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Our Sister, the Idiot [During Return 6 ( R1/2 DF Cross)]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Sunshine Temple, Aug 29, 2020.

  1. Threadmarks: Index
    Sunshine Temple

    Sunshine Temple Not too sore, are you?

    Oct 8, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Set after Invisible Hand, but before Peace Talks, and during Bonding Allure....

    Visiting Chicago, Ranma has something very important to tell little sister about "their" mother, but Dresden is late.
    Worried that her sister missed such an important meeting, she calls around for help and finds one of Dresden's other siblings... hopefully he can help her find their missing sister.

    The Return (Blood Debts novella): Our Sister, The Idiot
    Chapter 1: Missed Connection
    Chapter 2: Roughly Foreplay
    Chapter 3: Dominating Climax
    Chapter 4: Awkward Afterglow
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2020
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 1
    Sunshine Temple

    Sunshine Temple Not too sore, are you?

    Oct 8, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Our Sister, The Idiot.
    A Ranma, Sailor Moon, Dresden Files fic thingy.
    By Sunshine Temple

    Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:

    Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. And the Dresden Files is owned by Jim Butcher.

    Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

    Temporary Backup Site.

    Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

    C&C as always is wanted.

    Our Sister, The Idiot.
    This is set between chapters 4 and 5 of Bonding Allure, the Return Book 6.
    After Invisible Hand.
    And after Skin Game but before Peace Talks of the Dresden Files.

    Chapter 1: Missed Connection

    Operation Rogers
    Addendum Report: submitted by Special Contractor R Saotome 5th NH Task Force.

    The Following Document is rated LC Tempest and sole property of Willard International Consulting.

    Access to this document is restricted to those with Need to Know for the following specific programs: Good Neighbor / Tacit Abraham / Prompt Aberlin / Ross-Kruger

    My little sister is an idiot. Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh. But I was waiting and waiting and waiting for her in a local bar; one she had picked. And she was nowhere to be found.

    Most unprofessional.

    At least the steak sandwiches were delicious and the beer was good. Even though I did have to show ID to the barman. Frankly, that was a novelty. Still, my impatience at my little sister was starting to shift to worry. It wasn't like her to be late and irresponsible.

    There was no answer at my sister's apartment. Calling her... landlord was a bit more problematic. It turns out Svartalves adhered to security procedures with a rigor that would impress the eldest of my little sisters. Even with a begrudging admission that I had the correct code phrase for one of BlackStone's sisters there was little they could tell me and less that they would.

    Visiting and inspecting her apartment was out of the question. I was doubtful they would let me on the embassy grounds, let alone the residence areas. Technically, my sister lived on sovereign Svartalfheim territory, and more technically as a long-term guest of the Winter Lady who did something to earn the respect and trust of the Svartalves.

    This was my first visit so they did not have any of my biometric nonsense on file. I might be able to find someone who was already in their system, and use them to get in, but I was not sure sneaking into a sovereign nation's embassy would be the best option.

    Contrary to what some of my sisters think, I can show restraint. Anyway, BlackStone has a good thing with Svartalfheim, that was something the Family can build on.

    Going through our mutual contacts yielded nothing. Doctor Butters was on alert and would check with the Carpenters. So, I started calling "non-mutual" contacts.

    Naturally, I went with family first. And that's what started all this. And why I'm writing this report under the direct observation of a certain blonde relative.

    A report that Eve will no doubt complain about. But these After Action Reports are supposed to contain the unvarnished truth. Well... subject to the standard clearance restrictions.

    Fine, if Eve's going to go through this with a black marker redacting the stuff I shouldn't talk about, then she can also edit it for tone.

    Which is silly, this entire log is subject to considerable secrecy. And is probably some sort of restricted index to the official report. The people cleared to read this have all earned their big girl pants.

    Report, document. Whatever.

    Eve is always better at making official sounding terms. Which I can say with the utmost sincerity.

    Right. The bar.

    It was getting late, and the evening was starting to get underway. While waiting, I had put my phone, a locally bought burner, down on the table and glared at it. There's a whole rigmarole to the purchase and activation, but I had my daughters handle that.

    There was even more of a hassle of getting funding and setting up accounts. Any American currency we brought over was functionally counterfeit which made its use risky in the long term. Gold and other precious metals could be converted to dollars but that takes time and has its own risks. Funds and accounts could also be established as part of a business relationship with local groups, but that was more of the realm of a certain blonde sister of mine.

    Times like this, I could understand the burden of my youngest sister's powers. Though, if she were in a fight or... indisposed she wouldn't be able to answer even if her magic didn't keep her from using mobile phones.

    But the whole reason I was here was for family, something that she had to know. Something she had a right to contribute to.

    Nabiki and Morrison noticed my discomfort. Draining my bottle, I gave a somewhat reassuring smile. "Contact Eve, update her on the situation."

    I stood up. "Watch if I get a callback."

    As I approached the bar, I looked around the establishment. Smaller than the Red Turtle, it was a cozy, calming place. In a basement, the bar had a few windows high up on the walls and a scattering of lights. It had better woodcraft in the walls than the Turtle, especially the pillars that supported the ceiling. I wove my way around the baker's dozen tables.

    On one of the pillars hung a sign declaring "Accorded Neutral Territory." Useful to know.

    Energy tingled and popped from the occupants of the room. However, it was kept nicely grounded. My sister had said this place was a hangout of her city's minor practitioners. I made my way to the bar itself.

    A tall, spare man in a spotless apron busied himself behind the wood counter. His head was shaved and he met my gaze with a refreshing directness. I'd put his age at somewhere in the forties, plus or minus a decade. He smelled human.

    But that didn't diminish him as a potential threat, especially given the way he moved and the focus in his eyes. I marked the man down as a player, and understood the wisdom of my sister using this as meeting place.

    "Beer and two more steaks." I tapped the surface. And put a few bills on the bar. After the purchases we made for phones and other local gear, I had a stash of local currency on remainder. I might as well use it.

    His gaze went from me to the sign hanging from one of the pillars.

    "I'm just waiting for my sister."

    A bit of a frown creased his face, but he went to a cabinet behind the bar and pulled out a bottle.

    He held it in front of me and paused. His gaze got critical for a moment.

    "Yes, I'm over nineteen," I lied, though not by much. He had seen my ID. Or at least the one I used for most public purposes. Annoyingly, over here, the quality of those papers had gone from "real" fake ID, to "fake" fake ID.

    There was more groundwork to be laid and assets to be secured before certain parties would be satisfied with our resources here.

    The bartender grunted. "Twenty-one."

    "That too," I huffed. We had done this song and dance before. Eve would laugh at my slipup. This wasn't my city. It could have gone worse. I was not sure Silvana even had a drinking age, or at least a purchase age. Maybe I could have had Nabiki test that, when she wasn't accompanied by me or one of my sisters.

    His expression remained skeptical but he put the bottle down and went to an icebox, pulled out a couple skirt steaks, and then went to the charcoal grill.

    Popping the top off, I took a sip of beer. Beer was not normally my thing, but he could make me a convert. I leaned over the bar, and inhaled. McAnally used good wood in his grill. And he was a deft hand. I wasn't sure if he was as good as Jacob, but it would be a close run thing.

    By the time he had finished grilling the steaks and servicing a couple other customers, my bottle was two-thirds empty.

    He dropped two plates of heavenly, and extra-rare meat in front of me. On none of my orders had I asked for it that way, and I noticed with others he tended to cook more on the medium-rare end of things. So, he seemed to... know his customers. Another mark in the man's favor.

    I did inhale deeply and give a smile, but before I dug in, I tapped the bottle with a nail.

    He made a grunt and put another bottle next to it. He wiped down a bit of the pristine bar, made another study of my face, and came to a conclusion. "Dresden?" he asked.

    "Yeah, you seen her?" I asked draining the last in my opened bottle.

    His face twisted a tiny bit and he gave a grunt in the affirmative.


    This grunt was in negation.

    "We were supposed to meet-up. But she's late." I shrugged.

    He gave me another opaque look, and this time glanced towards the stairs that led up to the door.

    I looked over, no one had arrived yet.

    "And lemonades for the girls," I added. I wasn't even going to let Nabiki try to pass off at being overage. Silvan restaurants had no problem serving her at least when accompanied by me or one of my sisters, but here wasn't there.
    And my niece was a bit too "duty bound" to drink when on mission. Even though this was supposed to be a just family event. But it turned out Morrison was right and I was wrong. More reason to be on the safe side and have a nosh.

    Balancing the plates, two glasses, and that sealed bottle, I was walking to the table when I smelled the Pattern V enter the pub.

    I put the food and drinks down and watched the vampire descend the stairs. It was a... novel experience. First, he wasn't like the normal Pattern V's. He felt alive. Very alive. He was also far prettier. I was used to the whole spirit-possessing-their-own animated corpse style of vampire. Well, with one key exception.

    More than his long black hair, his tall fit body, and his sculpted features was a sense of... cloying perfection. Part of me wondered if this was how others saw my kind.

    And given how his easy, confident smile briefly flicked befuddlement that might be right.

    He sauntered towards our table. It was an easy motion, an instinctual predatory prowl. Grey eyes scanned the room.

    "You must be Ranma?" he asked, his grin returning. It was the same voice that had answered when I called.

    I let him keep his mask as I slipped into my chair and gestured to the empty one opposite me. "Thomas, then?"

    He looked between my daughter and niece. Confusion flickered across his face for an instant. A silvery sheen came over his eyes.

    "Harry's said a lot about you," I offered, carefully tracking his gaze.

    "Where is he?" A bit of steel entered his voice. "Er... she," he corrected, but still kept his edge.

    "That's why I called you," I shrugged and started eating my steak. "Is she normally late to family appointments?"

    Thomas laughed.

    I let a little growl escape. "You don't know where she is?"

    The vampire exhaled. "I was really hoping you knew where he was."


    I'd like to say that the worst part about being in the Venatori was the paperwork.
    But that's not true. Lara's actually pretty hands off, at least with these activities (for good and ill). And for obvious reasons, those of us that fight in the Oblivion War don't like documenting our activities.

    However, every once in a while a mission requires oversight from the home office. Whoever they are. The Venatori are organized into cells for a reason. And here I am in a room I swept for bugs, without any windows going over the report I wrote out in longhand. I was given warnings about the paper and the pens. Both of which Lara took out of special cases and did smell a bit of chemicals.

    Personally, I'll be happy once I finish checking this thing; redact as much of the personal stuff I can away with, I don't trust people who can order my sister Lara around; and submit it. And then I can burn it and try to forget the reason why I had to write this in the first place. I really don't want to think of another factor in this frustrating shadow war.

    I have enough family drama on my plate.

    If there's one upside, my orders were explicit, This was eyes only for the home office. Lara's not to read the full account of these events. So, at least I was able tweak a sibling out of this.

    My name's Thomas Raith. I'm a monster, and sometimes I help make sure things that are best forgotten stay forgotten. Even if that means I have to keep secrets from my brother... who isn't exactly my brother. Well, Harry's still my... whatever.

    At first, I didn't think this was Venator business. At first, I thought this was merely some trouble Harry had gotten into.

    Okay, if I'm being honest, at first I thought I was being called by a crazy lady. I was doing errands and had just got finished talking with Justine. Harry does think that he... that she could help. I'm not sure though. Our child is going to inherit my...

    And Justine is going to suffer for it...

    No. Justine's condition was not pertinent to this mission.

    Still, I wasn't in the best of moods when my phone rang and some random woman called. Given what I am, hearing her rich contralto purr was at first a pleasant surprise. Then she imperiously demanded to know where Dresden was.

    Now, it's a pretty guarded secret that I'm Harry Dresden's half-brother. Knowledge like that is powerful leverage. The golden "bad boy" of House Raith of the White Court of the Vampires and the Winter Knight Warden Dresden being related? Just think of the blackmail possible with a secret like that. Now add in that Dresden is also the Winter Knight.

    Course the whole dynamic was upended when Dresden returned from a Winter Court mission... changed. It's amusing that even as a succubus my brother can still be an awkward dope.

    If I didn't know Harry, or Halley as she is now so cunningly calling herself, better, I would say that was an excellent bit of camouflage. One worthy of the more devious members of the White Court. But no, she really was that clumsy of a succubus.

    Anyway, once the demanding woman on the phone got around to introducing herself, my heart sank. She was one of Dresden's new sisters. It's bad enough dealing with my succubus sisters, but now I had to wrangle Harry's?

    Worse, her concerns were valid. She had a point: Harry had been acting strange. Dresden thought Murphy was up to something.

    Okay stranger than normal... and given Harry's a geeky wizard sidhe succubus that's pretty strange. Worse, I knew Harry was looking forward to this meeting for a while, though I didn't know it was today, and Harry had been making gifts, one of which she gave me.

    I gave a long sigh and promised I'd make some calls and get back to her. And it was what I found, or didn't, that caused me to turn my car around and drive to the bar and meet with an impatient demon as the setting sun made the shadows lengthen.

    I parked in the small lot near McAnallay's and sighed again. I made a few more calls. On the face of it, Dresden being unreachable didn't mean much. I mean: Wizard. The dope can't use a cell phone and is more often than not out doing some mystical claptrap.

    On the other hand, Harry is also a creature of habit. She likes hanging out in the apartment and spending time with her kids. Empty Night, Burger King was still her favorite restaurant. Not counting Mac's.

    On the other, other, hand... Butters said Maggie and Bonnie were at the Carpenters. Normally Harry has Hope Carpenter baby-sit for her. Harry's kids aren't bundled off to the Carpenters unless he's... she's planning on being gone for a while or doing something "not family friendly".

    Karin Murphy didn't answer her phone either, but Chicago's most clued in former-cop was, despite her injuries, doing a lot of her own things. She was still a big wheel in the Brighter Future Society.

    I gave another sigh and exited the car. I shivered a bit as I crossed the lot. The whole thing gave me a bad feeling. It was one thing to interact with my latest succubus sister; I had experience with that. But meeting the demon who turned Dresden?

    Forcing a smile, I went down the stairs two at a time and entered the pub. Once again with those low ceilings, I felt like I had to duck under the ceiling fans. I don't know how Harry could keep coming here.

    Okay, I knew why Harry kept coming back. Mac's beer was that good, but I don't know how Harry avoided getting hit on the head.

    Well... I suppose that was less of a problem now; Dresden was shorter now. Then again she had a supply of leather high-heeled boots that Justine found very impressive. I was not sure why my brother was indulging in high fashion footwear, but she had been cagey on where they came from.

    I scanned across the room, but it was easy to tell who had called me. A trio of pale, beautiful women with vibrant unnatural hair colors. Okay, that shade of red could almost be a human color, but the others weren't human.

    But they weren't dye jobs either. Their tresses didn't have any of the slight stiffness that comes with cheaper dyes; they had no exposed roots of a different color; and their eyebrows were also the same shade.

    Look, I made a career out of styling hair. And it wasn't the coffee that kept my expensive clientele coming back. I was good at it. Okay, maybe that I was feeding, nibbling really, on some of my clients that helped, but not by much.

    Empty Night, It was like they weren't even trying to blend in. Well.... they didn't have horns, tails, or wings out. And at least they weren't dressed too provocatively.

    Okay, the redhead was a bit motorcycle fetish, the green-haired one was wearing a prim grey suit coat and skirt, and the young one was in a tooth-achingly cute shiny Chinese-themed blue and white dress with little snowflakes. But compared to the stuff my sisters wore, it was acceptable enough.

    "You must be Ranma?" I asked, striding over. Dresden had talked about her sisters enough for me to readily recognize the redhead.

    "Thomas, then," the redhead stated, her voice almost a growl. Her gaze fixed on me she motioned for me to take a seat.

    I glanced at the other two demons at the table. The green-haired one had a stern expression, while the younger one in blue had an earnest, innocent look that immediately set off alarm bells. My Hunger was... confused. The hungry emptiness within me wasn't sure to classify these women as threats or as food.

    "Harry's said a lot about you," the redhead added. Her tone softening and revealing a slight Japanese accent. However, her deep purple eyes continued to bore onto me.

    I met her gaze. I was used to dealing with Lara, and before my sister turned him into a puppet, my father. "Where is he? Er... she," I corrected.

    The demon sniffed the air and started eating her bloody steak. "That's why I called you. Is she normally late to family appointments?"

    I had to laugh. Clearly, someone didn't know Dresden very well.

    The redhead snarled a tiny bit and gently lowered her knife. I noticed it wasn't one of Mac's steak-knives. Instead it was an anodized folder with a black blade and a gleaming edge. "You don't know where she is?"

    I tried to affect a relaxed slouch. "I was really hoping you knew where he was."

    Her eyes flashed. "I called you," she slowly enunciated. She glanced to the others and popped the cap off her beer bottle with her hand.

    I frowned. Mac didn't use twist offs. I then noticed the easy springiness to her posture and how she shifted to one side. Vague disquiet also passed over her; it was a pensive nervous expression I had seen on Harry's face.

    If we weren't in public I'd bet I'd see her tail out nervously swishing about. That was another tell Harry had developed. Thanks to the buxom redhead before me. "You're genuinely worried about Harry?"

    And then she looked at me like I was a moron. The two other girls glanced between themselves and pointedly ignored us and ate their meals

    The redheaded demon took a long drink. "You really are her brother aren't you?"

    "He does smell like Auntie BlackStone," the young succubus with the powder-blue hair happily said.

    "True Nabiki, very true." Ranma contemplated her bottle. She put it down and went back to her steak.

    I glared as she ate.

    The redhead, hardly taking her eyes off her meal, motioned to the green-haired succubus. She got up and quickly returned with an open bottle which was placed in front of me.

    "Sorry, that was rude," the redhead said, not sounding contrite at all, as she finished her dinner.

    I took a sip. "You've got that in common with Harry."

    She laughed. It was rich and a bit deep, like her voice. Once again, my Hunger's interest nudged at me. It was probably for the best I was pretty well fed today.

    The redhead looked me over. "Right," she nodded to herself before standing up. "You're a local boy, I'm sure you have some emergency way to find Dresden, right?"

    I took a pull from my beer. At least she was willing to buy me a drink.

    "Good, finish up and we can go find her," she pronounced shifting her leather jacket. I caught a glimpse of the various Kydex and leather rigs she had concealed under the garment.

    "And you're arrogant and demanding like Harry," I noted. "Are you also as subtle as he is?"

    The redhead laughed as she made her way out of the bar.


    I felt the vampire ascend the stairs behind me. Nabiki and Morrison followed him up. I didn't expect trouble from him. Well... not much trouble. He was related to Dresden, and seemed about as stubborn as my sister.

    Brisk early spring wind blew across the parking lot. Street lamps had started to turn on. It still had the bitter chill of winter.

    "What's the plan?" I asked, once Thomas finished climbing the steps.

    Grumbling, he stepped into view. "You think I have a plan?"

    "It's your city." I spread my hand. "If you prefer... we can look for our sister my way..."

    "But Mother, where will we rent a helicopter at this hour?" Nabiki asked.

    I glanced over at the vampire. He had a good poker face.

    "Yes, but where will we find a Valkyrie with a mini-gun?" I mused, catching the vampire's eye. Even sister's tragic stories had their amusing moments.

    "When mother gets back, she can man the belt-feed," Morrison suggested.

    "I suppose a blonde Germanic demon will have to suffice," I turned to the tall dark-haired man. "Unless, you have a better suggestion?" I asked with a warm smile.

    "I might have a way to find Dresden," Thomas casually said. There was only the tiniest bit of silvery glint to his gaze that betrayed his discomfort. He really did have a good poker face.

    "Excellent," I agreed. "Nabiki. Morrison. Contact Eve. Then meet up with Butters."

    "You're bringing a Knight into this?" Now, Thomas' composure cracked a bit.

    I exhaled. "Way I heard, it doesn't work that way," I looked around the lot. A chill passed over my spine. I wished I could have my horns out, with them hidden things felt... muffled.

    He nodded. "Yeah... the folks 'upstairs' bring him in. You can't force the Knights to fight."

    "Ah, but I can have him go over to the Carpenter's and check out my nieces. And if anyone goes after the kids..." I shrugged.

    "Not to mention the Carpenter residence is protected ground."

    I tilted my head slightly. BlackStone and Dr. Butters had mentioned something to that effect. Part of the retirement deal given to retired Knights.

    He looked thoughtful. "But that only works against supernatural threats. Pure mortals, with mortal weapons, can just walk on through."

    I simply let my eyes drift to my daughter and niece.

    "Sure, angels and demons protecting the runts. That'll work great." Thomas snorted. "You gonna tell Charity about the backup?"

    I shrugged. "I'll let the doctor handle it."

    Nabiki frowned while Morrison gave me an opaque look. I could tell neither was terribly happy. "I'm serious, we're guests here. And you'll need to defer to his judgment."

    Thomas looked out past the parking lot and down the street. "Yeah... that's a good idea... she likes him better than Harry. Still, that's a hell of a surprise to drop on their lap."

    I snorted. A hell of a surprise would be more of my girls with a couple Operations Section squads and some aerial fire-support and over-watch. Dropping in a few Pattern Silvers for mobile artillery would nicely round things out.

    But, I didn't have those resources. Not here, not yet. Building relationships with organizations that were... similar to the Company was not my part of this mission.

    Putting my hands in my pockets, I let my eyes survey the cityscape. Lit up like this, it didn't look half bad. I took a moment to follow the vehicles and people walking about.

    It was similar enough to my city, as flawed as that place could be, but... it was different enough to reinforce just how far from home I was. In a way, it felt a bit more alien than Silvana. The smell was off. More importantly, it showed my normal means of backup were at the end of a long tether.

    As for differences... the smell alone... I wrinkled my nose. I had mentioned it before, but Toronto was a fairly clean city, and Silvana was built by beings with noses far more sensitive than humans.

    On the upside, I could tell that my sister frequented this place and lived around here. That was reassuring, and almost worth the vaguely rotted fish and industrial stench coming from the rivers and canals around us.

    "You could call Mrs. Carpenter," I offered. Partially out of politeness, I didn't want him to feel too railroaded, and partially to sound out his reaction.

    Thomas actually looked embarrassed. "Uh... she likes Butters better than me as well. Neither me nor Harry are her favorite people."

    Stepping towards the van we had rented, I cocked an eyebrow. "You? Who could ever dislike a handsome man like you?"

    Thomas' composure came back as Morrison and Nabiki went to the vehicle and started making more calls. He gave them a confident look with big white teeth; the vampire did pull of the suave look. I could give him that. "She's pretty religious and..."

    "Vampire, wizard, and demon mean trouble then?" I asked.

    He shrugged. The gesture made it seem that something was bothering him, more than what we were saying. "It doesn't help that Harry's...."


    "Well... Harry and Charity are getting along better these days... I think she likes that she's got a new range of things to be critical to Harry about."

    I made a curious noise.

    Thomas gave a winning smile. "Mom stuff."

    A deep chuckle burbled within me. "She does have heart but experience is..." I trailed off. Being clumsy at motherhood was something I could sympathize with.

    "Yeah... puts Charity's mind off of the whole... " He gestured towards me with some embarrassment.

    Pulling at my coat, I shrugged. The Denarians in general, and their leader in specific, had a personal vendetta against the Carpenter family. And the Fallen were pretty demonic.

    "But the way Harry tells it, an Archangel was there to play meet and greet," Thomas shook his head. Not in disbelief but more in amazement at the nonsense his sibling had to deal with.

    I snorted then nodded to my daughter as she buckled up in the shotgun seat and watched as Morrison put the van in gear and drove off. It was a rental. Local assets were still pretty light.

    He took an unconscious step towards a white luxury SUV across the tiny lot. "There's a few addresses we can try. Good thing about Harry is he doesn't go to very many places, we just left the only bar and restaurant he... she really likes."

    "Not counting Burger King as a restaurant?" I asked.

    The handsome vampire snorted. "Would you?"
    I smiled. "I knew we'd find some common ground."

    "Still, there's a few of Dresden's haunts we can try."

    "And calling in any local kami," I offered.


    "Spirits, small gods... the wee folk," I snapped my fingers. "Doesn't Dresden have a bunch of 'em?"
    Thomas chuckled. "Sure. I know how to order pizza but I don't really know how to get into contact with Harry's little fairy army."

    I sighed. Of course, wizards were not big on redundancy. They horded secrets as bad as spooks. Though I'm sure my eldest little sister would contend she has well-thought-out contingency plans.

    "There is a guy who can summon ghosts and the like I know of, but there's still some legwork we can do," he offered.

    "Or you can use magic," I mildly suggested and relished his flummoxed expression.


    "Magic?" I asked the smug, perky demon. I had some ability. It was not the flowery and complicated stuff my brother did. He... she was a savant, a disciple, a total magic nerd. Magic was all about Harry Dresden.

    Think of it this way. My brother wore a silver pentacle amulet around her neck. It was part of her, almost but not quite, posture collar of a choker. But it started out as a pendant. It was the twin of mine. Our mother left them to us. Mom was really big into magic. Her taste in men however...

    The star represented the five elements constrained in the circle of mortal will. Harry believed that. It was key to everything that made Dresden well... Dresden, from the pokey Volkswagen, to the questionable job, to the awkward clumsy, and collateral damage-inducing heroing.

    Speaking of the Volkswagen, I was shocked my brother had two cars. One was a giant dark blue Cadillac hearse so creatively called the Munstermobile that technically belonged to the Winter Court. Which was why Dresden had spent a bit extra on an orange Volkswagen Thing. You can guess what superhero related name Harry gave that car. The Thing was used for getting around town in something that the Winter Queen didn't own.

    Yeah, not only did my dorky brother have a convertible, but she was also using some sense and subtlety. Okay... the convertible still had no engine power and was boxy and ugly, but still... it was progress, while still being very Dresden.

    Magic, properly used magic, was Dresden's faith. She might quibble over the term. She preferred "Forces of Creation", which was pretty religious sounding in my book, but where to me my pentacle was a valuable symbol of the part of my family that wasn't... overtly monstrous. To my brother...

    See, the difference was that she could use her pentacle to fight off Black Court vampires. In her hands the pentacle hurt them as much as a crucifix, a Star of David, or other religious symbol in the hands of the truly faithful.
    When all was said and done, magic was my brother's identity. She could accept being a demon, a succubus; she could handle being Mab's leg-breaker, or bed-warmer. She could deal with it all as long as she was still a Practitioner.

    Meanwhile, to me, magic was a trade. It was a means to an end. It was hard and took a lot of skill and talent, and as such there were a few things I could do.

    As I mused, the redhead had been making level, direct eye contact. It was a bit unnerving. Especially given Dresden's habit of avoiding such things.

    "Harry's the wizard." I stated. My magical ability, such as it was, was also something I kept hidden. That was the whole point of secret talents.

    The redhead gave me a patient look.

    I crossed my arms and decided to wait her out.

    "Vampire," she eventually said.

    "That doesn't mean I'm a Practitioner."

    "Maybe not as good as your little brother," the redhead flashed her teeth. "But you're a magical creature, you share a mother; you'd have to have some talent."

    "By that logic why don't we use yours?" I casually glanced about. Sure, people like us didn't have to keep too low of a profile when it came to keeping the normals from finding out about the supernatural, but Red here was really pushing the line.

    "Too many people interfering. Think of it like scent. Get me within a block and I should be able to suss out if she's been there recently, closer and I can do more."

    "Right." I drawled.

    "But that's these," she gestured to where horns would be on her head. "I don't have skill in thaumaturgy."

    "And you think I do?" I asked, tone skeptical.

    She gave me a quietly judgmental and disappointed look. Empty Night. I had lost my mother when I was young; she uh... ran away. My father was a real piece of work. The pentacle amulet I was given for my fifth birthday was one of the last things she gave me.

    Unlike my half brother, I had memories of her. Our mother died in childbirth, thanks to a spell my son-of-a-bitch vampire father used.

    The look the redhead gave me was... uncomfortably familiar.

    I snorted back at her.

    "If you can't do it, we can search my way," she shrugged with the easy air of someone who had just got into the driver's seat of a rental car, someone else's rental.

    I looked down at her. "And that is?"

    "I'll improvise." Her expression seemed sincere and aloof, but I could feel the worry and annoyance beneath that.

    "You really think I can do magic?"

    "Given your-" The smile she flashed was all teeth. "-brother? I can see you keeping that on the down-low, for a few reasons."

    "And what are you keeping from Harry?"

    Purple eyes widened. "I'm not trying to keep anything from her. In fact, the whole reason I'm here is to keep her informed," the demon said with utter sincerity.

    I couldn't help myself and snorted again. "You're just guessing. This is a fishing trip."

    "And I'm getting nibbles." She sing-songed. "If you're worried I'll blab to BlackStone about it, I'll keep your secret."

    "You just said you don't keep secrets from Harry."

    "I implied," the redhead stated.


    She pointed to herself. "Demon."

    I swear she smirked when I glanced around the dim parking lot.

    "Please, no one cares. I could go out with my horns and no one would notice. Well... maybe not the big ones," she murmured.

    "And the tail and wings?" I asked. The set Dresden had was immense, but she was like a foot taller than the redhead.

    "Fair." She nodded amiably. "So? Magic time."

    "I'm not as good; it'll take me a while," I admitted. Magic... magic was special to my brother. And she was rather prickly about it. I swear that was half the reason why she had issues with her fairy godmother, because heaven forbid someone be a better Practitioner than her.

    Though between the Winter and demon stuff, she probably got along better with the Leanansidhe.

    Doing a good job at containing her pleasure, the redhead shrugged. "More skill than I have."

    "Aren't you some kind of magical girl," I asked , relenting and going back to my truck.

    She pulled at her leather coat and idly fluffed her teased, full-bodied tresses. "Yeah, the dark kind."

    "Meaning?" I used a fob to unlock the doors.

    "Heavy on assault and infiltration; light on utility spells." She leaned on the front fender.

    "Right," I drawled out the word. The redhead was about as subtle as a brick to the face... thrown by an 80's glam rock groupie from the hood of a van with an mural of a wizard on a T-rex airbrushed on the side.

    I rummaged around the truck's rear seat area pushing a few, more martial, supplies aside before I got a box of chalk out.

    By the time I had gotten it and started to make a circle on the lot, the redhead had hopped up onto the hood and was watching with her legs crossed, sans brick.

    "I'm not as fast as Harry, but I'll get it done," I promised as I sealed the circle with an act of will.

    "My. Phrasing?" The demon laughed.

    I eyed her and undid my pentacle necklace. A few years back, Bob the Skull had given me a few pointers to help improve my journeyman tracking spell. Think of it like getting a few tips from a master craftsman.

    Sure, the spirit of intellect who lived in the skull was big on magical theory. Which, honestly, made him a great fit with the newest, and most polka-loving, Knight of the Cross. But Bob was able to dumb his hints down enough to help make my spell a bit harder to spoof.

    Honestly, I kind of wanted to get Bob's advice, or at least fob off the demoness onto Sir Waldo. But the polka-man had been real busy lately, and really cagy about the skull. I was suspicious, but my brother, well... he trusted Butters.

    I pushed those thoughts aside, and the ones about how the demon bounced one leg as she intently watched me. Instead, I organized the mental constructs of the spell and set each piece into motion as I focused the power around my pentacle.

    Yeah, I was a lot slower than Harry at this. Gimmie a break. Dresden's the wizard.

    The spell would form a link to the nearest one that had the same resonance. And my mother only had two pentacles that she gave to her two sons. That meant it would find my dope of a brother.

    Especially, since Harry had taken to wearing her pentacle as the centerpiece of that not-quite-a-posture collar she wore.

    Once all the parts were together, I exhaled and broke the circle. The magical barrier dropped and the spell activated. The chain swung a bit and then hung to one side, being pulled an inch out of plum.

    The redhead hopped off and circled around me. "West south west?" she ventured.

    "What, you want a compass?"

    She gave me a dry look. "Even Harry knows how to triangulate."

    "Get in the car."

    "I've got a compass and paper, and the math ain't that hard." she patted her jacket and I could hear the rustle of a few folded bits of paper.

    I looked down at the shorter woman.

    "Fine, but since you're navigating, I should drive," she offered, trying to look helpful.

    I shook my head. There was something about her expression that did not make me want to trust her with my vehicle's well-being.

    She shrugged and went over to the passenger seat. Where she actually pulled it forward a few inches. Huh, even Murphy didn't do that.

    I closed the door and turned on the engine. Okay, it was a bit complicated keeping the pentacle up in the air while I did all that, not to mention having to keep the spell active in my mind. It was like humming a tune while doing a crossword, and playing mini-golf, only more complicated.

    The redhead shrugged and leaned back, a little smile on her lips.

    As I drove down the early evening Chicago traffic, I noticed she had stopped the chatter and was simply watching out the windows. Her expression was a bit pensive but she knew not to be a distraction.

    Which was good, because if Harry were here she'd be chatting aimlessly or brooding. I suppose that was once advantage of her being all gothy sidhe succubus, it complimented her when she got all broody.

    Still, if Harry were here, I wouldn't be trying to keep a spell in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. And that was only partially because the whole point of the spell was to find my idiot brother.

    After a couple miles of driving we ended up in one of the more... transitory areas of Chicago. That is where even the most optimistic influxes of urban renewal spending had yet to touch. My sister and Gentleman Johnny Marcone both loved using real estate to launder money, but even they had limits.

    There was a pair of tram lines. A "park" that was just a wide area of trees and grass that was cut-off from pedestrian access by the pot-hole filled major artery road we had just pulled off of.

    Let's put it this way, the free clinic down the road and the questionable bodega were the most appealing locations, and the few people meandering outside both were extra furtive.

    Though four or so blocks to the south was about the best taco joint in the city.

    As I circled a block of non-too-appealing bunker-like warehouses, I noted how my pentacle focused on the worst of the lot. Seriously, there was evidence of fire damage on an entire wall. Which was simply boarded over with plywood.

    Having cracked the window, the redhead perked up and actually sniffed the air. She let out a noise that was vaguely feline, like some sort of confused trilling growl.

    "Lemmie guess super-succubus senses are picking Harry up, too?" I asked giving the warehouse a casual eye as we drove past. It was not a happy place. Definite bad vibes; of course.

    "Definitely a succubus," she inhaled. "It's... odd there's masking, a lot of... death. Not quite the literal scent of death, but a feeling, you know?" Her fingers flicked a bit as she played with the door handle.

    "Oh, Empty Night," I sighed. Black Magic, she was picking up on it too. At least I should be happy that the demon was getting the heebie jeebies. I half expected her to find dark power delicious.


    I leaned back in the seat. "How do you want to play this?" I asked the vampire.

    "You don't wanna go in guns blazing?" he asked. For such a pretty-boy, he could be contemplative.

    "You're the local boy. I don't see you rushing in to save our sibling," I said.

    Eyeing the leaning pentacle, he started counting off. "First, we're not sure Harry's even in there. Second, even if she is, we don't know what's going on. What if Harry's doing some Council, or Winter Court business?"

    I nodded. "Right, like the time Harry was working for the Denarians as part of Mab's little scam?"

    "Yeah." He drove down a block that ran parallel to the street the building was on.

    Good, a few more drives around and he was bound to get noticed. "We don't know that Harry needs help. Chances are good she does, chances are also good she's still in the 'talk to the creepy supernatural black-hats' phase of her cases."

    "Which happens right before things get all fireballs and ice-bolts," I noted and rolled a shoulder. "Recon then? A little light burgling?"

    "Yeah," he looked me over, only partially appreciatively. "Can you be... stealthy?"

    "Quiet thief instead of noisy thief? I think I can manage that," I purred.

    "And you can keep up?" he asked.

    I gave him a level look. "You really want to get into an endurance contest Mr. Never-does-a-sit-up?"

    He blinked, and looked maybe a bit guilty. "Okay, how much did Harry tell you?"

    "Enough, like how, she uses that nickname for you,"

    "That's because he's jealous. Besides Harry was crazy about exercise before you came along and would drag me along on his morning runs."

    "Yes, a two hundred pound weight vest. So strong," I snorted.

    Thomas stared at me. "Harry wasn't exaggerating about the training you put him through."

    I smiled.

    Jealousy might not be all of the reason why she teased her brother. "Don't worry about me, I actually push myself to my limits when I work out. I don't just rely on mail-order vampire muscles." I shook my head. "Not even a real vampire," I muttered.

    "You want a real vampire?" Ire edged his voice.

    I smiled. "Sure, I've worked with 'em before, but it's a bit of a drive to London."

    He looked confused then gave a resigned sigh. "This is like when Harry babbles about some comicbook thing only he knows about."

    "I give her credit for staying pretty up to date on all the geek stuff, given her handicap." Scanning the neighboring buildings, I frowned. The warehouse was not alone on its block, but even with deepening twilight it was still a bit bright for a second story job.

    "At first, I thought it was just Harry's ire towards vampires. I mean he once dressed up as a cheesy lame vampire to a Red Court ball. And that was before the war."

    I gave him a quick look before pondering my ingress. As much as my sister's yelling of Parkour was annoying, and not actually Parkour, that art had its purposes.

    Thomas drummed the steering wheel. "That started the war. And he liked being high and mighty over my sister Lara, which, given some of the stuff the White Court gets up to... not to mention her issues with the Black Court."

    Using my wings, I could simply fly over there, but again stealth. Still, it was not like I was lacking in climbing or vertical leap. Even by succubus standards, I was at the top, which was the whole point of training.

    "But ever since she came back... as a she, she's been looking down her nose even more at Lara. Mostly because it tweaks my sister, but...." He eyed me, a bit of silver glinting in his gaze. "I mean Lara sees Dresden as a challenge but also..."

    I set my jaw and let out a small growl that might have had a bit of a purr to it. He was being distracting.

    "But you're all like this aren't you? Egotistical and proud?"

    I wanted to roll my eyes and give a dismissive snuff. Which would have proved his point. And that was not the only thing I wanted but there were more pressing matters.

    Visiting my grandmother, spending time in her Palace, and seeing just what House BlackSky was all about was... well in some ways it was a humbling experience. But mostly in the context of showing what an elder demoness could accomplish with enough intelligence, will, and time.

    I bowed my head to him. "This is your city. I'm following your lead. Heck, you got us here with your magical skills."

    "Yes..." Blinking, Thomas turned suspicious. "What are you buttering me up for?"

    I laughed. He did smell delicious. "I'm guessing I'm better at second story work than you are, and since you're local you'd probably get more out of any paperwork a dumpster dive would turn up."

    He stared.

    "Come on pretty boy, you don't like to get dirty?" I teased.

    "Now can we talk about 'phrasing'?" he asked, throwing my previous comment back at me.

    I nodded. "Fair, come on, let's get to sneaking," I waited for him to slow down, hopped out the door, and started walking. I wasn't going to get too far ahead. Besides there was a parking spot just down the block he could use.

    End Chapter 1

    The concept of this story came when I thought about how Ranma, chaotic ball of destruction would do in Dresden's Chicago, but without much of her support structure, and instead decided to go for local help.

    And what better "local guide" for her than Thomas. Especially given both are close to their sibling. The whole story was written well before Peace Talks came out, and I was happy that only some slight revisions were required. Mostly to add in things about Thomas, Lara, and Lara's new hire that fit too well to not add in.

    I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf. Special thanks to J St C Patrick for going through this with impressive speed. The other 3 parts are written and are just being edited right now.

    I am also working on a long-form essay that documents the structure and organization of the Imperial Legions and Household Fleet of House BlackSky. Lot of information about Succubus Legionaries and Demonic zeppelins.
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 2
    Sunshine Temple

    Sunshine Temple Not too sore, are you?

    Oct 8, 2016
    Likes Received:
    And here's a Halloween Treat!

    Our Sister, The Idiot.
    A Ranma, Sailor Moon, Dresden Files fic thingy.
    By Sunshine Temple

    Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:

    Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. And the Dresden Files is owned by Jim Butcher.

    Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

    Temporary Backup Site.

    Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

    C&C as always is wanted.

    Our Sister, The Idiot.

    Chapter 2: Roughly Foreplay

    Entering the alley, I had to control my frustration. It helped that I had experience in, for lack of a better term, "Harry wrangling."

    Compared to my brother, who was functionally a Gandalf on cocaine and Monster Energy Drink, the redhead was more manageable. Which.... was good?

    Though, I hardly had time to grab my gear and weapons. I glanced down the alleyway; there did not seem to be any obvious cameras.

    The warehouse wasn't on fire. So if Harry were here, then the fighting had not gotten started in earnest. Though now that I was in the building's deep shadow, that did not seem like a bad idea. Up close, the feeling of bad-mojo was as thick as the cloying spice-like smell of old blood and flesh that had dried out mid-rot.

    What a wonderful place to visit after sunset. Though my brother had given me something that could help, maybe.

    Nobody in their right mind wanted to be here.

    So, of course, the redhead was standing on the second story landing of a fire-escape. The demon leaned against the railing and, given the wall itself was between her and the few streetlights, she was quite well-obscured in shadows. Even her crimson tresses were blending in.

    Pulling out Mother's pentacle, I glanced around. Yeah, it was still being pulled to the building. I looked up at her. The retractable ladder was rusted up, the walls were aged but smooth concrete, and even the dumpster was too far to use as a jumping point. I could get up, but not without leaning on my Hunger.

    "You smelling anything?" I quietly asked, counting on her hearing to pick up my voice.

    "There's definitely a succubus in there, smells familiar but there's... other magic futzing up the smell. Bad stuff," she replied in the same whisper. She had that much professionalism.

    I nodded. The dumpster was a dark blue rusted heap that had leaked all sorts of treacly black goo. I was actually relieved that the pentacle was pointing away from it. I gestured to the dumpster inquiringly.

    She spread her hands as if to say: be my guest. At least this angle gave me a good view of her legs. Though something seemed different about her skirt.

    I sighed. And opened the dumpster. My night vision was good enough that I could see in the meager light offered by the lampposts. It was full of slashed boxes, shredded paper, and dismembered body parts and bones. The predatory part of me gave it a clinical eye, and I saw it for what it was: almost all bovine and porcine.

    But not all. Oh, there was nothing so obvious as a human skull or an intact hand or part of a rib cage. But someone experienced with anatomy, be it from the polka doctor's side of the street or my side, would see it for what it was.

    So, they only wanted to fool casual garbage collectors. They probably greased a few palms to have the dumpster's contents not looked at too closely. Chicago was both a corrupt and entrepreneurial place, so the various service providers in the "cleaning" business were as cutthroat as they were creative.

    Meatpackers in this city had been dicing up bodies for generations. Sure, almost all of them worked on ones that walked on four legs and hooves, but that didn't mean they didn't have generations of experience with bribes and making problems go away.

    I took in the age of the various bits. And counted up the number of bodies it would take to fill this dumpster's... sampler pack. Counting all the species, it was quite the feast.

    "Yeah, whoever's in the warehouse is catering for quite the group," I stated.

    Unsurprised, the demon just nodded.

    The question was what had eaten all that meat. Ghouls were always hungry and did not care how fresh their flesh was. And practically every supernatural critter could feed on humans in some way or another.

    Coming out of full shadow, she leaned forward on the railing. I could see that she was wearing some sort of grey and olive-drab armored vest laden with pouches and gear, a heavy, stiff pleated skirt, and some type long-antennae-like ribbons sprouting from a dull red gem on her chest.

    "Are we still sneaking or is it time to get loud?" she asked as her spade-tipped tail flicked about.

    I eyed her getup and sighed. At least my guns and blades were bigger than hers. Though, I was glad I had slung my sawed-off shotgun over a shoulder strap so it hung just inside my coat. Without that, she would have outclassed me given that monstrous pistol strapped to her side was bigger than my Desert Eagle.

    I had seen Dresden's armor trick, had spent some time around the fae, and fought the Denarians, thus it was not too shocking to see a demoness shift form and clothes. Though, I was taken aback that a magical girl's outfit could look so... functional.

    "Need help getting up?" she asked with a sly smile, pulling a slim phone out of her vest.

    "Really?" I exhaled.

    Typing in a few things, the demon stepped back and gestured.

    Dipping into my own demon, I pulled power and jumped. I might not be as tall as my brother, but I had him beat when it came to a vertical leap. Shooting up, I cleared the fire escape's railing and softly landed on the metal grating.

    Eyeing the display, the redhead gave a shrug.

    Right. Succubus. Dresden had also gone through some upgrades herself. Empty Night, if that fight with that naughty nurse ninja was half as crazy as Andi said it was, then she had gotten a major upgrade. At least I was still stronger than my little brother.

    "Good, I was worried I'd have to carry you up." Ranma smirked, pocketing her device.

    "We can't all be extra agile demons."

    Giving a contemptuous flick of her tail, the redhead rolled her eyes. "Please, I could have gotten three stories up as a human." She then bounded up to the next flight in utter silence.

    Following her up was not an unpleasant experience. She still looked more or less human.

    I did have to try to not be the loud and clumsy one as we went from the fire escape to the roof.

    Crouching down, nearly invisible in the lee of the parapet that ran around the edge of the flat roof, the demoness scanned the various rooftop machinery, pipes, doors, and murky skylights.

    The rank greasy feeling of dark magic increased, sending prickling coldness down my back.

    She lifted a hand hold and sniffed the air, gestured towards an access door, and then made the cover-me hand signal. At least I thought it was, hopefully hand gestures matched up as well as our English did.

    Following behind a few paces, I watched her inspect the door, run her hand over the frame, and then wait and listen. After a few seconds, she eyed the lock, extended a glowing talon, and inserted it into the keyhole. There was a quiet hiss as metal sheared and she eased the door open a quarter inch.
    There was a slight click and some rustle of metal parts, but the hinge didn't squeal. She motioned back for me, and opened the door just enough for her diminutive frame to slip through.

    The demoness might be arrogant, but at least she could be professional.


    I heard the vampire's footsteps thud behind me. At least he was trying and he was better than BlackStone... not counting when she used magic.

    It probably wouldn't take too much training to sharpen his skills. But there wasn't time for that.

    The rooftop door went to a set of stairs that went down to a long open space that overlooked the warehouse floor.

    Decaying grey cubicle walls were piled to my left, a bunch of battered metal desks were in front of a couple gutted offices on the right, and there was a pile of old chairs by the metal stairs that presumably went down to the ground floor.

    The cubicle walls were precariously leaning against a half-wall that acted as the mezzanine's guardrail. Even in the dark, there would have been a commanding view of the warehouse.

    Doubtless, that was useful when this place was an active business. Managers could keep an eye on the workers and inventory.

    Or maybe the office space was installed up here to free up more floor space on the ground floor.

    Either way, I did not simply amble up and check out the view. Despite there being no lights up here, and only dim lights below, going to the edge was a sure way to silhouette oneself and make an obvious target.

    My nose wrinkled; the incubus and I were not the only supernatural predators in here.

    He had stilled behind me. That is gone utterly still. Handy, that was quiet enough.

    I centered myself and took in the scents. The stink of blood and dark magic rose up. It was a mix of types and ages. There were human, not so human, and utterly inhuman scents down there.

    However, there was no scent, no feeling of my sister. The closest I got was the smell of succubus blood and a slight... pull.

    Voices came up from below. Like the scents there was human, not so human, and utterly inhuman.

    "We are not ready," a female, reedy, but human-sounding, voice said.

    "You mean, you are not," the flat, not quite human, voice replied. A bit deeper, her tones were stitched together, like a sentence made out of audio clips.

    "I am not the only one challenged. This blood is complicated to simulate," the first woman said.

    "But delicious," the third voice buzzed. It was female in only the loosest definition, more of a raspy, dry buzz.

    "We all have better ways to sate our hungers," the second voice sighed.

    "Like the Stygian knows of true Thirst," the third voice laughed.

    I could feel Thomas' emotions turn flat. His heartbeat was not racing yet, but his focus was raised, and a bit of fear wafted from him.

    Well, there were more people in the room than those three. They were silent, some unnaturally silent.

    "My servants need feeding, much as yours," the Stygian sniffed.

    "My children," the third clarified.

    "Silence. You are both meat for the True Magic," the first voice, smugly stated.

    I tensed. This was the challenge: continue to gather intel or go active. The longer we waited, the more we learned. But that came with risks: we could get discovered. And surprise was crucial when dealing with magic folks.

    There was also that the longer we waited, the worse things could be for our sister, but since neither of us could hear her mouthing off, she was either not here, or unconscious, or...

    I concentrated and drew in focus. My father's legacy was not perfect; it was not quite the stealth spells my little sister could do, but it was impressive in its own right.

    "Meat? It has been a long time since I, or one of my line, have been called meat, Macellaia," the third voice buzzed.

    "Doubtful, that corpse is what two decades old?" Macellaia, the first voice, laughed. "Please vampire, I know bodies, and yours has just started to age. You lean too heavily on your sire."

    "Mavra has done more with your master's legacy than you ever will," the buzzing voice hissed.

    "Do not speak of Kemmler that way!"

    "Stop! We are getting distracted; do not fight the Macellaia," the Stygian stated. "Today's test was a failure."

    "Not entirely. The Stygian Sisterhood does teach plodding but reasonable spell-casting. And we got some connection on the apparatus," Macellaia stated.

    "And that is why it is a failure. My minions have earned their meat today, they confirmed that our target is not in the city," the Stygian's voice was calm, if uneven. There might have been a grumble of a moan from her minions, or perhaps one of the other woman's goons.

    The vampire gave a raspy chuckle. "Thus our little toy could not have worked."

    "Unless our target has found books other than the Word." the Macellaia murmured.

    "We have no conformation," the vampire stated.

    "That was before the wizard became one of them."

    "Regardless. We have no evidence she is using any of the True Art to baffle our methods." the Stygian said.

    "Yes, and in that case any connections would be anomalous. By the Night," Macellaia swore.

    I frowned. If our sister were the target of their little magic-whatever, then that meant she was no longer in the city. Which meant someone else had gotten her out of Chicago.

    That also meant that this little cabal was aware of Thomas' bout of thaumaturgy. Something that could simulate as our sister's pentacle, and required simulating her blood. That was a reasonable supposition, her winter fae nature gave her blue, and delicious, blood.

    The trio was a danger. Pattern V's had a range of capabilities depending on type. The Stygian, well... the title alone was ominous, and there was something wrong with her. Both she and the vampire had minions, hungry minions. And the Macellaia. A human in this snakepit?

    One who had skills on crafting a magical item, and the ability to analyze thaumaturic connections, who was an expert with blood and corpses? The whole "True Magic" was also a bit of a clue.

    "Still, we can figure out what we were connecting to, and refine our model. Mindful that our blood supplies are finite," Macellaia's tone sharpened.

    "Of that type of blood," the vampire allowed.

    "There is something, familiar... ah, still we have plenty of work," the Stygian said. "Macellaia, can you pinpoint the problem?"

    I did not like that pause. I glanced back to Thomas, then, looking forward, made a couple hand motions.

    "Yes, perhaps with some help," Macellaia said.

    But I was sure that was just cover. They were suspicious. Something had set them off.

    There was no reason to lose the element of surprise.

    Drawing, I bounded over the railing. I had a bare moment to get eyes on the trio: the Stygian, the Vampire, the Macellaia. I also had another moment to study their retinues.

    The Stygian was a dark-haired tall woman of surprising beauty in a green suit. The Vampire was a desiccated corpse, it wore a rotted dress that seemed to have once had sequins and broad shoulders and had faded to a grey no-color.

    The Macellaia was a pixyish, almost cute, woman with a ash-blonde pageboy and bright sweater and a set of tights. They stood around a large magic circle that bore a set of blue crystals and little vials of red blood and other fluids.

    I lined up the glowing sights on my target.

    I fired three shots and then followed up with a sustained burst of purple light from my eyes. I already was lined up.

    I had a moment of satisfaction seeing the Macellaia's chest blow apart just before her head was sliced by burning beams.

    When in doubt: kill the lead spellslinger first.

    The others reacted and everything went to hell.


    At least the crazy redhead had the courtesy of giving me notice before she decided to go all kung fu movie.

    I'm an incubus and no slouch when it comes to a fight. Clearing the wall and managing the fall were trivial. I caught a brief bit of recognition in the Stygian's face as I gave her both barrels of my shotgun.

    The presence of one of her kind made this an Oblivion matter, and made my job a lot more of a challenge. The operative word in the phrase "Secret War" is secret.

    Alas, things were not quite so much of a kung fu movie and the impact did not fling Stygian the backwards. Two loads of 12 gauge buckshot is a lot force, but not enough to propel a body. There was a reddish splash and flare around her that might have been blood or might have been magic of some kind.

    I was a bit distracted when the Black Court Vampire's minions and the Stygian's ghouls charged in. The common muscle for hire in the supernatural world, ghouls were stronger than humans and far more ravenous.

    There was a bitter laugh as I gave the demon a quick glance. "You wanted 'real' vampires?" I asked holding my empty shotgun in one hand and the handle to my cavalry saber in the other.

    Making a vaguely apologetic grunt, the redhead called down some kind of fire magic as a group of obsidian and purple spheres blew apart the magic circle of blood containing giant silver pentacle inscribed in the center. Between that and the necromancer she dropped, her instincts weren't bad.

    "Tourists," I snorted, stepping a bit further from her. I had seen some of the additions to Harry's fighting style, or maybe my brother was taking Murphy's lessons to heart.
    Giving the redhead some space seemed... prudent. I checked my jacket pocket, if we needed some light, I had us covered.

    The redhead tilted her head. "I should have asked for something interesting...."

    The corpse in the rotted, tattered 80's dress gave a dry rasp. "I don't care who you are little girl! I'm going to-"

    "Suck my blood?" Ranma's grin grew as her lips parted. Teeth gleamed in the dank warehouse as her stance shifted slightly. Her eyes took on the motley crew of swaying corpses and thralls.

    Pulling herself up, the Stygian held up a hand and stared at me as her ghouls pulled her bleeding form back to her feet. Yeah... we had met. Great... I had killed a few of her sisters, that made this personal. I managed to reload.

    "A baby frog still with its tail, says 'I'm lucky' in the face of the serpent," the demon growled, as her eyes flashed. Horns slid out and her wings and tail appeared..

    "Harry said you didn't quip much," I muttered, which caused her to chuckle. It was a deep unnerving noise that shouldn't come from such a tiny woman.

    The Black Court vampire blinked clouded, glassy eyes. "What? You're-" he hissed.

    "You done goofed." And that's when the crazy redhead laughed as she charged a Scourge of Black Court vampires. I'd like to think the brazen insanity of it caught them off guard and slowed their reaction, but I barely had enough time to raise my shotgun before the vampire goons shot into motion.

    The Stygian's ghouls came in right behind leaving the vampire's human fodder, her Renfields, charging just behind.


    I'm going to state it clearly for the record. Do not get into close quarter combat with Black Court Pattern V's. If you can avoid it. Avoid it.

    They have weaknesses. Like, the classic vampire ones.

    Take advantage of them.

    However, I was frustrated and wanted to take it out on these magical clods. The primary spellslinger was down, but the other two had some ability.

    The vampire's minions were fast. They were still fresh, mostly wet, with only a bit of bloat and decay. The smell was rank, but could have been worse. A trio tried to box me in. My tail lashed out slicing a hand apart before lancing through a dirty jumpsuit and spilling out entrails and viscera.

    Filmy eyes looked in confusion but it didn't react with any pain. I twisted away and flensed its face off with my tail. With flashing speed, its remaining hand snapped forward and managed to grab my tail a few centimeters from the tip

    It was like being squeezed by a hydraulic press. I extended my filaments and, twisting the end of my tail, the other arm came apart. Though some fingers from the shredded hand were still trying to hold on.

    Despite the horrific damage, the creature was still ambulatory. But its sense of sight and smell had to have been damaged.

    Giving guttural growls the two other "fresh" vampires bounded forward like a freight train. One wore another drab jumpsuit, the other was in a brown security guard's uniform.

    The former guard looked at his bloodied and flensed, but mobile companion, and leered with yellowed, malformed teeth. "You'll have to do more than-"

    I spun over and slammed a boot into his knee. Supercharged though they may be, these vampires were still using human joint structure. His leg buckled as the whole force of my body hit the side of his knee.

    The vampire was stronger than me, but that one joint was not stronger than my entire body.

    There was a wet pop and that leg gave way.

    There was a blur and I dropped out of his gnashing teeth. My arm went up but blocking was impossible, he had too much strength, instead I pushed my forearm against his neck.

    The action did less to move him and more to force me away.

    He wobbled, but I had enough distance. Hissing, he glanced back down at his wrecked leg.

    I exploited the pause shouting, "DarkStar Burst!" and blew apart his other knee.

    The vampire howled as he flopped to the ground. The fresh one in the other jumpsuit just bounded over him.

    My vampire shouted something, and then got of a few more shots from his scattergun. Wow, the scent of ghoul guts was actually more disgusting than that of a fresh Black Court vampire.

    The lead vampire and her Stygian friend were up to something.

    "Thomas back!" I yelled as he did some fairly competent blade work. Clutching my hands, I summoned a brace of DarkStar Bursts, full power ones this time.

    After the orbs flew off, flames flew around me. The fresh vampire goon attacked once more. Motion blurred and I went with the blow just enough to be knocked back. It hurt like being bounced off a car, but was better than being crushed between a car and a brick wall.

    Screaming as blood poured out from my lips, I angled my arm down, focused, and shot out a lance of fire. Wet bloated meat sizzled and peeled back. After a moment bone broke and charred out and the creature's withered heart exploded as the purple jet blasted out its back.

    Face going slack, the vampire slumped down. The purple flames chewed through more of his chest before I cut them out.

    Back and to my left, Thomas' sword swung down and took the head from the one I had rendered legless.

    The ravening, slavering human minions and the remaining ghouls advanced. The latter had pulled out some cheap Eastern European sub gun. Behind them was the master vampire and her Stygian friend.

    My eyes darted down and I swore. I wanted to hit those two, but I knew which targets were the immediate priority. A rain of black orbs slammed into the gunmen and their ghouls. Silver flames and black and purple napalm struck home and they died messily. At least I got a bit of energy from them.

    And that's when the Stygian and her friend made their move.

    Bands of compressed air fell around my torso and legs squeezing them; it felt like being squeezed by a giant hand. I flashed out with my eyes and scoured over those two.

    The spell released but not before the flayed vampire grabbed me. And I felt what it was like to truly be crushed. My armor distorted, ribs shattered, and limbs broke. One arm went down and I yowled as my femurs snapped. He tried to bite down, but I had sort of removed his jaw and most of his face.

    Fortunately, he was much taller than me. And was distracted. Thomas came in and with his saber removed the vampire's head. The undead thing was still treating me like a toothpaste tube as my vision started to go spotty and tunnel.

    My tail flicked up and went into the gaping stomach wound and shredded upward and flicked about until it found the heart.

    The vampire's arms went loose and my tail flicked out in a rain of rotted gore. I also fell to my knees in a boneless heap. Thomas grabbed the handle on the back of my armor and started dragging me away.



    "Empty Night," I swore pulling the groggy demon lady and trying to reload my shotgun one-handed.
    Okay groggy was being generous. She looked like she had been hit by a bus and then run over by it. And the blood trail she was leaving was very obvious. Still, I had pulled us to a back room of the warehouse by the loading dock.

    Upside, she had managed to clear out most of the goons. And the Stygian and her Black Court friend were not happy. Downside, I could hear more goons coming inside. They smelled human at least. Mostly.

    Renfields were psychotic nightmares. Enthralled humans with utterly broken minds and nothing left but homicidal violence. But... well it could be worse.

    Meanwhile, I had a bloody mess on my hands.

    Who was now starting to chuckle.

    "Give me that," she demanded, snatching my shotgun away she fished a few shells out of my jacket pocket and snapped them into the breach before passing the scattergun back up.

    Her earrings flashed and her breathing got a bit less ragged.

    After I pulled her a few more steps her feet started to scrabble and her boots gained purchase.

    "Thanks," she glanced up at me, purple eyes luminous. She gave a few deep breaths that had an ominous rattle to them. Then she coughed and horked up a bloody mass of gristle and chunks of bone.

    "Are you okay?" I asked.

    "I'm hungry, you doof," she growled. Her face was grey and her cheeks were hollowed as if she were half starved. Which... she probably was.

    "Right," I checked my shotgun and my Desert Eagle. I glanced at the giant pistol strapped to her thigh. It figures it was these girls who got my dorky brother more ammo for her giant revolver.

    "No Dresden," I added.

    She gave me a flat gaze.

    "No, I don't mean we can apologize and they'll let us go."

    The demoness rolled a shoulder and ruffled a wing. There were a lot of clicking pops from her joints. Giving me a dirty look, she reached into her vest.

    "And no, I don't think we should sneak out and forget about these folks. They're bad news. There was a reason my spell connected to this place. They've got some sort of nasty bit of thaumaturgy planned for our sister."

    "And you know the Stygian," the redhead pulled out a slip of paper with a smirk.

    Empty Night. Why did she have to be observant? "Yeah, I've tangled with them. Nasty group, they cut out bits of their personalities and replace them with psyches from monsters. They might have a beef with Harry too. He sort of bumbled into one of their schemes, not that he knew it at the time."

    I was not going to go into any more detail. The Oblivion War was not something you mentioned to well... anyone. I was twitchy sharing information with other Venators, and that was not just because my sister Lara was the only one I really had any contact with.

    The whole nature of the Oblivion War centered around locking down certain information. That was the point. I'll just point out that while that immortals, gods, are nigh invulnerable to physical damage, they grow in power the more mortals know of them and worship them.

    Draw your own conclusions about how a group fighting a war of secrets and information denial could hurt such beings. And now consider why a demon from another dimension seemed like one of the worst people to talk to about said war.

    I then noticed the intricately folded slip of paper in the redhead's hand. Flowing Japanese characters were written on it and the pure white paper seemed to glow in the gloom. At the top of the paper streamer was a silver nail.

    I blinked at her. "Really?"

    She gave me a quizzical look, then sniffing the air gave a toothy grin.

    My response was cutoff when a blurred figure trailing dull sequins like a drab comet bust out into the room.

    The other vampires were fast and terminator strong. But they were fresh, still wet. Recent turns. The leader of this scourge had been around for two or three decades.

    I had seen older Black Court Vampires, but I was not reckless enough to directly fight them. Still, there was an edge I could give in this fight.

    The redhead was slower than the vampire, but she had a grace and economy of motion to slip past the vampire's attacks. Between the Ginsu demonstration using claws and tail, the laser eye and fireball death show and even favoring one hand, the succubus managed to keep the vampire from landing a blow.

    Though in return, the vampire also largely avoided the demon's attacks and seemed to be far tougher with a body as hard as jerky, or old lumber.

    I was a bit distracted by another group of Renfields, a few were smart enough to have grabbed the bloody guns the ghouls had tried to use. Their focus was on the flickeringly-fast fight that was not-so-slowly setting the room aflame.

    The redhead twisted and put the vampire between herself and the subguns. One ghoul blazed away and dumped his mag off, with most of the rounds hitting the ceiling. The other used controlled bursts but still seemed to land more rounds in the vampire than the demon.

    Not that either seemed to care. Must have been some kind of small pistol round. That or the demon's armor had some sort of advanced impact plates. Still, when they changed mags, that was the one I aimed my shotgun at, using both rounds to blow away everything above the collarbones.

    The other I raced up to and ran through with my saber. I reached into my pocket and my hand felt soft, slightly warm silk. I was about to throw it.

    And that's when the Stygian stepped out of the shadows I was hit by a web of greasy dark energy.

    I hit the ground and thrashed. Great... she wanted me alive.

    The vampire laughed and slowing down to speak turned to Ranma her withered face lit up. "Little phage do you not know the bounty of blood you dropped-"

    There was a slap as the demoness had used the base of her palm to hammer the nail and the prayer strip right into the vampire's forehead.

    The creature's eyes seemed to turn cross-eyed and it made a move to tear the strip away. "Fool, you need faith to-"

    And that's when the strip blew into blinding silver-light. The vampire screamed as her face started to sizzle and she locked up.

    The demoness bounded up and with the vampire yowling and thrashing in place, kicked her in the chest. There was a cracking noise like twigs and sticks and several bones in the dried corpse snapped.

    On the follow through of the strike, she leveraged a claw down and raked it, slicing apart the gown and the shattered ribs. The silver light began to dim and the vampire surged forward.

    Right onto the demon's outreached hand. A pair of black orbs shot out. One hitting the vampire exploding in flaming shards. The pierced black heart burst into flames and the vampire flopped to the ground as the other orb flew off towards the ceiling.

    Older Black Court vampires were rather dry and could go up quickly. This one gave the scent of old rawhide, and the chemical rank of pressure treated wood.

    The demoness stepped over the charring corpse and pointed at the Stygian.

    Flat-eyed, the woman twisted and put up a sickly yellow energy shield about the size of a buckler as if to block anything coming from demon's finger.

    Three more of the jump suited vampires shuffled out of the shadows and stood a few steps behind the Stygian. Dirt hung to them in clumps. They must have slept in a bit past sunset. Their dead eyes looked at the burning form of its sire with seemingly no emotion.

    The Black Court had an even more messed up "family" dynamic than the White Court.

    That.... somber moment was interrupted by that black orb with its purple flames returning in a downward stroke.

    The vampires hissed, their eyes turning yellow, and with a jerky movement the ragged figures threw themselves between the demonic orb and their new mistress.

    The orb twisted its trajectory but it was too late to avoid all of them and it blew a large chunk out of the one vampire's shoulder, cut off the top of another's head, and left the last one's arm hanging by a strip of ropey muscle. They snarled and charged at the demoness while the Stygian pulled back to the flames.

    Flicking her fingers, the Stygian smirked before she vanished from view. "And the Macellaia thought I wasn't intelligent enough to lean some of her tricks."

    My breathing got better as the spell binding me began to fade. My hand was still in my coat pocket, but now I could draw out my brother's gift. She had been very eager to show it off last week. And while Dresden did not say anything specific, she's a wizard; they can't not be cryptic when it comes to giving magical items.

    I grabbed and threw the white silk handkerchief. It fluttered in the air. And for a split second both the demon and the black court vampires seemed to freeze in mid-air.

    Then it bloomed into warm golden light. It wasn't the silvery light of faith. That was not my cup of tea. No, it was actual sunlight. Dresden had a way of capturing and storing the stuff.


    The three vampires screamed and their skin started to sizzle. Their attention split between me, the hanky, and the demoness.

    It was all the opportunity she needed. Whipping out another prayer strip, she jumped over the mini-scourge and nailed it to the head of the vampire in the back, who was the most shaded from the sunlight.

    His scream grew, but I was already up with my saber and went right after the one closest to me. That unfortunate former security guard took the full brunt of the sunlight and was clawing at its face. Both the clawed fingers were smoking, and its eye sockets were smoking holes. My saber took off both its head and hands.

    That left the one in the middle, which the redhead hit with another prayer strip while burning through the chest cavity of the first one.

    I readied my sword for another strike on the middle vampire. But found that the combination of sunlight and faith magic had caused it to crumble. I still took its head. And stomped the ashen remains of its chest.

    "Damn Red, we've still gotta get the Stygian but..." I trailed off when I saw that the demon had crouched over one of the Renfields. At first I thought she was trying to relieve the corpse of its gun.

    But then I saw the blood on her face and heard the familiar sounds of flesh being sliced apart and chewing. Her tail flicked about and she lowered head in and took a few bites as she economically ripped out some organs.

    "Tastes a bit funny," she noted then casually ripped a chunk of flesh of the other Renfield and ate that.

    "Maybe it's from hanging around with ghouls and other nasty creatures that'll happily eat us," I stated.

    "Maybe," she ate a few more organs and stood up, wiping her mouth. "Oh sorry, you want any?" she asked waving a chunk of liver.

    "Uh, not exactly my taste," I sighed.

    "Right, because he's already dead," she noted, chowing down. I did wonder how someone so small could pack it all in. Though a bit of her color did seem to return, and she looked less... gaunt.

    "Sure, let's go with that," I picked up the handkerchief; its glow had started to fade.

    "Come on let's finish off the Stygian, then! You get first dibs," the redhead slapped me on the back.


    You would think a vampire wouldn't be so squeamish. Especially, one who helped my little sister on so many missions.

    Still, he was capable, despite the hunger I could readily feel eliminating from him. It was... well it did not help that I was hungry too.

    I paused to spit. Even by the bland standards of human meat, they were a bit off. Maybe it was as Thomas said.

    Maybe, it was due to their bosses doing something to them.

    Either way, we were down to one of them left and we ran to catch up to her.

    The smoke got thicker as we ran back towards the main room of the warehouse. I crouched down, both for cover and because the air was better.

    The taller vampire had a bit harder of a time.

    Maybe that helped sooth his pride when I pulled ahead of him. Longer legs and vampire super-strength are all well and good, but practice is what makes the difference.

    There's no innate physicality or skill level that cannot be sharpened by proper training. I'm sure my proper and pedantic sister could cite beings of such power or complete knowledge that there'd be no realistic enhancement from training.

    But a pretty-boy vampire in too-tight pants ain't one of them. Still, I knew he was squared-away enough to not accidentally shoot me in the back when things went sideways. That said despite being crushed my armor was still in good shape, thanks Mom. And I did have a plate in back between my wings that would block his weapons.

    I sent off a pair of DarkStar Bursts to scout ahead. There was a reception area on the ground floor underneath and past the mezzanine. There was less fire there. Mostly due to the work of a couple ghouls with a handful of fire extinguishers.

    But it was what the Stygian was doing that made me smirk and give a couple hand-signals to Thomas. Ambushes were fun.

    My little sister has some very good advice on Primes, on spellslingers. Granted, most of it is advice for spellslingers. But to become proficient in a technique requires learning its counters.

    And for most all magic users the primary issue is time. The longer they have to prepare the more devastating they can be. This is even true for extemporaneous casters.

    And by that I, and not any nosy sisters editing this, mean is people like Pattern Silvers, Pattern D's, or any other group with a magical ability that is functionally innate.

    Honestly, giving someone without any magical ability time to prepare makes them more dangerous. The difference is that a Prime, a Practitioner can summon, literally, all sorts of hazards.

    Which is why when my orbs flittering among the flames detected our target stopping and taking a stand, instead of doing the sensible thing and exiting the building...

    I exited the building.

    Unable to keep a grin off my face, I slipped out a fire door. It was appropriate. Though from the drag marks, it looked like the warehouses residents were using it as a way to dispose of their leftovers. The door dropped us into the same alley this mess had started in.

    Thomas gave me a confused look and I wagged a finger and shook my head. Of course I wasn't running.
    Silly vampire.

    The main entrance was around the side of the building. There were a few sirens and blaring alarms, but not much else. Which seemed about right for this part of this city. Smoke was streaming out of the roof in several places, and the scent of various building materials starting to burn filled the air.

    The road was open in front of the building. No sound of running cars. No one outside. Empty street.

    My vampire had followed behind me. Good.

    My DarkStar Bursts had floated a bit higher and further away, just enough to see that the Stygian had her spell ready, and that even ghouls got a bit twitchy when standing in a burning building.

    But they were in the reception area, and the exit was right behind them. They were almost out, escape was at hand.

    Realization dawning, Thomas gave a wolfish smile. And I motioned for him to take a position behind a car a dozen meters away from the front doors.

    I held up a hand then began to count down. When it hit zero I lowered all but one of my DarkStar Bursts to about chest height and sent them on a straight horizontal at the Stygian.

    Her shield flashed as the orbs were disturbed and there was a booming retort as she loosed her spell down that fatal funnel.

    Impressively, she turned back, grabbed a backpack and motioned to her ghouls. The two remaining goons opened the doors.

    I held a hand to Thomas in a waiting motion, and I could feel the vampire's irritation.

    Then there was the sound of a revving vehicle racing down the road. It was out of sight but someone was approaching hot.


    Thomas' quiet expletive-laden muttering all but confirmed he had prior experience with the Stygian Sisterhood. Fine.

    Motioning to him, I pointed to the entrance then I pointed to the road.

    His shotgun roared and he pounced.

    With a jump I was in midair. And with a flap of my wings I gained more altitude. And got onto the side of the warehouse before grabbing the edge of the roof.

    And then spotting the speeding truck come in, I immediately pushed off and took to the air again.

    An advantage of an industrial area after dark was that the roads were pretty empty.

    A drab truck, marginally luxury vehicle, was being driven at reckless speed. I sniffed the air, maybe there was something inhuman in there, but between the smoke and everything else I could not be sure.

    They did speed up when they saw that a gunfight had started on the stairs of the warehouse.

    I adjusted my trajectory before I pulled my wings back, extended my claws, and hit the roof. Without a solid target identification, launching a ranged attack seemed unwise. The vehicle immediately swerved and slammed on the brakes.

    If this was an unmarked police car that happened to be responding to a building on fire, then things would get awkward.

    I scrambled over and was rewarded by a snarling ghoulish face in the driver's seat where the passenger had the window rolled down and was trying to lean another of those little Eastern-bloc subguns out the window.


    Instead of waiting for him to get a sensible angle and a half-way decent aim, I smashed the side window and landed in the lap of the ghoul at the wheel. These two stunk like carrion and he immediately snapped at me.

    I blocked with my left elbow into his jaw just to the side of the joint, breaking it, while my tail whipped around and sliced through his torso.

    Screaming, he flailed and tried to grab at me, I twisted and moved my elbow from his jaw and raked my claws through the passenger's neck. His head came off in a messy gush, adding more of the stench of their reeking blood.

    The driver's arms still reached for me. My left hand grabbed his left hand twisted his wrist past the point of rotation and broke his elbow while I stomped on his crotch and sheared through his upper arm with the return stroke of the claws on my right hand.

    Despite basically straddling his battered stinking body, the ghoul tried to attack. I was not sure if he wanted to head butt me or try to bite, despite having a broken jaw, but my patience was at an end.

    Twisting to face the windshield and taking the wheel, I flicked my tail and ran it through his neck straight from trachea to spine. The energy from their deaths was as greasy and filthy as the rest of them. My gorge rose a bit.

    It was crammed sharing the driver's seat with a corpse. I suppose that was an advantage of being short. Looking out, I smiled. In the second or two it took to take over the car, it had only wobbled a bit.

    Adjusting our direction and pumping the deadman's foot on the gas reversed the deceleration. I wanted more speed.

    Thomas was in trouble. That smirking Stygian stood over her last two minions. One was defiantly down by the vampire's hand the other... well judging by the yellow tendrils going from it to the Stygian.

    And then my introspection was cut short by over a ton of truck slamming into what was a mostly human body. Kinetic energy is kinetic energy. And unless your shields are truly impressive, you are going to notice that.

    I caught a instant of the Stygian being rammed as the hood of the truck was dented a bit by her before it crushed the woman against the wall. And then the airbag went off and blasted me back into the dead ghoul in a bloody heap.


    I blinked. Reloading the shotgun, my hands shook a bit. I blew apart the head of the still living ghoul, finishing him off. And for good measure did the same to the desiccated one the Stygian had been using as a battery.

    I turned and saw the wrecked truck which had missed me by mere feet. It was crumpled up against the wall with the Stygian reduced to a chunky smear splattered over the hood.

    The four doors of the truck were warped, and the remaining windows were crazed, but I could see it was full of blood in various shades, mostly ghoul brown.

    The windows to the front doors were down, or gone. And I saw a charnel house. The powder and residue from the air bags made the thing look worse. Then one of the bodies extricated herself and tumbled out of the window hole in a tight roll.

    The succubus coughed, her face looking nauseous as the interior of the truck started to burn.

    "You okay?" I knelt down.

    She gave me another look. There was a popping noise as she rotated her joints. She seemed to suffer mostly from blunt trauma. Whatever her armor was made out of there were no punctures from it due to the crash. If anything the bear hug from a Black Court vamp hurt her more.

    She looked past and nodded at the two ghouls I had killed "Make sure the Stygian's down."

    I eyed her but stood up and looked over the body. She was dead, but I still took care of her head and her backpack.

    After checking the bag and sighing at the slim volume within, I went back to the redhead. Honestly, if the Stygian Sisterhood wanted to release the Lexicon Malos there were better ways. Then again, my brother was more than a Warden. What if her demonic side of the family got a hold of this book? And they learned about the entities described within?

    Shaking my head, I returned to the redhead. She was busy vomiting on the sidewalk. It was a chunky mess that stank almost as much as all the ghouls.

    Ah, the glamour and allure of succubae. She could really pack it away.

    At first I wondered how such a little thing could eat so much. Now I knew, and I utterly regret ever thinking the question.

    She pulled out a canteen and snarled at its crushed and ruptured container. Slipping it back into her harness she leaned back on the side of the truck. "So, what next?" she asked, wiping at her mouth.

    "We should probably get away from the burning building and avoid being around when the police show up," I said.

    "Right." She shook her head. "No contract with local authorities."

    I raised an eyebrow at that. Harry said the redhead was some sort of contractor for a bunch of mercenaries, in addition to a magical demon girl, and her outfit did bear that out but...

    "Come on, you can rummage through the stuff you grabbed in there," she nodded to the backpack I held and started walking down the street in the vague direction of my truck.

    She pulled out a phone, tried to power it on, tapped it for a bit, sighed, and slipped it back into a pouch. "Stupid magic," she sighed and took a small cylinder out of a pouch and tossed it onto the hood of the car in front of the Stygian's body. There was a pop and a hiss and a termite charge went off which soon caught the body and engine aflame.

    Well, someone was being thorough.

    "I take it your magic doesn't do that?" I asked, keeping an eye out as we went down the street. As we had just shown, ambushing when trying to flee the scene was a classic move.

    The redhead shook her head and started checking over her body.

    I smiled a bit, mostly because I kept a spare phone in my truck, for just such occasions.

    I watched as the demoness continued her self pat-down, until it dawned on me that she was checking for wounds. Well, serious wounds I suppose. Given the car accident had battered her about quite a bit, not to mention the injuries before that.

    "Well, that was a bust," she growled, kicking a chunk of brick.

    "And we should really get going," I said.

    She eyed the burning building and truck for a few moments then shrugged and started walking to where I had parked, like in full demonic magical mercenary regalia right on the street.

    I sighed and followed her. If the police ran into us, she probably wouldn't cause much of a scene...

    Her tail lazily swished as her wings fluttered.

    Right, she'd just fly off and leave me to get captured and interrogated. Course, my sister would hear word of it, as would Karin Murphy's cronies in Special Investigations, and I wouldn't be in too much trouble.

    "Can you be a bit more low-key?" I hissed in her ear when we got to my truck.

    The demon rolled her luminous purple eyes and there was a shimmer of violet light and shadows and she was back in her leather coat and pants. She looked a bit gaunt but had been freshened up. Even her hair had regained its body and bounce.

    My Hunger made itself more known. That she was lethal did make her more sexy. However to my dismay, I realized that my own clothes were still a mess. Stains from ghouls and undead ruined fabric.

    Worse, the redhead wrinkled her nose a bit.

    "Laugh it up."

    She shook her head. "Not that, I'm used to the smell of sweaty guys after a fight." The redhead chuckled to herself with another head-shake. "No, it's that fire."

    I turned back to the building. The smoke was getting rather thick, and I could hear more sirens. "This is your fault."

    Without any guilt or shame, she simply shrugged. At least Harry would be embarrassed or make excuses.

    Sighing, I unlocked my truck and dug into the box I kept spare phones in. I was going to have to call my older sister about this and not just the fire.

    "Though there's one thing we should check," the redhead added.

    End Chapter 2

    Dresden has a knack for collecting enemies, often without being aware of them. But this gave Thomas and Ranma a chance to bond. And each to see how much the other has in common with their erstwhile sibling.

    I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf. Special thanks to J St C Patrick for going through this so it can be a Halloween treat. The other 2 parts are written and are just being edited right now.

    And from Patrick we have Dresden's second choice of gift to Thomas
    Bonus it'll clean his clothes after getting icky ghoul blood on them.
    It takes the ick out of magic!

    And that long form essay that documents the structure and organization of the Imperial Legions and Household Fleet of House BlackSky? It's at 44,000 words and 27 sections. So there is a lot about BlackSky's legionaries and airships. Complimenting that are a fair number of diagrams and charts of the various units, vehicles, and airship classes.
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 3
    Sunshine Temple

    Sunshine Temple Not too sore, are you?

    Oct 8, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Our Sister, The Idiot.
    A Ranma, Sailor Moon, Dresden Files fic thingy.
    By Sunshine Temple

    Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:

    Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. And the Dresden Files is owned by Jim Butcher.

    Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

    Temporary Backup Site.

    Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

    C&C as always is wanted.

    Our Sister, The Idiot.

    Chapter 3: Dominating Climax

    I leaned on the passenger seat and glanced over at the vampire. The apprehension roiled off of him almost as much as his hunger. I did not expect his thaumaturgy trick to work a second time.

    In truth it did not really even work the first time, but we had to try it.

    "Necromancers and Black Court working together?" I asked after a couple blocks of silence.

    He brooded for a minute. I waited him out.

    "It's a natural fit, Red." he eventually said. "Black Court vamps are undead and can make more undead. Necromancers play in that same icky park. Besides, no reason a Black court vamp can't be a necromancer itself."

    "And the Stygian?" my tone was mild.

    Despite that, he increased pressure on the steering wheel. At least he did not look at that bookbag he stashed in his box of phones and knives.

    "Trouble. I told you: they replace parts of their minds with those of inhuman creatures. Skilled in magic too. One providing support to those corpse puppeteers is not a good thing."

    "They expected to gain control of Dresden," I stated.

    He snorted. "I mean, the Winter Queen herself can't bend Harry to her will. What luck did those bozos have?"

    "She's different now," I softly said.

    "If anything she's even more stubborn and headstrong. Not to mention harder to subdue. I mean she's a frikin' succubus," he snorted, with a bit of concealed ire.

    "A baby succubus."

    "Oh." Thomas continued to drive. "So... she's vulnerable?"

    I nodded.

    He eyed me. "To someone like you?"

    "To someone like me." I gave a sober nod. That was our great weakness. We can be controlled by our mothers, and any demon powerful enough to capture us and dominate our will could become our mother.

    He drummed the steering wheel. "You smelled something familiar."

    I shrugged. "They got a supply of succubus blood too. It's not impossible to get, but it's a valuable commodity."

    "They were trying to influence control her. How? Thaumaturgy?"

    "Maybe something in her food." I leaned back.

    "In her..." Thomas stared at me. "Those Renfields you puked up."

    "That's what they're called? Yeah, those crazy fuckers. It's another weakness of ours: we get hungry in fights."

    "Lots of supernatural creatures do that."

    "And we tend do eat our kills."

    "Lots of supernatural creatures do that," he repeated with a sigh.

    "But ghouls and vampires taste like shit. Renfields merely tasted funky."

    His gaze lingered over me, and I noticed the slight tensing of his muscles. He was fast, not terribly trained, but experienced. If he decided to start the violence here and now. Well... hopefully he'd remember that I can survive a car accident a lot better than he can.

    "We're on a schedule." I cocked my head. "Meeting first, fun later, maybe."

    Snorting, Thomas wrung his hands over the steering wheel. "Right. I've seen what kind of fun you like."

    I rolled my eyes. I mean, by Silvan standards... well, I really had no place calling Kasumi's tastes vanilla. Given everything, Lieutenant Tendo was remarkably flexible, in both mind and body.

    And Serenity... I had fed well on that trip.

    "Still... I'm not sure there was some phantom succubus," Thomas pondered.

    I glanced at him.

    "Couldn't she just takeover Harry's mind? I mean that's what you girls do right?"

    "Said the White Court incubus."

    "It's different. Yeah, my father controlled his daughters but that's because he had power to spare. Well, he did one time. Once his weakness was exposed, the tables turned and Lara used hers..." He nodded. "It's like that?"

    "It's not like Dresden is suddenly easier to dominate," I stated.

    "If you're not a Winter Queen," he frowned. "So, a weaker demoness? Using magical trickery to... drug her? Make Halley long and tall weaker?"

    "Why weaker? Dresden's stubborn, take every edge you can get. Mind magic's powerful; there's a reason it gets the wizards all freaked out. And the right thaumaturgy bond..." I spread my hands.

    "Some demon chick getting control of Harry?" He glanced over at me. "Can you imagine-"

    I smiled.

    "Right. Harry's still missing."

    I nodded. "But I doubt it's purely because of our sinister little demoness. Her crew hardly got started. I mean they were still bickering over their Words and mistresses doing a magical tail-measuring contest."

    He laughed but sobered. "If you knew who their bosses were."

    "Kemmler and Mavra and whoever trained your Stygian?"

    The vampire eyed me. His lip quirked again. "Sneaky. You play the kill-crazy martial monster, or the dismissive demoness but..."

    "It's no indulgent, indolent, lapsed vampire, wayward son, but it works."

    He put his attention back onto the road. "It's not that straightforward."

    "Nothing ever is with you supernatural types, it's all secrets and schemes," I grumbled.

    "Says the secret agent demon." Thomas' snort was subdued.

    I decided not to quibble with the whole contractor versus agent thing. Looking out, I tapped the window. "Aren't we meeting with a succubus operative from your family?"

    "Tania? An operative? Hah!" This time the vampire snorted and laughed. "Oh, Red you're in for a surprise."

    "Oh." I tried not to sigh. Part of this visit was to learn about things in my little sister's world. It was a secondary reason, but important. The eldest of my little sisters had her own tasks, but the primary was to get to BlackStone and tell her about events in Silvana: about Grandmother and Mother. Getting a lay of the land was just a bonus.

    Vampire politics and posturing was not something I had patience for. That said, at least the White Court were tastier than the Black Court.


    The coffee shop was closed. That was not too surprising; it was a bit high scale to be an All-Night greasy spoon style place.

    It was also a White Court asset. The demon wrinkled her nose a bit as we stepped in. People did more than get their coffee here.

    Okay, nothing actually happened on the premises. The House had places for direct access. But coffee shops were full of business people getting a cup of Joe, or taking a break to do some work, students doing the same, even soccer moms and divorcees. People of all ages came and... mingled.

    Again, nothing too overt. Even the social media page was squeakily clean. But there was a bulletin board to one side past the sparkling counter where people could put up fliers for services.

    That is if they got the approval of the staff.

    Honestly, Lara cared more about the networking and the power than the sex. Though for our kind one often followed another.

    The redhead turned and watched me as I relocked the door behind us, turned on the lights, made my way to the bathroom, where I washed up changed into the spare emergency clothes I kept in my truck. I then got a couple of the machines running. I had stashed the Stygian's backpack under the counter. Watching, she shot me a quizzical look and then wandered around the cafe until she found a phone mounted on the wall in a little alcove.

    It wasn't a pay phone, just an "anonymous" phone in case any customers needed to make a call. One that wouldn't show up on their call records, but would show up on ours.

    She dialed a number, waited, and left a brief message. I wondered if she had directly called her daughters or had left a message with a mailbox at some other line that they would periodically check. Maybe they had set it up as some sort of group voicemail.

    Still, that she was using a bugged White Court line had some sort of meaning. Did she want Lara to know about that number? Damn spies and their head-games.

    Seeming a bit more relieved, she sauntered back and watched me for a moment.

    "Yeah, Tania's late, big surprise," I grumbled.

    "Not that," she gestured to the espresso machine I was setting up.

    "Oh, when I ran a salon it had a coffee shop in the lobby. So, I had to learn how all the machines worked," I said as I busied myself behind the counter. "And how do you take your coffee?"

    She leaned on a pillar and eyed the bulletin board. "Strong, dash of salt. Lotta yoga teachers in this part of town. Huh, riding lessons and more than a few au pairs looking for room and board," she drawled.

    "I didn't think you were the type to judge," I noted.

    The redhead laughed. "Where I come from we don't play quite so many coy games. Well... maybe Cecilia does. Though, she doesn't need to advertise."

    I scoffed as I pulled out a packet of ground beans. Salt in coffee did many things, lowering the bitterness among them. And given her nature and that she wanted it strong, I was guessing she wanted some military-grade caffeine delivery mechanism and not anything my brother would call "froo-froo".

    "Those are all humans Red, both the sellers and buyers."

    She made a thoughtful noise. "What, you just skim off the top?"

    "Do I have to draw you a diagram?" I asked as I got the beans and filter ready and set it up. With just the two of us and only a few guests coming, we did not need much.

    I could make the "froo-froo" stuff Tania liked, which was why I got the espresso machine up and running. Then again, her goons liked well... the same strong brew the redhead did. I made sure there would be enough.

    "Oh..." She at least looked a bit embarrassed. "Right, your manpower shortage," she added, rubbing it in

    "Yeah, we can't just turn people; we have to do it the old-fashioned way," I muttered, bitterly. And that was a challenge enough. Again, I did not want to get into the problems Justine was facing. Not here. I would do anything for Justine. Anything.

    I watched as the pot started to fill.

    Nodding, the redhead was about to say something, her expression sympathetic, but she stopped.

    My tension eased a bit as the machines started to gurgle. Good, I had enough people giving skin-deep sincerity. Sure, my brother understood a bit of what I went through, but if anything she was even more clueless. She thought that because she was some kind of supernatural sexual predator, she could understand what it was like to live with a Hunger.

    "That ain't for her is it?" The redhead gestured towards the backpack.


    "Operative Tania," Ranma's tone was wry.

    "Yeah, I ain't handing that over to her." I fished out a few mugs.

    "And you didn't trust it outside,"

    "It was stolen from a bunch of necromancers and a vampire."

    "No, that was the Stygian's gear."

    I eyed her then watched the coffee pot fill. It took a while.

    "I am familiar with Opsec," the redhead drawled. "If it's something I don't need to know, and it doesn't pertain to finding our wayward sibling, it's your business."

    I snorted. "You're not curious?"

    "Of course I am. But unless I beat it out of you, you ain't gonna tell me, and we don't got time for that."

    I ignored her cocky grin as I filled a mug, added salt, and slid it down the counter.

    She leaned forward and took a sip. "That'll do."

    "Pretty accepting of secrets."

    The redhead went back to leaning on the pillar. "We've all got secrets, vampire."

    "Yeah, well, Harry gets pissy when anyone else is keeping secrets."

    "Pissy or prissy?" she asked.

    "Both." I might have smiled.

    "Wizards are prima-donnas."

    I laughed but thought as I poured a half a cup for myself. The redhead had not come alone; she sent her two daughters to the Carpenters. Empty Night, she had a big family, one she liked. She could have other daughters, other sisters doing who knows what. Or doing who knows who, they are succubae and I know my own sisters were active enough, especially when hungry.

    "The prizes from your Stygian foe aren't directly relevant to Dresden's disappearance are they?" The demon sipped her coffee.

    Exhaling, I eyed the bag. She was giving me an out. "They weren't the last time I tangled with them, which was also the last time they tried to have Harry be an unwitting pawn in their schemes."

    She smiled "Was that so hard?"

    I shook my head.

    "The Stygians have a beef with the both of you, maybe Dresden is clueless of it. Sounds like that's why this Stygian signed on with this girl band of dark magic."

    "And as you pried out earlier, the other two: one was one of Kemmler's Heirs and the vampire was sired by Mavra. Both the Heirs and Mavra are pretty pissed at Harry."

    The redhead nodded.

    "But that's not getting us close to her."

    "And Tania will?" Ranma asked, impatience entering her voice.

    I bit my lip. "She'll help with the cleanup, and she knows people in the prosecutor's office and other parts of city government. She'll get us started with connections. And we don't have to bug Lara directly... unless we have to."

    Seemingly satisfied, the redhead leaned back and sipped. If her tail were out I could just imagine it giving a very feline swish as she waited patiently for the violence. If not for the coffee, I'd suspect she was about to take a cat-nap.

    I busied myself with my own drink and getting things set up. About ten minutes later, she her cocked her head and shifted her stance slightly.

    The front door unlocked, opened, and a man strode in. Mid-twenties, average height, he had close-cropped ash-blonde hair and moved as if he had training.

    For one, he didn't linger in the doorway. Quickly crossing the fatal transition zone, he cut the room into sections, scanning each part. His suit had some tailoring that well-hid the light body armor and other gear he had on. Though it did enhance his fireplug of a body shape.

    Of course the demoness took this all in and languidly turned towards him in a balanced stance with wide legs, one food behind the other and her knees slightly bent.

    "Riley," I cautioned the man. He was one of the men my elder sister had hired. He was... management for a few teams, and had the privilege of working for Tania on more than one occasion, though he was rising in Lara's organization. "This is Ranma Saotome."

    "Sir," he stated. Enlisted men had a whole language based around the minor inflection of that world. In this case it meant, "I understand you, but am not comfortable with this situation."

    "Well, this a pleasant surprise," Ranma eyed him up and down. "Hollywood Marine or Paris Island?"

    Riley tilted his head.

    The redhead smiled. "Don't worry, it's nothing obvious like a tattoo showing."

    "Hollywood Marine. Like the movies?" I asked.

    Riley and Ranma shared a pained look at my ignorance. "No, the USMC has two training facilities for new recruits, one in Southern California and the other in South Carolina," she then gave Riley a questioning look.

    Riley shook his head. "Sand Fleas."

    "Ah, Paris Island," the redhead chuckled and let her stance ease back.

    His tension did not ease, if anything Riley was a bit more wary. "And you?"

    "This and that. Bit of contracting for a mercenary company that handles special problems, training people on combating non-humans," the demoness said, seemingly quite relaxed.

    Riley was still skeptical. "Which company?"

    She laughed. "Come on, It's not like I guessed your MOS." The redhead glanced at my confused look. "Military Occupational Specialty. Hell, I ain't my sister; I don't have all that stuff memorized."

    Her attention went back to Riley. "You might be something in recon battalion. Either way, you've got the look of career NCO who suddenly found himself without a career."

    Riley was stone-faced.

    "People with good long-term prospects in the corps don't leave it to go work for vampires. No matter how good the money is," the demon's tone sharpened.

    The man gave a controlled exhale.

    I watched, fascinated by the one-sided conversation.

    "Oh, I'm different. I'm a supernatural-predator working for humans," she gave a big, toothy smile. "It's not like I could get a job and... be myself in any military, well any military on earth."

    Riley gave me a glance, seemed satisfied by my expression and went back to the tiny redheaded woman who was now pacing about sipping from her mug.

    "No worries, this ain't an Accords issue. My folk's got no stake in that... well... other than my little sister, who we are looking for, but it's got nothing to do with the Winter Queen, or those Wizards. Probably," she flashed him another smile.

    Riley's eyes widened.

    "Yes," Ranma purred. Like a literal purr that a cat makes. I had heard my brother make a similar trilling noise when he... she... was happy.

    "I'm that demoness. Have you seen Dresden? Oh, you have, maybe not how she is now but you've met before." Her eyes shone. "I'd say we can sit and chat over coffee, talk about the insults Dresden gave when you first met, but you shouldn't be keeping your vampire boss outside waiting for too long."

    Shaking his head, Riley reached into his coat and took out his phone. He tapped out a message.

    "Don't be that way," Ranma admonished. "Mooking is honest work. I just told you, I mook myself. I've done the 'go into the building first to make sure it's safe' plenty of times."

    She leaned on the display case. "Course, when I get sent in it's kinda the opposite of the old 'put a canary in the mine first' if you get my drift."

    "Could you be any more of a braggart?" I asked.

    "Sure! I could summon my tail and whip it out right on the counter."

    Riley looked confused and vaguely insulted, but mostly confused.

    "Someone's briefing wasn't very detailed," Ranma said in a sing-song.

    Perturbed, Riley stepped back and opened the door.

    What appeared to be a young woman full of sensuality stepped into the room. Dark blue-black hair tumbled down slender shoulders. A white suit coat, blouse and skirt, all with matching silver trim, were tailored to be just a hair on the scandalous side of business decorum. Same with the grey heels that were just a bit too high.

    Plump pink lips gave a casual smile as dark eyes glinted in a too perfect face of pale skin. My cousin Tania was young for one of us but she was blooming into quite the succubus of House Raith.

    Riley stepped to one side and took position with the other guard Tania had brought with her. He was taller than Riley and looked like he bench pressed refrigerators, but his grey eyes were alert and he seemed extra cautious after getting a glance from Riley.

    Tania was blissfully unaware of the communication between her mooks; she was used to turning heads whenever she entered a room.

    The redheaded succubus did not disappoint. Her interest was frank and would only have been more obvious if her tail had been out.

    Where Tania's gait was slinky and gave an instinctually seductive prowl, Ranma's was a perfectly balanced one where the beauty was a by-product. Like the elegance of a big cat slinking about. Tania was a predatory beauty; the redhead was a beautiful predator.

    Tania's lips were about to quick up, but then the redhead's stomach grumbled. Loudly.

    "Sorry, been a draining night," the demoness grinned, revealing her features were a bit paler than Tania's and a lot sharper in the cheekbone and chin.

    "At least you're presentable enough," Tania sniffed as she turned to look at me, her periwinkle eyes had a slight silver sheen. "Unlike you, cousin. Is this how you dress when entertaining... guests?"

    "Unlike you, we've been working." I sighed as I pushed out some cups, including a small one with the fancy brew I knew Tania liked.

    "I think he looks pretty good, in a sort of Road Warrior goes business casual. You should have seen him before he washed up," Ranma remarked as she took a few cups and handed them to Riley and his man. She smirked at their awkwardness and then brushed past Tania.

    "You're being forward," Tania murmured as if tasting the air. She then took a begrudging drink from her small cup.

    "Not yet," Ranma assured.

    Her eyes shone and she turned to me. "Yes, I was busy cleaning up your mess. Do you know how much work goes into hushing up a fire like that?"

    The redhead gave a vague shrug.

    "What'd you do, bribe Marcone?" I asked

    "Easy. Blame Dresden," the redhead shrugged.

    "Oh, is that your expert opinion?" Tania snapped.

    "It's Chicago. Sweeping this stuff up shouldn't be much trouble. People don't want to deal with this, especially people in authority. That's why you have contacts in the Prosecutor's office, as an assistant," I added with a tiny twist of the knife.

    Tania glared.

    Ranma sipped. "Not an operative, indeed."

    "Do you have any idea the mess I was dealing with?" she demanded.

    The demoness smiled. "Yup."

    I sighed.

    "And since you're here and not actually helping clean up the remains of a scourge of Black Court and Renfields, some ghouls, and the body of a sorceress and a necromancer that were left in the burning building. Oh, wait... the sorceress was hit by a car, outside."

    "You think you can come here and stomp around, make a mess and do whatever you want?" Tania demanded.

    The redhead leaned back against the pillar and took a long sip. "Yup," she repeated.

    "Tania..." I cautioned.

    "Hush cousin," Tania sniffed. "I can see why you'd be accommodating to this... tourist, she is pleasing, in a rough and randy way, but we have standards."

    The redhead sipped while giving a long, patient look. Then she winked at me and put her cup down

    "Tania, remember what happened the first time you ran into Dresden?"

    "Dresden's not here," Tania smirked, but the hand holding her cup did shake a tiny bit. "Isn't that why you're here, little demon? To find her? I suppose we should thank you for making Dresden more like us. Well, without the class," she sneered looking down her nose at the shorter woman.

    The redhead chortled and ran her hands down, smoothing out her leather coat. "Oh, to be that young and inexperienced."

    "You can't be much older than me," Tania sniffed.

    "Experience." Ranma's eyes flashed. "Read. The. Room. Did you notice how your bodyguards are tensing up? Poor Riley's been silently trying to get you to shut up with his mind. The curse of the NCO saddled with a dumb officer."

    My cousin spun around and stared daggers at Riley and his partner. "Is that what you think I am?"

    "No, Ma'am," Riley said, pokerfaced. This time he tried to make his statement sound respectful.

    "I wonder what he did to piss off Lara to get stuck with you. Hopefully it's temporary." Nodding thoughtfully, the redhead's attention went my way. "But Tania has already got the cleanup and cover up going. We good here?" she asked me.

    I eyed the demon. Was she signaling she wanted to leave? Or that she thought Tania was not worth her time? Or was she trying to defuse the situation?

    "I thought you were looking for your... sister," Tania stated. My cousin had regained her composure, armoring herself in smug.

    The short demon nodded.

    "The question is what will you pay for it?" Tania stepped closer.

    Ranma leaned forward. "What do you have?"

    Eyes shining, Tania's lips parted and she ran her nails over the redhead's forearm.

    Feeling my cousin's Hunger from here, my own demon rose up.

    Ranma had only experienced the nips and grumbles of my Hunger; she was now getting the full sex, drugs, rock and roll. Eyes glowing violet, she purred as her mouth parted.

    Grabbing the wandering arm, she pulled my cousin in closer, and with a twist of the wrist slammed her body to the taller, thinner woman. Both moaned and with a louder purr, Ranma sidestepped and shoved Tania onto the counter.

    Tania's little cup went flying.

    My cousin's face just missed the two extra cups as her nose smashed the surface. The redhead pressed against my cousin and both gave little pained gasps as Ranma ground her hip into my cousin. One of Tania's arms was pinned between her body and the counter, while the other, the one she had caressed Ranma with, was in some kind of arm bar behind her back

    Riley and his man immediately began to move.

    "Stop!" Ranma ordered as she twisted the wrist she had a hold on and levered Tania's elbow to an even more extended position. "Don't drop those cups! Use both hands!"

    The raw authority in her voice made me almost want to pick up a mug.

    She met Riley's eyes. "Right now we're just having some rough foreplay." She pressed harder against my cousin. "Nothing you haven't seen before, eh?"

    "What do you think you're doing?" Tania gasped.

    "Oh, I didn't know you were a vanilla," Ranma teased as she ran her fingers down Tania's arm, mirroring my cousin's actions, but Ranma had the tips of her claws out and left tiny beads of pale blood in her wake.

    "Who do you think you are?" Tania demanded.

    Focusing on the two humans, Ranma ignored her. "Riley, I expect you and your buddy to keep two hands on those shiny mugs. If you let go, I'll assume you're trying something clever, and it won't go well for you."

    The redhead gave a thin smile. "You'll have to explain to Lara how you let your ward get killed due to her own stupidity."

    "If you kill me Lord Raith will make you pay," Tania said with more confidence than a woman with her face on a counter next to spilled sugar packets had any justification to.

    "No." Ranma lazily ran her fingers down Tania's neck. She leaned closer and gave a hungry purr, her voice husky and throaty, a deep contra-alto. "Lara sent you. Knowing what Thomas told her. Knowing I am here"

    Tania's cocky grin grew a bit as she tried to turn her head. "So what? You're no Dresden. You're not even a wizard, just some itty bitty wannabe."

    Meanwhile I nudged my cousin and shook my head no. "Don't..."

    Glancing at the pale blood on her fingers, Ranma rolled her wrist. "Ah so you're the canary tonight. Not your mooks. "

    "Canary?" Tania gasped.

    "Yes canary. You test," Ranma pointed with her finger. "Canary die? Nobody cries. Lara sent you."

    Her purple eyes went up to me. "Should I be flattered or insulted by this offering?"

    Trying to retain some dignity, Tania snorted. "You think you can act like Dresden, your big sister isn't here to protect you stupid bitch." My cousin arched her back and tried to squirm out of the redhead's grasp and flick Ranma's claws aside.

    The demon's eyes lit up as her hand shot out, grabbing my cousin's other arm by the bicep, twisted and levered it down while her foot kicked out Tania's legs.

    This time my cousin's face hit the front of the counter and her nose broke as the redhead dragged her down, Tania's legs flailing behind her, slumping to her knees.

    I was reminded of the adage about not wrestling with pigs. Because clearly, Ranma did not mind the mess of spilled sugar and coffee and relished going down to the floor with Tania by taking out her knees and pinning her to the tile.

    "How's the coffee boys!" Ranma shouted, turning her gaze to Riley and his partner.

    The two men had taken a step forward.

    "Keeping a firm two handed-grip?" Ranma's tail had appeared and had snaked out in front of Tania's face.

    "You crazy bitch!" Tania shrieked. Then she looked at the tail and blinked in confusion.

    "I warned you," I muttered, thankful that I had drunk half of my coffee. Though the counter was soaked and dripping, and I had to lean forward to get a good view.

    "No, I'm not Dresden," the demon purred, her attention back to my cousin. "This is the part where Dresden would have some sort of quip, some nerdy line."

    There was a rustling noise as filaments extended from the spade-shaped fins on the tip of her tail. It just barely brushed against Tania's temple and black hair was sliced away. The writhing filaments cutting like dozens of strands of razor floss shaved away a patch of her scalp just above the ear. A blood started to freely pour out.

    And the redhead's hunger... rose. Her eyes flickered as she smiled and gave a deep and very satisfied purr.

    "Ranma," I growled, my own Hunger pushing against me. Another sex demon having that kind of release next to me was something my Demon knew exactly how to handle.

    "Yes?" the little redhead asked, not looking up. Her purple eyes seemed curious as she squeezed against the taller woman she had in a bone-breaking embrace.

    "You've made your point," I glared at her, barely keeping my Hunger in check as my eyes turned silver.

    She looked up. Her eyes locked onto mine. The sickly scent of our too-pale blood filled my nose pushing out other scents. Ranma, for her part, continued to stare, and inhaling, gave a languid, anticipatory smile.

    My Hunger knew she was no doe. There was a challenge to her that was....

    My Hunger responded, and if anything, the demon's smile grew while Tania moaned and whimpered.

    The redhead snorted and withdrew her tail. "Honestly." She then licked the back of Tania's neck, up to her shallow head-wound, and, murmuring the happy noises a chef makes when satisfied with the flavor of a marinade, popped back to her feet full of pep and excitement.

    I mopped up a bit of spilled coffee, then tossed her a clean towel. "Tania... Tania... Tania... Ranma is the big sister."

    Trembling, Tania lifted herself up and winced as she put a hand to her head and use the towel to stop the bleeding. "Like you'd risk the wrath of the White Court." She sat on the floor, looking vaguely bewildered.
    "Like Lara'd care. You think she'd risk my wrath?" Ranma went back to leaning on the pillar as she licked bits of blood off her tail. Moaning, the demoness rolled her shoulders and seemed to flex from the balls of her feet to the tips of her horns which had just emerged.

    This time I raised an eyebrow. Lara not wanting to go after Harry's sister out of fear of upsetting Harry? Sure. But if Ranma thought her own skills were.... I looked at the redhead's expression. She was utterly serious. And utterly insane.

    I shook my head. "You're not that crazy...." She had to be bluffing.

    "Your wrath? You can beat up some young White Court vampire but you think you can dictate to Lara? Do you know her place House Raith, in the White Court?" Tania demanded.

    The redhead glanced to me with a sharp smile.

    "Not again..." I warned.

    "Fine how about some banter? Just like Harry?" the demon asked me.

    She glanced over and gave Riley a wave. "You guys can stand at ease."

    "Do you want to bring family into this? Running under the protection of stronger relatives?" Kneeling down, Ranma then gave a rumbling chuckle and pulled up Tania's cheek.

    "Little Hunger. Your Court calls humans kine, livestock, and you pat yourselves on the back for being able to survive hidden. You take pride in your ability to hide from mortals."

    The redhead purred. "My Family openly rules an empire of millions and millions. We invaded worlds as legion, literal legions. I was at my grandmother's side as nations fell before us. Our fleets would darken the skies in conquest. Do you know why we took in Dresden? Killing the Red Court. My grandmother would call that a good start."

    Her eyes burned violet. "Do not lecture me about wrath."

    I had to keep a straight face. The... redhead was lying. Oh, maybe not in the strict sense, but I knew the elimination of the Red Court wasn't why the redhead had turned Harry. But, by asking the question like that...

    Great, no wonder the Leanansidhe liked her.

    I'll give my cousin this, Tania met the redhead's gaze. Though arrogance can be a supplement to bravery.

    "But you're not here with a fleet," my cousin smirked

    "No, I'm not," Ranma released the girl. "We've already got our foothold." she bowed her head to me.

    I glared at her.

    "You have a task Tania, of House Raith," Ranma snickered at the term. I then got a look from her.

    I blinked.

    Tania was also confused. Riley seemed a bit less tense and had motioned for his partner to relax. I suppose he was used to folks giving Tania "lessons".

    The redhead sighed. "Look, Tania, you practically oozed with pride that you thought Lara had information."

    My cousin's expression turned calculating.

    "And I don't want to deal with an incompetent, so if Lara has info we can meet directly. If not, I've got other options." Ranma shrugged.

    I kept a straight face. I was pretty sure the redhead's options would amount to shouting down the street. Or even worse, bugging the Carpenters, Butters the Polka Knight, that ectomancer Mort, or any one of Dresden's other associates...

    Watching the demoness preen as her ego roiled about her, it was obvious that she was not her sister. Dresden was a detective. Dresden could investigate and find things.

    Ranma... she was more like a guided missile. Maybe one of those fancy ones you could lob at a general area and it would follow a moving convoy to hit a specific vehicle. Maybe the ones that released rotating blades like some ballistic, self-delivering, Ginsu Cutlery sampler pack.

    Whatever the warhead, she was devastating... if she could find her target.

    No wonder she was chummy with a mercenary company. She literally had an army of mooks to do her legwork... and then clean up in her wake.

    My stomach clenched as I saw her looking between Riley and myself. Oh no... I was her mook. And if my gut was right, she was going to ask Lara for more stuff.

    Languidly leaning back, the redhead gave me a bright, big, almost feline, smile as if she expected us to have all sorts of fun. At least she had not brought me a dead bird or some other thing.


    I lounged in the passenger seat of Thomas' truck. "Riley seems nice. Shame, I didn't get the name of his buddy."

    The vampire eyed me. "Was that true what you said?"

    I resumed looking out the window and murmured.

    He exhaled. "About the legions, and conquests. I know the part about you turning Dresden didn't go down quite how you said it."

    I looked out the window. Maybe he'd let it drop if I pretended to be aloof enough. We went down the exurban road a few more kilometers.

    "The Invasion was a shit show." I spat. "Oh, we dispatched the native leadership, took artifacts and books at will, but our allies...."

    "No trust among demons?" Thomas's tone was wry

    My eyes flashed. "Yes, I was betrayed and eaten alive. Grandmother... took exception to that. Or mission of conquest turned to one of extermination."

    "The other demons?" he ventured.

    My smile was sharp. "House Vephar had considerable land holdings. Prime estate on our Homeplane, far more valuable than the rock we were invading."

    "So, you're not the pathfinder for an invasion of this world?" he half joked.

    I snorted. "Please. This world is a sack of vipers. And that's just the supernatural powers. And then there's the adjacent NeverNever lands. Conquest isn't worth it."

    Thomas mulled that over. It was not a denial on my part. Honestly, I would be shocked if Grandmother devoted a serious fleet to this world, and given the human and supernatural strength a serious fleet would be required.

    I guess it depended on how much help my little sister needed. And for how long... it was the same problem all over, it was one thing to deliver a force, it was another to keep it supplied in the field for an extended period.

    "But you just happen to turn my brother, the White Council warden and Winter Knight?" he asked.

    Flicking back some of my hair, I chuckled. "Blame him for that."

    Thomas drummed the wheel. "Fair."


    I drove my SUV through the gate and down the driveway towards Chateau Raith.

    Well, driveway is a gross understatement. The road itself is better than half a mile, and that's not counting the winding curves though the well-tended forest between the wall and the mansion itself.

    Ranma lounged in the front passenger seat. Despite her offer when the night started, she seemed to have little interest in the wheel. I suppose if she wasn't using a vehicle to ram someone, she didn't care about driving. There was a languid satiation about her, because unlike me, she had at least fed a bit during and after the battle.

    At least she didn't puke up everything she had eaten in the warehouse.

    Her diminutive form allowed her to almost sprawl in the large chair. However, her eyes were constantly tracking. Even before we reached the gate she looked about with a studiously casual air. Her interest grew and I saw her looking at the cameras and wire on the wall surrounding the property.

    It was a rather Harry-like gaze. Similarly, she didn't seem intimidated by the size of the place even as we continued to drive for minutes without the mansion even being visible. Like Harry, she had a cocky confidence, but the redhead's was less devil-may-care and more "have a plan to kill everyone you meet".

    There was a reason I had advised against my sister meeting... well... I suppose Ranma counted as a quarter sibling. Step-sister? I don't know. Genealogy's tough enough in the White Court without having to bring in the bizarre quirks succubae brought to the table.

    Empty Night, that was also the problem. Ranma and her ilk were very attached to the term succubus. They felt it was their word.

    Given the whole seductive bat-winged demon chicks with horns and tails, they had a pretty good argument. Problem was that House Raith thought we were the pinnacles of temptation and seduction.

    And well... from what I had seen, while Ranma and Harry did have the ability; they were also some of the most clumsy and artless succubae I had ever seen. Sure, Ranma could use her mojo on Tania but it also looked like the redhead was about to eat her, and not just in the sexy euphemism way.

    Now from what Harry had said, she had relatives who were much better at the succubus-act. But they weren't here.

    Empty Night, not only was Ranma about as inept of a temptress as Harry, but she was even less diplomatic.

    It was a terrifying concept.

    In fairness, when Harry first met Tania he, at the time Harry was a he, choked her out, and not in the sexy euphemism way. That was after a brief shootout. Tania had stolen a child and tried to taunt Dresden about it.

    Yeah, mouthing off to a demon who managed to get the better of the Black Court in hand to hand combat, was not the dumbest thing my cousin has done.

    Honestly, I would not be surprised if Lara and her sisters had started a deadpool on when Tania would get in over her head. They were my sisters too, but since I hadn't been invited into said bit of gambling, if it did exist, I was not feeling terribly fraternal.

    I guess I should be happy that Ranma only tossed Tania around and nibbled a bit

    The redhead's utter lack of "give a crap" would have been incomprehensible if not for seeing how she dealt with Black Court vampires, necromancers, Stygians, and curelessly haughty relatives of mine.

    That attitude would work for her... until it didn't. And there were plenty of creatures in this world that could take her out.

    No wonder the redhead usually had minders to keep her out of trouble when on a mission. She was a walking diplomatic incident. Made worse because apparently she was a freakin' Demon Princess of some kind. I still don't know how much she was exaggerating, but if even a tenth of what she said were true about her family...

    And here I was driving her right to my sister, the de facto leader of the White Court. I glanced back over at the demon.

    Yeah, there she was cataloging every tree, shed, dip in the road. Her gaze even lingered on a few of the camouflaged defensives I knew about, and some places that I thought were just empty bits of cultivated forest.


    Oh. Fine. Consult Appendix N for diagrams, maps, overheads, and detailed notations on the Raith Family Estate. That will give you a proper analysis. Or at least something a certain blonde sister won't turn her nose up at.

    Not that said stoic sister would be so uncouth, even if she was given the task of editing her big sister's rough ramblings.

    I had to give the Raith credit. The compound had considerable defense in depth. There was an impressive perimeter security system and periodic surveillance to actively ward against infiltration.

    However, the very high tech nature of these systems eliminated many magical countermeasures that could compliment defensive protection and warning. Which is of-note given the high likelihood of facing magical-based attacks.

    And yet, to one of a paranoid bent, a-hem, that implies there actually are counter-magical systems that I did not detect. I got the feeling that there was something in the fancy forest between the gate and the house, but it would have been rude to stop and check. My horns certainly buzzed enough with the snap and crackle of magic.

    Besides, the very density and sophistication of high-tech security systems acts as failure-based magical detection system.

    The security detail would know something is going wrong when all the fancy cameras sensors start flaking out. Hell, some of the little gizmos I detected looked like nothing more than wireless repeaters.

    Perhaps the overt magical systems present are inactive until needed, or of a type that does not degrade electronic systems. Consulting with local experts and subsequent intelligence has determined that the magical defenses of the property are likely to increase.

    A further appendix, that I certainly will write, will show that manpower could be an issue given effective monitoring of such an extensive perimeter would require a large and alert contingent.

    Observations are incomplete. I doubted I was going to get a complete tour.

    But they indicate that garrison levels are platoon size, and mundanely staffed and equipped. Small arms and crew support weapons are likely. The Raith do seem more than sensible when it comes to hiring talent, favoring combat-experienced troops hired out of the service.

    Riley and his friend did not seem to be atypical for the caliber of men Lara hired.

    Training and alertness are of good quality, and are integrated in a support role with NH residents. I could spot small arms emplacements and smell explosives positioned at critical bottlenecks.

    Heavier weapons were not readily obvious. Despite this, vehicle mounted heavy machine guns are well within Raith's capability and budget. Additional sources are to be explored for the procurement of man-portable missiles or other systems, though the interest in having systems hardened against magical interference will limit their options.

    The mansion itself has signs of retrofitting to add hardening and defensive positions. Egress tunnels, safe rooms, and other hard points were not observed, but given the resources given can be expected. Tunnels are especially likely given mentions of caverns on the property.

    The perimeter systems and sheer distance (250 meters at minimum) from wall to mansion point to the necessity of a quick assault. Allowing time for the defenders to prepare would dramatically increase the difficulty in acquiring any targets. (Not to mention the capabilities of most relevant targets. See Appendix N.2).

    Given the limited roads exiting the property and the relative lack of traffic adjacent public roads, one does wonder what countermeasures they have to protect assets when in convoy.

    The Raith contingent has the capability to travel with heavy escort, but as earlier events have shown, they do go about with minimum guard when the situation requires it.

    End Chapter 3

    And Ranma shows a bit of her... diplomatic side. Though don't think for a second Lara didn't know what she was doing sending someone like Tania to meet with someone like Ranma. Which does little to settle Thomas' mood.

    I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf. Special thanks to J St C Patrick for going through this so it can be a Christmas treat. There's one last bit that's being worked on.
    And on my Deviant Art page is some Holiday themed art and more art of the whole BlackSkyvian Fleet project
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Awkward Afterglow
    Sunshine Temple

    Sunshine Temple Not too sore, are you?

    Oct 8, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Our Sister, The Idiot.
    A Ranma, Sailor Moon, Dresden Files fic thingy.
    By Sunshine Temple

    Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:

    Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. And the Dresden Files is owned by Jim Butcher.

    Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.

    Temporary Backup Site.

    Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku

    C&C as always is wanted.

    Our Sister, The Idiot.

    Chapter 4: Awkward Afterglow

    Well, at least Ranma didn't put her feet on the coffee table. Her boots would have scuffed the rosewood. Dresden would have, just to be a brat about it.

    Sure, the redhead drummed a hand on the armrest of the giant leather couch that threatened to swallow her. Watching her, I put the backpack with its pain-in-the-ass book next to my feet.

    She was scanning the room with a deliberateness that, hopefully, indicated she was simply bored. She took in the gilt ceiling accents, dark hardwood paneling, expensive furniture, and priceless art in utter stride.

    Even Harry felt a bit awed and inferior when he first visited the mansion. Course, that was the intent of the receiving room. My father liked the bucks, does, and even the other Houses in the Court feel awed and in their place.

    Father made sure to have a room for every occasion. And given his... tastes. It was good that there were a lot of rooms, many soundproofed.

    The redhead shrugged. From what I heard, she lived in a large house, but not one anywhere near as fancy as Chateau Raith. This level of luxury should be novel to her. Maybe there was more to those stories about her grandmother's empire, or she really was in awe but had her "game face" on.

    Still, that she was being politely quiet, instead of a contained ice-cold rage, gave me a bit of hope that this wouldn't all end in fire.

    The "bored demon-chick" face was far preferable to the "silent-killing-machine" face.

    It would have been better if she was making snarky comments. That seemed to be when she was least likely to start eating people.... or about to start.
    Empty Night.

    Then my sister entered the receiving room and my hope died.

    "I see you're making yourself at home," Lara purred, as she swept in, all tumbling glossy black hair, perfect proportions. She wore a silver suit that was just a hint risque and her grey-tinged periwinkle eyes sparkled with mirth and a bit of temptation. She was one of the most beautiful women I knew, and she had also helped raise me.

    The redhead looked her up and down and gave a throaty purr, a real purr, that seemed approving. Horns and wings and tail appeared, and then she put her feet on the coffee table.

    I say feet, but, more accurately, she put her hooves on the table: a pair of glossy black uncloven hooves.

    "Ah," Lara sat down. I noticed a conflict within my sister. While her eyes flashed a shining silver and her breath quickened, her smile was still a little bit glassy. Lara's body was tense and coiled.

    "Given your sister, I should have expected such a lack of subtlety. Clearly Dresden takes much from you," she smiled.

    Lara's smile could disintegrate the inhibitions of just about anyone. She was not even trying and I got caught in a bit of the backwash.
    The redhead gave a long sensuous sigh as she slowly recrossed her legs and stretched out. There was no tension in her body. Unlike me, she had fed tonight... well minus the parts that disagreed with her.

    She gave Lara a languid look and sniffed. "Just because you never got to bed him in... how many years? And in about a week I got him begging me to make him into a succubus."

    Lara smiled thinly. That was a sore spot to her professional pride. There were only two men who ever turned her down. My brother was one of them.

    I suppose it was some consolation that Lara and my brother had slept together, though that was because Dresden was a succubus... And well, it was not just Lara she was feeding on. I had a lot of "I told you sows" for my little sibling.

    "There were extenuating circumstances; he was injured and desperate." Lara stood up and walked towards a polished rosewood side table and turned to face us, making sure Ranma had a good view of Lara both coming and going. "Refreshment?"

    "You have Islay Scotch?"

    Lara quirked an eyebrow at the diminutive redhead.

    "I still have some of my father's. Would you care for some Bowmore?" Her hand went to a cut crystal decanter full of amber liquid.

    "As long as it's not their Mizunara finish. It's overrated and too sweet," Ranma stated.

    "And a bit on the nose." Lara noticed my confusion. " Mizunara is their liquor aged in Japanese oak casks."

    Ranma snorted.

    "It is a poor example of things to emerge from those isles," Lara confided.

    My sister shook her head. "No, something special for a special guest." Her hand went to a flared decanter and poured a measure of something dark and rich. "Neat?" Lara asked before taking another glass.

    Nodding, Ranma's nostrils flared as Lara returned and delicately placed the first of the cut rocks glasses in her hand. Lara kept the second glass.

    The demon's drink was a large measure of something the color of black pearls. I could just make out the subtle scent of orange peel and dark cherry blending with a velvety almost espresso and spice scent.

    The redhead's tail swished as she put her nose over the glass and then took a savoring sip.

    "I didn't think scotch came in that color," I noted.

    Ranma and Lara shared a look. "It's the Fifty Year Old Black." The redhead cradled the glass.

    "When I have to, I prefer something a bit lighter." Lara had a smaller measurer of a glinting golden fluid. I could detect a bit of blueberries, almonds, something akin to figs from her glass. It reminded me a bit of being on a beach between the ocean and an orchard.

    "The 1957?" Ranma asked.

    Lara nodded. "It is their rarest... openly sold variant. I figured you would appreciate something darker." Lara gave Ranma's leathers an appraising look. "Oh, I'm sorry brother-mine. Did you want something to drink?"

    "Have any of Mac's special dark? Cold," I added.

    Lara sniffed.

    "That is good beer," Ranma defended before taking another sip.

    "Fine," Lara got up and once again made sure the redhead got the best view. And to my sister's protests aside, she had a few bottles of McAnally's beer in the small refrigerator hidden inside the cherry wood sideboard. That she kept it chilled made me smile.

    Mac insisted his beer was served cool, just below room temp. However myself, Harry, and apparently my sister, took the heathen American approach.

    She handed the bottle over to me. Unopened.

    I frowned at it. Mac did not believe in twist-offs

    Taking pity on me, Ranma took the bottle by the neck and brushed the top with her tail. There was a pop of carbonation and the cap sheared apart into two halves.

    Lara made a somewhat amused noise. We could all see that the thin groove neatly cut across the lip of my bottle.

    After brushing the bisected bottle cap bits off my lap, I shrugged and took a sip.

    "Where were we?" Ranma asked

    "I was noting you got Dresden when he was injured and desperate," Lara playfully said, savoring her drink. There was a bit of... regret in my sister.

    "When isn't Dresden injured and desperate?"

    "Ah, so I should take advantage when he, I'm sorry, she is weak?" Lara's tone was teasing.

    "Isn't that how you prefer your 'kine' pliant and weak? Though, I know Dresden doesn't mind bedding you now, but... I hope she's more of a challenge. After I helped her," Ranma smirked.

    Lara was still utterly poised but that I could tell there was sting enough behind that smiling front.

    I sipped my beer. It was, as always, delicious. And the cut glass hardly hurt my lips.

    "Succubus she may be, she is but a babe in the woods," Lara purred, figuratively.

    "Succubus by my will. Sorry, by Dresden's will." Ranma flashed her teeth.

    Lara clouded for a moment. That was something the other vampires had over us. We could only be born vampires. I thought of Justine and our baby and frowned. Things were... complicated. And Justine...

    "I suppose I should thank you, for gracing me with the opportunity to help an uncertain little succubus," Lara said.

    "Yes, I did meet Tania," Ranma's tone was mild.

    "Geeze, are you two really going to act like this? Why not whip 'em out and compare sizes," I blurted. And then regretted it. I blamed Harry.

    Rolling her tail to flip over her knees, Ranma smirked. "Mine's bigger."

    Lara waggled a finger. "Now, now you may have fooled my baby brother and my insipid cousin with this blood-thirsty bumpkin act. But I read up on you. I know you're not quite uncouth lout you pretend to be... Princess DarkStar."

    The redhead blinked. She looked down at her glass of very expensive scotch and shrugged.

    I had to share the redhead's attitude at my sister's reveal: that Ranma was related to some demonic ruler was not exactly secret. "How many princesses does a demonic empire have?" I asked

    Lara sighed.

    Giving an even more exasperated sigh, Ranma clapped her hands. "Someone got a copy of one of the pamphlets sold in my memorial shrines."

    That was... I tilted my head. "What?"

    Lara smiled. "You didn't know? Our guest is not just royalty. A long time ago she was the favored granddaughter of Imperatrix BlackSky. She fell due to betrayal and war, but miraculously returned to life. Of her generation, she's probably the most noteworthy in their entire little empire."

    "I knew she was related but not that favored," I glanced at the redhead, and then took a good long drink from my beer. Great, that meant the whole talk of invading demon legions was probably true too.

    "Grandmother doesn't feel the need for titles."

    "No, she just named her Empire after herself. House BlackSky. Lovely coincidence," Lara airily said.

    "Coming from the head of House Raith," Ranma smirked and sipped her drink. "I'm sorry... from the elder daughter of the House head. Chancellor was it?"

    I chuckled.

    Lara shot me a glare. I spotted the barest moment as her eyes went down to the backpack on the floor containing the Stygian's eldritch tome.

    "Oh, not that, and I didn't tell her any of the Court's secrets." And I certainly did not mention a certain Oblivion War. "It's about Dresden," I snickered.

    Ranma blinked then gave a deep little chuckle.

    Lara looked from me to the redhead. "I fail to... oh." She stared at Ranma. "Is this true?"

    "I mean, yeah, BlackSky's her grandmother too, " Ranma shrugged, but still smiled. "Dresden's another demon princess."

    "I'm so going to make fun of her," I laughed and took another long drink.

    "How droll." Lara sipped some more of her drink. "You'd think being of royal blood would give the fledgling seductress some measure of class."

    "Really?" I asked.

    "I mean if I can swing the princess gig, then it ain't that hard," Ranma said as she leaned back her posture almost splayed out. "Same can be said for Miss Romany."

    Lara tilted her head and smiled but something flickered in her eyes. Miss Romany was Lara's stage name, when she dabbled in pornographic film.

    I looked between the succubae. Of course, Ranma was of royal blood, and so was Harry, to my amusement. And of course, she was in the same room as the hidden head of House Raith, the ruling House of the White Court.

    Lara leaned closer and drew a hand over Ranma's hoof. "You've seen some of my work then? That puts us at an unequal footing."

    "I can get you the trade hardcovers of some of the DarkStar comics," the redhead offered.

    I blinked. Okay... Harry did mention that the little demon had tried to trick her into believing that Ranma trained alongside Doctor Strange in the Himalayans.

    Lara put her glass down on the table. "Oh, would I enjoy them?"

    "Depends, I mean they're written for succubae, but they're written for... well they're very Silvan."

    Lara murmured and continued tracing a finger over the hoof. "Intriguing, this makes me wonder if you're just here to find your wayward sister. Would someone of your stature really have no ulterior motives?"

    "I'm merely here to meet Dresden," Ranma assured, arching her leg up as she purred.. "It's an issue of Family business."

    "You fought necromancers and tried to beat up a scourge of Black Court."

    "Succeeded at eviscerating the scourge," the redhead countered, finishing her tumbler.

    "Only after you used those folded paper wards," I muttered.

    "Ofuda," Ranma automatically corrected. "Dresden would recognize them."

    "You used items of faith against the Black Court." Lara's eyes gained flecks of silver.

    She ran a hand up Ranma's leg.

    The redhead let her tail fall onto Lara's arm. "Lady, I had a miko in the service of a scion of the Moon invoke Amaterasu's blessing while wielding Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. What do you think?"

    Lara had put her glass down and petted the demon's tail. "I think there's much we can talk about. Are you sure you have to find your sister right now?" Lara gave a smile that would melt most men's and quite a few women's inhibitions.

    This was not Lara wielding her Hunger as a weapon, not yet, merely that the redhead was that appealing to both my sister and her Hunger. Again, I was caught a bit in the backlash and I could feel my Hunger stand up and prod me with that great empty gnawing.

    The redhead gave a languid sigh and her tail twisted between my sister's arms. One of Lara's hands was still caressing Ranma's hooves and ankles while the other had been cupping the demon's tail fins. Pinkish blood started to bead on the tiny cuts on Lara's fingers.

    And the scent brought up the demon's hunger as she drew the tail to her lips and licked the fins.

    My sister lifted her hand and sucked her fingers, one at a time. "Oh, is that how we'll play it? I've never had a princess."

    Ranma smirked. "And it's best for you and Tania that I fed after spending time with my Princess."

    Huh, so this Moon Princess meant something to Ranma. And the redhead knew that people in true love and tokens of true love, were anathema to my and Lara's kind of vampire. The redhead was a frustratingly prideful creature, and worse she seemed to do her research. Though knowing my brother, Dresden probably blabbed all she knew about the White Court while getting her hair brushed or something.

    For a Wizard she could be a remarkable gossip, that that did not keep her from keeping a frustrating amount of secrets.

    Thankfully, true love was fairly rare. Still, Lara had been burned by a wedding ring, and I had trouble given Justine's love for me. Until Justine figured out she could remove the protection by having a quickie with a friend.

    Something that both myself and my Hunger found very appealing, especially since Justine's friend was able to stay around. That was just one of the ways Justine was great, she also had a great list of contacts and could find someone complimentary for me.

    Like pairing the right wine with a fish dinner, she could find someone perky if I was feeling down, or a more mellow woman if I was anxious. And given Justine's... growing condition, I had plenty of anxiety.

    I had a lot of anxiety these days.

    Then there was that my brother and Murphy had protection, provided that Dresden did not decide to go for McDonalds to spice things up instead of her preferred Burger King. Which... well she was a succubus now.

    Still, maybe it wasn't true love with this Moon Princess. Harry had mentioned a lot of crazy stuff from her magical Canadian mystery tour. And a troupe of girls with magical powers did stick out.

    Harry liked, but was a bit disquieted by, the platinum-blondish leader of the group.

    Apparently, the Moon Princess was a bit intense. Not many people survived fighting the Denarians, fewer did so after pausing to give a speech about Love and Justice.

    At least the Knights of the Cross had Holy Swords.

    Ranma had raised her tail to her lips and gave a quick lick before letting the appendage fall back into Lara's hands.

    "Lara, the demon's tasting your blood. Things might not go the way you expect." I cautioned. My sister could use her sex drive as a weapon to cloud a mortal's mind and drive them mad with lust. But was mad-with-lust a good idea for a demon who could sprout blades from nearly every appendage?

    "While we may not drink blood the same way our late friends in the Red Court, and our diminished friends in the Black, we are vampires." Lara turned to the redhead.

    "Yeah... she doesn't drink blood either...." I cautioned. We weren't that different. I knew Lara herself had eaten people. Specifically, she devoured the flesh of one of our treasonous cousins. However, that was after Lara had been gravely injured and needed to feed and recover.

    Fundamentally, the same dynamic was at play. I had seen Ranma chow down on Renfields to heal, but where for us feeding on the flesh of our prey was a desperate last bid, for Ranma, it was a far more... frequent option.

    "Do you really know what you're getting into teasing her like that?" I asked Lara.

    "Teasing? Brother mine, this is foreplay," Lara shifted to sit next to Ranma, putting the redhead between us.

    "Or an appetizer," Ranma purred.

    "Yeah, that's what I'm worried about," I grumbled.

    Lara put an arm around Ranma's shoulders and traced the membrane of her wings. "Brother, brother, brother. Before you get worried about what our Princess plans for me, maybe you should concern yourself about her plans for you."

    I turned to the redhead, who paused from snuggling Lara to give me a cocky smirk.

    My Hunger warred with that deeper concern in the pit of my stomach. If I were a more paranoid sort, I'd be as suspicious of Ranma's "bumpkin act" as my sister, and follow the implications to what that meant for the redhead demon who had wormed her way into my baby brother's life and now had me under her purple-eyed gaze.

    "That's not what we're here for," Ranma haughtily said as her tail wrapped around Lara's right wrist.

    "Yes, the location of your... baby sister. But what will you pay for it?" Lara leaned over the smaller woman.

    The redhead sighed. "What are you offering?"

    "First, we have to deal with what you did to my cousin."

    Tightening her tail, Ranma pulled Lara's wrist a bit. "Oh?"

    Peering into my sister's silver eyes, the redhead grew pensive. "Should I have smacked her around more then?"

    "Eventually someone will," I muttered.

    Lara gave me a baleful look.

    I put the empty bottle on the table, and tried to ignore the two succubae next to me. "It's true, there's only so many times you can use her as a canary before she dies or smartens up."

    "She's still my responsibility. And-"

    "And appearances must be made?" Ranma gave a coy smile. "It's one thing to have Dresden lipping off, she's got a reputation. But I'm just a tourist. You can't have some itty bitty demon making light of the dignity of House Raith, what will the rest of the White Court think?"

    "Your sarcasm is noted," Lara said.

    "Aww, I was hoping it'd be flirty," the redhead smirked.

    "My point stands," Lara assured, looming over her.

    The redhead shrugged which then turned into a full body stretch. Her purple eyes dilated and took on a slight glow as her tail shifted up to curl around the crook of Lara's arm. "Yes, yes, if I couldn't handle your little brat I wouldn't be worth your time. And I suppose if I simply ate the waste of flesh and tossed you a wergild you...."

    Ranma's expression slowly turned coy. "Maybe you'd be in an even more celebratory mood."

    "That would be an indirect, and deniable, way to eliminate an underperforming member of the Blood, hypothetically," Lara admitted.

    "Should there have been leftovers?" Ranma purred, arching her back before rising up to put her face closer to Lara's. "Have Riley bring a doggy bag? We could have had a nosh, a bit of an appetizer with foreplay?" she whispered.

    Lara's face flickered. The expression of disgust was there for a bare moment before my sister's Hunger pushed through.

    "Right now you're being a distraction, a pleasing distraction, but my baby sister is still missing," Ranma let her eyes glow as she met Lara's eyes. "I only have so much patience for banter; ask your brother."

    Lara managed to give me an inquisitive look.

    "It's true. She like had two snarky quips at the start of the fight, and she didn't even have a one liner when she hit the Stygian with a truck."

    Ranma gave a slow blink. "A one liner for who? The Stygian was crushed, everyone in the vehicle was dead. You wouldn't have heard me. In fact... you're just guessing I didn't say anything."

    "I'm not wrong," I crossed my arms.

    "And not having an audience wouldn't have stopped Harry," Lara's voice was seductive enough to almost pass as a purr.

    The demon's purr deepened and her tail constricted around Lara's arm. Ranma's lips pulled back in a bright toothy smile. "I ain't Dresden."

    Lara gave her an easy, hungry smirk. "No, you're a far more compact and playful-"

    In a sudden burst of force, Ranma's tail yanked Lara's arm. But instead of towards the redhead, the tail pulled to the side. Straddling the smaller woman, Lara could have easily resisted force in a direct line between the two.

    But a perpendicular force, coupled by Ranma cocking her knees to sweep the taller succubus' legs, caused Lara to be flung to the side.

    I had an instant to appreciate the elegant economy of motion in the redhead's maneuver. That is until my elder sister flopped onto me in an undignified heap.

    Rolling up, the demoness pressed a hoof onto Lara's midsection, pinning her to me while her tail rested on Lara's torso with the finned end just brushing her neck.

    "Oh, we have to have fun," Lara's eyes shone bright silver. "Shall we take this to the dojo?"

    The redhead shivered, which did interesting things to her bustier. The sexual energy was....

    Lara's tone was breathy. "Don't worry about the tatami mats; we have spares. Given how hard myself and my sisters... train, we get rough... "

    Twisting her hoof, the redhead smirked. "You think you could handle being my student?" Ranma's tail wormed up Lara's chest.

    Oh, Empty Night.

    "Lara stop it! You're pushing her Hunger."

    "As is mine. As is yours." My sister was pressed up against me. Which... was not fair at all. Stupid cheating redheaded demon.

    "Yeah but our Hungers don't eat people; not all at once!" I growled trying to pull myself out.

    Lara sniffed. "Brother, brother, brother, I've cleaned up plenty of your by blows to know that's not true."

    She was right. The previous Stygian I fought was defeated by stealing one of her hairs and running from the fight. Okay, I was blasted into a wall by Dresden. Look, he thought I was the badguy at the time.

    It was complicated.

    Anyway, I tracked that Stygian down and.... well I was hungry. It wasn't the first time I had killed someone in a single feeding, and it would not be the last.

    I exhaled and shook my head at the smug redhead who was still pressing Lara into me. "It's her defense mechanism. Your gut's right Lara; she's not as seductive as you are. In a straight up bout of sexy succubus powers you've got a lot more experience."

    "You're doing a poor job of slaking my Hunger," Lara smirked and popped a couple of her blouse's buttons.

    Giving a long drawn out inhalation, Ranma drew her tail down, cutting through the remaining buttons, my sister's bra, and leaving a few almost decorative little cuts on her skin.

    "Think Lara! She's at a disadvantage in a pure sexual encounter, so how do you think she'll turn it around?"

    "If she stops stalling, I won't have to," Ranma's voice was low and honeyed.

    Lara met the demon's gaze; her expression caught between disquiet and interest. "You're a confident little thing aren't you?"

    "If you only knew." The redhead's grin expanded.

    "How about a little match? I'll let you pick weapons. I haven't seen your kind since the last time I lived in Japan, and that was a long time ago."

    "I have picked. Push comes to shove-" Straddling over Lara, Ranma leaned over both of us. "-you'll be able to force us into sex, but where it goes from there..."

    "I could call in my men," Lara offered.

    The redhead chuckled as her tail flicked. She leaned in and kissed Lara's forehead. Ranma shivered and gave a quick moan. "Damn... so tempting," she murmured before her eyes hardened.

    I gave a strained grin. "By all means, give the demonic martial artist master an army of mooks to fight. Have you seen an action movie, Lara?"

    "Come on Miss Romany, you've been in movies; you know how this would go," Ranma purred as she licked up some of the blood that her tail had spilled on Lara's torso. The little demon twitched and made another pleased moan.

    "You are a naughty, little cheater," Lara gasped as hissing a breath out.

    "It's not quite the same narrative of your movies," the redhead managed to say in an offhand tone, despite the lust in her voice.

    "It's been a few years since I did an adult film," Lara's expression turned coy. "We could make you a star. Thomas, you're handy with a camera."

    The redhead gave a long sigh like she was trying to turn down a new set of leather boots, a chocolate cake, and a fresh liver. "You're delaying, Lara," she purred in a sing-song voice.

    Lara gave a long exhale and the room got a bit less warm.

    Both my sister and Dresden's sister were prideful creatures. And they both cared for Dresden, in their own way.

    Ranma huffed and her tail absently pointed towards the backpack I had brought in. "I don't care about the skullduggery you have with the Stygian and her plans. Maybe I should be worried that her little cult has gone after my sister before, but her big brother seems ready to protect her from the mean cultists."

    "You're offering your silence for your insult to House Raith?"

    The demoness flopped back onto her part of the couch.

    Lara dusted herself and with a regal bearing, despite her shredded top, sat upon the coffee table. "Even to your sister?"

    "Operational security, compartmentalization," Ranma shrugged.

    "You're keeping secrets from Dresden?" Taking the two glasses Lara stood and refilled them with fancy scotch.

    The redhead gave her a little snort.

    My sister sat back down.

    Ranma accepted her glass with a smirk. "Do you really think we came all this way just to talk to BlackStone about... family business?"

    Lara licked her lips. "You are such a little tease."

    The redhead took a long drink. She must have been grappling with her own hunger.

    Lara exhaled. "I don't care that Donar's ripping me off or the extra restrictions in the Chooser contract he offered me; I'm going to accept the deal, but only if he gives me Freydis."

    I blinked at that. I knew she was looking into hiring her own Valkyrie. Baron Marcone spent a fortune on Gard and she was worth it. Gard was a large reason why the king of Chicago's underworld had managed to survive and thrive.

    Not because of the Gard's power or knowledge, but how the mobster was able to leverage her power and knowledge. Marcone was a genius when it came to getting the most out of his people.

    Ranma's tail swished as she went back to her casual dismissal, but I knew she had filed that away, just as I knew that was no casual outburst on Lara's part.

    I pondered. The redhead had two daughters with her at the bar when we first met, and she told them to contact Eve. From what Harry had said, Eve was the stern, Germanic serious sister. If Eve were here...

    Turning the little redhead I gave her a quizzical look.

    Ranma gave a smug smile and waggled a finger. "I'm not asking about your little vendetta against the Stygian and her sisters."

    "Tempting me with secrets?" Lara swished her glass, not caring about her state of mostly undress.

    "Do I really want to learn the one you have with your pretty-boy brother?" Ranma asked between savoring her drink and shamelessly enjoying the view.

    I kept a neutral expression.

    "See, he gets all twitchy and closed off. The apprehension alone... I really don't want to get that entangled with the locals, ya know?"

    I wondered how true that was.

    "You burned a warehouse down," Lara drawled.

    Ranma shrugged. "Not like I ordered an artillery strike."

    Lara gave me a look.

    "Ask Dresden, you might have to get her drunk first. Big baby, that giant eldritch frog abomination hardly ate her at all," the demoness grumbled.

    Lara shifted to a bright smile. "I suppose I can appreciate both our Houses respecting each other's privacy."

    Ranma gave a murmur, as if she did not think our Houses were equitable.

    She then sipped. Dismissing Raith may be premature for the redhead. I mean Lara had done a lot to... expand the business. The White Court had always insinuated into the background of centers of power: business, entertainment, and politics. Our powers were a natural fit for that.

    But Lara had gone beyond Father's ambitions. She was far better at diplomacy for one. I heard rumors that she was making deals with other powers in the UnSeelie Accords. Though... I frowned at the demon. If Harry were a Demon Princess, and the Winter Knight, and a Warden. Then... House BlackSky might have an in with the Winter Court of Faerie and the White Council of Wizards.

    Well... probably not the latter, the White Council was making noises about Dresden's fitness to be in their clubhouse before my brother got turned all demony. Still, Ranma's other sister, the spy one, was here and doing... something.

    That said... I did not know much about House BlackSky. The redhead used the term Legions but how many? How large? What support equipment?

    Ranma smiled. "Perhaps. Though I'm not sure your little side-project is House Raith business. Or maybe Thomas didn't trust handing over such a parcel to the likes of Tania."

    "For someone who doesn't want to know, you're doing a lot of fishing my redheaded charmer," Lara smirked.

    "I can understand your conflicting... priorities. Dealing with siblings, with your extended family, the rest of your kind." Ranma's tail flicked in a very feline manner. "There's a phrase used in Silvana: House. Family. Empire. I think you can get the gist of it."

    Lara eyed her. "Interesting order."

    "Oh it's not the order that's important." Ranma smirked at me. She really didn't want to know, she knew she was better off not knowing, but she was still curious. Which was fair enough, the Oblivion war was fascinating....

    As a concept. The whole idea of locking down information to deprive entities of the worship that tether them to this reality... I looked at my empty bottle. In concept...

    But in execution... the Oblivion War was a terrifying mess.

    It was so much easier to disseminate information than it was to restrict it.

    Maybe it was for the best that I got Dresden's crazy sister. If Eve, the intel spook, were here, she'd probably have decoded the whole thing. Then again... she would not have let Lara and myself know much she knew.

    Now, I was curious as to exactly who Eve was meeting with.

    The redhead gave me a smug, smile, as if challenging my interest.

    "Brother mine?" Lara asked.

    "Oh, nothing," I assured in an easy drawl.

    Ranma gave me a sour look.

    Lara did not believe me either. "Just looking for Dresden are we?"

    "That's all I'm doing," Ranma smiled.


    "Well, myself and my daughters." The redhead sipped her drink. "My daughters are watching over BlackStone's girls right now."

    "BlackStone... hmm?" Lara asked, catching the subtle emphasis.

    "It's the part of her name that fits her family the best." The demoness' smile was bright.

    "Ah, like BlackSky and DarkStar?"

    "And many others," Ranma leaned back. "So, shall we deal? Do you actually know where BlackStone is?" Again, the redhead emphasized the name.

    "I do have access to information neither of you have," Lara coyly said.

    Ranma rolled her eyes.

    "You might as well let her have her fun," I advised the redhead.

    "I bet Marcone wouldn't have been this theatrical," the redhead grumbled.

    "But he wouldn't have let you cut up his suit, fondle him, and nip at his chest," Lara countered.

    Ranma tilted her head to consider then nodded. "And his scotch isn't as good?" she ventured.

    Lara snorted.

    "Well?" the redhead finished off her dark scotch and gave the empty glass a fond look. "I'm avoiding your little spy games with Thomas and the Stygian Sisterhood. Do you really want me to apologize to Tania?"

    "As much as I would like to test if she had the sense to be graceful with a minor victory, and not cause some fresh offense." My sister eyed the demoness. "Something that would justify a duel."

    "I wouldn't make it to the death, and it's not like my family's signed onto the Accords. And you could show off this fancy dojo of yours."

    I eyed the demoness with her contended, languid stance. I could feel her Hunger, but it was more anticipatory.

    "But your sister is, twice." Lara swished her glass. "You two bumbled around. What? Making calls, and when that failed, I suppose used magic of some kind? Your wires got crossed and you ran into yet another group seeking some kind of vengeance on Dresden."

    "Happens a lot, eh?"

    Lara sighed. "Because Dresden is infuriating."

    "Guess becoming Halley didn't change it much," Ranma sighed.

    I blinked at the redhead's slight accent. The way she pronounced Halley... No. Dresden... Harry... she wouldn't. I mean that was... I shook my head. My brother would not be that stupid.

    "Hardly." My sister sniffed as she went back to the decanters and despite the redhead's halfhearted protest put in another splash.

    I chuckled. Dresden decided to glam herself up as a White Court succubus on her first meeting, as she, with Lara. It was... well at least no one drew blood.

    "Right, thaumaturgy didn't work. Dresden's out of range then?"

    "Yes, and I can pull a few favors with certain credit card companies."

    "Parties with your people and the right auditors, accountants, and database wranglers paid off?" Ranma asked, taking a sip.

    Lara gave a broad smile. "You are a clever one."

    I snorted. "But Harry ain't got any credit cards. And not just because she'd got no credit. The damn things don't last a full day around her."

    "You tracked someone else." Ranma nodded thoughtfully. "Karin Murphy?" she ventured.

    Lara quirked a lip.

    "And Murphy's enough of a player to not use something that can be traced to her, not if she's on a mission."

    "That aside, a certain spa in Miami is not in her character, no matter how well-regarded it is. After Justine made a couple calls, it became clear." Lara gave a bright smile.

    "That's where those two went?" I laughed. Justine, my lover, was Lara's personal assistant. It was one of the things that made our relationship... complicated. See, there was more to Justine than appeared, she was a spy.

    Feeding information on the White Court and other factions too well... me. Though... the problem with a good undercover agent was you knew they could effectively lie to people close to them, to get in close and exploit them...

    I sighed at the two succubae.

    Downing her glass, Ranma gave a little exhale and my ears almost popped as the pressure in the room increased.

    Small she may be, the demoness was a powerhouse.

    Lara shifted, tensing up; the redhead raised her hand.

    "Not you." The demon's tail flicked. "You know, delaying us wouldn't put Dresden in any more danger. I'm not mad at you."

    "Uh, Red?" Geeze... I was not much of an empath but I could feel the emotions roiling off of her.

    "I'm upset at my empty-headed sister for forgetting she had family coming in and instead went off on a spa day with her mate." The crystal in her hand creaked and she carefully put it on the table.

    Lara tisked. "And yet you made her that way."

    Ranma shot her a glare. "It's not the spa. It's that she went off and didn't tell anyone. She can't just hat up and wander off."

    I watched her tail flick. Thing was... that's what Dresden did. Empty Night, before becoming a Dad, he was notorious for just running off on jobs and not telling anyone if he was out working or doing research or what have.
    It was no wonder Dresden's PI business was always foundering. Though I suppose since a lot of his meandering was Paranet, Warden, or hero stuff, it all balanced out.

    Having a kid made Dresden a bit easier to keep track of... a bit.

    I would not say the redhead was hurt by our sibling's, apparent, thoughtlessness, certainly not to her face. It was a bit of a vulnerability. And I knew enough from dealing with Lara that women like her did not enjoy having such things rubbed in their faces.

    There was maybe even hurt in Ranma's stance that her visit was forgotten by her sister.

    And all that was quickly smoothed over as the redhead's cocky bravado fell upon her shoulders like a mantle.

    Lara watched, affecting a polite interest. "Dresden did always lack the finer social graces. So many parties ruined."

    The redhead snorted. "Sounds like you'd want to correct her behavior too."

    I got the vision of Lara taking Harry... Halley... BlackStone out for a series of lessons. The White Court had the connections to salons and clothiers. Justine was an expert and could whistle up a full makeover on a moment's notice. And she had for herself and two of Dresden's friends when her godmother tricked them into thinking I was a prisoner of the Svartalves.

    Yes, I was detained in their embassy after I was captured doing some light espionage. But the punishment was not exactly... punishing. They coveted beauty, and if I'm being modest, providing that to the females of their delegation was hardly a burden.

    That said, the Svartalves took violations and oaths seriously. I would be loath to get captured after doing something that would genuinely offend them.

    I kind of understood why Dresden's new apartment was in their embassy. It was secure and well... the Svartalves coveted beauty and, clumsy or not, Dresden was a succubus.

    Honestly, a female Svartalf is not much shorter than Ranma. If more delicate in form and with fine silver hair.

    I had been detained in far less pleasant circumstances. Not that I was unappreciative of my rescue, such as it was. Though I was careful to avoid incurring as much debt as possible with the Winter Lady.

    Look, I like Molly, but unlike my dope of a brother I know getting in with faerie is a recipe for trouble.

    Lara was laughing. She seemed perfectly at ease, back in her element. Even with the blood and exposed torso. But my sister is a vampire. "Dresden is quite tempting, if not exactly a temptress in her own right."

    "Give her time," Ranma smirked as she bounced up to her feet. She stretched a bit and let her tail swish.

    I glanced and saw Lara's eyes narrow a bit. As the real power behind the throne of the White Court, she was more than politically astute enough to see Ranma's not-so-hidden barb.

    "I've watched Dresden for a long time," Lara said as she too stood.

    "Then you know her potential. And now she's one of us," Ranma added in a sing-song soprano that was at odds with her normal voice.

    "You keep rubbing that in my face," Lara stated with a wry smile she did not fully feel.

    The redhead stretched her diminutive form. "Always," she smirked.

    "You want me to corrupt your sister?"

    Ranma shrugged. "It'd be a learning experience for her, and she is such a temptation, no?"

    "It's almost like she's a succubus," Lara's tone was dry.

    "Almost," the redhead laughed as she strode towards the doorway we had entered through. "Come on Thomas, leave your silly little bag of secrets."

    Ranma nodded to Lara. She would keep her end of the bargain and let the threads the Stygian had exposed, ones that would lead to the Oblivion war alone.

    "I'm not your chauffeur," I grumbled.

    The demoness stopped and crossed her arms.

    Lara sighed. "Brother mine, do give her one more ride. Unless you want her to steal one of the cars in the garage."

    "She could try," I murmured. Father had kept quite the stable of classic and exotic cars. He was like that, always accruing beautiful things, and then putting them in an environment he controlled utterly.

    Lara was at least more flexible and pragmatic with her toys.

    I then stopped and stared.

    The thought of letting the crazy redhead steal one of Riley's Humvees, the ones with the fifty caliber machine guns mounted on the roof...

    "Any damages she causes will be your responsibility, she is your guest."

    The redhead's eyes brightened with mirth.

    "That's not exactly how the Laws of Hospitality work," I stated. "She's your guest. And it's her responsibility to behave."

    My sister shrugged. "You as an agent of House Raith took it upon yourself to render aid to her and then bring her to higher and higher members of the White Court. You vouched for her."

    "It is your fault," Ranma drawled.

    I glared at both of them.

    "Come on, you love helping wayward siblings," Ranma teased.

    "Younger siblings at least," Lara toothily said. "Oh, Justine has arranged for.. refreshments for you later tonight; you won't make a mess will you? I'll have a few loose ends you'll need to tie up. A few T's to cross, some I's to dot."

    I exhaled. Justine's little black book was a veritable menu of delectable meals, provided I didn't take too much from any one girl.

    "Oh, don't be that way, I know you won't hurt my best assistant. For one you've learned that lesson. For another, family is-"

    I cut her off. "Yeah, I didn't exert myself too much."

    Interested eyes cut through Ranma's bored stance and the tip of her tail flicked.

    Justine's condition made feeding on her... risky. Which made both my Hunger and myself frustrated, which made... Well I couldn't lose control, not with Justine, not again.

    I felt a flicker of approval from the redhead.

    "Fine, let's get going," I grumbled walking over to Ranma.

    And Lara knew about Justine's condition, and knew how difficult this would be for her. My sister was worried. Justine did have her niece, or nephew, and in her twisted way Lara really did care about family.

    That's one reason why Tania was still alive.

    Nodding, Ranma tossed me my keys, which I automatically caught, and left the room, her tail merrily swishing.

    I stared at them for a moment. "You little sneak!" I cried catching up to her.


    From the passenger seat, I looked out at the little gingerbread style house. It reminded me of a cuter version of Eve's place.

    "Harry's here, isn't she?" Thomas asked.

    "Am I that obvious?"

    "Your tail isn't wagging," he shrugged, turning off the truck's engine.

    "Because it's not out."

    "Your emotions aren't that opaque," he flashed a cocky smile.

    I eyed him. Fine. I might not be as sneaky as my other sisters, but I could still play the game. "You're going to be a father," I stated and went for the door handle.

    It was a shot in the dark. An informed one, yes, but.... given the way he went statue-still and then turned to stare at my hand as if willing the car door to remain closed...

    "You and Justine."

    "What's it to you?" There was an edge to his voice, an uncertainty and a deep worry.

    I ventured a bit more. "First time being a parent." My fingers went off the door handle and I folded my hands in my lap.

    He eyed me.

    "I know a thing or two about how earth-shattering it is to find out that you've got a kid."

    Thomas snorted. "Yeah, you've got five of 'em. You're some big demon mommy."

    I smiled, letting him have his anxiety. "Yes Thomas, five broodlings, five daughters. Do you know how old I was when I got Nariko? How alone I was? I didn't know any other succubae. I was in denial that I was a succubus." I exhaled. "You've got a lot more support than I started out with. That is if you don't make the same stupid mistakes I did."

    I could feel his sympathy and his trepidation. Which made sense, if he grew up among the likes of Lara then showing vulnerability would be a major liability.

    "It's not that." He was silent for a few moments. "I'm worried about her."

    I looked to him

    "And the baby." Thomas looked to the house where our sister was presumably waiting. "We, that is the White Court, are not exactly... fertile."

    I was proud about my ability to avoid a snide comment about who the real sex demons were. My kind had rituals to ensure that only specific kinds of intercourse resulted in pregnancy, which was something the entirety of our population could do, and we had two other methods of reproduction.

    The capability of extremely rapid population growth was part of why our Home Plane was such a divisive place, and that was not counting the other difficulties we had when it came to organizing a civilization, let alone civil society.

    "And worse... the pregnancy can be.... problematic on the mother. Her odds are not great. And..." he shook his head and became more closed-off.

    That extinguished any tail-measuring and pity overtook any other moods. I tamped down on that as well. Being pitted by the cocky, super fecund demon Princess for his lowly vampire biology would not help Thomas.

    He gave me a wry grin. "This is you being sympathetic?" he asked, mirth far outweighing the slight hurt.

    "BlackStone," I emphasized the name. "She hasn't offered to help has she?"

    Thomas' eyes widened. "Not... overtly. Could..." a riot of emotions passed through him as hope warred with disquiet.

    "Not her. She's far, far too young to try turning a pregnant woman," I stated. Honestly, that was something I would not be comfortable doing. The sister change would be required, and theoretically the newborn demoness would be ready to take care of and convert her baby.

    But... it was a bit like replacing a plane's engine while it was still in midair. Theoretically you could do it. Especially if you had more than one engine or enough attitude to glide for a while.

    In almost every case it was far more dangerous than trying to land without an engine. But that's only if you could land safely. In Justine's case, waiting out the pregnancy sounded extremely risky. More risky than trying to turn a pregnant woman

    I don't know.

    And from what Thomas implied, there was something about his nature that would make the baby dangerous to Justine's health. That would certainly complicate the turning, both Justine's and the baby's.

    With the brittle, prickly emotion of shattered hope, Thomas eyed me. "She's got all those demon pamphlets though. She has a stack of them right behind the ones about magic and wizarding."

    Setting my teeth, I nodded. Our sister was a great Practitioner. As a Prime, as a wizard, she had world class skill, experience and talent. But as a succubus...

    "That's it? Just warning me to not trust my idiot newb demoness brother if she comes up with a crackpot idea to turn Justine?"

    "She might not know enough, but she has relatives with a lot ore experience." I nodded, hoping he would get the hint. "I ain't gonna tell you how to be a dad."

    Thomas grunted. "Not exactly your area."

    My jaw clenched. I can't believe I was ever as clueless of a macho lunkhead. Though my little sister still was, even after turning. "And I'm not sure the demon mom stuff applies, not yet at least." I teased.

    The vampire stared.

    "As for the general parenting, you seem squared enough. What you want some generic platitudes about how you're supporting Justine? It's not about you; your whole life will change; you'll have new responsibilities; your world will expand. Those are words. You'll experience it."

    "It changes you. Harry changed. Justine changed."

    I snorted.

    "Not that. Before you got your claws in him, he was all Dad-like, and getting there... it tore him up when he found out about Maggie and all the... things he did to hide from her... thinking it would help her."

    "I have some experience in how parenthood can change a person, when you stop denying it." My hand went back to the door handle.

    Thomas seemed unsure.

    I sighed. "I wasn't born a demon."

    "Wasn't it some kind of reincarnation thing?"

    I nodded. "Yeah, but I spent the first, oh, seventeen years of my life as a human. For a while I was both a human and a demon, but that didn't last." I met his gaze. "You should be worried. Given the enemies you have, the snake pit of a family you've got, your kid will be in a lot of danger. But you know that, just as you know Justine's in danger."

    "Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine."

    I laughed.

    "I feel like I'm missing some inside joke." He frowned. "You're just like Harry."

    I snorted and popped the door open.

    He caught up to me when I was halfway up the walk. "You're not going to cause a scene are you?"

    "Me?" I asked.

    "Yeah, you could have called ahead, told them you were coming," Thomas stated.

    "I did call my sister."

    "You called Eve," the vampire drawled out. He had his suspicions about her. Which was fair. Eve had been doing important prep work, arranging contacts and such. The Company was more than a mercenary group; we also provided consultations, business solutions, and "business" solutions.

    House BlackSky was yet another sovereign nation we were contracted with.

    At the time all I knew was that the meetings had gone well enough. She had not used any of the duress phrases, which meant I could take the little she had said at face value.

    Eve did confirm her suspicion that a certain Miko would have enjoyed meeting the raven-haired twin secretaries of a Nordic business magnate. Though maybe it's for the best that Phobos and Deimos had stayed back at the shrine in Japan.

    Doubtless, Akumi would have done something twisted to them.

    "Ranma?" Thomas asked as I paused by the door. "You okay?"

    "Sure; just thinking about auguries."

    He blinked.
    "Ornithomancy? Telling the future using birds? Geeze, you're related to a wizard."

    "But how do you know?"

    "I'm dating someone who has a personal prophetess," I shrugged and knocked on the door.

    A hard-eyed pixie-cut blonde a bit taller than me opened it.

    She stared at me for a moment then looked up to Thomas. She was well-dressed in a blouse and a loose skirt and her hair had been touched up and a bit of makeup accented her in a very complimentary way. The skirt seemed a bit off from what I had been told about her but the cast running up her left leg made the utility obvious.

    Still, she could move around on her own at least. Though I saw a set of crutches near the door, and pill bottles on the coffee table. It was not the only sign of injury there were casts and bracing. Her shoulder was damaged and mobility was hard for her but she refused to give up. Though she had maybe a few more weeks left in those casts. Maybe less.

    Despite the injuries, she looked good, confident, and her training set off my professional interest.

    "I should have known you two were the ones causing trouble," she murmured.

    "It's her fault," Thomas pointed at me.

    "Now, Miss Murphy you don't suspect; you know it was us," I said with a broad smile.

    She eyed my coat, pants, stance, and more, no doubt calculating a threat profile. I tried not to be overtly aggressive, but I also did not insult her intelligence by pretending to be harmless. I am a rather short, attractive, and buxomness aside, a fairly dainty Japanese woman; it's not like it's impossible for me to look cute and harmless.

    Though, I do have to take care to have my face and expression look not quite as lean and sharp

    Murphy sniffed and stepped back. "Dresden! Your siblings are here."

    I stepped inside while Murphy watched me, contemplative. "Figures succubae don't need inviting in."

    Nodding, I absently looked over the various things she had in the entryway. There was a gym bag that had been tossed by the closet with some spilled gear. Hanging up was a well-used motorcycle jacket and above that on a shelf a helmet. I smiled at them.

    "Thomas doesn't," I pointed back as he closed the door.

    And then a fluffy monster, all claws and fangs, barreled into my legs.

    A growl escaped my lips, but I managed to keep my own claws in.

    The notch-eared scarred monster looked back up with lordly disdain and pressed his shoulders against my shins.

    Arrogant little murder-machine.

    Who then decided to circle around my legs, thumping with a stub of a tail.

    I will not kick my little sister's pet

    Murphy's inquisitive blue eyes gave a tiny gleam.

    After an agonizing period, she picked up the smug monster, who glared at me from her arms before it bounded off her shoulder and ran deeper into the house.

    "What got Mister worked up?" my sister asked, in her trying hard to not be a soprano voice, as we entered the living room.

    I simply narrowed my eyes at her and crossed my arms. At least her hair was done well, with nice wavy curls and a lot of body. She had a bit much silvery and blue makeup on for the fairly casual bustier and long silk skirt. Cosmetics-wise, she was at about a mid-Misako level.

    BlackStone looked between Thomas and myself. "Oh," she noted in a quiet voice, tail drooping.

    "We had an appointment," I stated.

    Frowning, she looked over to Thomas.

    "You forgot both of us brother," he sighed.

    "Murphy had surprised me and she knew I could get us to Miami quickly and...." BlackStone looked down and twisted a leg in place.

    "You forgot." I let a bit of my frustration ease. Sometimes... sometimes it hits just how tightly wound... what it's like to always be "on". I will give my father that much, his training does teach someone how to manage stress.

    That or go crazy.

    The little monster poked his head out from the kitchen and hissed at me. My tail flicked and my eyes narrowed.

    "We can talk by the couch." Murphy took command. "And maybe next time you'll keep me up to date about your appointments; I'm used to having a big family, Dresden."

    I glanced at Murphy; a spa day could have massages and other treatments. Given her casts, a whirlpool or other water treatment was not likely but it was not just BlackStone who was feeling better afterwards.

    "Heh, Catholics and demons," Thomas chuckled.

    I shrugged. The Cathedral for the Silvan diocese was impressive, if not my style, too busy in the towers and buttresses.

    Glancing at us, Murphy made her deliberate way back to the couch. She looked like she still had a long way to go until she recovered.... if she could recover fully.

    I eyed the bottles, but tried to not look too closely at the labels. Which is where a certain younger, blonder, sister will chide me. I focused on other things in the room.

    More relevant were the looks Murphy gave Dresden and myself. It's not just the romantic feelings that's for BlackStone, but for both of us.... I could feel jealousy mixed with vague trepidation and temptation. We're already healed while she still has months of physical therapy. And at a glance her injuries could easily be severe enough that she wouldn't get back to normal, let alone the level of martial arts she was used to.

    But... even with the amount of mobility she had, her art was serving her well in retraining balance and she still moved with smoothness. Once those casts were off she would be eve more dangerous.

    I've spent enough time with alpha personality martial artist, operator types, and the like to know how grating being sidelined by injury can be. It's that mix of being reminded of your mortality, worried over losing your edge due to lack of training, and not being there for the rest of your team.

    And then here come the pretty demons who can bounce back from injuries oh so much faster. Ask anyone who deals with chronic pain, loss of motor function, or joint degradation about what they might do to get back to full capability. Though it came at a cost.

    "We heard from the Carpenters that you were looking for us," Dresden said as she discreetly helped Murphy sit on the couch.

    "You mean, I reminded you to ask when you called to check in on your daughters," Murphy said.

    I took a chair across from them and smiled at Thomas. The vampire lurked a bit by the side of the room.

    "So, did we interrupt anything?" he asked.

    Snorting, Murphy leaned on my sister. "Nothing like that."

    Dresden pouted.

    "Quiet you," she punched her in the arm. "Do you always cause such a mess when you come to a new city?" Murphy asked me

    "Well... there was that joint mission in Lima, but most of that was from the guy on the British team. He got... bored... then thirsty... then went for a walk." I smiled at Thomas. "Told you I've worked with vampires before."

    He rolled his eyes.

    "Is... that the same vampire you told me about? The one with the hat and long coat?" Dresden asked me.

    "You don't own being tall and wearing long dusters." I nodded. Honestly, the guy's reputation for insubordination was a bit overblown. On that mission he was rather professional. Unless he got bored. And besides that fires weren't our fault.

    "How do you deal with her?" Thomas asked Dresden.

    She looked bashful. "Uh, I was visiting her place. So... she's the one who did her thing."

    "I'm not keen on people coming into Chicago and going all vigilante," Murphy stated.

    I paused. I could have pointed out that Murphy was no longer a law officer. I could have corrected her by pointing out I was a mercenary. I could have emphasized that vampires, necromancers, and their thralls were quite justified.

    But I decided to be a bit diplomatic.

    What? I like tough, diminutive martial artists.

    "We thought Harry needed rescuing."

    Murphy nodded and looked up at the taller woman she was using as a rest. "Then it's all your fault?"

    "I wasn't even there!" she whined.

    "Yeah, that's kinda why we were looking for you," Thomas drawled.

    BlackStone pouted.

    I exhaled and caught her eye. "There's a reason I set up this meeting; there's something we need to talk about."

    BlackStone wilted. "Oh?"

    Glancing at Murphy and Thomas, I shrugged. "It's our mother."

    My sister blinked.

    Thomas went still. He even stopped breathing for a bit.

    Murphy chewed her lip. "Is this about Margaret LeFay?"

    "No, not her." BlackStone shook her head. "Red... Nodoka's not my mother. I really like her but-"

    I cut her off. "We were just in Silvana, meeting BlackSky."

    It took a moment for the wheels to turn but she made a rumbling little gasp.

    Murphy held Dresden's hand. "This Nodoka, she's still human?"

    "I was human too, once." I stated.

    "And meetings with you and her and your grandmother empress. Empty Night... Really?" Thomas asked.

    I simply gestured to BlackStone.

    "The daughter change? BlackSky would take her as a daughter." Dresden shook her head. "But that doesn't mean...."

    I gave her a cross look. "What do you think?"

    BlackStone's cheeks flushed blue. "That's not how it works. Is it?"

    "No, I asked BlackSky herself to give my mother a daughter change on a lark," I rolled my eyes. "Don't get all in denial, you know what your heart is telling you."

    BlackStone pulled Murphy to her as her other hand was squeezed again.

    "Is that how this works for you? And won't your mother be a young demon herself?" Murphy asked.

    "BlackSky's turning her," I stated.

    "I don't really know who that is," Murphy eyed me.

    BlackStone's voice was numb. "As Thomas said: demon empress. Mab and Uriel like her."

    "Her holdings are on the homeplane our kind settled, one of the bigger players. And well... she once invaded earth," I briefly explained. There was more I could say about populations, cities, offworld colonies, alliances.

    "But not this earth," Dresden assured.

    Murphy's look was flat. "And you want her to turn your mom into a demon?"

    "This isn't about what others want. Mom, Nodoka, wants to do this for us. It's her choice," my tone was firm, and I managed to keep most of the heat out.

    "She's gonna be my mom...." BlackStone's voice was very far away.

    "Did she space out like that at the spa?" Thomas looked at me then to our sister.

    "BlackStone... you're a part of this." I said. "If you want. That's why I'm here. It will be the daughter change. And BlackSky will be guiding her to maturity. She'd be able to be our mother, an experienced capable demoness, who can help her daughters."

    Thomas' eyes widened and he looked to me. Good, I figured the vampire was quick on the uptake.

    "Her eyes only glazed over when they did her hair, and polished her nails," Murphy sighed.

    "She has been bugging me to open the salon again," Thomas laughed, but his expression was thoughtful.

    I smiled at my sister's embarrassment. "We do need to talk about Mom, and make sure you're okay with it..."


    "Well, the whole necromancer, vampire, and sorcerer," I nodded to Thomas. "He says that's normal for you but it's still worrying."

    "Yeah, my enemies don't normally go all Legion of Doom teamup to fight me. I've had bad guys teaming up before, but I wasn't their primary target."

    "I was thinking about them using thaumaturgy to try to get to you," I dryly noted.

    "Oh, that."

    I tilted my head.

    My sister's eyes flicked around. "I won't say that isn't a bad thing Ranma, but-"

    "But a baby succubus being influenced by folks who know a disturbing amount about you, about us, could be really bad?" Grandmother really needed to change Mother, if only to help BlackStone.

    She chewed her lip. "Between them and the naughty nurse ninja kitsune, my enemies do seem to know about House BlackSky."

    I blinked. "That's the one you ate in the botanical gardens?"

    "Her sisters got away," Dresden pouted while Murphy looked a bit apprehensive and Thomas coughed.

    "I mean... Lara's making noises too, she did the whole 'princess' thing with Red here," he pointed to me.

    Murphy eyed me. "Dresden's really a fairy princess then?"

    I waggled my hand. "Half fairy?"

    BlackStone pouted.

    I gave a broad, toothy, smile. "You know, after Mother is turned and raised by Grandmother, she will be a Daughter of BlackSky. And she'll visit all of her daughters."

    My sister's tail swished while Thomas snorted. "In addition to a fairy godmother, you'll have a demon mother coming to make sure you'll be a proper princess," the vampire said, with maybe a tinge of jealousy.

    "Oh, I'm sure she could help you too." I gave him a bit more friendly grin. It was worrying how much info about the House was leaking in this world. Which made the introductions a certain blonde sister of mine was arranging vital.

    If the various powers here knew about the true scale of House BlackSky, of the capabilities of the Imperial Legions and Household Fleet... well things would get more challenging.

    Thomas' thoughtful expression turned... concerned. I had warned him about the dangers of BlackStone's inexperience as a succubus, but mother, while technically younger than all of us, would have been personally crafted by BlackSky. Mother would have skills and knowledge.

    I was not certain exactly what House BlackSky's plans for this world were, but that Eve was working for Praetor DawnStrike instead of House Legate AshRain was indicative.

    Murphy's gaze went to me. "This whole mess was because your mom is going to become your double demon mom, which'll bring Miss 'A spa trip and a mani and pedi will make me forget everything' even further into your family."

    I held back my retort of: She's already one of us. It took a bit more effort to keep in the follow-up of: And you'll be one too.

    For one, I was not sure. Between Kasumi's choice and Usagi's nature I was not exactly an expert on that part of succubus relationships.

    Murphy's blue eyes watched me until she turned away. There was some familiarity there, and a reluctance. It was like she saw something in me that she was not too fond of, but couldn't deny.

    "You don't have to worry about Mom coming in and turning Harry all Perky Polly Perfect Princess," I assured. "That's not our way, and, even if it were, you know Dresden is."

    "What's that supposed to mean?" my sister cried before Murphy elbowed her in the side.

    "You're thick-headed and stubborn." Thomas said.

    Not sure how to deny that or if she should, our sister pouted some more.

    "The redhead is here for a reason. You might as well ask questions and make an informed decision." The blonde martial artist prodded my sister again.

    If only Murphy had been with her when we turned Dresden. Maybe then Dresden wouldn't have lacked faith in becoming a succubus, and she'd have been in much better shape.

    Then again, the folks upstairs sent a Knight, and then another, as backup. And while I was thankful to have the gods send the wilder of Kusanagi to help us, Doctor Butters was a bit bashful when it came to helping succubae.

    And.... reading between the lines of my little sister's stories, Murphy, despite being a Catholic had... issues around the Swords.

    Also she was seriously injured a couple months ago, so... I suppose that was a factor. While I was not an expert on physical therapy, I knew enough to know that Murphy was still in the early stages of her own. Once her casts were off there would be more range of motion to explore.

    "Oh, yeah." Dresden chewed her lip. "Is there like a plan for how BlackSky'll do this?"

    I gave her a mildly cross look. "Yes, there's a whole itinerary. I can tell you about the various lessons, mentors, and schooling."

    "Because she'll be a baby succubus.... for a time... and then Grandma will age her up?"

    I nodded. "Normally forcing maturity and age on a young broodling is dangerous but... BlackSky."

    "That's how she'll leapfrog you in what succubus age... ability?" Murphy ventured.


    "And what'll this cost? BlackSky sounds like a real sweet-heart, the kind of world dominator who loves her grandkids, but she ain't going to be doing all this for free," Thomas scoffed.

    I gave him a smile, the one that showed teeth. "If you want to be cynical vampire. Consider: she'll be able to shape the mother for her favorite granddaughter, the person she most recently Apologized to, an influential Company officer, oh, and the Knight of the Winter Court and Warden of the White Council. And that's not counting Mother's own rank, skills, and knowledge."

    "Assuming those old fossils don't kick me out," BlackStone grumbled.

    Thomas gave a crooked smile. "That's more like it."

    Murphy squeezed my sister's hand and leaned closer.

    BlackStone gave a glassy smile. "Maybe I can get everyone some drinks?" she reluctantly slipped out on the couch and, smoothing her skirt, stood up.

    As Dresden went to the cozy home's kitchen and busied herself, Murphy had her inquisitive expression. "This BlackSky owes you. She feels guilty."

    I exhaled. "She blames herself for my death. And a lot of things."

    Murphy snorted. "Of course you've been dead. You're Dresden's freakin' sister."

    "I'm feelin' kinda left out here," Thomas sighed.

    I glanced about. The stand for the Daisho was in a place of pride over the mantle. To many standards, it would stand out from the more... maturely-feminine decorating style. Well. probably for folks who weren't of the Saotome or other branches of my family.

    The katana and wakizashi were not technically a matched set, but that did little to detract from their functional quality. Both had been used. The longer blade moreso. Less obviously were a few framed certifications and other awards.

    There was nothing too ostentatious, but it all matched with what BlackStone had said about Murphy's studiousness.

    "I don't consider myself an advanced student," Murphy caught my eye. "And this is playing hell with practice," she gestured to her casts.

    I shifted my stance. "You have practical experience; you teach. Aikido is obviously your focus." I glanced at her shoes and the pair by the door. "Savate. Boxing. Some Krav and Judo."

    My eye went to a handful of rods on one bookshelf. "Kali." And then the books of the shelf which were more thumbed through. "Whing Chin, Kung Fu, maybe Shaolin."

    Murphy's expression was carefully neutral.

    "Did you just Sherlock scan Murphy over martial arts?"
    I rolled my eyes

    "She's Harry's sister, you know how Dresden gabs. Besides, I've got my training crap all over this room," Murphy looked to me. "Thoughts?"

    I nodded. That was mostly how I figured it out. If we were to spar I could nail it down exactly. "A good balance, given your size and experience. If I could make a recommendation, maybe some Hapkido and Tai chi."

    "Those are kind of dissimilar..." Murphy gave me a.... contemplative look. She knew she was in no condition at the moment to do martial arts, let alone take on new skills.

    "Sure, Aikido when you use your opponent's energy against him, but in Hapkido you really want to correct their worldview. Use their energy to make them regret their life choices."

    Murphy laughed.

    "Where Thai chi, once you get beyond the training-in-the-park instructors, can really focus one's center, balance, and refine one's movements. And if you want to see how a wrinkly old guy can fling someone across the park, that's one of the ways to do it."

    Thomas stared at me.

    "What do you think my day job is, pretty-boy?"

    "Demon mercenary?" he ventured.

    "That ain't exactly a day to day thing." I sighed. Sure, it was the bulk of my pay, but the bulk of my time was on training: myself and others.

    "And what do you teach?" Murphy's question was not quite as blatantly done but it was still in the style an officer will ask when they already know the answer.

    "A modified Saotome branch of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu. Technically, it's got a lot of the Tendo branch in, but it's my school so it's my name," I said with no small measure of pride. I had... given up a lot of who I was for my daughters. But I was also able to get even more of a focus in the Art and begin synthesizing my own school. On balance I'd say that more than evened things out.

    Murphy smiled a bit. Ah so she knew Japanese, or already knew the translation.

    "Modified?" Thomas asked.

    My revealed wings fluttered and my tail swished. "Even the most creative of Grand Masters don't have many moves that go beyond human biology or capability."

    "Right, I heard a bit of what you did to Dresden," Murphy said in a voice that was a mix of awed and horrified.

    I bowed my head to her. "We were in a rush. And I moderate my teaching style based on what the student can take."

    "You threw me out of a helicopter!" My sister shouted from the kitchen.

    "You can fly, you big baby!" I shook my head and went back to Murphy. "Normally, I have a whole schedule based on the student's skill level. I even do physical therapy if required." I added.

    Murphy eyed me. Was she wondering if I was being polite by assuming she would recover enough to go back to martial arts naturally? Or did she think I was presuming her humanity was a temporary thing?

    "She complains about the helo and not the breathing or meditation training."

    "Breathing? You held me down in a pool until I nearly drowned. And most people don't use flamethrowers to teach mediation."

    I rolled my eyes while Thomas made an appreciative grunt.

    "You better be making some food in there," Murphy shouted back. "Or at least wearing a cute apron."

    There was a pause as BlackStone rummaged around and opened a pantry door. "Why do you even have a frilly apron? And one that's far too long for you?"

    I gave Thomas a disbelieving look.

    "Yes, she really can be that thick," he said.

    "Why do you think?" Murphy laughed. "Now come on, we've got guests, and they're Family. Isn't hospitality like a big thing for Fae and wizards?"

    The blonde gave me an inquiring look.

    "Succubae too, for family at least," I shrugged. There was a whole raft of rules, rituals, and other nonsense that came with being a Granddaughter of BlackSky. Fortunately, I could largely get away from all that.

    "So, make sure you've got something nice on a tray. We didn't go out to get your hair, nails, and makeup done for you not to be a charming hostess." Murphy teased.

    As my sister stomped a hoof, I could feel her pouting.

    "It's good that you're helping her through this," I told Murphy. "I really hate that I can't be here for her more frequently."

    Murphy shifted a bit in her seat. "You sure you want to thank me and not Thomas? Or Molly?"

    I snorted. "The Incubus and the Ice Princess are quite helpful. But you're keeping Dresden grounded. You don't take her guff."

    "Hey!" Thomas gave a very Halley-like pout.

    Bearing a big platter with sandwiches and a few familiar beer bottles, Dresden swished into the room. A frilly apron was tied over her hips which also gave a good presentation of her chest that Murphy gave a subtle, appreciative look.

    What was not subtle was the playful slap over Dresden's backside after she put the tray on the coffee table.

    "Karin!" BlackStone eeeped as she shot back up to standing, and just a bit closer to the blonde. "After all the times you went on about men on the force being chauvinist pigs and me being a sexist Neanderthal..."

    "Turnabout's fair play." Smiling, Murphy held out a hand which Dresden put an opened beer into.

    Dresden crossed her arms under her chest, and tried to look irked, despite her slight rumbling purr.

    I took a sandwich and started eating. The ham was good and it was filling. Though I knew my baby sister needed more time learning how to cook properly.

    "It's a shame about your leg and shoulder," I noted to Murphy as she made space for Dresden.

    The blonde's expression clouded.

    "I mean it limits what I can show you, in the dojo. Though we do have a couple volunteers we can be sensei for."

    Still standing, BlackStone froze in mid bite while Thomas' eyes widened.

    "I really am hungry," Thomas said after wolfing down a sandwich. "And Justine has got something, erm, someone ready for me, um us."

    I smiled at him. He also had some sort of debriefing for his sister. Doubtless about whatever the real agenda was of the cabal we just smashed up.

    Dresden's tone was petulant. "If only I had a girlfriend who found girls for us to-"

    And then Murphy hit the back of my sister's knees with her good leg causing the taller demoness to tumble back onto the couch in a purring heap.

    "Ooh, so the training's begun?" I clapped and shot a glare at the big fluffy monster who poked his head into the room. His slitted eyes met mine and were challenging as he lifted a foot to step in. I glared back and the monster's stub tail twitched for a moment before dismissing us all with an arrogant sniff.

    I exhaled. An altercation with my sister's pet would upset her.

    "You know 'sis' it's a good thing you like long skirts," Thomas drawled.

    My sister flushed, her cheeks tinting blue as she scrambled to right herself and then crossed her legs.

    "You're such a great big girl," Murphy smirked and pulled her closer.

    "I am not," Dresden huffed.

    "You're a bigger girl than your little girls, and that was before you became a girl."

    "Aww, Murph."

    "And you miss them; though I can't blame you."

    "That doesn't make me girly," Dresden said to Thomas' laugh.

    Murphy's eye twinkled in that same way an instructor got when a student asked for another demonstration of a technique. "Oh? So, you want to do something macho and aggressive?"

    "Um?" my sister's lip quivered.

    "Do you know where a dojo is open this time of night?" I asked.

    Thomas gave me a look.

    "I won't burn down a training hall. I can even adjust the lesson plan if there's normals around." I gave my sister and her brother a smile.

    "I know just the place," Murphy's grin grew. "It's an address Dresden's very familiar with."

    "Not the Brighter Future Society," she whined, her tail curling up.

    My eyes twinkled. The BFS was a miniature castle built on the grounds of the boarding house where my sister used to have her basement apartment. Vampires burned it down, and the Chicago mob built the replacement: a small, but functional, stone castle keep.

    By a certain paranoid opinion, the new structure sounded like a reasonably secure place to survive a moderate attack, or to use as a fairly overt safehouse and staging area. On the other hand it was a very unsubtle location and would be an obvious target in any serious assault.

    "It's been a while since I sparred with the Einherjaren. I spent a lot of time in that gym." Murphy gave a very wistful look. "I can at least talk with them. You'll like them Red, Sven and Skaldi are big, burly mercenaries. They're also prone to impromptu building modifications."

    "Oh, so we might have an audience? Well... maybe I should get my formal gi, if I'm showing off to students." I gave the tall demoness another toothy smile.

    My sister pouted. "Well, at least our daughters won't be watching."

    Purring, my eyes flashed. "What a lovely idea, Dear Sister." That would also give some more students of mind to bring as backup. Students who I actually had time to properly teach.

    "Oh, Harry you idiot." Thomas groused.

    "Fine, then you'll be my sparring partner," she shot back.

    Thomas gave a cocky smirk. "Really? Will you remember to come with us or will you be distracted by some shiny shoes?"

    "I'm not an idiot!"

    "That's not a denial."

    I shifted and exchanged a look with Murphy. Students could be a pain, but were worth it, especially when they were family.

    End Chapter 4, End Our Sister.

    Apologies to everyone for the long, long wait in getting this last chapter out. 2021 had some problems, and the start of this year had some work with other projects.
    I've also got another story set in the Return / Diyu Demon verse: The War Chronicles of a Little Demon, a Youjo Senki cross with Tanya finding herself as a demon in house BlackSky. It can be read on FF.net, Archive of Our Own, and the expected forums.

    But special thanks to especially to DCG, Ellf, Green Sea, and Kevin Hammel to helping me get this though.