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Spoils of War

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Gakke roared and swung her mace at you. You dipped the first mace swing. Pivoting, you blasted a demon that was sneaking up on you and moved up the hill. Gakke lunged at you. Her mace slammed into the ground, missing your foot by a few inches. She stood over you and prepared to strike again. You desperately tried to juke her mace, dipping under her arm. She anticipated the maneuver, bringing her mace up in an ark. You narrowly managed to raise your ward again before the mace collided with you.

And then you were flying. The force of the blow didn’t knock you off your feet, it sent you airborne. A cry of pain escaped your lips as you flew back into the face of the cliff. Your vision swam. That hit alone had sapped a considerable portion of your strength. You couldn’t block another. Escape was the only option.

“Ooohhh… I am FEELING IT.” Roared Gakke.

“Gakke, please! Calm down! You’re hurting him!” pleaded a succubus.

Gakke growled at the succubus. The poor succ shied away.

“I decide when he’s had enough. He’s MINE!” snarled Gakke.

“General, he’s beaten, it’s over!” implored a minotaur.

“Incorrect. Anon is still conscious. I will rectify this.” Said the automaton. She stepped past Gakke.

“Get BACK!” Gakke smacked the automaton away with a swing of her mace. The other soldiers watched in horror as the poor machine girl’s body warped around Gakke’s mace. She made a few blips and beeps and collapsed into the dirt.

“LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!” she shouted at you.

“You’re insane…” you rasped.

“This is all your fault! All I wanted was to snuggle you a little, you bastard! But you had to go and insult me! You had to make things difficult! Am I that hard to love?! Don’t I deserve to be happy?!” Gakke marched up the hill towards you.

Something felt strange. You reached behind your head. Your hair was matted with blood. You stared at it incredulously on your fingers. The soldiers gasped. Gakke froze.

“Anonymous…?” Gakke’s mace slid out of her hand.

You wobbled to your feet. It wasn’t a bad wound. You had incurred worse. The ward you threw up in haste to cushion the impact was imperfect, so you weren’t surprised that your head got knocked. Just a superficial wound and a little bit of disorientation; you could still fight.

“A-are you alright? I… I didn’t mean to hit you so hard. It was just the adrenaline from the fight! Please, come here, let me take a look at you.” Gakke’s hand was shaking. You never would have guessed someone of her stature could have such a tremulous voice.

“Not a chance.” You spat.

“Anonymous, please… It was an accident! I-I would never hurt you on purpose!” pleaded Gakke.

“Stay back!” You pinged her visor with a tiny magic bolt. She recoiled away from you.

“I swear I won’t lay a finger on you! I just want to know that you’re not hurt!” sniffled Gakke.

You looked around at the other monsters. They all looked similarly concerned for your wellbeing. You had to get out of here. But how? You had some energy left, but not enough to fight through all these monsters if the conflict drew out. And Gakke wasn’t going to let you leave if she thought you were hurt. She’d keep you secure indefinitely under the pretense of extended medical examination. You eyed the ledge above you.

“Anonymous, I swear that I’ll let you go if you just let me inspect your wound! It could be serious!” begged Gakke.

“Bullshit. How long would you let me go for, a few seconds? You’ve been chasing me for a whole day! The only reason I’m in this mess is because of YOU.” You said.

Gakke winced. She stood over you, wheezing softly. Her hand tightened around her mace. “I’m sorry, Anon. I can’t let you leave. For your own good.”

“That’s not going to happen,” you said.

With the last of your magic, you vaulted yourself up towards the cliff. Gakke was ready. A colossal hand grabbed a fistful of your clothes as you rocketed upward. You grunted in pain, wrenched back towards the ground. Following through, Gakke slammed you into the ground, pinning you with a single hand.

“I’m so sorry about this, Anon,” squeaked Gakke. She raised her mace. The silver gleamed brightly before it eclipsed the sun. This time, you didn’t have the energy to block it. You uttered a cry of fear and impotent rage as Gakke slammed it down onto your chest.

~~~~~~~~

The soldiers crowded around their General. None of them dared say a word. Gakke scooped the mage up out of the dirt, gingerly dusting the grit and soil off his clothes.

“You, look at his head,” barked Gakke. An ochimusha hurried forward. Gakke cradled the human while the undead swordswoman inspected Anon.

“He’ll be fine, General. He just needs a bandage,” concluded the ochi.

Gakke ran her fingers through his hair, rubbing the blood between her fingers. She nodded. “We have to get back to Kamaka. That means going back through the pass at the shrine, Soheiya be damned. We’ll fight our way through if we have to. Once we reach the fortress on the other side, we’ll be home free. Let’s move.”

“General, we’re in no shape to march that far. Some of us can’t walk; we need to rest,” protested one of the soldiers.

“That isn’t an option anymore, soldier. I know you’re all tired. I know things have been hard. But this is the final stretch. Once we make it back to Kamaka, you can take all the time in the world to recover. Help the wounded, have something to eat, and make sure you have enough water; we march in an hour,” commanded Gakke.

The soldiers wordlessly began to slink off towards their injured comrades. Some flopped onto the dirt where they stood, chests heaving. Gakke lifted her visor to get a better look at Anon. To think something so small could pack such a punch. What a strange juxtaposition for such a fragile thing to be so powerful. If only he understood that for all his might, he was still just a human, he would have spared himself the lesson she taught him. Gakke’s stomach fluttered. This was her human now. Her HUSBAND. Her own cute little human to cherish and to care for. To kiss, and hold, and snuggle, and pin to the bed while she- Gakke shook her head. No! None of that. Anon was already hurt. A monster shouldn’t do that to a human; restraint was the only way mamono could coexist with such delicate beings as humans. Anon squirmed in his sleep. Gakke smiled. “Don’t worry, Anon. You won’t have to fight ever again.”

~~~~~~~~

The snap of your head jostled you awake. A biting wind nipped at your face. It was freezing out here! Where the hell were you anyways? Your brain struggled to process the scene you were witnessing. When your eyes finally focused, you realized that you were watching the ground rush past below you, under the heels of armored feet. Someone had you slung over their shoulder. You looked around. A line of weary mamono stretched through the rocky pass your captors were marching through. The lizardman behind you noticed your alertness and gasped. “General! He’s awake!”

A hand seized the back of your shirt and lugged you forward. Gakke held you in front of her, raising you into the air. “Anon! You’re alright! Thank goodness, I was so worried!”

“Where are we? What did you do to me?!” you panicked.

“Nothing! Please, calm down, Anon! We’ll reach the fort soon,” said Gakke.

“WE won’t do anything! Put me down!” you said.

“Anon, you need rest. Go back to sleep,” pleaded Gakke.

“Like hell I will!” You tried to wriggle out of Gakke’s grip.

“Anon, stop! You’ll hurt yourself!” said Gakke.

You prepared to answer her appeal with a blast of magic. The world twisted. You slumped over in Gakke’s arms, unable to support yourself. What little energy you had dissipated out of your hands in a pathetic stream of sparks, fizzling out on the ground.

“Oh, Anon, I told you not to do that…” Gakke’s voice echoed through your head before you fell back asleep.

~~~~~~~~~

“Anon. Anon, are you awake?” You grumbled and rolled over. “Anon, I brought you some food.” Your eyes snapped open. Food, you say? Your trembling arms worked to rip the covers off your body to get to the meal. You were starving. Gakke was sitting next to you with a tray of food. Normally you would have had a quip ready for her, but hunger demanded all your attention be focused on the morsels in front of you. Grabbing a spoon with your trembling hand, you began to shovel the bowl of mysterious slop into your mouth. Boiled oats never tasted so good.

“Slow down, you’ll choke,” protested Gakke. You ignored her. Only after you had swallowed the last bite of food did you begin to inspect your surroundings. The room was furnished with the luxurious trappings of a noble’s bedroom, juxtaposed by the dark stone walls and floor. Candles provided the only source of light. Through the small windows, you could see the dark sky outside. Gakke’s reddish skin glowed orange in the soft light of the candelabra on the table next to the bed. It was the first time that you had seen her without her armor. She smiled at you. “Feeling better?”

“Where am I?” you demanded.

Gakke pursed her lips. “You’re in one of our fortresses. Rest assured, you’re safer here than anywhere else in Zipangu.”

“Safe? When I’m trapped here with you?” you spat.

“I had to be certain that you weren’t injured,” said Gakke.

“You had to be sure that you were the one to claim me,” you corrected.

Gakke sighed. She leaned forward in her chair. You reclined to keep the distance between you and her. Gakke’s face took on a sinister quality in the candlelight. She pursed her lips. “This is the way things are, Anon. If this is what it takes to keep you from hurting yourself, so be it. I’m sorry for any consternation this causes you, but I love you too much to let you go.”

“You won’t be able to keep me here,” you retorted.

“I can. And I will. Your consent in this matter is appreciated, but not required,” said Gakke. She got a strange look on her face. Reaching out, she tried to touch your head. You slapped her hand away. Gakke flinched, clutching her wrist. “I- Sorry. I just wanted to…” Gakke saw your glare and swallowed. “I’ll go. Let me know if you need more food.” She grabbed the dishes and left. As Gakke exited the room, the automaton slipped in.

“Hey! What’s she doing here? Get out!” you said.

“She’s here to make sure you don’t escape,” said Gakke.

“Oh yeah? She didn’t do so well last time. What makes you think this time will be any different?” you sneered.

The automaton raised her arm, brandishing the barrel of her gun at you. “The difference is two thousand rounds of ammunition.”

Gakke gently lowered her weapon. “Mitsubi, please don’t use that unless you have to.”

“Understood.” The gun slid back into the automaton’s wrist. She moved to a corner, staring at you with those unblinking purple eyes.

“Goodnight, Anon. Let me know if there’s anything else you need.” Gakke smiled at you, shutting the door behind her.

The food in your stomach began to weigh you down. You yawned. Putting your back to your new mechanical steward, you let the carbohydrates put you to sleep as you tried to ignore the faint ticking of clockwork coming from the corner.

~~~~~~~~

Mitsubi nudged you forward with the barrel of her gun.

“Ow! I’m walking, calm down!” you protested.

“Mitsubi, don’t hurt him!” Gakke hauled you away from the automaton, setting you down at her side. You rubbed your arm. If unicorns couldn’t add more cartilage to your arm-sockets, you would be in trouble if she kept yanking you like that.

“He insisted on delaying us,” said Mitsubi.

“The cavalry won’t be here for another few days. We have time. Stop harassing him; you know he’s scared,” said Gakke.

“I am NOT scared. And I’ll turn you into scrap metal if you try that again,” you said.

Gakke shoved you behind her. “Not now, Anon. Let’s get you breakfast, okay?”

You couldn’t argue with breakfast. It was going to take you days to recover from all the magic you had spent trying to get away from Gakke. Not that any of these lugs needed to know that. From the look of it, there weren’t many mages in this group. All you had to do was bide your time until you could blast your way out of here. Gakke may have been able to follow you through badlands, but there was no chance of her pursuing you through mountains. She herded you to a dining room and took a seat at the head of the table. You sat on a bench next to her.

“Anon, you can sit here.” Gakke patted her lap.

You stared at her. “I’m not doing that.”

Gakke’s smile drooped. “I-It’s comfy! I promise. And I can feed you!” Your grimace must have clued her in as to how you felt about that proposition. “Or you can feed yourself…”

“The bench is fine, thanks,” you grumbled. Gakke pouted. Trays of food were brought out from a kitchen and set along the tables. The other soldiers began to dig in. You grabbed a plate and began heaping all the meat you could fit onto your plate. An amazon slammed herself down onto the bench next to you. You glanced over at her. She sneered at you.

“Hey there, little human. How would you like to be my husband?” You stared at her. Was this some sort of prank? That had to be the least charismatic proposition you had ever heard from an amazon. They had been all over you in Valisias. Amazons always had a cool confidence about them when they tried to make their appeals. This one sounded like she was trying to be a cartoon villain. And an amazon would NEVER try to court another woman’s man without fighting her. Her tanned arm slid around your shoulders.

“Watch out, Anon!” Gakke tugged you out of her grasp. Whiplash was just something you would have to learn to live with from now on. The world went dark as Gakke buried your head in her chest. “Get out of here, soldier. And don’t even think about harassing my HUSBAND again!” So that was her game. A wurm could have made a better thespian than Gakke. “Don’t worry Anon, I’ll keep you safe.” The amazon smirked at her boss and nodded before sliding down the table with her plate of food.
“Get off of me!” you tried to wriggle out of Gakke’s grip.

“Anon, no! They’re dangerous!” said Gakke, wrapping her arms around you. Your eyes bulged as the air was squeezed from your lungs.

“Okay! Fine! Stop protecting me!” you wheezed, slapping her arm.

Gakke let you go, spilling your body onto the table in front of her. You gulped down a few lungsful of air. “Are you alright?” she asked nervously.

“Just let me eat,” you begged. Gakke grabbed your plate and slid it over to you. One of her arms slithered around your midriff to keep you in place. At least she let you feed yourself. You began to chow down while Gakke carefully ate around you. The other soldiers at the table were ecstatic to see their boss holding you. The more romantically inclined species were all gushing and whispering amongst themselves, sneaking glances back at Gakke like it was their own child graduating kindergarten.

“Anon, try some of this aged meat! I’m sure it’s better than anything you’ve had in that pack of yours.” Gakke tried to offer you a scrap of sausage.

“I’ve had some of that already,” you said.

“But did you dip it in the egg yet? It’s good.” Gakke hovered the food closer to your face.

“For the last time, I don’t want-“

Gakke took the opportunity to shove the morsel into your mouth. You hacked and coughed, feverishly chewing to free your airway from the unanticipated invader. “Did you like it?” asked Gakke.

“Not when it’s being stuffed down my windpipe!” you said.

“Oh.” Gakke looked nervously at the other monsters. They all busied themselves with their food or looked away to hide their grimace. One of the succubi made an elaborate gesture with her hand. “Oh, right!” Gakke put down her fork and planted her tremendous hand over your head. Her hand was big enough to palm your skull. You froze, uncertain of what was about to happen. Gakke’s fingers contracted, running through your hair. Your head rolled back with it. Gakke let out an unexpectedly girlish gasp. “So soft!” She began petting you with all the grace of a silverback gorilla. So much for eating; there was no way that you were going to put a fork anywhere near your mouth with your head being rolled back and forth like this.

“Uh… General…” One of the succubi made a motion to ease up with her hands. Gakke stopped mid-stroke. You untensed your shoulders.

“Did- did that hurt?” asked Gakke softly.

“It certainly didn’t feel GOOD,” you said.

“Oh. Sorry. I thought… I thought men liked it when you- you know…” You could feel the tension in her legs. Twisting your neck out from under her hand, you went back to eating. Gakke sighed plaintively. The other monsters continued to eat, forlornly looking into their potatoes. Reaching for a plate of bread, you piled more rolls onto your plate. You needed to get your strength back and escape. With this woman, your life may depend on it.

~~~~~~~~

You didn’t know what to expect with Gakke, but you hadn’t expected to be dragged around all day like a toy. Wherever Gakke went, you went with her. Over her shoulder, under her arm, dragged along behind her, it didn’t matter to Gakke as long as you were withing arm’s reach. She even carried you into a meeting with her lieutenants to discuss critical war information with you awkwardly stuffed between Gakke and the table. The only time she left you alone was to discuss ‘something important’ with one of her soldiers. You didn’t like the look she had on her face when she said that. Who knew being toted around could be so exhausting?
“Anon, you’ve been on the road for a long time, right?” asked Gakke.

Your feet worked double time to keep up with her while she held your hand. “So?”

“I was wondering if you might like a bath? I always enjoy a nice soak after I return from a long march,” said Gakke.

“I’m fine.” You knew where that was going. There was zero chance that Gakke would respect your privacy and leave you to bathe yourself.

“Huh?” Gakke was stunned by your rebuke. “But… but it’s warm!”

“I washed in a river last week,” you said.

“That was ages ago! And you spent all day rolling around in the dirt when I was trying to save you. Surely you could stand a rinse,” said Gakke.

“Not with you I don’t!” you retorted.

Gakke stifled a gasp. She pouted and looked away. “I never said that…”

“Oh, right. You were just going to wait outside, weren’t you?” you said dryly. Gakke bit her lip. “See?!” you said angrily.

“I didn’t say anything!” protested Gakke.

Gakke entered the bathroom. A few soldiers quickly slid out and dried themselves off. Gakke clapped one of her hands over your eyes until they were gone. “If you won’t get in the bath willingly, then I’ll have to bathe you myself,” puffed Gakke.

“I’ll bathe myself if you aren’t in there with me,” you said.

“No. You already said you wouldn’t, so now I have to be in there to make sure you’re clean. It’s bad for your health if you don’t bathe, you know,” said Gakke. She started grabbing at your shirt.

“Hey! Stop that! I can clean myself, go wait outside!” you said.

“I just want to make sure you’re clean, Anon! You smell bad!” said Gakke.

“I do not! You-“ Gakke wrenched your shirt, tearing the fabric. The force pulled you off your feet. Tossing aside the remains of your shirt, Gakke began tearing at your pants. You hastily fumbled for your belt, afraid of what might happen if you didn’t get them off fast enough. She had that crazed look in her eye again. Gakke’s gaze was fixed on your pants. She even let out a low growl every now and then. Loosening your belt, you let Gakke yank your pants off your legs. You threw your hands down to protect your decency, but not before Gakke got an eyeful. Even in the dim light, you could see her pupils dilate. “You bitch…” you grumbled.

Gakke wiggled gleefully. “You are absolutely adorable! Look at all the little muscles on you~”

“Everything is little to you,” you said.

“You know, when I heard you had defeated Kaizo, I was worried that you would be bigger and stronger than the stories made you out to be. I’m glad the other girls weren’t lying,” said Gakke, looking away with a soft smile.

“I still beat her. And Nokoribi too,” you said.

“I know you did. That was very impressive. You’re quite the fighter,” Gakke reached down to tousle your hair. You weren’t able to shirk far enough away to avoid her roaming hand. She swelled at the touch of your shaggy locks.

“You’ll see what I can do when I break out of here,” you said.

Gakke frowned. “Break out? And go where?”

“Anywhere that isn’t here,” you snapped.

“There’s nothing but mountains for miles. If the cold doesn’t get you, the harpies will. Or worse…” said Gakke.

“I can manage,” you said.

“Fighting? Sure. But if you’re breaking out of here, how much do you think you’ll be able to carry? You can fight mamono, but you can’t fight hunger. These aren’t the valleys full of fruits and berries you’ve been roaming through. I’d hate to see you skinnier than this.” Gakke prodded your side. You flinched at the sensation. She giggled and herded you towards the tub. “No sense in fighting, Anon. Just be good for me, okay?”

You grumbled under your breath, but walked to the tub nonetheless. The film of dirt and grime on your skin was getting uncomfortable, even if you wouldn’t admit that to her. After checking to confirm the water wasn’t too hot, you slid in and sat down with a sigh. This was exactly what you needed after all those days of bathing in frigid rivers full of muck and gawking monsters. Gakke gently moved you out of the way to seat herself behind you. Her legs came to rest on either side of you, stretching far past your own. An arm swung down to hold you in place when you tried to move away. “It’s alright, nothing to be scared of,” cooed Gakke. You weren’t too sure about that. Her hand had already started to squeeze you. Her thumb rolled up and down your skin as she sighed happily. You relaxed your head a bit, easing against her body. A thin layer of fat provided a nice cushion over her firm core. Your vision was halved by the mountain of flesh resting on each of your shoulders. Gakke grabbed a bar of soap from the side of the tub and began to rub you down with it. Without anything else to do, you let her do as she pleased.

“I can’t tell you how long I’ve dreamt of something like this,” said Gakke.

“You’ve known me for less than a week,” you huffed.

“I- I know. I meant THIS, you know? Me, with a cute human, just enjoying a nice bath together…” Gakke used her free hand to scoop some water onto your head. You grimaced as the water cascaded down your face.

“There’s only one of us that’s enjoying this,” you retorted.

“Is the water too hot?” asked Gakke.

“You know that isn’t the issue!” you said.

“Then what is?” You spun around to see if Gakke was serious or not. The quizzical look on her face suggested that the inquiry was genuine.

“The problem is that you kidnapped me! How do you not comprehend that?! What is it that prevents you from realizing that clubbing me over the head and dragging me away like a caveman would make me unhappy?!” you said.

Gakke looked away, sliding a bit deeper into the water. “The girls said that relationships took time, and that you had to work to build them up… I thought you might be more receptive by now…”

“IT’S BEEN A FEW DAYS! And I’ve been unconscious for half of them! The other half consisted of you chasing me like an animal while I ran for my life!” you said.
Gakke looked crestfallen. “Does that mean you aren’t attracted to me? Not even a little?”

You looked down into the water. “I don’t think you’re unattractive. And to be truthful, you seem more restrained than most monsters I’ve come across. But I’m not attracted to someone who keeps me like property,” you said.

“Will you be attracted to me?” The question took you by surprise. In the world of mamono, it was rare to see someone so naïve about love. Gakke must have some seriously ingrained notions of how a relationship formed and progressed. Normally this would be the time for the monster to make some braggadocios claim about how you would become a slave to her wiles or body with you riposting with an equally arrogant claim about how you would escape and give her a beatdown she wouldn’t forget. Gakke’s deviation from the script started the cogs in your brain. It seemed cruel to tell Gakke that you would never love her; she truly did seem like an earnest and well-meaning person, if a bit unrestrained at times. Still, you weren’t going to get out of this by giving her hope.

“No, I won’t,” you said flatly.

“Oh…” Gakke dragged you deeper into the bath as she slumped over. “I just thought… maybe you would be happy once we got to know each other, and you saw how gentle I was…”

“You hit me with a mace!” you said.

“It was an accident!” Gakke began to sniffle and whimper.

“An accident?! You chased me a dozen miles through the wilderness, sicced your soldiers on me, beat me unconscious on ACCIDENT?!” you demanded.

Gakke began to bawl. “It wasn’t supposed to end like that! You were just so cute; I couldn’t help myself! What would you do if you saw a little puppy in the road; would you just let it go? Please don’t think that’s who I am!”

“When I see something cute, I don’t start drooling and hitting it!” you said.

“I said I was sorry!” Gakke wrapped both her arms around you, squeezing the air out of your lungs. You would have scolded her, but breathing quickly became too laborious to get any words out. She rocked back and forth with you in her arms while great, heaving sobs shook her chest. “You can’t be mad forever! Please, just give me a chance!”

“Why should I?” you wheezed.

“Because I love you!” wailed Gakke.

Using some of your magic, you managed to pry her arms open enough to gulp down a few breaths of air. Gakke must have realized that she was killing you, releasing you into the water. You fell beneath the suds just as you took a breath, inhaling a mouthful of soapy water. Gakke fished you out and clapped you on the back a few times. You coughed and sputtered, now having the wind beaten out of you while choking on water. The door to the bathroom was kicked in. Soldiers burst into the room.

“General! I felt the human use magic, is everything alright?” demanded a dark mage.

“No!” Gakke sobbed, holding you up for them to see. You looked sullenly at the girls. They stared back at you, perplexed by the whole situation.

“Oh… Umm… is there anything we can do?” asked the mage.

“He says he hates me!” sniffled Gakke.

The girl’s curious looks turned to glares. A dark valkyrie folded her arms and shook her head. “I never said that!” you protested.

“It’s because I’m big, isn’t it? You wanted someone tiny, like you!” cried Gakke.

You pleaded with your eyes for the soldiers to do something. The dark mage pursed her lips. It was clear that she didn’t like the idea of helping you, but it looked as if she understood that you were in desperate need of a helping hand.

“I think he’s just irritable because he didn’t sleep well last night. You should get him into bed. I’m sure he’ll be more genial in the morning,” offered the dark mage.

“You think?” said Gakke.

“I’m sure of it,” said the dark mage, staring you down. You glowered back at her.

“Ok. Let’s get you to bed, Anon.” Gakke stood up and clambered out of the tub, carrying you with her. You didn’t think you would ever get used to being handled like this. The bridal carries by the girls at Valisias had been humiliating, but nothing was quite so undignified as being carried around like a sack.

“Just let us know if you need anything, General,” said the dark mage.

“Thank you, I will,” said Gakke. She grabbed a towel and began drying you off. The soldiers departed. You squirmed out of Gakke’s grasp as soon as you were reasonably dry, sliding into some clean clothes. “Do you feel any better?” asked Gakke hopefully.

“I do feel cleaner, if that’s what you’re asking,” you said.

Gakke mustered a small smile and wiped her eye. “Good. Then… I’ll see you in the morning?”

“I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” you said.

Gakke looked down. “I uh… Yeah, I guess not…” She looked like she had more to say but stopped herself before she said it. “Good night, Anon.”

“Yeah, night.” You slid out of the bathroom, wandering to your bedroom before Gakke could follow you in.

~~~~~~~~

You were on the verge of sleep when your door creaked open. Sitting up, you found yourself face to face with a host of Gakke’s soldiers. Their eyes gleamed in the darkness. The moonlight coming in through the window was just enough to see the distain on their faces. Where the hell was Mitsubi? Peaking past an ocleomeh, you spotted her in her usual position next to the door. Whatever was happening, she must have been in on it.

“If you’re thinking about trying something, just remember what Gakke would do to you if she found out,” you said.

“Gakke is the reason why we’re here,” said a succubus. “I don’t know who you think you are, but the General is one of the sweetest, most well-deserving mamono in Zipangu. More than that, she’s heir to the Kamaka Shogunate. And we’re sick of you treating her like garbage.”

“Sweet? Well-deserving? She chased me like a dog! I-“

The succubus stepped forward to cut you off. “Shut up and listen for once. Not a day has gone by since she rescued you that you haven’t made her cry. Personally, I don’t know what she sees in you. I would have left you to that ushi and been done with you. But Gakke has a type, and it’s just too bad that your spindly little body has to have such a rotten core to it. And that’s why we’re here.” She gestured to the other monsters. “We’ve followed Gakke into all sorts of trouble. Situations we thought we would never get out of. Gakke always pulls through, and she always gets us out. So now it’s our turn to look out for her.” The succubus leaned over the bed and prodded your chest with her finger. “You’re going to correct that shitty attitude of yours. From now on, you’re going to be polite, you’re going to be docile, and you’re going to show her the love and respect she deserves.”

“And if I don’t?” you asked, trying to keep your voice steady.

The succubus smirked. “Then we use our pay to buy someone cuter than you as a replacement and give you to Kaizo as a chew toy. I’m sure she would LOVE to see you again after your last meeting~”

“You can’t scare me; I saw her get hauled away!” you said.

The girls laughed. “It shows how much you understand about Zipangu if you think a prison is going to hold her. And we meant what we said about the other man; Gakke isn’t after that magic of yours. And Moegara would be more than willing to sell you to make up for all the trouble you’ve caused.” The succubus grinned at you as she closed the door. “Oh, and hold that blanket tight. I hear it’s going to get cold tonight~”

You flinched as she slammed the door. The only sounds were the fading footsteps of the soldiers, the faint whirring of Mitsubi’s gears, and the howl of wind against the window. You shivered. It really was getting cold in here. Wrapping the blanket tighter around yourself, you tried to get some sleep.

~~~~~~~~

You opened your bloodshot eyes. Even in the dim light, you could see your breath turn to fog in the frigid air. What kind of shitty insulation did this place have anyways?! Sitting up in bed, you looked around for anything else you could use to cover your body. The automaton sprang into action, leveling her gun at you. “Fuck! Put that thing down!” You said, ducking behind the blanket.

“Why do you stir, human? You should be asleep,” said Mitsubi.

“I can’t sleep, it’s freezing in here! Are there any more blankets?” you said. Cold air trickled under the covers. You shuddered.

“Negative. What you have is sufficient,” replied Mitsubi.

“No, it isn’t! Get someone with a pulse, they’ll tell you how intolerable this is!” you said.

“If you would like more blankets, I will have to ask permission from General Gakke,” said Mitsubi.

“You don’t need to ask your commanding officer for permission to get me a blanket!” you said.

“The chain of command demands that I do, Anon.” Maybe it was just your imagination, but you could swear you heard a hint of smugness in that monotone voice.

“Then go ask her!” you said.

“Negative. My primary directive is your supervision. You may escape while I am absent.”

“And go where?! I’m already freezing, it isn’t as if I can go outside!” you pleaded. Mitsubi stared at you. Your teeth started to chatter. Fine; you would play their game. “If I go with you, can we go speak to Gakke?”

“Those terms are acceptable,” said Mitsubi.

You grumbled a string of curses and got out of bed. The impact of your feet against the frigid floor nearly sent you toppling to the ground. Dragging the blanket with you, you shuffled out of the room, dancing across the stone to prevent your feet from being in contact with the icy floor for too long. Mitsubi opened the door for you, following you out into the hall.

“Which way?” you shivered.

Mitsubi led you through the halls, arriving at a door. You pushed past her to open it. Inside, rows of cots filled with sleeping monsters stretched out before you. Gakke was easy to spot, a gargantuan red mass resting on a bed at the far end of the room. A few monsters stirred as you passed, looking up at you from their pillows. Some of them snickered at your plight, others casting mischievous grins in your direction. You clenched your jaw to keep your teeth from chattering. They didn’t deserve the satisfaction. Standing next to Gakke’s bed, you stood on the corners of your blanket and shook her awake.

“Gakke! Gakke, get up!” you hissed. Gakke snored and rolled over. “Gakke! It’s me, Anon!” Slowly, Gakke began to stir. She rubbed her eyes, lazily focusing on you.

“Anon?” she mumbled groggily.

“Yeah, me. We have a problem. I think someone left a window open,” you said.

“What do you- hey, it’s kind of cold in here…” Gakke shivered, becoming more alert as the freezing air slipped under her blanket.

“You’re telling me. Listen, this thing isn’t cutting it; I need another blanket,” you said, wiggling the thin fabric around you at her.

Gakke gasped. “Of course! If I had known you were cold, I would have brought you one! You poor thing, you must be freezing!”

“I’m fine, I just need to-“

Gakke scooped you up in her arms before you could explain yourself. “Nonsense, a frail little thing like yourself will wither in this cold! Let’s go make sure you’re nice and warm.”

By now most of the monsters in the barracks were awake. You were treated to the sight of them waving goodbye while Gakke carried you out. Hurrying down the hall, Gakke stopped at a closet and opened the door. Nothing but rows of empty shelves.

“Huh!” she exclaimed.

“What?”

“This is where all the blankets were. The others must be using them,” said Gakke.

“Are there any more?” you asked. It was still cold, but Gakke’s body heat was making the temperature more tolerable.

“We can check…”

Three more barren closets and not even a pillowcase to show for it. Gakke was becoming more distraught by the minute. “There aren’t any blankets anywhere!”

You sucked in a long breath. This was checkmate. You knew what the soldier’s game was, and you knew that they had already rigged it beyond salvaging. Only one move left to make. “We can share a blanket…” you said through gritted teeth.

Gakke stiffened. “W-what?”

“I said, we can share a blanket.”

Gakke stared at you like you were speaking in tongues. She got that exuberant look in her eye that you had come to dread. “O-oh! I mean, if you insist! I wouldn’t mind sharing a bed with you, Anon! I’ll keep you nice and warm…” You could feel her fingers start to dig into you. A shudder racked your body. “Poor thing! Let’s get back to bed before you freeze!” Gakke sprinted down the hall back to your bedroom. You caught a glimpse of a cadre of soldiers watching from a corner. They giggled and waved before Gakke dragged you into the room. Throwing you on the bed, Gakke quickly wrapped the blanket around the two of you. “There, feeling warmer?”

“Yes,” you sighed.

The reprieve was instantaneous and intoxicating. Heat rolled off of Gakke’s body, washing away the chill of night. Gakke wrapped an arm around you, pulling you flush to her body. Your head sank into her chest. Too tired to fight, you let her manipulate your body into a comfortable sleeping position. She cooed gently, running her fingers through your hair. “That’s better, isn’t it? Nice and warm~ Just settle in and get comfortable.”

Your eyelids drooped. It was too much. The sensation of her fingers in your hair, the warmth of her body, and the sound of her heartbeat worked in concert to lull you into a deep sleep before you could make the impermanence of this arrangement clear.

~~~~~~~~

“Anon, get up. It’s time for breakfast.”

You grunted.

“Anon, come on. You need to eat.” Gakke shook you. Did you have to? It was so warm in here… But where was here anyways? You cracked open your eyes. Your arms were wrapped tightly around Gakke, your head resting snuggly against her chest. She smiled down at you. “Good morning!” You quickly extricated yourself from her grasp. Gakke watched you slip away, unperturbed by your haste. “Are you hungry?”

“Yeah…” you replied.

“Do you want me to bring you something?” asked Gakke.

“I can walk to the dining room,” you said.

Gakke tightened her lips and looked down. “I know, I was just offering…”

You looked away. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’ll be out in a minute, just let me get dressed.” Gakke slunk out of the room, still dressed in her pajamas. You threw on your clothes and boots, grateful for the layer of clothing and leather between you and the ground. Gakke was waiting for you outside. “Aren’t you going to get dressed?” you asked.

“It can wait until after breakfast. That armor is so stuffy, and I had to wear it for two weeks. It’s nice to be out of it,” said Gakke. You followed her into the dining room. Monsters looked up from their meals with satisfied smirks.

“Did you stay warm, Anon?”

“You could have just asked her to stay when she tucked you in.”

“I hope at least ONE part of you kept warm~”

Gakke pulled you in closer. The monsters eased up on the jeering but continued to snicker and smirk at you from their plates. You flexed your hand. The days of rest had returned your strength. All you needed now was an opportunity. Then it was a quick trip back over the mountains and… Shit. You would have to figure out where to go from here. The first ryu shrine was a bust, but there had to be another nearby. That is, as long as Voso’s curse didn’t cut your trip short.

“Don’t listen to them, Anon. You know I would never do anything to you,” said Gakke.

“Other than beat me, right?” you said.

Gakke looked away. “I- uh… yeah… sorry…”

A chill ran down your spine. The succubus from last night was staring daggers at you from across the room. If looks could kill… Hell, they might be able to do that in this world. You wouldn’t put it past succubi to have some sort of bullshit instant-win hypnosis or something; who knows how much info wasn’t in the encyclopedia. You quickly busied yourself with your breakfast, trying to ignore the awkward tension in the air.

“General!” A harpy burst into the room. “The cavalry you requested will be here shortly; we expect them to be here by tomorrow afternoon.”

“Tomorrow afternoon? They should be here by now, the distance isn’t that far,” said Gakke.

“Apologies, General. They say the yukki onna have been brewing up a blizzard around the fortress; it’s making the road difficult to traverse.”

One of the lizardmen spat out her drink. The others around her quickly hushed her. Wait a minute, yukki onnas? A blizzard? Freezing temperatures inside a mountain fortress that would have been built to withstand just such temperatures? You glared at the succubus. She gave you a little wave.

“Hmm… Well, nothing can be done I suppose. Just make sure they get here quickly. And did they bring…” Gakke glanced at you. She lowered her voice and continued. “Did they bring what I requested?”

The harpy cleared her throat. “Err, yes they did General.”

Gakke swelled with happiness. She peeked at you, snapping her head towards a wall when she saw you were still looking. “Good! Good. That will be uh… helpful.”

“Indeed. Is there any information you would like to relay to them?” asked the harpy.

“Be swift, but cautious. No sense getting the beasts mired in snow when they’re this close,” said Gakke.

“As you wish, General.” The harpy saluted and exited the dining room.

“Beasts?” you asked.

“Mm-hmm,” Gakke hummed through a mouthful of food.

“You mean horses, right?” you said. Gakke stared at you. Of course, she didn’t mean horses. Think, Anon. The woman would make a Clydesdale look tiny. “Realm beasts?” you said, praying that it was anything else.

“Yep,” said Gakke.

You sighed. You HATED those things. No matter what sort of shape or size they came in, it was always some hideous drooling beast that tried to slobber all over you.
“Oh! You’re from a different world, aren’t you? Have you seen a realm beast before?” asked Gakke.

“Unfortunately,” you said.

Gakke frowned. “Do you not like them?”

“I can’t say I do,” you said curtly.

“You’ll like mine, I’m sure of it! I raised her since she was just this big!” Gakke held out her arms to show you. Was that supposed to be small!? “She’s really gentle!”

“Uh huh.”

“She is! You’ll love her. And you’ll have plenty of time to bond on the way back to Kamaka,” said Gakke.

“We’ll see.” You finished your breakfast and looked around. The monsters watched you from their tables. They’ll ALL see. This time it would be different. Let’s see how well they can handle you when you weren’t getting attacked by an ushi. Gakke seemed oblivious to any ill-intent behind your words. She finished her drink and looked down at you.

“So… do you want to snuggle?” she asked nervously.

“I have to pack,” you said.

“Oh, okay. Maybe later then?” said Gakke hopefully.

“No need, General. We already packed his things,” said the succubus.

Gakke beamed. She looked back down at you. “I have some studying to do…” you said.

“He’s trying to learn Zipangunese,” jeered a salamander.

“I could teach you!” blurted Gakke. “We can use my study. Let’s go!”

“Wait, wait, wait! I can walk!” Gakke scooped you up and carried you off, your protests falling on deaf ears.

~~~~~~~~~

In spite of your low expectations, Gakke proved to be quite the tutor. Her explanations were simple, effective, and easy to remember. Not only that, but she proved to be an authority on classical Zipangunese literature. If only she would stop massaging your shoulders while you wrote…

“That stroke is wrong. It should look like this.” Gakke took your brush and scratched out the correct symbol next to the one you made. “See?”

“Yeah. More of a curve.” You put the correct symbol down in your book with a quick note. Gakke looked at it intently.

“Wow, you really do have your own language, huh?” she chuckled.

“Yep. Trying to keep it alive, now that I’m the only one who speaks it. Almost the only one, anyways. Good thing the scholars of Admaz helped me preserve it,” you said.

Gakke chuckled nervously. “I’d love to hear what it sounds like.” You looked up at her. She licked her lips. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, ha ha…”

You fiddled with your amulet of articulation. “Alright, just a bit.” You lifted it off your neck. “Can you still understand me?”

Gakke gasped. {Oooh! So cute! What a funny sounding language!}

“Don’t get used to it.” That reaction was one of the reasons why you didn’t take this thing off; the second you started speaking English, monsters swarmed you to hear you talk more. The mamono of Valisias made a pastime of stealing it from you and forcing you to beg for it in English or broken Common.

“Nooo! Take it back off! We can converse in Zipangunese!” pleaded Gakke.

“I hardly know any Zipangunese. If I don’t wear this, we’re just going to end up grunting at each other. I should at least learn how to- hey!” Gakke slipped her hand up your back to relieve you of the amulet.

“{Does this work for me too?} Can you understand me?” asked Gakke, her speech abruptly changing when she slipped the amulet on.

“Yes, I can understand you. Now give it back!” you said.

“Do I sound funny? Is my voice different?” Gakke giggled at your attempts to grab the amulet from her. Jumped up, trying to get a hold of it. Gakke capitalized on the opportunity to scoop you up, swinging you back and forth with a hearty laugh. “Maybe I should keep this, so you’ll have to talk to me!” You flicked your wrist, summoning a stream of magic. The amulet leapt off Gakke’s neck into the air. You snatched it, quickly returning it to its rightful place. Gakke giggled. “You are so cute when you’re angry~”

“Put me down…” you said.

Gakke gave you one more squeeze and set you back in your chair. “Tell me more about your world! I want to know what it’s like!”

You scratched your chin. It wasn’t like you were going anywhere. “Well, it was a lot different than this place…”

~~~~~~~~~

Gakke sat in her chair, staring at the ceiling. “Wow…”

“I told you it was different,” you said.

Gakke sighed. “It sounds…” She waved her hands through the air, trying to find something to say.

“You don’t have to like it; I won’t take offense. I’d be more surprised if someone didn’t find it distasteful,” you said.

Gakke gave you a weak smile and nodded. “It’s not all bad, just the war stuff, you know? I loved hearing about all the different cultures you had.” You tapped your fingers on the desk and let out a long exhale. Talking about home always made you melancholic, even if it was a dump compared to this world. Be it her monster instinct or just the need for physical contact, Gakke pulled you out of the chair and into a hug. You didn’t fight her this time. “This may seem selfish, but I’m glad that you ended up in this world.”

“Yeah, me too,” you said.

Gakke gently ran her hand up and down your back. The movement made you drowsy. It wasn’t so bad to be with her when it was like this; a shame that these still moments were so few and far between. You don’t know how long you were wrapped up in her arms for before she gingerly shook you back to alertness.

“Hey, are you getting sleepy?” asked Gakke.

“Yeah,” you yawned.

“Let’s go to bed.” Gakke put you down and stretched. Closing your book, you slunk off towards your room for a proper sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

“General, they’re here,” announced a werewolf.

“Very good. Have them unload the supplies,” said Gakke. You glanced up from your writing, trying not to seem too interested in what was happening. The generally placid mood lent to the notion that you weren’t moving out yet. Chances are that you would hit the road tomorrow after the beasts got a chance to rest. Yeugh. Your lip curled at the sight of the realm beasts, braying and grunting in the courtyard. A succubus patted one on the cheek. The thing gave her an affectionate lick, a gob of saliva plopping onto the ground from its massive jowl.

“Good news, Anon. The snow is melting, so we’ll be able to get on the road to Kamaka tomorrow morning,” said Gakke.

“Fantastic,” you replied dryly, turning a page of your book.

“Aren’t you excited? You get to see the capital!” said Gakke.

“Thrilled. How long is it going to take to get there?” you asked.

“About a week. If the weather is good. Getting out of the mountains is the hard part; a heavy rain will cost us time,” said Gakke.

A few days. Plenty of time to make your escape. All you had to do was find an opportune moment and bounce away before any of these oafs could stop you. Mitsubi would be the real problem. You had watched her entertain some of the soldiers by taking potshots at the targets they called out, and she hadn’t missed once. If you were in her line of sight, chances are she could dome you.

“You’re going to love Kamaka! It’s a lovely little city. Some of the people there can be… well, they like the way my mother runs the shogunate. But I’ll make sure nothing happens to you. And we can go to my favorite noodle shop! The bowls they serve are so big they can satisfy even me,” said Gakke, thumping her chest. Noodles sounded pretty good right about now. You had been so busy bouncing around Zipangu that you hadn’t had a chance to enjoy any of the local cuisine. Probably better than what they served here, that’s for sure. “And look! I had a seamstress make this for you!” Gakke handed you a box.

You leered at the container. This couldn’t be good. “What is it?”

“Just a new set of clothes. Yours are a little ragged, so I figured that you might want to slip into something more comfortable, you know?” said Gakke. The bashful look on her face hinted that this was NOT just another pair of clothes.

“I like my clothes. They’ve got sentimental value, you know?” you said, offering her the box back.

“Oh. I see…” said Gakke.

Someone coughed loudly behind you. You glanced over your shoulder to see the succubus who had made the ultimatum glaring at you. Her tail flicked back and forth in irritation. Several other soldiers were backing her up. “Awfully rude to reject such a thoughtful gift,” mused the succubus to the others, loud enough for everyone to hear.

“What a shame. It’s wasted on him,” said an ogre.

“Too bad. I hear the General spent quite a bit on that piece. She was so certain he would like it,” sighed a harpy.

“Stop it. All of you.” The monsters snapped to attention at Gakke’s order. You flinched when you heard the order too. She had always used a light, almost condescending tone when she spoke to you; this was only the second time you had heard her speak with so much authority. “If Anon doesn’t wish to wear the clothing, I will not force him too. And I won’t have any of you antagonizing him over that decision; is that clear?”

“Yes, General,” the monsters replied.

Gakke huffed. “I’m sorry, Anon. Too much time away from their men makes them forget their manners.”

You looked at the box in her hands. Damn, why did she have to be so sincere? “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try it on…”

Gakke’s excitement was plain to see, though she tried to downplay her reaction. “Are you sure? You don’t have to.”

“I’ll need new clothes eventually,” you said, taking the box from her. Opening the lid, you found a neatly folded robe, reminiscent of a kimono from back on Earth. It was a cool blue color, with a black trim. And holy shit was it soft. There wasn’t a doubt in your mind that this was the fruit of some sort of monster byproduct. An arachne, if you had to hazard a guess.

“Do you like it?” asked Gakke.

“It feels incredible,” you said. Gakke beamed at your response.

“Go ahead, try it on!” she insisted.

“Here? Now?” you asked, eyeing the soldiers watching your exchange.

“Oh, I suppose this is rather public. I forgot you were shy,” said Gakke.

“I am NOT shy, it’s weird to strip in front of people no matter where you are,” you retorted.

“They don’t mind,” said Gakke. Some of the soldiers snickered.

“Yeah, Anon. We don’t mind!”

A lack of social awareness may not have set Gakke off, but jealousy sure did. Her face hardened at the taunt from her underling. Moving between you and the other monsters, Gakke hesitantly glanced over her shoulder. “Maybe you should try it on later…”

“That may be for the best.” You put the lid back on the box and tucked it under your arm.

Gakke seemed relieved that you weren’t going to get snatched away by her own troops. “Oh, this will be a perfect honeymoon! Why go right to Kamaka? We can take a detour through the countryside and see what the Shogunate has to offer!” said Gakke.

The word ‘honeymoon’ hit you like a ton of bricks. It was easy to forget during these moments of geniality that you were already married in this woman’s mind. As far as she was concerned, there was already a ring on your finger. But you had other plans; plans that didn’t entail you being hauled back to Kamaka as a spoil of war. You tapped the lid of the box thoughtfully.

“I’m going to study. See you at dinner.” You turned and left before Gakke could say anything. Closing the door to your room, you tried to concentrate on your language reps to take your mind off the looming conflict.

~~~~~~~~~~

As the sun sank in the sky and the biting (possibly artificial) cold of the mountains set in, your mind became more and more drawn to the box. Your old clothes had served you well in the warmer lowlands on the other side of the Spine, but you needed something more substantial here. And something with fewer holes and scorch marks. Flipping open the lid, you pulled out the robe to inspect it in the candlelight. It was a finely crafted garment no matter how you looked at it. Something about the reflection caught your eye. There was a pattern on the back. A circle of red, with two horns protruding from the top, and a blue flame burning in the middle. You sighed. Custom made indeed, Gakke… Still, if it was as comfy as it felt, it would be worth the embarrassment. Stripping down, you tossed your shirt and pants aside and donned the robe. It felt fantastic. The chilly air of the mountain instantly melted away as you cinched the sash. Walking over to the mirror, you inspected yourself. It was a little baggy in the sleeves, but an impressive piece of seamstress work for someone who didn’t have your measurements.

“Anon, dinner is-“ Gakke barged into your room, stopping in her tracks when she saw you in the kimono. She uttered an elated squeal and ran over to you. “You look ADORABLE!~ Oooh! I’m so happy it fits! Do you like it?” Gakke circled around you, inspecting you from all angles.

“It’s very nice, thank you,” you said nervously. She had that look in her eye again…

“Ooh YES! This is just what I wanted~ Hmm, a little loose, but we can get that fixed back in Kamaka…” Gakke wiped a strand of drool from the corner of her mouth.

“I’ll just take it off then, no sense in-“

“NO! Keep it on. You uh, might get cold,” said Gakke. Her expression eased. “Did you see the pattern on the back?”

“I did,” you said.

“That’s us! Get it? I’m the pair of horns, and you’re my little blue spark!” she said cheerfully.

Oh NO. You could NOT let any of the other monsters overhear that pet name. There was no way that they would ever let you live that down, and you didn’t want to spend the rest of your magically-enhanced lifespan being laughed at. “I think I’m more than a spark. More like a conflagration. Or an inferno, or something,” you said, trying to think of the least cutesy names you could for fire.

“Aww, but you’re so small!” Gakke picked you up and squeezed you.

“Okay, I get it! Put me down! I’m going to start shocking you if you keep doing that,” you threatened.

Gakke stiffened. “Oh, um, about that…”

“What?” you asked.

Gakke bit her lip. “Never mind. Why don’t we go have dinner?”

That was a bit out of character. Gakke didn’t seem like the kind of person to hide truth like that. Was she concerned about your magic use, or was it something unrelated? Whatever it was, it could wait until after dinner.

~~~~~~~~~

A chorus of whistles and cheers erupted from the soldiers as you entered the room.

“Looking good, Anon!”

“Did you get a matching tattoo yet?”

“Why bother wearing that? She’s just going to tear it off of you!”

These girls needed to get laid. Taking a seat, you ignored the taunts and dug into your meal.

“They’re just envious, Anon,” said Gakke, glaring at some of the more rambunctious members of her retinue.

“I’m sure,” you said.

“Although, I am a little happy that they think you’re as cute as I do,” said Gakke. You looked over at her. She was blushing while pushing some of her food around her plate. Gakke noticed your stare and giggled nervously. “Sorry, I know that sounds petty. I’ve always been the one watching other mamono find husbands; I’m glad that I finally get to be the wife for once. Especially since I’m the princess. I know you aren’t the type of man who likes to be paraded around, but please don’t hate me if I flaunt you a little, okay?”

“Just as long as I don’t have to smile,” you said.

Gakke laughed. “That’s part of your charm! Though, I do hope to see a less grumpy side of you some day.”

You grunted. “Not likely. Are you really a princess?”

“Of course I am!” said Gakke indignantly. “Do you think that I’m some random oni impersonating royalty?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. You’re not like other nobility I’ve met,” you said.

“Momma fought hard to unite Kamaka and its lands under one banner. And it’s up to us to continue that legacy,” puffed Gakke.

“Of beating people into submission,” you said.

Gakke pouted. “EVERY queen has used violence and intrigue to get where they are, Anon. The only difference between us and them is a few generations between wars.”

You chuckled. “Fair enough.”

“You should be more excited! You’re a prince now!” Gakke nudged you with her shoulder.

“Gakke, the excitement I feel from all the paperwork, administrative duties, and court sessions I will sit through makes it hard to sleep at night,” you said.

“You are such a cynic; do you know that? Being royalty is more than just being a glorified bureaucrat. Unless you’re Nokoribi… but that’s only because she likes the busy work! I’ll show you some of the finer points of sovereignty when we get to Kamaka. Trust me, the palace, respect, and food alone make up for all the bothersome aspects.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” you said.

“Then see it you shall,” beamed Gakke.

You smirked and went back to your meal. As you took a sip of your drink, you made eye contact with the succubus. She stoically looked back at you. Her eyes narrowed, and she took another bite of food. You shifted in your seat. Whether you would see all the wondrous things Gakke promised you remained to be seen.

~~~~~~~~~

“Come on, Anon! We have to get going!” said Gakke.

“Isn’t there a wagon or something I can ride in?” you asked.

“Anon, she’s friendly! Let her sniff your hand,” said Gakke.

“ ‘HER’ being friendly is what I’m worried about!” you shouted up at Gakke. The realm beast Gakke was perched on grunted, once again straining against the reins to try and get to you.

“We don’t have time for this, either get acquainted, or I’m pulling you up here!” said Gakke.

“Fine…” you grumbled. Reaching out your hand, you offered your digits to the massive creature.

“See? She likes-“ Gakke cut herself off as the thing took your hand into your mouth and started gumming your fingers. You yelped, swatting the thing’s head away with a panicked blast of magic. It brayed in response to the sudden blow. The soldiers around you erupted into laughter as you clenched your drool-soaked appendage. “O-oh… She usually doesn’t do that…”

“Just help me up,” you seethed, wiping away the spit on the beast’s fur.

Gakke offered you a hand, hauling you up onto the saddle. Someone threw her a rag. You grabbed it and used it to wipe your hand clean. “Are you comfortable?” asked Gakke.

“As comfortable as I can be…” you said with a grimace. This fat bastard was wide enough to nearly force you into a split. The insides of your thighs were already starting to burn in protest of being stretched beyond their limits. You would be walking bowlegged tonight, that was certain. Shit, running would be hard if you were this sore.

“Why are you sitting like that?” asked Gakke.

“Like what? In front of you?” you asked.

“No, you’re a man, of course you’re going to ride in front of me. I mean your sitting stance. Wouldn’t sidesaddle be more comfortable?” asked Gakke.

“I am NOT riding sidesaddle. It’s bad enough I have to sit in your lap,” you said.

“Anon, you’re grimacing every time Tidbit moves. I know you aren’t comfortable,” said Gakke.

“Tidbit?” You cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Gakke patted the realm beast. “Tidbit.”

“Tidbit. Right.” Tidbit shifted beneath you. You winced at the sensation of chaffing against your thighs.

“Anon, you’re hurting yourself. Please, just sit normally!” said Gakke.

“Sidesaddle isn’t normal!” you said.

“Yes it is- wait, is this a cultural thing from your world?” asked Gakke in a hushed voice.

“Is it normal for guys to ride like that here?” you asked.

“They do it all the time,” said Gakke.

“Anon, just shut up and sit so we can get going. If you stall me from getting back to my husband any longer, I’m spiking Gakke’s food with manticore venom!” shouted an amazon.

Gakke picked you up and repositioned your legs. You cursed under your breath but accepted the new sitting position. Gakke’s arms stretched around you to grab the reins. “There. Ready to go?”

You made sure your pack was still firmly attached to Tidbit’s saddle. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

Gakke snapped the reins, and the horde of realm beasts began trundling forward.

~~~~~~~~

You clung tightly to Gakke’s body. It was freezing out here on the mountain slope with nothing to block the wind. Gales howled around you, whipping your skin.

“Are you cold?” asked Gakke.

“A little,” you shivered.

Gakke unbuttoned the coat she was wearing. Squeezing you close, she stuffed you inside the fur-lined garment. It was thicker than a comforter. “What are you doing?!” you protested.

“I’m plenty warm,” said Gakke.

“I know but you can’t trap me in here,” you said, struggling to get out.

“I can if you insist on freezing yourself to death for the sake of pride.” Gakke dexterously rebuttoned her coat, leaving a few undone at the top so that you could still see out. Oh man, it really was toasty in here. You nestled your cheek into the fur to hide from another gust of wind. Gakke chuckled, patting your head. “We’ll be out of the mountains soon.”

~~~~~~~~~

You dozed on an off throughout the day, lulled into a permanent state of drowsiness by the sway of Tidbit and Gakke’s warmth. When you were awake, you busied yourself by watching the scenery go by. It was a beautiful landscape; alpine meadows and forests formed terraces down through the snowcapped mountains. Still no escape in sight. Mitsubi was perched atop a beast behind you, no doubt to prevent your egress if you ran. The rocky crags and peaks gave way to rolling hills by the time the sun was setting.

“Lieutenant, ride ahead and find us a place to camp,” said Gakke.

“Yes, General.” The succubus who had been antagonizing you in the castle surged forward on her mount, hurrying down the faded path through the scrub and grass.

“Almost there, Anon. We didn’t get as far as I’d like, but hopefully there’s a place around here that’s dry and sheltered from the wind,” said Gakke.

“Alright,” you yawned.

“Tired?” asked Gakke.

“A little,” you said.

“Even after sleeping in there all day?” giggled Gakke.

“I was just practicing for tonight,” you said.

Gakke laughed. “I can’t wait to see it.”

Soon enough, the succubus came back into view. A few hills came together to form a small basin safe from any winds that may come stealing in the night and sloped in such a way that water wouldn’t pool at the center. One by one, the realm beasts filed in, and the troops dismounted. Slowly, the clearing was filled with cooking fires and tents. Anxious to get some food in your stomach, you tried to offload a cauldron with your magic. The monsters around you froze. Mitsubi’s gun sprang out of her wrist, leveling with your head. You stopped, the pot still hovering in the air a few feet off the ground.

“Drop it,” ordered Mitsubi.

“At ease. All of you,” said Gakke.

“But General, you told us to be on alert for-“

“I said at ease. This is different,” said Gakke. She grabbed the cauldron out of the air and passed it off to another monster. “I trust you’re only using that magic of yours to help, right Anon?”

“Not if this is how I’m going to be treated,” you said.

“We can set up just fine without you,” said a minotaur.

“Then shut up and do it,” you said.

Gakke positioned herself between you two. “Anon, enough. Uker, go pitch your tent.” The mino slunk off towards one of the fires. Gakke sighed. “I would appreciate it if you would keep a level head. We’re going to be riding together for days; now isn’t the time to make enemies.”

“Tell that to them. I try to lend a hand, and I get treated like an escaped convict,” you said.

“That is partially my fault. I-“ Gakke sighed. “I warned them to be on the lookout for signs of you using your magic to escape.”

You huffed in annoyance. Sure, that’s exactly what you were planning, but she didn’t need to know that. If you could get them to lower their guard with a little guilt, it would make escaping all the easier down the line.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t trust you like that yet. I WANT to, but some of the girls have misgivings about your intents; and as much as I’d love to believe you over them, I’ve known them for too long to ignore their warnings,” said Gakke.

“All I wanted was a little practice. Is that so bad?” you asked.

Gakke pursed her lips. “No, I suppose not. How about this: I’ll permit you to use magic so long as you’re being supervised.”

“Fine by me,” you said. You really were looking forward to flexing your magic again. Though you had only been able to use it for about a year, it was hard to imagine life without it anymore.

“Alright then, how about we set up the tent?” Gakke patted a roll of canvas in the back of a cart.

You pulled it out, unfurling it in the air. Monsters stopped what they were doing to watch you float the collection of pegs, poles, string, and cloth across the camp. Settling on a nice flat spot, you shot the poles into the ground and delicately fit the canvas over them. Slipping the stakes through the rope, you wrenched them into the ground as well. A hearty breath escaped your lungs as the last stake slid into the ground; you needed some food.

“Impressive,” said Gakke.

“Not bad for a human,” snickered a demon.

“Hey General, are you going to raise your daughter as a battlemage? We could conquer half the Land of the Four Souls if she was as big as you and charged as him!” said a salamander.

“Oh goodness, I hadn’t even considered what our child would be like.” Gakke buried her face in her hands to hide her blush. “I hope she would be as precious as her father.”

The girls started gushing to each other about their future daughters. You excused yourself to your tent, setting your pack down on the grass. Sorry, ladies; Anon still has some bachelor in him yet. After the ‘kyaa’s from outside had subsided, you ventured forth to get the pieces of your bed from the carts. Sumptuous smells wafted out of the pots and pans of the soldiers, now brimming with meals in the making. Gakke watched you intently. The orange flames made her skin look almost human in the fading light. You pulled the bedding and supports out of the cart and wandered back towards the tent. Gakke and the soldiers were whispering amongst themselves, staring at you all the while.

“Do you need something?” you asked, more to confront them than to inquire.

“Are you going to make the bed?” asked Gakke. THE bed. Looks like you were going to be sharing even out here.

“I am,” you said.

“Is it going to take you a while? Half an hour, perhaps?” asked Gakke. A demon buried her face in her hands in shame.

“Uh, probably not… But I was going to do some reading anyways. I’ll come out when the food is ready,” you said.

Gakke nodded excitedly. “Good! I’ll see you then!”

You glanced back just in time to see the circle they were sitting in erupt into a frenzy of activity. Knowing something awful was probably about to transpire, you slipped inside and cracked open your book.

~~~~~~~~

“Anon! The food is ready!” said Gakke, poking her head through the tent.

You snapped your journal shut and stretched. Gakke held the flap of the tent open for you. She shuffled back and forth, trying to herd you towards the circle of soldiers she was sitting with while trying to match your pace. You took a seat on the log, folding your hands in front of you. Gakke hurriedly brought you a plate with a few medallions of meat and some vegetables.

“Here! Go ahead, eat!” said Gakke.

“Thanks…” you said. Despite her insistence, you waited for some of the other monsters to serve themselves before starting. All eyes were on you as you took the first bite. Gakke’s breath hitched.

“Do you like it?” she asked, eyes wide with suspense.

“Yeah, it’s pretty good,” you said, prodding one of the cuts with your fork. Nice and tender, good seasoning, perfect pink color. No complaints from you. Gakke turned to the others. She pumped her fists a few times. The others giggled and chittered exuberantly. “Did you make this?” you asked.

Gakke straightened and puffed her chest out. “Why, yes I did.”

“The General is a great cook, Anon. You got lucky,” said a hinezumi.

“I’m surprised he isn’t more excited; we only found those vile trail rations in his pack. You’d think he would be more appreciative of REAL food,” sniffed a lizardman.

“Hey, I like those rations,” you said. “And it wasn’t as if I JUST ate dried meat and grains. I ate whatever the land provided me with.”

The monsters guffawed. “Yeah? Where did a scrawny thing like YOU learn to forage, the market?”

“Valisias,” you said.

A few eyebrows raised. “Seriously?” asked a werewolf.

“Is that so hard to believe?” you asked.

“With your physique? I’m surprised you got within a dozen miles of the city without being snatched,” said an amazon.

“Look, it’s been a while since I graduated. The training is still there, even if the conditioning isn’t,” you said.

“I believe him. He wasn’t flailing around when we were trying to catch him; those were battlemage moves,” said a salamander.

“So much for him being a cute little human, Gakke. Seeing as how he’s a trained fighter, can I have him?” asked a hellhound. Gakke glared at her, scooting closer to you on the log. The hellhound laughed. “Relax, General. I wouldn’t take him from you. Unless you offered. He looks like he would make some good screams~”

“That’s a good point, General. When are you going to take him already? If I were you, he wouldn’t be able to walk by now. How do you keep your hands off of him?” asked a succubus.

“I- I just want him to be comfortable, you know? What if he didn’t like it?” asked Gakke, fidgeting in her seat.

“ ‘What if he doesn’t like it?’ Gakke, what kind of mamono are you? You were BORN to make him like it,” said a demon.

“Take him now before someone else does, that’s what I say,” said an ogre. The other soldiers nodded in agreement.

“It will happen. Soon-“ Gakke looked at you and cut herself off, “Someday…”

“What a waste to have the body of an oni and the soul of a unicorn,” said an ocelomeh.

Gakke wrapped an arm around you and dragged you into her body. “I swore I would make Anon happy, and I meant it! If it takes a bit longer to get him acclimated, so be it.”

“He can’t be trusted, boss. Too irascible, too conniving. Trust me, guys like him bluster and protest, but they’re the type that fold fastest once you get them on their back,” said a cursed sword.

Gakke looked like she was about to cry. “You’re wrong! You’ll see! Once he’s comfortable, he’ll be well-mannered and kind!”

The monsters quickly looked away, startled by the outburst. No one dared make any more comments about you for the rest of dinner. After rinsing your plate, you trudged back to your tent with Gakke hot on your heels. You flopped down onto the oni-sized cot and shut your eyes. Gakke jostled you back and forth as she clambered in around you. Her arms wrapped around you, drawing you in. Her grip felt tighter tonight. Escape may be more difficult than you had anticipated…

~~~~~~~~

You wriggled out of Gakke’s arms, careful not to rouse her. Snatching your pack, you placed it beside the flap of the tent. Gakke groaned in her sleep. You froze, looking back at her. She rolled over and resumed snoring. Peeking your head through the tent flap, you inspected the camp. Dead silent. Perfect. You had overheard the soldiers talking about foregoing a guard since they were on this side of the mountains. Nice to see they had followed through. Now there was only one obstacle… Parting the tent flaps, you wandered into the chilly night air. Not so bad out here now that there weren’t snow-demons trying to freeze you solid. On cue, a mechanical click split the tranquil air.

“Anonymous: it is night. Humans and living-organic mamono should be sleeping,” said Mitsubi.

You raised your hands and slowly turned towards her. “I just have to go to the bathroom.”

“There are no such facilities in these mountains. Your attempts at obfuscation will not-“

“I have to drain my bladder,” you said, in less uncertain terms.

Mitsubi’s face was impossible to read. After a moment of tense silence, the gun in her wrist retracted. “You have three minutes.”

“That’s all the time I need,” you assured. Wandering away, you found a small stand of trees near the edge of the camp. Time to get out of here. Snaking a tendril of magic back through the camp, you felt for your bag inside the tent. Lifting it from this distance was hard, but you only needed it off the ground. Slowly, you pulled it out and around the cover of the other tents to avoid Mitsubi’s gaze. You had spent the evening before dinner studying the maps in your journal. The camp was located near a traversable pass, just a few miles to the south. You could be there in no time, back to safety by morning. Inch by inch, you pulled your bag closer to you. The sound of Mitsubi’s gun sliding out of her wrist echoed through the trees. You could hear her mechanical body whirr as she approached.

“Anonymous: I hear no sounds of fluid being expelled from your body. Explain,” demanded Mitsubi, approaching the trees you were hiding behind.

“Well, you see, I was just about to-“ You yanked her arm to the side with a blast of magic. The tranquility of the night was shattered by a barrage of gunfire. Snapping your pack into your arms, you slung it on and jumped away. Before Mitsubi could draw a bead on you, you flicked her away with a blast of magic. The camp erupted into chaos. You bounded away up the mountains with your magic. Only a few seconds later, you could hear shouts and wingbeats behind you. Twisting in the air, you launched a few potshots at your aerial pursuers. The monsters that were following you didn’t seem too keen on getting hit, giving you plenty of space to make your escape. A few bullets ricocheted off the rock next to you. It would seem Mitsubi was still accurate even at this distance. You switched your trajectory, bouncing back and forth as you ascended. Nearing the top, you looked back. The mamono were just specks bellow you now. The harpies and demons made a half-hearted attempt to reach you before turning back. You looked uphill. No ushis this time. Looks like you were in the clear. Best to go it on foot for now and save your magic for the inevitable fighting ahead. Grabbing hold of the rock in front of you, you hauled yourself up.

~~~~~~~~~~

Gakke watched the flashes of blue blink up the side of the mountain. She cursed, swinging her mace into the dirt. The soldiers she had sent to harry Anon had done their job, but he was still getting away. She ran her hand through her hair, grinding her teeth. “Mitsubi, tell me you can make the shot,” pleaded Gakke.

Mitsubi opened her chest compartment. The gun on her wrist dipped back in, reappearing with a larger receiver. Pulling out a barrel extension with one hand, she produced a larger bullet with the other. Chambering the round, her eye dilated, slightly telescoping beyond her synthetic eyelid. She took a knee, aiming the modified rifle up the mountain. “With ease.”

Gakke watched her nervously. The pops of Anon’s magic ceased. It was nearly impossible to make him out in the darkness. What if he was hurt? What if another monster got to him before her soldiers did? Why wasn’t Mitsubi shooting yet?

“This one is for the General, human.” Mitsubi’s frame jumped as an ear-splitting crack echoed between the peaks. An oppressive silence followed. Gakke looked up the mountain. Did it connect?

“She got him!” cried a harpy, swooping down towards the camp.

The soldiers erupted into cheers. Mitsubi casually replaced the components of her gun while her comrades clapped her on the back and sang her praises. On the interior of her chassis, she made another scratch next to an already impressive tally. After a moment of hesitation, she made it a little bigger. The soldiers capable of flight quickly returned with an unconscious Anon in tow, dumping him at Gakke’s feet. The mood changed from exuberant to sullen as they crowded around him.
“General, I’m sorry. Try not to take it personally; I think that’s just who he is,” said a succubus.

“He doesn’t know what he tried to walk out on. Any man in Zipangu would be privileged to have you.”

“Just take him. It’s the right choice in the long run.”

“If he’s this much trouble, you should just cut your losses and give him to me instead.” The soldiers glared at the hellhound.

Gakke watched his chest rise and fall. To think that such a fragile little thing was capable of so much mischief. His betrayal was unconscionable; proof that he didn’t have a shred of honor or decency. Gakke wished she could make the easy choice of taking him here and now, or handing him over to the others. Anon rolled over in his sleep. His face contorted into a frown, dreaming of something unpleasant. She sighed. It couldn’t be done. He was just too precious.

“I’ll keep him. But there are going to be changes. It isn’t as if I hadn’t planned for this,” said Gakke sternly. “Go back to sleep. We’ll move after breakfast.”

The soldiers slunk back to their tents. Gakke grabbed Anon’s arm to haul him off the ground. His tiny hand clenched her finger. Gakke’s heart beat faster.

“Troublesome even when you sleep…” Returning to her tent, she pulled out the other item she’d had custom made for Anon along with the kimono.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A wave of vertigo accosted you as sleep started to fade. Your head throbbed. Reaching up with a fumbling hand, you felt your skull. A small lump shrieked with pain at the touch. You groaned. There was another sensation too. Something deeper. A fatigue that went beyond mere morning drowsiness. What happened last night? It all felt like a dream. You were running away, and then-

You bolted upright. The surge of adrenaline made you forget about the pain and lassitude. You became acutely aware of Gakke’s presence in the bed next to you. Did you dream about your escape? It all seemed so real, but the last thing you remember before waking up was climbing up a rock. Then the noise, then here you were. Something was making your heavy breaths labored. Tugging at your neck, you tried to loosen the robe. Your fingers passed over something. A chill ran down your spine.

“Awake so soon? I thought you would be out longer.” You whirled around to look at Gakke. It looked like she hadn’t slept much last night. She stared up at you with an unnatural aloofness.

“What happened last night?” you said. Your mouth felt dry. The words were hardly a whisper.

“You betrayed me, Anon. You ran,” said Gakke.

You stared at her. One hand was still scratching at the thing on your throat, your brain too stunned to think.

“I see you found your seal,” said Gakke.

“Seal?” you echoed weakly.

“You won’t be running again, Anon.” Gakke got up and started getting dressed. You shook off your stupefaction. Clawing at the band around your neck, you tried to pry it off. Pointing your finger at it, you prepared to sear it off with magic. Nothing happened. The tingling flow of energy to your finger refused to manifest.
“I had that made along with the robe. I prayed that I wouldn’t have to use it. Until last night, I didn’t think I’d have to,” said Gakke, her back still turned to you. You leaned back onto the bed. This was it. There was no way you could escape from this. How could you? You weren’t fast enough to run, strong enough to fight, or tough enough to make it back to civilization even if you did get away. The only way out was into the arms of another monster. Gakke tossed your pack into your arms. “Get ready. We’re leaving in a few minutes.”

You made sure that nothing had fallen out of your pack. Everything was still in order. Gakke moved the bed outside and began taking down the tent. Unsure of what to do, you shuffled outside and waited for the soldiers to break camp.

~~~~~~~~~~

The day’s ride was eerily quiet. The soldiers rode in silence, with hardly more than a few words being exchanged over the course of hours. Gakke was completely silent. The tension was killing you. She kept both hands on the reins, only moving to coax Tidbit back onto the path if she started to wander off. You were met with dirty looks everywhere you turned. Clearly the monsters weren’t too happy with you rousing them from their sleep and betraying their leader. More than once you had to force yourself to stop white-knuckling the pommel of the saddle. With nothing better to do, you stared at the ground ahead of you and wished for Gakke to just get it over with. You didn’t realize how much time you had spent agonizing over your dilemma until the evening rays of sunlight struck you in the face.

“Lieutenant, find a place to camp,” said Gakke. Her words startled you after such a prolonged silence. A rider broke off from the group and cantered off ahead. You tried to think of something to say to ease the tension but could think of nothing meaningful or relevant to say. You sighed, watching the grass sway in the mountain meadow you passed through.

“General! Incoming!”

Your head snapped up. The soldiers were scrambling and shouting, readying their weapons. You stared dumbly, trying to comprehend what had shattered the tranquil atmosphere. Something rocketed across your vision, slamming an amazon off her mount. What the hell was that?! Gakke’s arm wrapped around your midriff, dragging you down off the panicking realm beast.

“Everyone, get down! Form a ring! Mitsubi, open fire!” barked Gakke, pulling her shield out.

You were tossed into the center of a tightly packed bundle of monsters. Scrambling to your feet, you looked around. Another blur swept through the soldiers, pulverizing an ogre. This time, you were able to see a wyvern and her mount soar away from the unconscious swamp-dweller. Soheiya was here!

“What the hell are they doing on this side of the Spine?!”

“Who cares, just get ready!”

“Fuck, that’s no scouting force…”

You looked skyward. A swarm of dragoons circled above you. Mitsubi was frantically sweeping her gun back and forth, trying to drop as many of them as she could. Even she struggled to make contact with the wyverns. You had seen dragoons in training at Valisias; they were some of the best flyers of all monsters. More than once you had been treated to some death-defying displays of agility and speed by wyverns hoping to court you into being their mount.

“Mitsubi! Get in!” said Gakke.

Mitsubi began backing towards the circle. The dragoons clearly knew which mamono presented the most threat. Three of them wheeled out of the sky towards the automaton. A hail of bullets clattered against the shield of the lead dragoon. His wife rolled sideways, drawing Mitsubi’s fire. Mitsubi was too slow to react to the other two and got a realm silver lance through her chassis for her troubles. Gakke swore loudly.

“The rest of you, stay in formation! Now isn’t the time to get heroic,” said Gakke.

“General, this looks bad. Maybe we should let him off leash,” said a lizardman, eyeing you up.

“A shield would make all the difference,” agreed an ocelomeh.

Gakke looked at you. Her brow furrowed. “No. Too risky. He’d be liable to fight for them.”

The circle tightened, compressing you into a mosh pit of armor-clad monsters. Without your magic, you were helpless to do anything besides cry out when you got crushed. Gakke did her best to keep a hand on you at all times. She was having a hard time avoiding incoming attacks, being not only the largest, but the most important target as well.

“Break their ranks!” shouted a dragoon.

Wyverns shot past the formation, trying to pick off any soldier unfortunate enough to be caught outside the shield wall. Gakke’s soldiers, now no longer panicked and vulnerable, began to lash out at the riders that got too close. Some wyverns who got too close were punished with a barrage of crossbow bolts. One by one, the dragoons flopped out of the air.

“Typha! Lernae! Grab the human! Everyone else, in formation!” ordered the dragoon commander.

The flock of wyverns broke away from the ball of soldiers. Regrouping in the sky, they formed a spearhead. You watched in terror as the lead rider lowered his lance, his wife swooping down towards you and the others. “Damn…” muttered Gakke. This was going to hurt.

Gakke’s soldiers repositioned to take the brunt of the attack more effectively. You ducked and covered your head. Gakke shoved you behind her, bracing herself behind her shield. A sickening crunch was followed by the sight of monsters launched through the air. Shouts and curses rang out as the battlefield devolved into a chaotic melee. You watched helplessly while the monsters around you broke off to engage the enemy. Even on foot, the dragoons were no slouches. A few remained airborne, swooping in to even the fight whenever one of their comrades was outmatched. Gakke stepped forward, hammering a man’s shield with her mace. He was launched backward, skidding across the rocky ground.

“Mine!” The shout made you jump. You looked up just in time to see the talons of a wyvern open above you. The dragon girl slammed into you, knocking you to the ground and seizing your shoulders in her claws. “I got him, sis!”

Gakke turned around, eyes full of fear. “Anon!”

The wyvern started to take off with you in tow. Too late, Gakke was closing in. A second wyvern barrel rolled past a demon to grab your legs.

“Let’s go!”

The wyverns hauled you up into the air. You shouted in surprise, flailing wildly in their claws.

“Don’t struggle, fool! We’re trying to help you!” shouted one of the wyverns.

You came to terms with your predicament, allowing the wyverns to carry you out of the fray. Gakke was going berserk below you. She was wading through friend and foe alike trying to follow the wyverns. The scene reminded you of Sauron swatting people around in the Lord of the Rings movie. Carrying you to a cliff above the battlefield, the wyverns set you down. Looking at the wyverns up close from a proper angle, it was clear that these two were twins. Rather, as close to twins as wyverns could get. Could you get a two’fer from an egg? Probably, who knows? They looked you over with bemusement.

“Thanks for the save. Guess that’s the second one I owe you guys,” you said, dusting yourself off.

The wyverns looked at each other deviously. “Funny you should put it like that…”

You paused. Suddenly, this cliff looked a lot smaller. “What are you saying?” you asked hesitantly.

“We heard you fought well at the battle of Heida. By all accounts, you turned the tide against your foes,” said one of the wyverns.

“I also brought the tide with me. And I wouldn’t have made it if you lot hadn’t been there to pull us out of the fire,” you said. Maybe this was just a misunderstanding. Maybe these two were just fascinated by the funny human and his exploits.

“So we see. A shame that these brutes captured you. How did they do it? There are far less soldiers here than there were at Heida,” said the other wyvern.

“They were organized. The fight lasted all day. Eventually, I just ran out of energy,” you said.

“Could you not simply escape your captors?” they asked.

“I was too enervated to escape for the past few days. And they have- had an automaton that was able to keep me in check. Now that she’s out of the picture, I’m in the clear,” you said.

The wyverns looked at each other and nodded. “What you need is a mount, foreigner.”

Or maybe it wasn’t a misunderstanding, and you were right all along. “What?”

The wyverns puffed out their chests. “A mount! There is only so much a human is capable of, even with magic. You’ve proven yourself to be a puissant and honorable warrior; someone worthy of becoming a dragoon. Come back to Soheiya with me and my sister. We will train you in our ways, and mold you into a dragoon. Together, we will scour the evils from Zipangu!”

“Woah, no. I appreciate the help, and I intend to pay you back, but I’m not looking for a career in military service,” you said, backing away.

“If we had been here, you would have destroyed these fools. No pike or shot can hope to outmaneuver or overpower the strength of a wyvern and her rider! Twice you have thrown yourself against unbeatable odds, and twice you’ve almost emerged the victor. What you lack is mobility. Once you leave the ground behind, your power can be focused on your enemies, not evasion,” said the other wyvern.

“I only fight when I have to. Martial arts aren’t my passion; they’re means to an end. It isn’t as if I go looking for trouble,” you said.

“Trouble finds us all, foreigner; it is inevitable that we must greet it. The terms we greet it on are all we can change.”

“We know the root of your problems. It is plain to see to any mamono. You know what we speak of, yes? Why you are constantly accosted wherever you go?”

“That ‘problem’ is going to be fixed VERY soon,” you said.

“We were thinking the same thing~” purred one of the wyverns.

“Our Commander told us of your search for a worthy spouse. What wife could be more noble than knights sworn to protect the realm?”

“You should consider yourself fortunate; to catch the eye of not one, but two dragoons is a privilege not many have known.”

“The three of us will become a thing of legends! Unmatched strength, unparalleled swiftness, impossible aerial acrobatics!”

“Join us, foreigner. We can protect you from those whom you could not protect yourself from. You will be safe under our wings. Together, we will grow stronger. Together, we will bring peace and order to Zipangu!”

The wyverns stepped closer. You looked back over your shoulder. The cliff you were on wasn’t high, but it wasn’t anything you could jump off of either. Either way, these two could just grab you if you tried to run. Gakke was still rampaging through the fray below, occasionally bellowing your name. A dragoon attacked her back, the wyvern slashing at Gakke with her claws while her mount stabbed at her with his sword. Gakke reached over her shoulder and threw the man into the ground. She swatted the wyvern away like a fly and continued onward. Seeing her in a real battle, it was clear to see why so many warrior types were willing to follow what you had thought to be a rather demure woman.

“Peace and order are going to have to happen without me. I’m looking for a more tranquil life,” you said.

“Don’t worry. Dragoons spend plenty of time bonding. We’ll get to know you as well as we know each other~” said a wyvern.

“You’ve got the wrong idea about this,” you said.

“Oh? Are you opposed to mating with us?” asked a wyvern, cocking her head.

“I thought that was abundantly clear, but yes,” you said.

“You say that, but yet you make no attempt at eluding us. Could you not use your magic to escape if this situation was undesirable?”

“Perhaps he enjoys rougher women. He was in the company of the oni for some time; I suspect he was trying to stoke her lust so that she might take him.”

“Hmm! That would explain why he roused the ire of Kaizo. Maybe we didn’t save you at all, hmm? If you lust for bolder partners, we’ll be happy to prove ourselves to you~” said the wyvern, flexing her wings. This was going from bad to worse.

One of them grabbed your ankle with her claw, dragging you towards them. Your legs gave way, putting you on your back. “Typha, grab his arms.”

The other wyvern stepped towards you. Though you balled your fists, you knew that throwing a punch at their scaly legs would only end in hurt fingers. All you could do was shove her talons away as they grabbed at you. Typha smirked. Baiting out your hand, she quickly nabbed it while it was outstretched, pinning it to the ground. “Be still, human. Or not. It would be more thrilling if you were struggling~ Do you have his legs, Lernae?”

“Yes.” Lernae slammed your leg down flush with your other limb, grabbing both your ankles in one claw. Now she was free to start disrobing you with her free talon, using her wings to steady herself while you thrashed.

“Easy now!” Typha suddenly dropped down, seating herself on your chest. She put enough weight on you to keep you short of breath but rested enough on her knees to keep from crushing you. With a face full of wyvern butt, all you could do was squirm while the unseen sister worked to open your robe and tug at your pants. “Hey, why do you get him first?!” asked Typha indignantly.

“Because I hatched first. Use his face and wait your turn,” said Lernae. She flipped your robe open to get a better view of your chest. One of her talons prodded you in the side, eliciting a flinch. She giggled. “This is only fair, human. You get to ride us, so why shouldn’t we be able to ride you?~”

You had to do something. Typha’s weight made any form of assault impossible, even battering her back with your fists was out of the question. If only you had your magic… Your head flopped to the side, defeated. You stared at Typha’s claws. Maybe there was a way you could get your magic back after all. Coughing and sputtering, you began to heave your chest as hard as you could. Both wyverns stopped what they were doing and looked at you.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Lernae.

“I don’t know, he’s breathing funny,” said Typha.

“You’re crushing him, idiot!” said Lernae.

“I am not! He was just fine a second ago!” protested Typha.

“The… collar… too tight…!” you wheezed.

“Oh! Poor thing. It must have got twisted. The oni must have put it on him.” Typha swung her foot next to your head. With a dexterous flick of her razor-sharp claw, she broke through the seal. “Better?”

You channeled some magic into your hand. The familiar rush of energy swept through your palm. “Much better.”

Lernae was in the process of pulling your boxers down when you blasted Typha off your chest. She froze, one talon still hooked into your waistband. You grabbed your underwear and yanked it back onto your hips, hitting Lernae with a blast of magic. Lernae manage to twist away, shielding herself from the blast with her wing. You scrambled up, dumping yourself over the cliff. The wyverns above you squawked in anger and surprise. Using your magic, you slowed your fall towards the grass below.

When you were only a few meters above the ground, the wind was knocked from your chest. The world began to spin at a frightening pace. Something caught your leg, swinging you down and back up again. Your stomach lurched. The pressure on your leg subsided, and you fell to the ground. Dust kicked up around you as you cartwheeled through the dry vegetation. You grabbed two fistfuls of dirt, trying to hold onto something sturdy enough to keep the world from spinning.
“Bastard! What kind of knight would stoop to such underhanded tricks!” seethed Lernae.

“I… am NOT… a knight…” you panted. “And you’re the one trying to force themselves on someone who can’t resist.”

A clawed foot slammed down onto your back, keeping you from getting up. “Hmph! A pity that such strength has to be wasted on you. It seems Typha and I will have to inculcate honor into you. But we don’t mind, and I suspect you won’t either~”

“Lernae!” cried Typha, flying towards you.

“What is it?” snapped Lernae.

“Behind you!” said Typha.

The ground shook. Through the dust, your blurred vision could make out a mountain of metal moving towards you. Lernae had only enough time to cry out in shock before Gakke sent her flying with her mace. Typha shot towards Gakke with her claws raised. Gakke raised her shield. Twisting her body, she thrust her shield into the incoming wyvern. Typha slammed into it, bouncing away after a sickening crunch of armor against metal.

“Anon!” Gakke lifted her visor. Sweat poured down her face. “Did they hurt you? Are you alright?”

Over her shoulder, you could see the dragoon Commander swooping towards Gakke’s exposed back. The plume on his helmet flattened in the wind as his wife picked up speed. Summoning your magic, you created a ward in his path. The man hit the spectral wall with a thud, clothes-lined off his wife. Gakke twisted around. The wyvern wheeled around to nab her unconscious husband, carrying him away from the battle. Seeing their leader being carted away, the remaining dragoons retreated to lick their wounds. Gakke reached down, throwing you over her shoulder.

“That’s for selling me out, you bastard…” you mumbled.

“Cart up the wounded. We have to move before they send reinforcements.”

~~~~~~~~~

You strained your neck to avoid the cotton Gakke was stuffing into your face. She tightened her grip on your wrist, hauling you closer. “Stop struggling, I need to clean these wounds,” she said.

“They’re just scratches,” you said.

Gakke poured more antiseptic onto the cloth ball and smeared it onto your cheek. You hissed as the liquid stung your skin. She set the supplies down and sighed. Reaching out a hand, she cupped your cheek and frowned. “You’re hurt…”

“They’re just bruises. I’ve had worse,” you said.

“Seeing you all battered like this…” Gakke looked like she was on the verge of tears.

“It was a fight. It happens,” you said.

She pulled her hand away. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t collared you… All of this after I swore to protect you…” Tears began to roll down her face.

“They ambushed us; neither of us suspected it. And although I didn’t like being restrained, I can understand why you did it,” you said.

Gakke hugged you, pulling you out of your seat. “I was so scared. When I saw them take you up to that cliff, when they had you on the ground… I thought- I thought-“ Gakke was cut short by a strained hiccup.

Though you wouldn’t admit it to her, not now at least, you were still a bit shaken up too. That was the closest you had come to being taken in a while. You reciprocated the hug. “I’m alright.”

She sobbed into your hair. “Why?”

“What?” you asked, taken aback by the question.

“Why are you being so affectionate all of a sudden? After I tried so hard to win your heart, after you rejected me, after I locked away your magic and punished you… Why now?” sniffed Gakke.

You hadn’t thought about that yourself. Why did you come back? Why didn’t you make a break for it after getting rid of the wyvern twins? Gakke had always been kind to you. She made a wholehearted effort to know and understand you. Though you knew she desperately craved to get into bed with you, she made her intentions clear and exercised incredible restraint for a mamono. Any other monster would probably be pregnant with your kids by now. And Gakke was by no means unattractive either. More than once you had lost yourself staring at the side of her face while she went about her business. That smile she gave you when she caught you looking could melt even the coldest heart. So, if you were attracted to Gakke, and she was the type of person who loved and respected you, what besides pride was holding you back?

“Maybe I just realized what I was missing out on,” you said softly.

Gakke pushed you away from her chest so that she could look at you. “Do you really mean that? Does that mean…?”

“You are without a doubt one of the gentlest monsters I have ever met. What you’ve done for me can only be said of a few other people on this entire planet. You are caring and honest, and always made sure that I was comfortable, even if I resented you. Though I regret the way we met, I know why you would fight so hard for me. I wouldn’t have come to Zipangu if I weren’t willing to risk everything to find someone to love. So… thanks for loving me. Even when I didn’t deserve it,” you said.
Gakke’s lip quivered. This time, she completely lost control of herself. Rocking back and forth with you in her arms, she began to cry for several minutes. A few monsters poked their heads into the tent to see if everything was alright, only to excuse themselves when they saw what was happening.

“I- I- I’m really glad that I get to be with you, Anon,” said Gakke, trying to get her breathing under control.

“Of all the monsters to be caught by, I’m glad it was you,” you said.

Gakke gave you a tearful smile. “I promise I’ll do whatever it takes to make you happy. I’ve never been one to use my status as princess to get things I want, but if it’s for you, I’d move mountains.”

“I don’t need much. I wouldn’t be living out of a tent if I did,” you said. Gakke giggled. “What?”

“I think momma will like you,” said Gakke.

“Do you take after her?” you asked.

“Uh… well… I’m big,” said Gakke, squirming in her chair. “I would have to say that her personality is more like Kaizo. She’s settled down now that she’s had me and my sisters, but momma made a lot of trouble when she was younger.” Gakke must have sensed your unease. “She’s really nice once you get to know her! Please don’t be afraid of her; momma likes to scare people, but I won’t let her bully you around. Just… try not to get to riled up if she starts mocking you. It’s how she gets a feel for someone.”

“I see,” you said.

Gakke kissed the top of your head. “You’ve got nothing to worry about as long as I’m here.” You nuzzled up against her. She rested her head on yours, slowly rubbing your back. “My little blue spark…”

~~~~~~~~~

The rest of the ride to Kamaka was markedly more jovial. Monsters bantered back and forth, making fun of the ones who got injured in the wyvern attacks and boasting about their prowess. Of course, the mirthful atmosphere also meant you were back to being the butt of their jokes. You were treated to several theatrical retellings of how you behaved when the wyverns got a hold of you, even though none of the monsters were around to see it happen. Typically, this involved you crying and blubbering, only to end up clinging to “Gakke’s” leg begging for protection. When you pointed out that you took out the commander, and thus more enemies than some of the less skilled soldiers, the monsters recreated the scene with even more melodrama. The nascent performing arts repertoire of the group was abruptly shut down after one show had you a little to enamored with the wyverns, insinuating that you fell off the cliff instead of rolled. Gakke made sure that the soldier responsible for the interpretation was on cooking duty for the rest of the ride.

Though Gakke spoke of stopping in some of the villages on the way to Kamaka, she forewent any dalliance, riding hard towards the capital city. You suspected that it was probably to avoid having your honeymoon in a Soheiyan jail cell. Gakke kept a firm hand on you for the rest of the ride. For once, you were happy to have it there. “Look! There it is!” said Gakke. A city was on the horizon. Nestled in the foothills of the mountains behind it, a sprawling metropolis fanned out beyond a walled citadel. Towering over the city was a tiered eastern-style castle.

“It’s good to be home,” sighed a soldier, stretching in her saddle.

“Can’t wait to see my man.”

“You said it. And a strong drink.”

“Hey Polgona, think you’ll have enough coin to buy yourself a husband now?”

“Shut up. I can get a man any time I want.”

Monsters from the countryside watched you as you passed. The closer you got, the more people turned out to see you. Unabashed gawks and pointing fingers were cast your way. You adjusted yourself in the saddle. This was always the worst part of going somewhere new in this world; the first impression. No matter where you went, it was impossible not to be seen as an oddity by everyone around you. It took weeks for monsters to become accustomed to you; longer if it was a big city. Some mamono would make trips just to see you. Gakke gave you a reassuring squeeze.

“It’s General Gakke! She made it back over the spine!”

“Who is that with her? He looks so strange!”

“Did she find a man? Is she married?”

“General, get a hold of yourself. You’re blushing like a lesser succubus on her corruption night,” said Gakke’s succubus lieutenant.

“I can’t help it!” hissed Gakke.

A crowd had formed by the time you arrived at the gates to Kamaka. Cheers rang out as you passed into the city. Guards approached to converse and congratulate the soldiers before returning to their posts. Gakke waved to the masses, regaining her composure. She looked cool and confident; as befitting a General. You tried to maintain the same serene demeanor in spite of all the looks and murmurs. The procession marched through the streets and up the city towards the castle. Gakke directed Tidbit towards a stable. A handful of mamono rushed over to assist with the quartering of the tired animals. Gakke slid off, offering you a hand. “Wait here a moment, I have to make some arrangements.” She waved the stablemaster over and began talking to her.

“Hey, Anon.” You turned to see the succubus Lieutenant standing before you. Her arms were folded across her chest, but she didn’t sound angry. “That stunt you pulled a few days ago was low, but I have to say: you pulled through. Boss is really happy to have you, so we’re happy she has you. You don’t know how lucky you are to have a woman like her, so don’t break her heart, got it? If you do, we’ll find ushi triplets in the mountains and hand you over to them. Is that clear?”

“If I was going to leave, I would have,” you said.

“You tried to, remember?” snickered the succubus.

“I would have tired this time,” you said.

She snorted. “You’re alright, Anon. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other, seeing as how you’ll be attached to Gakke at the hip from now on. Go treat her to dinner. Oh, and buy some potions from the herbalist if you can; you’re going to need them.” She waggled her eyebrows at you. You swallowed a lump in your throat, eliciting a laugh from her. “See you around, ‘Sparky.’ We’re rooting for you~”

“Don’t call me that,” you said as she walked away. “At least not when Kaizo is around…” you mumbled.

“Okay, we’re all set. Let’s go see momma!” said Gakke. She grabbed your hand, dragging you into the castle.

~~~~~~~~

“I regret to inform you that mother is currently repulsing an attack on the Southern Pass. I don’t expect her to be back for a few weeks.”

You twiddled your thumbs, bouncing your leg in your chair. Nokoribi sat at a rather out-of-place western style desk in what could have passed for an accounting office back on Earth.

“What?! Are things that bad?” asked Gakke.

“They are. It seems Kaizo’s inability to keep her troops in line has galvanized the eastern half of the island against Kamaka. The port cities have been fighting hard against their navies; we expect Soheiyan ships to arrive any day now,” said Nokoribi.

Gakke leaned back in her chair and sighed. “I might have to return to the front lines…”

“I’m sure that would expedite things, but I doubt that the eastern cities will be able to make much headway. I imagine that we’ll push each other back and forth through the pass until we agree to pay for some of the damages we caused and move on,” said Nokoribi.

“I’ll send a message to momma, and see what she wants,” said Gakke.

“Very well. Are you going to inform her of your… acquisition?” Nokoribi folded her hands and leered at you.

“Hi, Nokoribi,” you said. This was the first time you’d spoken since you had brawled with her on top of a waterfall.

“Hello, Anon. Did you enjoy your journey here?” asked Nokoribi in an icy tone.

“Loved it. How’s your jaw?” you said.

“Stop it, you two!” said Gakke.

Nokoribi huffed. She shuffled some papers around on her desk. “Well, I suppose Mother’s goal of bringing this human back were accomplished, albeit in a rather roundabout way. I just hope he was worth all this trouble.”

“He is, just look at him!” said Gakke.

Nokoribi blinked. “Indeed… I’m sure Mother will be thrilled to hear of your conquest.”

“He’s not a conquest,” Gakke said softly.

“He’s with us now. That’s what matters. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run this city in Mother’s stead,” said Nokoribi.

“Come on, Anon. Let’s go unpack,” said Gakke, ushering you out of the room.

Nokoribi watched them leave. When their footsteps were no longer audible, she pulled out a drawer and retrieved a bottle of sake. Pouring herself a glass, she knocked it back and sighed. “That bastard… Should have come home with me and spared himself the trouble… Feh. He doesn’t know what he’s in for. I give him a week.” Nokoribi took another sip of sake and returned to her work.

~~~~~~~~~

“…And this is my room.” Gakke slid open the door, allowing you to enter. You were greeted with an austere room, with little in the way of decoration. A low table with a few cushions for sitting, a bed befitting Gakke’s size, a shelf of books and scrolls, and a few pieces of armor and weapons hanging from the wall were the only furniture present. Beyond that, a handful of wall scrolls depicting the countryside in a classical Zipangunese style provided the only color in the otherwise drab room.

“It’s… cozy,” you said.

“I know it’s a little empty, but I don’t live here much anymore. Being a General takes up most of my time. And even when I lived here, I never really had an aesthetic taste. This was just a place to sleep at night, you know?” Gakke said sheepishly.

“It’s fine. Plenty of space for my things,” you said. You and Gakke looked at the bag containing your worldly possessions. “…There was more before the snake took them.”

“What?” asked Gakke.

“It’s a long story. We’ll work on getting it back later,” you said.

“Oh… okay…” said Gakke. You tossed your bag down and opened it. Setting your books down on the table, you pulled out your grimy road-clothes and set them in a heap. Other than that, you had your tent, a bit of old trail snacks, and a waterskin. Gakke pursed her lips. “I’ll get you some more clothes.”

“Thanks,” you said.

“Do you need any help getting settled in?” asked Gakke.

You looked at the pile (of what was mostly trash) now heaped on Gakke’s floor and table. “I think I’m already settled in…”

Gakke cleared her throat after an awkward pause. “Right. I’m going to write a letter to Momma. You can… wait here. Or follow me. Either or,” said Gakke.

“I don’t mind coming with you. Say, is there a library in this place?” you asked.

Gakke’s eyes lit up. “Yes! That’s actually where I was headed. It’s in the west wing. Momma may be an oni, but she managed to collect a fantastic number of volumes. Of course, it’s been Nokoribi’s project since she was old enough to read…”

You followed Gakke through the halls, listening to her talk about the history of the library and the castle.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Moegara! A message from Kamaka!” cried a harpy.

“Are you insane?! We’re in the middle of a battle! Whatever it is, it can wait!” Moegara checked a centaur with her shield, clashing with her equine adversary.

“General Gakke ordered it to be delivered to you under any circumstance, she said it was urgent,” said the harpy, flittering just above the fray.

“Gakke?! Is she back in Kamaka? Tell her to get her wide ass down here and help her poor mother out!” grunted Moegara. She wrestled the centaur off of her and swung her club through another cluster of Soheiyan soldiers.

“I’ll tell her that, but Gakke insisted that you read-“

“I CAN’T READ IT NOW, YOU DULLARD! If it’s so important, than read it to me!” Moegara winced as an arrow bounced off her armor.

The harpy quickly undid the scroll. ‘Momma, I hope you are doing well in your fight against Soheiya. I am writing to you to inform you that I have the mage, Anonymous, in my custody, and-“

“She got him?! Hot damn! At least one of those three is capable. Tell her to chain him up and get down here,” said Moegara.

“There’s more, Shogun,” said the harpy.

“Oh?” Moegara panted.

“It says here she intends to marry him,” said the harpy.

“I HAVE A SON-IN-LAW?!” bellowed Moegara.

“Er, I suppose you do, Shogun…” said the harpy.

Moegara waded deeper into the fray. “Push forward! I’ve got a wedding to get to!”

~~~~~~~~~

Gakke slid out of bed, rousing you from sleep.

“Where are you going?” you mumbled.

“Momma will need me to help fight. I have to get ready. I’ll be leaving later today unless I get orders otherwise,” said Gakke.

“I’ll come with you,” you said.

“What?! No! This is a battlefield; I can’t have you tagging along. What if you got hurt or captured?” said Gakke.

“I’m trained. I know how to handle myself,” you said.

Gakke chuckled. “And yet, here you are.”

You huffed. “It would be different if I have backup. If I can attack and fall back behind cover, I’ll be unstoppable.”

“It’s too dangerous. Besides, we haven’t… consummated things yet. My soldiers may know to keep their hands off of you, but the enemy won’t. If anything happened to you…” Gakke trailed off.

“Right…” It was something you were both thinking about, though neither of you dared bring it up in conversation.

“I’ll be back soon. Until then, just stay here and try not to get into trouble. Nokoribi will make sure nothing happens to you,” said Gakke. She bent down to give you a kiss on the cheek. “Stay safe, I love you.”

“I love you too. If you get captured, I’ll come break you out,” you said.

“You’d better not,” smirked Gakke. “Stay safe.” She slid open the door. A kunoichi was standing in the doorway. You jumped, nearly falling out of the bed. “Oh! Um, hello. Did you need something?” asked Gakke.

“A message for you, General.” The kunoichi handed Gakke a note.

“I see. Thank you,” said Gakke. The kunoichi jumped into the air, disappearing into the rafters. Gakke unfurled the paper. Her eyebrows raised. “Huh! I guess I won’t be leaving after all!”

“Is it from your mother?” you asked.

“Yes, she says not to worry, and that she’ll be finished with the fight in the pass soon,” said Gakke.

“Does that mean you’re leaving?” you asked.

“Not unless I’m ordered to. Move over.” Gakke shed her armor and squeezed back into bed. You wrapped your arms around her, nuzzling her back. She huffed.

“What’s wrong?” you asked.

“That’s my spot,” said Gakke.

“You always get to be the big spoon. Let me have a turn,” you said.

“Is that even comfortable?” asked Gakke.

You shimmied up her body until your head was next to hers. Your feet only reached her thighs. Burying your face in her hair, you sighed. “Yes.”

Gakke snorted. “Fine. But just this once. My arms feel empty…”

~~~~~~~~~

One week later, you were sitting with Gakke in her favorite ramen shop when a soldier burst through the door. “General! Moegara is returning!”

Gakke nearly choked on the mouthful of noodles she was eating. Picking up the bowl, she drained her meal in one prolonged gulp. “Come on, Anon! We’ve got to get back to the castle!” You frantically tried to shovel the rest of your bowl into your mouth. “Anon!”

“I’m trying!” you said through a mouthful of food. Gakke grabbed your bowl and downed it too.

“Let’s go!” Gakke picked you up and dashed out the door. You really needed to put some handles on her shoulders one day. She ran through the crowded streets of Kamaka, nearly barreling over pedestrians as she went. Through the castle gates, past the guards, up the steps, and through the halls to her room. Gakke set you down and tossed your robe at you. “Put that on!” You did as you were told. Gakke tore apart her dresser, looking for less causal clothes. Finding an elegant kimono, she tore off her street attire and slipped into it. “How do I look?” she asked.

“Gorgeous. Will Moegara care? She doesn’t seem like the kind of person who enjoys pageantry,” you said.

“I’m a princess, I have to look good. There’s more than just momma to worry about. Besides, I think it’s time for the rest of the court to meet you,” said Gakke, checking her hair in the mirror.

Damn. You had enjoyed being out of sight this past week. You and Gakke had been having a ball galivanting around Kamaka like tourists, drinking and eating in shady bars and cheap restaurants where there weren’t so many prying eyes. Sure, you were a local myth by now, but having a break from the limelight was refreshing as hell. Gakke wandered over to check your face. Satisfied, she grabbed your arm and dragged you towards the throne room.

“Anon, please remember your manners. Momma may not have a sense of decorum, but please try to keep a level head,” said Gakke.

“Just as long as she doesn’t get physical,” you said. Gakke pursed her lips. “If she gropes me, I’m zapping her,” you said flatly.

“That’s… fair. Try not to let it come to that,” conceded Gakke.

Gakke led you into the throne room. A room full of courtiers and officials all turned to you. If Gakke hadn’t been dragging you, you would have stopped in your tracks. “Stand up straight. Look regal,” whispered Gakke.

You donned a self-assured smile and did your best to make eye contact with the monsters around you. A few whispered amongst themselves. In the corner a pair of lamias eyed you lecherously. When you looked their way, one of them whipped out a fan and concealed the lower half of her face. Gakke tugged you closer. You were taken to a seat next to the massive throne, built for an oni. Gakke sat down, pulling you into her lap.

“Hey! Gakke, put me down! At least let me sit in a chair!” you hissed.

“Shut up,” mumbled Gakke. She blushed, glowering at the serpentine women. They giggled mischievously.

Nokoribi hurried through the door with an armful of scrolls. “About damn time she got back…” she huffed, taking a seat on the other side of the throne.

“Noko, is Royoshi coming back?” asked Gakke.

“I don’t think so. Probably busy with one of her ‘hunts,’“ said Nokoribi.

“Who is that?” you whispered.

“My sister. She’s a little strange. Raised by kunoichi. Not as personable as the other three of us,” said Gakke.

A commotion erupted in the hall. Gakke’s hand clamped down on your thigh. You could hear a raucous clamor of voices and whoops echoing closer to you. The doors burst open. A mountain of red stepped into the throne room.

“Where is he?! I want to get a good look at him!” boomed the oni. She was HUGE. Even bigger than Gakke. Not much taller, but she certainly looked like she was the mother of four daughters. You instinctively clung to Gakke as the mountain of muscle laid eyes on you. She beamed. Gakke wrapped her other arm around you as Moegara lumbered closer.

“Hello, Momma,” said Gakke.

“Gakke! My darling daughter! You’ve done well for yourself, haven’t you! I was beginning to think this little rat would never be caught! Ah, and it looks like he’s just your type too! About time one of you found a man.” Moegara bent at the hip to get a better look at you. She smiled at your obvious disconcertion, flashing her pointed teeth at you. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Anonymous. How has Kamaka been treating you so far? Has my daughter been a good hostess?”

“Stop it, Momma…” said Gakke.

“Aww, I just wanted to make sure he was getting all the care he needed,” chuckled Moegara. “Why’s he so quiet anyways? Nokoribi said he wouldn’t stop running his mouth when she fought him. Can he really speak Zipangunese?”

“He can. Sort of… He needs his amulet to be fluent,” said Gakke defensively.

Moegara snorted. “Great. The prince of Kamaka: mute and illiterate.”

Your temper began to boil over. “Illiterate is a big word for someone as dumb as you. Did Nokoribi teach-“ Gakke’s hand slammed over your mouth so hard it sent your head back into her chest.

Moegara looked like she had been slapped. Indeed, the entire court was taken aback by your retort. It was the first thing any of them had heard you say, after all. Gakke chuckled nervously. “Yeah, he’s still learning Zipangunese. He must have meant something else, right Anon?”

You forced a smile. “Of course, my own language is so different, after all.”

Moegara clearly wasn’t satisfied. “Is that so. Let me have a look at you…” Before Gakke could stop her, Moegara grabbed your arms and pulled you into the air. Your feet kicked through the air trying to find support as you dangled. Moegara smirked. “Scrawny little thing, isn’t he? How the hell did you get away from Kaizo? Let me guess, a strong breeze blew you away?” Moegara wiggled you back and forth.

“Momma!” Gakke got up. She grabbed you around your chest, trying to pull you free.

“Sit down, girl. I’m just getting a feel for what kind of man he is.” laughed Moegara. Grabbing both of your arms in one massive hand, Moegara used her free arm to prod your stomach. “I suppose the answer is “not much.” Lucky it was Gakke that got a hold of you; Kaizo’s daughter would have been smaller than a human if she had been the one to nab you. Gakke, did you see his magic?”

“Yes,” huffed Gakke, squirming in her seat.

“Is it as strong as Nokoribi made it out to be?” asked Moegara. She grabbed your face, twisting your head back and forth to get a look at you.

“Yes, it is. Now put him down!” pleaded Gakke.

“In a minute. Say, have you jumped him yet? He smells awfully fresh for a human who’s been in captivity for so long,” said Moegara.

“W-well, no… Not yet…” said Gakke. A few snickers and laughs rolled out of the attendees. Gakke’s lip quivered.

“Hmph! You’re an oni, Gakke; act like it! Should have taken him the moment you caught him. You’ve at least seen him naked, right? Is this part of him as small as the rest of him?” Moegara clamped her hand down on your crotch. Enough was enough.

“Mamma, no!” Gakke’s warning came too late. Using your magic, you ripped your hands free from her grip. Dropping to the floor, you soaked your fist in magic and delivered a haymaker into Moegara’s gut. She made an awful wheeze as the air shot out of her lungs, staggering back. Doubling over, Moegara fell into a fit of coughs trying to get her breath back. “Anon! That was too rough!” said Gakke.

“I told you I would!” you said.

Gakke picked you back up. “And you, I told you not to pick him up like that! He doesn’t like being handled by people he doesn’t know!” Gakke said to her mother.

The court was understandably astonished at the irreverence on display. Not five minutes into your initial encounter with the Shogun of Kamaka, and you had already insulted and punched her. And to think that this wasn’t the worst first impression you had made in this world. Moegara thumped her chest and stood up. “Well, alright. Point taken. You can keep him; I like that punch. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if Kaizo had been the one to get him after all,” said Moegara, smiling down at you. “I’m glad you have a spine, Anon. You’ll have to lend it to Gakke when she’s back in the field.”

Gakke huffed. “Send Kaizo to manage your armies then.”

“Hah! After this stunt? She’ll be lucky if I leave her in charge of a kitchen. We may have taken the pass, but trade is going to suffer like nothing else,” said Moegara. She climbed up the steps to the throne and sat down with an exaggerated sigh. “So, when is the wedding?”

“Huh?” You and Gakke said in unison.

“The wedding. When is the ceremony?” asked Moegara.

You looked at Gakke. She looked at you and shrugged. Moegara pinched the bridge of her nose. “For fuck’s sake. Noko, dear, can you help these fools find a date and venue?”

“I’ve already ordered the catering,” said Nokoribi with a glint in her eye.

“That’s why I let you run this place when I’m not around,” said Moegara. “In the meantime, you and Anon had better fuck before the date. I can’t stand seeing you both fumble about each other like that. My daughter, a hopeless romantic; makes me sick,” said Moegara.

Gakke’s hand tightened around your thigh to the point where you had to pry her fingers loose to get circulation. “D-do we have to?” she stammered.

“YES! What kind of oni are you?! You’ve spent your whole life slavering over ‘cute men,’ and now that you’ve got one, you’re just going to let him walk around? Take up space? Love and respect him? He should be compacted into a human-shaped divot in your mattress!” said Moegara.

“I didn’t want to trouble him…” said Gakke.

Moegara buried her face in her hands. “You CANNOT be my daughter… Just make it happen, alright? Be as dainty as you need to be but give me my grandchildren!”

“Yes, Mamma,” squeaked Gakke.

Moegara relaxed in her seat. Lighting a pipe, she took a hit and exhaled through her nose. “Hmph. What else happened while I was gone?”

~~~~~~~~

“Anon, I’m going up to the springs. Do you want to come?” asked Gakke.

You stretched and closed your book. “Sure.”

Gakke led you through the castle, out into a garden, and up a small flight of stone stairs carved into the mountain. At the top, a pool of water surrounded by flowers billowed steam into the night sky.

“I’ve always loved the view from up here,” said Gakke. She undid the sash of her robe, letting it fall away. You stripped as well. Even after all this time, keeping your eyes off her body was only getting harder. Gakke slid into the water. You eased in next to her, wincing as your body adjusted to the heat. Gakke put her arm around your shoulder. You leaned against her, closing your eyes.

“Strange to think it can be so peaceful here, knowing that every one of those lights signifies someone busy with something down there,” mused Gakke.

“Maybe they’re busy with nothing at all, like we are,” you said.

Gakke ran her hands through your hair. “Yeah…” You felt her hand tense. She sighed. “Anon, about what Momma said…”

You squirmed. “Yeah?”

“What do you think?” asked Gakke.

“Honestly? I was wondering why you hadn’t done anything to me either. Not that I don’t appreciate the patience,” you added quickly.

Gakke’s breath started to become more stilted. “I’ve wanted to. Gods, have I wanted to. From the first time I laid eyes on you, I knew what I wanted to do to you. Where I wanted you. It’s why I chased you for so long, sacrificed so much to get you.”

You hunched your shoulders a bit as her hands started to squeeze you. “What stopped you?” you asked nervously.

Gakke’s fingers abruptly stopped roaming over your skin. “When I… “claimed” you, I almost tore the clothes off your body and took you then and there. But seeing you all bruised and battered, you were just so small… I couldn’t do it. Every time I thought about taking you, that image flashed back into my mind. The last thing I want is for you to be hurt again. And since I’m so big…”

“You thought you might crush me?” you asked.

Gakke flinched. “Don’t say that! I don’t want to even think about something like that happening.”

“Sorry,” you said.

Gakke tilted her head back to look at the stars. “Yes, I was worried about you. But you also never voiced any interest in prurience, and I want to respect your wishes as much as possible. If I have to adapt to human customs from your world, so be it.”

You cleared your throat nervously. “Humans in my world aren’t that sex averse. For a long time, I never initiated because I was thinking about escaping. After that, I figured it would be awkward to ask. And you never pressed, so I thought you wanted to take things slowly.”

Gakke’s head snapped down towards you. “Then, does that mean…?”

“I wouldn’t be opposed,” you said, looking down at the water.

Gakke started to pant. “Even though I’m so big? What if I hurt you?”

You laughed. “I trust that you won’t. Besides, I’m not so selfish as to shatter on our honeymoon.”

Gakke pulled you into her lap. “Then can we…?! Right now?! I mean, NOW?! Us?! Here?!”

You eyed the stone floor surrounding the spring warily. “Maybe not HERE here.”

Gakke was out of the water before you could blink. She nabbed a towel and began drying you in one adroit sweep of her arm. You clung to her for dear life as she barreled down the stairs and back into the castle. Monsters pressed themselves against the walls to get out of Gakke’s way. Beelining to her room, Gakke slammed the door open and lunged inside. The world fell away as she heaved you across the room onto the bed. You heard the door slam shut as you hit the mattress. A moment later, Gakke was standing over you. That predatory look in her eyes was back with a vengeance. Were her pupils dilated? You could practically see her breath.

“Just don’t do anything too rou-“

Your plea for mercy was cut off by Gakke pouncing on you. A cry of surprise was instantly muffled by Gakke mashing her lips into yours. Her tongue rammed past your lips, entwining your own. While she accosted your mouth, Gakke’s hands meandered up and down your body, groping and kneading wherever she pleased.
“So sweet, so small…” she panted. You did your best to keep air in your lungs amidst the onslaught of kisses. It wasn’t long before the sensation of her lips against yours and the pleasurable weight of her body resting on yours directed the blood to your loins. Gakke was quick to notice. Her eyes shot open. Looking down, she grinned sinisterly at your poor member.

“Gakke, maybe I should be on top,” you said, not liking the way this was panning out. Gakke ignored your request. You would have believed her if she said she hadn’t heard it. Pressing your torso back into the bed with one hand, she lined herself up with your crotch. “Not too hard!” you shouted.

Gakke slammed down onto your hips. You gasped, your breath shaken from you by the impact. Before you had time to draw more air into your body, Gakke came down on you again. And again. Her sinuous body beguiled the speed at which she could move her hips. A chorus of slaps echoed through the room as she set about grinding your pelvis into a fine powder. The only reprieve you were afforded was an occasional grind or undulation of her hips. Contrary to what you had expected, there was no agony shooting through your legs. Force that should have shattered your bones became something of a deep-tissue massage. Gakke was beside herself on top of you. She let out unabashed moans and howls as she worked you over, uncharacteristic of such a gentle and soft-spoken woman. Her thighs squeezed your body, keeping you in place after every thrust. With a growl, she leaned forward to pin your arms to the bed. Not that you were going anywhere until she was done with you. All you could do was try to keep up with her.

It wasn’t long before you felt a familiar heat welling up inside you. Judging by the way Gakke was starting to lose her tempo, you surmised she was close too. Her hair streamed down past her shoulders, tresses partially obscuring her face as she lolled in ecstasy. With one final concussive thrust, she mashed your hips into the mattress. Your fingers found hers, intertwining as you unleashed inside her. A shudder racked Gakke’s body. She collapsed forward onto you, chest heaving from the exertion. You rubbed your cheek against hers, both out of affection and to get more breathing room for your half-crushed lungs.

“That was… heavenly…” said Gakke.

“Yeah… You were, wow,” you panted. Mamono instinct was no joke.

“Are you ready?” asked Gakke.

“For what?” you replied.

“To go again?” said Gakke

You snorted. Gakke frowned. “Are you serious?” you asked.

Gakke smiled, showing you her fangs. Standing up, she grabbed your legs and pulled them up into the air, bending you over yourself.

“Wait! No, no, no! I’m sorry, I thought it was a joke!” you begged.

Gakke smirked. “You may be laughing after I’m done with you, but you won’t be walking~”

~~~~~~~~~~

Gakke walked through the halls. Entering the dining room, she unslung you from her shoulders and sat you down next to her. You slumped against her. Moegara looked up from the scroll she was reading and grimaced.

“Gods, Gakke, I know I told you to fuck him, but did you have to do THAT to him?” asked Moegara.

Gakke tried to sit you up. You moaned, slumping back onto her as soon as she released you. “I’m sorry! I got carried away! He’ll be alright, won’t he?”

Moegara grunted. “Your father survived worse. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Probably just tired. Get him some tea and see if he wakes up.”

You reeled in your seat. The lack of sleep and Gakke draining you (quite literally) all night had turned your brain into paste and your legs into jelly. You weren’t in any pain; it was just a numbness that pervaded your lower half. Every time you tried to walk, your feet refused to support you. Gakke gingerly laid your head down on the table and hurried off to get some food.

“Good work in there, “son.” You made even more noise than my husband way back when I claimed him,” said Moegara. You grunted into the tablecloth. Moegara laughed. “I know I gave you a hard time when we met, but you make Gakke happy, so you’re alright in my book. Maybe some of that brio of yours will rub off on her. Gods know she needs it. And your daughter, ha! I can’t wait to see if she gets your mojo. That’ll be a worthy successor to Kamaka.”

Gakke returned carrying a tray of food. A few servants peeked in after her to see you. They quickly retreated in a fit of giggles.

“Anon! Here, drink this.” Gakke lifted you up by the back of your robe and directed your hand to the teacup. You took a small sip, smacking your lips. That was nice…

“I’ve spoken to Nokoribi about the wedding. We’ll have it as soon as Kaizo gets back,” said Moegara.

“Did you ransom her?” asked Gakke, using her chopsticks to prod a piece of food against your cheek.

“Hmm? Nah. I have faith she’ll be here soon. She’s a terrible General, but no one can deny her ability to weasel out of a pinch. I’m more concerned with Royoshi not showing up,” said Moegara.

“Can Kaizo really escape from Soheiya?” asked Gakke. You nibbled the bite of food she was waggling in front of your face.

Moegara laughed. “I wouldn’t bet against her…

~~~~~~~~~~

Kaizo finished her set of crunches. Rising off the cold stone of her cell, she got up and stretched. Where was that guard who she always bantered with? The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall. Kaizo quickly fluffed her hair and tugged the ragged linens she was given a little lower to show more of her cleavage.

“Well hello, Mr. Guard. Come to- Hey, you’re not the usual.” Kaizo glowered at the succubus in front of her.

“Shut up.” The succubus was quickly joined by another mamono guard.

“What’s the big deal? Did you find the tunnel I’ve been digging?” asked Kaizo.

“Can it,” growled the succubus.

“Boss! Can you hear me?!” called a monster from down the row of cells.

“Yeah! What’s the deal?” shouted Kaizo.

“It’s your sister! General Gakke!” called the other prisoner.

“Go shut her up!” barked the succubus.

“What about her, did they catch her?” asked Kaizo.

“No, the guards say she got some human! There’s talk of a wedding in Kamaka!”

The sound of a scuffle broke out in the other cell. Kaizo blinked. Gakke? Getting MARRIED?!

“Hot damn! I never thought I would see the day! Big ol’ Gakke, finally tying the knot! That lunk must have got her hands on that mage! Ha! Serves him right. Shit, if she’s getting married, I gotta get out of here! Can’t miss that cake.”

“You’re not going anywhere,” said the succubus firmly.

“Sure I am. Say, where is the regular guard anyways?” asked Kaizo.

“He’s busy.”

“What’s his name?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Feh! You’re no fun. Tell him to look me up in Kamaka if he ever gets sick of guard duty and wants to start living like a prince,” said Kaizo.

“You can tell him in a few months when your mother pays for your release,” said the succubus.

“Is that so? Well, what I have here says otherwise,” said Kaizo smugly.

The succubus turned to look at Kaizo. Kaizo stretched out her hand, revealing a pebble. “A rock?” asked the succubus, leaning closer to see what exactly it was. Kaizo’s arm shot through the bars. Grabbing the succubus’ collar, she yanked the guard headfirst into the bars. A loud clang reverberated through the prison as her helmet made contact with the metal. The succubus slid down, slumping into a heap at the foot of the door.

“What was that?!” shouted the other guard.

“Whoops! Forgot about her. Oh well, that’ll just make it fun~” Kaizo snatched the key off the guard’s belt and slid it into the lock.

~~~~~~~~

You spun around in front of the mirror. Gakke had been unrelenting in her questions about Earth weddings, and once she learned what a tuxedo was, she commissioned one for you the same day. You hadn’t expected much from the arachne who made it, but she produced one hell of a suit with only your vague explanation of what it was. How the hell did they do it?

“Anon, we’re about to start. Are you ready?” asked Nokoribi.

“Yeah, I’m coming,” you said.

Nokoribi led you to a vibrant garden, packed with wedding goers. A small orchestra played a traditional Zipangunese wedding song as you approached. Gakke was standing at the altar, bouquet of flowers in hand. She looked magnificent. Her hair had been done up by a kejourou, forming neat bun with a few strands of curled hair hanging down beside her face. Her dress was a mix of a traditional Earthen wedding dress and a Zipangunese wedding garment. You had been apprehensive when she had proposed the idea, but seeing her here coated in silk and lace, you knew it was the right decision. Gakke beamed when she saw you. Kaizo flashed you a thumbs up as you walked past. Striding up to the altar, you took your place.

“You look amazing,” you said.

“So do you,” replied Gakke.

A houri opened her book. “Are you ready?” she asked.

“Yes,” you said in unison.

The houri began reading from her scripture. You took a second to appreciate the strange confluence of cultures at play here: a man from Earth marrying a demon from Zipangu in a ceremony being ordained by an angel of love.

The houri finished her sermon. “And now, the rings!” she proclaimed.

You looked down the aisle. Royoshi, Gakke’s older sister, strode towards you. In all honesty, she unnerved you a little bit; there was something predatory in that hawkish gaze of hers. She wordlessly presented a small box, containing a pair of rings. Silver and sapphire for her, and a rose-gold and ruby ring for you.

“Anon, do you take Gakke to be your wife? To love and to cherish forever more?” asked the houri.

“I do,” you said, slipping the ring onto her finger.

“And do you, Gakke, take Anon to be your husband, to love so long as you both shall live, and evermore?” asked the houri.

“I do!” cried Gakke. She smiled through her tears, gently placing the ring on your finger.

“Then I now pronounce you husband and wife!” said the houri.

The crowd applauded. Moegara sobbed into a handkerchief, wiping her eyes away before clapping. Gakke bent down to kiss you, forcing you onto your tiptoes. “Care for a dance, wife?” you asked. Gakke smiled. “I’d love to, husband.”

~~~~~~~~

You watched a few of the partygoers depart as the reception wound down. Nokoribi had made a fantastic choice with the catering service; you couldn’t eat another bite. The cake was unlike anything you had ever tasted before. You wish you could have had another slice before Kaizo got drunk and ran off with it. Moegara staggered over to your table. The satyros had crafted a sake fountain for the wedding, and you hadn’t seen Moegara more than a few feet from it at any given time.

“What are you two still doing here? Go on! Enjoy yer weddin!” slurred Moegara.

Gakke glanced at you. You smiled at her. “You look good in that dress, but I’ll bet you look better out of it.”

Gakke snorted. “I’ll try not to tear that suit when I rip if off of you.”

Getting up from the table, you waved a few goodbyes to the other guests and dipped into the castle amidst a chorus of whistles and cheers. Gakke swept you up into her arms out of habit. “Wait!” you protested. Gakke stopped. “What’s wrong?” You wriggled out of her arms. “There’s something I have to do. It’s an Earth thing,” you said. Gakke nodded solemnly. “What is it?”

Using your magic, you swept her off her feet. Gakke yelped in surprise as you scooped her into your arms, supporting her weight with your spell. Her arms wrapped around your neck, nearly pulling you off your feet. She looked up at you in confusion. “Someday, I’ll be able to do this without magic. Until then, this will have to do,” you said. Striding forward, you carried Gakke over the threshold. Gakke giggled. “I like this custom.” Placing Gakke on the bed, you undid your bowtie and climbed in next to her. She rolled you on top of her, dragging you in for a kiss. You could feel your heart beating faster just looking down at her smile. “My little blue spark…” You kissed her. “I guess I’ll have to come up with a name for you too. “Big red wife” doesn’t have a ring to it, does it?” Gakke laughed. “You’ll have plenty of time to think of a name for me. And soon enough, we’ll have to think of a new name entirely.” You chuckled. “Just don’t get pregnant before we go on a honeymoon.” Gakke smirked. “No promises.” She undid her bun, letting her wavy hair spill out onto the bed. You bit your lip at the sight. “I love you, Gakke.” She kissed you once more. “I love you too, husband.”