Focus in the image of yourself as humans, will yourself to return to that form.”
He spoke softly, coaching them through the method for reclaiming human form and soon two human teens balanced on the crystal perches.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Better, but the urge to fly, to feel the wind is still there...”
“That will probably never fade completely, I still feel a phantom itch in my back whenever I face a good wind, especially the soft touch of the thermal winds that allows you to rise to your flight ceiling.”
While they spoke about instincts Takeshi took a closer look at them, noting the subtle changes in their appearance.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Eyes of a Dragon_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
After a while they both began squirming under the scrutiny.
“Your appearance has changed slightly, your hair is more silver now, and your eyes are like mine.”
Looking at each other they too began inspecting the changes.
“We didn't notice...”
“Look, our nails have turned into claws.”
“They look kinda like those really expensive fake nails.”
“I don't think anyone will notice they're real.”
"I could help you add some decorations to make them look more like fake nails.”
Nelly quickly offered to use what she had learned from her mother about nail design to help Iðunn and Eir disguise their claws as fancy acrylics.
“What about the mark from the Blessing?”
Both of them quickly checked each other's shoulder to see what the mark looked like, and Takeshi took the opportunity to check as well.
“Oh, it looks like one of those white ink tattoos”
“Indeed, it's very subtle.”
Takeshi found the effect to be quite pleasing, it was subtle, but the mark could still be seen.
“How come it's not black like the others?”
“The Blessing is power and change, but it responds to need, desire and intent. At some level you had a need, or desire, for it to be subtle so it became subtle.”
“So people in school won't notice..?”
“So it might change when we don't need to be subtle anymore?”
“That's very possible. I think you will be able to control that with your shift, as well as other aspects of your appearance the same way I can.”
To illustrate his point he gradually allowed his form to change until he looked like the 58 year old man he was supposed to be.
“Damn, you look seriously good like that...”
Dan's mumbled assessment of Takeshi's looks earned him quite a few quips that were equal parts agreement and teasing.
There was no way of knowing if it was an accurate representation of how he would have looked had he been a regular human, most of the changes had been the addition of crow's feet around the eyes and a fair bit of gray in his hair and a shorter style that made the gray more prominent.
“Dad, how old are you?”
“You don't act like it...”
“When is your birthday?”
The question instantly made him freeze and look for a way out.
“Dad, are you avoiding the question?”
“Would I ever do something like that?”
“Of course you would...”
“Angel, when is daddy's birthday?”
Takeshi's tone was half pleading, half threatening, but he was blatantly ignored.
“Your father was born on the 17th of December 1999.”
“It was you birthday when you guys got here and you didn't say anything!?”
The sudden shift in energy around him had Takeshi ducking his head and holding his hands out half in surrender, half in defense.
“He really does not like birthday parties, at least not when it's his own.”
Emelie took pity on him for a moment and explained to Iðunn and Eir that Takeshi always did his best to avoid drawing attention to his birthday.
“We don't care!”
“You are so having a party before we go back home!”
“Aw, come on, have some mercy on your poor old father...”
The mix between an amused huff and a scoff made it quite clear that his plea had fallen to deaf ears.
“You know, the kicked puppy look doesn't really work that well for you.”
Emelie's bright laugh when Takeshi allowed his posture to sag in mock defeat made him flash his fangs at her, but that only made her laugh harder and flick his nose.
His somewhat bewildered look instantly had everyone breaking down into laughter, and while they collected themselves Takeshi allowed his form to bleed back into it's usual youthful appearance.
“So, are you girls ready for some flying lessons?”
The obvious change of subject earned Takeshi a few snickers, but Iðunn and Eir were eager to feel the wind under their wings.
“Easy girls. We need to do this right or you may end up getting hurt.”
“So what will we do?”
“Well, it may sound a bit silly, but we will be using a method similar to how falconers train their eagles. It's not the fastest way, but it will help you manage your instincts better.”
“How does it work?”
“At first we will be carrying you around on a gloved arm, letting you get used to the balance, and as you get a better balance we increase the difficulty by moving around more until you feel comfortable with your balance, and your instincts trust us.”
He explained that it was how he had learned to fly, and how he had helped the others learn to fly as well.
“Once you are comfortable with that we will do short flights, pretty much just gliding from a higher point down and practice landing. Then once you are comfortable with that we will start with proper flying.”
“Sounds like that will take a lot of time...”
“It might, it depends on how quickly you get used to the different steps, but we should be able to get a few proper lessons in, we can always call you in sick for the first week of school yo buy some extra time.”
There was a bit more grumbling when Takeshi explained that they would start indoors where the winds wouldn't stir their instincts.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Eyes of a Dragon_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
Almost all of New Year's Eve and Day was spent with Iðunn and Eir, helping them get used to their new forms and practice the basics of flying and they developed quickly.
“That landing was better.”
Takeshi praised Iðunn when she touched down on the perch without toppling over.
“Relax, trust your instincts to guide you.”
“Can you show us how you land?”
“Of course sweetie, give me a moment to set up another perch.”
He quickly added a third perch before shifting and jumping up on it to let them look at him.
“Damn, I wasn't imagining it, they really are larger than you are.”
Dam stared at the now obvious difference in size.
“That's not so strange, we are all roughly 25% larger than our mortal counterparts, and the female Golden Eagle can be as much as 40% heavier than the male and have 10% longer wings. A wild mortal female can weigh as much as 7 kilos and have a wingspan of nearly 2.5 meters.”
“Wow, that's pretty damned huge...”
Spurred on by Dan's mood Takeshi flared his wings and pumped them a few times to show off his size and soon Iðunn and Eir did the same, putting their beautiful colors on display and on a whim Takeshi tapped into the bond of the Blessing and borrowed their colors.
His plumage lacked the silver though, showing that he was a fully mature adult.
After a bit of show and tell Takeshi took off and soon he was riding the winds high up in the sky above their cabin, but he didn't stay to enjoy the feeling, instead he folded his wings into a hunting stoop with the perch as his target.
He didn't unfold his wings until the last moment, breaking just enough to not get hurt before slamming into the crystal structure with deadly force, but without losing his balance.
“Had that been living prey, the force of that impact combined with the sharp talons and powerful feet would have skewered his prey, and quite possibly snapping its spine from the sheer force of the impact.”
Emelie spoke about how the massive eagles hunted in a soft voice while Takeshi flicked his wings to make sure all his feathers were in their proper place.
“Did that shed any light on how to land?”
“You landed much faster, and harder...”
“It's easier to land like that in the beginning, using your strength, then once you're used to that feeling you can practice on landing softer, and landing on fragile things, like a human arm.”
With Takeshi showing them how he did things it didn't take long before they had landing on the perch down to an art, and with Hugin, Munin and Ylian acting as falconers they quickly learned to land gently, and as their confidence grew they began learning how to soar on the winds.
Following Takeshi high into the sky they called out in primal joy and when keen eyes spotted an arctic fox running over the snow he could feel the powerful urge to hunt ripple through their auras.
“Calm yourself, let the instincts guide you, but not rule you.”
He gently guided them into circling around and decide who would get the first attempt on the fleet footed hunter on the ground and soon they agreed that Iðunn would try first, and if she missed Eir would try, then alternate until they either caught it, gave up, or it got away.
“That fox was really fast...”
Takeshi wasn't the least bit surprised when they returned to the cabin without catching the fox despite several attempts.
“Don't be so hard on yourself, learning to hunt takes time, and you have just learned how to fly.”
Takeshi gently soothed them as they were clearly somewhat upset about the failed hunt.
“It's still annoying...”
“You will learn, just give it time.”
“Yeah, we know.”
“We just don't want to wait...”
“Of course you don't, you're teen girls. A condition that's frequently plagued by afflictions such as the absence of patience and an abnormal attraction to mirrors.”
Both of them grumbled and objected to his teasingly making it sound like being a teenager was some sort of horrible disease.
“Oh don't worry, it's quite curable given enough time.”
“Love you too girls.”
“We hate you!”
“Of course you do.”
The brilliant smiles and tight hugs belied the twins harsh words and soon they were begging him to join them for some games before they had to start packing their bags to return to Gothenburg.
“You girls have fun and focus on your classes and I will see you on June 3rd unless something comes up before that.”
“See you then!”
Takeshi sighed to himself as he walked over to the car, leaving Saga and the girls in Emelie's house.
As much as he would have liked to stay they needed to return to Miami and make preparations for Saga and the twins to come live with them.
The school year would end on the 7th of June and Takeshi had promised he would be there for the event, including the formal dance held for the 9th graders on the evening of the 6th.
It wasn't as big or fancy as the Student Ball held for the 12th graders when graduating Gymnasiet, but it was still an event they were looking forward to.
The main difference was that their ball was only for the students at their school and there was no bringing dates or people who were not students at the school.
As their biological father Takeshi would be able to attend though as the parents were used as volunteer chaperons to make sure everyone behaved and they had agreed he would request to be there, and before that he would help them with their clothes, hair and makeup.
“Take, stop worrying so much, they are blessed now, they will be okay.”
Emelie tried to get Takeshi to relax, but he was being quite tense despite her efforts.
“I know, it's just my instincts objecting to them not being pack, to leaving them unclaimed.”
Ylian tutted at him with a smile before abandoning their physical form and allowing their incorporeal energy to pool around the gathered bodies, soothing them and satisfying the need to be close.
Takeshi grumbled softly, but he did settle down and gradually allowed his pack to soothe the ruffled instincts, and soon he was deep asleep, catching up on the sleep he had skipped during the holidays.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Eyes of a Dragon_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
“Thanks for everything guys, I had an awesome time. And from what I have heard from Dad so did he.”
Eric was preparing to head back home after their arrival back at their Miami home, something that had Dan somewhat agitated as he didn't want Eric to leave.
“Dan, I'll be back next weekend, I promise.”
Eric soothed with a somewhat amused smile as Dan held on to him and refused to let go.
“I don't want you to leave...”
Eric squirmed slightly as Dan's grip was almost painfully tight.
“Please, move in here with us, with me...”
The pleading tone made Eric pause and look first at Dan, then the others.
“You're serious, aren't you..?”
“Of course we are.”
“Pack stays together.”
“But I'm not pack...”
Eric's soft objection triggered an intense surge of emotion through the bonds.
“You may not have been formally claimed yet, but as far as we're concerned you are Dan's 4th mate and that makes you pack.”
“But... But.. I'm not like you guys...”
“That doesn't matter. And you will be like us if you just accept the Blessing.”
Honestly, it was not how Takeshi had intended to offer Eric the blessing, he had been thinking about a good way to do it for a while, and now it just felt right.
“Wait... You mean..? Me?”
“Of course you silly. If you want it, I will give it to you.”
“I do, I want to be able to stay with Dan, with the rest of you.”
Before Takeshi could answer or do anything more they were interrupted by Julia.
The objection had everyone looking at Julia with very confused expressions which made her blush vividly.
“Julia? You have a reason why I should not grant him the Blessing?”
Takeshi was surprised at the objection, but he wouldn't do anything unless the pack was with him.
“No, that's not what I was saying, I said wait...”
“Wait for what?”
“I have something I need to ask him first..”
She turned to Eric, still blushing vividly.
“Eric, would you be my Guide for the Arashiri?”
Now she had everyone's full attention.
“But, isn't that..?”
“Having sex for the first time, yes.”
“But... Why me? Take is the one you love...”
“He is, but whenever we try I panic. I trust him, but I still panic, I think it might be because he is so much stronger than me. I know he would never do anything to hurt me, but part of me knows that if he tried to force me there would be nothing I could do to defend myself.”
Takeshi's instincts rebelled against the mere thought of hurting her or forcing her in such a way, but he understood what she was trying to say, it wasn't him she was afraid of.
She wasn't really afraid of his power either, it was the potential of being helpless in the face of such power that scared her on a deep, instinctual, level.
“And since I'm human you're much stronger than me, making me safe...”
“That's what I'm hoping for if you agree.”
“But I have no idea what to do...”
“We will teach you if you agree.”
The others quickly promised Eric that they would teach him all about it.
While they spoke Eric looked at Julia in silence, clearly thinking about what she had just said, then he sighed deeply.
“Angel, could you send a message to Dad that I'll be staying tonight please?”
“Of course Eric.”
With another deep breath he walked back into the den and sat down.
“I need to know more about what it all means before I make up my mind.”
Settling down they began telling Eric about the Arashiri, about how it was intended to allow young demons to learn about sex and their bodies in a safe environment.
After a while they noticed that Hiroto was looking very confused about the entire conversation.
“Hiro, what's wrong?”
“It's just... Arashi ri...”
Takeshi paused for a moment, then broke down laughing.
“Okay, what's so funny?”
Eric was half worried, half annoyed at the interruption.
“Remember, Arashi means storm in Japanese, and Ri is a common word fragment, and can mean a lot of different things depending on what character you use for it.”
“Oh, like how Urui means hosta in Japanese.”
“In Urui the word Arashiri stems from Arai, meaning first, Shi, meaning parent and in this case representing guardianship and guidance, and the Ri fragment is the same as in Simiri, representing a partnership, or intimacy, both sexually and emotionally.”
“Thank you Munin for an excellent explanation.”
The slight darkening of Munin's skin earned him a few smiles and auras that reached out and touched him with teasing energies.
“So my part of this would be to help her figure out what she likes?”
“Not only, you would also help her learn how to figure out what her partner likes.”
“But part of it would be actually having sex, right?”
Takeshi's soft teasing made Eric blush vividly.
“Oh don't worry Eric, I have seen you with Dan, I'm sure you will do just fine.”
Julia's teasing made Dan splutter, and Eric blushed even darker when reminded that he and Dan had had plenty of sex in the den when the others were there as well.
“You watched us...”
“Mhm, I may have my issues, but that doesn't mean I'm not curious, or don't appreciate a good show. And let me tell you, you and Danny are really hot together.”
The pair in question blushed rather intensely when everyone began agreeing that they all enjoyed watching them.
“I especially love the fact that you guys switch when you're together.”
Dan reached his limit and flared his aura with a sharp hissing growl that instantly made Julia fold into herself and bare her neck in submission.
“Dan, there's no need to be that harsh with her!”
Eric's scolding in turn made Dan pull back and apologize.
“I'm sorry Julia, Eric's right, I overreacted.”
Julia was slightly subdued, but Takeshi couldn't help being proud, and very pleased with the exchange, Eric's reaction, scolding Dan, showed that he cared about the pack just as much as he did Dan, and that was a very good sign.
“Julia, if Eric agrees, do you want to be alone with him, or do you want someone to join you?”
Takeshi opted to ignore the incident and just move on, showing that he wasn't upset with either of them, but at the same time also indicating that he didn't approve of them pushing each other to such lengths, Eric did receive a gentle brush of his aura though, approval.
“I know it's not exactly proper, but I would like both you and Em to be there as Guardians. But at the same time I wouldn't mind you having a bit more active role, offering suggestions, and maybe a teasing touch here and there.”
“Julia, I don't care what demon tradition considers proper or not, the Arashiri is purely for your benefit, it will be done the way you want it, and if anyone has any objections to that they better keep it to themselves. That is of course assuming Eric agrees.”
All eyes turned to Eric who nodded slowly.
“If Dan is okay with it I will try. I can't promise I'll be any good though...”
“Like I said, I've seen you with Dan, I have no doubt you will be great.”
“Uhm, you don't understand... As much as I do like them, I have never been with a female...”
Eric blushed brightly as he admitted the fact that while he was attracted to females as well he had never actually been with one.
“I guess that would make this your Arashiri as well.”
Their reaction clearly was not what Eric had expected and Julia's words made him nod slowly.
“Don't worry, the basic idea remains the same.”
Eric instantly turned bright red again at Dan's teasing quip, and all the ways it could be interpreted.
“He's right you know, it's all about finding out what your partner likes and make use of it.”
Emelie paired her teasing with reaching out with her tail and gently brushing the tip along the column of his throat, starting at his chin and slowly moving down to the tip of his sternum, making him gasp with desire.
“Being Guide to a youth is actually a very good learning experience, as you teach them, they also teach you. And I think in this case it may have the added benefit of making you even less intimidating for Julia. She will sense your hesitations and insecurities, and combined with the bond it will give her an urge to help you.”
Takeshi picked up where Emelie left off and before long Eric agreed he would try to be Guide to Julia and they all agreed that they should do it right away.
“I need to give Dad a call, make sure the store can do without me for another week or if we need to figure something else out.”
Everyone quickly tuned out to allow Eric some privacy while talking to his father, and about 5 minutes later he hung up.
“It's all okay, so how will we do this?”
“Well, we start with making some food, and lots of snacks.”
The teasing reply only made Eric shake his head.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Eyes of a Dragon_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
After eating and preparing some of their favorite snacks they retreated to one of the private rooms surrounding the den.
Julia and Eric were both very nervous and were clearly having some issues finding the proper mood so Takeshi brought out the surprise had asked Amanda to make.
“Why don't you have a few of these? It's made with shiiza so it will help you relax and put you into a more suitable mood.”
He offered a platter with the purple wagashi that was made from shiiza leaves.
Eric sounded somewhat concerned.
“Mhm, but don't worry, it only contains young leaves so the effect will be mild. You'll mostly just notice it being calming.”
“Okay I guess.”
Takeshi and Emelie watched as the pair quickly finished the treats, both of them eating to try to escape their nerves and once it was all gone a somewhat stifling silence settled in the small room.
When neither Julia nor Eric moved Takeshi shared a look with Emelie and with a soft nod their decision was made and they slowly moved closer.
“Ssh... Easy sweetie, I'm just going to try to help you get into the mood so to speak.”
Emelie gently soothed Julia as she began brushing her fingers through her hair, calming her down.
“Will you kiss me?”
Julia's voice was soft, and somewhat hesitant.
“If you want me to.”
With Julia's soft plea Emelie leaned in and gave her a soft kiss.
“Look at that, so beautiful, so tempting.”
Takeshi whispered in Eric's ear while giving him a similar treatment, teasing him and slowly removing his clothes.
Working together Takeshi and Emelie lit a smoldering fire in Julia and Eric, and once both were sufficiently motivated they turned them toward each other and gave them a gentle shove, pushing them into each other's arms.
While the pair finally began exploring, tasting and testing each other Takeshi and Emelie settled back to watch.
“I'm looking forward to having Eric as a crossmate.”
“Indeed, he will make an excellent addition to the pack.”
“And what about you, do you intend to make him my co-mate as well?”
“If he is willing I wouldn't mind exploring the possibility.”
“So, desire and care, but not love?”
“Indeed. But who knows what the future has in store for us.”
Emelie echoed the word back at him, sounding so much like himself that he almost laughed, but he managed to settle for a smile, not wanting to distract the pair on the bed.
The soft conversation didn't bother them, but a loud laugh might just do it, and they were finally starting to get somewhere.
“Your energies are starting to turn quite delicious love.”
Emelie purred softly as Takeshi was growing increasingly aroused from watching Julia and Eric becoming increasingly eager and intimate in their touches.
“Being Guardian is hard for me when it's someone I care about or desire.”
“Oh, something is plenty hard at least.”
Emelie's tail gently brushed against a very prominent erection making him suck in a sharp breath.
“Em, please, not now. I need to be able to stay in control and focus on Julia, on not scaring her, and you can be quite distracting.”
”I know love, I know.”
She carefully moved so that her body didn't touch any of his sensitive spots before focusing on feeding from the sexual energy in his aura, draining it far beyond what she had ever done before, essentially acting as a spillway for his growing arousal, allowing him to stay in control.
The soft murmur made Emelie smile, then turn to Julia and offer her a few suggestions for what she could try with Eric.
Much to Takeshi's relief Julia's plan worked and after a few hours of touching, teasing, and false starts, there was a flicker of pain and a soft apology.
For a moment everything was still, then motion, desire, pleasure, and a shift in Julia's aura and scent as the last vestige of innocence was shed and the subtle spice of maturity replaced the sweetness of innocent youth.
It didn't last very long though as Eric was still very human and despite the effects of the shiiza he soon reached his end.
He quickly apologized for reaching his climax before her, and being unable to bring her with him.
“It's okay. I knew this would probably happen.”
Julia just smiled at Eric, her joy at having made it past the last hurdle was quite obvious.
Takeshi and Emelie were prepared for it as well and once Eric had caught his breath somewhat Takeshi offered him a cup filled with blood, his own and Emelie's.
“This is blood, mine and Em's, if you think you can stomach it, it will rejuvenate you, give you stamina to match hers, temporarily at least.”
There was no hint of hesitation as Eric grabbed the offered cup and drained it in mere moments before making a somewhat disgusted grimace.
The grimace quickly faded and gave way to amazement, and when he turned to look at Julia she laughed as she could tell that he was once again hard and ready for more.
“Keep still, I want to...”
Her smile turned hungry, predatory, and she began crawling toward him and pushed him on his back before getting to work on figuring out how to bring him to his release again without actually having sex again.
Emelie snickered softly at the sigh when Eric collapsed with exhaustion obvious in his aura.
“Okay Julia, I think it's time to let him rest. The blood gives him stamina, but he's still human and needs to sleep.”
Julia's voice was soft, and happy, as she curled into the bedding and snuggled up against Eric.
“Will you stay tomorrow so we can learn more?”
“You need me to don't you, to build confidence and fully overcome your trauma?”
“I think so.”
“Then we keep at it for as long as you need.”
Julia mumbled softly at Eric's promise to continue with the arashiri despite it technically being done.
“Indeed, thank you Eric for doing this. For helping me protect and care for my... Our pack.”
”I think I'm starting to understand what pack really is. It's not just friends, family and partners, it's so much more somehow, I don't have the words...”
“Indeed, it's Pack...”
Eric didn't say anything more and moments later they all heard a soft snoring sound that told them he had fallen asleep.
“At least he's not a loud snorer...”
Julia mumbled with a hint of humor.
Eric's snoring was a soft, almost calming sound that echoed a contentment of sorts, almost like Takeshi's low rumbling growl that everyone else claimed to be a purr, which he of course vehemently denied.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Eyes of a Dragon_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
4 days later a very happy Julia dragged Emelie out of the room they had been secluded in, eager to let the others know of her successful arashiri.
Takeshi groaned softly as he moved to get up from the piled up bedding in the corner, still painfully hard from watching Julia's arashiri.
“Take, is something wrong?”
“Being Guardian of the Arashiri can be a somewhat torturous experience for me. The constant arousal and not being able to act on it leaves me in a somewhat painful condition.”
When Eric moved slightly to get out of the bed he drew Takeshi's attention and found himself locked in the gaze of eyes that glowed with an unearthly fire, raw desire and need.
“Don't move, you're triggering my instincts. I need to calm down.”
Eric instantly froze, and Takeshi breathed a sigh of relief as the predatory aspects of his instincts no longer drew his attention to Eric quite as strongly.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
It took Takeshi a moment to gain control of his desire again.
“You could submit, allow me to take you. Allow me your body to find the release I have been denied for days.”
“Allow you to claim me?”
“Only if you feel you are ready for that. I have no intention to force the claim on you in any way.”
“I... I think I am...”
“Then come to me.”
Takeshi didn't take his eyes off Eric as he reached out with his hand and curled his fingers slowly, beckoning him to approach.
Eric found himself utterly and totally captivated by the glow of the amber eyes, their usual deep fire enhanced by a smoldering glow.
Following the beckoning fingers he crawled toward Takeshi, drawn in by the need and desire glowing in those eyes, he could feel something pulling deep within, as if trying to enthrall him and it made him pause for a moment.
“Don't worry, my power will pull at you, guide you, but it won't force you.”
Takeshi's voice had a distinct strain in it, but at the same time it was calming, reassuring, and Eric found himself trusting without reservation.
“I trust you...”
The words made Takeshi's eyes widen slightly and the reaction was enough to push Eric into moving closer again, slowly crawling into Takeshi lap he reached out and began pushing his clothes out of the way.
The somewhat cool air against heated skin made Takeshi suck in a hissing breath.
“Wow, are you always this hot?”
Eric's question made Takeshi nod with a teasing smile.
He paused for a moment, savoring the slightly frustrated glint in Eric's eyes.
“My metabolism is much higher than that of a mortal human, makes me run hot. And things that would make a human run hot, makes me run even hotter.”
It was a bit of a struggle to explain calmly when all he wanted was to grab Eric, toss him back onto the bed and have his way with him.
“Then this should work well on you...”
Eric leaned in and licked at an exposed nipple, then he sucked in a breath, chilling the moistened skin and making Takeshi suck in a sharp gasp then release it with a soft groan.
“Planning on teasing me are you?”
Takeshi was struggling to control his breathing, to slow his racing pulse, maintain control and not move unless Eric wanted him to, not wanting to scare him.
“If I may...”
Curiosity was obvious in Eric's aura and it triggered an echo in Takeshi, made him want to know what Eric was planning.
“Please do, teach me, show me your desires.”
Eric looked somewhat confused, not fully understanding Takeshi's words.
“How you chose to tease me will tell me a lot about how to please you.”
With a soft nod of understanding Eric leaned in again and pushed Takeshi's shirt out of the way before giving his nipple a kiss, then dragged his teeth over the sensitized skin, making him buck and groan.
“Don't worry, you're not strong enough to inflict pain beyond my tolerance, beyond what I find enjoyable.”
Experience told Takeshi that Eric was concerned about causing too much pain, and with that worry soothed the pace shifted and Eric started to move with determination, a determination that quickly brought Takeshi to the edge of the abyss and he was more than happy to fall into it.
“Do you submit?”
Takeshi had allowed Eric to push him into the abyss several times, allowing him a fair measure of control, control that he was now staining to keep Eric's form caged beneath him, but without claiming the heat that he could feel against his own.
As he spoke Eric bared the left side of his neck to Takeshi and his aura instinctively relaxed, offering Takeshi to do whatever he pleased.
With a soft apology Takeshi claimed the offered body beneath him and once he had Eric, and himself, teetering on the edge of the abyss once again he gave it one last push and sank his fangs into the bared neck, allowing power, and pleasure, to stake a claim.
He wasn't marking Eric as pack though, instead it was a personal claim, telling anyone who could sense it that Eric had submitted to him, that Eric was under his protection.
The pack claim would come later, once Eric had been changed by the Blessing.
“I'm not pack yet, am I?”
Eric's question once he had caught his breath stirred a sense of pride in Takeshi, the fact that he was showing a strong understanding was promising, it sang to Takeshi's instincts, telling him that Eric would strengthen the pack.
“To us you are, but yeah, that wasn't the pack mark, it was a more personal claim, marking you as mine to protect. I want to wait until the Blessing has given you power, the power to withstand the true marking. Given you strength so that I can give one of my scales without hurting you.”
“How soon can we do that?”
“You truly desire to become one of us, don't you?”
Takeshi wove suggestion into his voice, urging Eric to speak his true desire.
“Yes. I don't want to wait any longer, I love him... I love Dan.”
“I know you love him, and he loves you.”
Freed from the power of Takeshi's suggestion Eric blushed rather brightly.
“Let's go tell the others. I will need a few hours of rest, then I can give you the blessing.”
“Really? That fast?”
“Mhm, I just need some time to relax and collect myself so I don't accidentally claim you as mate in the process.”
“That can really happen?”
Eric's somewhat distraught look made Takeshi break into a smile.
“It can, but it's very rare outside of a heat and I'm not due to go into heat for another 4 years or so.”
Takeshi mentally counted the seconds before Eric realized what he had said.
“Wait, you go into heat?”
“Mhm, every 10 years. Dan has a cycle as well, it's not as intense as my own though.”
“Oh, so, how often does he go into heat?”
The easy acceptance was another good sign, at first there had been quite a few reactions, but now Eric readily accepted their oddities.
“Were not entirely sure. He has had 3 heats so far and we have not been able to determine a pattern.”
“Okay. Guess I'll be in for it when the next one comes around?”
“Definitely. Now how about we join the others?”
“You know, you need to let me go for that.”
Eric tugged gently at Takeshi's arm.
“Such a shame.”
Takeshi let go with a mock whine and they quickly got dressed and joined the others in the den.
(¯`·._.··¸.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.,-(_Eyes of a Dragon_)-,.-~*´¨¯¨`*·~-.¸··._.·´¯)
After getting some food and spending a few hours playing games with the pack Takeshi flared his aura gently, calling on their attention.
“Eric, are you ready to become something more than just human? Ready to become a Blessed?”
“Yeah, I'm ready.”
“Then come to me, bare your neck, and receive the power to change.”
Eric didn't hesitate to sit down in Takeshi's lap and offer him his neck.
“Do you need to take some of my blood?”
“No, I sampled enough of it earlier.”
There was a slight hint of disappointment in the tone that made Takeshi smile.
“If you are willing to offer me more of your blood I would be happy to accept, and the effect of the Hunter's Lure can help mitigate the pain of the bite.”
Takeshi allowed the vampiric powers to rise, intentionally putting power into the lure and moments later he had Eric squirming and panting in his lap.
As slender fangs sank into the offered flesh Takeshi savored the warm spice for a moment before allowing power to flow into Eric.
Shortly after placing Eric in the waiting pile of bedding his aura began fluctuating, sending sharp pulses out around him and he seemed somewhat pained.
“Move back a bit, give him space. I think his form will be a large one.
Everyone instantly scrambled back, moving outside of the perimeter drawn by Eric's pulsating aura and once the area was clear the body of the young man began glowing brightly, too bright for them to see what was happening.
When the glow retreated a large body was resting in the middle of the room, the form dominated by a pair of large white wings.
“Is that a Gryphon?”
“Indeed it is. Our dear beta has found himself one magnificent mate.”
The silent conversation held a strong undertone of awe.
Eric's new form was almost entirely pure white, but the claws and talons were deep black and Takeshi suspected the beak would be as well, at least at the tip of it, but right now the face was hidden beneath one of the large wings.
“Eric, time to wake up so we can have a look at your new form.”
Takeshi gently poked at his aura while reaching out with the silent voice of the Blessed, not wanting to scare Eric in case his hearing was hypersensitive.
The white body slowly unfolded, revealing the head of an eagle, it was mostly white as well, but it had the black crest and bold, black, face markings of the Black & White Hawk-Eagle, including the black tipped, bright orange, beak.
The eyes were deep red though rather than the usual bright yellow, and they sported a slit pupil which was highly uncommon in birds, Takeshi only knew of one species with that feature.
Takeshi kept his voice to a whisper, and the sound instantly had Eric focused on him, and as the white head turned a pair of feathered ears popped up from the feathers on the head, looking almost like the plumicorns of a Horned Owl.
These were actual ears though, and they instantly focused on the sound of Takeshi's voice.
“Are you okay with the sound of my voice? Not too loud?”
At first the was a soft squawking call, then moments later Eric's mental voice came through, still aided by Leiia though.
“Yeah, it's okay, a bit loud, but not painful.”
“You should get used to it soon enough.”
“What am I?”
Eric was trying to get a better look at his new body, which had everyone trying to scamper out of the way of his wings.
“Easy Eric, calm down, your new form is that of a Gryphon, and it's quite large.”
Eric instantly focused on Takeshi again, predatory instincts taking over.
“Ssh, nice and easy. I am not a threat.”
“Alpha..? Safe, protection.”
“That's right, you're safe, mine to protect. Let the instincts of the beast retreat, you don't need them right now.”
It took a few minutes, but Eric did calm down eventually.
“There you go, let's have a look at you shall we?”
Along with the inviting shift of Eric's aura the soft squawk that followed was interpreted to mean Yes.
“Could you give me one of your feet please?”
Moments later Takeshi had one of the black taloned feet gently resting in his hand.
“Even the scaling on your feet is white.”
He ran his finger gently from the clawed foot up the foreleg until he reached the ankle where the feathers began, most who were unfamiliar with bird anatomy would assume it to be the knee, but that was hidden away in the feathers, much closer to the body.
“Not just white, but you have an almost gemstone quality to your coloring, a glow, like moonlight on snow.”
Returning his attention to the feet he carefully ran his finger along the curve of one of the wicked talons
“These are some pretty amazing talons. I would like to test their sharpness, so don't be alarmed if there's a bit of blood.”
The soft call that they interpreted as Yes was repeated and Takeshi took hold of one of the talons and dragged it across his palm, noting how easily it drew blood.
“Ssh, easy Eric, easy.”
The blood instantly has Eric agitated again, but Takeshi was used to that kind of reaction from those he changed.
“Do you want to taste it, the blood?”
Takeshi carefully placed his hand into the open beak and allowed the blood to drip onto the tongue, it was a bit of a show of trust as well as the large, powerful, beak easily could take his hand off.
“Oh, liked that did you?”
Takeshi snickered softly when a dexterous tongue began exploring his hand, seeking out the remaining droplets of blood.
The soft sounds that followed had everyone cooing at Eric and Takeshi had to agree, the sounds were decidedly cute.
“Don't worry, you can have more when we are done looking at your new form.”
Eric quickly calmed down again and Takeshi continued his inspection.
“Hmm, you have claws on your wings, like a baby Hoatzin, probably to help cling to the sheer cliffs of the Gryphon natural mountain habitat.”
Takeshi gently moved the feathers so that everyone could see the deadly laws hidden beneath before moving on to the hindquarters, powerful, feline, slender but powerful muscle covered in soft, white fur.
“Look, he has feathers on his tail, almost like Em's lizards.”
“Mhm, the tail acts as a rudder during flight, and the tail of feline is poorly suited for the job. And those little monsters are micro raptors.”
“Hey, don't call my little cuties monsters!”
Emelie instantly defended her little flock, since she bought the first one she had been able to find more of them, and had successfully bred them.
“Hai hai, your cute little dinos.”
Takeshi raised his hands in mock surrender before continuing his inspection of Eric's tail, gently flexing it to make the feathers spread out.
Eric's tail was not the lion's tail that legends spoke of the gryphon having, it clearly had a different bone structure to make it stiff enough to act as a rudder in flight, and flexible enough not to get in the way on the ground.
The feathers formed a flat, fan like structure when splayed out, similar to the webbing on Dan's dragon tail.
Takeshi ran his hands down the strong spine, he had no doubt that Eric could easily carry an adult rider, probably even him despite his weight.
Dan agreed softly, though it was quite clear that he hadn't been paying attention, instead he was still totally captivated by Eric's eyes.
“Indeed he is. But how about we see if we can have the adorable human Eric back?”
Once again Eric voiced a somewhat shrill sound, but this time it carried a clearly questioning note.
“Focus on seeing yourself as a human, remember the feeling of standing on two legs, five fingers, five toes, nails instead of talons and claws.”
At first nothing happened, but after a few minutes of Takeshi and Dan speaking softly to Eric his body began to glow and soon he had returned to his human form, though as was common, with slight changes.
“Welcome to your new life.”
Takeshi teased softly before leaning in and giving Eric a soft kiss, then stepping back to let Dan fawn over him.
“What did I look like?”
Eric's distraction made Dan huff and grumble a bit as he wanted nothing more than to lure him off to bed.
“Angel could you give us a projection of Eric's new form please?”
“Of course. One live size Eric the Gryphon coming up.”
The way she presented it instantly had everyone snickering, lately she had been showing increasing signs of humor.
“Wow, is that what I look like?”
“Mhm, projected in a 1 to 1 scale.”
“So I really was that big, I thought you guys seemed oddly small.”
“Indeed, you are large enough, and no doubt powerful enough, to carry someone on your back.”
“I'm gonna need flying lessons, aren't I?”
The jump in topic only made the others smile, and nod.
“Indeed, and considering your size I think we should head to the demon realm for those lessons.”
“That's probably a good idea...”
Eric was still staring rather wide eyed at the holographic representation of his new form.
“Will you permit me to claim you as pack before that?”
The way Eric instantly bared his neck made instincts soar, but Takeshi made sure to rein them in.
“After seeing your new form there is something I need to ask you though.”
“If you take the scale it might cause you to develop a black pattern in your new form. I wouldn't want to risk altering that unless you are absolutely sure you are okay with that.”
“I just want to be pack, I want to belong.”
Eric fell silent, but they could all feel he had more to say so they waited patiently for him to find the words.
“The scale, it will make me always feel you, always feel that warm, safe, feeling, won't it?”
“Then I don't care what it does to the color of my feathers, I want that. Besides, the scales are white on Julia, so they might become white for me too, right?”
When Eric took a step closer to Takeshi and bared his neck again he didn't resist the instincts, instead he quickly closed the distance, wrapped his arms around Eric, and sank his fangs into the offered flesh and moments later he pulled back and forced a black scale under Eric's tanned skin.
For a moment Eric was breathing heavily under the onslaught of Takeshi's power and the pain from the insertion of the scale, then suddenly he was kissing Takeshi rather aggressively, earning him a rumbling warning growl.
He instantly submitted, and was rewarded with a hungry kiss before being pushed into Emelie's waiting arms where he received a similar treatment, and he once again submitted without hesitation and was passed on to Amanda.
Eric was quickly passed around the pack to find his position and he quickly found himself seeking his position, submitting to the stronger members and those exhibiting strong beta instincts, but challenging the more submissive members, like Anne, and the youngest members, like the twins.
Others, like Jenna, Munin and Nelly he had neither submitted to, nor demanded they submit to him, placing himself on equal footing, and they had accepted it without complaints, placing him smoothly in the middle of the pack
Once his position had been established he returned to Dan's arms and soon the two were otherwise engaged.
“A powerful addition to the pack.”
Ylian gently wrapped their cool energies around Takeshi, distracting him from Dan and Eric.
“He has the eyes of a dragon...”
They had been distracted from taking a closer look at the change in Eric's human form, but Takeshi was in no hurry.
“We will have a look in the morning.”