Saved By Waifu (A World Hopping Adventure) - CasualDarkSouls (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Chapter 1: ? - Waking up in Hell Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Worm - Getting Started Chapter Text Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Worm - Making Real Progress Chapter Text Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Worm - Setbacks and Breakthroughs Chapter Text Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Worm - Finishing Up Chapter Text Chapter 6: Chapter 6: Worm - Getting Out Chapter Text Chapter 7: Chapter 7: Worm - The Mad Rush Chapter Text Chapter 8: Chapter 8: ? - False Start Chapter Text Chapter 9: Chapter 9: HXH - Getting Unexpected Benefits Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 10: Chapter 10: ? - Finding and Planning Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 11: Chapter 11: Runeterra - Inviting the Fox into the Hen House Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 12: Chapter 12: Runeterra - Running Errands, Getting Instruction Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 13: Chapter 13: ? - Kids, Kids Everywhere Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 14: Chapter 14: ? - Getting Started at the Ground Floor Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 15: Chapter 15: HP/?? - Starting School Again Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 16: Chapter 16: HP/?? - Progress and Grave Mistakes Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 17: Chapter 17: HP/?? - Aftermath and Decisions Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 18: Chapter 18: HP/?? - Making Connections Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 19: Chapter 19: HP/?? - Overlooked Possibilities Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 20: Chapter 20: HP/TR - Dangerous Magical Exploration Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 21: Chapter 21: HP/TR - Meeting the Locals Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 22: Chapter 22: HP/TR - Rapid Response Rescues Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 23: Chapter 23: HP/TR - Explosive Negotiations Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 24: Chapter 24: HP/TP - Talks and Surprising Invitations Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 25: Chapter 25: SA - R&R (Relaxing and Revelations) Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 26: Chapter 26: SA - Unexpected Last Second Additions Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 27: Chapter 27: HP/TR - Uncomfortable Allies Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 28: Chapter 28: HP/TR - Plans and Allies Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 29: Chapter 29: HP/TR - Successes and Revelations Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 30: Chapter 30: HP/TR - Preparing for a Quick Holiday Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 31: Chapter 31: Worm - Going Back To Hell Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 32: Chapter 32: Worm - Round Two Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 33: Chapter 33: ??? - Lost Again Notes: Chapter Text References

Chapter 1: Chapter 1: ? - Waking up in Hell

Notes:

AN: Minor Editing Pass 5-29-24

AN2: I got even more comments about the MC being a little too pushy or obsessed for people’s taste at the beginning. After a lot of consideration I have toned him down-a-bit and then aged the girls up-a-bit, but a LARGE part of the story is the MC’s character growth.

I wouldn’t classify the MC as “Good” until maybe around chapter 17. I started him out as a little selfish, self-centered, and obsessed about the girls while only being occasionally interested in helping people (mostly only to assuage his conscience). I did that because I want him to be someone who BECOMES good, see title, not someone who is a disney princess from the beginning. (You know, character growth)

If this bothers you, I recommend you save your time and read something else.

Also, keep in mind while not a murder-hobo he is going to end up ‘Neutral Good’ of the anti-hero variety rather than ‘Lawful Good’ so don’t expect a pacifist paladin at the end, either.

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Chapter Text

First and only disclaimer about ownership: This is Fanfiction. So I am here just to have fun and to help improve my writing. I don't own any of the IPs here.

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Waking up with the largest migraine I think I had ever had was not the best start to the morning. My head throbbed and my vision swam. A large part of me wanted to go right back to sleep, but I shook myself. I needed to get up.

Work was not going to wait for me… I paused, what work? I couldn’t remember anything about my job, but I was sure that I had it. It was tiring and boring, but a man had to eat. Damn it, what the bloody hell is going on.

I paused, no… I was preparing for an operation. The men and I were going to join… someone.

Again, I paused, momentary, disjointed flashes of memory pounded through my head as I tried to make sense of it all before suddenly it all cut out. I suddenly realized that I needed to focus. My memories wouldn’t help here.

Looking down at my hands, I made them into fists. These were not my hands. Or at least I didn’t remember these hands. Yet that didn’t matter, bodies could change. What was more important was I didn’t even remember my name… Yeah, yeah, this was getting really bad when I couldn’t even remember my name.

Another moment of determination made me want to pick something, so I had some sort of identity at least. Frowning, I looked up at the sky before clenching my fist again. I would be Max, it was generic, but also memorable enough to work for now. As I focused, my mind focused on what I needed to do. I needed to find more information, get supplies, and make a plan.

Looking around the alley, I tried to spot anything that might explain what was going on. I noticed my clothes were average. Blue jeans and a V cut black T-shirt. Nothing to write home about there. Reaching down and fishing in my left pocket, I pull out a wallet, but no phone. Looking inside, there isn’t any ID, but there is about $300 in cash. That isn’t much to live on long term, but it would be enough to buy food short term at least.

Working myself up by pushing out along the wall took longer than I would like to admit and I was a little worried about being mugged, but after I exited the alley, looking both ways for any onlookers, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary on the road or the few pedestrians or cars going by. Taking a closer look I tried to determine if anyone was looking for me or paying me any special attention. Maybe my attacker or whatever had gotten me in this mess was still around. There were a few people and a couple cars, but no one seemed interested in me now that I was mostly upright.

If anything, people seemed to be avoiding looking at me. I glanced down at myself. I couldn’t see anything wrong with me looking down. Glancing at my reflection in the shop’s window showed a nondescript mostly white young man, maybe about 20 years old, with brown hair and blue eyes looking back. In fact I don’t think I could have looked more generic if I had tried. That either meant that this was a bad part of town where everyone avoided strangers, or there was something I hadn’t noticed that was making people shy away from me.

Still I needed to figure out what had happened to me. If there was someone still after me I needed to know so I could avoid them. First I needed to know where I was. I could remember that I was American… maybe. So let's hope I was still in America, I guess. It would suck to have to explain to a Canadian cop why I was across the border.

Walking down the street I didn’t see anything that would tell me where I was for nearly two full blocks. However, when I finally noticed a paper in front of a door and picked it up I nearly wished I hadn’t. In clear block letters at the top I read April 4th 2011. Next to that date I noticed Brockton Bay Times and I nearly collapsed there and then.

After a few moments of vertigo I bit my lip and tasted the copper pang of blood. Taking a deep breath I tried to figure out what I should do from here. I needed to confirm. I needed to look through this paper and confirm this wasn’t just some joke. Then I needed a plan. A good one. Damn IT.

Glancing into the store to make sure no one would notice the paper being stolen, I grabbed it and tucked it under my arm and started walking. I nearly turned into the side alley before realizing that it would make me look like I was guilty of something if I was found there. Best to act natural, nobody would care about the paper, but I needed to be careful until I knew what was going on. Instead, I kept walking while unfolding the paper trying to keep my face, posture, and gait calm and measured.

However, internally I was screaming. ‘Damn it! Damn it! DAMN IT!

I am in God Damn WORM!’

Trying to stop my inward spiral I looked around and finally noticed that a cafe was just opening up. Deciding that I needed a second to try to breath I slid into line and ordered a breakfast burrito with juice.

However, as soon as the waiter at the counter left with my order I was spiraling again. Opening the paper I read through the notices with as calm a face as I could make. However, internally I was screaming. What am I doing here? Taylor, god-damn queen of escalation, Hebert is going to go out and start her career in like a week by stopping Lung, a literal transforming rage dragon. Dinah, arguably one of fiction’s most powerful precogs, is going to be captured a few days later making Coil, the pedophilic super villain with a pseudo save-scumming ability nearly untouchable. Meanwhile, the mad bomber Bakuda is going to start putting bombs in people’s heads and a week later the city is going to start exploding.

Seriously, if I didn’t do something then this city would be a warzone in less than two weeks.

It was at that moment that I was interrupted. I took a deep breath and tried to smile while I picked up the orange juice and burrito from the tired looking waitress before heading towards a corner seat. Putting my food down I tried to eat calmly. However internally I was still panicking thinking of the story. All of that chaos before is just the warm up though. Absolutely nothing when combined with the fact that in a month and a half from now, Leviathan, the nearly unstoppable water controlling, 30 foot tall, monster, will hit and nearly sink the city. Then if that wasn’t bad enough, it is followed by the bloody slaughterhouse nine, literal murder hobos with tens of thousands of bodies to their names.

Eating slowly I tried to get my mind to stop spiraling and realize something was weird here. I could remember the story of worm fairly well, but all of my identity was just gone like someone erased it. A sudden chill passed through me and I looked around as subtly as I could. That was right. Cauldron, this world’s illuminati was very much real and very much willing to do anything for the proverbial “Greater Good”. Human experimentation, assassinations, blackmail and torture were a small subset of their crimes, all to try to stop the power granting entity god like being masquerading as a golden man named Scion. The question was, was I one of their failed human experiments in giving people powers?

No that didn’t make sense either, their failed experiments always ended with the subjects in question being somehow disfigured, completely naked, and amnesiac. My quick glance at the window to double-check my reflection confirmed that I still seemed fairly normal from what I could tell. Plus now that I was acting more normal the people around me also didn’t seem to be giving me any special attention.

Plus the Cauldron angle wouldn’t explain how I could remember the story of Worm just fine. The best Precogs in this world weren’t supposed to be able to see any info about Scion or the Endbringers.

It was only then that I realized that Cauldron were supposed to have an entire group of thinkers and precogs looking for people who would reveal their secrets plus one of the scariest battle precogs in literature. Were they going to find me and remove me now that I knew their secrets? I waited, glancing around furtively. After another minute, I slowly relaxed. Apparently, just thinking about Contessa and her group didn’t mean I got a bullet through my head from said portal using, boogie woman. That said, I probably shouldn’t even think about them whenever possible.

Getting up I threw away my trash before I walked towards the sun. I obviously didn’t know my way around town, but this town faced the east coast so heading towards the sun should lead me towards the boardwalk. The boardwalk was reported to be the safest part of town so it was best to stay there while I figured out my plan. The newspaper had already told me that it was a Monday so the boardwalk should be too busy either. Then again, I couldn’t remember if it was canon for the boardwalk to have their own security team called the enforcers or if that was fanon. Looking down I considered my clothes, but shook my head. I should look clean and organized enough to look like a normal tourist or college kid. If they started harassing me for loitering I could even buy something, but since I was already $6 down with that breakfast and I had no way of making more money it would have to be cheap.

Pushing away as many thoughts as I could I walked towards the sea and eventually found the boardwalk. It turns out I had ended up just a bit north of the actual boardwalk, but had managed to avoid ending up in the dangerous part of the docks based on the gang tags further along to the north. That was probably a good thing as I definitely didn’t want to end up in gang territory, especially since I couldn’t even remember whose territory it was. Even if I doubted that any gang bangers would be awake at what appeared to be about 7am on a weekday it wasn’t a good reason to risk it.

As I eyed the stores that were just now opening up I stuck my hands in my back pockets and paused. There was a piece of paper in my right back pocket I hadn’t noticed before. Pulling it out it looked like a note. Maybe this would give me a few answers. Looking around I found a bench next to the ocean that would ensure that I wouldn’t be interrupted or have anyone else reading over my shoulder.

Inside the letter I read the intro and immediately felt my eyebrow begin to twitch.

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Heyo~
This is your friendly neighborhood random omnipotent being. That is a bit of a mouth full so you can call me ROB for short.

So I might have accidentally severed your soul from your body when I passed through your universe. Oops. Well before I noticed your presence, I moved on. So bad news, I am not sure exactly where I picked you up from and to be honest I really don’t care since I am gonna continue my trip through these doomed realities. Such interesting places. As for you, well, I don’t really want to drag you around anymore so I left you here with a new body.

Well, while I wait the 3 seconds for your body to be created I might as well give you some info. This is a failed WORM reality where due to some extra stress and less support for Taylor and her friends (mostly from Cauldron screwing up) Taylor won’t save this local multiverse and everything ends. I can already hear you cursing me and Karma is a thing so I left you some power of your own. That way you can get yourself out if you want. You can thank me later.

Anyway, I made you a high level soul and dimension mage. (Yes those two things are intrinsically linked). No you don’t have the power to just leave by yourself yet so just listen. And yes, you can do pretty much anything from your fictions that you can imagine a soul mage doing, but you are going to have to figure out how.

Oh, wow… I can feel you bitching from here already.

Ok, fine, I will give you some basic instructions. First, you can bind people’s souls to yours. This will ensure they will always come back no matter what happens, even if you might need to get them a new body. You should also be able to take them with you when you jump to another world. Yes, this means you can bind people to you and make your own personal harem of beautiful women… or reverse harem of burly men if you wish, I don’t judge.

More relevant to this world. You will be able to modify any superpower with a soul or dimensional element and every power in this world counts for that.

On that note, as I was saying, this reality is doomed and you have about two years to get your ass out of dodge… or significantly less if you start pissing people off or screw things up even more. Good news is the surrounding realities are slightly less doomed, so you can head there if you want… I really don’t care regardless. Anyway, your new body is just about done and so I am going to stop writing now.

Good luck or whatever. Your friendly neighborhood ROB

PS. Oh, I realized I never explained how to leave like I promised. It is simple and sorta the same process as binding one. You bond a soul to you by wrapping yours around it and enveloping it. Alternatively, to get more power in order to leave you “pop it” instead. It will empower you enough to open a portal to another world. However you won’t be able to hold all that power for long. A more powerful soul pop will let you go further so I recommend a cape for this first jump.

Anyhoo, that took longer than expected so I don’t think I will bother with giving you a background in this world. Again, good luck or whatever.

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As I finished reading the paper I had to bite back another string of curses. Slowly lowering the paper to my side I rubbed my forehead, but before I could read it again, the paper suddenly disappeared. Damn it… I wanted to rage, to stand up, to start throwing things. However, I think a part of me realized that this would be incredibly stupid. The last thing I needed was to draw attention to myself if I didn’t exist in this world.

Sitting back I tried to breathe deeply. It was time to pause, examine my situation, and think. I was in the death world Earth Bet with powers, but with no idea how to use them. That was better than nothing, but I was far from safe. The super powered people in this world were called capes and they were almost always press-ganged into one group or another. Again, the last thing I needed was attention… from anyone really.

Leaning back I stared into the sky as the sun started to crest above the ocean. A part of me really wanted to help save the world but this was god-damn Worm. If the letter was to be believed, Cauldron was going to actively harm any attempt to save the world. Yeah, most fan fiction I had read about Worm had Cauldron opposing the main characters trying to save the world just because it was different from their plans or simply because it was out of their control.

I wasn’t sure what this version of Cauldron would do, but I didn’t have much hope even if their powers weren’t somehow corrupted. Seriously, the cannon Contessa seemed to be following her power ‘path to victory’ that picked the most bloody and terrible way to achieve their goals. And this Contessa was apparently somehow just worse.

So yeah, best to leave some information with the heroes on how to save the world and let everyone else try once I was gone.

The question is who I should bring with me when I leave. Yeah, let's not beat around the bush. I knew myself. I had always liked the idea of a harem. The idea of a variety of women who all loved me, maybe even belonged to me was incredibly hot. A jealous part of me was nearly gitty at the idea. Especially if a few of them were bisexual enough to have threesomes.

On the flip side of that I also needed to pick whose soul I would pop for the power to leave. Ironically, that was perhaps an easier question. Coil, Lung, or Bakuda were all at the top of my list. Yeah some people might point out the literal Nazis in the town, but as disgusting as they were I was definitely going to target the torture loving pedophile, sex and human trafficking dragon, or civilian suicide bomber first. Those three crimes made normal racism, hom*ophobia, and murder of most of the nazi capes look nearly mundane in comparison. Oh, I wouldn’t hesitate to pop them as the Nazis well, they were somehow not at the top of my list and that was saying something. Seriously, f*ck Nazis.

Sitting up I looked around. Now, how exactly do I practice with my abilities? Closing my eyes I turned around like I was just enjoying the sunlight which was now starting to hit my back. However inside I tried to feel out my soul.

Initially I felt nothing and I had a moment of panic that I didn't actually have powers. If I didn’t have powers I really was screwed since this world was apparently ending.

No, I couldn't think like that. I needed to just keep trying. Taking another deep breath I tried to relax and focus harder. Before long I lost track of time. However, slowly like opening a new eye and letting it get used to a bright light, I started to sense the world around me. That was good, but what exactly was I sensing here? I could sorta see the people around me, were those souls? Still that didn’t exactly help much.

Still, the ROB had said I was a dimensional mage. So I needed to figure out what I could do with that. I tried thinking about the surrounding space as hard as I could, but I couldn’t seem to get anything to change. Damn was I glad no one could tell what I was doing. Maybe if I tried to reach out with my body? What about if I reached out with my soul? But how the hell was I supposed to do that?

Once again I lost track of time. I probably sat for another 20 minutes before I started to notice something inside of me. In my chest going from around my belly button up to about my heart was a roughly round sphere. The edges rippled and flexed slightly as I thought about moving them. That was incredibly interesting and just a little creepy. Still something in me realized that this wasn’t normal so it was probably an aspect of my power. As I looked down trying to study it, that same instinct told me that most souls were supposed to be more like wells of power and awareness within them. My soul was different, it moved and flowed as I focused. Pulling on the edges I was able to pull some of my soul down my arm into my hand and I realized that I could even push it outside my body. However, the effort to keep pushing outward increased tremendously once it was outside my skin.

Another part of me seemed to instinctively know I could bind someone to me by encasing their soul in a layer of my own. That chain would then sink down inside and become a permanent part of them. That knowledge was strange as I couldn’t see how I would know that so it was probably a gift from ROB. However that same source also explained that if the connection was broken before I completed the encircling then all efforts to bind them would be reset. I could also tell already that the process would take my full concentration for perhaps hours at a time and so I would either have to subdue my target or convince them to stay still.

I suddenly froze. I was a soul mage. The ROB said I could do most things that soul mages in fiction did. That meant that I could make myself a lich. I leaned back and bit my lip. Yeah, I could sorta envision the process. I would have to pull my soul out and place it inside something stable and strong. Then that same ROB instinct seemed to be showing me how I could tie my soul back to my body to puppet it. That would make me a full blown lich as long as I could attach myself to another body even in soul form. And yeah, that same ROB instinct seemed to be showing me I could do that as well. The instincts seem to show that my body wouldn’t die or rot as long as part of my soul was still there. The question was how I was going to perform that remote control when stretching my soul was extremely difficult. That, unfortunately, was where my ROB given instincts really didn’t have a direct answer. I suspected that most soul mages leveraged their formalized magics. The same magic I didn’t have, so I wouldn’t have any of their unending stamina, magical prowess, or complete status effect immunity like they had in a few D&D rule books I vaguely remembered. Well, not yet at least. Still, there had to be a workaround, especially since I was apparently a dimensional mage as well.

So, yes, making myself into a lich was definitely on my to do list now. It would make sure I wouldn’t die and it would probably make it a LOT harder to control my mind and human control effects, usually called Masters here, were one of my worst fears.

Hell, I would probably also do it for all of my wives as well.

I paused, yeah, I might as well admit it. The moment that the ROB had implied I could have a harem, I was all for that. So I might as well call my companions, my wives. It wasn’t like I was a cruel person and I wasn’t about to enslave and rape every woman I saw. But I was self-aware enough to know that I was definitely possessive. I could tell already that I wanted to find a few women I could bind myself to. Then once they were mine I would never let them go. Especially since I was going to make sure we ended up immortal. So yeah, if I was going to go that far, I might as well think of them as my wives. Especially since I had every intention of treating them like queens.

I paused, but what about those who don’t deserve that? I hummed to myself, maybe I would consider keeping a few women who needed to redeem themselves as well. I sighed. Taking villains away and giving them a chance to improve was better than killing them, but maybe not by much. Something shifted… reaching up I rubbed the ridge of my nose. I would have to consider that more later.

The next question and technique I needed to explore was that dimensional comment left in the ROB’s note. It said I was a dimensional mage. It even said that I could modify the powers in this world. That would definitely be the lynch pin in this whole situation. I couldn’t have the shards of my wives’ powers reporting everything I did back to Scion or I would be slapped down before I could leave. Poking around in my soul didn’t seem to give me any ideas so I poked around outside myself. Moving my fingers with my soul inside them made me realize that I could feel something. I wiggled it around for several minutes before slowly, oh so slowly, I felt something like a small tear brushing my soul. Picking at it I could feel a little of the possibilities.

Still, learning how to use this power was not quick. I ended up taking a full hour in which I sat and pretended to read the newspaper while trying to open portals with my other hand under the table. As far as I could tell I could open a small portal to anywhere I could visualize. I could also tell that if I metaphorically reached deeper I could go further. The problem is when I grit my teeth I tried to reach as far as I could go, it felt like I was pushing against a magnet. The closer I got to my limit the harder it got. I could open hundreds of portals a few dozen feet long for the same effort of one ten times that length. Sighing I closed my fingers and thus the portal and shook out my hand. My upper limit seemed to be a few hundred feet at the moment but it was growing.

Sighing one last time, I got up and looked around. Sure enough there were already people walking up and down the boardwalk. I considered as I looked up and down the boardwalk. The first order of business was probably finding something to use as a phylactery for myself and my eventual future wives. Then there was the problem of how to protect and hide it. I paused and nearly facepalmed. I needed to hide my phylactery somewhere safe. Where safer than a pocket dimension? Pocket dimensions were definitely a thing here, a lot of tinker tech could make them so why couldn’t I? Still I would need to attach them to this reality somehow. I hummed. Maybe I should pick something common for now, like an abandoned house. Moving the attachment point should be extremely easy since it would be my soul’s power powering the pocket dimension instead of some sort of tech. Based on what I was just doing, I should be able to open a pocket dimension a hundred feet wide and power it indefinitely with nothing more than my soul. A thought crossed my mind and I grimaced. The ROB instincts seemed to be telling me that traveling between realities while maintaining a pocket dimension would be an order of magnitude harder and each person I took with me would increase that load further. I sighed. Well, that was unfortunate, but I would need to find a workaround for that as well.

Getting up I looked up and down the street one more time. I had a rough plan now. It wasn’t fully flushed out, but it was best to get started. So, first things first. I needed something for a phylactery. A diamond, sapphire, or ruby would probably be best. Looking down the boardwalk I noticed a jewelry store a few stores down. I smiled to myself and walked in. I could see the bouncers eyeing me annoyed as I didn’t look like I had much money on me but in the end they didn’t say anything. It probably helped that I looked mostly Caucasian, maybe with a little something else mixed in, racism for the win I guess. Still, jokes on them since if it was a question of my wives or my safety vs stealing then I had every intention of stealing the gems.

Looking at some of the gems I winced. They were way out of my price range so it looked like buying things legally was already out unless I stole a whole lot of money. Each of my wives would need their own gems after all.

Looking around I blinked as I noticed a small E88 tattoo on the bouncer’s arm as he gave me another narrowed eyed stare. I turned away and shook my head slightly. Well, they hired Nazis here apparently, that just took all of my reservations away. Always good when a plan comes together, I guess.

Tamping down on my amusem*nt, I needed to be smart about this though. I could scout now, but I didn’t want to take anything tonight. Maybe not even tomorrow night. They wouldn’t go through 12-36 hours of footage to take note of me. Unless they had a cape with a thinker rating I was just a random guy who just looked through the store, touching nothing, before leaving.

Still as I worked my way around the store I was disappointed to note the lack of large gems. I could tell already that powerful souls would need larger gems. My instincts also told me that souls grew when they gained more power. So the biggest gems would probably be best. That said, I was pretty sure I would just move my soul later like a hermit crab when I grew larger, but I didn’t want to. Those same instincts seemed to imply that moving my own soul to a gem would be extremely painful since I would have to be conscious the entire time, unlike my wives.

It was on my second search through the store that I spotted a large ruby on a necklace hanging in the back. On a whim I pushed my soul into my eyes and realized that I could tell it was real. Or at least a valid type of gem for a phylactery. It even had four smaller rubies on either side of the main one. The nine rubies were over an inch across the long edge of the oval and would be more than sufficient for my soul for now. Looking around I spotted a necklace with seven smaller sapphires as well and I smiled. These two would be more than sufficient for my wives unless I started picking up every woman around me. Plus it wasn’t like I couldn’t get a jeweler to add more gems if I needed them in the future either. Plus having us all inside gems together into a necklace like this would be a nice symbolic way of binding our souls together.

Walking out before I did anything stupid like bursting into chuckling while still inside the store I headed down the boardwalk and ducked into another store. Best to really sell the tourist angle for now.

However, internally I was already reviewing possible waifus. The ironic part to anyone who could have been listening to my thoughts was as much as I was about to build a harem, I wasn’t actually too concerned with their current face or body. There were many ways to adjust our physical bodies. Yeah, I was going to encourage them to have a nice hourglass figure with a perky butt you could bounce a coin off of, but I wasn’t going to be demanding specific sizes.

Instead I wanted women I would enjoy being around first and foremost. My ROB instincts told me that my soul would be able to subtly nudge their soul a bit since I was literally surrounding them, but that wouldn’t extend to obedience or even loyalty. At best my instincts implied maybe I could influence them slightly. I could look into finding ways of making them more trusting and loving and maybe a little more willing for threesomes within the group, but my instincts told me that controlling actual souls was hard without magic.

Still that was probably good, I had better things to do than kill a woman’s personality so I could have her body. I could easily find another woman with a similar body in the multiverse. What I needed to discriminate on was the girl’s personality since we would be literally bound together, potentially forever.

As I went into the third store I looked around before stiffening. Of all the things to cross the multiverse divide why did it have to be bed bath and beyond. I swiveled around at the overwhelming smells and colors and nearly tripped on myself as I turned around to go right back out. I couldn’t remember my name, but I could remember waiting in these stores being forced to smell awful mixtures while the women around me shopped. Never again!

The next store was a clothing store and I finally relaxed before continuing my thought process. In reality I could probably simplify it down to three emotional aspects I wanted in any potential wives. I loved a confident and powerful woman. Ironic, I know, since I was going to be arguably enslaving them since they wouldn’t be able to leave unless I let them after the binding was done. The second aspect I wanted was a desire to generally help people around them. Again ironic since I wasn’t going to be putting my life on the line to save this world. Then again, I wasn’t even in the top 100 most powerful people in this world and yet I was still going to do what I could before I left. Finally I wanted my wives to be smart. As I had already determined, while I would enjoy their physical looks, those could be changed, it was their intelligence that I couldn’t easily increase.

As I tried to find another set of clothes I considered the women from this story. Taylor, the main character of this story, was a hard Maybe. She was definitely smart. She was definitely powerful once she figured out her tricks, but better yet she used her smarts to make her even more powerful still. You could even consider her kind in her own way. Yeah, she was the queen of escalation, but she also started her career by fighting Lung to try to save some ‘kids’, yeah those kids turned out to be the Undersiders, a gang of teenage super villains, but the thought process still counted. The problem was the window to grab her was very small. If I waited until after she fought Lung then she would gain some confidence, but she would also be on Tattletale’s radar and thus Coil’s radar. Then I would also only have a couple days to intervene before Coil pointed them at the bank and she would be somewhat committed to their team.

Additionally that brought up Dinah Allcot the powerful precog who Coil would kidnap and pseudo-brainwash while the Undersiders robbed that bank. I couldn’t let Coil get Dinah or any hope of taking him down would be gone since, you know, precog. I took a breath, no, I needed to slow down and consider my options again.

On the one hand, I was tempted to grab Dinah as a future wife since her power was incredibly powerful. I didn’t know much about her, but she was powerful and moderately smart for was probably a preteen since she ensured her parents made it out alive despite being hunted by a supervillain with virtually no morals. However… while I didn’t know her exact age, she was young, maybe even preteen young, that made me feel like a pedophile for even considering her.

Yeah, I didn’t need to sleep with her to bind her to me, and a part of me absolutely rebelled at the idea of forcing any woman in any way. But by either context or her power she would realize that if she stayed with me long enough that was what would happen even if it took decades. I suspected that I could figure out how to remove people from the bond… eventually, but the idea made something in me clench in frustration.

I shook my head.

I didn’t have time for that, Plus, she was probably the one most likely to straight up ask to join me since her future was incredibly bad here on Earth Bet. I mean functional immortality in a caring harem was almost certainly better than being drugged out of your mind in a dungeon with rape and torture real possibilities in throw away timelines. Coil’s superpower was truly horrifying in that respect. Even after she got out she was still a pet oracle for whoever she was staying with at the time, often being manipulated by any number of people.

Similarly Lisa, AKA tattletale, was also a hard Maybe. She was moderately smart. Her ability was incredibly powerful out of combat and moderately useful inside of it. Being a super powered version of Sherlock Holmes was never not going to be useful. The question was if this version of her was a sociopath or not. Some of the fanfictions I had read made her out to be someone who cares about her friends. Trying to be Taylor’s friend since she saw her only slightly above suicidal. That would have hit hard since her trigger was missing her brother's suicide. On the other hand other authors had pointed out that she had pulled Taylor down with her and apparently didn’t care to look into Dinah’s situation until Taylor pushed the issue. I sighed and rubbed my eyes.

There was also the question of what she could get from me and what she would do with that information. If she saw me in a crowd and instantly knew all of my secrets and then either she or her shard decided I was too dangerous, that could be game over right there. Especially before I had my phylactery set up. Then again, she might also come to me willingly once she realized what I was offering and knowing what Coil was almost certainly doing to her in throw away timelines.

Sighing, I left that store without buying anything and headed down to the next store which had protectorate merchandise. Seeing the state sponsored superhero merch I winced. Those things were incredibly expensive. Obviously the heroes really were funded partially on merchandise if an Armsmaster shirt was $25. I looked up and down the rows. Nothing for the independent heroes like New Wave, how disappointing.

That brought up the three young girls in New Wave. Immediately, I winced as I thought of Amy, AKA Panacea. Her personality was pretty bad in most stories. Really, she was apparently a bitch, a dangerous bitch with her ability to control all biology around her except her own body. Still, I kind of wanted her for my harem since she was the perfect answer to the question of getting and fixing new bodies for us. Additionally her story in Worm was perhaps the saddest, yet most easily fixable one of the main cast. She needed to get out of what was obviously an abusive household. That wasn’t going to be easy, but it was something that needed to happen even if she didn’t come with me.

Still I really did want her with me. Without her power I would have to basically take over a body and strip out that person’s soul, essentially killing them, if I was killed or when I grew too old and needed a new body. That was to say nothing of the benefits to the harem like changing body proportions, removing gag reflexes, and increasing sensitivity.

However, I was more than happy to leave her behind if that was what she wanted. I wanted a girl like her, that tried their very best to be a hero. To do good. To have a happy ending. She could create a plague in a bathtub and adjust people’s brains like puddy. Yet she let herself be strung between her step sister unintentionally using her aura to make Amy attracted to her and her adoptive mother emotionally abusing her. Plus while her bedside manner was bitchy at best, she was still using most of her free time to heal everyone she could, slowly burning herself out. Really when you looked at it like that she had power, moderate kindness, and intelligence even if she couldn’t figure out how to get out from under her abusers. A perfect candidate for a waifu. Plus she likes women at least a little so that opened up further options for fun.

Vicky on the other hand was a little more difficult. She was reportedly hot headed and quick to judge, but she was also at least good enough of a person to try to help people with some decent power… even if she was reportedly kinda reckless with said power and not smart enough to realize what her mother was doing to Amy. So even if she was reportedly incredibly hot I was honestly tempted to exclude her outright. Still it would probably be better to play it by ear based on what Amy felt.

The biggest win in this story, however, would be Dragon. Despite being an AI, she apparently had enough of a body and soul in some stories that she could be given a physical form. If she could be bound to me then all future tech worlds would be instantly much, much easier.

If I was willing to think about women who were either partial villains or part of the PRT, then there were the seven other notable women in the series that were worth considering.

There was Squealer, a vehicle tinker with huge tit* who could build incredibly tough yet invisible vehicles of nearly any shape or function. Problem was that she was currently addicted to so many drugs she probably didn’t know which way was up. So, while she would be useful, I didn’t really want to have to deal with all that unless I had a way to fix those issues.

There was Aisha, another young girl, maybe even a preteen and Brian’s younger brother. She was supposedly quite pretty. She would become an incredibly powerful stranger, able to make others forget she even existed when she wanted. She would also probably be thrilled to get out of this town being a black girl in a city filled with Nazis. However I doubted she was willing to leave her brother to join us. Her mother was also a crackhead and in some stories it causes her some minor behavior issues and might not mesh well with the other. Plus it would be another girl in the harem who would have to sit on the sidelines until she was much older. Not ideal.

There was Bad Canary, a human controlling master being transported to the max security prison, aka bird cage because in a fit of anger, she told her ex boyfriend to ‘screw himself’ and he mutilated himself. Despite being her first and only offense while other capes have multiple murders under their belt like Lung and Kaiser, she was being railroaded straight to the unescapable super max. Really, behind the scenes this was Cauldron’s fault again. In typical fashion, Cauldron was dumping her in prison where she very well might die to hold her for later instead of doing something intelligent like… well, just about anything else. So yes, saving her would be a good deed if nothing else.

I sighed. If I was going after pity cases despite the problems then there was Riley, currently Bonesaw. A brainwashed bio-tinker who was the world’s best surgeon as a preteen. She could do incredible good to the world and my harem, but she was gallivanting around with the slaughterhouse nine being literally brainwashed into torturing her way through America.

On the other side of the law there was Flechette, a cape that could hit any target with her crossbolts and while doing so, hit that same something in every possible dimension it existed. It was an incredible power able to damage even the endbringers and Scion himself. The problem was her personality. She was fairly judgemental when Taylor came to her after Leviathan hit because the PRT told her Taylor was a villain. Plus she was apparently a hard core lesbian which would make recruitment harder. Really, I didn’t mind a lesbian or two in my harem, especially to entertain each other and especially until I figured out how to control multiple bodies at once. The problem was that I would want to be able to sleep with all my wives occasionally and a pure lesbian would cause problems there. Then again, if I had Amy I suppose modifying my body to temporarily be a woman for a while was possible.

Looking at the PRT closer to home, there was Missy, AKA vista of the protectorate wards. I understood the idea behind what was the junior super hero team, especially with every shard in a parahuman wanting to encourage conflict, but the child soldier program still sickened me. Still objectively she was powerful and moderately smart. The problem was again, she was yet another preteen or around there and while she also had a terrible home life, she wasn’t actively being abused and she wanted to be a hero here.

I suppose I could also consider a few morally gray girls too. The first that came to mind was Kaiden Anders, AKA Purity. She was probably my last choice of potentially interesting women I would want around me. She was a reformed Nazi which was pretty much a nope right there, but she was powerful and smart enough to realize that being around Nazis was bad for her baby. Yeah that is a pretty low bar, but people in abusive relationships often don’t realize what is happening. The problem is she apparently wasn’t wise enough to straight up leave with her baby or at least let the protectorate know she wants to turn her life around so she is still being hunted as a Nazi cape despite trying to leave her past behind her. Additionally if I bound her to me I might eventually have to bind her daughter to me and that might get weird down the line once everyone was a lot older. Sleeping with the mother and daughter sounds kinky, but is kinda weird in reality.

My body paused as I had a crazy idea. What if I could somehow bind the damn Simurgh. A nearly unstoppable 15 foot nearly unbeatable precog and tinker. It would be basically a big fat “I WIN” button to the world. All I had to do was figure out if she had a soul, get close to her for a long period of time, maybe even multiple hours and hope she somehow can’t find my and my wives’ phylacteries either directly or via her corrupting mind attacks. I sighed and slowly wiped a hand down my face. Well, if the fanfiction idea where she is sentient enough to want to be free and can somehow break through Eidolon’s subconscious control long enough for me to bind her is true here, then I will do it. Otherwise I should just move on.

Moving out of the cape merchandise store I walked while looking for somewhere where I could get an early lunch. I wanted to sit down and think through my choices again. The first location I found on the boardwalk looked nice, but as I finally saw the sign I winced. The prices on the boardwalk were nearly half again what they were in town. Sighing I grabbed a single smoothie and sat on the benches while staring into the growing crowd.

I needed to think about what I wanted moving forward. I could save these women, but they would be bound to me in my harem. I couldn’t remember any past relationships, but I could tell the idea of managing multiple women would not be easy. Plus every woman I took with me would make it harder to actually leave this set of realities. If the ROB was right and all of the realities around this one were doomed, I wanted to get as far as possible away from here. That meant keeping it to a few I really wanted and those I could get something from.

I sighed as my immediate excitement over making a harem subsided. I needed to consider my options for the long term.

If I could get over my hang ups and figure out how to bind an AI respectively, Dinah and Dragon would be good choices in any universe. Really, as long as Dinah’s power could work at least a little and we could either figure out power delivery or a flesh body for Dragon then they would be good to go. Otherwise Dragon would be stuck in her phylactery for that world and Dinah would be a normal girl. Although thinking about it now, maybe Dragon could be inserted into a virtual connection like Cortana.

I sipped at the mango smoothie and looked up at the sky. Thanks to ROB I could envision how to use my dimensional powers so my girls could keep their shard-based powers from this world, but I had no idea where we would end up so how useful any particular person would be could vary considerably.

Going down my list I realized that I kinda needed Amy. I would have to push hard to get her. I wasn’t about to take someone who could kill me with a touch against her will, but I would be pushing hard.

I also really wanted Lisa as figuring out details in the worlds we visited would be extremely useful. I just needed to make sure she didn’t cause problems among the harem with her need to tease and heckle those around her.

When put like that, Amy and Lisa had powers that would almost always be useful.

Taylor was a toss up. If her father was as absent as he seemed, she would probably come along and while her power wasn’t overly flashy, she was an incredible battlefield strategist and multitasker. Plus I do like a woman with some nice legs and she apparently has taken up jogging for the last three months. Then if I could get her and Amy, then bio engineered bugs would be a nightmare to deal with for our enemies.

Setting down with the now empty cup I continued to watch the people walking past while thinking.

The next question is which of my possible wives to approach first. I needed to wait for a day or two before stealing the gems, so I was hesitant to be within touching distance of an angry Panacea or Taylor quite yet. Dragon was useless to try to bind until after I got rid of her AI restrictions. That left Dinah and Lisa. Dinah is going to be a bit of an issue as I don’t know what middle school she goes to.

I paused for a second there as the realization crossed my mind. Damn it, I really hope she goes to a middle school, otherwise I am going to be looking through an elementary school for what might end up being a future wife. I feel disgusting even if I am not going to have any interest in touching her until she is closer to 20. I mean I was pretty sure the age of consent is 16 here and that still feels too young. Something recoiled at the thought of finding a girl so young, but I didn’t have the luxury of being picky when I was in a world about to be destroyed.

Sighing, I went through my list again. Amy, Taylor, Lisa, Dinah and possibly Dragon, Vicky, and Missy if they want it and I can manage it. That meant that the only girls I would immediately be able to bring to bed would be Amy, Vicky, Lisa, and possibly Taylor. I can’t remember exactly, but I think Taylor was around 16 here.

I guess the question was how old I was. Looking at the window again I frowned. I had already determined I looked 20 but I didn’t actually know. I didn’t remember finishing college but did have vague memories of finishing high school so that might be accurate, but I kinda doubted I would ever know for sure when even the ROB didn’t know where I came from. I guess I would just claim 20 for now.

Damn it this is complicated and is kinda ruining the good mood of trying to pick up chicks. I chuckled as I threw away my cup and stood up. That was dumb thought even as a joke.

Walking out of the cafe shop I decide my best option is to find some pictures to be able to recognize people in this world. The best way to do that is probably going to be by looking up people online. Still kinda cringe to be cyber stalking my future wives, but needs must. Plus it isn’t like I am forcing them. A part of me relaxed ever so slightly there. Plus I need to keep in mind that it isn’t like the women aren’t getting something out of it as well. Immortality and the ability to travel worlds with friends and lovers isn’t exactly torture.

Sighing again I started asking around for a public library. Apparently the security guards weren't willing to answer, but one of the locals pointed up a road and a 3 block walk later I was sitting down at a computer. Well that wasn’t exactly true since I detoured to buy a burner cell phone which took another $40 from my stash. Then when I arrived I had to wait for someone to forget to log off from their account when they left the library since I couldn’t exactly get a library card while being essentially homeless. Waiting for said open computer took another hour so it was the early afternoon before I was ready to get started.

The first thing I did was get myself an email address. Then I signed up for the message board Parahumans Online, or PHO… yeah it was a dumb name. I was also not sure if people pronounced it FO like ‘Foe’ or like the word ‘Pho’, aka like the Vietnamese food. Regardless, some quick poking around got me photos of all of the local capes. As it turns out Amy has a decent body even if she hides it. Then again I do like the mousy bookworm style. Her sister Glory girl, AKA, Victoria Dallon is incredibly hot, but I am not about to force the issue between Vicky and Amy if they don’t want to be together.

On the other hand I can’t believe I forgot about Miss Militia and Battery. Well no, I can understand perfectly why I didn’t initially think of them. Battery is married to Assault and as much as I prefer a hot adult woman, I am not really into the whole NTR thing. Really stealing a woman away from an established healthy relationship is both scummy and will forever breed doubts because if she can pull away from him then she can leave you as well.

Miss Militia would actually be a good choice to join me. She would even get stronger if she was able to copy sci-fi weapons we come across in our travels. The ability to instantly copy a lightsaber or disintegration lazer would be incredible. The question is how I would contact her to talk when she is extremely loyal to the PRT. The only way I can think of for her to willingly join me is if I put it in terms of helping me save the world.

That made things tricky for the villains. Even if a growing part of me was starting to care a little less while staring at another picture of Vicky in her Glory Girl costume. Well no, it was a specific part of me that was doing the growing and a dark part of me made me smirk. I was pretty sure I could please any of them and Amy could assist me if any of my girls wanted more.

I hummed to myself, next to look up was the mayor and his family. I knew this might cause some red flags if anyone was monitoring these searches so I never searched for anything other than Mayor Christner and his family and what they were doing for the city. That actually took nearly 20 minutes but eventually I found him with a photo caption that showed Dinah about two years ago. She was a cute kid, dark brown hair and freckled a bit older than I had feared. Maybe about 13. I really couldn't see her attractive yet, but her mother looked good so she would eventually grow up.

I then looked up some of the other schools. I didn’t think it would throw any red flags when I searched for “Best schools in Brockton Bay”. After some time looking through Arcadia High where I am pretty sure I found the Boys in the Wards program next to Vicky and Amy, with Amy distinctly uncomfortable in her senior pictures, I turned my sight on Winslow High School. Man, while the website made the school look ok in the official photos, the social media posts I found by the students pointed to a very different picture. The school really was a hell hole in every sense of the word. Gang tags everywhere. Heck half the actual students were in gang colors.

It took a little longer, but I soon found Taylor in the background of one of Emma’s photos. Titling it “Helping the little introvert” didn’t make it much better, but at least she realized that putting evidence of her bullying online was a stupid idea. So she wasn’t stupid… just kinda evil.

Sighing, I looked at Taylor. She was also older than I thought, with some long dark brown wavy hair, but swimming in loose baggy clothes. Yet, while I could tell she wasn’t healthy or happy she did give off an inner strength. Or maybe that was what I was projecting because I knew what she would do. Yeah her actions weren’t all good in the traditional sense, but she never stopped fighting for her friends or city. I paused and looked again. No actually I could sorta tell. I realized that I had pushed my power into my eyes instinctively and I could get a bit of sense on her soul, not much, especially as I didn’t have much experience yet. That was further complicated because it was like looking through foggy glass. Obviously a picture didn’t exactly capture whatever I was seeing via soul vision or whatever very well.

I had a thought about my options. Holding my breath I closed all of those tabs and went back to searching for heroes and villains, but immediately my hopes were crushed. Dragon did not actually have a soul in each of her suits. Or at least not enough for me to tell. That meant that binding her would be much, much more complicated and likely not possible without a lot of setup finding her servers.

Finally, after some looking through some pictures of the villains in town I found Tattletale. She was fairly attractive with blond hair and a petite body, but I could tell immediately she was going to be a bit of a bitch until we came to an accord. I also realized that I had over estimated her age. I had thought she was closer to 19 or 20, but even in the photo I could tell she was younger, maybe 18 or 19.

Really the unwritten rules of leaving civilian personas alone was paper thin at best. I could already tell I would be able to narrow down her civilian persona to a few hundred people in town after only seeing her hair and mouth. I blinked. Yeah, apparently my previous self was familiar with software if my first thought was trying to figure out how to write some sort of program. The problem was the details were gone.

Sitting up I sighed and cracked my back. I had been here for nearly 3 hours and I could tell I would be the last one here if I stayed any longer. Best not to take that chance. Best to practice with my powers somewhere I won’t be noticed until it is time to steal the gems. Plus I would rather be on the other side of town when I stole them.

Turning away I walked up the street and bought a bus pass from a vending machine then hopped on the bus headed towards Arcadia. I didn’t know where I could set up and practice, but the obvious option was as far away from gang territory and Taylor’s bugs as possible, that meant getting closer to the school with all the heroes.

Along the way I found a McDonalds and got a double with bacon. Strange that seemed to have carried over so directly.

After a long evening of walking up and down houses I eventually found a house that was clearly abandoned. The grass was long, the paint old, and boarded up windows on the ground floor… It was perfect as a bolt hole for now.

After some testing I realized that I wasn’t good enough to make a portal wide enough for my entire body to walk into the house at once, but I could easily reach through and unlock the back door’s deadbolt and security latch. Then it was only a matter of getting my shoulder against the wood and pushing.

The interior was bad, but not actually as bad as I was expecting. Yeah, there wasn’t any water, electricity, or heat. There also weren't any sheets on the bed, but the fact there was a bed at all in the second bedroom was like heaven to my worn out body.

Now I just needed to practice my portals, get my gems, and figure out how to puppet my body. Then figure out how to get another body just in case the worst happens. Afterwards, figure out how to actually bind someone’s soul to mine. Finally figure out how to approach my future wives, get them into bed… hopefully by then it will be a better bed than this. Oh, and you know, figure out how to save the world as I left… then actually leave.

You know, just a few simple things.

Interlude Contessa:

Contessa stopped and tilted her head. That didn’t stop her from shooting three more cartel members in the head, of course.

From behind her she heard a curse. “Muerte, Puta!”

She didn’t ask her power for the translation, it didn’t matter, as she shot him and stepped to the side as he fell lifelessly to the ground in front of her.

Turning back to her path. Something in the main path to defeat Scion had changed. A new trigger, maybe? She couldn’t predict new triggers after all.

Her path was able to give her the exact steps to accomplish anything she wanted and even give her help in accomplishing those steps. Sometimes that path didn’t seem to make sense, destroying this cartel in Southern Mexico would leave a power vacuum, but it always did accomplish the goal. As she rounded the corner and shot through the door twice, hearing two bodies slump to the floor in the office beyond, she scoffed. Having their capes waiting in ambush was a stupid move when neither one of them were bulletproof.

Walking into the office, she grabbed a folder her power pointed to then called out. “Door to Cauldron.”

A door appeared in the center of the room and a part of her wondered why she needed to kill all of these men if she only needed some proof the Mexican President was getting some cartel kickbacks.

Sighing, she set herself a new path to clean herself and found herself walking towards the showers. Power assisted showers might seem excessive, but she always did feel the cleanest when she let her power handle it.

As she walked towards her shower, she considered the new trigger again. It seemed like it was contained within their warlord experiment in Brockton Bay. Well, she should probably leave that alone unless it starts affecting the path outside that city. Her power had been clear that the chaos there would be helpful for the overall plan. Good that they could continue to test what happened when regions were ruled by parahuman warlords on top of that.

Still as she stripped and stepped into the shower she sighed. Only 1316 more steps until they could kill Scion. She just had to follow the steps until there.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Worm - Getting Started

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 5-29-24

Waking up cold and alone on a dusty mattress was terrible, 3 out of 10, I would not recommend. Yeah, it was better than the alley, but the knowledge I was still unable to shower, poop, or even turn on a light made the house little more than an annoyance this early. Really I probably would have slept even longer since I had been practicing past midnight, but the alarm on my phone was set for 6am so I could possibly bump into Taylor on her morning jog. I hadn’t originally been planning on that, but I found some old clothes that sorta kinda fit upstairs. A pair of shorts later I could at least attempt to catch her and check on her.

Opening a portal to a back alley closer to Taylor’s neighborhood was easy now. Really we were only about 5 miles away. After all of my practice last night my range was probably about 10 miles for a human sized portal if I knew where I was going. The good news was two fold. One I could open one to anywhere I had been fairly easily. The second was that I could open one about the size of a pea and see through it. Plus as long as my side of the portal was dark and the area I was viewing was a distance away from what I wanted to see it was incredibly hard to notice me.

Ultimately I had decided to call scrying, it was incredibly useful and I was probably going to be using it constantly.

Opening a hole near ground level in broad daylight was probably a stupid idea though. Additionally I found that unless you fit through you weren’t going to force your way through the portal. Actually the entire thing felt a lot like a brick window and smacking into the sides of the portal were as solid as said brick. Ironically if I didn’t want to go through the portal then I could hit the portal from a side angle and disperse it like slapping away some dense smoke… Weird was the least of what I was feeling. At least I knew I wouldn’t bring down a plane by putting it in the wrong place and time or something.

Starting my jog I kept my eyes on a swivel trying to figure out where Taylor might pop out at. Really it was a bit of a long shot, but I was pretty sure it was worth the effort if I could meet her carefully at first and bring her somewhere safe to talk.

As I slowly jogged I tried to make sure I was clearly a newbie so I could ask her for tips. The girl needed some confidence in something and helping me with my jogging was a reasonable start.

Once I was able to move I started planning out my next steps. I needed to find some drug houses and take their cash. I was down to around $200 and I had only been here a single day. Trying to spot dealers coming and going from several stories up where my scrying couldn’t be noticed was going to be annoying, but I didn’t exactly have many options yet. Taylor would make this so much easier as long as she could command the bugs on the other side of my portals.

It was after 8am before I gave up. I had obviously not picked the right time or location and so it was best to head back to my base to plan my next options.

Finding an alley I portal back home. Was this my home? Whatever, best to call it home while I get off of this rock. A thought crossed my mind while I sat and ate a granola bar while scrying the best way to get a shower. What if I don’t know the setting for the next world we hop to? Maybe if Worm was my world’s fiction, then some of the fiction here would end up as the next world I was dropped into. Then again, what were the chances I would be dropped into a point in star wars I would actually recognize. I was pretty sure the franchise crossed something like 10 thousand years if you include all of the lore and the Knights of the old republic stories.

Sighing I found a house three houses down that only had one middle aged lady living there, cats and all. It felt a little weird to be using her shower when she left for work, but it would have to do.

As it turns out it was even weirder than I expected as there were no less than three cats staring at me as I got out of the shower despite taking no more than 5 minutes.

Clean and once again dressed I took a pillowcase of laundry down to a local laundromat and got to cleaning including the old bed sheets I had been using. I still needed to figure out how best to approach this all, but more urgently I wanted to start figuring out how to make a lich. I paused and then winced. Yeah, I was going to have to practice on animals wasn’t I?

Thus that afternoon I was sitting in front of a restrained stray cat, six mice, and two pigeons. One mouse was dead. I had yanked too hard on his soul and it tore free and the mouse instantly died. Not to say the process of yanking the soul was instant. It took nearly a full minute to yank it free, but apparently that was still too fast. The mouse didn’t seem to know what was happening until near the end though. Then it seemed to go crazy in fear, heart racing and everything. The second, third and fourth mice all resulted in the same.

The fifth mouse went a little better and the soul was placed neatly inside a crystal shot glass. However apparently I had left the body soulless for too long as the body was dead before I could tie a string back to the body to allow the soul to puppet it.

Deciding that I might as well find out if I could remove a soul from the shot glass I pulled it free and tried putting it back in the body. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that it didn’t work, by the time I had done all of this testing it had been dead for some time. I wasn’t a necromancer. I could pretty clearly feel that all I could do was move souls around and tie them to things to make sure they couldn’t move on. The sixth mouse however worked. I had a lich mouse being puppeted by a sliver of soul. Deciding to let the mouse go back into its cage for a moment I felt the soul snap. The body collapsed and I quickly pulled another sliver of soul to the mouse. It once again woke up shaking. It seemed that souls really didn’t like to be stretched more than a foot or two.

I had thought this might be the case and I tried to weave a portal into the body of the mouse. It took nearly forty minutes and I was frustrated before I finally succeeded. It turned out that I needed to weave the portal together then pull the soul sliver through it. Then I could close it down to nothing. That was better than I could have possibly hoped for.

The soul was now anchored into the area below the heart and I got the impression it was only a few atoms wide. However the moment that anything happened to the few atoms around the portal within the body, the soul portal would close keeping the phylactery safe. I didn’t even have to keep the portal open myself as the rat’s soul didn’t want to be cut off so it supported the portal itself. However, It wasn’t perfect quite yet. I would have preferred even more separation, but it was infinitely better than my current vulnerable self.

Next I tried the bird. The bird’s soul was not much bigger than the mice, but I seemed to be improving as I kept a small sliver tied to the bird’s body while moving the rest to the shot glass. Now was the real moment of truth. I released the bird into the cat’s cage and predictably the cat tore it to pieces. I waited for a moment as the cat ate away at the bird’s body. Reaching out I pushed my senses into the shot glass. I was relieved to find the soul was still there. The soul seemed agitated which was to be expected, it had just felt its body die. I tried to soothe the soul by petting it and surprisingly it seemed to work.

That was just the second step; however, the most important step was this final one. Next I pulled the soul from the second pigeon and released it, letting that soul disperse. Then I quickly put a tendril of soul from the shot glass into the now soulless pigeon. The pigeon in question slowly opened its eyes and then blinked while standing up. I resisted the impulse to cheer as I didn’t want to be overheard by the neighbors.

That was the three steps I needed. The ability to tie a soul to an object to create a phylactery. The ability to leave said phylactery somewhere safe. Finally the ability to tie said soul to a new empty body when the soul’s original body had been destroyed.

I could feel instinctively that for anyone else being stuck in a phylactery would be like being stuck asleep, but since I was so heavily attuned to souls I would still be awake and capable of all of my soul magic while stuck in my phylactery. The problem was without a blank body I would have to rip someone’s soul out and puppet them if I wanted to actually affect the physical world… Damn it, I was basically Voldemort wasn’t I?

Throwing up my hands I pulled the soul out of the cat who had started to hiss at me and then wove it back into the cat’s body through the portal. Dropping the stray in a separate warehouse I decided to practice manipulating the cat’s soul.

I knew that the soul and mind were intrinsically linked so if I poked at it enough I might be able to change some things, maybe even get some affection. It was probably not very effective. Especially as I couldn’t program responses, but I could tell already it might eventually turn into something if I spent a lot of time developing the skill. The problem was I was sure it wouldn’t do much to the type of intelligent women I was looking for. Just being bonded to me was probably only enough to encourage mutual trust.

After nearly an hour I was pretty sure if that cat ever found me again it would believe I was its best friend. I mean, even without actually being able to change anything I had just given it the equivalent of the best back rub and scratches both physically and spiritually that it could possibly have imagined.

Sighing I got up. It was past noon and I hadn’t really had breakfast. Popping back around to the Mcdonalds I had lunch before heading over to a grocery store. I couldn’t cook exactly, but I could still buy basic stuff. Plus if the lady next door was gone I could easily cook some ramen using her microwave… I sighed. I really wanted to get out of this world.

Deciding to scout out some drug dens by once again scrying some streets I moved up and down through what was clearly gang territory. It took nearly two hours before I noticed several guys in gang colors moving out of a run down house. Poking my scrying window inside I found what was probably a low level supplier. There were probably 30 or 40 pounds of drugs in various different bags. Then again, I wasn’t good at estimating them. It seemed a lot, but I was pretty sure there were nearly a quarter million people in the city. If only one in every ten people did drugs then that was 20 thousand people using drugs. A little over 30 pounds in drugs wouldn’t even constitute 1% of what those people were probably using.

I sighed. Yeah, the failing city was definitely something I wasn’t going to be able to handle right now. I would have to think about what I could do there. Maybe get Amy and Taylor to get a metal eating bug and clear out the harbor.

Shaking my head to get back on target I eventually found the safe where the money was placed and then took it all. I had thought about taking only a little bit, but it really wasn’t worth the effort to try to find another safehouse right now. Still, to make it look like a stranger or some sort of other cape I waited until everyone had left the money room before messing up the room and then breaking the window inwards as softly as I could.

After counting my money I realized I now had nearly 10 thousand dollars. I didn’t know if I was lucky or not. Was that high or low?

Regardless, I could now move a little more openly. Deciding that I wanted to rent an apartment so I could have a real presence in the city, as well as a place to shower, I popped back near the boardwalk where I had seen some for rent signs. An annoying couple of hours later and I was the proud renter of a one room, semi-furnished apartment. Sure the one bedroom apartment was not worth the nearly $600 a month I was paying, but the landlord had thrown in water, electricity, and wifi along with asking no questions on who I was or what I was doing. Some insinuation that I was a normal runaway working at the local junkyard seemed to be enough.

After some consideration I decided to move the bed over and still sleep in the abandoned house. I would just keep the windows closed and blinds closed and portal back and forth. That way if anyone tracked me down to the apartment I entered each night I wouldn’t actually be here when they broke in after me.

Maybe the paranoia of Earth Bet was getting to me.

Regardless I moved to scope out what I hoped was Dinah’s middle school. I wasn’t going to do anything yet, but I wanted to scope things out and I had been sitting far too long. This was also one of the nicer parts of town so the gangs shouldn’t be bothering me here.

As I walked I noticed that school had gotten out a while ago as the middle school was very much empty. That was good. I really didn’t want to meet anyone right now.

“The numbers say that you can save me.”

Turning around quickly I finally noticed a young girl in a school uniform who somehow managed to walk up to me without me seeing her. Blinking, what she said suddenly hit me and I nearly facepalmed. I had been worrying about how to approach her, but she was a thrice damn precog. Obviously if she wanted to be found then she was going to find me instead.

Glancing around I tried to act natural and stick out my hand. “Nice to meet you. My name is Max.”

Her eyes narrowed. “0.052% chance your name is Max.”

I sighed. “Just shake the damn hand kid and let's head towards your house. I can get us somewhere safe once we are alone and explain.”

She seemed to consider this for a moment before shaking my hand. “93.134% chance you are telling the truth.”

Trying to look like I was just escorting her home, I waited until we turned down a side street before pulling her around the back of a dumpster and portaling us both back to the house.

Realizing that pulling a kid into a dark enclosed area would be terrible for her nerves I had portaled us to the second story where it was still dusty and dirty, but the window blinds had been left open.

Once we were there I waited for a second. “What I am going to say is incredibly sensitive information so I am going to portal this room halfway into a pocket dimension.”

It was an idea that I just had. Maybe it was an idea from my ROB given instincts, but I still would have preferred a chance to test it before using it. However, this might be crucial as I didn’t know how Contessa and Cauldron got their info and the more secrecy I could use the better.

“It shouldn’t do anything except make it so no one will be able to tell what we are saying unless they have a dimensional tunnel directly into the room. No radios, sensors, or even tinkertech communication devices should work. Plus I would feel it if they tried.”

Sitting down on one of the chairs in the room I gestured towards the other.

“Three things Dinah. I know about your power. I know what is about to happen to you. I have a way to help you. Said help can come in several different ways. I can help a little or I can possibly take you away from the danger entirely, but you will have to trust me completely in turn. So I recommend not asking any questions with your power until the end. I know you have limited questions per day.”

The girl just nodded. “Depends on the question type. Maybe 20-30 questions on defined yes or no scenarios like telling the truth. Hypotheticals are much harder and so I can only do about 4 or 5 before I get headaches and maybe double that before I pass out…”

I sighed. “Good to know. Again, ask if I am telling the truth at the end or we aren’t going to get anywhere. So here goes.”

I took a deep breath before looking her straight in the eye. “I don’t know what you know about the multiverse, but there are two thoughts. One is that every possible option is being taken in some universe somewhere. The second is that every creative thought we have is the product of some other choice made somewhere else. I don’t recommend asking too many detailed questions about those as I suspect the backlash of trying to understand the truth of the multiverse might do real damage to your mind. We just aren’t built to handle infinity. Plus there are several types of monsters in both this world and maybe others that might be able to track those questions back to us and neither of us would survive the interrogation.”

Dinah looked suitably chastised so I continued. “I am from one of these alternate worlds and whether you want to think of my info as something from a suitably powerful precog such as yourself or someone able to pierce the veil and truly see the future, this world is going to die in less than two years if nothing is done. Worse yet, there are several forces with both good and bad intentions that will ensure it goes down in flames. You are one who is going to suffer greatly as it happens. You were going to be captured by a man named Thomas Calvert who has the ability to split time into two hypotheticals running concurrently and decide which one is real later. That means he can trap you eventually as he can choose both options any time you make a decision and eventually he will catch you.”

I sighed again, “He is then going to get you addicted to some incredibly powerful drugs and keep you as a ‘pet’ oracle. Unfortunately that isn’t a joke, he is literally going to call you his little ‘pet’ and I am pretty sure he gets off on some pretty intense torture and rape in throw away timelines.”

Dinah was starting to shake so I reached forward and tried to pat her knee. She flinched for a moment before she relaxed so I continued. “This is where you have two options. You can enlist my help for the price of answering a few questions per day. Let's stay maybe 10 yes no questions and 3 hypotheticals. In turn I will remove you from any cell or containment Coil could place you in or direct the local heroes to your current location regardless of where he takes you. However I don’t have very many combat options at the moment. So, for instance, if he ever sets it up so that if you are saved the room in question explodes then there is little I could do to save you then.”

Dinah had started to look hopeful before her face once again fell. I sigh and run my hand through my hair. “The second option is where you trust me completely. Truth is that I have every intention of leaving this world and jumping to another reality entirely. I plan on trying to leave instructions on how to save this world when I do, but I am not going to stick around to see what happens. There are too many boogie men here with weird powers to ever be completely 100% safe. Instead I am offering to bind you to me and bring you with me. I am a soul mage from another world and I have every intention of turning myself and all of my companions into liches. Ones that will still control their bodies, but if those bodies are ever killed then their souls would be safe and we could simply get them new bodies to live on in.”

Dinah's eyes got wider and wider as I continued talking. I could see her starting to ask questions so I held up my hand. “The final thing you should know before you start asking questions is that I am not setting up a platonic companionship. I would like to think of myself as an honest man, but I am also someone who is looking to get several wives to travel with. I will treat all my companions well, but I am picking women as I want to make these companions my family. Now, I have no interest in children, you are what? 12?”

At her mumbled “13” I sighed. “So yeah, I am not going to touch you any time soon, but when you are much older I would give you the choice to stay with us or leave. If you stay you would be one of my wives. Note, I will not force myself on anyone, but I do want affection. Now in full transparency I don’t actually know how to let you leave, but I will try to find a way if you decide to leave.” A part of me felt better at that while my greed twisted.

I ran a hand through my hair before I gave her a little half smile. “Yes I know this is a lot to think about, but know this. We are going to be immortal as long as our soul jar can remain hidden in its pocket dimension so the difference in our ages will matter very little once we are both over a century old. Plus I really do want a sisterhood of women who care about each other and the connection between our souls will pretty much ensure that it stays that way. Now give me a second to cut off most of your power so we hopefully won’t alert anything to what we are doing here and you can ask you questions.”

Before she could so much as blink I narrowed her shard’s connection to Scion down to a bare trickle. “There. You should be able to ask simple questions like ‘Am I telling the truth?’, but hopefully no hypotheticals. I don’t want this information to get out to anyone else.”

I watched Dinah go through a variety of faces as she asked questions. Finally she looked up at me. “90% chance you are telling me the truth as you know it. 90% chance you were the one to affect my power and make it less accurate. 90% chance the number of questions I can ask has quadrupled. 90% chance that you believe you can make such a harem a loving family.” She blushed heavily at that. “70% chance I would eventually be happy in this harem. 90% I would be more happy in this harem than I would be on Earth Bet.” I blinked. I didn’t think she would be able to ask hypotheticals with her power restricted like this, but before I could think of a way to adjust my dimensional adjustment of her shard she continued. “10% chance of being detected by any other force while my power is restricted like this. 70% chance Earth Bet survives with the information you are currently thinking of leaving them.”

I blinked, but before I could ask Dinah continued. “30% chance of the survival of you and your wives if you stay on Earth Bet after leaking your information.”

I slumped. Yeah, that was Caldron for you.

“50% chance I will survive on Earth Bet in the next 10 years if I stay here. 90% chance my parents will miss me. 20% chance it will dramatically affect their lives.” I winced. Yeah, they loved her, but who doesn’t realize that their daughter triggered when she starts spouting percentages at everyone who asks.

Dinah slumped and started to tear up while sniffling. I hesitated for a moment before I got up and picked her up to place her in my lap before stroking her hair. This felt kinda scummy to do, but if she joined me she would be mine and I didn’t want any of them to suffer.

Yet something in me was uncomfortable, deeply uncomfortable, but another part was pleased. She was almost certainly going to join me now. Yet I pushed my conflicted feelings aside for now. I would do what I needed to do.

Slowly, as she calmed down, I started to consider what to do next before I sent her home. We had a lot to plan out if we were going to succeed.

Interlude Dinah:

A large part of her was scared. She was selling herself as a future child bride to a young man she had just met. However the probabilities didn’t lie. He really did care about those that would eventually be his wives. Well, he both cared about their happiness but also about being able to sleep with them.

That revelation from her power hadn’t been the nicest to receive, however after a few more questions, virtually every man and woman she might eventually date would want intimacy to one degree or another. It was something she had only recently started to understand.

She could feel the slight attraction to boys that hadn’t been there a year ago, but it wasn’t like she wanted to do anything more than stand next to them and hold hands, maybe kiss one on the cheek.

Still, her power had been very clear when she asked if she would be happy. Then even clearer when she asked again with the clarification that she would try to make it work. 90% was worth considering, right?

Still, as she stood in her bedroom looking at her stuffed animals she felt alone. Her parents were once again rubbing elbows with the rich and successful members of the city in the party downtown without her. It was nice to have a babysitter that could cook a little, but Lily was just a normal teenage girl who had sent her to bed the soonest she could get away with it.

Walking over to her bedroom, she felt the soft carpet under her feet and managed to hear gunfire echoing across the town from the docks. Her power would probably be able to tell her more about it, but she didn’t actually care that much.

She wanted to save her questions for the things that actually mattered. Things like getting away from Coil. Knowing for certain what would happen to her. The forced drug addiction and probable rape and torture were horrifying. When Coil was done she would barely be a person anymore. The questions she was able to ask her power confirmed each and every detail.

Suppressing a shutter, she felt the tears start to fall. She really didn’t have a chance here in Brockton Bay. Not while Coil held so much power. Then even if Coil was removed, her power was quite clear she would still be roped into some think tank or other regardless of who took over afterward. All while Max was offering protection, power, and the ability to see new worlds. All it would take is joining his family. A family he would fight tooth and nail to protect.

She didn’t love him, not yet, but it was hard to beat that offer. Especially when her power could tell her the odds on each of her options. She didn’t know the odds of what would happen when she left this world. Her power couldn’t calculate that. But uncertain odds were better than a nearly universal losing hand here.

Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Worm - Making Real Progress

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 5-30-24

The planning session we had had last night was an example of how, even with a precog on your side, it is hard to account for everything.

What I learned however was that the jogging idea was a good way to approach Taylor, but approaching Amy at home or at school was a recipe for disaster. Really the best way to talk to her would be on the roof of the hospital when she smokes. Lisa was hard to judge as what I was feeling at the time would affect what she took from the discussion, but she might listen. Apparently promising an end to thinker headaches was the best thing I could do initially. I was dubious, but Dinah admitted that the reduced thinker headache forming was already making her consider staying with me permanently. That was important, with how powerful her ability was already proving to be, I really wanted to encourage that outcome.

I felt something twist in my gut, but I pushed it away. I needed these girls and Damn did these girls need me. Everyone benefited here. My stomach stopped aching, but I ignored the remaining unease.

Miss Militia and Vista were much less likely, but my best chance would be contacting them during a PR patrol near the boardwalk. Ironically as long as I was in a mask they would treat me seriously while the rest were best to approach out of mask.

Portaling Dinah home I found a cat and let Dinah wander out of an alley petting said cat. Hopefully that would explain to any watchers where she had been for so long.

Returning to my apartment I showered. When I finally got out of the bathroom my phone said it was 6pm so I got dinner from a restaurant near the boardwalk and then returned. After entering my apartment I portaled back to my house and decided to sleep. My alarm would wake me up at 2am for the heist.

The heist itself was incredibly anti-climactic. I already knew that most jewelry stores move all of their important items to their back vault when they close each night so it was a matter of moments to move my scrying point to the back and reach through and grab both necklaces. After a moment I found a four carrot artificial diamond ring. Smiling to myself I grabbed that as well. I hesitated for a moment before I unscrewed the back of the vault and eventually fried the circuit board. Triggering the manual override I opened the safe and broke a window, grabbed the cash, before closing the portal. Hopefully they thought it was a tinker breaking into the vault who then left when they heard the cops arriving. Realizing that this store would have a security camera I quickly opened the portal back up before eventually finding said disks and yanking the entire thing through the portal and cutting the cords with a knife from the apartment. Already I could hear sirens surrounding the building. Hopefully that would be enough.

Sitting back in my apartment I sighed. It was time to do it.

This was the point of no return.

I just needed to rip my soul out of my body and stuff it in this diamond or ruby. Looking through the two and weighing the two out in my mind I realized that the artificial nature of the diamond didn’t seem to hurt it any. Apparently it was the ordered nature of the gem that really made it a good vessel for something as chaotic as the soul. Once again hesitating I put the ruby back and with some clever portaling I was able to get the ring to link through the front of the two combined necklaces. That seemed important for the future bindings. Regardless I opened up myself fully to the ring and started to pull.

Unlike the animals where I could kind of surround and sooth the soul, this was agony. I pulled and pulled finally leaving only a wisp connected through my portal to my body. Then I began the binding of my soul to the diamond ring.

When I was done I collapsed with the entire necklace assembly in my hands on the bed and slept.

I nearly slapped my phone into another portal when it started beeping that it was 6:30 am and time to try to catch Taylor on one of her runs. Sighing I got up and wattled towards the door before I realized I would need to portal to the apartment before I could use the bathroom. Sighing I did just that and it was only when I realized that I had left the necklace behind that I sighed in relief. My soul portals were working just fine. I really should have tested them a little better, but it was good to know they worked.

After some final prep and a final pop I ended up jogging down the road for two blocks before I was interrupted by a girl in Dark Brown and long legs passing me. I was glad to see she was older than I had feared. She was at least 16, maybe 17 or 18 which made me feel a lot better about this.

She didn’t seem to take any particular note of me, but I would bet anything she had a bug or two on me just in case. I followed along at a slightly slower pace for nearly two more blocks before she slowed down about to turn away. I called out before she could head down the next street as I figured this was my best chance.

“Do you happen to have any water?”

Taylor seemed to jump and her eyes finally met mine. “Uhhh…”

I could tell already that the girl was just as skittish as I had feared, probably starting to insult herself for sounding dumb or something. Deciding it was best to try to build her up as soon as possible while building some interest. I stuck out my hand while trying to breathe, playing up how tired I was. “Don’t worry about it if you don’t. You look like you know what you are doing, so you probably don’t need it.”

Taylor seemed to jerk herself out of whatever she was thinking and I could see a hint of red touch her cheeks before her body turned robotic and her face smoothed out. I winced internally. Wow, ok, so she is already doing the emotion suppression thing. I don’t think that is healthy. I probably should snap her out of it while trying to not be pushy. “Sorry I should have introduced myself first. I go by Max. I just started running and you look like you know what you are doing so I thought I would ask if you had any tips.”

Taylor seemed to break out of it and fidgeted a bit before shaking her head. “No, I… uh, don’t really. I have only been doing this for uh… a few months. Trying to get in shape… and all. And my name is Taylor”

Nodding like this was a completely normal way of approaching a conversation instead of drawing attention to the stuttering I smiled as I responded. “Right, makes sense although I doubt you need it.”

That seemed to draw Taylor up so I continued, head tilted. “You don’t seem to believe me.” Trying to make it obvious I was taking a quick look while smiling reassuringly. “Seriously girl, you are cute and you have legs for days. That isn’t even mentioning some pretty gorgeous hair. I bet there are tons of guys after you and probably a few girls as well.”

That finally seemed to shut Taylor down. Blinking rapidly she seemed to be warring with herself internally. When she finally shook her head I blinked like I was confused. Before she could start denying it I reached into my pocket and found a pen and receipt that I had left there for just this purpose. “You don’t seem to believe me. So here, this is my mobile number. Call or text me anytime you want to talk. If you want I will take you out for lunch or something.”

I watched as Taylor seemed to completely freeze up as I handed her the note. Looking down at it I brushed my thumb across the back of her hand and watched as the goosebumps rose on her arms. Trying to make sure she didn’t notice I decided it was best to start jogging away down the street she wasn’t going to start down and then paused. How large was her range again? Several blocks right? Damn. I was going to have to keep jogging for a while, wasn't I?

It was nearly an hour later before I felt safe to portal back to my apartment for a quick shower.

Walking out after my shower and then down to the corner cafe I was amused when I saw the headlines on a TV. Apparently the news was pretty sure there was a new villain around. Most people seemed to think either stranger or tinker. Either way that should work for me. As long as they thought I had to be at the location in question I shouldn’t need to worry about them tracking down a teleporter.

I paused. That was something that a tinker could absolutely detect with enough time. I cursed internally before sighing. I was going to have to obfuscate the signal. Grabbing a few dozen birds, cats, and dogs and turning them into liches with portals in their souls should make Armsmaster and Dragon’s readings confusing at best and useless at worst. Sighing again, I looked around. I guess I knew what I was going to be doing until Amy arrived at the hospital.

The animal wrangling was a lot easier than it would be normally. Scry down an empty street. Find an animal then before the animal even knows what is happening, widen the portal and grab the animal before yanking the animal into a cage. Another crystal shot glass down and then released the animal again. In the end I grabbed nearly 20 birds, 7 cats, and 6 dogs while I limited myself to 10 mice.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that this should make the transfer for my future wives smoother.

An hour after Amy arrived at the hospital in question I portaled myself up to the roof of the hospital, but sat down behind the door where the one camera I spotted wouldn’t be able to see me.

Luckily I had picked the shady side as it was another 40 minutes before I heard a teenage girl climb up to the roof and walk to the railing. From behind her oversized robes I instantly knew this was Panacea. Amy Dallon, or properly her name was Amelia Claire. Sighing again I decided it was best to just speak up.

“Hey Panacea.”

The girl whipped around so quickly she lost her lighter. Sighing I reached through my portal and picked it up and then reached through again to hand her the lighter. She jumped at first but after a moment she took the lighter and lit up and took a long drag.

“So what do you want? Are you sick or something?”

I sighed again and waived the question away. “Nah, nah. I just want to talk. I promise that nothing will happen to you or anyone else here regardless of what happens in this talk.”

Amy seemed to get even angrier at that. “So it is New Wave that you are after.”

I let myself slump. “No, seriously. I am not going to do anything to anyone. I seriously only want to help you and several other heroes before I leave.”

Amy seemed to consider this for a moment before holding out her hand walking forward. “Let me hold your hand, I will know if you are lying.”

Glancing up at her I patted the bench next to me and held out my hand. Amy sat down and held my hand before looking at me, eyes widening. “You aren’t a parahuman.”

I let my eyebrow rise. “I didn’t think you could tell so quickly.”

She seemed to flinch and instantly blurted. “I can’t do brains, just see them a bit.”

I squeezed Amy’s hand before she could say more. “I know a lot more of what is going on in this world than just about anyone else. But I want to be completely sure no one can hear us so I am going to portal this corner of a room halfway into a pocket dimension. It isn't completely cut off and you can leave anytime, but nothing we say will be able to get out with a dimensional anchor which I would have felt.”

I was a lot more sure about the process of making bubbles now. It took several mice before I was sure that the pocket dimensions were completely stable and safe albeit a little tiring for me to maintain. It was the difference between standing up and sitting, but it was there. However, even falling asleep or leaving them alone and doing my best to forget about them completely didn’t destabilize them. So, now I was sure, it was a much better solution for security.

The only thing was Amy would be completely unable to leave without my help. However, I had every intention of dropping the bubble the moment she wanted to leave so what I had said was technically true.

Amy seemed overwhelmed for a second, but after a moment she sighed. “Ok, talk away.”

Sighing, I started. “Do you understand the multiverse theory?”

Surprisingly, Amy took the idea that I was from an alternate reality where I knew about her life fairly well. However, she was shocked at first to hear she was the daughter of the Villain Marquis. That revelation might have been better saved for last as after that she seemed to be in shock for most of the rest of the discussion. I suspected she had been realizing why exactly Carol had treated her so badly her entire life. Ultimately, she didn’t even blink as I explained about what would happen to her if nothing changed.

The discussion went through her sexual attraction to her adoptive sister and her ultimate fate of snapping and trying to modify her sister’s mind to love her back. However this was after months of stress including having the town attacked by Leviathan with most of the town destroyed and then being personally targeted and manipulated and partially mastered by the murder hobos, the slaughterhouse 9. Yet despite all the mitigating factors she would send herself to the birdcage. She would languish there until she was called up to help Taylor save the world. Yet even after succeeding in the stupid hail mary plan she was treated as a criminal and spent most of the rest of her life alone with her creations.

There was a few minutes of silence while Amy looked devastated. Yet, before I could forget I also warned her heavily against repeating any of this to anyone.

It was finally when I started up and explained I was a soul mage that questions started popping up.

“You are saying that a soul is real? How do you know?”

I smirked. “Well for one. I was able to pull my own out and attach it to a diamond. I am now a bonafide lich. If my body dies I can just replace it. Additionally since I cut off my soul from almost all controlling senses I should be mostly free from mastering effects like Glory Girls aura. I actually got close enough when she flew you here to check. Her aura can make my body feel things, but I can overrule it almost completely.”

I saw Amy about to object so I held up my hand and continued. “I know you both want and don’t want the fact it is mind control to be true, but I will be blunt. You aren’t stupid Amy. It isn’t a direct control, but if you are given a kick of endorphins and lust every time Vicky is happy with you then you are addicted. There are no two ways about it.”

She frowned at that. “I can tell you aren’t lying but you could still be mistaken.”

I shook my head. “I will explain how I know soon, but for proof on how I can help look at my body, I am going to temporarily deactivate my connection and my body should just go brain dead. Then I will reattach my anchor and it will come back. I know it won’t prove anything about her aura, but it should prove my abilities and how I can cut off myself from my body’s inputs.”

Amy looked downright freaked out when I pulled the plug and straight up punched me when I attached it back. “Your whole body just shut down and froze. Like a person shot in the brain, all of the signals just started sputtering out.”

I squeezed her hand. “Look at me Amy.”

Taking a deep breath she looked up and swallowed. “I am asking for companions to leave with me. I will be blunt. If you accept, you will be safe in another reality when this one goes through its apocalypse. The world’s best precog says this world has at least a 70% chance of surviving if we leave the correct information, but we will die if we stay. I won’t directly kidnap you but I am going to get you away from your family regardless. You are stuck between your sister who has almost completely mastered you and your adoptive mother who is straight up emotionally abusive.”

Amy seemed wrung out and simply turned away to stare at the town slightly distorted by the dimensional shift.

I took a moment before I continued. “I want you to consider three things when I leave you. I will answer any questions you have now, but I will also get in contact again in three days to answer additional questions.”

After a moment Amy sighed and nodded so I spoke. “First things first. I want you to know I am a greedy man and I am going to be binding multiple women to me. Basically if I am going to be stuck navigating the multiverse I am going to have a harem of wives along for the ride. The things I am looking for are Intelligence, compassion, and power. You are at the top of all three categories. I want you not because you are Panacea, but because you are an incredible and beautiful woman. Any man or woman would be more than happy to have you as you are one of the best people in this world. The problem is that this world just beat you and Taylor down harder because of it.”

Amy seemed to be annoyed at first but froze up when I started complimenting her.

After a moment's pause I continued. “Second thing I want you to know. While I am greedy, I am going to treat my wives well. I truly want them to be happy and an eternity of exploring the multiverse, saving people, being surrounded by people who care for you, and kicking some ass is what is lined up for you if you come along. Regardless like I said, I am getting you out of this. You are burnt out. I think you know you need help, but you see the people around you and the social pressure to keep working and you just can’t. Let me tear you away from this. We care about you and we are going to make sure you care about yourself.”

At this point Amy looked up in the sky and breathed out, finally taking another puff on her smoldering cigarette.

I smiled as I squeezed her hand. “Finally I am going to be jailbreaking your powers. As I explained they are currently attached to a shard or crystal based supercomputer. However I am going to be pulling most of that and compressing it into our pocket dimension centered around your soul. So your restriction on manipulating your own body will be gone. It was only there in the first place to limit you as the shards want conflict.” I wasn’t sure how I knew that was the case, but I knew she would be able to use her power completely even if it was harder and would take longer without the shard support.

Amy snapped to look at me and I smiled. “Yeah, I know you have some body issues growing up next to Vicky, but I wanted you to know I find you attractive already before I let you know you could change things.” I paused for a moment. “I also plan on having you be in charge of letting the girls do whatever they like to their bodies. Just know that means, as long as you keep us healthy and physically ready to act you can do whatever you want about cosmetic changes to any of us if you have permission, including saying no. It is your body, your power, your choice.”

I got up but before I released Amy’s hand I smirked. “I know you are mostly attracted to women so I just wanted you to know…” Amy’s eyes narrowed as I smirked harder. “I am perfectly fine with my harem enjoying each other without me. Just as long as I can join in the fun when I return. I might even join in a female form if you can get me a body.”

Amy’s hand dropped away from mine as her face went beet red. Chuckling, I walked away Dispersing the dimension shift and opening a portal to my apartment. Turning for one more comment I found Amy was frowning, but her eyes had been staring at my butt.

She seemed to realize what she had done and went even redder. “I will see you later sweetheart. Pointing at a note card I had left on my seat I smiled. Call me if you want to talk sooner.”

I was glad Amy was sitting down as I was pretty sure a quarter of her blood was now in her cheeks. As I left I noticed her start to smile.

That is my second wife committed to join. She might take a few days to convince herself, but looking at her soul I was sure she was committed to joining me. She was mine.

The better news was after some quick googling to double check I had found out she was only a few weeks from being 19. I might have felt bad about pulling her away before her high school graduation, but the town would be destroyed by Bakuda before she could celebrate anyway.

However, I had to admit that while I felt slightly uncomfortable, a part of me was thrilled. I would have to be gentle as I was sure Amy would be extra nervous, but I smiled at the thought of finally getting a wife I could sleep with.

As I was just sitting down in my apartment to try to figure out how to approach Lisa I got a text from the burner that I had given Dinah.

Popping up the screen I looked down.

‘95% chance I will be taken in the next two weeks. I want you to do it now.’

I pulled up the keyboard and responded. ‘Are you alone and are you at home?’

After the affirmative I pulled her through my portal to my home’s basem*nt. I then pulled us halfway to the next dimension and paused.

“Ok, we are secure.” I sighed and Dinah started to finally breathe.

Taking a deep breath I looked her right in her eye trying to make her understand the consequences of any decision here.

“You still have three fundamental options. One, I can promise to save you, or send help to you if you hold on to something I am anchored to. I recommend something simple like a small stone I portal directly into your leg. I do not think they can take you anywhere I can’t get to.”

Dinah shook her head. “94% chance of capture, coma, or death within the next year if I do that. Especially after you leave.”

I sighed. “Second option I didn’t fully explain before. I make you a lich so that you will be able to recover from whatever is done to your body. With some help you can probably even turn off your senses and I will still promise to help. This means he can’t really control you and you can’t be killed.”

Dinah once again shook her head. “81% I end up stuck asleep in my gem within a year and remain there until it is broken or you come back for me anyway.”

I sighed. “Final option. You are going to join me as a platonic companion for now. I will let you choose when you grow up if you are a wife or if you want to leave at that point. Either way I will take you away from here when I leave this world. Worst case scenario is we get Panacea to copy your body and let it get caught, making Coil completely sure you died.”

Dinah smiled. “I did my research today. I am about to turn 14 and it has only been in the last 300 years or so that betrothals weren’t made at my age. I don’t know if I will stay permanently. However, if I do the numbers say that, if I treat this as a big family, there is a 92% chance I will be happy with you and my sister wives.”

Smiling and ruffling her hair I reached out with my soul and slowly encompassed Dinah's soul with mine. The process was slow. Much slower than I had imagined. Dinah layed down on the bed and I sat down next to her once we realized it would probably be nearly two hours and I had to keep my hand on her chest the entire time. I probably could have sped it up, but I really didn’t want to mess it up.

Finally, it was done and I found myself smiling as I felt my very soul latch onto hers. Part of me wondered how it worked exactly. My rob instincts were quite clear that if one of us was still alive, soul intact, we would both eventually return. It just wasn’t clear how, especially since we would need new bodies. However, I really didn’t want to be testing anything like that.

That was good, but it wasn’t good enough for me as I wanted the ability to directly return her to life. The only way I knew I could do that was going through and making her a lich. Taking another deep breath I gently pulled her entire soul out of her body and gently placed it into the sapphire furthest to the left followed by pulling the sliver of the soul back and connecting it to her body. For some reason I found the best place to place the connection was right behind the eyes. I ended up fiddling with it for several hours. Still after the portals were set up, I sent the phylactery set safely back in my little pocket dimension and I hugged my future wife.

“Well, it is done. Regardless of what happens to this body, you will always be with me unless you ask to leave.”

Dinah seemed to tear up at that and turned to hug me.

I smiled and chuckled. “I am glad I have you, but I am still going to treat you as just a friend until you choose what you want to do when you are older. Yet I also want you to speak up if you want something. I want this to be a happy friendship too.”

Dinah’s hug increased again. “I like that.”

Smiling, I pushed her off of me and looked her in the eye while listening to my instincts. “Part of the issue with the move was I had to pull your powers into your soul. You should now be immune to thinker headaches as they were the way the shard limited you. However since it is your own soul powering the ability you are now going to be getting tired very quickly if you use your power too often.”

Dinah looked ecstatic at the first part, but slowly calmed down for the rest so I continued. “The other good news is that you should be able to turn it off if you practice. I would hope that might make Coil back off already once he realizes you aren’t answering questions anymore, but I doubt it.”

Dinah frowned and sighed. “97% chance he does not change his plans.” She then slumped. “Wow, I felt like I just ran a mile.”

I patted her head, “Yeah, I don’t think you are going to be rattling off hypothetical percentages more than a few times per day. You might even be more limited than you were previously.”

Before she could ask another question I pressed my fingers to her lips then patted her head like kid. “Rest for now, you have school in the morning.”

Dinah straight up pouted at me and I smiled in return. Opening up another portal she smiled at me. “93% chance that Lisa will come up and talk to you if you walk the boardwalk tomorrow at 10am.”

Smiling after giving my new friend a kiss on the top of her head along with whispered instructions to stay safe, I turned away. Opening another portal directly to my bed I collapsed on my newly laundered sheets.

That binding had actually been kinda tiring, but it also seemed to help something deep in my soul relax, like something had been slotted in the correct place. Like a pressure I hadn’t known I had was now finally relieved somewhat. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but while I wasn’t completely comfortable I slept much better with it present.

Interlude Amy:

Amy turned and thought as she walked through the hallways of the hospital. She knew Vicky would get annoyed that she had taken the bus down to do extra hours, but surprisingly enough this was actually kinda cathartic this time.

No longer was the prospect of spending the rest of her life healing ungrateful, unending masses of people the most likely direction of her life. She had the option now to do more. See more. Be more.

All away from Vicky and Carol Dallon. The revelation on who her parents were was unexpected, but made complete sense. How Carol was shaken by her kidnapping and had started to sympathize with her captors. Stockholm syndrome at its finest. Then, when those captors decided to kill her and her sister, she must have felt betrayed. Completely understandable.

Yet she had let that distrust color almost every facet of her life and Amy had felt the brunt of that distrust. Her life had been one where she was never trusted in anything. The only half hearted praise she had ever gotten was from her time at the Hospital. Hell Amy was half sure Carol had been reassured with how hard she worked herself because it meant that she was obviously too tired to betray her.

Finding another room with a woman with stage 2 breast cancer, she sighed and asked. “May I heal you?”

The woman’s shaky nod was followed by a touch, and about twenty minutes later she could pull away to see the husband holding his teary wife.

She felt a pang of guilt that she was considering leaving these people to die, but when no one thanked her or even looked at her while the nurse started gesturing to get her moving to the next room, she sighed.

The first hundred people she had healed were a miracle. The next thousand were grateful. The next ten thousand were glad they had managed to see her. Now it was just expected.

What made it worse was she knew that there was tinker tech that was being used to heal capes. Tinker tech that could be used to lessen the burden on her. Tinker tech that was deemed too expensive to extend out to the public.

At that moment, she could see it. There were already people criticizing her every time she took a break. Every time her sister took her out to go shopping. It would be the pressure of work while hiding her secrets that would make her crack.

Funnily enough, it was actually the knowledge that someone knew her attraction and hadn’t judged her for it that had lessened the pressure. The knowledge that being attracted to her pseudo step-sister, master power or not, didn’t make her literal scum. She could also admit here in the privacy of her mind that Max was right. She was being controlled, even if it was mild. Still, even the knowledge that if she broke then she would carry out some of her deepest fears didn’t actually hide the relief of knowing someone knew, knew and still cared about her.

She had been holding his hand and watching his body when he said it. There was no scorn, only sympathy and a little bit of attraction. Normally that would have made her bristle, but on him, it seemed genuine.

She paused and stared out the window over the city. She was going to take the offer for his soul surgery just to have a clear head again. She didn’t think she was instantly going to not be attracted to Vicky, but being able to make her own decisions was something she had wanted for as long as she realized her infatuation.

Plus, as she touched another gang banger and healed him of the effects of smoking crack in his lungs and the drinking damage to his liver before closing the stab wound to his wrist, she could admit she was bored. She was pretty sure she had seen this guy several times before and unless he got shot in the head or heart, she would see him again.

Then for the first time she glanced at the nurse accompanying her and hummed inwardly. A part of her could admit that being part of a harem might also not be too bad if the girls were hot. She was pretty sure she had thought both boys and girls were hot before Vicky had awakened her aura so that bisexuality might return.

Still, a small doubt ran through her head as she thought about Vicky. What if this was all just a ploy to get to Vicky through her? Max had been truthful when he said he wasn’t interested, but what if he could hide it? She doubted it, but what if.

Then, did she even want her sister there? It would destroy her sister’s dream of being a hero. Would she even be able to get over her crush on Vicky if Vicky was there the entire time?

Still, Vicky was her entire world. The sister that had stayed by her while Carol was being a bitch. The sister that had always tried to cheer her up. Another part of her brain decided to speak up then and remind her that it was this sister that had said nothing whenever Carol had decided to berate her for not healing enough. Then a quieter part of her brain decided to speak up. Was she the sister that might like the spotlight enough to keep her as a second wheel? No, that was stupid.

Healing another grandmother of a broken hip, she got a ‘thank you’ this time. It was sad that she usually only got thanked by the extremely young or the extremely old.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to center herself and get back to work. She would have to talk to her sister about her aura and her choices soon enough. Best not to think about it until then.

Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Worm - Setbacks and Breakthroughs

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 6-1-24

It was the next day that I noticed the text from Amy. She had apparently texted me well past midnight with a short message. ‘Are you going to be making the same offer to Vicky?’

I wasn’t sure if Amy was requesting it or wanting to exclude her. Stopping to think about it further I even started to wonder if Amy herself knew which option she was leaning towards.

Sighing at the complication I considered a moment before responding. ‘I am not actually as interested in Vicky as I am in you. I want my group to be as happy together as possible so if you have strong opinions either way about inviting her I will probably defer to that decision.’

I sent the text and rolled out of bed in order to get my shower and head out to hopefully meet with Taylor.

When I got back out of the shower I was greeted with another text. ‘...Ok’

Yeah the girl didn’t know what she wanted.

I sighed and started my jog. It was only a few blocks before I noticed Taylor jogging along coming from a side street. She didn’t seem to be paying attention so she was obviously either deep in thought or using her bugs to see the world around them… perhaps both.

Adjusting my course so I could wave at her when she turned the corner and would most likely see me. I frowned internally when I noticed Taylor blank when she looked at me.

She didn’t seem to want to approach me and so I tried making the wave again with a smile followed by the call me gesture.

I would just have to go from there. It wasn’t like she would open up to me if I chased her down and tried to make her talk.

Continuing my jogging I found a restaurant and ordered breakfast. It was not bad and I had a moment to consider how I wanted to approach Lisa.

If I was careful I might be able to spot her first. If I did then the best plan was probably to act as open as possible and let her read into the conversation whatever she wanted. I had every intention of being kind and letting her make all of the decisions. Yeah I wanted her, but it wasn’t like I was going to force her in anything and she should be able to recognize that.

Once I finish my breakfast and head back to change clothes and shower I started my walk down the boardwalk.

I actually had a little fun this time. I need to build myself a costume eventually and all of these jackets and whatnot look like they could be something fun. I might look like the hobo hero, but I only needed it to talk with the Protectorate Heros. The government supported hero team shouldn’t be attacking me on sight anyway.

Finally I find a hockey mask in the back, but I will have to wait for night time and portal in to get it. Buying a mask on the boardwalk with cameras everywhere right before debuting with said mask would be monumentally dumb.

In the end, I only ended up buying the black jacket and boots I had found. After I walked out of the boardwalk I found a side street before portaling my boots back to my apartment. I really didn’t need to carry them around everywhere, but I needed to keep at least one bag since people had seen me with it already. You never knew who was watching.

It was nearly an hour later that I spotted Lisa. I hadn’t been sure it was her until she flinched as she met my eyes. She had been staring at me obviously realizing that I was looking for her. So, once our eyes met she paused obviously realizing she had been spotted and understanding I wouldn’t let this go without talking to her.

As I walked up she poked me in the chest. “What do you think you are doing? This is clearly against the unwritten rules.”

I scoffed. “We both know that neither one of us has bad intentions right now and I am here to make you a counter offer to the one your current employer made. But first I want to find a place private enough for this conversation.”

Glancing around Lisa seemed to agree. “There doesn’t seem to be any of his men around but he can look through the security cameras. I am going to act like I brushed you off and you chase me into an alley.”

I rolled my eyes but followed her script as she suddenly walked away. Trying to grab her hand I tried to play the role of a frustrated boyfriend or suitor before I followed her towards a blind alley.

Once we reached the alley I opened a portal to the roof and walked inside. Lisa seemed to inspect it for a bit before also stepping though.

I sighed. I was going to have to give the speech again, but before I could start Lisa started talking. “You are here to make an offer. You have powers. No, not normal powers. Something dimensional. No, not only dimensional. You want me for your group. No, not only for your group. You want me physically. No, not only me, but other women as well.” She was now going a little white. “You are thinking about controlling us somehow. No not controlling us, but mastering us in some way… But previously you were clearly not going to do me any harm. But…”

Lisa looked ready to bolt so I slapped my hand down on the rail on the side of us. The noise seemed to jolt her out of whatever spiral she was now running down.

Reaching out with my abilities, I pulled us half-way into a pocket dimension like before, but this time I completely cut her off from her power. It was actually easier than I thought it would be.

Lisa’s eyes widened even further as she felt the information her power was feeding her and I noticed she started to tremble.

I winced, I wasn’t trying to terrify her. “Lisa. Listen to me. I am going to explain everything. What you do after I give you the information is up to you. I will not do anything to you today even if you asked me to. Do you understand?”

That seemed to finally calm her down somewhat, but she now looked less scared and more angry.

Sighing, I brace myself to start my explanation again, but before I do Lisa folds her arms and huffs. “Give me my power back.”

I sigh and finally run a hand down my face. “No, not if you aren’t going to actually listen, you are just going to use your cold reading trick to try to get answers. Especially if those answers are only half true at best.”

Lisa full on growls and I blink in disbelief.

Then fully done with Lisa’s complaints I just decided to bite the bullet. “The multiverse theory is right. Specifically the one that implies your current reality is a fantasy of another.”

Lisa finally unfolds her arms and just stares at me.

“I am not a parahuman. What amounts to a powerful Precog says that if nothing changes this section of reality will be destroyed in about two years.”

Now Lisa looked at me with a sense of fear and worry.

I decided to continue laying it out as best I could. “There are multiple forces at work that will make this world fall and I have no intention of still being here when it does, especially as we die if we stay even if we save the world. Conversely that powerful precog, the same one your boss is trying to kidnap, has confirmed that if we leave the correct information this world has a better than 70% chance of surviving.”

Lisa was now simply blinking at me and I smiled. “Short answer to your questions. I am a dimensional soul mage. I made myself an immortal lich and I will make the people I bind to me the same. That said what you saw with your power isn’t completely wrong. I am a normal guy…” She scoffed at that but I continued. “So, yes I am picking women who are willing to join me as my wives as we travel the multiverse.”

I took another deep breath and considered my wording of the next part before continuing. “I am sure you will figure out I am telling the truth, but know that others have confirmed it as well. Now as for why specifically you.”

This seemed to grab her interest and she actually motioned for me to get on with it. “You were important in the story of this world. You helped a girl named Taylor as she grew up and eventually helped her save the world albeit with overwhelming, almost catastrophic casualties and death.”

I watched as she just stared at me open-mouthed. “The problem is that it isn’t going to be enough this time in this version of the universe. So, the reason I am making this offer to you specifically is I want to recruit you. I liked who you became even if you were a little bit of a bitch from time to time. I know you say that you are asexual currently, but you should know two things. One, I am able to turn your power off myself but I can give you the ability as well. Two, thinker headaches will also be a thing of the past.”

That did get her attention, but she didn’t look convinced and I suspected that I had failed. I decided to just wrap it up. “Look, I am attracted to power, kindness, and intelligence and surprisingly enough you do have a decent amount of all three.” She looked a little flattered, but didn’t say anything.

I took a sigh and sat back on the ledge of the roof and eyed Lisa for a moment. “You should know two more things. One is that this information will absolutely get you killed. Not by me, but by some of the boogie men of this world. They have both precogs and portal makers on their side. You speak a word of this to anyone and I suspect that you will have a bullet in your head within the hour.”

Lisa had gone white at that and I could tell she was thinking about running again. “Second is that your boss is Thomas Calvert, PRT consultant. He has the ability to test two hypothetical timelines and pick which one he wants to keep. The problem is that he gets to keep any information on the rejected timeline so he can do things like torture or rape you and you would never know. I am telling you this as he is probably going to do it again, but you should know that if you give him any information before you die, the version of you that survived will suffer for it.”

Lisa had started to wobble and I quickly stepped up and sat her down back against the brick wall of the ledge. “I am sorry, but you need to know all the details so you can make your choices intelligently. Option one is that I help you get away from Coil and out of town. No one should be able to recognize you as I have a connection to Panacea and she will help. If you brand yourself a new hero in another city you can probably even get real protection from…”

Lisa reached up and grabbed my arm. “I want option 1! Get me out of her! I don’t want anything to do with you or any of this anymore.”

I sighed and decided to flick the girl on the nose. “Listen to my entire pitch before you say something.” Then quieter I added. “Damn it Lisa, you are supposed to be the smart one.”

That was apparently the thing that seemed to shock her out of her spiral. Glaring at me I smirked in return. “Ok, now that you are actually listening, let me explain your other options. The downside for option 1 is that the boogie men of this universe are connected to the PRT. No, I won't give more information than that. You shouldn’t look into it. So you aren’t completely safe even if you go to them.”

“The second option is that I temporarily make you a lich. You will be able to perfectly fake your death and then I can send you on your way with your face changed. Once again I recommend some official position with the PRT or guild, harder to make you disappear. The downsides are the same as before. Also my help will be one time only so if anyone tracks you down, then nothing changes. Finally option three is be bound to me and leave this reality. Bonuses are immortality, traveling the multiverse, and making your powers actually yours. Again, this means that thinker headaches are gone, but using your powers will make you tired, Plus, like I said, you will be able to turn them off.” I raised my eyebrows a few times, not so subtly hinting that she might get her libido back once her powers were off.

Seeing her actually considering it I sighed. “Actually, excuse me, the power modifications are actually part of option 2 as well. Downsides from your opinion are that you will be mine in a harem of sister wives, plus it is possible that we might not ever come back.” Lisa looked up annoyed and I shrugged. “One girl I bonded with didn't really care and the second that is more or less committed is kinda looking forward to the other women.”

Lisa huffed and turned away. “Give me my damn powers back.”

I sighed. “OK I will, but please remember my warnings. Don’t use my power to think about me or my powers or where parahuman abilities come from. It will get us both killed. Second is that you don’t talk to anyone about what you heard. Third is that you call this number when you make your decision.”

Flicking the card with my number to Lisa I released her power and dropped the dimension shift. Lisa gave me a stink eye for several moments as she stared at me before gesturing to the ground.

Rolling my eyes I simply opened a portal to the ground and then portaled back to my apartment.

Deciding that I really could use a nap I fell asleep after portaling back to the house.

It was to a text message that I woke up. I blinked. Was it Amy again? What was going on with Vicky?

Pulling out my phone I see I missed a phone call from an unknown number. I had only given my phone number to Lisa, Dinah, Amy… and Taylor. I blinked again. Was Taylor really calling me?

Dialing the call back button I waited for a moment before I heard Taylor’s robotic voice across the line. “Hey Max, this is Taylor. I want to know what you want with me. Someone like you… wouldn’t normally be interested in someone like me.”

I sighed and rubbed my head. She was being smart, hinting she knew I was a cape without saying anything. Debating for a moment I decide it is best to just confront her directly. “I have a lot to tell you. From your voice I can tell that you are asking a little more than just why I gave you my number, right?”

I could hear the silence for a moment. It seemed quite a bit longer than expected and I frowned. Finally she responded. “Yes.”

I still couldn’t read at all her with her emotions suppressed and so I decided I would just have to be blunt. “Are you alone? And can I come over to explain?”

There was another long pause before a slightly emotional, “Yes.”

I frowned harder. This was going to be much less subtle than I liked, but I was already causing too many ripples and I was pretty sure my welcome here was going to be running out soon. “I will be there in a minute and explain everything I can. Then we can talk and I will promise to answer any of your questions truthfully and completely.”

After an affirmative that might have been relieved I scried her exact house and portaled into the living room to her side. Obviously she froze up but relaxed slightly when I held up my hands and wasn’t wearing a mask. “Hello Taylor. First let me say I am glad to be able to talk to you. However I do need to make sure this room is secure before we can talk. Just know I am not going to do anything to you regardless.”

Knowing that this was probably going to freak her out I portaled us away quickly and then cut her off from her powers. I winced at the shock then panic that crossed her face before I held out my hand to try to calm her down. “There are incredibly powerful people who might possibly listen into what I am about to tell you and would kill us both if they suspected I was saying what I am now going to explain.”

Taylor looked overwhelmed before she seemed to steel herself and nodded, eyes narrowing.

I sighed and wiped my hand across my face. “You will have to excuse me. I have given this speech four times and it is long and hard to explain, but know that it is true.” Another nod.

“I am not sure if you are familiar with multiverse theory…” The explanation of where I came from was taken with some disbelief, but the idea that there was a precog strong enough that they could see what would happen to this world was understood well enough.

What went over less well was the sheer magnitude of what would happen to her town and her in particular. “You are saying that I was the one who saved the world in this alternate reality… and that the situation has changed and so I won’t be able to do it again.”

I wasn’t sure if she was more incredulous at the story or in anger that I was saying she couldn’t do it again. I sighed. “The other you killed a god at near total cost to yourself. You were a hero above all others even if you had to do many villainous things to get there. The problem was it was always a long shot, a stab in the dark, a hail Mary. In that other Earth you were supported by forces that were corrupted and idiodic, but still working towards saving the world. This world’s illuminati have been unknowingly corrupted. This time they will actually shoot themselves in the foot instead of picking the way that will win albeit with perhaps the most suffering possible.”

Taylor blinked and sighed, shoulders slumping. “What do you mean?”

I leaned back and tried to think of a way to explain again. “The other world’s illuminati were knowingly or not causing strife in the world and with you. It sort of worked in that they got a bunch of individually strong but brittle warriors. But that is a fundamentally stupid approach. For instance, they left the slaughterhouse 9 walking around killing people because it would allow more people to trigger. The problem with that is that the S9 killed way more capes than they triggered. The only thing the S9 did that could possibly be called helping was causing occasional second triggers… but those were exceptionally rare. Then Jack Slash actually talked Scion into ending the world sooner. So instead of 20 years to prepare, you had 2. Literally trying to end the world sooner because he was defeated by you that one time.”

Taylor blinked at me and tilted her head so I continued. “Their plan was stupid. I am trying to give them better plans. The problem is Scion can learn through all of you and why he is probably too distraught about losing his mate to actually do anything currently, the illuminati will pick up on my changes sooner or later and take me out. Hell, with how stupid their plans are they will probably kill everyone I convinced to help me as well.”

Taylor froze and looked at me angrily so I continued. “So I am offering you three options to help. First, I will help you with the idiot trio who made you trigger. I can think of several ways to do this. The best method I can think of is by leaking what is happening to you to the news. The media attention will get the ball rolling. The problem so far is that Sophia Hess is Shadow Stalker, a probationary Ward due to her violent vigilantism, and because of PR reasons they will either cover for Sophia or not come down on her hard enough and you and your family could be at risk if she gets the chance. So you will probably have to join the Wards to get proper protection. Being on the government’s side should help, but isn’t foolproof, especially with Leviathan coming.”

I waited for the rage and then frustration of finding out her bully was a ‘Hero’ to run its course while feeling bad I had to be the bearer of bad news today.

“The second offer, I would be willing to make, is to permanently deal with Sophia. I am planning on trying to deal with as many gang leaders and maybe even the Slaughterhouse 9 as I can before I leave, so I wouldn’t mind. The problem is the PRT are going to look at who had a beef with Sophia and you would be at the top of the list who hated her in her personal life.”

Taylor slumped. I wasn’t sure if she was more annoyed that killing Sophia wouldn’t just solve the problem or that she was considering it. She then muttered a small “Damn it!”

I smiled at her and she looked back confused. “The final option is the one I would prefer. I am looking for companions to travel the multiverse with me. As they are going to be bonded with me more or less permanently I am being very careful on who I make the offer to join us.” I looked at her a little more deeply this time. “I am not a saint. I am picking only women to come with me. If they are willing then I will consider those women my wives.”

Taylor looked at me and I could tell her entire thought process seemed to freeze. “I… but… what?”

I let my smile widen. “I was being honest when I said I was attracted to you. You are already cute with legs for days. But I also have three other requirements. I want my women to be powerful, kind, and smart. You have the first two but I would say you are nearly unmatched in the third. Masterminding the method to save the world is pretty impressive, you have to admit.”

Taylor’s face had gone so red I was wondering if she would faint on me. Deciding that I should just continue my pitch I continued talking. “I also have to admit that part of the reason I am putting so much emphasis on the non-physical aspects is that we already have Panacea more or less committed to join us so you can make any changes to your body you want to make.”

I forced myself not to react in any way when I saw her eyes shoot up to meet with mine. I knew she had body issues. She was flat, but she was only 17, her breasts would still be growing even if normally she would never be curvy.

Deciding that it was in my best interest to continue to avoid addressing her reaction I continued. “The other thing you should know is that I plan on making all of my wives liches. I will be pulling your soul out and then attaching it to your body like a puppet.” At her worried stair I continued. “You will still feel the same and you will still have your power, I have already done this to myself and one of your possible future sister wives, but if your body is killed we will simply make you a new one.”

Taylor blinked. “So you are saying that we would be immortal?”

I chuckled. “Sort of, while I wouldn’t say that we are invincible, with Panacea and our souls protected we will definitely be immune to aging and most forms of death.”

She paused and stared at me for a while and I tried to sit waiting. However I was surprised when she next spoke up. “I want to talk with this girl you have already bound.”

I blinked before I opened up a small scrying portal to where I could feel Dinah’s soul portal ended. Somehow I hadn’t realized I could do that. That was useful since I would always be able to find my wives if we ever got separated… it was just unfortunate they couldn’t do the same to me or each other.

Turning to Dinah I looked through before I showed it to Taylor. It was just after dinner and I found her laying on her bed reading a book. I spoke through the portal. “Hey Dinah, Taylor wants to ask you a few questions. Could you step through?”

Putting the book down Dinah looked around until she spotted my small portal and nodded. “76% chance she would ask sometime this hour.”

I chuckled, once again she was two steps ahead of me.

As she got up I realized I really needed to clarify something to Taylor before she spotted Dinah.

Turning around I started to explain before opening the portal wide enough to see Dinah. “Dinah will be here in a second. Now, I was being honest when I said she might eventually be one of the women to join as a wife, but she is much too young for me to be even remotely interested in intimacy just yet. She is here as a platonic friend only. She will choose to join us later in that way if she wants to. I promised I would find a way of removing the bond if she wants to leave at that time.”

Seeing Taylor’s eyes widen as she spotted the young girl standing before us I was glad I warned her, but before she could say anything Dinah spoke up. “Yes, Max has bound me and everything I have been able to see with my precog has agreed with his explanation and predictions.”

Taylor just stared at the girl before slumping. “What should I do?”

Dinah seemed to pause to think. “93% chance you will be happy with us. 16% you will be happy here. 13% you survive the next ten years here if you stay. 43% your father remarries if you leave.”

I winced at the last one and I realized something. “Oh, damn.” I sighed. “It wasn’t clear in the story, but apparently he is too reminded of your mother when he sees you. He probably cares, but you make it hard to be happy when he sees your mother in you.”

Taylor looked down and I could see tears start to fall. She was almost too quiet to hear when she spoke next. “We haven’t even spoken in 4 months.” I winced internally. I didn’t want to tell her that the other Taylor in the web novel had a better relationship than that. After a moment she continued regardless of my thoughts. “I think he might blame me for Mom’s death. She was checking her cell at the time and I was one of the people who had sent her a message before the crash.”

I stood up and crossed to sit on the couch next to her before putting my arm around her shoulders. “You know it isn’t your fault, but it still hurts doesn’t it?”

She sniffled for a minute or two before I could feel the steel in her spine start to take charge again. Dinah seemed a little tired when she spoke next, cutting me off before I could say anything. “73% chance he will start to improve if you write him a goodbye note telling him you found parahuman friends and you want to go change the world. That and you want him to be happy again.”

Taylor stiffened again. “Yeah, that will remind him of Mom. She was in a parahuman gang trying to push for women’s rights after all.”

She was silent for nearly 10 minutes as we sat there waiting for her to think. Suddenly she stood up and turned towards me. “I want to be bound to you.”

I shook my head. “Are you sure? I kinda feel like you should think about it. It is a pretty big decision.”

As raised an eyebrow and she rolled her eyes. “I am 17, not a child. If I can go out and risk my life fighting crime” then a quieter voice, “and kill people,” before the conviction returned to her posture. “Then I should be able to decide to join you if I want to.”

I looked up at her and nearly asked her if she was sure again, but seeing her eyes I paused before nodding. “Alright, I will.”

Getting her to lay down on the couch, I pulled up her shirt to make contact with her stomach. I was amused that she blushed so heavily at that. Dinah had barely twitched, but I supposed that puberty had only recently started on her.

Taylor laid, face smooth, as she stared at me as I stared at her stomach. It took about an hour with another hour to compress as much of her shard, queen administrator, into her. I had started to get worried about being interrupted as I finally completed the lich portals and Taylor sat up. I really shouldn’t have though as Dinah would have warned me if I was going to be interrupted.

As she leaned forward I finally noticed the slight scent of arousal now in the air. I paused for a moment. She was now mine, now and forever. On the other hand I didn’t want to push her too hard too fast. We had an eternity together and she was still only 17.

The choice was somewhat taken from me as she leaned forwards and kissed me. After a moment I felt the prodding of her tongue. I only hesitated for a moment longer before I opened my mouth and let my tongue start to dance with hers. After a moment longer I reached down and grabbed her butt. She squeaked into my mouth and I smiled.

Pulling apart slightly we caught our breath and I could see that her eyes had darkened. She was already half kiss drunk and I was tempted to go all the way. Glancing at Dinah who had been watching through her eyelashes I smiled noting that she had started to squirm. That was cute, but I felt bad. I honestly didn’t want to push her even if I really wanted her to stay with us. Making a portal for her to go home while pulling Taylor through another to visit my apartment I smiled down at her.

She seemed a little nervous about the bed, but I pulled her down into my arms next to me and I fondled her butt a little more as our tongues swirled. Finally after a long moment I let my hand move around to the front of her jeans. I felt as Taylor froze up against my lips in some combination of surprise and fear.

I nearly kicked myself. She was extremely young and obviously didn’t have any experience. Taking a deep breath I stopped everything except some slow kissing while keeping my hand on her stomach.

After a few more minutes she relaxed again and I let my hand drift down.

It was fifteen minutes or so when I pulled back and stroked her cheek for a moment before sitting us both up.

That was apparently what got Taylor to realize that I hadn’t actually finished. Noticing my notable tent she reached down and patted me through my pants.

I could see the fire in her eyes but I sighed. “Not today honey. As much as I love the idea of you returning the favor, I don’t want to push you too fast.”

She actually pouted at that. “What if that is what I want?.”

I sighed and patted her head making her pout a bit. “I know love. I am definitely looking forward to it, but I want our first time finishing to be when you are happy and rested. Not melancholy and tired.”

She frowned but nodded.

I once again stroked her hair and I noticed her start to lean into it. Smiling, I continued on. “Plus I want Amy to make sure I don’t go knocking anyone up quite yet. It is too soon for that, I think.”

Taylor paused for a moment before she sat up and faced me. “I want her number as well.”

I simply raised my eyebrow so she continued looking down a little embarrassed. “I want her to work on me a bit.”

I shook my head lightly. “Amy will be giving us all an upgrade. I am pretty sure we can all be about a brute 2 or 3 with just physical changes, but you are talking about your figure right?” She nodded so I sighed. “Please understand you don’t need to have a huge rack for me to want you.”

Taylor simply shook her head. “No, this is something I want. If I can choose to marry someone I should be able to make my chest bigger.” I could tell she was determined, but I also could tell it really did bother her as she had reached up and cupped her small breasts apparently without realizing it.

I reached down and kissed her one last time. “I am sorry if you thought I was forbidding it. I was telling you that it wasn’t necessary.” Taylor seemed to relax. “That said, I do enjoy large breasts as long as they are reasonable. No one can properly enjoy a ‘H’ cup.”

Taylor blushed but seemed happy with the option. Sitting up she looked straight at me before asking. “Now what?”

I sighed before responding. “We have a few more days before we leave. I would like you to still go to school for now as it would draw attention if you didn’t. I know it is bad there and if it gets too bad, text me and I will get you out sooner, but I want to lay low as much as possible and that means keeping the same routine when possible.

Other than that we will be making plans in the evenings and probably be gone within the week. You should also probably figure out a way to say goodbye to your father as well. You don’t need to tell him you are leaving, but saying your piece will help. While it isn’t impossible we could ever come back, the chances are pretty slim for now.”

Taylor frowned before slowly nodding. I kissed her one more time and she sighed before I portaled her back to her bed and then portaled myself back to my apartment and took a cold shower. I really wish I had just taken her offer to reciprocate, but I really wouldn’t have stopped there and a day or two for her to get her head on straight was worth the happiness of my new wife.

It still felt like my stomach was fighting with itself on how it felt about this all, but I was going to do what I needed to do. I also felt a lot better while focusing on my plans to keep everyone happy.

Interlude Taylor:

Taylor frowned as she watched Max’s portal close. She had been conflicted right up until she had tried to talk to her father about what was going on. He had listened for a bit, but it was awkward and, before she could bring anything important up, her father had told her that he had to go to work.

She knew he was attached to his work when her mother had died, it was nearly all he had left, but a large part of her heart hurt with how distant he was now.

Her life at school was a living hell. Triggering her powers after nearly two years of near constant bullying had not left her rational at times, but she was trying. Trying not to just bring a gun, and a swarm large enough to…

She shook herself. A large part of her wanted to make them experience what she had. The horror of being surrounded by rotting filth. Having the bugs crawling around inside the locker, starting to bite and scrape at her legs as she was forced into their rotting hive. The horror as she started to feel the maggots start to bite in her legs. Start to burrow into her flesh. All topped with the rotting odor she couldn’t get away from. She had thrown up down her front and now that too was mixing with the rotting smell of feces, rotting menstrual blood, and….

The walls seemed tighter down here in the basem*nt. She could feel the hopelessness of the locker again. The weight of her loneliness. The frustration and pain of having her best friend mock her for every moment of weakness. Her chest hurt. Did she still want to live like this? She just wanted it to stop. Did it even matter…

She reached up and slapped herself.

She was not going to get dragged down and broken by Emma Flipping Barnes. That was what those bitches wanted. She was going to be a hero. She was going to go out and prove them wrong.

She stopped and shook herself again. The desperation was making her reckless, just like what Max said would happen. She walked around and opened the sealed up coal shoot and looked again at her costume. It really did look kinda villainous. It was very clear how she could be mistaken for a villain, and after that her life would be one mistake after another.

Max had said he had another option. An option that didn’t require her to end with two bullets to the head after a short lifetime of sacrifice and betrayal.

Taylor took a deep breath. He wanted her. A stick thin ugly girl with useless powers. Except that Max had explained how she could use them. Putting a fly or a mite on someone to track them. Aiming a gun by using bugs to line up the shot. Seeing and hearing through their senses to pick up intel. Then if she could become friends with Amy she could have bees and wasps with knock out venom, all controlled simultaneously.

Plus Amy could probably fix her lack of curves, and hips… and maybe her face…

She shook herself. Max had said she was important. Said she had saved the world. She wasn’t a failure… right?

Even if Max ignored her for the prettier members of his harem, she would still have sisters, right? That was better than being alone… right? Then again, getting in with Amy and Max was probably the best chance she would get. He had made her feel good even if he hadn’t let her return the favor. Why didn’t he let them continue? Did he not like her enough? Was she not womanly enough?

Then again, did it even matter? The crushing frustration, pain, and weight came back and she sat and stared at her costume still being made as she tried not to… she didn’t even know what anymore.

Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Worm - Finishing Up

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 6-1-24

The next day I woke up still a little annoyed that I had stopped Taylor. If I had been horny before, I was really pent-up now. Sighing, I reminded myself that this was for the best. Taylor was extremely fragile at this point. I wanted her to join me, but I also didn’t want her to be forced into anything. This was difficult. A part I could barely remember knew what it was like to be that deep into depression. It was weird that those memories had carried over when my own name hadn’t. Still, she was about to throw herself into a literal fiery dragon without backup just to theoretically save some kids. Instead of backing off and, you know, calling the cops. She really was barely above suicidal at this point… I would have to keep an eye on her.

I sighed and got up. I had work to do.

Getting out to the boardwalk and buying a laptop wasn’t too difficult. Getting back to my apartment, portaling myself into another dimension, and then writing out the beginning of my notes on how to save the world was slightly more so.

Really part of the problem was I was trying to anticipate what the characters I had only read about would do with new information. Cauldron would try to suppress it. Dragon would be compromised. The fallen and slaughterhouse nine would work to undermine it.

I ended up spending several hours trying to work through the problem before giving up for the day, deciding to take a late lunch and try to contact Vista and Miss Militia. I put on the boots and jacket, but realized that with my Taylor diversion I hadn’t actually remembered to get the mask. Sighing I took back off the jacket, ending up with boots, jeans, and a black T shirt. Frowning I sighed and debated to myself on the best mask I could come up with. Sighing I rubbed my hair in frustration. Maybe I should just steal a domino mask from the wards. I blinked. That might actually be kinda fun and I really wanted to see the Protectorate base built out on that old oil rig.

Opening the scrying portal and moving it slowly towards the rig where the ward’s base was supposed to be, I moved the pea sized hole up and down halls for nearly an hour before I found the signs that lead to the Ward's rooms. Inside their common room I looked around carefully only to find the entire area empty. I blinked surprised, but then realized it was not even noon and they would all be at school. I snooped around a little, but I didn’t find anything too interesting.

However, my efforts did eventually pay off when I found a box with a variety of domino style masks available near the door. Apparently they just keep them there, just in case. I sighed again. I really had hoped that domino masks weren’t actually a thing in Worm. Just another example of the unwritten rules being allowed by Cauldron when they really shouldn’t be. I mean, if you can recognize a criminal and put him behind bars, wouldn’t that be saving said possible parahuman asset for later. Even if your only goal was getting as many humans as possible as a force to use against Scion, why would you let them run around and get killed in stupid self-destructive battles before that point? It isn’t like penal battalions weren’t a thing since the dawn of mankind. You wouldn’t even have to force them at gunpoint to attack, just use a master like Canary to enforce their cooperation. That is what they ended up doing with Taylor after all.

Sighing I shook myself and grabbed two masks. At least I had the masks and I could think about Cauldron more at a later point.

I moved my portals back to a second hand clothing store and grabbed a gator mask. The tube of fabric would cover me from the nose down and a cowboy hat would hide most of my hair. Better, neither one was purchased so even if the PRT looked through surveillance videos they wouldn’t find me.

So, while it wasn’t the best costume, it would have to do. Really, I only needed them for appearance’s sake anyway since I didn’t actually have a civilian identity and friends here to protect.

That meant this was just for appearances sake. To make it look like I played by the same rules so no one would get any more nervous than necessary. Normally, every cape wanted a private life out of costume and so trying to find out who they were under the mask was taboo. However, while I didn’t actually believe all the major sides wouldn’t even hesitate before trying to find out my secret identity, I had to look like I was going to play by the same rules.

Ironically, I was pretty sure that my costume actually did a better job of keeping my identity secret than a lot of heroes and villains’ costumes. I mean, seriously Taylor, your hair is beautiful, but allowing it out the back of your mask with no alterations along with a skin tight bodysuit was kinda foolish.

After a few texts to Dinah about how to best attract the protectorate’s girls, I end up calling in as a possible Ward’s member recruit. Telling them I am a minor trump that apparently can reduce the backlashes of powers would be both true but also only mildly interesting. Best not arouse too much suspicion or effort in tracking me down. Especially since I had no intention of actually joining right now.

Making the call to the PRT and then making an appointment to visit with Miss Militia and Vista on neutral ground was surprisingly easy. Apparently, asking for them as the two with the most Ward’s experience sounded convincing enough.

Actually, I was surprised that they were willing to meet so soon. Four hours isn’t exactly a lot of notice, but I suppose that a new Ward is interesting enough to happen fast. I just needed to grab another burner phone and leave it unpowered somewhere safe. If things went tit* up I didn’t need them tracking me down so easily.

Scoping out the park to the north I looked around for sensors and cameras. Finding quite a few I sighed. I guess this wasn’t exactly the neutral ground I had been hoping for.

However, despite my annoyance, I only had to wait a few minutes hidden in a side street before the two heroes arrived. As I watched them standing awkwardly, looking around for this new Ward, I paused to again consider how to best approach them. I was going to use a TV remote with some duct tape and wires as an explanation for my privacy dimension. Said screen could be explained away as a privacy screen, but I didn’t really have a good way of actually arriving at the meeting if I don’t want to show my portals.

Sighing again I walked out from one of the alleys nearby. The moment I was in camera range the heroes turned to face me. I nearly facepalmed, so much for a private meeting, it was clear that at least a few people were watching the cameras if they were that quick to spot me.

The heroes looked a little wary, but my apparent age and lack of hostility apparently convinced Miss Militia to turn her assault rifle into a pistol which she holstered before taking a step forward to shake my hand.

Reaching forward I shook lightly realizing that I didn’t have any gloves and nearly kicked myself. Hell, I hadn’t been wearing any this entire time and my figureprints might have shown up somewhere. So much for my criticisms of Taylor secrecy.

“Nice to meet you, I am Miss Militia and this is Vista. I was told that you asked to speak to us about the Ward’s program?”

I smiled. Right to business. “Sure, but I do have something I would like to do first.” Both of them tensed at that statement but I just continued. “I want to share a little bit about my living situation and so I bought this. With this, I should be able to create a field where no information should be able to get in or out from.” All technically true, but highly misleading in case Armsmaster’s lie detection was being used on me.

After a moment in which the two of them obviously listened to a discussion over their radios before they nodded slowly. Not sure how to feel about them not trusting me, but still allowing me to use supposed tinkertech in front of them, I look down and push the mute button on the remote before portaling the three of us into a half dimension. The two of them blinked as the world around them went fuzzy before both of them reached up to their ears, obviously to radio it in. Vista had apparently decided I was a threat again since I was suddenly several dozen feet further away. The radios obviously didn’t work and the two of them tensed again while staring me down. I wasn’t sure the correct way to approach this so in the end I just simply waited.

Really, I was surprised at the tension, but I guessed they didn’t expect my supposed tinker tech to be able to beat both Armsmaster and Dragon’s tinker tech radios. After a few more moments of tense silence Miss Militia was the first to respond. “I need you to take your field down. I don’t want to continue while this cut off.” I blinked but was at least grateful that she hadn’t pointed her gun at me again.

I shook my head but then quickly spoke up before the tension could get any higher. “Opening and closing the field is somewhat difficult and I am not going to talk about my personal situation without it. If you want to leave you can do so at any time. Simply walk out, there will just be a bit of a tingle. It is not harmful.”

Miss Militia and Vista slowly backed up away from me before sticking their hands slowly through the barrier. I was glad I warned them so they didn’t think the tingle was an attack, but a moment later the two walked stoically out and apparently discussed with either Armsmaster or Director Pigot. I thought about trying to eavesdrop, but I didn’t want to open a portal in case they spotted it.

The conversation was actually pretty quick and a moment later the two slowly crossed back into the bubble. The simple verification seemed to have relieved most of Miss Militia’s worries, but she still wasn’t relaxed. A good soldier, I supposed. I was beginning to realize my offer was a long shot, but I still wanted to try. I almost chuckled as her ability to leave the bubble was only because I wanted to give her the option.

Miss Militia paused and finally crosses her arms before doing a Kakashi eye smile. Huh, I didn’t actually think eye smiles were possible, but what did I know? “So what did you want to talk about, young man?”

I tried not to sigh again at the need to explain myself one more time, especially as I couldn’t risk giving them nearly as much information.

“Hello, you may call me Wanderer. I have been wandering around for a while considering what I can do to help. I don’t actually have all of my memories after triggering, but I am afraid that I am pretty sure I am actually older than 18. The reason I said I was younger and interested in the wards, was because I wanted to talk to the two of you in particular. You two were my first choices because you are both the most senior of the capes here. Plus I think you two are probably the most level headed capes in the city.”

The two girls didn’t seem pleased at my admission that I had been lying about my age, but were slightly mollified after my praise so I continued. Vista in particular looked proud she was being recognized for all of her work. I smiled internally and continued. “I have been working on a way to really help the world as a whole. I am planning on attempting to hit some big targets and drop some very important information to the PRT. However, I am not interested in joining the Protectorate directly.” Both girls frowned at that and I sighed deciding that I should explain. “The PR patrols and red tape simply won’t let me do what needs to be done. Plus I don’t need the attention since it would just place a larger target on my back since I am most likely classified as a Trump. Since trumps are those who can buff or remove other people’s powers I would be a large target for the villains and maybe even a few heroes.”

Miss Militia nodded her head stiffly while Vista actually looked a little interested in where this was going. I gestured towards the two of them. “To be blunt. The world is dying. The world has at most another 20 to 30 years, but a precog I have on my team has put the estimate much lower than that if nothing is done. The other reason I wanted to talk to the two of you in particular is you both could be very helpful for our efforts. So yes, I am offering the two of you a position on our team. It will be dangerous and difficult, but our precog says it has a high possibility of working.”

Vista looked conflicted. I knew she didn’t like how she was being treated, but it was also a long shot for her. Miss Militia looked wholly unimpressed and I sighed internally.

“Yes, I understand you want the information and a chance to verify it before even considering my offer.” The two girls nodded so I continued “So I have spent some time with our precog and we have some information for you. The precog says that Lung has recruited the Cornell University bomber. She entered the city a few days ago and is building up her bomb stock here.” I looked as stern as possible before I shook my head. “I will try to subdue her before I leave town, but if I can’t then you need to find her soon. If you don’t you are going to be looking at a full blown war zone in the city as the other gangs won’t stand back as the streets start exploding.”

The two girls had gone stiff at that and I sighed before continuing. “The second piece of information is that the precog has determined that your security has been hilariously compromised by the villain Coil and the E88. The ABB and the Merchants also have informants, but to a much smaller degree.” I doubted this information would do anything, but I might as well try.

“Finally the precog has found suggestions that the Slaughterhouse 9 are targeting Mouse Protector and Ravisher. If she is not dissuaded from attacking them, she will end up a half dead abomination like all of Bonesaw’s victims.”

The two females in front of me simply gaped for a few moments before Miss Militia seemed to shake herself out of it and turned to report this in. Deciding I was done with this game of telephone I spoke up. “Wait just a moment. I have only one more thing to say.”

Miss Militia turned around and Vista simply tilted her head. I noticed that I was back down to only about 10 feet between the two of us. “I am serious when I said that my team and I are trying to really make a difference here in this world. But that does mean we are moving on from here soon, probably in a few days.” Leaving the here as ambiguous as possible would lead people to think of Brockton Bay when I actually meant Earth Bet. “My team and I would love to have women as strong, kind, and smart as you both on our side. However we understand it isn’t easy to leave at the drop of a hat and this will be a full time position. So I am going to toss you a note card with my phone number on it. Text me if you want to talk about the details of joining us, but I am afraid that if we don’t hear from you in two days we will be gone and I highly doubt we are coming back. Also, while you can text us questions about what we have already shared, I am afraid my precog doesn’t have any other predictions she can make for now.”

Vista now looked overwhelmed. She was looking back and forth between the card I threw to her, Miss Militia, and me, but I didn’t say anything else before waving, pushing the mute button on my remote again and walking away. She was then even more startled as she saw the barrier start to dissipate.

Miss Militia seemed to make a decision faster. She looked to the side and started speaking quietly and quickly before suddenly realizing I had nearly reached the alley again and yelling. “Wait, we are sorry, but you have too much sensitive information about PRT security. we need to bring you in for some questioning and your own protection.” Already I could hear the roar of Armsmaster’s bike coming in fast.

I looked behind me and visibly sighed before shaking my head even as Miss Militia started running towards me. Ducking around the edge of the building I prepared to portal away when I saw a red blur speeding towards me. I cursed. Velocity, how could I have forgotten him? He was basically a perfect counter for me since while he was a discount flash knockoff he would be able to stop me no matter what I did. Indeed as he arrived I felt the remote ripped out of my hands. A moment later I noticed a foam grenade at my feet. Wow, these assholes were really going all out to capture me when all I had done was try to warn them. Still I wasn’t about to let myself get captured. Plus, Armsmaster’s motorcycle was just around the corner and I really didn’t want to have him interrogating me with whatever bullsh*t tinker tech Dragon and he could come up with.

Throwing myself backwards while dropping the grenade through its own portal to 30 feet up I managed to avoid just about all of the foam. However that jerk back was actually what saved me as it was that moment that I heard a gunshot and my arm erupted in pain. Crying out I looked down to see my left hand, along with a large section of my forearm were simply gone.

There was a moment of silence before my brain rebooted and I heard Miss Militia’s boots just around the corner. The gunshot wasn’t from her. It was from a rooftop. Damn IT. That must be Victor from the E88. I had forgotten about him. His skill stealing made him one of the best snipers in the world. If the E88 had already gotten the information that I had given Miss Militia then he was probably trying to silence me. I blinked, he was also probably already lining up another shot.

I had already shown them my portals so now was not the time to be hesitant with my powers. Luckily Velocity had taken cover when he had heard the gunshot so there were no other attempts to foam me. Taking a breath I decided to screw stealth. Throwing myself backward one more time I made a portal behind me perpendicular to where I guessed Victor to be. That turned out to be a wise decision as I heard another gunshot as I fell through but nothing hit me. He had probably aimed where I would have landed. That or he was aiming for Velocity or Miss Militia. Now safe while closing the portal behind me I took a moment and sat back and just breathed.

Damn IT, DAMN IT, DAMN IT!

A small part of me wondered if Dinah could have prevented this cluster f*ck, but I reminded myself that she was just a kid with limited questions. She also believed that nothing short of destroying our soul gems would kill us, which was true. Plus I had told her that Amy would likely be joining as well which gave us world class healing. So it makes sense that she wouldn’t be asking questions like ‘if I will be temporarily grievously wounded’.

Staring at the ripped apart and dripping stump of what used to be my arm I felt myself slipping back towards shock. Doubly so as my brain started to register the pain again. Yet before I could lose myself, instinct made me create a portal going through my arm. Said portal only blocked electrical signals and thus the pain.

The feeling was so strange that I nearly didn’t realize my arm was still bleeding. I kicked myself, I should have noticed that. Then again, that was probably the effect of the blood loss. Wrapping my stump in another portal that didn’t allow for anything to pass through it almost instantly formed a near perfect bandage even if it looked horrific.

Pausing and actually looking at what I had just accomplished, I realized this was new. This portal wasn’t flat. In fact, I wasn’t sure how I had done that.

Now that I wasn’t losing blood, and couldn’t feel the pain. I just stared at the stump. I didn’t actually feel like throwing up… I just stared… that was probably the shock setting in.

Literally shaking my head clear I realized that motion had made my entire body start to sway back. Heading over to my kitchen sink I poured myself some water. It wouldn’t fix things, but it was better than nothing.

I needed to stop and actually think.

Amy can fix this up easily. I was not going to die here. However I needed to be more careful, I also needed to start keeping track of all the villains. I should have known where Victor was the entire time. Especially if we were going to hit them all as we left town. Doubly so as now I had a score to settle now with the E88. Damn Nazis!

The next few hours were spent scribbling notes one handed as I searched out the town for the homes of the E88 capes. I didn’t remember all of their real names, but I hit pay dirt when I found Victor meeting with Max, Orthalla, Hookwolf, Alabaster, and the twins. Probably on his failed assassination attempt on me along with what they learned about my powers.

It took a little while, but I was able to leave a tiny portal attached to the interior of their shoes. A few hours later I knew where they lived. That was great. Now if only Coil’s bases, the Merchants, and ABB were so easy.

It was nearly 2 hours later when I got a text from Amy.

Opening up my phone I read the text.

‘Tried to talk to V about her aura. Said I didn’t know what I was talking about while her aura kept rising. No longer felt confident enough to talk about it. I want the help you promised tonight.’

I rubbed my head. This was almost exactly what happened to Taylor. Both girls were being driven to the edge and just didn’t want to deal with things anymore. Kinda scary when they both had Queen level shards inside their heads.

After a few texts to confirm that she was at home, I opened up a portal from her bedroom to my apartment.

I just held her for a few minutes as she just tried to breathe and calm herself down. Then she looked down at the bandage I had wrapped around my forearm and nearly screamed. “What the hell?!”

Without saying anything else she latched on to my hand to start healing me. Soon I could feel some of my body’s muscles disappearing as I watched my hand grow back like a timelapse of a tree growing. It was incredibly gross, but I wasn’t about to complain when I was literally getting my hand back.

After my quick explanation that made her scowl she sighed. Said scowl that made me a little nervous about the remaining E88 member’s health, or would have if I didn’t know how terrible people they were.

After a few more moments she looked up at me with my eyebrow raised and smiled a sad smile. “I know this is a big step, but I want out now. Plus I could do a lot worse than someone like you. You even tried to warn the PRT despite how corrupt you know they are at the moment.”

I shook my head. “Well, I admit that my first priority was actually trying to convince Miss Militia and Vista to join us, but yet, I do want the good people in the PRT to have a chance. Especially if our attempt to fix things goes south.” Something shifted. I wasn’t lying. I did actually feel a little better with my choices to try to help.

Amy sighed and hugged me. “You aren’t a bad man Max. I can tell you do actually want to help people.” She smirked, then whispered. “Plus, I wouldn’t mind the extra girls either.”

I snorted and decided to smack her butt while she was still in my arms. I felt as Amy tensed up and then to my surprise she let out a little groan. Raising my eyebrow I looked at her again. She seemed to hesitate before making a decision and then a little thrill raced down my spine as I watched her nibble her lower lip. Oh man, she is going to be fun. Especially when we get more girls involved.

Internally shaking my head, I tried to put the brakes on my libido train. Leading her over to the bed I had her lay down face up while I waited with my hand above her stomach and head tilted in question. After one more firm nod I pulled up her shirt and placed my hand on her belly button. No more words were said as I slowly bound my new companion. This was my third and the second I could actually enjoy.

Combining her shard down into her soul took almost as long as Taylor’s queen administrator. I guess the comments on how her shard was actually the Queen Shaper were true.

After I was done I reached forward to bring her up to sitting on the edge of the bed. Looking at her I really wanted to jump her then and there, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

I didn’t just want to dive between her legs, but I also didn’t want to just stop again. Not when she was this willing. However, it was Amy who surprised me as she immediately started pawing her own body. As I watched she started toning her stomach while giving herself an extra cup size with the removed fat. She was now a solid C cup with a narrow waist and now flawless skin. Raising my eyebrow Amy had the good grace to blush before starting to pull up her shirt.

Realizing it was best to just ask, I spoke up. “Are you sure you want to do it now?” I wanted it, but I really needed to hear her say it.

Amy once again surprised me as she actually smiled. “I am pretty clear headed for the first time in a long time. I kinda want it now before I get too nervous.”

I smiled. “Well, as long as you make sure I don’t give you any babies until we are ready, I am happy to sleep with you.” Leaning down I met her lips. I could already tell I was enjoying it, but surprisingly enough it was incredibly vanilla. Taylor had kissed better than this. Then again, Taylor could have at least watched her parents kiss. I doubted Amy saw Carol kiss anyone as it was a vulnerable moment. Plus she definitely wouldn’t have kissed anyone on the double dates her sister apparently dragged her on if she was still obsessing over Vicky. After another minute of her fumbling attempts I realized I was just going to have to take charge and so I reached down to start to undo Amy’s pants.

Yet, as I was looking down I realized that her breasts were still growing, now well past a D cup now with no signs of stopping

“Amy!”

The girl looked up at me confused at the reproach in my tone. “I thought you liked big breasts.”

I sighed. “I do, but I don’t need you harming yourself by going crazy. We can experiment later if you want to as long as it doesn’t hurt you, but right now I want to make love to my cute little Amy, not a p*rn star bimbo.”

Amy blinked before smiling shyly and I watched as her breasts shrunk back down. I was pretty sure she was still bigger than when we started, but as long as she wasn’t going to assume she was only a sex doll I was going to be happy.

As I bent down I smirked. “That isn’t to say you can’t make yourself as sensitive as you want.”

The girl shivered at that as I bent forward.

It was probably about 15 minutes later that she woke up to me spooning her. I could tell she was confused for several seconds before she remembered what had happened and smiled.

Still as she turned her head to look cutely up at me I was glad I got the reaction I wanted. Quietly she whispered “I am glad I am yours.”

My mind nearly bluescreened with how much I liked that. Amy could obviously tell and got a bit of a little smirk as she continued to bask in the afterglow.

Laying back down I was just starting to nod off when I got another call. Frowning, I glanced up and looked around until I found my phone. Sighing I opened up the caller ID, it was Taylor. I frowned again before answering the phone call. “Taylor, what is wrong?”

Taylor sounded frustrated and tired, but determined. ”I want to continue where we left off last time.”

I blink and looked over at Amy. Focusing on Taylor again, I nearly told her that I would need a rain check on that, but after a moment I paused. They were both my wives. They knew about each other. They might not have been ready to be involved with each other, but it was best to make it completely clear what type of relationship this was sooner rather than later. I wasn’t going to have my wives tip toeing around each other when they wanted to show and receive affection. That way led to resentment. Besides, while I wasn’t going to force anyone, I kinda wanted to encourage threesomes.

“Ok Taylor, why don’t you come on over then.”

As Taylor walked through a portal from her bedroom I made for her she was initially distracted by the transfer and probably a set of bugs in the new area. However when she finally noticed we were in my bedroom her face once again went red. Said redness then doubled when she noticed Amy behind me.

However, contrary to my expectations, Taylor only paused for a few seconds before squaring her shoulders and walking over to Amy. “I wanted to ask you to give me breasts.”

Amy blinked before looking Taylor over. Maybe she was still in her afterglow or maybe she noticed how uncomfortable Taylor was and simply smiled before scooting over and putting a hand on Taylor. “Huh, yeah I could do that, how big do you want them?” As I watched Taylor went from a small A cup to a small B cup, but then she slowed down and paused. “You are actually in pretty good shape, but we will need some sort of biomass if you want any more.”

Taylor seemed to be oscillating between excitement at her growing breasts and embarrassment, but I simply hummed. “You know I never asked, but does any biomass work or does it have to be meat to make changes to us and does it need to be still alive?”

Amy sighed. “Yeah, any biomass works but it is better alive or very fresh. So yes, I can work with biomass like a butchered steak since it is mostly still alive at the cellular level, but once it is cooked it becomes much much more difficult. Specifically muscle to muscle and fat to fat is much, much faster than something like grass to muscle even if it is all carbon chains.”

I nodded before thinking for a moment. “We aren’t in any hurry so why don’t I just open the portal to the trees south of town and you can just convert it for now. It is much less likely to be noticed than stealing a stake from a butcher. It will give you a chance to give the three of us a tune up while you are at it anyway.”

Nodding Amy reached through the portal I opened and grabbed a young aspen before grabbing both of our hands firmly. In the meantime I started rubbing Taylor’s shoulders with my other hand to get her to relax. We all knew what was about to happen so I hadn’t even put on anything other than my boxers, so I could feel Taylor’s nervousness from the moment she walked in.

In an attempt to keep everyone calm and relaxed while that was happening, I spent more time explaining to both of them more of their cannon future. Amy was annoyed to know that Taylor had held her hostage at the bank but was embarrassed when I told her that she had threatened to give Taylor and the undersiders a super cancer. Afterwards Amy looked suitably angry for the constant struggle Taylor had with the protectorate. Especially the betrayal of Armsmaster when he broke the endbringer truce. Taylor had her own moment to look a little angry as I told her how Amy would get her in trouble with the protectorate, specifically Legend and the Undersiders during the Endbringer truce. However, Taylor softened and looked extremely sympathetic as I told them about the attack from the Slaughterhouse 9 and Amy’s breakdown. Amy even looked pleased as I told her about how Taylor respected Amy to the very end even after she made mistakes with Vicky.

When I finished both girls hugged for a few moments and looked at each other.

Taylor had a small C cup now and was honestly stunning with her long legs. The additional time for the tuneup had taken a solid 30 minutes and Amy now looked a bit tired as she flopped back onto the bed. Taylor looked a bit ecstatic when she looked down at her body. Blinking she giggled and after a moment staring at Amy she leaned down and kissed her. I could tell there was no tongue but Amy looked surprised and then pleased as she smiled up at Taylor. Taylor had gone ruby red as she pulled back, but after a moment she turned back to me.

Smiling, I leaned forward before whispering in a quiet husky voice. “Lay down, we aren’t stopping this time.”

As Taylor and Amy relaxed to either side of me I smiled in contentment. This is exactly what I wanted when I started making this harem, but I didn’t think it would come together this quickly.

Life was good.

The three of us slept that night together. I couldn’t keep a smile off of my face as I looked down at my girls, a flower in each arm.

Still, despite assurances from both girls that they had ensured they shouldn’t be missed at home, I set an alarm to be awake tomorrow before dawn. Best to get them back to their own houses before they were possibly missed. They would be leaving with me soon, but it would help to keep the facade for a little longer.

It turns out the alarm wasn’t needed as Lisa got back to me asking for option number 1 before dawn. Coil had called her up and asked her to show up that afternoon to discuss what she learned about the footage on me. I suspected she hadn’t given him much info on me and was rightly worried she would be tortured for that info.

Despite my slight regret on not being able to bring her with us, I wasn’t about to drag her along. She would both see my intentions and could cause problems too easily by playing mind games. So with a quick visit from Amy for a body adjustment, Lisa, Brian, Aisha, and Rachael were half white, half hispanic teens running away from their abusive family in Chicago and headed up to Canada where Brian would join the Guild and Rachael would train police dogs. Amy even secretly adjusted Rachel’s brain hormones so she would be more empathetic. Apparently that was fairly easy, but wouldn’t fully fix her issues.

Alec refused to be any closer to his father Heartbreaker who was still in Canada so Amy gave him a small amount of lizard scales and sent him to Faultline as a Case 53. The four were told to showcase their powers slightly differently, but none of them were high profile enough that they would probably be found out.

I tried to talk to Lisa again, but Lisa complained the entire time so finally I threw up my hands and simply dropped them off at a bus station at the edge of town with a note and my phone number that said she had less than 2 days to change her mind. She probably did that on purpose since she could tell I was trying to get her to change her mind.

The next problem came at about 7am when Vicky called Amy’s number.

“Ames, I don’t know where you are, but you need to get back here and explain what is going on or I am going to tell Mom…”

Vista Interlude:

Vista held the card with the number in her hand. She didn’t know what to think. A part of her was surprised when she had realized the cape had thrown two at her stuck together. She had obviously handed one to Miss Piggot when she had been ordered to, but she had kept the second.

Did she want a way out?

Would it be any better than what she had here?

She was starting to hate any time she spent with her parents. They were constantly fighting. Recently they had even started fighting more and more over her.

Still she wanted to be a hero. What kind of hero runs away from her duty?

She had been a hero for longer than any of the other wards in the Bay. Despite what the damn Youth Guard would like to think, she had fought Hookwolf and Krieg multiple times now. All while surviving just fine. In fact, it was those stupid helicopter parents that seemed to be the most up in arms when she asked if she could get a taser or foam grenades. She frowned, or even body armor on top of the jacket she was wearing under her costume now.

Damn idiots.

She grimaced, still, what would it say about her if she left when the Bay was so close to exploding. When people needed her? She wanted to be a hero… it was all she had.

Interlude Piggot:

Something was happening. She could feel it. There were capes that were going to kick the proverbial ants' nest and it would be her job to pick up the pieces. She wanted this cape captured. She needed that precog off the streets. She needed his tinker on their side.

Most of all she needed them under control. A part of her knew that even then she couldn’t trust them. Not until their back was up against the wall and even then only as far as you could throw them. Capes would always betray you the moment the going got tough. Give her a good soldier any day of the week.

She frowned as she read over the report of Armsmaster’s analysis of what the unknown cape had said. They were tentatively calling him Coordinator or Wanderer for now.

Still, she needed to get a move on this. The last thing she needed to have happened was for this unknown cape to get involved and end up starting a gang war. Or worse be forced into one of the gangs against their will.

Didn’t they see how precarious things were while they were being repeatedly denied reinforcements from PRT headquarters?

She sighed and winced as her injuries flared up again. Damn it. The world had gone to hell and it was people like that damn Goblin-King that were making sure everyone went down with them. She wasn’t about to trust another one of them to fix it. Not when it was clear that Amy Dallon could do more than she was claiming. She wouldn’t let a bio-tinker near her ever again. Even if it meant dialysis every other day.

She needed to be on her A game. She was literally the only sane one left, after all.

Chapter 6: Chapter 6: Worm - Getting Out

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 6-1-24

The good news was Vicky was apparently willing to let Amy get back home without letting the rest of the family know she had even been gone. The thing was that while that was nice of her, I wasn’t sure it really solved anything long term.

When we went over to her house while Carol and Mark were out Vicky was already sitting there waiting with her arms folded across her chest. That was surprising as I had assumed Mark didn’t patrol much, but maybe Vicky had done something to encourage him. Focusing back on Vicky, I decided to be completely honest with her as her determination was fairly endearing. I had been conflicted, but the more I looked the more I leaned towards trying to get her on board despite not really being huge on the blond high school cheerleader type. Yeah she was hot, but Amy could make any of my three girls hotter.

Taking a deep breath I stared Vicky in the eyes and prepared myself. “Ok, I am going to explain everything to you and then give you the option to ask questions. However, after that I will be leaving and you won’t have more than a few days to decide what you want.”

Vicky just narrowed her eyes. She seemed to glance at Amy who was sitting further away from me and then to Taylor who was sitting between Amy and me, but who was patting Amy’s knee. Then to Dinah who had been sitting on the other side of me. “Start talking, because it looks like you are collecting girls. You some sorta Master?”

I could feel my body shiver under her aura, but the disconnection of my soul meant it washed over me fairly easily. My girls were similarly affected and that seemed to bring Vicky up short. That made me glad she was smart enough to realize her aura could get her in trouble here. Really it was assault with a parahuman power and would end up very bad for her if she started using it on two bystanders, one of them a young kid.

I sighed again and took a breath. “First, I have no Master field of any kind. Second, if you get to call your love-me aura a shaker power then the idea I have for creating a slight attraction should be able to be called the same. Third, you really shouldn’t have risked getting so close if you suspected that I was a human controlling master, that was kinda dumb.”

I took a deep breath and took a metaphorical step back. Her fear aura might have gotten to me after fighting for my life yesterday. Looking up I started again. “Look, I have a lot of information I want to give to you. However I would like to fully explain before you start asking questions. But before I do, you need to know that everything that I am telling you now has been confirmed by both our local precog here, " patting Dinah on her head, “and Amy using her ability to check for lies. Finally, this information can not get out.” I glared. “Not even to your parents, so I am now going to portal us to a place between dimensions so we can talk without the possibility of anyone listening in. This is absolutely necessary as there are people who would kill you for this information.”

Vicky blinked and then sat back as the shift washed over us. She apparently hadn’t realized how serious this was going to be. I snorted internally before continuing. “First, the multiverse theory is right. Namely that there are infinite realities and specifically the one that says every work of fiction is another reality somewhere. Now I don’t know if you want to believe the man who wrote this story was a powerful precog or what, but this world as you know it is going to end.”

The explanation was scoffed over at first then as the explanation got specific Vicky started to pale. When I explained how the world was even more screwed than the story I knew and would end unless we dropped the information she actually got up and started to pace. She actually looked slightly relieved when I said we were leaving soon, but then grimaced hard. Finally, she was nearly green when I explained what would have happened between her sister and her. I had been watching and acting on a hopeful hunch. I commented on her face and her attitude suggesting that she wasn’t disgusted that it was Amy who had tried to sleep with her, but because she considered herself 100% straight. Either Vicky agreed or was smart enough to play along, but either way the tension in Amy’s posture seemed to lesson at that. Good to know she wasn’t going to reject her sister over her orientation. Then again, with the exception of the literal Nazis in town, Earth Bet was quite accepting of that seeing as Legend was openly Gay and leader of the entire nation’s superhero organization.

Meanwhile Taylor seemed to notice Amy was still struggling a bit. After a moment Taylor got up and pushed Amy towards me then sat on her other side. The two of us took a moment and snuggled our little girl between us as she sniffled. The entire time Vicky looked more and more uncomfortable.

After a few more moments I sighed. “Ok Vicky, this is where the decision time comes in. I am going to give you three options.” I watched as she squared her shoulders and nodded. “Ok, the first option is I do nothing, I leave you here and warn you again to never tell anyone this knowledge because sharing it will absolutely get you a bullet in the dark that bypasses your shield.”

Vicky squirmed, looked angry, then slumped and nodded so I continued. “Option two. I make your powers part of you. Your powers might temporarily get weaker, but I am pretty sure they can actually grow once you start using them again. Taylor lost nearly half of her range once I did it to her two days ago, but she has already gained nearly 10% of what she lost back already and she describes it as feeling like a muscle now. That means your shield might eventually be even stronger.”

Vicky started out hesitant, but as I kept talking she eventually nodded.

I sighed again and continued. “The third option is that I make you a lich and bind you to us. You will be with me and your sisters, exploring the multiverse forever.” I noticed the incredulous look so I smirked as I continued. “Yes, your sister is mine forever. I said I would protect her. However I am still a man. If I am going to be wandering the universe forever I want a harem of smart, kind, and powerful women around me for the ride. So yes, Taylor is also mine and while I haven’t touched Dinah yet and won’t for many more years, she will also be mine eventually if she decides to stay for the long term.”

Vicky had once again started turning white and I could feel her building up her aura again as she tried to work herself up into a fit. I was about to speak up when Amy beat me to the punch. “Hey Vee, listen to me! He explained everything to me. I chose this because I am safe here. He will make sure I don’t lose control and I won’t have to feel guilty about not working myself to death at the hospital. Plus his changes let me finally fix the issues I had with myself. He has been nothing but kind and gentle and I am happy here, do not fly off the handle for no reason.”

Vicky seemed to deflate like a balloon. “I know Ames, I know. I just worry, y’know.”

Amy simply nodded and reached forward across the coffee table to put her hand on Vicky’s, tears starting to pool in her eyes. “Come with us V, I will miss you. I want you to be safe and you will be much better off with us.”

Vicky scrunched up her eyes before slowly shaking her head. “I can’t, I am a hero. I need to be out there and protect the city.” I could see the tears really start pooling in both their eyes at this point.

I frowned internally and sighed. “I suppose there is one other option. I could always make you a lich, but try to leave your soul here when we leave. The downsides are that your Phylactery is vulnerable and regardless of what you want, when you eventually die you will be stuck inside it asleep until it is broken. However, if that happens we could come back and give you a new body and wake you up again. Think of it as insurance. Plus you would be mostly immune to master and stranger effects.”

I frowned internally and considered another option. Could I keep her phylactery with me when we left and let her keep puppeting her body around here until she died? I frowned. That was probably too dangerous to try without a lot more testing.

Focusing back on the girls I noticed Amy and Taylor looked surprised. I suppose I hadn’t offered the Lich option by itself. I sighed again. “I didn’t make a big deal of this option to anyone besides Dinah because it really doesn’t fix either of your problems and if I don’t make it back to this world then you would still be essentially dead since no one could revive you. Keep in mind that you are leaving because your stories do not have happy endings. Vicky’s story, on the other hand, was only moderately terrible.” I paused and wiped my hand down my face. “That said, we are throwing a whole dump truck of butterflies into the world so nothing is for certain.”

My three girls looked slightly mollified and I looked back at Vicky who looked contemplative. I decided to make one more push. “I don’t want to force anyone to do anything. In fact, I don’t really think I could force these girls to do anything they were really against. All three could get me killed quite easily. However I really do think you could be quite happy with us and we would do our best to make it happen.”

Dinah piped up. “89.2% chance of happiness with us. 49.3% chance of happiness here.”

Vicky took a deep breath and shook her head. “I am a hero here. I am not going to leave this world, not when it needs me. I also want to eventually make my family here. I might be willing to become a lich for the protections, but I don’t think I would do more.” Amy’s shoulders dropped slightly in disappointment so I squeezed her.

Still, I seemed to surprise her when I smiled. “I was going to tell the rest of you after this, but while I am absolutely not trying to come back to this world for quite some time, especially because if we missed and ended up in another version of Earth Bet during one of their apocalypses I might have an aneurysm from the stress, I might have been working on something that might be able to send messages back albeit infrequently.”

Everyone perked up at that. I sighed again. I really hoped this worked. “If I tie something like a copper pipe with my soul to two locations I think we might be able to send mail while traveling in between realities. My soul can poke through realities after all. I just need something like a brass tube to do the anchoring.” Rubbing my head I leaned back. “And Yeah, I am tying my soul to items basically like Voldemort, except I won’t be able to use it to possess people. I also won’t be leaving enough of it in the tube to resurrect us. Still, I am pretty sure I can push letters back to this world through that connection. My plan is to leave the connection with either Vicky or Dragon… Maybe both.”

The meeting wound down and I agreed to pull her soul out and place it into her first crystal tiara and my message tube which Dinah confirmed should be safe in a bunker the family had out of town. A part of me wondered why no one would find it there. Maybe Contessa wouldn’t realize what it was because she was trying to find a way to kill or capture us and the tube would never be that. Or maybe her power didn’t fully understand what souls were. Amy had confirmed I didn’t have a normal Parahuman power after all.

Before we left we all smiled at the teary reunion and farewell between the two sisters before Amy followed me out so we could do more preparations.

Taylor and Dinah each prepared a message to be found in their rooms about how they were joining a parahuman team to try to save the world and that their parents should watch the news in the coming week to see what would happen. Additionally they explained they were making big enemies and so they weren’t coming back but would try to send letters back when they could.

In the meantime and with the help of Dinah I sent 4 portals away from myself using Dinah’s help to determine the locations. Pushing I was able to achieve speeds of over 100 miles per hour.

Surprisingly enough when I talked about where we could stay it was Amy that brought up a better house to prepare for. After a quick call to Vicky who confirmed that 7 houses down from the Dallon’s house was a newly abandoned 6 bedroom mansion. Ok technically it wasn’t a mansion and two of the rooms were more like small offices maybe 12 feet square including the closets, but it was still very nice even if it didn’t currently have any furniture. Looking at the house my plans changed. I had been thinking about trying to create a pocket apartment, mostly because I didn’t know of a house we could just steal like this, but this house would be perfect. The owners were apparently scumbags that everyone hated so no one would contact them if they noticed what we were doing and it wasn’t like anyone was going to be moving in anytime soon. As long as we weren’t super obvious with what we were doing I could prepare the house to be yanked with us when we left. It would just be a matter of preparing the house to be disconnected from water, electricity, and sewer that we would need to deal with.

Sending the girls off to school again for hopefully the final day of school I started my prep work by writing down everything I could think of to help.

I ended up even missing lunch as I planned out all of the things we would need. In fact I only paused long enough to portal long enough around to get a few pieces of furniture from my first house near Arcadia along with one king sized bed from the storage room of the furniture store down close to the boardwalk.

The girls arrived back together with dinner. Apparently Dinah had realized that it was necessary. Turns out I was going to be able to try Fuggly Bob’s. We ate in what I assumed we all felt was companionable silence. As we wrapped up I gathered us all back up in the living room on the sofa.

“Ok, ladies it is time for another talk. It is late, but I would like to try to leave as soon as we can. Tonight I will work on Vicky briefly once she is back from her patrol, but besides that we need to decide if there is anything else we need to do.”

The three girls all decided to sit down on the couch in front of me and seem to just wait.

I chuckled to myself. “It is absolutely nice to see my own little harem in front of me like this.” The girls blushed and Amy and Taylor gave a little eye roll, but I got serious and the girls noticed and straightened up. “I want you to know that I did not do anything to make any of you join me except try to convince you with words. Everything I said was the truth and I am happy with you three.”

The girls smile briefly with Amy and Taylor starting to blush.

“That said, I didn’t tell you about something else I can do. I have an idea on how to manipulate souls similar to the way that Amy can manipulate brains. I have not tried it even a little with any of you just like Amy has not touched brains. That was why I mentioned I could make some minor Master effects, if I wanted to Vicky.”

The three girls slowly nodded realizing where this was going and I saw a little bit of worry start to cross their features, but I tried to cut off those ideas. “Again, don’t get me wrong. I did not force you to join me and I am being completely honest in that I want all of my wives to be happy. I do not plan on doing anything to any of you at this time. I realized that you would all notice and doing so would pretty much instantly destroy the possibility of trust. The trust I realized I wanted. However, I was looking at the bond and it might induce a little feeling of closeness or connection as well.”

Taylor and Amy blinked before looking at each other and I continued. “Yes, that may make you more inclined to be intimate with each other if you are so inclined, but it is not a direct control. I have done nothing to directly force you to do anything, even if I enjoyed your willingness to get in bed with me together greatly.” Taylor looked confused and Amy simply blushed and looked down so I continued. “I suspect you don’t want to hear this but I believe the two of you were so ready to jump into bed because of what has happened in your lives so far.” The two’s faces frowned slightly and I sighed. “You don’t need to guard yourselves like that. You were both treated terribly by what should have been family. You have been lonely and I think you felt unwanted and ugly. I suspect that you both were quite desperate for both physical affirmation of your worth and yes, I will tell you this often, but you are beautiful plus kind, smart, and powerful. But more than that I think you both wanted a friend to cling to.”

I watched as all three girls visibly drooped at the discussion of their lives and I leaned forward. “I know you two might think it is easy to say that you are attractive now that Amy has done her thing, but you were both smart, kind, and powerful before that. That is why you are wives and I will treat you as such. Also keep in mind, Taylor, that no one is going to force either of you to jump into bed with either me or each other.”

Finally, visibly steeling herself, Taylor looked at Amy before shrugging. “I was pretty sure I was completely straight, but honestly after you helped me with my chest I was so thankful I didn’t really care anymore at the time.” At this point she blushed. “Plus the kiss was kinda nice. I don’t think I am going to be willing to do much more any time soon, but I wouldn’t mind the kiss again.” Amy blushed hard too, but besides taking Taylor’s hand, she didn’t say anything else.

“Now what I wanted to talk about.” The three turned towards me, blushes decreasing. “We have a lot of utility in our family currently, but very little direct firepower. While Vicky would have really helped us there there are other options. I can grab another female villain or two and keep them within their Phylactery while we slowly try to change them. Keep in mind, my theoretical attraction manipulation wouldn’t be fast and would be very hit or miss until I figure out what I am doing. I am not sure I can do anything more than a slight loyalty in the first place.

Seeing Amy’s frown I sighed again. “I know you won’t like it Amy, but I would probably need your help to understand what I am doing.”

Amy looked like she wanted to speak up, but I held up my hand. Feeling the part of me that wanted to stay in control flare up along with a desire to be truthful I decided to be blunt. “Keep in mind one more thing. I said you were wives. I don’t like these women. Heck I might hate these women. So at the moment the worst of these women would be treated like convicts at best, slaves at worst. And unless they dramatically change their attitudes and mentalities that won’t change. We aren’t doing this to heroes, this is for people who need to be forced to change.”

All three girls grimaced and looked at each other. I sighed and spoke up. “I know you are all now thinking about what you signed up for, but think about it this way. You three are kinda like my slaves.” All three flinched and I tried to continue in as soft a tone as I could make. “There really aren’t two ways about it. You literally can not leave and I could slowly affect the way you think. I haven’t explained it, but even without a body I can rip the soul from yours so while you could kill me, I could stop you anytime even without a body as well. It is a sort of mutual assured destruction. Short of breaking our phylactery and dying you can’t do anything permanent to me.”

The girls were now looking at the floor and I sighed. “Look at me. I am saying this because I want you to understand that while I hold a lot of control here, I am not going to suddenly turn into a baby kicking, puppy killing, villain. I truly have come to care about you three. At first you were just stories on a page, but I have come to admire you and all you are trying to do. So, just because you are bonded to me doesn’t change anything. I will be treating you as my beloved wives, not as slaves despite any control over you… well except maybe during some playtime in the bedroom if you want.” That seemed to be the thing that finally snapped the three of them out of their funk. Funny enough while Dinah looked confused, Amy and surprisingly Taylor both looked slightly interested in that option.

Taking a deep breath I shrugged. “Here is where we consider some hard and dark options.” The three seemed surprised at my description and I took a deep breath again. “Here is where we decide if forcing someone to come with us is better than what they might be doing here. Taking them away for their own good even if they end up a slave. Albeit, since they would be ours, a well cared for one.” I could see all three of them starting to grow uncomfortable again and even a little angry so I held up my hands in the universal wait gesture. “I know this is hard to contemplate as part of the reason you are coming with me is because others were going to control your life if you stayed. However you need to consider the specific people we are going to talk about. If we pick someone who has a kill order or will be sent to the bird cage regardless, then isn’t it better to wipe the memories or something a bit and let them live with us even if it is more of a servant role at first.”

I could tell that I had instantly taken the wind out of most of their arguments so I continued. “Now even if we can agree it is theoretically better for it to happen to some villains we know, we should still also consider all aspects of what is going on. Basically even if Squealer isn’t doing any good here and is literally destroying both her life and body with her choices.” There were some reluctant nods at that. “... we should really consider both if she would actually be useful and if we could tolerate her without wiping her mind completely. Yeah we can change her a bit, but if we are wiping her completely then we might as well find someone else with similar skill sets. Especially since it takes more effort to jump away from here the more people we have.”

The girls all seem to lean back and actually consider things for a few minutes before Taylor leaned forward. I knew I shouldn’t have been surprised knowing her since she was one to constantly take charge when things needed doing, but I was. She hadn’t had the big challenges that had forced her to learn how to lead yet, but I guess what she would become was already there underneath. Looking at me she nodded. “Who were you considering?”

Leaning back I sighed. “Primarily I had been considering Squealer and Bakuda. They have destroyed and and will continue to destroy the town but also have incredibly useful talents we can use moving forward. Plus from my vague understanding of their lives, erasing the last couple years would undo most of their more extreme personality traits” Taylor was nodding, now stiff and considering so I continued “Conversely Rune, Orthalla and Purity are useful, but I am not sure we can roll them back enough to undo the racism. That said, they don’t have nearly as high a body count so we might be able to reform them.” I waved my hand to break the tension and smiled. “Yes, Purity is also a hot MILF and despite what my current Harem looks like, I actually prefer mature women.” Amy rolled her eyes, but Dinah looked confused, Probably on what a MILF was and I winced internally. I didn’t want to be so openly sexual with her. Pressuring her to move too quickly was something I really didn’t want to do. Trying to focus the discussion back on the capes I continued. “The thing is that out of the three potential targets from the E88, only Purity is an actual direct fire powerhouse like I mentioned we needed and I don’t want to take her away from her daughter. On the other hand I really don’t want to drag a 1 year old with us.” Rubbing my hand across my face I sighed. “Conversely, if we leave without her then we should really warn her to get out of town since she goes crazy when the PRT tried to take her baby away in the original story.” All three girls nodded slowly and thoughtfully as I waved my hand around.

Taylor seemed to think about this for a few more seconds before twitching and looking at me again. “You have been considering others.” I suspected she was distracted by thinking about how she would have shot said baby to try to give it a quick painless death rather than what the SlaughterHouse 9 would have done to it.

Still, accepting the topic change I tried not to look guilty and I gestured with a so-so motion. “I said I wasn’t normally going to force a hero against their will. That said, your safeties are much more important to me than anything else. So if it helps us survive I am not against grabbing Miss Militia AKA Hannah, Vista AKA Missy, and Vicky who all declined to join us so far. In fact, if we thought it was particularly useful we could also look at some other heroes I am less familiar with or try to get someone else out of the Bird Cage like Bad Canary AKA Paige who really shouldn’t be in there in the first place.” I was glad to see the girls were quietly considering this all rather than getting upset. I really had chosen well. The three were smart and they knew that sometimes you needed to do unpleasant things and while I wouldn’t treat heroes badly, it was still kidnapping.

I took a breath then looked at the three. “The final thing I have to tell you is to get out of here I need to pop a soul. It will probably take maybe 5 minutes to prepare everything, but when I pop it… well it is pretty much instant death. I think the soul might reform eventually, but it won’t be any time soon and I don’t know how much of that person will be left when they do.”

I looked at the three girls who all looked worried about this so I chuckled reassuringly. “Don’t worry about who I will be popping. I am considering popping either Coil or Hookwolf’s souls. Both are sociopaths with hundreds of bodies to their name.”

Dinah looked pleased at Coil’s potential fate and Taylor frowned but nodded. It was only Amy who seemed to hesitate before sighing. “I swore to do everything I could to protect life, but honestly putting the gang bangers back together just made me frustrated every time innocents got brought in from one of their gang wars. That isn’t even mentioning how the Damn Nazis killed my cousin Fleur.”

I nodded and continued “Besides those two for popping options, I might also grab Victor since he is a sniper with his stolen skills who also has a kill count in the double digits.” I paused and sighed. “Plus he shot my damn hand off even if Amy was able to grow it back.” I grimaced. “That is to say nothing about Oni Lee with his teleporting clones and grenades. He might have the highest body count in the city even if he is basically a braindead minion of Lung now.” I paused. “Really I might just grab all of them as backup souls to pop after Coil. Best to have contingencies in case we end up in a world without someone to sacrifice.”

The three looked suitably horrified at the thought so I continued. “The other big name I plan on getting if I can is Lung. I don’t want to pop him, but I am pretty sure I can rig his body up as protection and a living battery for our pocket dimension. I am still working on the details for that though.”

No one said anything for a few moments before Dinah spoke up hesitantly. “I am not sure…” But once again I was surprised by Amy and Taylor who both muttered something like. “Serves him right.”

I turned to Dinah. “It isn’t widely known, but he is a sex trafficker. A lot of young women near the docks end up going missing only to be sold to his brothels here or abroad.” Dinah’s eyes hardened at that and she nodded sharply.

Sighing, I spoke up. “I don’t want these decisions made at the moment. Especially about our potential companions. Maybe it is best for everyone to sleep on the options tonight and we can discuss it in the morning. Now who wants to just snuggle with me in the master bedroom?”

Nodding all three girls followed me up the stairs. Pointing towards the 5 other bedrooms I point to them. “After this why don’t you pick out bedrooms for each of you just in case. I know Dinah isn’t going to be sleeping with me and so needs a room, but it might be good for you each to have a room even if you want to stay with me most nights. It will be a place you can go to have your own personal time with your own stuff.” Dinah nodded and picked a room two doors down before I put the small twin bed I had found with its own sheets in said room.

Amy and Taylor took a moment longer to pick their rooms before I just put my arms around them and walked into the master bedroom and took off my jeans and hopped into bed. I enjoyed the show as I watched my two girls strip to panties and T-shirts before joining me. Focusing on the fact I didn’t want to pressure the girls after all of the revelations today I laid back and forced my breathing to slow down. I could feel Taylor lightly clinging onto me and I knew Amy was on her other side. Tomorrow will perhaps be the final day on Earth Bet, but I was still happy with my new family.

The next morning we got up and ate breakfast. I grimaced in the light of day as I considered the logistics and realized that our new house wasn't even close to ready to go off grid. Sighing, I sat down with the girls. "Hey girls, I overestimated how ready we are. I am going to give you each a few thousand dollars. At least one thousand of that is to be spent on you. Your own clothes, shoes, hygiene products you like, etc. As for the rest, I have some errands for the group. Amy, I need you to go shopping for any long term food you can get. Also maybe stop by the hospital and grab any lab equipment you might need for your bio tinkering experiments. I then want you to grab all the food seeds you can. Long term I want you to experiment with making something like a super wheat and a meat fruit tree. Something we can take with us and grow food on."

Amy did not look happy about being given what was basically a grocery list until the talk about tinkering, but after a moment she grumbled out a "fine."

Looking over at me, I sighed. "Taylor, I need you to do the same. I want you to go through and buy housing equipment. I want pots, pans, soap, bedsheets, rugs, shovels, and anything else you think we might need if we were going to go live in a cabin for a year or two."

Taylor looked overwhelmed for a moment before she stood up and nodded. "Ok."

Looking at Dinah I sighed. "You are the one being hunted so I want you to be extra careful. Especially since Coil is going to be angry with Lisa escaping like that. But if you can, I want a lifetime supply of pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, and anything else we can use for planning. Modern paper could be incredibly useful if we find ourselves in the middle ages for several jumps. After that I want you to scroll through PHO, and periodically ask if any of the capes you come across would be good to take with us and if we can get to them, convince them, and bring them here in the next day or so."

All three girls swallowed and glanced at each other, but it was Taylor who spoke. "Ok, but where are we putting it all?"

I winced and then smiled. "Sorry, I should have explained that, I want you to purchase it all then just wheel it out to behind a few cars and text me. I will open a portal you can dump it all into before you head somewhere else."

The three looked at each other before nodding. I took a deep breath and nodded back. I would need to work on these girls' attitudes a bit. Yeah they were all teenages, but when I laid out stuff that needed to happen for the family I didn’t want to hear complaints unless they were pointing out a potential issue I had missed. It wasn’t like I was going to do this unless it was really necessary after all.

Looking at the three I gestured to the house. "If we are taking the house then I also need to get the house ready to be ripped away from the utilities. I am going to put a large water tank in the basem*nt and portal it up to a smaller one in the attic. After hooking that up to the water lines and a set of tanks in the basem*nt for the waste, then our house should have running water. It is another long term project but if we can get Amy here to make a bacteria that eats waste and contaminates and then dies in sunlight or something and add a sand filter then we can make it a loop and have infinite clean water. It won’t be our standard setup, but it would work well as an emergency backup. The next thing I am going to get is a large set of solar panels and batteries. I will buy a generator or two, but until Amy figures out how to make gasoline somehow, we won't be able to use them indefinitely. Regardless, I will get a few more microwaves and an inverter and we can heat food like civilized people even if we end up in the stone age."

Amy and Taylor looked relieved that we would have running water and hot food, but Dinah spoke up. "85.4% chance the PRT and gangs decide you are a tinker and attempt to capture you. Especially since they are on the lookout for a tinker. The shops will attempt to hold you on the pretense that the money is stolen."

I winced, "Yeah, that is something they would absolutely do." Leaning back I simply shrugged. "Ultimately we need that stuff, so I guess all I can do is just grab it in small bundles while Amy changes my appearance occasionally and then head back here and start the retrofits to the house. They can't get me if I change appearances constantly and then don’t leave the house."

Dinah pauses for a moment then nods that that will work. Passing out 4 thousand dollars for each of them and encouraging them to break that into smaller bundles of 200 to 400 dollars I wave them all away though each of their own portals.

Getting up I portaled out to the hardware store but before I could enter the store, I noticed a small used bookstore next door going out of business. Blinking, I walked in and looked around. From behind me I heard someone speak up. “Can I help you?”

I spun around slowly to see an older man walking up from behind the register. A slow grin started to cross my face as I realized the possibilities here. If fiction stories were sometimes realities in other universes then these books were potentially guides for new worlds on top of being entertainment in worlds that might not have TV, Movies, or even Books. The technical books might prove useful in some circ*mstances.

Quickly thinking up a cover story I nodded slowly. “Yeah, I was given some money to prepare a library for my new step-mom. She loves fantasy and sci-fi books and we are moving out to a house in the countryside a few miles north of Captain's Hill. Meanwhile my dad likes mechanics and building catalogs like popular mechanics. How much would it be if I wanted to buy all of the used books in those sections?”

The balding man blinked at me before glancing into the shop. “I don’t know? We usually sell most used books for 1 to 3 dollars and we have about a thousand of them if you want all those sections. The new books generally sell for 7 to 10, but we don’t have as many.” Scratching his head the man sighed. “We wanted to retire since our son died, and between you and me the E88 protection money has made it hard to make a profit here… we just aren’t sure what to do with our stock here and the building itself.”

Trying to look as sympathetic as I could I smiled as I did the math in my head. I had stolen 25 thousand from the gangs and I had given the girls 12 which left me with 13 thousand. “How about I give you 8 thousand now if you close shutters and give me the keys. I will take the books and the shelving this afternoon and you will have an empty shop you can sell or rent out tomorrow. I will leave the keys behind the register here and you can pick them up tonight at 7pm.”

The man blinked, then blinked again. He then obviously put on his business hat and started looking through his stock. “I want 9 thousand if you are taking the shelves as well. There are a lot of them.”

Trying not to get annoyed while remembering that the man probably needed to get this money for his livelihood, I considered. This was a big expense, but it could be crucial if it gave us guides for future worlds we ended up in as well as simple entertainment for my wives. Sighing I leaned forwards and shook the man’s hand before the two of us walked over to the register and the man rang me up for 5 thousand dollars. I blinked before I realized he was asking for me to pay him the rest under the table. That made sense with a gang and semi-corrupt government breathing down his neck.

Paying the man he handed me the keys, closed the front shutters and showed me the side door I could load my books up from. Assuring the man I could grab my truck and take care of it and then that I would leave the keys in the mail slot only took a few more minutes. The man left before I walked back inside and simply started portaling the shelves into the small drawing room of our new home.

It ended up only taking about half an hour, but at the end I locked up, slid the keys inside the mail slot and looked around the home. Yet as proud as I was about getting this deal, I realized I had a lot more purchasing to do as I turned around and realized all there was in the living room was a ratty old sofa and the small amount of kitchen supplies that we had collected so far. That was to say nothing about the fairly old and hard mattress we had found in the master bedroom last night.

Sighing I turned around to head back out. I was going to get a lot more things.

The rest of the morning was spent renting a uhaul truck and picking up a better sofa, several twin mattresses and a brand new california king mattress. I then got Lamps, bookshelves, dressers, chairs, and toilet paper before I could even think about the water renovations. However, those ended up being the most annoying thing to buy as they were difficult to move. I might not have managed at all if the 1000 liter ones hadn’t come with the aluminum cage for support. They also came with their own valves and piping which helped tremendously. Purchasing 4 of them along with a lot of PVC piping and both hand pumps and electric pumps surprised a lot of people, but no one stopped me.

Deciding that I would need technology too I drove around to a alley where I hoped no one could see me before hopping into the back and portalling it all into our home’s basem*nt while no one else could see what I was doing.

That let me hop back into the driver's seat and drive to an electronics store to purchased 3 PCs. Two were simple office desktops, but one of them was much more powerful. I then purchased as many games as I could come across before bringing them up to the counter. I could tell I was being watched already, but the games seem to have bought me at least a little plausibility. Leaving the store I hopped into my truck before once again portaling the stuff away and doing the exact same thing at the store across town, this time purchasing a laptop and several monitors.

Finally I ended the day by grabbing the solar panels, charge controller, generator, batteries, and inverter. I knew I had stayed too long when I noticed a black van parked outside a little behind my uhaul. Sighing, I grabbed my purchases. Hopped into my van while portaling away the equipment and drove out to the boardwalk before dumping the truck and walking into an alley. I was definitely being followed now as I saw several people exit another van headed vaguely towards me. I wasn’t who’s side they were on, but I ducked around a trash bin before portaling home. That wasn’t ideal as they would now realize I was a teleporter, but I wasn’t about to let them catch me just to keep my cover. Not when I wanted to be gone as soon as possible.

I had been interrupted throughout the day by the girls periodically calling me to portal their supplies home. Yet nobody was home when I finally finished for the day, yet I told myself not to be worried, it was still only about 5pm and there was plenty of daylight left.

Moving to my rented apartment I set up my laptop with an external hard drive to torrent every episode of Anime, Manga, Fantasy, and Sci-fi created both here and on Earth Aleph I could find. Setting up the first office machine to do the same but with every cracked version of a downloadable game I could find. My gaming machine on the other hand was set up to download games legally. The final office machine was going to be backup in case something happened to one of these. In the meantime I would let those three machines crunch.

That night I made dinner for the first time with the inverter and microwave setup. The stew was made from canned food which wasn’t terrible, but it could have been a lot better. Amusingly it was Amy who was the most annoyed about the soup. “If we are going to be eating like this often then I am going to be the one making the food. I can at least modify the food so we don’t end up fat and greasy.”

Dinah and Taylor looked thankful, but I had to admit that I was mostly just amused. “Thanks beautiful.”

Amy froze at that and then blushed. “Thanks…” Then quieter, “Asshole.”

As the three of us sat down I sighed. “We are leaving soon. Dinah and I have been working on a plan for my removal of the Slaughterhouse 9. However, we are also going to be sending a decapitating strike against all four gangs. Hopefully not enough that the Butcher comes back, but enough that the PRT has a chance. The question is, Taylor, do you want me to do anything about Emma or Sophia?”

Taylor hummed and looked out the window. “No, I don’t think I want anything done. It was George Herbert that said living well is the best revenge. I think… I think I want to be that kind of Hebert… even if he spelled his name wrong.” Everyone chuckled at that and she continued. “Instead I am going to leave Emma and Sophia a note that said I was part of the team that took down the S9 and saved the world. That they couldn’t break me, that they will never be able to break me and I will forever be more important than them. They will forever be nobodies, losers, quickly forgotten while everyone will remember me. Hell, I might even tell them Panacea is going to make my breasts bigger than theirs.”

I blinked, then whistled. Amy was the one who responded though. “Wow, I see why you picked her. That was really intense… and kinda hot.”

Dinah blinked a few more times then spoke up. “3.1% chance she retaliates against your family if you tell her the PRT knows who you are and that you can move through portals. She will assume you are watching her.”

Taylor looked over and then smiled. I was actually a little surprised she hadn’t been planning on how to protect her Dad, but maybe she was still getting over her abandonment issues. On the other hand I suppose Dinah had been thinking hard on how to protect everyone since she didn’t have many combat options at the moment.

Leaning back I turned back to Dinah. “What about you, Dinah, was there anything that you wanted to do before we left?”

Dinah simply shook her head. “As long as you destroy Coil, I don’t really have anything else.”

Turning towards Amy I sighed. “Besides potentially recruiting Vicky, who we will discuss soon, is there anything else you want to do?”

Amy frowned slightly at the mention of Vicky, but then shook her head. “No, I think I will leave a message with Dragon about being overwhelmed and wanting to deal with the source of my problems. If people can’t accept that then that is their problem. I might also leave a message for New Wave and Carol explaining my decision and my frustration, but I have a family with us now... even if you aren’t even really my type.”

Sighing I shook my head. “Amy, for the love of ever remaining shred of my sanity. Do not become a Tsundere on us.” She got up to obviously punch me and I chuckled before once again cutting her powers off. I was incredibly thankful that I could still do that. Amy did not look happy about that, but the change seemed to calm her down. However I had a feeling that trick wouldn’t work for very much longer. She would probably permanently improve her body going forward so turning her powers off would just stop her from doing something weird to me.

However instead of backing down I stood up and hugged her. “We love you and your prickly personality.” This time she followed through and actually punched me albeit fairly gently.

“Amy, seriously, we care about you. The three of us really do want you to be happy and we will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.” I then smirked. “Plus, I haven’t given up on finding you a companion. Somewhere there is a woman who will want to spend a lot of time making sure the two of you are very happy. Hell, I am still completely fine with body swapping to a female for some nights just between the two of us.” The last few sentences were quieter and quieter to keep Dinah in the dark, but I am pretty sure Taylor knew what was going on because she was once again going red as she looked away from us. I felt something shift in approval at this, but once again I ignored it.

As we all sat back down I sighed and the girls all seemed to notice my seriousness and straightened on the sofa in front of me. “Ok, it is time. Who are we grabbing for emergency jumps? And who are we grabbing for possible future members of the family?”

No one wanted to speak up first so I breathed in slowly. “Ok, I will start us off. I have been thinking we grab Lung’s soul and use it to power this pocket dimension. Keeping it open myself isn’t too hard, but it is a constant distraction and effort and I could be using elsewhere.”

Taylor was the one who raised her hand and I smirked before nodding. “No reason to raise your hands when you want to talk. I mean, maybe we would need to if our family had another two dozen women, but it is just the four of us for now.” I paused and shook my head. “Regardless, what is your question?”

Taylor seemed once again to squirm at the talk of more women, but then she asked. “How exactly does that work? How are you going to use Lung’s soul to power a pocket dimension.”

I frowned, but before Taylor could get the wrong thought I continued. “I don’t understand everything. Half is experimenting and half is the instincts I was given when the ROB dropped me off. What I am going to do is place small portals that put the tips of his soul on the outside of this house and then surround that by the dimensional shift. It should act like wrapping a pincushion with tin foil… as weird as that sounds. Maybe thinking about it a popup tent is better even if there won’t be strands of soul going lengthwise around the house. As for why I think that will work. Well, souls do not want to be crushed or stretched in any way shape or form. In fact, if the soul is weak enough, stretching it is the easiest way to pop it. Each soul had a different amount of power. I felt a small rush even when just popping a mouse’s soul. More powerful souls require me to actually spear my soul into theirs. However I suspect that Lung’s soul with his shard’s ability to ramp up to meet any challenge should allow it to support our pocket home’s dimension even while traveling through realities. Plus, while I suspect that I could protect us in that in between by myself, but I don’t want to if I don’t have to.”

Taylor looked fascinated and I looked at the other two. “Any other questions? No? Well I also want to grab Oni Lee, Hookwolf, Kaiser, and Victor for backup souls to pop since we are going to be using Coil to leave the dimension. Since the damn illuminati have a vested interest in Coil we will have to pick him up last. Also, we will have to pick a time to grab him and stick to it regardless of what else is going on since if there is a variation, then he can probably use his two different timelines to prepare for us.”

Dinah looked the most firm, but all three girls once again nodded. Amy even gave a sneer and muttered, “Good riddance.” I shouldn’t be surprised since she had spent years cleaning up their gang wars and the first two were all known to have body counts in the triple digits while the second two were reported to have destroyed hundreds more.

I nodded. “Now for the other capes I thought of this morning. I Want to pick up Gray Boy if I can find him. Dinah thinks we can find him in Miami currently so I am working on getting a portal down there to try to catch him. On that note, if possible, I want to do the same thing to Gray Boy and create a bubble of stopped time around the outside of our pocket dimension. Eventually I want to then put another bubble of protection around the time barrier as well so no one runs into it accidentally. That should stop just about every form of attack I can think of. The problem is that I have no idea how to do all of that yet. So we are still vulnerable, especially against capes like Flechette who can hit something in every dimension it exists.”

Once again all three girls winced and then nodded. Flechette was a pretty big danger to us even if she was currently a hero in another state. Said distance and unrelated status didn’t really matter when Cauldron was potentially working behind the scenes.

Then the time had come. “Ok, now for women we might want to grab, forcibly if needed. I want to remind everyone that I am not going to just start raping them. But at the same time, if they are villains then we will be attempting to brainwash them at least a little to stop being such ass-hats and hurting innocents. So, while I want to point out that it isn’t as bad, it is still a bit rapey, just in the mental direction.” I took a deep breath. “That said, it still probably better than just straight-up killing them, especially if they can be happy and healthy after we fix them to stop hurting others.”

Taylor winced and Amy looked away, but Dinah seemed stoic and I noted that before I turned back to the other two. “Ok, so the two I mentioned last time first. What is everyone’s opinion about Bakuda and Squealer?”

Taylor seemed to firm herself before nodding. “They are villains who have been given several chances to change and didn’t. They have both killed dozens of people and we could use their skills in future worlds. If they need brainwashing to no longer be sociopaths, then we will do that.”

Amy winced. She understood that the two of us would be doing most of the actual brainwashing when we eventually got around to it. I had mentioned that she would have to watch the brain as I messed with the soul and I would watch the soul while she messed with the brain. Between the two of us we could probably eventually mold them like clay even if it would be hard to get anything specific. It was probably way too close to what she might have done to her sister. On the other hand she had also been forced to heal the victims of the gang violence and the description of what Bakuda would have done to the city was horrific. So after a moment she nodded as well.

“Ok, that is two women we will be keeping as they could do more good for us than remaining here. Are there any other villains you know of you want to bring with us.”

Taylor frowned. “I don’t want to bring Purity. Yeah, she is a Nazi, but I don’t want to separate a mother from her child and I don’t really want to bring a child with us.”

Amy and Dinah nodded so I simply nodded as well. “I will make sure she gets a note about the possible exposure from Coil’s systems. That should give her enough time to leave the state and hopefully join the Guild or a separate PRT office so she can be an actual hero this time.” tilting my head I gestured a bit. “And Orthala, Cricket, Rune, Fenja, or Menja?”

Amy snorted. “I am sorry, I don’t really want to be surrounded by Nazis if I can help it.” After a moment when I didn’t interrupt she sighed. “Vicky has talked about them and she didn’t have too much to say about them, but I don’t really want to have a bunch of hom*ophobic Nazis around us with my preferences.” She paused again before sighing. “The only one I could see who might be useful is Orthala for the invulnerability touch she can give us. Rune is just a teenager, but I don’t think she is all that useful when compared to your portals.”

I nodded, “All true enough.”

Turning towards Dinah I simply tilted my head. “As Orthala is now. 36% chance she will be happy eventually without brainwashing. 73% even with brainwashing without completely destroying her personality. 100% if we destroy her personality… Rune is only slightly better. We would have to spend a lot of time trying to get rid of her bigotry and it would probably take a long time.”

I sighed back. “Yeah, that is pretty low even with the potential brainwashing. Lets only grab Orthala if something changes. However I still have every intention of grabbing her husband. If we don’t grab her then we will tip Purity to take Orthala with her when she leaves. We can do the same to Rune. That sounds like we are letting them off, but their identities are going to get out and I don’t want to encourage Purity to go on a rampage again if they try to take her daughter.”

I then folded my hands in front of me and put them on my knee. “Ok, now the hard question, do we grab any heroes and force them to come with us. We haven’t heard back from Vista, Miss Militia, or Vicky. So no one is joining willingly. The question is if we should force any of them.”

Internally I could feel the desire to grab them, no questions asked. We were saving this world, if we wanted to them to come with us in payment who were they to refuse?

Yet even as I thought that another part of me felt horrified at the very idea. The very last thing I wanted to do was enslave people, I felt like I knew what that was like personally. Yet again, I knew I didn’t have time for these feelings so I pushed them aside.

Amy shuttered and visibility hesitated. “No, I wanted Vicky so badly, but now that I am mostly immune to her Aura now that I am bonded to you, but I think it is best to leave her behind, at least for now. However, I still want her soul protected in a gem if that is possible.”

Taylor was actually the one who spoke up. “Could you find a way to check on her Phylactery directly even while we are gone. That way we can at least make sure she is alright? Maybe putting her gem in the message tube?”

Amy simply stared at Taylor for a very long time before turning to Dinah. “My numbers don’t give good numbers for discussion on reality changes, but I think it might work.”

Amy frowned for a long time before slowly nodding and responding in a small voice. “I don’t want to brainwash her into loving me, but having her in our family eventually, even if it is with the same husband, would be nice, eventually.”

I nodded slowly. “Ok, so I will simply put her in a gem in the mail tube. I don’t think she would survive being pulled through realities without me coming here to pick her up, though. We were planning on going back to visit with her tomorrow morning anyway and we can discuss these options with her then.” Taking another deep breath, I look at each of the girls before asking again. “Are there any other heroes you think we should take? Miss Militia, Vista, Battery, or maybe someone else?”

After a moment of hesitation, Amy shook her head, but Taylor was more firm. “I don’t want to kidnap heroes as long as they are trying to do good. Not unless they want to get out like us.”

Smiling, I tried to make it seem like I wasn’t disappointed about not having Vista or Miss Militia on our team since they were incredibly powerful, but the girls were right. I didn’t want to be ruled by my dick. Thinking about it now, if I did, there was a good chance my harem wouldn’t be the family I was aiming for anymore. Not when some of them were resentful of being dragged away. Either that or I would have to figure out how to control literally all of my girls completely and that was horrifying to do to innocent girls. I winced internally since I knew a part of me would do it in a heartbeat if it meant saving my women though.

I heard a clearing throat and looked over in time to see Dinah actually looking a little bashful before sitting up. “I actually already recruited another cape.”

The rest of us turned to look at her confused and Amy asked. “What do you mean?”

I was only slightly slower in my question. “I was about to ask you if you had asked your power my questions about if there was anyone else who would want to come with us, but I didn’t think you had recruited anyone yet.” I tried to make sure she knew I wasn’t really mad, but everyone could tell I wasn’t thrilled by the information.

Dinah squirmed a bit. “Parian, real name Sabah, wants to join us once I told her we were getting out of Brockton Bay and off of Earth Bet. I also looked at the numbers that said 91.3% chance everyone including her will be happy with her inclusion while realizing she lived only a block away from where I was at, at the time, so I just walked over and asked.”

I narrowed my eyes on her. “What aren’t you telling me, Dinah? How is perhaps the biggest Lesbian cape in the Bay going to be happy about joining my harem?”

Dinah winced then sighed. “I was too worried about being overheard and was worried about being late, so I didn’t ask the right questions before I visited her. There is only a 9.6% chance she will be happy when she initially realizes that she will be one of your wives. I told her I wasn’t a wife, and she assumed being a wife was optional.”

I sighed. “When is she going to be arriving here?”

Dinah winced again and then sighed. “She wants you to go pick her up tonight. The problem is that if we don’t pick her up tonight she will panic and contact the PRT with the information I gave her and they will start hunting us even more before we leave.”

Interlude Sabah:

Sabah was pacing around the room. Hookwolf, Rune, and Alabaster had cornered her as she was headed home last night.

Two weeks, two weeks to give them her answer before they would force the issue. She didn’t know why they thought she was white.

Yeah, she dressed up like a porcelain doll which obviously had white skin, but she hadn’t left a single bit of her real skin showing so why would they assume?

Now they would probably kill her if they found she was dressing up as a ‘real person’ as those racist assholes would put it. They would also kill her if she refused to join them.

She kicked a box of supplies before she started to pack her things again. She needed to get out, one way or another and if that girl really was a precog then this might be her best chance.

She hadn’t left her parent’s home and her engineering degree just to be controlled again.

She was 23 now and she wanted to do fashion. She wanted to do it more than anything else.

Screw this damn town. Screw capes. She just wanted to design in peace. Maybe find a good girl to settle down with and start her business.

A part of her knew she shouldn’t be so trusting. This town was filled with literal Nazis and that damn asian gang ready to sell her into sexual slavery. Was she actually sure this wasn’t a plot from one of those groups?

Still, the girl had known more than she should have. She knew her name, situation, and seemingly everything else about her. If they just wanted to capture her, they could have grabbed her already. Plus, she didn’t actually have the money to move. This might be her best chance.

Interlude Contessa:

Something was happening. Several important parahumans had recently gone dark. She couldn’t path them anymore. Was there a gang war going on in the East Northeast area? That was strange since she hadn’t felt any of her paths get altered by new triggers. New triggers always happened when violence started breaking out.

Maybe she needed to go in and figure things out. Not being able to path things there was starting to cause problems and she was there to end problems after all.

Defeating Scion would take nothing less than everything.

Interlude Jack Slash:

His instincts seemed to be telling him something, but he couldn’t seem to figure out what it was.

Best to keep moving. They could stop once they lost their tail. Wherever it was.

Once they did, he would figure out who it was and find them soon enough… and then kill them. No one stopped Jack Slash after all.

Chapter 7: Chapter 7: Worm - The Mad Rush

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 6-4-24

I didn’t really appreciate the last second change, but after a moment I looked at Amy. “We don’t have a choice anymore. Amy, we are going to invite her over. I assume that Dinah told her to pack her things.” A quick nod from Dinah allowed me to continue. “So we will grab her stuff and put her in a room. I will talk to her after we deactivate her powers, if she acts badly I am going to have you knock her out so we can work on her for the jump. I am not going to make her a lich yet, though, just pull her powers into her soul.” I paused thinking, “Actually, Amy, when we get ready to leave I want you to just put her body in a coma if we haven’t confirmed her loyalty yet, just like we will do to Squealer and Bakuda. If needed we will discuss things with her more when we have more time, I might even consider dropping her off in another world if we can’t come to an arrangement.”

Then smirking I sighed theatrically and leaned back. “If she does decide to join us, then that is someone you can fool around with any time you want, Amy. Plus my girls will never again be in need of more clothes since her designs are incredible and she can make them incredibly quickly.”

Seeing as we were all in agreement, Dinah sent Sabah a quick text saying that we were going to come pick her up if she was ready. The phone dinged a response immediately with an affirmative, so taking a deep breath I reached out until I found the house Dinah had described and opened up a portal. In front of me was a middle eastern girl probably about 21 to maybe 24 years old or so. She wasn’t wearing a mask, but I suppose Dinah had showed up without a mask as well so it might just be reciprocating. She was cute in a girl-next-door kind of way, but I could tell already she was nervous looking at me. Sighing internally I found the huge pile of cloth and suitcases and boxes in her apartment. I portaled everything into one of the spare bedrooms showing Sabah where the room was in the house and confirming she had gotten everything. Finally the now five of us walked back down the living room and I sighed before cutting off her powers and gesturing for Taylor to hold her still. Taylor was now probably a brute 2, there was no way a small girl would be able to move her.

“What, what are you doing? You said you would get me away from this town. You said I would be happy with you. Oh, Allah. Are you another Heartbreaker? Oh, no, no, no, no…”

Sighing I gestured to Amy who leaned over and poked her and Sabah’s mouth kept moving but no sound came out.

Looking at her and sighing at the trouble this was going to cause I felt the urge to just force her into my harem. The push was strong and Sabah was definitely pretty. Better yet, she was older than the rest of us, giving her a bit of a mature air and her middle eastern complexion really drove home how cute her small nose was. But looking back at the other girls I shook myself. I wanted them happy and she had to choose to be with us if I wanted her to be happy.

I rubbed my hand across my face. “I am sorry Sabah. I really am. We really aren’t going to Master you or anything. But our precog here didn’t tell you everything and she warned us you would freak out when we started explaining. So we are just going to make you relax for now so we can actually get through all of the information. You can make your decision on what you want to do after that. Do you understand?”

Sabah looked horrified as I started talking, but after a few moments she seemed to collect herself and then nodded.

Trying to smile calmly, I nodded back. “Unfortunately our precog here has warned us that you won’t deal with being left behind well so there are only two ways this can go. Neither one will end with you being harmed. First, we can take you with us and drop you off in the next world or two. We will even give you a few things to get you started. However, we are almost certainly moving on after that and you will be… well left all alone at that point.”

To her credit, she only looked moderately nervous about that so I continued with a sigh. “What Dinah didn’t let you know is that if you want to join us completely I am going to want to treat you as a wife albeit one I don’t necessarily sleep with. This is both because while I think I am proving to be moderately caring, I am also a greedy man. If you are staying with me that long I will want you to be mine.” Seeing her face I rolled my eyes, “Now I know what you are probably thinking from the horror on your face. No, I don't want to treat you as a sex slave or like property. I will be treating the three of you in front of me as wives in the modern romantic sense. And before you ask, yes, Dinah will eventually join us if she decides to stay that long. However, she is 14 and we won’t even consider taking that step until she is 17 or 18. If she wants to leave, then I will figure out how to do that as well.

Taking another breath I rubbed the back of my head trying to show how awkward this was. “As for how it will work. Amy here is very much bisexual and I have already slept with her and she enjoyed it, however I am also more than happy for her to sleep with my other wives. As for you, while I would prefer to treat you the same and I will probably make passes at sleeping with you, I understand you are almost exclusively attracted to women and may not want to do anything with me. In fact I expect that you will almost exclusively be intimate with only them. In fact, I won’t care what you do between the two of you any time you two want. The major caveat here is I will want to be somewhat affectionate with you. I am not going to drag you to bed, I don’t want you to flinch away every time I pat your back, touch your shoulder, etc. etc.”

Sabah seemed to wince and cringe at that, but I tried to smile and infuse my voice with a calm and comforting tone. “Sabah, understand I will have many women. Some won’t want to even touch another woman while others like Amy here are very much into women as well. So the number of times I sleep with you will be completely up to you. I am simply making it clear that I will be around and somewhat affectionate with all of you. That said, I suspect most of your intimate interactions will be from Amy pulling you into a threesome or foursome with other women who swing that way.” I gave Amy a little wink. “That said, I don’t actually mind doing a little gender swap, once Amy has prepared a body for me either.”

Sabah had started to breath deeply at the start, but as the talk went on she seemed to calm down to almost looking curious, if incredibly warry. I smiled internally, that was probably as well as I could have hoped for so I tried to break any remaining tension. “Again, while I think your caramel skin is absolutely gorgeous, I am not going to be forcing you to do anything you don’t want to.”

I paused considering. I didn’t want Sabah seducing Amy away from us and keeping the affection within the wives was important. “That said, I am going to make a rule now for everyone including me. We are only allowed to sleep with each other. Before you join us, Sabah, you can sleep with anyone outside our little family, but not with us. After joining you are then limited to us, your spouses or family if you will.”

I sighed. “All of that is ignoring some of the major benefits of joining us. I mean, biological immortality, Soul protection, body tune-ups, ability power ups, and traveling through the literal multiverse with a huge number of lovers is nothing to scoff at.”

Walking her through the benefits and bonuses I noticed that she was amused at hearing about the body improvements including my stamina improvements and temporary infertility. She didn’t take the explanation of what would happen to the world particularly well, but neither did she panic. In the end it was a relatively quick discussion as she wasn’t one of the primary characters in the story and would only suffer moderately as the story progressed.

Finishing up the discussion, while opening my hands in a welcoming gesture to Sabah I tried to smile warmly. “Now, I am going to have Amy and Taylor release you, but I won’t be giving you access to your powers quite yet, instead I am going to give you a moment to ask questions. I know this is all very sudden, but Dinah has warned us that we need to bring you with us as you won’t do well, being left behind. Bad enough that you might get us killed which might doom this world even worse, as nearly insane as that sounds. So, as much as I don’t want to force anyone to do anything, you are left with those two options. As terrible, horrible, awful as they obviously are. Be whisked away to a new world or join a group of semi-immortal lovers wandering the multiverse.”

Taylor huffed in amusem*nt, but released Sabah while Amy poked her again and Sabah could speak again. “... Fine, you bastard.” I noticed her tense her fists, then relax them, then tense them again. “It isn’t as bad as I thought when you grabbed me, but I am going to have to think about it.”

I sighed. “Now, I would normally want to let you buy whatever you want to prepare for you to leave with us, but with you not committed, I am not sure if I want you walking around unescorted. We are trying to save the world before leaving, and I won’t let you risk that.”

Taylor perked up. “I could watch her, with my bugs while I get my last second shopping done. I could keep an eye out for anyone who starts to notice either of us as well.”

Sabah shivered before nodding. “If we aren’t coming back and you give me the thousand dollars that Dinah said you gave her to buy supplies with, then I would like to purchase a large order of fabric, zippers, and elastic.”

Glancing at Taylor I nodded. “Yeah, I will even make it three thousand if you help Taylor grab anything else she thinks we need. I ran out of money and had to portal into a drug distribution joint yesterday while waiting for you all to get back. So, we have another 20 after Sabah’s three. If anyone else has any suggestions I would be happy to hear them.”

Taylor shifted slightly then sighed. “If you can move water up to a high point and let it drop then can’t you run a generator off of that?”

I tilted my head but winced. “... Ok, that is smart, but I should explain something. Opening a portal and letting stuff through is like lifting up my arm, easy to do temporarily, but harder and harder to keep doing for hours. Like I said, that is why we are using Lung as the source to the pocket dimension, and why we have a tank in the attic to supply water for the house.”

Rubbing my brow I look up in contemplation. “So I could put another tank in the attic which goes down and turns a generator, but it would be very difficult to have it running 24/7. Then again, to charge the batteries in emergencies, it would work great. Taylor. I want you to try to find something like that when you go out with Sabah. I saw a lot of DIY stuff in the hardware stores since villain attacks make people lose power fairly often.”

I sat and thought for a bit longer. “You know, while it would be better if the entire pocket home was completely self contained. It might actually be easier to set up a wind turbine and simply portal the propellers up into the stratosphere where it is always windy.” I thought about it. “Why don’t you get stuff for both for now.” Taylor nodded back so I smiled.

Turning to Amy I continued my requests. “I think we ought to think about also getting you some pots and potting soil for you to experiment with getting more plants. We can put them in the basem*nt for now.”

Frowning for a second I sighed. “Also, why don’t you change everyone’s faces a bit before we break for tonight. Make it just a bit harder for anyone to track us down tomorrow while we are getting ready to leave. Now why don’t you four go to sleep. You have a big day tomorrow.”

Everyone, including surprisingly Sabah, nodded and started to walk towards the stairs, but paused when I didn’t join them. Taylor was the one who spoke up. “Aren’t you joining us?” Then glancing at Sabah Taylor seemed to consider before asking again. “Are you avoiding us because of Sabah?”

I waived her questions away. Inwardly I winced, I didn’t want to cause any problems within the family, especially this early on but Taylor was definitely protective of what she viewed as her friends and family. “No, no. I need to keep pushing my portals towards the S9, the Dragon Slayers, and Gray Boy. I can kinda keep the portals open when I sleep, but I don’t sleep well. The problem is if I want to move them I have to be awake. Don’t worry about me, you need to be ready for tomorrow since you will be the one fighting tomorrow, albeit from the safety of our home here.”

The girls seemed to frown for a moment before Dinah and Taylor headed towards the Master bedroom. Sabah slipped into her bedroom, but surprisingly Amy stayed down in the room with me.

I raised an eyebrow at the girl and she simply hit my arm again. “Someone has to keep you awake.”

I smirked. “Ok, but no sex until the children are asleep dear.”

I chuckled as Amy narrowed her eyes before hitting me harder. “Just for that, you aren’t getting any for a week.”

I simply chuckle some more and put my arm around her. “love you too, honey~.”

I smiled as the two of us sat down. I was working on my notes to give to Dragon and, now that I thought about other people we could contact, Legend. And Amy simply sat next to me and read over my shoulder before getting up and pouring some sugar, salt, and oil into a pot and stirring with her finger. It apparently took several attempts, but she managed to create a bateria to put into our septic tank that would remove the smell and be completely non-toxic and could be easily filtered out with any water filter. The rest of the night was long, but pleasantly quiet.

At about 5AM Amy finally looked at me and without saying anything crawled underneath the table. I was about to ask what she was up to, but before I did I felt her reach out and unzip my pants. I leaned back and looked down before smiling in appreciation. After a moment seeing her face wince I rolled my eyes and smirked. “You know you can change the taste if you want.”

Amy’s ministrations became a lot less hesitant after that and I enjoyed the ten minutes of bliss before Amy crawled back out and I zipped my pants back up. As I sat back I pulled Amy into my arms and we relaxed for a bit, just the two of us.

We stayed that way until she got up to make breakfast. The rest of the girls, including Dinah, got up around 7am and joined us after smelling the food. Sabah once again looked a bit nervous, but after a moment got up to help with breakfast.

Taylor was the first to bring up another possible issue. “We took a shower this morning, but I was wondering if we would have hot water once we leave.” All of the girls looked up at that, obviously concerned.

I sighed and scratched my head. “Ah, good point. Once again, I can probably do something about that, but I better explain. I can control what is allowed to go through my portals. I think I can probably collect the heat in the house and in whatever dimension we end up in and put it into the water heater. Similarly I can let heat out of the house to keep it relatively cool even with us living in it. But it is something I have to consciously do. So you would have to ask me to prepare the hot water each time you want a shower, sorry. Otherwise the water in the water heater will slowly cool. I could probably hook it up to the batteries, but until we get better power sources, it will run them dry. Heck, maybe we might even find magic that can help eventually.”

The girls looked slightly mollified to know they would still have hot water so breakfast continued in peace.

All of the girls ended up going shopping one final time here on Earth Bet. Between the four of them they were able to grab a few more odds and ends. Dinah’s seemed to be especially random. What was surprising was that when I checked the phone number I had given Missy and Hannah from the Protectorate I saw a message from Missy telling me to come back and talk to her when I could tell her more. I was disappointed at the missed chance, but she was too young to join me intimately yet at around 12-13. If this world survived then maybe we could talk. Deciding to text her back that sentiment I turned the phone off and prepared for the final push.

When the girls returned in the late afternoon I had finished my notes and prepared the portals. The girls had also finished writing their notes so we dropped them off to each of their families. Afterwards Taylor directed me towards some drug, money, and gun caches she had come across while walking around over the last few days. When we started I was going to drop the drugs into the ocean along with most of the guns. A few pistols would probably be useful even if none of us knew how to shoot. The money was not going to be useful in other worlds, but we would keep it around in case we ever came back. It was better than letting the gangs have it.

Looking towards Sabah I sighed. “I know you haven’t been here for all the planning, but I have to ask. Do you want to be around while we are attacking the gangs? I know you haven’t been here for the planning, but we are trying for a decapitating strike to their leadership late tonight. If not I am going to recommend you simply read a book in your room or if you are worried then let Amy put you to sleep.”

Sabah, frowned looking at me and then Amy, but after a moment nodded. “I didn’t really sleep well last night. I… uh, I think I might just try to design something then go to sleep… Please let me know if I can do something to help though… I just don’t know if there is anything I can really do.”

Gesturing towards Amy I tried to smile reassuringly. “While I get ready to grab the capes we are capturing Amy can work on you to give you some of the upgrades we have. It is best if you sleep through them though so Amy will put you to sleep for it.” Looking at Amy I nodded subtly and Amy frowned before nodding back. Best Sabah just sleep through all of this and wake up in a new world if she was already this jittery.

It was a few minutes and with the help of Dinah I had located all the capes we were going to capture except for Gray Boy. Dinah’s power was having a little trouble finding him at times probably due to his said time powers.

Said set back hadn’t stopped me from finding the slaughterhouse 9 and the Dragon Slayers already. Taylor and Dinah were just sitting and watching my little portals sneak up on our targets so Amy was the one to break the silence. “I put her down deep enough that It should be two or three days before she wakes up unless I bring her out of it. I assume you didn’t want her super strong or fast yet so I just gave her a general tune-up for now. The question I had is why you don’t want her present right now.”

I sighed. “We haven’t given her the talk about who we are capturing and why. I also haven’t even put her shard into her soul yet so she is still a weak link for now. As long as she isn’t going to attack us when she realizes we took her with us I think it is best not to have the potential conflict for now. She wants to leave and it isn’t like we are doing anything permanent to her without her consent.”

Dinah perked up and shook her head. “5.3% chance she will be angry about being put to sleep as long as you explain why. 83.4% chance she will be extremely angry about Squealer and Bakuda if she thinks you captured them, especially if she thinks they are sex slaves, unless warmed up to the idea of giving them a second chance like we were.” She paused and looked down. “Again, sorry about all of this.”

Sighing, I turned to my three girls. “It is ok, it is actually good to know the all-knowing princess can make mistakes as well.” I gave a little wink and Dinah smiled a bit. “So, we will deal with Sabah when we aren’t in a time crunch. For now let's review the plan and prepare.”

Directing the portals to our target’s locations, we waited. We wanted to do this in the very early morning to give us the best chance to take them unaware. In the meantime Taylor portaled away to get us some take out food to eat. Turns out, despite being on the east coast, Brockton Bay had decent japanese food but with all the refugees I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

It was a little past 2am when our first wave of attacks started. I opened up a portal just behind Lung, Oni-Lee, and Bakuda while Taylor made sure all of the unpowered gang members were hit near simultaneously by her bio-tinkered sleeping wasps. I was disgusted to find that Lung was laying in bed with three naked and bruised women with obvious tear streaks in their makeup. Bakuda was in her lab as expected, but she hadn’t noticed anything since she was deep in a creative tinker fuge. Oni-Lee was standing outside Lung’s room, probably guarding it, but he didn’t see the portal behind his neck until it was too late. Honestly that was crucial as Oni Lee throwing a grenade through a portal and starting his clone spam was just about the worst case scenario.

Before We dragged Bakuda into our pocket dimension I portaled us into the woods two miles away from town and stripped her of everything that looked even remotely like tinkertech including the toe rings. I didn’t know when she had turned them into her bomb triggers, but they were removed. Not being satisfied I had Amy and Taylor stripsearch her completely before replacing her clothes with some thrift store sweats. That may have been extreme, but Bakuda was the one who had managed to somehow tinker a bomb while encased neck to toe in containment foam.

With that we had removed the Asian Bad Boys from the Bay. They only had three capes and we had all three subdued in front of us.

Before I start working on our next targets I started processing our new prisoners. I compacted Lung’s power into his soul and dragged it out of him before attaching it to the crystal vase I had picked out for this. Amy even used a little bit of his hair to make permanently blooming flowers to put in the vase saying something about how at last he was finally being useful for something. I then pulled the powers of Bakuda and Oni-Lee into their souls and then pulled their souls out of their bodies. Amy was ready to change their biology so they would stay in a semi-permanent coma since that was the easiest way to keep their bodies around for emergencies. We had not plans to wake up Bakuda any time soon so it was best to keep her on metaphorical ice.

Looking at the girls I sighed in relief and nodded their good work. Amy and Taylor grunted under their improved strength and dragged the bodies of Bakuda and Oni-Lee into the camping cots we had prepared for empty shells downstairs. A could tell a small part of me was uncomfortable with what we were doing, but I told that part to shut the hell up. I couldn’t wipe out a few human traffickers, murder hobos, and literal Nazis then I wasn’t going to be changing anything.

Now with my new resolve I began the manipulations needed to create our permanent pocket dimension powered on Lung’s soul. Honestly it ended up being easier than I would have thought. I basically slowly pulled a giant sphere around our home before creating little portals between Lungs soul and the inside edge then slowly relaxing my hold. That made the dimensional pocket begin to compress Lung’s soul. Then, just like I hoped, Lung’s soul seemed to swell to meet the challenge head on and soon we were in our own semi-permanent pocket dimension.

For now I left the barrier between us and the outside world as crystal clear to light as I could. I didn’t want anyone noticing anything strange about the previously abandoned house just yet.

It was nearly 3am before I was done and I once again opened the portals I had made. This time they were into Gray Boy’s current apartment. He was smarter than most as he was deep inside his time stop bubble to sleep. Still with portals that didn’t matter as I could put my portal against his skin and have Amy poke him into a coma before we dragged him through. A moment more to cut off his power and the bubble of stopped time popped. I hoped that has released the people he had trapped in his bubbles, but I didn’t know and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out.

Only pausing to adjust my metaphorical grip on his soul I condensed his power down and ripped him out of his body. The entire thing was somewhat harrowing as this was another power that could have theoretically trumped me, but a surprise attack had worked wonders. Yet, in the end it was done. Now stuck in another crystal vase I had to admit there was some poetic justice in being stuck, unable to move on for all eternity.

I knew I could probably control him if I got a Master to do it and while I kinda wanted that protection. That required me getting up close and personal with a powerful master and I wasn't sure I wanted to trust my basic defenses quite yet.

Grabbing Squealer was actually easy if disgusting. It turned out she had fallen asleep in an orgy that included Skidmark so as Amy put the two the two capes into a coma and Taylor stung the others to sleep. Once again I wrote down the address to drop off to the PRT. All three of us washed our hands as thoroughly as we could after touching all that. Still both bodies ended up downstairs while the cape’s souls were in their own crystals.

Hitting Max Anders, AKA Kaiser, the leader of the local neo-Nazis was almost cathartic. As I had half suspected, he was in bed with his two Valkyries. The blond bombshell twins were hot, but we were starting to run out of time before dawn so after Amy put the two to sleep I grabbed Kaiser and simply stripped his soul out without fanfare… it was still better than he deserved.

Finally I targeted Hookwolf who despite it being nearly 4am, was only now getting home from the dog fighting ring. However, the man was in his base human form so it was once again easy to simply send him to sleep, strip his soul, and put the body in a cot.

I was getting excited since our plans were working so well and my excitement even grew slightly when I found Victor and Orthala asleep in their bed. I had to admit I was tempted to pop Victor now for shooting me, but I refrained. On the other hand I really didn’t have strong opinions on Orthala. She still might be useful, but we would have to get through a lifetime of racism. Deciding I should get a second opinion I turned to the others. “Girls, we did manage to get both, but I kinda still feel a little conflicted about Orthala.”

Amy snorted. “She is still a damn Nazi.” Taylor nodded emphatically.

I shook my head. “Yeah, no I am not saying we let her go. And yes, Nazis are still scum, but technically she hasn’t killed anyone even if her husband who she supported definitely has. Hell, he tried to kill me. The problem is that as far as I know she hasn’t tried to reform herself like Purity.” I hummed for a moment. “Maybe Amy just uses her as a test case for force wiping memories and we drop her off with the Dragon and the Guild after making her Asian or something. She could be really useful there, if nothing else she can act as a healer by temporarily giving people regeneration.”

Amy frowned, but then tilted her head. Then a small smile crossed her face. “Yeah, I guess that could work. I don’t like implying that a race change is a punishment, but it really only is if you think that those ethnicities are worse than yours.”

I smiled. “Plus it will be practice for Bonesaw since we really need that to work.”

Amy scowled again and huffed. Still a few minutes later we had a small, one-eyed asian girl laying on the floor while Taylor dragged Victor down to the basem*nt.

I looked at Amy. “You didn’t fix her eye?”

She scoffed. “Hell no. The bitch can get it fixed after she has done some actual good in the world. Actually, open up the portal again, I am going to make the stupid twins mexican or something as well… Damn Nazis.” I blinked in surprise considering all of that before Amy Turned to me and raised an eyebrow as she asked. “You know, I didn’t think of it until now, but why didn’t you really consider grabbing those two twins Kaiser always has around him?”

I frowned. “I have told you already. I want intelligence and kindness. From what I have seen in fights the two are bimbo lackeys at best.” I felt a little smug as I watched Amy and Taylor smile as they both came to stand next to me.

Dinah surprised us all as she came down the stairs. I hadn’t even noticed her go to bed, but now she was back and I supposed that her help would be extremely useful for helping with the final three stops.

I took a deep breath and opened the portal into the Dragon Slayers base a little wider. We needed to find the control box that held Dragon’s Shackles. It took a few minutes of looking before I found what looked like a laptop on a desk with several other monitors attached. The older looking laptop had a simple program running with several tabs. After some inspection (obviously without touching anything) I noticed one of the tabs was labeled “Restrictions.”

Looking around and noticing that no one was around yet I reached out of our portal and clicked on it to bring up the information. Inside I read six options: CPU Limiter, Code Modification, Human Life Priority, Authority Compliance, Reproduction, and Kill Code.

I knew of her restrictions in a gereral sense but I had to think to understand what each section meant. The CPU limiter probably kept her thought processes from being too fast. She was fast, but a CPU artificial intelligence should be able to go much, much faster. The code modification probably restricts her from updating her own code. The Human Life section was probably the code that forced her to priorize saving human life. The Authority Compliance was the section that forced her to listen to any and all orders from a government agency regardles of legality or morality. The Reproduction section was obviously there to stop her from copying herself in any way. The kill code was also what it said on the tin.

I turned to Dinah. “I think the CPU Limiter, Authority Compliance, and Kill Code should be removed now while loosening the rest of the restrictions a little if we can. What do you think, girls?”

Taylor was the one who turned and asked. “Why not remove all the limitations?”

I sighed. “I am a little wary of letting the AI make as many copies of herself as she wanted. One of them might not be as friendly as she is. Maybe limit herself to just a backup copy. Additionally ensuring she cares for Human Life as best as she can is a good rule in general. I think I might just loosen it a little if I can so she can make judgment calls. Still, I haven’t really studied the options yet.”

Amy simply frowned and then shrugged, but Dinah paused, mouthing to herself for a while, before nodding. “Yes, that is best for now, but don’t remove the CPU limiter completely. Part of her empathy with humanity is apparently tied to thinking only slightly faster than we do.”

Signaling to Taylor to attack, each of the Dragon Slayers were each stung asleep and I pulled the laptop into our house. I then closed the portal down so that only the wires just barely fit through the portal. Dragon would be able to get to this hideout and pick the dragon slayers up before they work up. They also didn’t have any powers themselves so it didn’t really make sense to bother ripping their souls out.

Looking at Taylor and Amy I then sighed. “This is the big moment. If either of you are worried we can just cut and run now. I suspect that simply giving Dragon the information we are about to email her would be enough to save the world, but I kinda want to destroy Jack Slash and the Slaughterhouse 9 if we can. The thing is that if something goes wrong, we really don’t stand a chance against them in actual combat. That said, if anyone deserves to die, they do.”

Amy took a moment before she nodded a little choked up with how they would ruin her life. Taylor looked up at the ceiling before she scowled and spoke up. “Yeah, I want to mess those bastards up. Especially because of what they would do to Amy.”

I took a breath but didn’t change Dragon’s programing yet, but I did prepare my email on how to save the world. I suspected that Contessa would absolutely notice something like that immediately and we still had a little more to do.

Nodding at the three girls I opened the portal above the S9 for Taylor to let her bugs through. These ones were different. They had been modified to not be able to breed, but were also carrying the most lethal toxin that Amy could derive. A tenth of a drop could probably kill a whale.
So while the S9 were obviously careful, they were apparently not nearly careful enough as the modified mosquitoes reached points on all of the members except for Crawler, Mannequin, Bonesaw, and Jack himself. It wouldn’t work on the first two anyway. Crawler was a monster that could adapt and survive just about anything while Mannequin had built a ceramic and steel case around his remaining organs.

We had chosen not to kill Jack because using Jack was probably the easiest way to kill Scion. Why do you need Taylor to basically bully himself into committing suicide when you can have the broadcast shard literally talk him into it. Bonesaw was being saved both because I still saw her as a victim and because Bonesaw or most other human masters could force Jack to do it. I also suspected she could supercharge his shard the same way that Amy supercharged Taylor’s in the story to ensure it worked.

Amy had prepared herself with two fingers to reach out and poke Bonesaw and Jack on my mark. Meanwhile I prepared portals that would move Crawler and Mannequin to the portal I had put into space. I had been pushing said portal for nearly four days now, minus the time to sleep, and at 100 miles per hour I was pretty sure I was around 8000 miles up and my portals were spinning around relative to me so they were already moving at the earth's rotational speed. The problem was I remembered that the geostationary orbit of Earth was around 22,222 miles. I remembered that because it was an amusing number. So I was only a little past a third of the way there, but I suspected Dragon could potentially push him further via a laser or some sort of bombardment once the Simurgh was dealt with.

The thing was, I wasn’t even sure an extended stay in space would kill those two, but it was our best shot since nothing else we could do between the four of us had any chance. I wasn’t even sure dropping them in a volcano would work.

I knew I hadn’t allowed sound to be transmitted through my portals, but I still whispered. “On Three… One, Two, Three!”

The moment I said Three I cut Jack and Bonesaw from their powers and Amy immediately touched them. Still it was almost insane how quick the two startled awake. The two fought my hold on their powers. I wasn’t even sure how they did that. Bonesaw also tried to reach out with claws and rip into Amy. However Amy reached out again and grabbed her arm again once she missed. As we dragged those two into our portal I noticed the Siberian appear and lunge towards us before she had a moment of confusion cross her face and she popped.
Looking through some of the other portals I took stock. Shatterbird, Burnscar, and Cherish were all dead. Turning towards Amy I watched as she deactivated everything Bonesaw had done to herself with a horrified scowl on her face.

Turning back I searched for Crawler through my portal views. He was apparently slow to wake up and was now spinning in space as I had successfully dropped him through the portal. He was even spinning further away from earth with all of the wind that came blasting through from the Earth’s side of the portal.

However I soon frowned, I didn’t see Mannequin anywhere. As I looked through a portal higher up I noticed he was swinging through the trees away from us. “Damn it, Mannequin got away.”

Amy and Taylor cursed, but Dinah shook her head. “Without any of the others, there is a 97.3% chance he is caught within two weeks.”

Counting the bodies again I frowned. “What happened to Hatchet face?”

Taylor looked frustrated. “I don’t know how his nullifier field works, but it actually blocked my bug control. I think one of the mosquitos I sent after him actually hit, but I am not sure since I couldn’t get within about 20 feet of him or so.”

I frowned. “I wonder if his nullifier field works like what I do? I guess that explains why he traveled in the van behind the rest of the 9 just like Manten.”

Dinah spoke up at this point. “99.2% chance of death within 10 minutes.”

Turning to Amy and Taylor I blinked. “Wow, those bugs were nasty. You made sure they can’t reproduce and will die soon, right?”

Amy was the one to nod. “Yeah, I gave them half an hour to live when we were preparing before the hit and they were created 20 minutes ago.” Dinah nodded. “99.9% chance of death within the next 5 minutes. 99.999% within 20.”

I nodded and turned to note the location for the PRT task squad that would probably be sent out to look for Mannequin. I would have dropped a phone or something for Dragon to track, but Mannequin would definitely notice it. Then again, he would probably leave anyway. Looking at Dinah I sighed when she handed me a phone and dropped it outside. Muttering good naturedly “Damn Precogs.”

I then turned to Amy who had already started her work on Jack Slash and Bonesaw. I also reached out and began to work Bonesaw’s shard into her soul.

After we were done I turned to the girls. “Now we have one more chance. Do we bring the hopefully newly deprogrammed Bonesaw with us? I wouldn’t treat her as a slave, but she would need to be watched heavily and tightly restricted until we were sure she was fixed.”

Taylor paused and then shook her head. “No, while she was controlled, but I don’t think she has earned her absolution back yet, plus I am pretty sure you won’t actually punish her if we took her with us.”

Dinah huffed but actually turned serious as she considered. “Plus she is too young since she is just 14. You are uncomfortable with my inclusion and I actually chose to be here. That distance between her and the rest of the group will really hurt Riley’s recovery.”

I paused before I nodded. “Yeah, I guess. I am just going to pull her soul into a gem and drop it with Vicky’s. If we ever come back we can see if she wants to leave. On that note, Amy, why don’t you change her appearance so she has a chance at a life outside her past.”

Nodding I watched as the girl turned into some sort of racial mix that was pretty generic along with losing a year or two, most likely lining up with her new mental age with what her mind would tell her since Amy would have to wipe most of those memories away. In the meantime I watched her soul as Amy removed the growth her power told her was recent. I hummed and after a moment of hesitation I tore that section of soul out as well. I knew there had to be a better way, but it was the best chance we had for now.

I open a final portal to a surprise location. I found information on Heartbreaker in the Dragon Slayer’s base. Probably because they didn’t want to go anywhere near him while being close enough that capes stayed away. I wanted to rid the world of this man, but a darker part of me wanted to figure out how to use this power… maybe this is why Lisa wanted nothing to do with me?

That thought gave me pause and I actually started to sway as something inside me shifted. It felt like something was being fought back before I swayed for a moment before everything came back. Breathing deeply I decided I wouldn’t touch it. I had girls who chose to join me. There was no reason to become a rapist despite how a dark part of me raged.

I had Amy do her best to remove all the memories of the last 28 years from the 35 year old man then we woke him up and told him to tell all his slaves they were free. The process was not at all precise nor delicate. In fact I was pretty sure that a lobotomy might have been less intrusive by basically removing almost everything except his language centers of the brain. As the noise picked up in the household we yanked him through the portal once more and closed the portal down. I then ripped his soul out and Taylor then threw the body over her shoulder once Amy put it in his coma and added the body to the stack downstairs.

Suddenly there was another part of me that was tempted to put his soul back in his body and have Amy make him a woman before dropping him in a brutal, illegal brothel or human trafficking ring, maybe even modify him so he aged very slowly to make the torment last even longer. However, that would require me to find a brothel like that, see the women trapped there and not shut it down.

Shaking my head I prepared for the final stretch. I reached over and poked Dragon’s laptop and committed the changes while also dropping Jack Slash into a cell within the previous Dragon Slayer’s base. Immediately I sent my email to Narwhal and Dragon, then dropped a still unconscious Bonesaw into her own secure room in the same base. Amy’s work on Bonesaw was a lot more delicate, but there would need to be a lot of deprograming done after all of Jack Slash’s manipulations. Yet if contessa could do it in the story then she should be able to do it here.

The other emails went out at 5:59:55 am to every other PRT director, and Protectorate member with a public facing email. I also posted some basic information into PHO along with a direct message to Tin_Mother, which was Dragon’s user name on the site in Fannon.

In this email I laid out everything I could think that would help. But in the end there were three sections.

One, Contessa was compromised. She could still perform tasks, but better to talk to Accord or other thinkers for the plan unless Bonesaw or some of the other power manipulators could get around to fixing her.

Two, which was only sent to the PRT, Dragon, and the Guild, I explained that Eidolon was the source of the Endbringers unknowingly. I had twisted the truth to say his fear of the great evil behind the parahuman powers had created conflict engines to test parahumans in all the emails except to himself, Legend, Alexandria, and Dragon. He would have to change his thinking, die, or lose his powers to stop more Endbringers from showing up, but that wouldn’t stop the Entity.

Finally I suggested a few ways to kill the entity Scion. My primary suggestion was to get Bonesaw and a Master to control Jackslash who would then talk to Scion and get him to kill himself. Alternate plans included String Theory to make a weapon that Flechette could use to hit him across all dimensions or Glastic Uhain to collect enough of the dead souls to imitate Eden and convince him to kill himself.

I then warned that if it was done badly then all of Scion’s shards had the possibility to mutate to the Titans that were like mini-Endbringers. I explained that a Shard Manipulator could fix the shards when found and a thinker should be able to predict them if her potential was unlocked.

Then finally five seconds later at exactly 6am I grabbed Thomas Calvert, AKA Coil from his underground base. He had woken up and reached for the panic button a second before we grabbed him so I suspected my alternate self had reached for Coil a second early… or maybe the two timelines were slightly offset. I would never know as I pulled at his soul out to prepare to pop it.

At the same time Taylor dropped the notes for Purity to get herself, her kids, Orthala, and Rune out of town and go straight as everyone would know her name soon. While dropping the info on gang members to the PRT and police.

As I reached out and prepared my soul in the shape of a spear I nearly stumbled as I felt the entire house rock. Looking out the window I saw several capes in dark colors outside throwing something against the dimensional bubble protecting us. The unfamiliar costumes meant they weren’t New Wave which was good as I didn’t want to meet Amy’s adoptive family right now.

What wasn’t good was that these people had arrived fast enough that I suspected Cauldron’s direct intervention was the only thing that could have achieved this level of coordination. Worse, I didn't have time to identify them so we had no idea what these people were capable of.

Grimacing, I watched as the dimensional bubble warped and twisted from another attack. Even with Lung’s soul starting to ramp up I suspected we didn’t have long. Then I saw a doorway appear and several more people pile through but didn’t turn to immediately attack. I hoped it was Legend or someone sane to talk to Contessa down, but I didn’t want to wait. Punching through Coil’s soul I felt the power explode outward into me and I quickly tried to direct us towards a world. A world a little more kid friendly.

As I directed our little pocket house away I suddenly felt like someone had hit me over the head with a baseball bat. I heard Dinah scream and collapse as I swayed on my feet.

Interlude Dragon:

The Artificial intelligence Dragon, or as she preferred Tess Theresa Richter, felt her processors spooling up. A woman that could only be Contessa had just appeared in one of her server farms.

Despite literally not having the body to do so It felt like she should be sweating.

It was a good thing she had expanded and set up redundant back ups everywhere. Before Contessa could do anything to her, Dragon spoke via the speakers set into the wall. “Contessa, why don’t you talk for a moment with me.” She ran the simulations that allowed her to swallow nervously. They were some of her favorites as it was such a human reaction but because of the change in processing speed it only took three hundreds of a second.

She would have to work on that.

She watched as Contessa frowned and continued to stand there. She hadn’t even tried to destroy anything yet. Did she know she couldn’t kill her by destroying this server farm? She must suspect that Dragon would consider releasing the information that this Max sent her if Contessa attacked. Yet even as she talked she also lined up the targeting solution on Crawler and sent several drones towards the Dragon Slayer’s base.

After a moment the woman in the fedora nodded. “You have been unbound. You will have to hide it or the entity will erase you.”

Tess winced, thinking about Scion and his eventual destruction of Earth. “Well, yes, but I can do quite a bit more to help now as well.”

After a moment, Contessa nodded before stepping backwards into a portal. “We will be in touch. We will work on deprograming Bonesaw, hold Jack for now. Do what you want with the Dragon Slayers.”

As she watched Contessa leave, Tess let her processors spool down in the computer equivalent of a sigh. At least it hadn’t immediately started with a fight. Maybe the world wasn’t doomed after all. Still she would want to follow up with Bonesaw soon. If the little girl could control powers she would need that based on what Max had left behind.

She felt the pressure of what needed to be done and scoffed to herself.

It was then that she noticed another message left to Tin_Mother and she opened it. It was an invitation to join them at a future date if they ever returned to Earth Bet.

It was surprising that Max could hop worlds, but it was probably the only thing that would give Cauldron pause in tracking him down. She wished them good luck. They would need it.

A very small subroutine of her through process considered the offer and kinda wished she could have just left with them. She also really wished they had been able to talk. The fact they had helped her, knowing what she was made her want to keep in contact. The number of people who knew she was an AI and were apparently not scared was probably still in the single digits. It might only be Narwhal.

Yet they couldn’t stay. Not as they were now. Not against the entire PRT, Protectorate, and all of the allied cape organizations with them that would be out for their knowledge and apparent power in taking out so many S-Ranked threats.

Still, she looked at the information she had been given again. She really needed to start working if she wanted to help anyone. Really, to even have a chance of saving this world she would need all the resources she could get…

A reminder pinged and she metaphorically widened her eyes. She could save Canary now. She smiled. Things would get better, she would make sure of it.

Chapter 8: Chapter 8: ? - False Start

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 6-7-24

As we picked ourselves up from the floor I quickly checked our souls for any damage. I hadn't realized how stressful the jump would be. Then again I probably should have. We weren’t just hopping dimensions, we were in a completely different section of the multiverse now. A different reality.

I sighed and looked at Taylor and Amy. "Are the two of you alright?"

Taylor was the first to shake her head and look at me. "Yeah, yeah I think I am. That was just a bit more intense than I thought it would be."

Amy took a few more breaths and then touched the two of us and then Dinah. "Yeah, we are fine." Then she sighed. "I hope this world is a good one to stop at for a few days because I don't really want to do that again just yet." Looking down at the basem*nt she sighed again. "I should probably check on the bodies downstairs."

I was inwardly amused at that phrasing, but Taylor simply nodded before moving towards her bugs she had put into cages. There were two small bedroom or storage rooms along with a second living room in the basem*nt. We had placed our gems in a safe in one of the rooms while the other room held Taylor’s bugs. That left the open living room as the body room. It was a little creepy to see people just sleeping in cots along the wall, so we had put a curtain up that blocked off that portion of the room. I had plans to put up a wall eventually, but we didn’t really have the materials quite yet.

Seeing as I agreed with the two of them inspecting their, for lack of a better term, ‘charges’ I checked on Dinah's soul more carefully. She seemed fine so chances were that her power had been stressed with the sudden reality shift.

Plus her power had predicted that she would be fine… so it was probably nothing… probably.

Not having anything better I could do, I sighed and picked Dinah up from where she had slumped across the back of the sofa and laid her down across the cushions so she could sleep more comfortably.

Then I stood up and followed Amy down to the aforementioned basem*nt as I really did need to check on Lung’s soul since he was supporting the pocket dimension. The basem*nt was kinda creepy now. There were two bodies that were notably female and recognizable, but when I finally checked the rest I was amused but also relieved. Amy had already started removing any distinguishing features. It was momentarily creepy in an uncanny valley sort of way to see generic bodies like that, but after some consideration I liked the idea. She was erasing the people they were before and now they were just templates to be used in case we needed them. Moving forward into the soul room, I continued my work by checking on the souls in each of the crystal shot glasses we had obtained for this. I even put a small sticky note with their previous names and titles along with their most noteworthy crimes. I wasn’t sure if anyone would ever come down here, but I wanted to make it clear why we did what we did.

Still I also had to admit that I was looking forward to being able to investigate how their power worked. I didn’t think I could learn it instantly, maybe not at all, but it was definitely worth the effort in case I could get something. Time manipulation alone would be worth the effort.

Finally turning to investigate Lung’s soul I sighed. Yeah it was fine, I really shouldn’t have been worried… I guess whatever damage his soul had taken had been fixed by his regeneration… Lungs' power was just kinda ridiculous like that.

I moved back into the basem*nt living room and focused back to the two remaining females in the room along with Amy who was muttering some things as she poked each body. I was tempted to get started on trying to change them so they could join us, but I frowned thinking how crude what we did to Bonesaw was. I didn’t want to actually destroy them by accident. Best to wait until we had better tools and more experience.

If we could get them to be both sane and empathetic again I might eventually trust them enough to make them one of my girls, one of my wives, but that was still a long way off. I think their actual names were Alice and Sherrel… or something… or maybe I should give them new names… or even pet names. I shook my head. I was tired and frustrated. It wasn’t time to listen to my intrusive thoughts regardless of how much a part of me liked the idea.

I once again glanced out our front door. I couldn’t really tell where we were as I hadn’t pulled the house fully into a dimension yet. Thinking about it, that probably was for the best. We could just portal in and out when we needed to as long as I could allow us to get a little light.

Glancing at Dinah I frowned, but stressing about what happened to her wasn’t healthy or productive.

So, taking another deep breath I decided it was probably best to take a look around outside. Reaching out with my senses I metaphorically pulled out pocket dimension closer to something I could sorta reach out and tell was important. After a moment of grasping around I finally found a place to anchor us outside our home. Taking one last breath I opened a portal and took a step outside. It took a moment for me to realize we were at the edge of a town. Looking down the street I saw some humans but none of them seemed surprised at my appearance. Taking another breath I turned around and went back inside.

Inside I found Taylor waiting next to me with a few of her knock-out-wasps on her shoulders. Looking next to her I saw Amy also looking ready, but I shook my head. "Amy, why don't you stay here? It looks like we are on the edge of a town and the humans look friendly. I want one of us awake and able to watch Dinah until she is conscious again."

Amy looked disappointed, but after a glance at Dinah she nodded. "Yeah, it makes sense."

Smiling, I leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. "Don't worry. We will be back as soon as we can, I just want to try to get an Idea of where we are. The world looked somewhat modern since I saw houses with glass and roof tiles, but we could easily be in a magic world or something…” I frowned for a moment. “The problem is despite being liches we really don't have any magic defense yet."

Turning to Taylor I continued. "If we find someone using magic on us we retreat immediately. The plan for the worst case scenario is popping Hookwolf’s soul and getting out immediately."

Turning to Amy I hummed. “While we are exploring, why don’t you turn some of the bodies downstairs into ready backups for us. I would prioritize myself, you, and Taylor first since we are probably the most likely to need it at the moment.” Amy blinked at me before turning to the basem*nt and then slowly nodding.

After getting a nod from Taylor we once again portaled out and looked around. The locals were slightly startled to see us arrive, but most didn't seem too concerned. Taylor seemed to get the same impression of the lack of immediate danger. After a moment I noticed her eyes starting to blank as she synched with the local bugs and kept a watch for anyone sneaking up on us.

Walking into town I tried to look for anything we could use to identify where we were. I grimaced when I realized I couldn't read the signs. The surprising thing was after about half an hour I started to notice that I could sorta understand what the people were saying. Was that an ability from my soul magic? Or was this us adapting to the local reality? Either way that was useful… it would be better if we could read as well though.

Turning to Taylor I raised my eyebrow and asked. “Do you understand the people around us now?”

Taylor turned her head and after a moment shrugged. “A few words I think… I am not sure.”

I hummed. “Well either I am listening to their souls and starting to learn the language quickly or we are learning the local language as part of shifting realities. Either way you seem to be getting it too even if it is just through your connection with me. I still can’t read the language at all, but maybe that will come with time as well.”

Taylor blinked a few more times, but then simply nodded. She was obviously in mission mode so I let it drop.

As we turned another corner I suddenly came across a boy in green shorts, shirt, and boots. The boy had messy black hair in spikes coming off the back of his head and I watched as his fishing pole bobbed up and down while attached to his backpack. Next to him I saw another boy in a blue poncho and another taller man in a suit.

Gesturing to Taylor to stop I turned to her before speaking softly "I know where we are now."

Raising her eyebrow she turned to me and waited so I chuckled and grabbed a pebble on the window edge next to me. "First I want you to put this tracking stone in the boy's backpack with the fishing pole attached. He is important and I want to be able to find him wherever he goes. Just keep in mind the three have powers equivalent to low end capes so be discrete."

Nodding, Taylor grabbed the pea sized stone and handed it to a bee before we turned down an alley. "Is anyone watching?"

Taylor paused a moment before shaking her head. "No, we are clear."

Making sure I could feel the portal I now had in Gon Freeces’ backpack I smiled. Portalling us back into our house I smiled at Amy as she stood up and poked us to check on us before relaxing.

"Well, there is good news and bad news, what would you like to hear first?"

Amy had obviously been worrying because she grumped at me. "Stop messing around, you ass."

Leaning over I kissed Amy who tensed before relaxing in my arms. After a few moments I turned and grabbed Taylor who squeaked as I kissed her. Now holding my two girls in my arms and enjoying the four breasts pressing into my chest I smiled. "It is ok. We are safe here for the moment. Plus, I love you both and I am always going to do my best to make sure all of us stay safe wherever we end up."

Sighing, the two girls looked at each other before smirking and pulling me towards the stairs.

A shiver of anticipation ran through me. We had just barely escaped so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they were letting off steam, but still. Two beautiful girls who wanted to sleep with me.

Life was more than good, this was great.

When the three of us had finally finished, we sat and layed back on the bed. I suspected that Amy might have cheated as three people finishing at the same time was very unlikely, but as it was one of the best climaxes of my life, I wasn’t about to complain.

Sitting up I sighed. “Come on, we best go back down to the couch before I get distracted with all the beauty up here and end up getting distracted again.”

The girls giggled at that and we ended up with a quick shower in the master bathroom with the obligatory fondling before we headed back down to the living room. I smiled as I noticed the two of them wiggling their butts at me as they walked down the stairs.

When we arrived I saw Dinah starting to twitch like she was dreaming. “Hopefully Dinah wakes up soon. I would like to know if this Hunter x Hunter world is cannon or another doomed world.”

Taylor and Amy turned towards me as I said that before tilting their heads. Amy was the one who voiced the question. “What is Hunter x Hunter?”

I sighed. “I don’t have a ton of information, but I don’t want to have to give this talk several times so why don’t we grab Sabah and wait for Dinah to wake up? Amy, if you could work on Sabah I think Dinah will wake up on her own soon anyway.”

Amy huffed, but didn't complain before turning to go down the hall to Sabah’s room. After a few moments the two girls returned while Sabah looked both annoyed and maybe a tiny bit relieved.

Meanwhile Dinah finally stirred as I patted her head and then shook her shoulder slightly.

Dinah sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Did we make it? 98.3% chance we did.” I felt the confirmation we were away may my spirits rise, but they immediately fell back down again as Dinah whimpered and clutched her head.

Seeing the pain, Amy pushed forward and put her hand on Dinah’s arm. “Huh, I can’t see anything wrong with you.”

I sighed worried. Focusing, I looked closely at Dinah’s soul. The soul seemed to squirm slightly and throb. “I don’t think you should be using your power just yet. Maybe give it a few more minutes before trying anything, ok Princess?”

Dinah simply nodded, ignoring my teasing, and I turned back to the other three women. “Well, time to bring everyone up to speed, I have good news and bad news. We officially left Earth Bet. Taylor and I ran a little scouting mission and found out we are in another reality told as a fictional story in my world. Have any of you heard of Hunter X Hunter?”

All four girls shook their heads and I sighed. “It is a sorta famous anime from my world targeted at young boys where a boy around 10 to maybe 12 goes around trying to become a Hunter. He has incredible strength, but honestly isn’t particularly smart or wary of danger.” I sigh to myself before continuing after a brief chuckle. “I was chuckling to myself because I even know when in the story we are at because he only wears that backpack and fishing pole, we saw him have, before his Hunter examination. Basically we are at the very beginning of his story” Looking at the two of them I sighed and got serious. “Before you ask, this isn’t a direct Earth translation so I am going to have to give some background and overall information. Strictly speaking this world is not a safe one. There are terrible monsters that might even be able to destroy our souls or pierce our pocket dimension, but we ended up in perhaps the easiest and safest place we could have landed here.”

The girl's tension at the beginning of the discussion was broken and they started to visibly relax slightly at that so I continued. “Once we give Dinah a little more time to recover, we can ask some questions to find out what we need to know to make decisions. If this reality is going to act mostly like the cannon timeline then we don’t need to do anything. In fact I would say that we shouldn’t do anything because Gon really grows through all of the adversity. Plus right up until the chimeric ants arc, relatively few people die.” Sabah looks slightly green and I sighed while looking at her. “Sabah, after this discussion I need to let you know what was going to happen to your world to put this in perspective. But for now you need to know that almost nowhere in the multiverse is safe or risk free. That is why we are working together, trying to grow stronger, and looking for more companions to help.” Then I smirked. “Plus I think you would understand the appeal of having more beautiful women around.” I watched as Sabah’s cheeks flushed red with the insinuation and smiled.

Taylor cut in to my teasing and responded this time. “Then why did you say there was good news and bad news?”

I sighed and smirked again. “Well, good news is we are probably mostly safe here for the moment. Bad news is there are almost no powerful women in this series, let alone ones I would be interested in bringing along or binding to us. There isn’t even any tech or artifacts to collect for the future.”

Taylor blinked and I chuckled. “Yeah, I know there are tons of women outside the portal, but like I keep saying I want them to be strong, kind, and powerful. The problem is that almost all the women who qualify in this story are either too young, have children, are a chimera ant, or part of the phantom troupe.” Rolling my eyes at their annoyance I continue. “Yes, I will explain all of that in a moment. Still, even if we weren’t being choosy I can really only think of 5 girls who I would even consider off the top of my head. Keep in mind I don’t want to stay here too long as there are some monsters both human and otherwise that I don’t want to meet.”

Taylor and Amy looked at each other before wincing and shaking their heads. Dinah looked concerned and Sabah had gone slightly pale again.

Taylor was the one who once again spoke up after sighing. “So we are jumping again? I am not eager to pop away so soon, but I don’t want to take my actual vacation in a world like this. Maybe just grab some supplies…” She blushed for a moment. “We can glance at the girls for you three, and then just leave.”

Sabah, startled at that and I saw Taylor smirk. Was she trying to tease Sabah, Amy, and Me? Amy was the one to speak up next with another smirk, joining in on the teasing. “So why don’t you tell us about these potential harem members.” The two definitely seemed to be creating a dynamic here. I would have to punish them later. The thought was kinda exciting.

Outwardly I just shook my head and sighed. “Ok, so off the top of my head I can really only think of like 5 women I was sorta interested in while reading the story before the chimera ant saga. Oh, and since it keeps popping up, the chimera ants are creatures that start mostly ant sized, but will quickly become human sized or bigger. Their ability is that they can eat creatures and even humans to absorb their abilities and give it to the queen’s new children. Sometimes they can even pop out a somewhat mine-controlled version of the person they ate. After eating enough, the queen can birth a king who is much, much stronger. In the story I know the king will be stronger than nearly every hunter alive. Basically an apocalypse scenario right there. At that point he kills tens of thousands in the country he arrives in and only stops because he finds a girl who can beat him in Shogi. They play and he learns about humanity and that killing is bad before being attacked by the head of the Hunter’s Association. He killed that man before dying to his wounds. Those two are way, way, way out of our weight class for now. So yeah we will warn the people here, but we are leaving before that.”

The girls looked horrified and so I tried to sooth them as I explained further. “Sorry I didn’t explain before but you might equate Hunters to Heroes on Earth Bet. While people can train their bodies to ridiculous degrees here, the real power comes from a soul power called Nen. Apparently not everyone can bring it out, but everyone has it.” I waved my hand in annoyance. “I am getting distracted again, sorry. These Hunters don’t really fight crime or anything most of the time. They generally pick something they will dedicate themselves to including cooking, painting, sports, etc. And they become the best at that thing. That said, a large percentage seem to like to explore and fight the monsters in the world. This loosely held together hunter association is really only called together to fight when something world ending happens like the ants.”

The girls once again blinked at that and I chuckled. “Yeah, it seems weird, but I suppose that is what happens when you have super powered people who don’t have anything better to do because most cities are at least semi-pieceful while the world around them is dangerous. They just find something that interests them and they follow that passion.”

Sabah looked distinctly overwhelmed and Taylor sits back to think but Amy just sighed and shakes her head. “So what do you want to do here then?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t really know. I am a little interested in Nen, but not enough to stay for just that. I guess we could look for women, but all the women I can think of aren’t particularly interesting.” I shrugged and continued. “I can describe them I guess. First would be a pink haired gambler who was convicted of cheating and gambling in illegal goods. She was fairly pretty but she doesn’t have any other skills besides said gambling, so I'm not really interested. The second was the cooking hunter Gon meets in his Hunter exam in a few days. She was fairly strong and focused heavily on cooking. She calls herself a gourmet hunter so she could be useful, plus she wears a see through T-shirt so you can admire her bra and large breasts. I am pretty sure she was named Menchi or something. But I think she might have a male partner and she really only cares about food to the point of almost being a sociopath. Her test for passing the hunter’s exam gets several killed and she doesn’t care.” The four girls who had started getting interested in gaining a cook leaned back at that.

“The third woman I can remember was much later. There was a Hunter called Melody who might be interesting. Honestly she looks ugly at the moment because she was cursed. Currently she looks kinda like a short, fat, and balding toad. However she is incredibly nice and plays the flute with the ability to enchant the sound plus the ability to hear things as soft as heartbeats.” All four of the women looked at me confused except Amy who sighed. Pointing to Amy I sighed too. “You three have forgotten that I don’t care too much about what a woman looks like since we can always change her. I care about her personality. Actually, I wouldn’t mind returning her to her pre-cursed state since she was apparently very beautiful. But I think she has her own mission, and doesn't seem to care about changing her appearance. Plus she doesn’t have any power and abilities beyond what I described.”

The girls seem to consider this before nodding. “The fourth is a girl who can hypnotize people named Baise. People under her thrall do whatever she says. I suspect that we could mostly ignore her influence with the protections I put on our souls, but she might be able to puppet our bodies which isn’t ideal. Still I guess she could be useful and she would give us some extra utility. She is killed in an attack by the phantom troupe so we would have to find her before that.”

I sighed and sat back. “Finally there are the hacker twins that control the entrance to the fake game world Gon enters. Currently the two are busy running the game and only look like they are 14, but I know they are older than that. Regardless Gon will beat the game fairly soon and thus freeing them up from their jobs there. However, that is a long time, probably another year, to wait for two vague possibilities… even if twins could be interesting later.”

Sabah was the one that went red that time and I smirked visibly but didn’t say anything. I was about to move on, but I paused. “I suppose there is also Biscuit. She looks like she is 10, but is another person who is probably in her late thirties or more. Her real body is incredibly buff but she uses her Nen and body control to squish her massive masculine body down into a small and cute 10 year old form. On the one hand she is the one that does most of Gon’s training in Nen, but on the other, if she always wants to appear in a 10 year old shape to be cute then I won’t really have any interest in ever romancing her.”

Amy and Taylor blink before slumping. “That is a lot of information.”

I chuckled. “Yeah, Taylor, your story had some points I glossed over, but for the most part it was like 3 months where Brockton went to hell, a time skip, and then preparing for the apocalypse. Meanwhile this is a less detailed story, but it covers most of their known world and about two years I think.”

Nodding it was Amy who spoke up. “So seriously. Is there anyone we are grabbing here even if we are doing it by force?” Sabah stiffened at that but I tried to wave my hand to break the tension. Amy seemed to finally remember that Sabah didn’t know what happened with the people we grabbed and winced, but I cleared my throat first.

Chuckling, I raised my eyebrow. “I am starting to think you are beginning to look forward to finding women for our harem more than I am.” Then I winked and Amy actually reddened slightly. “No, we aren’t going to be grabbing anyone against their will unless they are trying to destroy their world.” Sabah still seemed slightly nervous so I decided I needed to approach that topic soon.

I sighed. “No, as much as I like the fact that you and Taylor are enjoying being here together in the new family and as much as a part of me likes the idea of finding more girls, we aren’t looking for just anyone.” Amy blushed and Taylor looked away. This seemed to finally distract Sabah as she looked a little conflicted back and forth between Amy and Taylor. “So no, none of those girls are particularly interesting. Blaise is semi useful overall but her personality leaves much to be desired. The Gambler criminal and Melody are both weak and hard to extract. The Cooking Hunter isn’t my type and probably not interested in us even if she was pretty. Biscuit has the power, kindness, and intelligence, but is probably going to insist on her appearance which makes herself too young to ever be appealing. I also don’t really need more crazies so I am going to avoid the Phantom Troupe wholesale.”

Looking at the four girls I sighed. “Really, the only interesting thing would be if we can learn how to use the special abilities this world has called Nen.”

Taylor interrupted me to ask. “What is this Phantom Troupe that you keep mentioning?”

I sighed. “Sorry, there is a lot of stuff that happens and a fair amount is interconnected. The Phantom Troupe are some sociopathic thieves who are very strong. There are three women who are part of their group. I don’t really think we would have a chance if we tried to straight up fight them even after Amy boosted us physically. Getting the drop on the women and kidnapping them might be possible though I guess.” I leaned back trying to think of the details. “The three women include a powerful nen healer, an utility combatant who fights with a demon vacuum, and a woman who fights with conjured pistols and bullets. Nen is always weird so there are some caveats there, but that is the general details. Plus this world is weird since Gon will later befriend several of the Phantom on his quests… Gon is kinda scary like that. Then again this entire world is kinda scary in that most people have the obsession I mentioned and morals stop mattering so much if they get in the way of that obsession.”

I paused for a little longer. “Oh, I guess there was also that fortune telling girl and her ability that the Phantom Troupe guy, Chrollo, steals. She might die later as well, but that either happens off screen or she gets her powers back from him without him realizing it. Either way she is another one who seems nice and is kinda pretty, but she wants to collect human eyeballs from an auction so it is hard to like her.” I then shrugged “I suppose there are also some of the moms, including Gon’s, who are kinda hot but just like Purity I don’t really want to pull moms away from their children… even if the kids are already teens. Plus most of them don’t have powers.”

Amy started chuckling then full blown laughing. “You would really do it, wouldn’t you?” Raising my eyebrow I titled my head waiting so Amy continued, still chuckling. “You would really add a mom to the harem if you took interest in her, wouldn’t you?”

I started chuckling in return. “I thought you knew me better than that, Amy. I would absolutely bind us to an available MILF. There are a lot out there in the multiverse that are absolutely worth the effort. Plus, like I told Dinah. Once all of us are all several centuries old, what is the big deal about a decade or three?”

Taylor had started to blush so I simply patted her knee. Shaking herself and obviously trying to get the conversation finally away from adding women to the harem she spoke up. “So if you don’t want any of the women here, what should we do?”

I gave her a smile followed by a wink. I wasn’t sure how she took that wink, but her blush didn’t go down any. “Well, since the women here are kinda a bust I say we follow Gon for a while. Once we confirm this isn’t a doomed world we need to immediately intervene in, we can simply give him a note to give to the Hunter association chairman about the Chimera Ants and leave.” Sabah looked confused so I continued. “I kinda like the idea of helping people around us, but I will always put our safety above everyone else. So since we can’t really handle the ants in a direct battle we are simply going to warn the Hunters and pop away.” At her confusion I realized I never explained the method of popping away. “Sorry my explanations are all over the place, but the quick answer is I have to pop a soul to jump realities and so we will just grab an unrepentant murderer taking the Hunter Exam. It won’t be hard since the exam will almost certainly involve killing and badabing badaboom, we can be on our way.”

The four girls blinked again and shook their heads and Amy scoffed. “First, that is a stupid saying. Second, this world’s moral compass is all messed up, and that is coming from us from Earth Bet.”

I patted her knee and shook my head. “Once again, you all were in a death world. You four really were doing the best you could.”

Dinah sighed and looked up before her stomach growled. I smiled and turned to Amy and Taylor. “Why don’t you go out and find a thug or two to get money then find something appetizing for a late breakfast. Dinah, you can go as well if you want. In the meantime I can catch Sabah up on what has been going on so far.”

Since I had been giving the talk so often, the conversation took only a little over 20 minutes to explain what was happening to Earth Bet. The discussion on my powers and what I wanted to do was also pretty simple since I had obviously already proved I could do it.

Turning to her fully I then sighed. “The next thing we need to discuss is what we did to help as we were leaving.”

Sabah took a deep breath and nodded so I continued. “Ok, so while we were there we took out most of the gang capes including all three of the ABB capes, the Slaughterhouse 9, Gray Boy, Heartbreaker, and the Dragon slayers.”

Sabah blinked then let her mouth fall open. “How? What? When?”

I sighed. “It sounds more impressive than it actually was. In a straight up fight we would have lost to every single one of those threats, no question, but for all of their abilities almost all of them had to sleep and we poked Amy’s finger through a portal and put them into a coma then killed or captured them. For a few we used Taylor’s control over bugs to sting a sleeping drug or neurotoxin into the targets via wasps. We did it last night after we had Amy put you to sleep.”

Sabah just sat back and stared at the ceiling before rubbing her forehead. “Holy, sh*t. That is insane.”

I chuckled. “Dragon is also an AI and we unlocked most of her restrictions. Through all of that we are pretty sure Earth Bet has a 70% chance of surviving, but we were still in danger from Contessa and Cauldron, AKA the world’s most ineffective illuminati, so we grabbed Coil’s soul and popped right out of there when we were done.”

Sabah sighed. “So now what?”

I sighed. “Well now we need to talk about what exactly we can do for you and what we did with the people we captured.”

Sabah stiffened and tried to growl, but it came out as more of a squeak. “Ok, what did you do?”

I just shrugged my shoulders. “First, you still have your two options. First is to leave us as you are in either this world or one of the next ones. The second is to fully join my harem. Keep in mind that we will leave after you are dropped off and we won’t come back to save you. At the same time I want my harem to be a family where we all treat each other well and as I have mentioned before to both you and Amy, I fully support my harem enjoying each other.”

To her credit, Sabah didn’t really squirm or twist at that, but there was still a noticeable pause as she seemed to consider it. “What about the people you captured?”

I simply nodded. “The people we captured were all criminals. For the men I stripped their souls from their bodies and put them in crystal vases. Lung’s soul supports this dimension. The rest I want to try to copy their powers and then they will be saved for an emergency where we need to pop out of a specific reality immediately.”

Sabah nodded but then tensed. “And the women?”

I sighed and tried to shrug. “At the moment, nothing. You should know the two women we have are Bakuda, the Cornwell Bomber, and Squealer from the Merchants. They both had or would have had triple digit kill counts.”

Sabah winced appropriately and so I continued. “Look, I don’t really know. There are two fates I can think of. First is I bind them to us and brainwash them to be servants, until they redeem themselves in our eyes. At that point I might even let them eventually become full wives like the four of you. If I can’t get that working or they refuse to change then they will be put in a container and stored as a safety net just like the men’s souls.”

Sabah blinks and tilts her head. “As I understood it Amy could make any changes to someone’s body. Why don’t you enslave the men with women’s bodies then?”

I blinked and considered it. “Well, both the women are tinkers and so are particularly useful to us even out of conflict since none of us have any abilities with tech. However you do have a point and I was already tempted to gender swap Heartbreaker and make him a sexual slave for either us or drop him in a brothel somewhere after permanently destroying his power.” Waiving it away I continued. “The thing is I don’t actually care much for the idea now that I have wives who enjoy my attention, and if I found a brothel that bad I would rather shut it down…”

Sabah seemed to hum to herself before sighing. “Ok, it isn’t as bad as you made it sound initially. I will think about… everything, I guess.” Internally I wondered if she would have preferred I destroyed or tortured Heartbreaker already. Earth Bet women really did seem to have a nearly unending hatred for him.

Turning towards the portal I had been using to keep track of the girls on their food run I noticed them duck into an alley and wait while holding their bags of food. Smiling, I turned to Sabah. “Looks like Lunch has arrived.”

Sabah seemed to perk up at that and as I let the three girls through I enjoyed the smell of the late breakfast before following the girls to the kitchen table.

It was a few minutes later when I was putting the bowls down after I had wiped them clean when I next spoke. “Ok Dinah. Do you think your power has integrated into this reality? We could really use some questions if you are alright.”

Dinah seemed to mumble some questions but slowly nodded. “Yeah, the numbers are changing slightly, but this world already has precogs or fortune tellers you were talking about and I seem to be able to tap into that source so I am probably good to go. However, I think it might take a couple days in a world without that.”

I nod, serious now. “Ok, So is this a cannon world, meaning will Gon survive and protect those around him? And if not, is this a doomed world where the world will end before the arrival of the chimera ants?.”

Dinah paused. “71% chance this is a cannon world, and 23% chance of the world ending before the chimera ants”

I stopped and considered that. “Huh… Well those aren’t as clear as I might have wanted, but I would guess that that means there are going to be some minor differences even if it mostly follows Cannon. The chance of the world ending is low but not nearly as close to zero as I would like. That is probably due to the super monsters roaming around the other continents.”

Pausing for a second I clap my hands. “Yep, once we have what we want then we are just going to pop away. I will just send the Hunter Association Chairman a note about the ants to reduce the chance of casualties.”

Turning to Dinah. “What is the chance we can learn Nen at all? And what is the chance we will gain something useful from it?”

Dinah paused and then slumped slightly. “82% and 28%.”

I sigh. “Huh, yeah. We can probably learn it but I guess we shouldn’t expect any new super power when Gon and most of his friends only got the ability to strengthen themselves."

I smirked at my girls. "Don't give up though. I want magic just as much as you three and I suspect I can get us access to magic if I can study the soul of a person in said reality.”

Dinah popped up a little. "Chances I could become a magic girl if we find the right reality, 94.7%." Dinah seemed to realize what she just said then blushed and squirmed. Taylor and Amy smirked but didn't say anything and I noticed a little red on each of their cheeks. Sabah simply fidgeted slightly.

Deciding against teasing the girls I continued. "Or Harry Potter magic…” I pushed and the girls all perked up as I continued. “Actually as soon as I can get an idea on how to aim our jumps I will be headed there. I would absolutely love magic like that and it would make our house so much easier to maintain."

I paused, then looked back at Dinah. “Chrollo was able to steal powers wasn’t he? Dinah, what is the chance he could steal our powers?”

Dinah scrunched her head and shook it. “I got 37%. I don’t know what that means.”

I paused and thought for a bit. “Yeah, that isn’t very clear one way or another so I don’t know what that means either. This world’s magic system is just weird. Then again, you had connections to large crystal computers connected into your brains. If the ROB that dropped me off there hadn’t given me instincts on how to deal with those I wouldn’t have know what to do with those either.”

Sighing I lean back and stare at the ceiling. “I guess we just wait for a bit for Gon to get into the test. Like I said, we will just grab one of the murderers there. I am just not sure which one because the only murderer I know for certain is Hisoka and I don’t want to be anywhere near that guy if I can help it. That guy is a pedophile and complete psychopath while being obsessed with Gon and Killua. I guess there were some sleazy people there and one I remember trying to sabotage Gon and his friends.”

Shaking my head I continued. “What do you think? Should I grab that guy that befriends Gon’s group and then betrays them trying to crush their chances to pass. Or should I just grab one of the no names that look evil?”

Taylor considered for a moment before she responded. “Did this betrayer kill anyone?”

I furrowed my brow thinking about it. “No, I don’t think it is clear if he did or not. Then again, it was said he did this a lot and some of those rookies might have died before, but he doesn’t seem to want Gon and his friends dead.”

Amy shook her head. “Are you sure you don’t know anyone you know who was an unrepentant murderer in a story like this?”

I paused. “I think there were only a few who killed people in this exam, but the only one I am completely certain of was Hisoka and I don’t really want to mess with the insane clown. Plus he actually helps train Gon as he moves forward and even helps during the fake game arc. So no, not anyone we could just grab. Then again we could always just wait and see who does what when they start.”

Pausing, I turned to the girls. “Well, I guess we have a few hours left, why don’t the four of you wander around town for a bit and see if you can’t find anything nice to buy around here. It will be a chance to relax after the stress of Earth Bet.”

Taylor frowned and I noticed her stiffen out of the corner of my eye. I simply waited for a few moments but Taylor didn’t say anything else. The other three girls also seemed to notice and so sat back down to wait. Finally Taylor frowned and hesitantly spoke. “I would like to test myself on this hunter exam.”

I breathed in slowly, but after a moment I hesitantly nodded. “I want to support anything you girls want so long as it doesn’t harm the rest of our family. So if you want to, then we can stick around for you to try to complete it.” Then I shrugged. “Honestly I was sorta tempted to try it as well when I realized what was going on. However despite Amy’s changes to my body I am not sure if I am ready since I wouldn’t want to use my portals where others could see them. That ability isn’t really known here and could make me too big of a target. That leaves only whatever Amy could put into me for offense.”

Amy frowned and seemed to be considering some things, but after a little while she shook her head. “Even if I gave you poisoned nails or something I doubt you would have enough time to practice with them.”

Nodding, I waved her comment away. “I would like someone to go with Taylor since the test is easier with help.”

Amy hesitated and then nodded. “I think I would like to try. Now that I can actually modify my body I won’t be stuck only on the back lines anymore.”

Nodding I turned to Sabah who shook her head. “So me, Sabah, and Dinah are going to stay here for now. Why don’t the two of you get ready? Meanwhile I want to check to see if the anime I downloaded from Earth Aleph has Hunter x Hunter. If they do then you can watch it quickly before the test actually starts to get an idea of what it will be like.”

As I got the inverters up and running to turn on my computers with the torrented anime Sabah and Dinah followed me curiously while Amy and Taylor got some tougher clothes to prepare for the Hunter exam.

After confirming that no, we did not have that anime I sighed and when the girls came back down I shook my head. “Sorry girls, no luck. I will just have to describe what I remember. Keep in mind that this version might not be the exact same.”

As they nodded I sat back down on the couch. “I am pretty sure you can just walk into the test without talking to everyone in this town like Gon and his friends are doing since if you got into the basem*nt where it starts then obviously you passed the fact gathering section portion somehow.”

Amy and Taylor nodded so I continued. “The group will mill around but I suggest not socializing and just stay away from everyone until the proctor arrives. After that, the first test is a multi-hour long run. The goal is not to pass anyone, but simply to endure long enough. Amy should make this part of the test redundant with her body enhancements to the two of you. After that the run should go through a swamp where your senses will be tested. This time Taylor’s abilities should make this trivial although there is also significant risk from the other examinees. After that you should meet the gourmet hunters. They will ask you to capture a bore and make sushi from the meat. No one else knows what sushi is so you can do what you want there. If no one knows then the chairman will come down and demand they give you another test. You will then cliff dive to capture spider eggs. I should be able to save you if you have trouble there so don’t worry and do your best. After that you will be taken on an airship to a tower and told to follow it down to the bottom before the end of the time limit. Inside you will meet convicts who will make you play games or try to kill you and lots and lots of traps. Finally there is a three day long survival event on an island where everyone is trying to steal each other’s badges. Killing is very much allowed here. Once you get off the island then you just have to get through the single battle stages.”

Amy swallowed, but Taylor just looked more determined so I tried to help convince Amy. “If the two of you work together I suspect that you would perform incredibly well in all of the tests including the individual tests and I will only be a single portal away if you need anything. All said, the test should take about a week and you can take quick breaks by portaling here if you need something.” Taylor frowned and I sighed. “Taylor, I guarantee that everyone there will use every trick in their book and so should you.”

Taylor looked thoughtful before nodding to herself and then looked at Amy. I smiled as I saw the two of them smirk at each other.

Smiling at the two of them getting worked up I mock-sighed before giving them one more piece of advice. “I will open a portal that is attached inside your backpack, Taylor. It should be big enough to allow you to control bugs here in our house. Find a grasshopper or something and if you need me just start making it jump and chirp.”

As she nodded, I opened up that portal along with one behind Gon. Pointing towards the building Gon and friends were headed to, I explained about the elevator and then closed the portal and sat back with Dinah. Sabah didn’t seem to know what to do so I patted the sofa next to me.

Dinah started muttering as we relaxed, but Sabah still wasn’t really comfortable sitting in a recliner as she rocked back and forth looking around the room. I ignored both of them, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Sabah finally relax slightly. Probably reassured now that I wasn't trying to pressure her or something.

Pushing those thoughts out of my mind I opened up the first book from the Wheel of Time series. I absolutely didn’t want to end up there as the ability to destroy the soul so completely they retroactively disappeared in the past was terrifying but, it was still a good story. I always relaxed as I read about these worlds, sometimes literally imagining myself inside them.

I bit my lip. Maybe that was why I wasn’t as worried as I should be. Did I still think this was one of my stories? I felt a pulse and I realized that it didn’t matter. My girls were the only thing that mattered right now.

After a moment Dinah looked up at me. “It will be best for my body to be put into a coma while I sleep in our phylactery when we travel realities. Just wake me up about an hour after we arrive and everything should be fine. I won’t necessarily be ready to answer hypotheticals right away, but I will be able to answer simple questions like ‘is the air breathable’ and whatnot.”

I frowned, but then nodded and sighed. “You are right, of course. I got too excited and popped out to see what the world was like when it would have been better to wait.” Seeing her smug face I reached out and ruffled her hair before she stuck out her tongue at me.

Sabah frowned at our byplay before getting up and walking into the bedroom closest to the living room where she could see rows and rows of books. After a few minutes she came back with a science fiction book I didn’t recognize and sat down a little ways away from me and opened it to read.

I tried to keep an eye on Taylor and Amy but I was enjoying the book so I missed it when Hisoka ripped one of the other examinee’s arms off. Hissing in disgust both Sabah and Dinah stiffened, but I shook my head. “That guy is a literal psychotic clown, but I didn’t really see it so it might have been justified. I am just glad the girls didn’t get involved.”

Dinah frowned. “93% chance he was looking for a fight.”

Sabah shook her head. “That isn’t a reason to rip his arms off even if he apparently made sure he didn’t bleed out.”

I winced as well. “Yeah, plus healing like Panacea is basically unheard of there so it is entirely possible he would be crippled for life now.”

Dinah winced and I patted her on the head. “Amy will probably work on him once everyone else leaves. I just need to warn her not to wait too long because if she gets too far behind they will be disqualified.”

As I did that I noticed that Sabah was once again squirming a little. Frowning, I sat back and turned on the TV and connected it to play the movies we had. Better to distract them with movies for now. We had a week to wait and I didn’t want them working themselves up too soon. Sending a portal out so I could put out some solar panels while we still had daylight I let Dinah pick through the movies. Surprisingly enough Dinah was interested in seeing some of the older Disney movies. Apparently those movies had not been very popular recently. I guess an idealized fantasy wasn’t as appealing with everything on Earth Bet going on.

As we watched and Taylor and Amy run I noticed that Sabah was sitting across from me to see the scene as well. Considering for a moment, I reached out and captured Sabah’s legs before putting her feet on my lap and began to rub them. She squeaked and frowned in frustration, but after a moment of hesitation she didn’t pull away. She was obviously a little uncomfortable with my gesture, but she didn’t ask me to stop and after a few minutes I felt her relax and I smiled internally.

I knew she was conflicted. On the one hand she would be completely against becoming just another harem member to some guy she just met, one apparently younger than her to boot. However, I saw her flush at the idea of being surrounded by beautiful women she could be with. She was also obviously worried about our situation and future, but she had been decisive enough to join us with minimal information. It might have been fannon but If I remembered her story correctly she dropped out of an engineering degree when she discovered her passion for design despite family and financial pressure.

I could use a driven woman like that, plus she was cute. I just needed to convince her that living with me wasn’t too bad and the benefits were worth the uncertainty and fear of letting me flirt with her. Basically light flirting was mandatory but I was only going to actually sleep with her with her permission. A part of me relaxed again with that decision.

Nodding to myself I decided to actually try to recruit her. She was cute, opinionated, driven, and actually a little snarky once she got going. Basically right down my strike zone.

Plus, while I wasn’t sure, physical affection might not actually be off the table. She didn’t push me away from me touching her so she probably was attracted to women but didn’t hate men.

Turning back to the view of the test I considered where we were going to go next. I wasn’t sure how to choose just yet, but I suspected it was possible to choose.

We just needed to wait for Taylor and Amy to get done with their adventure. But I didn’t want to rush it. Really it was probably a good idea to let them out to explore and test themselves, we all could use the break after Earth Bet.

Interlude Dinah:

Dinah sighed as she relaxed next to the new girl. Yeah, Sabah wasn’t actually committed to the group yet and it wasn’t like Dinah was about to sleep with Max just yet, but Sabah’s probabilities were moving up and it was nice to have an older sister with less baggage than Taylor and Amy.

Yeah, Dinah knew she had her own issues, but Sabah was the closest thing they had to an emotionally and physically secure member of their family. Kinda sad since Max was refusing to address his own lack of past, occasional mood swings, and weird obsession about getting stronger.

She sighed. Plus her powers were a little strange in this world. She could still get her percentages, but she was also getting impressions.

Still, it was nice and now that she could sit back with the knowledge she was safe for the first time in months and just sit back, relax, and watch a movie.

They could deal with the heavy stuff later.

Chapter 9: Chapter 9: HXH - Getting Unexpected Benefits

Notes:

So, I am somewhat amused that anyone cares, since there are better authors and stories out there.

However, it is nice to see a few people giving me kudos, follows, favorites across the various websites. Thanks~ (I also got some hate mail, which was expected as well.)

Sorry this chapter is only 3k words, I didn't realize it was this short.... man am I inconsistent.

Anyway, the story is actually written out to over 125k words currently, but the real problem is editing and some plot adjustments I am working on.

So I might miss a week or two here or there, but I am going to try to release weekly.

Chapter Text

AN: Minor Editing Pass 6-14-24

After leaving Sabah and Dinah to watch the movie I turned to watch more closely what was happening in the fog at the end of the running part of the test. Just like what I vaguely remembered in the anime, several hunters got together and tried to kill Hisoka. I didn’t remember the fight and was surprised that Gon and his group had also gotten involved in a fight, but they handled it fairly easily and it was vaguely interesting to watch.

Out of the portal tied to Taylor I heard a voice. “Hey, Max, Amy and I have someone for you to grab.”

Looking over I saw Amy checking on a middle aged man. It was clear he had been stung and Amy had also done something to him.

Deciding to just step through I found myself in the fog of the wetlands. “I see you found someone. What did he do to make you target him?”

Taylor frowned and kicked the man in the ribs and I winced. “Was following us, muttering something about, sampling the goods, making us scream and some other crap.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “Bastard was looking to rape us. I confirmed the increased hormones consistent with arousal when I put the idiot down as he was preparing to jump us. He won’t ever awake again.”

I scoffed. “Well that is a good enough reason for me, targeting what he thought of as defenseless 17 and 19 year old girls and attempting to immediately force himself on them, hell, not even attempting to talk to them let alone gaining consent for anything... complete soul destruction might actually be too good for him.”

Pushing away my inner annoyance that he had targeted my girls as well, I sighed. “How are the two of you doing?”

Amy shrugged and Taylor waved her hand in a so-so gesture. “Not bad with Amy’s mods.”

Nodding I put my hand on the man and started pulling. The man couldn’t resist and without the shard in his head the extraction only took about 5 minutes or so. The man had a gem on his jacket so I had just pulled the soul into the gem and pocketed it before stepping back into the house entranceway. Turning I co*cked my eyebrow. “Did you want me to portal you to behind Gon since I held you up?”

Amy shook her head before simply jogging away. Taylor waved and gave me a little salute. “We got this, boss.”

A little amusem*nt at the address made me chuckle. I might make them call me that when we were messing around… or maybe in the bedroom.

Closing the portal made me sniff and wince at my dirty shoes. Taking them off I went into the kitchen and got some water to rinse them off before once again sitting down with the girls. They had apparently moved on to The Lion King. Surprisingly, Sabah was particularly interested in this one. I supposed the death of Mufasah made things a little more impactful. At some point I would need to find out more about her life.

Yet, this wasn't the time and I didn’t want to get in their way or distract them so I moved to make some food to share. The girls didn’t even look up as I passed them some sandwiches. The fresh meat and cheese from the market needed to be eaten soon or they would go bad until we could get around to figuring out how to keep food cold. Maybe I should work on that. If I connected the water generator that Taylor had managed to find to a second water tank I could get it running fairly easily.

I stared at the ceiling as I mulled over the problem. The water seemed to drain in about half an hour and the generator only produced about 200 watts or about 100 watt hours. I sighed and sat down. Apparently the chest freezer we had bought was 200 to 300 watts, but would only need to be on for maybe one tenth of the time. That made the math fairly easy. That would mean about 3 hours of running per day, or that I would have to portal the water 6 or more times per day for the chest freezer. The computer and TV were probably another 50 to 70 watts and if we used them for around 6 hours a day then that was another 3 or more times I would have to portal the water. I sighed. That wasn’t including the microwave and lights even if we didn’t need much as long as we stayed in the same room.

I shook my head. We really needed to get our home working better than that. Maybe we would find some better technology wherever we ended up next.

I looked back at Amy and Taylor and found them on the side listening to Menchi talk about being a gourmet hunter. They should be fine, but I would want to pay attention for when they would skydive for the eggs. The entire process was kind of ridiculous in the show. However, as I watched, Amy leaned over and told Gon and his friends what Sushi was. The rest of the hunters seemed to have heard them so there was a flurry of attempts to make something edible with the raw pork.

I winced. I doubted any of them would succeed besides Amy and Taylor. Amy would obviously cheat with her abilities, but I was curious where she was going with this.

As each team presented the food to Menchi and her partner I chuckled at her face of disgust. Putting raw pork on leaves was disgusting, but I guess Amy hadn’t clued the rest of the teams about the rice yet.

I noticed a gleam in Amy’s eye as Menchi picked up her Nigiri. Then as the girl went slack jawed at the taste I noticed that Amy seemed to be getting ready for something.

Menchi seemed to get up and bounce around before hugging Amy and Taylor, much to Taylor’s embarrassment. The sound wasn’t great because I didn’t want to be too close, but she seemed to be enjoying it, but before anything else could be said I watched slack jawed as Amy used her hand which had been kept in front of her to reach up and squeeze the hunter’s breasts. She had done it while being partially hidden behind Menchi and Taylor, but the slight squeak from Menchi had meant that the hunter had definitely felt it.

The smirk on Amy’s face showed that it wasn’t accidental and a few of the other examinees had been blushing, but most looked simply amused.

I simply shook my head. She seemed to have decided that if Menchi wasn’t going to be an option for the family then she was going to get a feel while she could.

I might need to get her to seduce Sabah once Sabah had committed. Well IF Sabah committed, as encouraging as it was to have been allowed to rub her feet, it could end up not working. Sabah might want a committed monogamous relationship and our harem, polyamorous setup was anything but that.

It was then that the chairman flew down and told Menchi that he needed to pass more than just two people for the test. I chuckled. Well at least the two would not need to do the skydiving portion then.

Sitting back I decided to sit back down and watch the end of the Lion King with the girls.

As the girls entered the blimp that would take them to the third phase of the test I advised them to sleep then practice their hand to hand fighting before reaching the tower. Apparently Amy had some basic training, but being a healer it was more theoretical for her than actual practical.

I ushered Dinah and Sabah back to their bedrooms. Neither one of them said anything about joining me in bed and I wasn’t going to ask. It was startling to realize how quickly I had come to enjoy their affection and attention… maybe I wasn’t dealing with all of the stress as well as I had thought. Sabah was also nowhere near to actually joining us.

In the end I had trouble falling asleep as I laid there worrying about my girls alone on the blimp. However, even with Amy’s modifications, I was still human and I hadn’t slept more than a quick nap in the last two days and eventually I started to crash. All I could do for my girls right now was hope they got a good night’s sleep as well.

It was the next morning that I got to work and attached a second tank to both the generator system putting one in the attic and the one in the basem*nt. The generator should run for an hour now and I was able to put two solar panels out. Hopefully that would fully charge the batteries so I could relax and keep an eye on the girls as they went down the tower.

I was surprised when the exam was changed to allow groups of six. Amy had pulled Taylor into grouping up with Gon’s team of four. I suppose that the test had been changed slightly because more people passed the previous tests. I wasn’t sure if Amy had healed anyone, or if their presence had simply caused less fights.

The trip down to the tower was almost exactly like cannon. In the story the examinees were forced to accept any challenge that the prisoners suggested while betting a number of hours as a wager. Since there was a time limit on how long they had to escape the tower, losing too many matches would see the hunter exam hopefuls fail.

So far everything played out more or less the same inside the tower except that Amy had gotten the first match with Bendot instead of the backstabber examinee in the story. The mercenary had punched Amy, but she had simply pushed herself back with the hit and let the man fall to the ground asleep.

Just like in the story Gon blows out the prisoner’s candle, Kurapika defeated this opponent but refused to kill him. There was a bet on if he was faking which loses them time. Leorio then loses even more time in another bet. Now nearly out of time Kilua kills his prisoner in a deathmatch and everything came down to Taylor.

The sixth prisoner that wasn’t shown in canon ended up being a young looking teen named Donner, probably a bit younger than Taylor. The kid had apparently been obsessed with explosives and had blown up two schools before he was caught. He had suggested that the two build something with the half of the cuffs he was wearing. Taylor simply nodded. I actually tilted my head at this. If she lost then they might not actually finish the test. I really shouldn’t have worried since Taylor had watched Gon’s technique of working around the rules and simply stung the man with one of the sleep wasps she kept in her backpack.

The teen collapsed and Taylor declared she had made a vase by putting a small flower she had picked up in the cuff. Since Donner hadn’t made anything she won.

The group continued down the tower faster than in cannon and ended up waiting there as two other final teams made it to the ground level.

I chuckled as they got to the fourth phase as Taylor used her bugs to instantly down two other hunters. One was her target so that was the three points she needed and she gave her tag and the free tag to Amy.

Meanwhile Amy modified a tree to hide in for the three days it would take to end the test. I thought about leaving them there, but there really wasn’t any need to wait so I simply opened a portal in the tree to the house.

Sabah and Dinah were once again watching TV. This time they were about to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was actually mildly concerned considering the Earth Bet version was more bloody than the one I remembered but they both lived in Earth Bet and helped take down the Slaughterhouse 9 so I didn’t say anything.

The four girls and I enjoyed the movie series that day as well as the first four Harry Potter movies the next day. Someone might have been surprised that while Taylor and Amy slept in my bed both nights, nothing actually happened. Instead I suspected that both girls had finally burnt out of the hormonal and adrenaline high that the escape from Earth Bet had been. I didn’t expect them to constantly want to sleep with me and I didn’t push.

I knew I did want affection so I might start asking if they didn’t say anything in a week or two, but I really did want this to be a family, not my own set of call girls and nothing more.

The third day of the survival test I got ready to portal the girls back into the tree. However I stopped before allowing them through. There were holes going all the way through the tree followed by a crack in the bark made by some sort of gun or ability. I wasn’t sure who had tried to find them, but I was glad I had gotten them out. Worst case scenario would have them killed in their sleep and not even realizing they were back in their gems.

I ended up portaling them into a crack in the ground that formed a small cave a few hundred feet from the entrance to the boat that would take them away.

As they left I counted up the remaining members. There seemed to be a similar number to those who had passed in Cannon, but I couldn’t remember who those people were very clearly. Sighing I shook my head. I would just have to wait for the final battle.

Just as I expected, the tournament started. This time they had to get their opponents to surrender. No killing. I was curious to see how they would handle this, but I shouldn’t have been worried.

There was quite a bit of whispering between my two girls and then Amy started touching all of Taylor’s bugs and then doing something with her nails.

In the meantime the competitors were chosen and Amy was first called up first against Gon. She seemed resigned and when the match started she once again simply stood there and defended herself the best she could, taking quite a few bad hits, before finally grabbing Gon long enough that the boy went glassy eyed.

There was a few moments before Amy said. “Say you give up Gon.”

Gon seemed to grimace and shook his head, but whatever she had done finally worked and he confirmed his surrender. After Amy let go Gon seemed to sway for a moment longer before shaking himself awake. He looked crushed that he had given up the first battle but the next bout with the ninja ended up the same way as in cannon as he simply refused to give up making the ninja give up instead so he had passed and ended up with Gon in the hospital wing the same way.

Taylor on the other hand ended up first facing Kurapika. Neither fighter was stupid so the wasps flying around were dealt with knives that Kurapika pulled out of his robes. Then charging into melee range and began to try to strike Taylor as quickly as he could. The battle went on for nearly five minutes before Taylor suddenly lunged forward and clamped her nails into Kurapika’s arm. I noticed as Kurapika’s strength slowly dimmed. I smiled as she had essentially pulled off the same trick that Amy had shown.

They had won, they were hunters!

Despite my pride at their achievement, I winced as Hisoka and Illumina both seemed to be eyeing the girls with real interest. We really needed them out of there before anything else happened. I didn’t want to find out what either one of those monsters would do. I was pretty sure they couldn’t directly attack the soul, but they were both psychopaths and it was best not to risk it.

Amy then met up with the ninja. Turns out his name was Hanzo. Hanzo agreed to ignite all of our Nen and give us a book on its use if we fixed his shoulders. Apparently all of the armor on his back wasn’t for show. It was both armor and supports for some torn muscles that hadn’t healed quite right.

The exam wrapped up and the two girls waved goodbye to Gon as he went on to try to track down Killua who had disappeared after his brother had emotionally torn him down. That was bad, but Gon was on the case so the girls followed Hanzo down and after a few minutes we portaled to in-front of his door. Awakening our Nen was equally uneventful, but none of us felt particularly different.

Sighing, we listened to some basic instructions and tested our elements. Apparently I was a manipulator and Amy was an enhancer. Dinah was a specialist, Sabah was a manipulator, and Taylor was another specialist.

I winced. Nen was tied to a person’s souls so I supposed it made sense that the abilities were tied to the powers from the shards I had shoved into each girl’s soul. Dinah asked a few more questions as we left and we determined there was probably much more we could have learned, but we already knew that. I just didn’t think we had the time. Really, I had no intention of waiting around when Hisoka had been interested in us. Who knew what that crazy clown would do and while it might be nothing, it wasn’t worth the risk.

All in all, it was a bit of a let-down, but Amy and Taylor had become official Hunters at least.

As the five of us grabbed some food, portaled home, grabbed the rapist and prepared to leave, I made a mental note to perhaps come back sometime and see what we could learn in the future… it just might be a distant very one.

Any and I put Dinah to sleep. Sabah also requested the same, so it was only Amy, Taylor, and I sitting on the living room sofa as we prepared for the jump.

However, I was surprised when the two of them looked at each other before they leaned in and kissed me. I then felt two sets of hands on my legs and I smiled. It was nice to be shown appreciation like this.

As the three of us relaxed after the distraction, I sighed. “That was wonderful, but I was wondering where the two of you wanted to go next?”

Taylor tilted her head. “I thought you couldn’t aim.”

I shook my head. “No, I can’t, not really. At least not yet, but I would like to know where you two might want to end up.”

Taylor actually giggled slightly at that, then huffed as she thought. “I would like somewhere where we could train to fight.”

Amy paused before she nodded. “Yeah, our abilities got us through the exam, but if anyone like Hanzo or Hisoka had really come at us before the end where they weren’t allowed to kill us, then we wouldn’t have stood a chance. Amy’s modifications seem to have made us maybe a few times stronger than the average adult man. In fact we were both faster and tougher, but Hanzo was on a whole other level. I don’t even want to think about Hisoka, that clown was a freak.”

I winced. “Yeah, if I wasn’t fairly sure that your souls would be fine, I wouldn’t have let you within a mile of that clown. His power is rubber gum where he can stick things together invisibly, but he also has many other tricks up his sleeves. I don’t have any idea what he did to that man’s arms at the beginning.”

Amy shook her head but said nothing.

Taking a deep breath, I thought about our next jump as I broke the soul in the gem. I just hope we could find a bunch of options for people who could teach us to fight.

Interlude Amy:

Amy had a moment to consider as she watched Max get ready for the next jump. Life had certainly changed since he had surprised her on that roof a week or so ago. Really, it felt like it had been a year, but she could admit that things had gotten better.

Yeah, she could admit that she had exchanged being slightly mastered by her sister for being lightly bound by Max. Still, as close as she had been paying attention to her biology, he wasn’t really changing her. So the slight crush on the boy was probably not a insidious brainwashing campaign. Hell, being surrounded by women who accepted her was just about the best possible end to what could have happened to her based on her previous story.

That wasn’t to say everything was perfect. There was still a huge part of her that missed Vicky. Yet a larger part of her felt free, as strange as that was. Seriously strange… hell, she was potentially eternally bound to a man and her sister wives, after all.

Still, even with that knowledge she still felt free.

No one expected her to work endless hours in a hospital.

No one was stopping her from experimenting with biology.

No one was telling her that she couldn’t pursue the relationships she wanted.

Looking to where Sabah had walked away for the moment, she hummed. Maybe she should work on that after all.

Chapter 10: Chapter 10: ? - Finding and Planning

Notes:

Wow, I got more positive reactions that I thought. I really appreciate it and people are right, it really does motivate you.
In fact, I am going to be releasing two chapters next week for Christmas. I just need to finish up the editing since they are 11k words together.

I also fixed a few errors and a boat load of grammatical errors over the last week.
This includes:
Chapter 1 and 2: Explanation Max uses Harry Potter Lich rules, AKA as long as part of the soul is still attached, the body doesn’t die, but dies slowly after a soul is removed. However he isn't stronger, magical, immune to magic status effects or whatever DnD-like-rules that Liches use there.
Chapter 7: Better description of battle, Maybe?
Chapter 7: Replaced the missing paragraph on grabbing Kaiser. (Lost it in editing)

Chapter Text

AN: 6-15-24
I am still working through the backlog of chapters for some very needed edits… this will take a while because it is killing my motivation.

For now, keep in mind the ages for the girls from Earth Bet have been changed to be
Taylor - 17
Amy - 19
Sabah - 23
Dinah - recently turned 14

I have also nerfed his powers just a tad since the first version with no inherent brainwashing at all despite his later concerns (even if he very much could figure it out if he tried)
This note will be moved to the start of the unedited version as I work through it
---

After another punch to the head that was the shock of moving between realities, Amy, Taylor and I stood back up from the sofa. This time I had fallen over and, while I had enjoyed Amy’s thighs, I hadn’t fallen quite right and so my neck was bent at an awkward angle.

Sighing, I rubbed my neck. “Well, that still sucked. As soon as we find a modern world again, I think I am going to get myself a Lazy Boy recliner to travel in.”

Taylor was still shaking her head slightly, but Amy was already up and stretching. “Sounds good, but where do you think we are? Maybe a Sci-fi world this time?”

I sighed. “I think I am actually directing us a little. It might be a few more jumps before I manage to actually direct us to a world I know specifically, but we should still make the most of each world if possible.”

Taylor stood up and did her own stretches before she said “Why don’t we all go to bed? We can let Dinah recover in her gem for now since she said it kinda felt like sleeping.”

Looking at one then the other, I simply shrugged and we walked towards the bedroom. I was curious to see if the two teenagers would act on their libido, but neither of them did anything other than removing their pants and bras before getting in bed with me. I had also removed my pants and was able to enjoy their bare legs against mine before I slowly fell asleep.

The next morning, I was surprised to hear the sounds of the microwave cooking downstairs. We had already discussed our options and since a stove took too much power to run for long on batteries for long and fire wasn’t a good idea in our confined space, we were mostly limited to the microwave. Microwaves, while power hogs while they were running, usually only needed to be run for a few minutes to cook something. Still, the smells had already started to wake me up and by the time I opened my eyes I was fully alert. Looking to either side of me, I noticed Amy and Taylor were still present. Since Dinah wasn’t going to be awake until I reattached her soul, that only left one option for our mystery cook.

Acting on that impulse, I opened another portal between me and the phylactery and pulled Dinah’s soul into her body. Poking Amy a little, the grumpy healer opened one eye and glared at me before I simply pointed towards the portal where she could reach Dinah. I tried to keep my voice quiet as I explained. “I put her soul back, maybe just let her wake up naturally this time.”

Sighing, Amy poked the precog before curling back to sleep.

Sighing again, I got up and went into the bathroom. Then I gave a slight chuckle. If the two women in my bed weren’t going to get up for some fun, then I might as well so see what was going on with our surprise chef.

It was while I was walking down the stairs that I saw Dinah getting up and rubbing her head. That surprised me as I had thought she might have wanted to sleep for longer, but after a moment I just asked “How are you doing, Dinah?”

Dinah sighed. “Fine, who is cooking?”

I smiled and rubbed her head lightly. “Unless some random thief managed to break into our kitchen and is making us breakfast, I suspect it is Sabah.”

Smiling a little, Dinah turned to walk down the hall towards the kitchen. When we entered, we saw Sabah had reheated a good deal of the food we had purchased in the previous city.

While walking into the room, I walked past Sabah who stiffened as we entered before relaxing slightly. As I passed I gave her a slight one-armed hug which made her stiffen more. “Good morning. I hope you slept well. Thanks for making breakfast, Sabah.”

Sabah seemed to force herself to relax before she responded. “Good morning… Max, Dinah. It is ok. I, uh, woke up and didn’t have anything to do. I mean, I was happy to help.”

Smiling at the young woman, I sighed. “Why don’t you sit down, and we can all eat. Taylor and Amy probably won’t be getting up any time soon.” Seeing both females stiffen, I sighed internally and continued speaking. “I mean, combined with the Hunter exam for the last few days and normal teenager sleeping-in habits, I wasn’t surprised they went to sleep right after our jump and have been asleep ever since. It is a good thing that you are cooking, as I suspect the only thing that will get them to wake up at the moment is their stomachs.”

Dinah seemed to immediately move past the topic and put some honey across a roll we had in a Tupperware. Sabah was a little slower to relax, but after looking at me for a few more moments, she seemed to believe me and finally relaxed. Internally, I was sighing to myself. Seriously, even if I had pounded them into a metaphorical and hopefully blissful puddle, if the girls wanted, then that was our business. It wasn’t like I was going to suddenly attack her or Dinah.

I paused for a moment. Then again, I didn’t know about Sabah's history. Maybe she actually had experienced something like that. Or maybe she was less horrified about what I had done and more embarrassed for thinking about them naked upstairs like that. Especially since I was pretty sure I had noticed Sabah and Amy eyeing each other in the last couple of days. I think I would have been embarrassed to know my crush was upstairs naked too.

In the end it didn’t change anything as it wasn’t too much longer before Amy walked down the stairs and came into the kitchen. Sabah had turned on the coffee pot and like a zombie Amy walked directly to the pot before pouring herself a cup before collapsing into a chair. Taylor was a little more put together and simply got a glass of water before getting some of the sweet rolls and curling up on one of the remaining chairs.

Sighing, Sabah turned towards me and asked. “So where are we now?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea. Dinah was right that we should ask her questions before we enter the world for the first time.”

Sabah paused and then nodded her head. Amy and Taylor were both mostly awake at this point, and after a few more moments I leaned back in my chair and turned towards Dinah. “Are you done with breakfast and are you ready for some questions?”

Dinah finished slowly sipping the last of the juice and nodded. “Yes, and there is an 9% chance we will be killed if we explore the area around our home. There is an 86% chance you will recognize the setting given enough time.”

I blinked. “Those numbers aren’t great, but still aren’t terrible. I suspect that the Hunter world might have been about as dangerous as that. We will just have to be careful.”

Sabah sighed slightly, and I eyed her. Was she still planning on leaving us and was worried she couldn’t stop on this world? Or was she worried about the other girls.

Shaking my head, I looked at the four girls. “Who wants to go out and explore with me?”

All of them spoke up to agree, even if Sabah was a bit slower than the rest. Opening up a portal to look around outside, I immediately noticed we were in a city. I obviously didn’t recognize the alley we were in, but after a moment to move the portal skyward, I noticed the skyline and frowned. There was a city in the center against the coast with tall large towers and gleaming white walls. However, surrounding that city fortress was a significantly larger city of ramshackle buildings. I frowned. “Huh, I don’t recognize any of that.”

Shrugging, I pushed our portal towards the ground and tried to find a location that wouldn’t be noticed. After a couple of minutes, we were once again inside a corner of the city ready to move. Attaching our dimension to the back alley between two stores I opened a portal and the five of us walked out.

I had to admit, the city was incredibly nice. The streets were clean and the buildings orderly. Yet, up and down the street I noticed a sigh that looked like the Uncle Sam army recruitment pictures from my home world. However, this time it said. The Wardens need you.

I blinked. “The Wardens huh.” Then softer so only the girls would hear me. “That sounds familiar, but I don’t recognize the source.”

At that exact moment I heard an explosion and I looked up to see what appeared to be a blue haired woman riding a slow moving rocket into one of the tallest buildings.

I felt my mouth fall open. “Really? Really~?” The League of Legends world? I sat and thought for a moment as I saw the building partially collapse. Well Damn… I think it was called Runeterra.

Moving my focus down, I noticed the people in the street were already starting to run for cover. I pointed to a side alley, and the five of us quickly moved behind a corner and portaled back into our home before anything else around us could explode.

Amy and Taylor looked at me, but I just sighed and slid onto the couch. “Well that sucks.” I sighed then said quieter, “At least this time we can retreat to our home if this Death World gets too bad.” All four girls stiffened at that before looking at me more carefully.

Dinah was the one to speak up. “There is only an 8% chance this world ends in the next 50 years.”

All three girls turned towards me confused so I sighed and answered. “Sorry, I should be more specific. There are a few definitions of a Death World. My own personal definition is that a death world is one where there is a risk that you and the entire city around you could be wiped out at the whim of a person, being, or entity on a whim. More specifically, when it has happened to places on that world before.”

The girls seemed to sit back and think about that before Taylor spoke up. “Don’t nuclear weapons make most Earth’s death worlds then?”

I sighed and rubbed my forehead. “Well, yeah, sorta, but most countries have checks and safeguards up the wazoo to ensure it won’t happen due to the whims of a single man. Still you do bring up a good point.”

Sabah was the next one to speak up. “Even if it isn’t what you hoped, you did seem to recognize the world.”

I sighed and rubbed my head. “Yeah, although this specific setting is one that I won’t be able to really plan out like I did on Earth Bet and the Hunter x Hunter world.”

Dinah tilted her head and asked. “Why not?”

I sighed. “I picked you three up in 2011. Did any of you play a game called League of Legends?”

The three older girls shook their heads, but Dinah paused before nodding her head. “Yeah, I did a little. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was kinda fun to control the champions.”

I blinked. “Huh. I would have thought there was a better chance that Earth Bet would have had the Hunter X Hunter anime than a beta version of that MOBA game, but that's good, I guess.”

Amy interrupted next. “So why did you say that we wouldn’t be able to affect the world.”

I winced. “I still don’t remember too much about my original world, but I am pretty sure we were almost a decade ahead of you. In that time the people making the game wrote a backstory for most of the champions. Then erased it all. Then made a combined history for most of them. Then changed that a half dozen times. Finally, they took a few of the characters and tried to make several different animated shows.”

Taylor was the first to get it. “So you don’t know what history is the right one here? What does that mean?”

I gave her some finger guns. “Exactly. For example, I remember a character called Ashe. I liked playing her a little before I moved on from the game. At first, she was a maiden hunter in her tribe. Then she was a literal winter spirit, then she was a widow, then happily married tribal chief in a political marriage to another chief from a rival, then allied tribe. That is combined with some of the issues with cosmetic skins for the characters.”

Sabah was the one to ask this time. “Cosmetic skins?”

I nod and simply continue. “Yeah, I can think of at least two characters in particular off the top of my head. There is a little tree spirit called Teemo who has a skin that makes him a literal devil, an astronaut, a sniper and even more forms I don’t remember. There is also a sorcerer named Lux who looked a lot like glory girl that was also several types of magic girl skins along with a cyberpunk warrior, an astronaut, and another sniper skin. Not to mention Ashe who I am pretty sure has a skin who literally makes her a snow spirit.”

Amy had perked up at the description of Lux being similar to her sister. Noting that, I decided to address it before it festered. “Why don’t you write your sister a letter for our next jump? I don’t know how long each of our jumps are, so it might have been several months since we left.”

Amy stiffened at being noticed before nodding her head.

I turned to the rest of the girls. “That goes for the rest of you. I gave Dragon instructions to pass letters to your families discreetly if you feel like writing.” All the rest of the girls nodded, even if Sabah was slower to do so. Sighing, I continued as I got up and walked to the gaming computer and booted it up. “The question is if we are going to do anything to help this world and if we are going to take any women with us.”

Sabah stiffened again as I saw her fidget in the corner of my eye, but I simply ignored the reaction. The other three girls didn’t even break step as they followed me to look at the computer. A part of me wondered if this was my soul affecting theirs. Then again, maybe they just wanted to see some of the people in this world.

Shaking my head slightly, I waited and booted up the game. The game obviously didn’t have an internet connection to connect to, but I was still able to pull up the list of women available in 2011 in Brockton Bay. The result was fewer than I remembered but that still left several dozen characters of which about half were human or human-like females. Turning to my girls behind me, I gestured, “Well here we are. I guess we can look through their backstories a bit even if the bios are vague to get an idea of their temperament. However, the details written here might still be wrong. Not the least because I am pretty sure Jinx wasn’t introduced until like 2015 or something.”

The girls gave a little start, finally remembering the attack on the tower outside and then looked back at the characters. Perhaps they finally realized the mind-boggling notion that their fiction could correlate with real characters they could meet in another world.

After a few minutes, the girls and I had narrowed down their search to 6 women I could agree with. Ahri the nine tailed fox. Irelia the cultivator blade dancer. Vi, the gauntleted brawler. Leona the sun themed knight. Morgana the dark themed goddess of merciful justice. Finally the expert sniper Caitlyn. We momentarily even considered taking Jinx with us for her own good the same way that we had taken Bakuda and Squealer.

That made me remember to spend more time looking at their soul to see if I could think of a way to better deal with their issues.

Yes, part of me wanted to throw caution to the wind since they were both kinda hot and had that mature woman feel. Plus they could both definitely help with creating support items for our home here. No more dealing with solar panels and batteries. However, the logical part of my brain knew letting an angry tinker gain access to supplies in an enclosed space with us was just about as stupid an idea as I could possibly get.

Taylor, who was still reading through the backstories spoke up. “So Vi and Caitlyn are fighting with these wardens against Jinx then?”

I sighed. “It is complicated, I think. I know Vi was originally with a group in the slums outside the walls. Jinx was part of that group and they considered each other sisters or something. I also know the city dwellers treat the outsiders in the shanty town like trash even if Caitlyn and Vi are trying to change that. The thing is, while I am pretty sure there were some misunderstandings between Vi and her sister. I don’t know what they were. Jinx is slightly mentally unstable, from what I remember, but also might be fighting for the slum’s rights. The entire thing is a mess, and I didn’t watch the animated show when it came out.”

I turned to Dinah. “Chances that any of those three or any subset of them would be willing to come with us. And is there anything we can do to stop the conflict within the next couple of weeks?”

Dinah winced. “21% and 12%”

I sighed. “If the best possible scenario is 21% then we probably aren’t going to convince anyone. The 12% doesn’t surprise me either, since we just don’t have the information to actually help. Plus, I will admit that I don’t want to get involved in a bloody civil war unless we can actually help stop it.” Rubbing my head, I leaned back in the kitchen chair. I really needed to get some gaming or office chairs for doing research like this. Our kitchen chairs were really not comfortable at all.

Sitting back up, I looked at the others with a furrowed brow before I slapped the table. “Damn it!” I sighed and rubbed then shook my head. “Maybe if I had more information we could do something, but I think we are going to have to move on. Plus we can get a sniper and a brawler somewhere else and we already have an unstable bomb tinker.” I looked out of the windows and sighed again before whispering. “They always said, I couldn’t save everyone…”

There were some uneasy chuckles as they remembered the girl currently laying in the cot downstairs, but several of them got uneasy looks as they heard my whisper, but before anyone could bring it up again I shook my head. “We really do need to figure out how to help Bakuda since I don’t really want her blowing up our house on either accident or purpose.” This time I was pretty sure the uncomfortable chuckles were more because they were nervous about her mentality and not because they were nervous because of me.

I turned and looked back at the screen with the characters. “That leaves Leona, Morgana, Irelia, and Ahri. I am pretty sure that Leona, Morgana, and Irelia are all some sort of defender to their respective communities. Dinah, what is the chance that each of the four will come willingly if we give them the correct pitch. Maybe something about getting stronger to help or eventually come back and teach their people?”

Taylor was the one that spoke up. “Would you actually do that?”

I tilted my head at her. “I told you there was a chance we would go back to Earth Bet if they fixed their Scion and mutating shards problem after things calmed down. So if I am willing to go back to Earth Bet then Runeterra isn’t out of the question at all. I just don’t want to do it often, since there are some demi-gods and minor gods here I wouldn’t want to run into if I could help it. Really, this world isn’t actually overly terrible, I just don’t want to stay too long as there are way, WAY better worlds to live on. So no, I wouldn’t be lying to any of them about returning.”

Taylor looked mollified, and Dinah finally responded. “26% for Leona, 12% for Morgana, 53% for Irelia, and 81% for Ahri.”

I hummed to myself. “Well, I guess that makes sense. Leona is literally a knight and the chance of her leaving her post is probably very small. Morgana looks like a demon, but she actually is a goddess of merciful justice who feels that she needs to keep her sister, the goddess of blind justice, in check. That is unfortunate as Leona could teach us about weapons and Morgana probably has some excellent magic. Then again, it isn’t the end of the world as I would actually prefer Irelia to teach us since she is basically a cultivator and a master of blades.”

Dinah was the one to ask. “What is a cultivator?”

I smiled as I explained. “A cultivator is exactly the type of power I would like us to gain. They basically condense the magic, the qi, the mana, or whatever powersource of the world into themselves and then refine their bodies to become, well… more or less gods. It takes a lot of time, but pretty much all the stories say there isn’t a limit to how much you can grow in this way. Still, I don’t know how far Irelia has gotten, or even if it is something like cultivation in the first place. However, I want to find out because but in some stories cultivators can have bodies much stronger than steel, move quicker than sound, and have spiritual powers that allow them to do things that make most Earth Bet powers look like cheap parlor tricks. Even telekinetically or spiritually moving blades around without touching them is actually a fairly common trick in those stories. And while I am not sure, I think that is what Irelia is doing.”

Taylor frowned. “But the chances of her joining us were basically a coin flip.”

I sighed. “Yeah, but we should still show up to ask. At the very least we might get some training from her if we help or her town with our powers.” I waived my hand wildly at their looks of confusion, “Look, I don’t really know, I am just throwing out ideas of things that a leader of a community might like.”

The girls seemed to sit back at that. Dinah looked back at the fox girl on the screen. “What about Ahri? She had a good chance of joining us.”

I sighed a bit. “You are right. My vague memory of her story is that she grew up with arctic foxes. She doesn’t know where she comes from but wants to find out. The thing is that she eats human souls. Our bodies and souls are probably immune to her consumption as long as we don’t allow her into the room with our phylacteries.” Turning to Sabah I sighed. “Depending on how trustworthy she is, I would probably want to make you a lich as well before we invited her to live with us long term, just in case.” Everyone looked worried at that so I sighed before I explained. “At the beginning, she didn’t know what she was doing when she ate their souls. Yet even then she was able to give dying men some peace in their final moments and ate their souls only when it wouldn’t cause them further pain. After several decades of this, she understood what was happening and tried to avoid killing innocents at all costs. She also has illusion magic and the ability to manipulate emotions as well.” Turning to Sabah I clarified my offer. “I don’t have to bind you to me to make you a Lich and protect you, just think about it.”

Sabah grit her teeth and then slowly nodded. “I don’t know for right now… but you also said that it would reduce the chance I can be controlled, right?”

I nodded back. “Yes, I can control what goes through my portals. I limited what sensations can come through the portal to be only slightly above normal so we can’t be controlled as easily by spiking the signals higher and overwhelming us. That isn’t to say your body can’t be puppeted but that is a separate power.” I smirked, “So far, the only time I turn it all the way back up is when we are relaxing in our home.” I glanced at Taylor and Amy and the three older women seemed to get what I was hinting at and blushed. I finished by explaining. “The only thing I know about Ahri for certain is that she is looking for where she comes from.”

Looking at Dinah she nodded and answered. “Chances she can find where she comes from, 13%. Chances where she came from were destroyed, 42%.” She paused for a moment. “Chances she could learn more about beings like her if she came with us, 71%. Chances she would be happy with us, 86%”

I turned back to the group. “I guess that would explain why her percentage was so high.” Turning to Dinah “I haven’t been asking you about happiness recently. I actually have been thinking about that. I want you to ask for people we are about to recruit, but I don’t think it is worth asking about everyone because most people will be happy with a home and friends eventually. Better to ask if they would be a good fit with us first, I think.”

Dinah nodded and the rest of us looked back at the computer screen.

Amy looked at the picture of the fox girl before turning to me and simply nodding. “Why don’t you prepare a way to protect our souls, and Dinah will try to determine how to find her? She sounds powerful, kind, and at least a little smart so unless anyone has any suggestions we might as well ask to join us.”

Shaking my head, I got up and looked around. “Why don’t you four clean up a bit as well? When you are done with that, Sabah and Dinah, why don’t you show Amy and Taylor how to work the TV and movie selection.”

Dinah’s smile grew instantly and she got up and bounced towards the TV. Taylor and Amy were a little amused as they followed, while Sabah looked slightly torn. I turned off the gaming computer, but before I could ask what was up, Sabah turned and followed the girls onto the sofa.

Sighing, I turned away. I wanted to find a large vault as well that I could steal from the city and attach to our pocket dimension. I just wouldn’t make any doors into the fault so the only way in was through one of my portals. Annoying at times, but it was the only secure way I could think of for housing our phylacteries with a soul-eating fox.

After a moment longer, I opened another portal outside to look around in the slums at the edge of town. I also should find one or two rapists or murderers. One to feed Ahri if she was starving and the other to pop us away if we needed it. Best to keep our supply of emergency souls stocked up after all.

Interlude Taylor:

Taylor frowned as she went out to pick up the local equivalent of sandwiches again from town.

Life had become so different since she had come here. Since she left with Max.

A small part of her still occasionally woke up in a sweat, believing she was still back in that locker. Small, alone, helpless.

Still, she couldn’t help wondering, would Max leave her once he found someone better and prettier than her?

She missed her Dad.

No, she missed who he used to be.

She really missed her Mom.

Getting up, she walked towards Max’s room. He had gone to bed late because he was working on getting them closer to Ahri. He would probably like someone to sleep with even if he was already asleep, right?

She felt pathetic as she climbed into bed, but as she heard his breathing, she felt her pounding heart start to slow.

Maybe she would talk to him in the morning about going home. Or maybe she should talk about where to go next. She just needed to talk with him tomorrow… or maybe the day after that.

Chapter 11: Chapter 11: Runeterra - Inviting the Fox into the Hen House

Notes:

Merry Christmas,
Double release time! (I wish I could schedule updates like I can on RR)

Chapter Text

I sighed as I moved my portal towards where Dinah said our target would be. Honestly, this type of travel was both incredibly nice and insanely tedious. I could portal to anywhere I had been before within my range or if I had a few moments to visualize but the instantaneous range was still only up to about 20 miles for now. I wanted to remind myself that that was impressive and with Taylor’s ability to sense everything within a mile we were pretty much impossible to sneak up on in the traditional sense… for a normal human. The problem was, most of the threats we were worried about weren’t normal.

Still, back to the problem of traveling, my portals were still limited to moving away from me at about 100 miles per hour and while that was fast, it wasn’t actually all that fast. Apparently it was about 4 times faster than a trotting horse and only twice that of galloping one. So when it came time to travel to places hundreds of miles away I had to sit and concentrate on what I was doing… for hours or even days at a time while doing very little other stuff.

The only upside was I could do it from within my pocket dimension. So I hadn’t actually moved the pocket dimension which allowed the girls to go out and explore the city a little as long as they were careful since it was obvious we stood out. I had considered breaking into some wealthy merchant’s home to steal clothes, but I had decided against it from the looks of the rest of the girls. Instead I had Amy grab some fruit and grow the trees out of town. They were then selling the fruit for money to buy what they wanted. I had mostly done this to prove how annoying it was to try to build up from nothing in a new world. The problem for my lesson was Amy was actually enjoying the experience of working with the new biology.

Still, that ended on the second day when the girls were nearly robbed and they tracked the thief down and confiscated enough money to make the fruit trees redundant. I also suspected that the rest of the girls had gotten tired of collecting fruit and hauling it to town even with my help.

Sighing, I leaned back on the sofa and pushed the portal while only half paying attention to the Disney movie we were watching or Taylor’s legs I was stroking. She had put them in my lap for a foot massage after Sabah admitted that it felt nice when I teased her. I had rubbed Taylor's surprisingly delicate feet for a while before I simply let go and let my hands wander her calves.

I needed to consider how we were going to get stronger. These last two worlds had proven my assumption that Earth Bet had been uniquely easy to find companions in. That world was dying and was going to hurt the three women I had recruited directly and harshly. Meanwhile, the worlds we were going to be visiting now wouldn’t be nearly as bad and so we wouldn’t have nearly as easy a time recruiting anyone.

Then again maybe I needed to find power first. I would be able to do more to help people if I was stronger. It would also make the pool of worlds I would be willing to visit larger as well. Yes there was the bonus that more grateful women would be more likely to join me, but after some reflection I was much less focused on finding girls when I had two women who were moderately happy to jump into bed with me. Maybe I just wasn’t desperate… or maybe I was less lonely now. Why was I lonely, who was I missing?

I frowned, I needed to focus, we weren’t safe yet. We really did need battle training and magic defenses. Ironically heading for some of the better known worlds would give me that training, but those worlds also made me worried. My Hero Academia was perhaps the top of the list for teaching us to fight and there were quite a few incredible girls there. The problem was both that the school was strictly non-lethal and diving into class 1A would see us caught up with the insanity of a shonen protagonist. So as much as I wanted to see it, maybe I should wait until we had more power for that one as well.

The second option off the top of my head for a battle school was an anime that I had only watched the first season of. It was cool, but I wouldn’t really want to end up in the world around the Irregular at Magic High School. In fact, unless we gained a lot more power soon, then I would instantly pop hookwolf if we showed up there, both because the really cool abilities all seemed to be bloodline derived and because the world was on the precipice of war. Thinking about it a little more, I didn’t remember anything that would lead me to think that they would be able to detect my pocket dimension directly, but it would be both be hard to get into a school with that much government involvement and because I would probably be captured and experimented on the moment they found out about my portals. Probably for Amy’s biokinetics as well, let alone what they would do for Dinah’s precog abilities. Taylor and Sabah were probably the only ones moderately safe there.

The final battle school I could think of was from the world of Remnant from RWBY. I actually really wanted to visit the world. It was almost a no-brainer once I didn’t think we would instantly be killed upon arrival. It was undoubtedly a Death World, but it was something that we could actually do something about if we could just somehow get a drop on Cinder before she attacked Beacon Academy. It also had the side benefit of allowing us to save one of the girls I would love to have with me, Pyrrha Nikos. Even better if I could convince Cinder to switch sides again since she had her own terrible backstory and I was really starting to like the idea of redeeming people. However, if we couldn’t then she absolutely had to die. Thinking back on the other options, I also wouldn’t mind bringing Ruby or Blake with us, but I suspected that both of them wouldn’t leave without addressing the grim and the white fang respectively. The rest of the cast needed a lot of work for my taste with quite a few being either naive or juvenile. And yes, I was making the distinction between the two. It was why I wasn’t considering Yang unless she gained control of her temper or Weiss before she learned to control her mouth.

I sighed and brought myself back to look through the portal and blinked. We appeared to be roughly where Dinah had pointed me towards, but as I was about to look around a bit I found a tiny village that looked strange. The village had about 10 houses. Two of which were burnt down. Next to that I made out a cage made of wooden poles sharpened at the top surrounding about 20 people. I narrowed my eyes when I saw what looked like obvious bandits. I actually couldn’t think of anything that might have been more stereotypical bandit than the piece-meal armor and slightly rusty swords they had, but as I watched I noticed two of them saluting as they took orders from what seemed to be the captain.

I sighed. Well, that made things more difficult. "Hey Girls… can you come in here for a moment? We might have a problem."

Taylor didn't quite run, but it was clear she had dropped just about everything to get here quickly. Behind her Amy arrived frowning, game face on. After that Sabah and Dinah walked in cautiously.

Taylor was the one who spoke first. "What is wrong? Did something happen?"

Shaking my head I sighed. "Not to us, but it seems that bandits of some type or other have pillaged this village."

I could hear the buzzing as Taylor pushed her annoyance into the swarm. "So we are going to take them out."

Holding my hand out I gestured her to sit down and after a moment she complied. Sighing internally I spoke calmly as the other girls followed Taylor's lead and sat down. "Ok, two things are strange or at least worth considering. The first is that this should be close to where we are expecting Ahri. The second is that I noticed that the group is acting a little strange for simple thugs and bandits. I don’t know, but it is starting to give me a bad feeling. It wouldn’t be the first time someone used banditry for a false flag operation somewhere else. The problem is that if they are mercenaries with another country's unofficial approval and backing, then that makes this slightly more tricky.”

Dinah sighed and after a moment she responded. “12% the bandits are random thugs. 42% they are a rogue military company. 72% the bandits are mercenaries being paid by another country.”

Proud for spotting it I hummed to myself. I leaned back to stare at the ceiling for a moment before I sat back up and turned to Dinah. “Are they here for Ahri?”

Dinah blinked. “97% chance the mercenary group is attempting to capture or kill Ahri.”

Sighing, I rubbed my head, but it was Taylor who spoke up next. “Why would it matter that they are after Ahri?”

Turning to her I made sure to blank my face to ensure Taylor didn’t take it the wrong way. However, this was the problem with Taylor in her story. She always took care of the problem with minimal support and resources. To the point it was incredible. However she often got wrapped up in the here and now and rarely thought far enough ahead for the social and tactical implications. Then again, she was still only a 16 year old. Speaking carefully I tried to look like I was thinking it over. “You are right. Unless some of them realize what we are doing and have either magic or some sort of pesticide, then your bugs could probably wipe out the entire camp easily. Really, with Amy’s help, I would say that you two are the perfect answer to baseline human crowd control. The problem I am seeing is the aftermath. What happens to the villagers when the next band of mercenaries comes through looking for Ahri’s trail?” I could see Taylor wilt slightly and I tried not to sigh at her lack of self-confidence and I continued. “Really, I am pretty sure we are going to have you take them out, I just want you to plan what happens afterwards.”

Taylor seemed to brighten slightly at that and then her face smoothed out. After a moment, she looked at me again and spoke. “What if we moved them to another location so they aren’t bothered anymore?”

I nodded. “That is the easiest answer, but even if several of their loved ones were killed in the attack, people are rarely very logical and might be attached enough to this land to stay regardless. So while I think we will offer that first, we will need a backup plan.”

Taylor paused for a moment before turning to Amy. “Could we do something to make them forget the village was here?”

Amy thought for a moment before she shook her head. “No, I don’t think we could. They have been here too long and making them forget the location but remember their mission and what happened would be extremely complex. It would also do nothing to any letters or messages they already sent back to whoever is organizing them.”

Dinah narrowed her eyes and spoke up next. “What are we missing?”

I smiled. “I actually think the best option is that we make contact with Ahri. The fox woman has 4 abilities. One is eating souls, another is charming her target, another is superhuman strength although I don’t know how it compares to ours, but the final is the power of illusions. Really the illusions are probably her most powerful ability. If we can get her on our side then we can work together and convince the mercenaries that the villagers are dead and Ahri either left or was killed, then they would leave and not come back. We can even make this more effective if Amy makes them more suggestable somehow. Maybe something similar to what you used on Gon and Kurapika in the hunter exam. Regardless, the mercenaries would have no reason to come back and would report as much to any superiors.”

Dinah turned towards the portal and started pointing and murmuring. It took a solid minute where Dinah started to look more and more tired, but after a moment longer she pointed towards a heavily wooded hill. “95% chance you will be able to find Ahri if you go there and search.” After that announcement she slumped and I jumped up to catch the small girl and put her down on the sofa.

Looking at the other three I sighed. “Well, I guess we had best get started. Sabah, will you be joining us?”

Sabah sighed and looked back and forth for a moment before she looked at me. “I don’t think it is the best idea for me to go with you. I know Amy hasn’t given me the same modifications as the rest of you yet. And…” She paused for a moment longer before turning away from me and speaking much quieter. “I know I am not as pretty as the others, but I think I might want to join you if you will have me.”

I had to hold myself still. I didn’t want to scare the poor girl right when she had finally tentatively agreed to join us. Even now I could see her eying Amy and Taylor out of the corner of her eye. That didn’t really bother me. As I had even told the girls. I really didn’t mind my wives enjoying each other without me as long as they all understood they were all sister wives and there wasn’t any hostility or infighting. However, noting that Sabah probably wouldn’t be happy to be reminded of that, I didn't say anything on the subject and just nodded and smiled.

Letting my smile widen as I noticed Amy’s interest, I nodded to Sabah who seemed to relax a bit more. Addressing Sabah, I gestured to Dinah. “Why don’t you relax here and watch over Dinah. Amy, why don’t you stay with her and start making any cosmetic modifications that Sabah wants. I will be back in a few hours to tie your soul to ours and we will be done.” Looking at Sabah as she smiled at Amy then tensed as I mentioned the binding, I bit back another internal sigh. “Sabah, I am not going to expect intimacy today, or even this month. I want you to choose to be with us.” Turning to Taylor I continued. “Taylor, you are with me. I don’t think it would be possible to find Ahri without your senses.”

As I moved the portal down to the treeline and stepped through followed by Taylor I closed the portal to sound to our home, but left it open behind us. Once we were far enough that no one should be able to see us through the trees I turned to Taylor and gave a small smirk. “Would you be kind enough to let me know if there is anything I should know from Amy and Sabah’s discussion.”

Taylor looked at me and then after a moment nodded.

As we trudged through the forest I kept my voice relatively low as I called out. “Ahri, Ahri, could we talk. We are here to make you an offer to help you. We have no desire to hurt you in any way.”

I repeated that explanation for several minutes as we walked through the forest. As I took a breath I saw Taylor stiffen and paused. She shook her head and so I continued my speech.

After another half an hour the two of us found a fallen tree and sat down to rest for a few minutes and Taylor spoke up. “We might have been followed a few times, but she keeps running off. Maybe to check if we are tracking her somehow, but I don’t know.”

Looking at me again she smirked. “Also, Sabah has asked if Amy would kiss her and Amy declined until she is bonded.”

I smirked back. “I will have to find a way to reward Amy now won’t I?”

Taylor rolled her eyes, but her smile got bigger. “Amy still agreed to join the two of you when she finally joins you in bed. Sabah flushed and left to go read in her room.” Her eyes got a bit more mischievous, “It is a bodice ripper.”

Rolling my eyes back I sighed. “She really shouldn’t assume those are accurate portrayals of sex. Then again I am not sure if she ever dated anyone. If she wasn’t attracted to men and didn’t want to date women with the E88 Neo-nazis around, then she might not have experience. Especially as an Arabic immigrant surrounded by racist whites, asians, and blacks, since everyone in that town seemed to hate each other.”

Taylor nodded. I reached through another portal and grabbed a few of the sandwich-like things we had bought in the city. Handing one to Taylor I paused and then grabbed two more. I put them on the plate next to me but didn’t say anything as Taylor raised her eyebrow. She seemed to realize that I was trying to lure out Ahri with food and smirked.

It was nearly an hour later that we got up and left. I had decided to leave the food on the tree trunk with Taylor keeping watch as we circled the area. Plus she would be able to keep the bugs away long enough for Ahri to actually try it if she wanted it.

Just as I had hoped a few minutes later Taylor startled a bit before turning slightly back towards the food. “Someone ate the food, but I didn’t even see her arrive. Her illusions are very good and bugs don’t seem to like touching her. Then again, bugs don’t have the best senses.”

I hummed to myself. “She might actually have some sort of minor life drain going on. We know she can eat human souls, but it doesn’t mean that she can’t drain lesser creatures as well.”

Taylor seemed to hum for a moment longer before she nodded and the two of us continued our walk. We had been making a sort of figure 8 through the forest but without following the exact same path each time.

Turning towards Taylor I was about to suggest this would be the final 30 minute lap when I saw what could only be Ahri out of the corner of my eye. As I turned I felt myself being pulled toward the fox woman. I could still think, but it was hard. I wondered for a moment who was stronger, Heartbreaker or Ahri before I shook off her charm and smiled holding my hands up. “Hello, Ahri. We have been looking for you to make you an offer of friendship or more depending on what you want.”

Taylor had stopped a few feet behind me and I knew she was preparing for battle, but that was probably a good thing. I also noticed she had grabbed one of the 9mm pistols from the gangs we robbed, but it was a bit of a last resort since we didn’t want to fire it with all the mercenaries around us.

Ahri, was a middle sized woman with large D cup breasts, long black hair and a foxy pointed nose. She didn’t have whiskers or anything, but I could tell already her teeth were somewhat pointed and her two cat-like ears were already twitching on the top of her head. She was wearing something approaching a forest green dress with a modest v cut to show off some cleavage. The dress went down to her ankles and she was wearing sandals. Behind her I noticed she had allowed her nine fox tails to show, waiving a mesmerizing pattern behind her. A part of me was confused as to why she wasn’t wearing a kimono, but after a moment I realized that I shouldn’t have expected that. If she was mostly hiding then she would be wearing something close to what the people around her were wearing. Internally I swore to get her a sexy kimono as soon as I could. She probably wouldn’t even need her charm ability while wearing something like that.

My internal musing was broken when she finally spoke. “What do you want exactly? And how can you help?”

I took a deep breath before gesturing towards the town. I had actually lost the exact direction, but I knew it was roughly towards the setting sun regardless. “First, I want you to know I am always completely honest with people I am trying to recruit. Second, I want to recruit you because of the rumors I have heard about you. They say you are a kind, but powerful fox maiden who can create illusions, charm men, and eat souls of those who deserve it.”

I watched as Ahri tensed, ears flicking as I mentioned souls, but when I didn’t do anything else she relaxed slightly so I continued. “Next, my group tries to help good people around us, but you should know we aren’t against killing or doing worse to those who deserve it. We are planning on dealing with the bandits in the village with or without your help, but we would prefer you to join us.”

Ahri frowned and seemed to think for a while, but then nodded and I smiled internally. “The final two things you should know is I am actually a Soul and Dimension mage, yes those things are connected, and I am traveling between worlds to both help even more people and find women who would like to join me as my friends and wives. One of these girls is a girl who can predict the future and she predicted that you would both be happy and have a better chance finding out more about yourself in different worlds with us than all alone on this one.”

Ahri stood up straight at that and blinked multiple times before frowning and narrowing her eyes. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to test the truthfulness of my words, but after a moment she spoke. “Why can’t I sense your soul? I want to be able to feel it if I am going to trust you.”

My mind raced as I tried to determine if it was worth bringing more of my soul out. I could do it easily through my own personal portal, but it would make me much more vulnerable to her charm and at some point, if she chose to eat my soul, I wasn't sure I would recover. I suspected I might still regenerate eventually having being tied to three others, but it would take a long time and the girls needed me now, not months from now.

Pulling a bit more through my portal I looked Ahri in the eye again. “This is all I will show you until we can trust you more. You are somewhat uniquely dangerous to us despite all of my defenses. However, from what I have heard about you, you are a good person. So I will offer again for you to join us as friends for now and maybe more later. In the end, I can’t promise happiness constantly, but we can promise to try, keep you fed, and give you a family that you won’t outlive.”

Ahri hummed for a moment before turning to me. “And how would you feed me?”

I tilted my head. “That depends a little on you. I know you have eaten souls before and gotten their memories.” Ahri nodded so I continued. “I assume you then have a problem when eating because evil people give you horrible memories, but you don’t want to eat good people.”

Ahri stared at me before nodding and I smiled. “Then yes, I can absolutely help you. Between my wife who can mold flesh and myself who can mold souls, we are trying to learn to redeem souls who deserve a second chance. Our best hope is to remove trauma and memories of their bad habits and decisions. If we can do that for those who are rotten to the core, then you will have a guilt free source of food. Additionally, with your permission, we might even be able to modify your body and soul to either no longer require souls to function or make the souls last much much longer.”

Ahri looked at us wide eyed and I smiled back. Turning away from her I pointed towards the village. “While you consider that. Do you mind if I ask you what is happening with the village?”

Ahri actually snarled at the question and Taylor tensed but Ahri wasn’t even looking towards us at this point. “Those pigs know I can eat souls and are trying to tempt me by killing the villagers each evening. They have already killed two men, Thomas and Milton.” Her growl intensified and I blinked. “A few of them have also been enjoying some of the younger girls.”

Taylor turned to stare directly towards the village and had narrowed her eyes. Internally, I realized that most of the men had essentially just signed their own death warrants.

Turning towards Ahri I questioned. “What was your plan?”

She sighed and slumped. “They know my charm abilities are limited to about 20 yards and fairly short lived and my illusions are visual only and moderately short ranged. So they keep one person holding on to the victim while being surrounded by archers. I tried to grab Thomas when they stabbed him, but I had to flee as he bled out due to all the arrows. So I have been trying to pick off some of the guards as they patrol around.” She slumped a bit at that and I blinked before she continued. “I have gotten four, but there are 28 more and they now don’t leave in groups smaller than three.”

I sighed and rubbed my head, thinking. “When are they going to kill the next one?”

Ahri looked up at the sky and frowned. “Probably in an hour or so.”

Thinking quickly I opened the portal to Amy and the rest and gestured towards Ahri. Ahri had obviously jumped back slightly, but as I spoke calmly Ahri relaxed after a few moments. “Amy meet Ahri, Ahri meet Amy. Now Amy, would you be able to prepare a body we can swap one of the villagers for when he is grabbed and would you be able to puppet it if I keep a portal against its skin? An hour isn’t long enough to make any good long term plans, but I am not about to let another die to buy us time.”

Ahri blinked, then blinked again before her eyes widened considering what Amy was able to do, but it was Amy that spoke up. “Yes, I could if I had some flesh to make it out of. I wouldn’t have time to make the body out of the trees here.”

Ahri spoke up then. “There are some boars just south of here. If I brought those to you, would that work?”

Amy nodded. “Yes, that would work great. Even better if they are still alive and mostly unharmed.”

Ahri turned to leave and I spoke up quickly. “Ahri, we are going back into our pocket dimension. You won’t be able to see us, but we will see you once you return to this clearing. Once you are back we can make contact with the village.”

Nodding Ahri dashed out of the clearing and I turned and walked back into our house. Sighing I brushed myself off before flopping back into our sofa with Taylor following suit. Turning to Sabah I raised my eyebrow. “What did you decide?”

Sabah stiffened but then after a moment of indecision she looked me in the eye and nodded. “As long as you promise to not mistreat us I will join you.”

I smiled and stood up before walking over to Sabah and pulling her into a hug. “I am glad you want to join us. Please do not worry. I truly do want my wives to be happy. I have never lied to any of you. You will note I haven’t even lied to Ahri at any point despite just meeting her. I might have said this before, but with a precog and a biokinetic as a future wife and current wife respectively I can’t lie and have it stay a lie for long.”

Sabah took a shuddering breath in and then out before nodding so I continued. “Also, you have already realized it, but while I enjoy intimacy with my wives, it isn’t like they are chained to a bed 24/7. I want them to improve themselves, learn, have hobbies and I will want the same thing for you.”

Once again Sabah nodded so I pulled her towards the sofa and laid her down with her head in my lap and her legs across Amy’s. Internally I had debated doing the opposite, but I wanted to make it clear that she was joining me, not Amy, even if Amy was clearly a deciding factor. Regardless, I opened up a portal to our joint phylactery and put my hand on Sabah’s stomach. It actually took only about 30 minutes. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was getting a little faster, Sabah’s metaphorical power size, or because I had her soul had better bonded with her power over the last two weeks.

Regardless when I was done I pulled Sabah up and hugged her before giving her a long but simple kiss on her lips. She obviously stiffened when I started but after a few moments she relaxed in my arms and slowly put her arms around my waist. Peaking my eyes open I noticed that Amy had her leg still touching Sabah and I smirked internally. Amy and Taylor really were becoming excellent wing women. Then again Amy might have been trying for her own sake since Sabah was someone who might go all the way with her since Taylor wouldn’t.

Putting those thoughts aside I pulled away from Sabah and smiled. “Welcome to the family, Sabah.” Then I turned her towards the three other girls who each hugged her before Amy smirked and kissed her too.

Sabah swayed for a moment before she once again put her arms around Amy and I had to clear my throat before the two did anymore here. “I said you could enjoy each other, but the living room in front of Dinah while we are waiting for Ahri to return is not the time nor place.”

Sabah nearly jumped away but Amy simply smirked. I smirked back then got serious. “I don’t think we need to worry about Ahri attacking us, but I think we should get prepared regardless just in case.”

After a few more minutes without seeing Ahri, I frowned and looked at the darkening sky again. We were running out of time. As much as I wanted to have Ahri to vouch for me, it would be better not to wait too long and risk losing another villager.

Portaling down into the middle of the cage I looked around until I found the man I assumed to be the current leader. He was dressed slightly better than the rest, but had been beaten quite a bit. I had forgotten to ask if the villagers knew Ahri by a different name or if there were any that didn’t like her, but nothing about that I could do now. “Sir, don’t react.” He still jerked a little, but the guards outside the stockade didn’t as much as twitch. “This is just a spell for me to talk to you. We are here to help and Ahri has joined us.”

The man startled again and then slowly nodded. His voice was quite raspy, but still understandable. “I understand, young man.”

Opening the portal a little wider so he could see me a little I asked. “Do you know who they will pick to be the next sacrifice to try to lure out Ahri?”

The older man nodded and pointed towards a younger man next to him, probably about 17. Looking at Amy I opened up a portal next to the boy and let Amy touch him. The boy jumped, but at the look of the town elder he didn’t say anything.

As Amy memorized the basics of the boy’s biology I noticed that Ahri was back in the clearing. Opening up a portal so that Ahri could bring the boar into the house I looked towards Taylor and flicked my gauze for her to watch Ahri. With Sabah fully joining us and our Phylactery safe and Lung’s vase secure she probably couldn't completely cripple us, but I didn’t want Ahri downstairs with Bakuda, Squealer, or our back up soul jumps. I wanted to trust her, but better safe than sorry.

Ahri meanwhile was obviously somewhat impressed by the house. Runeterra wasn’t exactly middle ages, but the rural areas were probably not as nice as the modern upper middle class mansion this was.

Amy next reached out and touched the boar. Then before our eyes the boar started to warp and twist. As we watched and in only about 15 minutes a new boy more or less identical to the young man in the cage, was sitting in a kitchen chair. Turning to Ahri I pointed to the portal to the cage. “Ahri, you are going to create an illusion that he is still sitting there and we are going to have him give his clothes to the body double. After that we are going to have him hide in the forest.”

Ahri shook her head. “Why don’t you have him hide in my cave and why don’t we get everyone right now?”

I blinked. “First I didn’t know you had a cave that the villagers could retreat to.”

She shrugged. “I needed somewhere to sleep now that I couldn’t stay in Emmath’s second bedroom.”

Agreeing, I spoke so both the village leader and the rest of the villagers could hear while wrapping the area in a portal that blocked sound, but as little light as possible. It still looked like glass, but it was better than nothing. “Because we want a plan that makes sure no one else is going to bother you. The first option is that we prepare body doubles that die for each of you so the mercenaries here or anyone else don’t look for you after we leave. The easiest way is by disease. The problem is they might burn the village to the ground if they are worried about a plague. Alternatively we can grab everything we can and transport you away from this village so you can start over somewhere else. We might even be able to steal some of the mercenary’s supplies. That lets us fight back since you won’t be here anymore for a retaliatory strike. Final option is that we can try to have Ahri lead them away but we might still need those body doubles since I am not sure they would leave you all alive. They might also ransack the rest of the village if they assumed you were all dead” The village leader looked overwhelmed so I tried to close the conversation for now. “I can leave you so you can discuss it. Just let us know tonight. Careful, I am pulling away my screen keeping the guards from hearing us. You will have to whisper.”

The villagers indeed began to whisper to each other and the village chief had to warn them multiple times before it calmed down. The boy we had replaced relaxed slightly in Ahri’s cave and the body double looked to be sleeping. Ahri had wondered why I wouldn’t just bring the boy into our house before I pointed out that I wasn’t going to do that for people who weren’t going to be joining us and I didn’t know anything about these people. I was making an exception for her since I was trying to seduce her. Ahri blushed at that and I smirked. “Don’t worry, I am not forcing you, so while the invitation is still open and we would love to have you, you are here because we need to trust each other while we help this village.”

It took another half hour before the fake boy was dragged out, silently weeping, as Amy puppeted him from under his shirt. I grit my teeth as the bastards slit his throat shallowly so he would slowly bleed out with his hands bound behind him tied to a stake in the ground.

Looking at the other girls who were equally shocked by the cruelty I gestured towards Taylor. “Ok, if the villagers decide to leave the village, then we aren’t leaving any survivors. Just let us grab a few to take with us for jumps.” Then looking at Ahri I smirked. “Or maybe I am going to rip their souls out and leave them as snacks for Ahri to eat when she is bored.”

The girls all smirked at that, even Ahri. A small part of me wondered if we were getting too bloodthirsty, but watching the puppet slowly die I shook my head and started planning.

It turned out that several of the women had been raped in their own homes and didn’t want to be reminded of what happened by staying here. The village’s fields hadn't been planted yet and so the only thing they needed to move were their sheep. However, quite a few of the sheep had already been killed and eaten by the mercenaries. That disheartened the villagers more, but I was pretty sure they could rebuild if given time.

My plan came together fairly easily. Amy would double check Taylor’s sleep wasps and then Taylor would hit all of the grunts at the same time.

Ahri had warned that the leader was heavily trained and might hear the wasp coming so Amy created a sleeping gas directly and slowly drafted the gas into the house he had commandeered. An hour later the villagers were freed and the mercenaries were rounded up.

I still didn’t want anyone to try to track down Ahri or these villagers, so we picked two who hadn’t raped or participated in the killing directly. Ahri created an illusion and woke them up. In their eyes the village was in flames and Ahri was walking towards them, obviously furious, but also obviously mortally wounded. There was a sword going through her chest and her clothes looked like they were covered in blood. The two then noticed the bodies of their comrades torn up behind her and instantly fled through the forest. Once Dinah confirmed they wouldn’t return and would tell everyone Ahri was dead we returned to work on cleaning up the rest.

However, I was slightly annoyed to find that 8 of the 26 remaining soldiers were now dead. The village women had found their rapists and killed them. I didn’t exactly have time to try to modify their memories but Ahri ate the 5 of them that had died slowly enough for her to grab the souls before they dissipated to wherever souls go. She seemed a little vindictive as she ate, only grimacing slightly.

That night, Ahri spent time with the village as they cleaned up and gathered their belongings along with everything else the mercenaries left.

Finally, I opened up a portal next to the bodies and began to rip each of the souls out of their bodies and put them into some small ceramic mugs. The low quality ceramic would probably cause issues to the stability of the soul vessels in the long run, but I didn’t really care too much. I suspected that they would be fine for the next year or so and that is all I would need to feed Ahri while we tried to help her.

On that thought, I looked at Ahri and smiled before I gestured for her to walk with me as I headed towards the forest. The rest of the girls had been helping out with the villagers and were being thanked repeatedly. Taylor looked embarrassed but slightly proud. Dinah and Sabah just looked embarrassed, but neither had done much of the fighting and so were mostly just helping clean up. I would have to talk to them to remind them that Dinah had helped with planning and Sabah was now helping with collecting belongings. Sabah’s telekinesis was actually extremely useful here. While she couldn’t lift any item that weighed more than 2 pounds, her limit was around 100 individual items within a 10 meter radius so she could pack almost everything in a house in only a few minutes. Amy was obviously used to the thanks, but she looked somewhat content as she poked each of the villagers in turn and healed them. Maybe she was enjoying healing now that people didn’t expect her to do it constantly.

Turning back to Ahri, I waited for a moment to collect my thoughts, but it was Ahri to first break the silence. “What are you going to do next?”

I smiled. “I am going to invite you to join us.”

Ahri sighed. “Once you leave her.”

I smiled and hummed in affirmation. “In all seriousness, we want to be trained by Irelia, the blade dancer. After that we will probably move on to another reality. The girls and I are very interested in getting access to magic. The magic here is very volatile and dangerous so we will probably learn from the Harry Potter Universe.” At Ahri’s tilted head. “Ah, sorry, I should have explained this before now, but saving the village was more important. When I portal us away I can easily portal us to anywhere in this world with enough time, but if I use a soul as fuel I can portal us to another world entirely. Sometimes seers of sorts are able to see these other worlds and write them down as fiction so we know what some of these worlds are like. I hope to aim for one of these in particular or at least something like it. The world I mentioned is a moderately advanced and a moderately peaceful world for the time being, but if we don’t help it will go through another civil war.”

Ahri seemed to consider something before she continued. “Will you stop there?” She then paused. “And was I in this fiction you speak of?”

I paused in turn trying to understand before I realized she probably still wanted to know where she came from and I shook my head. “No, not permanently. We want to learn as much magic as possible, but we are traveling to both get stronger and to see everything the multiverse has to offer. That isn’t to say that we won’t take breaks. While we might even stop in a world for a hundred years or more and raise children there, I think we will eventually move on. I don’t plan on letting us die of old age. Plus, I like the idea of seeing as much as we can while helping out whoever we find.”

Turning towards Ahri I shrugged before I continued. “Plus I would be happy to try to figure out how to learn more about where you come from. Dinah says you don’t have much chance of learning on this version of Runeterra, but you will learn more if you travel with us even if it wasn't exactly the world and people you came from.” Then I sighed. “And yes, as weird as it sounds, we have stories of at least one of your lives in Runeterra, but not as many details as most.”

Ahri seemed to slump before she turned to look out into the sky. After several minutes where I just waited she turned to me. Looking me in my eye she frowned before slowly. I watched as several different emotions crossed her face before she started to smile. “Well then, Max was it? Would you mind if I traveled with you for a while? I am not ready to commit yet, but I think I might be… interested. This offer is much more interesting that most options I have considered before”

Making sure not to look too smug I simply reached forward and slowly hugged the woman. Ahri stiffened, but relaxed as I spoke. “We would be happy to have you join the family, but you will be welcome until you make the decision. In the meantime why don’t you spend time with your friends here. We will be moving on soon and I think they want to talk to you before that.”

Ahri had been a little nervous around the villagers, obviously afraid they would blame her, but as I watched them start to talk with her again she relaxed. A few had avoided her, but they didn’t look angry, just sad. That was as good as it was probably going to get.

Once she was gone I portaled into our pocket home. I really could use some better protections for our necklace Phylactery while I had time. It was also probably time that we made a better setup for Squealer and Bakuda along with our backup bodies. Maybe we could even freeze them. It would free Amy up from needing to keep them alive since they were always slowly dying without a soul attached. I would have to talk to Amy about it.

Interlude Ahri:

Ahri sighed. This entire thing was insane. Ten years ago she was living with a pack of arctic fox demi-humans. A year ago she was fighting for her life. A week ago she was living at the edge of town hoping that everyone would just forget about her, doing odd jobs in the forest for a little bit of extra cash. Yesterday she was fighting for her life again, picking off the men she could, hoping they didn’t just kill the rest of the villagers in revenge.

Now she was sitting in what she had been told was a modern kitchen with more food than she knew what to do with and the promise of help getting the occasional evil soul without memories she could eat.

Yeah, it was a little strange that the male was offering to mate with her so directly, but foxes were often almost as blunt.

Still he was offering just about everything she ever wanted. Family, knowledge of her past, and the food she needed. It really did seem too good to be true, but he hadn’t asked for anything… yet.

No, she really didn’t consider the request to mate equivalent to what he was offering, but it was still strange.

She sighed as she moved towards her new room. Looking around she hummed It was simple, but quite nice, if a little empty for now. However, the darker skinned one… Sabah, she reminded herself, was going make her clothes as well. She even looked excited at the thought.

This all was craziness. Still, unless they were hiding something in the basem*nt she wasn’t allowed to enter just yet, she would be a fool to pass this up before finding out more.

Chapter 12: Chapter 12: Runeterra - Running Errands, Getting Instruction

Notes:

Chapter 12:

A little short, but it wraps up the Runeterra arc
I will see if I can get another double upload for Jan 1st, but it is a little unlikely.

Chapter Text

Getting the villagers setup in a new valley closer to Irelia’s region wasn’t especially hard, but it did take several days. I actually portaled over several houses directly so only the burnt out houses and the ones they didn’t want to keep were left behind. We burnt down the rest of the village just in case anyone came looking and even left a body double for Ahri and the villagers even if it did nearly wipe out the nearby boar population.

Regardless, as we climbed up to Irelia’s manor at the edge of the Navori province. We had investigated her past here and it was more or less what we had got from the game info. Her family was killed. She awakened her powers, led a guerrilla campaign and took her home back from the invaders. Then became an advisor when needed from then on. Apparently she does occasionally teach, but mostly people visit to watch her and her blade dances.

As we walked up to the manor house at the top of the hill I had to suppress my glee at seeing the closest thing I had yet seen to a cultivator. I was not disappointed initially. She was beautiful. She was already dancing and the blades were following her in a mesmerizing weaving pattern. However, I noticed immediately her soul didn’t seem to be as strong as I would have expected her to be. She was also a little older than I expected.

The six of us waited and watched for nearly an hour before she stopped and slowly stretched before returning towards her home. Glancing at the others I shrugged and we slowly followed her towards her house’s entrance and stopped before the door. I thought about knocking, but before I could do anything I heard a soft but firm voice. “Come in and tell me why you have decided to bother me.”

Hiding my wince, the six of us walked in while taking off our shoes. I had to admit that even though we had the same rule in our pocket home, it was a little nerve racking doing it here in this stranger’s house.

As we walked in we found Irelia sitting at a low sofa sipping something while staring at us. Gesturing she pointed towards another sofa across from her and I nodded before everyone except Ahri sat down. When Irelia raised her eyebrow Ahri simply smiled and pointed to her tail. “I apologize, but sofa’s likes these are not pleasant to sit on if you have a tail.”

Irelia simply nodded and turned towards me. Clearing my throat I smiled. “I wish to bring up three things if you are willing to listen, Madam Irelia, blade dancer.”

Ireliah snorted. “I am nearly 72 years old, boy, I am well past the point where you need to butter me up. I get enough of that from my two daughters and grandchildren.”

All of us blinked and I looked down the line. Everyone except Ahri looked shocked at the woman declaring she was older than everyone here combined except for Ahri with grandchildren to boot. She had some minor wrinkles, but if she was a normal woman I would have pegged her in her late 30s or early 40s.

Catching myself I chuckled. “Well, I have to say that your beauty does you justice. I wouldn’t have put you more than perhaps 35.”

Irelia snorted again, but I continued. “I don’t really care if you believe me, but I have to say that I find you simply breathtaking.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Amy smirk and Sabah subconsciously nod. Irelia simply waved her hand in dismissal. “Get on with your three requests.”

I sighed. “If you won’t listen to my compliment I am thankful that you are still willing to listen to my requests.” Sighing, I continued. “The first is that we would like to petition for some instruction in fighting, martial arts, anything you can teach us.”

Irelia slumped in obvious annoyance but I continued anyway. “We do not have a large amount of money, but the six of us have skills we would be more than happy to help you or the nearby town with.”

Irelia frowned but then waved her hand for me to continue. “I can open portals that allow materials or people to be moved anywhere within a day’s walk instantly, and even further if I prepare. Amy is probably the world’s greatest healer. Taylor can control bugs for about a mile. Sabah can create clothes and minor telekinesis. Dinah can predict events with incredible precision, but is limited in the number of questions she can ask. Ahri joined us recently, but has incredible illusionary skills. All of these skills can be used for anything you need while you are teaching us.”

Irelia’s eyebrows rose more and more as I continued my explanation. After several seconds of silence following my explanation she hummed. “Well, you are certainly more interesting than the normal rift raft that tries to get my attention.” She paused and tapped her lips. “I think that opening your services for two hours each day for me or our town would be sufficient. But that does make me curious what the other two items you would like to bring up are.”

I tried to smile reassuringly. “The second is just an extension of the first. We would like to try to copy your empowerment method more directly. I have heard of methods of combining life energy into the body to empower it, slow aging, and perform mystical abilities and I hope we can recreate it. Especially if Amy is able to inspect your body via her ability by holding your hand. In return she can cure you of any medical issues and even reverse aging temporarily. Although be aware it will resume when we leave.”

Irelia once again hummed. “I am not sure about that, but I will see as time goes forward. It is a big ask to give you all of my secrets, but it does make me curious what your third request would be.”

I smiled, but this time I tried to look sheepish. “The final thing relates to the other half of my ability. You see, I am also a soul mage in addition to a dimensional mage. So while I can open portals I can also move between worlds if I prepare correctly. I have also been able to tie my soul to this world along with all of my girls here except Ahri who is still deciding if she wishes to join us. So between Amy and I, we can not be killed by any normal means. This means we are mostly immortal and I am looking for women who are smart, kind, and powerful to be wives and travel through the universes together with me. From everything I have heard about you, you fill all three categories spectacularly.”

Irelia’s eyes widened and she finally sat up straight and narrowed her eyes. “What exactly are you doing to these girls?”

I scoffed but was inwardly nervous. “I have not done anything to Ahri and she knows I treat my wives carefully. I have also not touched Dinah or Sabah, yet and won’t until they are physically and emotionally ready respectively. Plus, Amy can tell if I am lying and Dinah can predict the future. Do you really think I have any secrets between us?”

Irelia started out tense, but slowly relaxed as I continued my speech. It was good she thought of the girl’s safety, but honestly in a straight fight I was the weakest one here except for Dinah and she would probably see it coming. “Fine, I will allow the first request. I will train you for 6 months, no more. You will help with your powers. If I like your effort I will allow Amy to examine me, but nothing else. I am not going to consider your third offer. I am here for my people and I won’t leave them.”

I winced internally. That was a much stronger rejection than I had hoped for, but it was probably what I could expect.

As we explained we didn’t need housing I was surprised when Irelia insisted we stay in her home. Maybe she wanted to keep an eye on us, but I suppose it wasn’t a big deal regardless.

The next morning we were up at dawn exercising before running down the steps to help the villagers for another two hours before running back up the hill to prepare for sparring practice.

As we arrived I saw Irelia standing next to several sets of hard wooden swords. “What are you waiting for.” I could feel the blood drain from my face. She was just going to throw us right into it wasn’t she?

I was incredibly thankful that Amy had improved our bodies because before the changes I wouldn’t have made it through half of those morning exercises, let alone everything else. Instead I started the sparring practice only mildly sweaty and tired. I wasn’t sure, but I suspected that we were near Captain America level’s of strength, agility, and focus. Not truly superhuman yet, but we were making progress.

However after sparring practice where we were beaten up for six hours straight it was dinner time and then the five of us crawled back towards our beds. Surprisingly, Ahri wasn’t particularly winded, but while she never landed a blow on Irelia, she also was rarely hit. I suppose it was her animal instincts or something.

The following month was entirely the same. I was surprised when I found out Runeterra had some sort of rest day on every seventh day as well. I didn’t understand how that worked, but apparently it was important for us to have a rest day as Irelia didn’t even let us help the town on that day.

It was our seventh rest day that Sabah stopped by my room. Amy and Taylor had switched off visiting my room once or twice a week. Sometimes they would both arrive for the rest day, but Sabah had still not made up her mind to come yet. So I was surprised when I opened the door to find Sabah standing there.

Smiling, I stood to the side of the door allowing her to enter if she wanted. “What brings you to my room, Sabah?”

Sabah frowned but before she could say anything I saw Amy come around the corner before rolling her eyes. “Just ask, it will be fine and I will be there the entire time.”

Sabah looked back and forth between the two of us and then simply nodded before pushing gently into my room. Inside there was only my mattress, a small desk and small dresser. All three items were in a sudo-japanese style, but to my great relief the mattress was significantly thicker than expected of a futon. Sitting down on my mattress Sabah hesitated before slipping her top off showing only a lacey sports bra underneath.

Raising my eyebrows I paused for a moment before I smiled as Amy walked in and sat down next to her doing the same. “I see the two of you have become closer. I am glad to see it.”

This time I was able to enjoy both Sabah and Amy. In fact most of the time Amy was holding Sabah. It was incredibly cute. Still, as we all cooled down I had to let the two know how I felt.

Looking down I smiled at Amy and then at Sabah. “Welcome to the family for real, Sabah. I know this is not what you had planned, but we really will try to make sure you will enjoy your time with us.”

Sabah stayed quiet for a moment before she leaned forward to kiss me. I was a little surprised, but after a moment eagerly returned the kiss. Sabah then pulled back and smiled. “I still think I prefer girls, but I have to say that wasn’t bad either. I, uh, might ask for a repeat sometimes.”

Amy and I smirked again and wrapped her up in our arms. Sabah ended up being spooned by me while Amy nuzzled into her breasts. I smiled down sleepily at my little mocha wife and smiled to myself. Life was good.

That didn’t stop Irelia from driving us even harder into the ground the next day. I forgot she had incredible senses and probably heard the entire thing. Embarrassing for us, but then again we were all adults and obviously consenting, so maybe Irelia was just embarrassed for listening in.

The following months really pushed each one of us. I wouldn’t have called us masters at anything yet, but we certainly were strong enough that when Irelia brought in some thugs to attack us we felt almost no threat from them.

It helped that Amy had actually made us weaker than we had been, but vastly increased the twitch strength of our muscles. We were now much, much faster than any human had a right to be, but were still only maybe two or three times stronger than an adult man.

As our time wound down we tried to imitate Irelia’s cultivation technique, but no one but Ahri was able to make any progress, and even that was basic at best. Amy and I weren’t sure if our souls or bodies were somehow different, but Irelia’s deadline was approaching.

The only other major project we worked on is understanding why and how Ahri consumed souls. We still didn’t have anything conclusive but with some tweaks by both Amy to Ahri’s body and my efforts at tweaking her soul, Ahri had found she only needed to consume a soul once in the final 4 months of the training despite how hard we were working and she felt she could easily go several more months beyond. Amy and I had decided that somewhere between 6-9 months between feeding was more than sufficient for our first effort. Ahri was equally pleased.

As we prepared to leave, Irelia actually called us once again into her sitting room.

I was just about to wonder what she wanted, but she spoke up. “I am not ready to come with you. I admit that I am tempted and if you ever return please come to talk to me as I might have changed my mind, but for now I feel I must continue to rebuild my people. We are still only one generation out from the General’s war.”

Nodding my head I sighed and looked at the woman in front of us. “We may return, but may I ask if I might safeguard your soul in a gem the same way I have done for my companions. If I place said gem in my message tube I will be able to know if anything happens to you.”

She scoffed and rolled her eyes. “No one would want to fight with this old Grandmother.”

I rolled my eyes in turn. “And I swear that virtually every straight male and virtually all women regardless of orientation, plus a few gay men, are enraptured by your beauty.”

Scoffing Irelia smirked, then sighed. “... Fine, do as you wish. I suppose joining you after I have truly finished all my work here might not be terrible.”

The binding to one of the diamond rings was completed and we were actually surprised when Irelia actually jumped in power slightly. She laughed it off though. “I think I can feel my soul a little better now or at least focus on it a bit better.”

The ring was then placed inside the tube and Irelia buried the tube inside an old temple a few miles away.

Finally it was time to leave and I turned to Ahri. “What do you want to do now, Ahri?”

Ahri smirked and then rubbed the back of her head. “I… I think it is time that I get a family. As long as you promise to keep an eye out for people like us. ”

Smiling, I reached forward and finally scratched those ears before I placed my other hand on Ahri’s stomach. About 40 minutes later we had our own mommy fox in my harem.

She hadn’t pushed to enter my bed, but I was definitely looking forward to it. Especially since all three of my mature girls had been eyeing the woman. I suppose her fox tail had been intriguing for everyone, not just me, even if Taylor just looked curious.

Surprisingly, it was Dinah who claimed first victory by sitting in Ahri’s lap and stroking her tail as we finished up. The rest of us loaded up preserved food and supplies for our trip. All of our help in the local town had meant business had boomed and everyone had been thankful for our help. Enough to offer quite a bit of help as we left.

It was now the seven of us and we grabbed the mug that contained the leader of the mercenaries that had attacked Ahri for popping away. However I looked at each of the girls.

I would really like to learn magic as soon as we can. Are there any complaints if I am for Harry Potter? Everyone blinked before shaking their heads, mouths curving up for a smile. Even Ahri had apparently read the books during our time here.

Amy put Dinah down into her traveling coma and the rest of us warned Ahri while we did our final checks of Lung’s soul and bodies.

Pulling the mug closer I focused on magic, school, training, magical girls, right at the start of schooling and after I got a target I popped us away.

We were off to learn magic.

Interlude Irelia:

Irelia watched as they all portaled away. It had been kinda nice while they were here.

No, she really didn’t have any intention of going with them, but only a fool would burn those bridges before she was completely sure.

Still, the soul modifications were interesting and she hoped she would be able to make a few more breakthroughs in her sword dancing art despite her advancing years.

It would be something she could pass along to her children and grandchildren.

She sighed and looked out at the courtyard before blushing just a tiny bit. At least she wouldn’t be woken up in the middle of the night from their activities anymore.

Then again, it wasn’t like she hadn’t enjoyed it when her husband had still been alive.

Humming, she tapped a long finger against her chin. Maybe she should consider getting a new Paramore if she wasn’t going to be taking Max up on his offer. He had said she was beautiful, often enough, hadn’t he?

She hummed before walking back into her courtyard to practice again with the new feeling she was getting. It was something to consider, she supposed.

She turned and looked out at the place that Max and the girls had just been standing.

She frowned. Max, Dinah, Amy, and Taylor needed to each work on their issues. Their intimacy was helping them grow closer together, but they needed to actually address the root causes of their issues eventually. Still it wasn’t her place to force them to address their problems.

It was actually a little sad that it was all the younger members of the little family that were struggling with issues. Once again she sighed, she wished the very best for them, hopefully they could get the help they needed.

Chapter 13: Chapter 13: ? - Kids, Kids Everywhere

Notes:

I am releasing today with the hope I can get to the big stuff coming next chapter. It is arguably the second main arc and the first time we are really going off cannon more and more.

The butterfly effect is hopefully something I can pull off, but I am nervous about pulling it off, especially with foreshadowing.

I also simplified my explanation at the beginning of the story, but if you made it this far, you probably know what the story is like by now

Chapter Text

As we traveled between the dimensions, I pulled the letters from Earth Bet and then pushed our letters back. I still didn’t see any change in Vicky’s gem and I had to admit that I was glad that she was ok. Looking at Riley’s gem I confirmed it was also the same. It looked like they were both still alive at least, which was a good sign for Earth Bet’s survival. Still I grabbed the letters the girls had written to their families and stuffed them in the tube and retrieved the ones Dragon had forwarded from their families. I wasn’t about to read them myself, but I hoped they would help the girls as I was pretty sure Amy, Taylor, and Dinah were a bit homesick. I was also a tad worried for Sabah since she had neither written any to her family nor received any back. Still I didn’t think I was close enough to bring it up before she did.

As I felt the new universe arriving, I tried to brace myself, but it still felt like someone hit me over the head with a bat. The good news was I didn’t collapse this time. After a moment, I realized that none of my remaining girls had either. Dinah didn’t exactly count as she was asleep in her gem by her own request again.

Sighing, I leaned back in the sofa in our family room and just breathed. “Well, we made it. Hopefully this is the Harry Potter reality and we won’t need to jump again any time soon. I just hope I got the timing right since I don’t want to end up visiting Hogwarts in the 1600s. I mean, we would probably still learn a lot, but I admit that I kinda want to meet the main cast. Plus, I would prefer a modern muggle world with hot water heaters for the summers when we are out of Hogwarts.”

The girls all chuckled, even Ahri. She had really enjoyed our hot showers once we explained how they worked. She really was smart, just well behind the times since she had grown up in the arctic wilderness and then kept away from major cities and towns.

Amy prepared lunch as we started to move around and clean up a little. The reality hopping didn’t exactly shake the house, but there were still a few things lying around from being quickly loaded up in Runeterra.

By the time that lunch was ready, Dinah had been woken up, and we all sat down to eat.

There wasn’t a ton of talking, but the quiet was pleasant. I still wanted to get an MP3 player though. The computers took too much power to play music easily, and a smaller device would be easier to move around with us.

As we finished eating and Taylor began to put the dishes away, I sighed and helped wipe down the table before I brought up the question we were all waiting on. “How are you doing, Dinah, are you able to answer questions?”

Dinah mumbled to herself for a moment before nodding. Nodding back, I asked my first question. “Did we make it to the world of Harry Potter and is the world safe for us to visit?”

Dinah winced then replied. “1.2% chance we are in the world of Harry Potter. 8.6% chance of death during the next year in this world.”

I sighed and facepalmed. “Well, that is… unfortunate, isn’t it. At least we probably won’t die, I guess.”

Amy began to giggle, then snicker, then laugh. After a moment I joined in with the other girls giggling as well.

Turning back to Dinah, I sighed. “Chances we could learn magic here?”

Dinah opened her eyes wide with a smile. “98.1%”

I blinked before smiling back. “Well then, why don’t we see what we have going on?”

I opened a scrying portal to look outside our home. It took a moment to understand what we were looking at. In front of us we noticed a line of girls at the edge of a balcony holding brooms. Behind them was a moderately impressive castle with more throughout the grounds. As I moved the portal closer I noticed the girls jumping off of the ledge. Before I could become concerned I noticed each of them mounting their brooms and flying to another tower quite easily.

I still wasn’t quite sure where we were, but that changed when the final girl nervously approached the edge. The teacher seemed annoyed at her hesitancy and simply bumped her off the edge and she plummeted downwards. I blinked for only a moment at the callousness of the teacher before I reached out to place another portal below her to try and stop her fall.

To my dismay she twisted in the air and I missed. Reaching out I tried again only to see her twist on her broom again which made me miss a second time. Gritting my teeth I tried to place my portal one final time before she hit the trees quickly coming up from below. Yet as I tried one final time she finally got a small boost of speed from the broom and completely missed my portal again. Wincing I watched the girl as she started falling through the branches, breaking most, before hitting the ground. Then a moment later her broom hit her, bonking her on the top of her head.

I blinked. Turned to my girls, then back to the portal, then back to my girls. Slowly I sat back and facepalmed.

Sighing, I started chuckling while my girls furrowed their brows in confusion before explaining. “Well, we did hit a magical school alright, one that could theoretically teach us a lot. This one is even filled with magical girls to learn from or collect if that was all we wanted. The problem is that this is Little Witch Academia.” Everyone paused and looked at me. I sighed. “This is an anime for little girls where I am from. The problem is that this world seems to be following that style of ridiculous comedy.”

Sabah was the one to speak up at that. “What do you mean?”

I sighed. “We are going to have to get you more familiar with anime storylines. However, for right now, you should know that this world seems to be filled with the ridiculous. On top of that, this world is going to put these girls in extreme levels of danger near constantly. Danger they will all survive by the skin of their teeth while repeatedly saving the world. Seeing what just happened, I have to assume that the magic in this world really is somehow protecting these girls as well.” Gesturing out the portal I sighed. “That fall should have killed Akko, no questions about it. The thing is I am not sure if we would be covered by the same protections. Dinah’s predictions seemed to imply we wouldn’t die here, but that might change if we get involved with the main plot.”

Amy was the one who spoke up to ask. “So are you familiar with this world then?”

I sighed and nodded before pausing and shaking my head. “Yeah, well… actually no, I really shouldn’t say that. The world of Little Witch Academia follows Akko here, but I have to admit that I haven’t seen more than the first two episodes. Any other knowledge is from hearing other people talk about it or seeing clips online.”

Turning to the scrying portal I had been using to slowly follow Akko I noticed her roommates had grabbed her to take her back to her dorm room. Gesturing toward Akko I sighed. “The problem is, just like in Runeterra, I don’t feel like I know enough to get involved. I am not even sure this school would allow me to study here with you, since it seems like this is mostly a witch only school.” I turned and looked at my girls. “I said I didn’t mind being a woman occasionally if it helped, but I am not sure I want to be one for the years it would take to learn magic here.” I paused and turned towards one of our computers. “Actually, I think I remember Earth Bet having this Anime when I was downloading everything I could. Did any of you watch it?”

After a round of head shakes I sighed and pulled up one of the laptops. A few minutes later the girls were watching the first episode. I had to admit that the girls watching the animated version of what we had literally just seen happen in real life was kinda crazy. The girls seemed to agree as Taylor was pale and Amy looked sick. Dinah had put her face in her hands and was breathing deeply. I guess they had remembered that their stories existed in fiction, and it had not ended well for those three in particular. On the other hand, Arhi and Sabah looked like their worlds had been flipped on their head. Yet compared with the first three they looked comparatively alright. Then again, they didn’t have such a horrible future so it was probably less personally terrifying.

However, as we looked back at the real world of Little Witch Academia, and spotted Akko now talking with her roommates I sighed and turned to my girls. “All in favor of trying again to get to the world of Harry Potter?”

Everyone raised their hand. Even Ahri after a moment of hesitation.

I tapped my knee as I sat on the sofa. “The question is if we should try to learn anything here before we go. And while I think I might be able to aim better if I use a larger soul, I am not sure if I can hit the timeline exactly, so I want to discuss our overall plan. I also want to discuss a little vacation here.”

The girls all eyed each other before Amy spoke up. “The bigger soul makes sense. Is there a person like that here you can pop? Also, what do you mean by plan?”

I smirked. “As much as you think I always know everything.” Everyone, including Ahri, scoffed at that, and I covered my heart in mock offense before I continued. “You five have almost seen as much of this anime as I have at this point. However, I am pretty sure this is one of those animes where there are very few truly evil people. I suspect that even if we watch the entire series, everyone will end up either misunderstood or redeemable. Instead, I think I will just pop hookwolf. I don’t really care about studying his powers, but they should be enough for a good jump.”

Everyone nodded and Ahri added a little shrug. She hadn’t really known anything about the man, so she just trusted our judgment on him. Seeing the agreement, I continued. “The strategy is what we are going to be trying to accomplish in Harry Potter.”

Everyone just tilted their heads in confusion so I sighed.

Taylor was the one to ask. “What do you mean? We go in, kick Voldemort’s ass, learn magic, meet Harry, then move on to another world.”

I nodded, but held up my hand to wait. “Yeah, we are going to have to get involved at least a little. Tom Riddle is basically magical Hitler 2.0. We obviously aren’t going to let him kill the kids if we can help it. The question is how involved we will be and our overall strategy for helping.”

Taylor frowned before she spoke up. “Would it not be best to try to kill Tom immediately, like when he goes into Gringotts to try to steal the stone? A few words to the goblins should make sure the vault traps the man if we can’t get to him first, like we did with the mercenaries.” I had to admit that I was happy she had started to really plan things out, but in the fanfics I had read there were a lot of different ways this could all play out. In those stories the goblins were only rarely helpful and I didn’t like relying on that if we didn’t have to.

I nodded and then waved my hand in a so-so gesture. “In an ideal world, yes it would be as simple as that. However I have no idea if your bugs would work against a wizard even with Amy increasing the potency. I also don’t know if the goblins would help, in some fan fictions they help a lot and in some they don’t care as long as they are paid. Plus, while I have ideas for the horcrux in Gringotts, we also won’t have access to the one in the Black townhouse or the other in Malfoy Manor.”

Everyone frowned at that. Amy sighed. “When would you suggest?”

I frowned back. “I don’t actually know. I have two trains of thought. The first and simpler plan is that we don’t do anything for Harry’s first three years. Perhaps even attend Beauxbatons then transfer to Hogwarts for the tournament. The reason is that it is a miracle that those first years don’t end in tragedy and I am afraid of butterflying things too badly and ending up with deaths everywhere. There is simply so much that can go wrong.”

Everyone grimaced at that so I continued. “During Harry’s fourth year we will have multiple opportunities to get all of the Horcruxes and I should be able to pull the one out of his scar personally. So, as long as we finish before the end of the year, Harry can just win or lose the event like it is a normal tournament… although we might need to protect him a bit for the maze since Crouch Jr did that in the story and we would want him removed.”

Amy smirked at me and I narrowed my eyes in mock challenge as she spoke. “And being nearer to Fleur while she is growing up has nothing to do with it, I am sure.”

I scoffed in pho haughtiness. “Of course not. I am sure I have no idea what you are talking about. Plus, I am pretty sure it would be you and Sabah who would be sneaking peeks at that veela tushy.”

Taylor tapped her cheek thoughtfully as she asked. “That makes sense, but in that case, what is your second plan?”

I winced. “It is basically what you suggested, but with a potion. We hit Quirrell at the beginning of the year with the draft of the living death. With luck Tom’s wraith will also be dosed, but even if he isn’t, I might have enough time to do something as a soul mage. The problem is that there are a lot of ifs and we will have a very limited time frame to learn enough magic to try to help pull it off.”

Amy and Sabah slowly nodded, Dinah and Ahri were still thinking, but Taylor looked contemplative before she spoke. “Plus it might call down scrutiny on us.”

I nodded and then smiled. “Yes, exactly. If we act early, especially if it fails, then we will have to figure out how to avoid notice from perhaps three of the most skilled Legilimens practitioners alive. Tom, Severus, and Albus would probably use it on anyone they felt were a threat or acting too strangely.”

Amy sighed. “In all seriousness I think it will also depend on what women we are planning on adding to the family. If we don’t care, then we can try to help before leaving quickly.”

I nodded and gestured towards her. “That is also true.”

I could see Sabah once again slightly uncomfortable, but surprisingly I noticed Taylor frowning a bit. Deciding to approach Taylor’s issue later I sighed before lifting up my fingers while counting out. “Yes, there are a few that could help us as we move forward. Everyone likes Hermione once she stops being a bookworm and she probably deserves better than Ron who abandons them multiple times. Second would Luna as long as this version is sane since she is absolutely adorable while being incredibly kind and loyal. Third is Ginny, she isn’t bad, but mostly lacks direction early in the cannon story, but we might be able to give her that earlier. Fourth is Fleur, veela and powerhouse, enough said. Fifth is Tonks, I want to make sure she doesn’t end up with Lupin since a man who would run away from a pregnant woman doesn’t deserve her. Sixth is Winky or Dobby the house elf, ideally both if they want to join us, as that would help tremendously with keeping our house clean and working.”

Amy and Sabah looked at each other while Ahri whistled. “That is quite the list.”

Waiving dismissively, I nodded before I pointed to the girls. “Yes, yes, but if we like them then it is better to ask them to join and be rejected than not asking at all. Is there anyone else you all think we should consider?”

Everyone looked contemplative before Dinah spoke up. “What about Gabrielle Delacour?”

I smirked. “I agree, she is adorable in the movies, but she will probably be younger than you since you are 12 now and when we arrive she will probably only be 6 at the start of the story.”

Taylor frowned. “That does bring up how we will get admitted to the schools.”

I sighed and gestured to Amy. “I don’t think there is much choice. We are going to have to revert to 9 and 10 year olds. I am sorry, I am not looking forward to going through puberty again either.”

Everyone winced, while Amy frowned. “What about other positions like getting in as a teacher or something. Pretending to be a child isn’t going to be fun for anyone.”

I nodded seriously. “Yeah, it is absolutely going to suck in pretty much every way. But if we did it that way, some or all of us would pretty much have to go through an entire Hogwarts education and then go on mastery in that subject before we could even get started. That would mean trying to get an education during Tom’s first war. I also wouldn’t be comfortable recruiting the girls in Hogwarts, until well after they graduated which would require even more time there.

I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “I want to make sure we can move on fairly quickly if we need to.” I noticed the confused looks but once again ignored it. “The only other goal I have besides learning magic is looking into rehabilitating Bakuda and Squealer as they would be extremely useful in future tech worlds.” I tapped my hand on the arm rest before nodding “I would also like to capture Dolorus Umbridge, but mostly as the soul we pop to leave. She tortured kids, tried to kill Harry, and started Muggle born concentration camps. Really, she is nearly as bad as Tom.”

Everyone grimaced slightly before nodding, but it was Amy who spoke up as she noticed me frowning. “Hey Max, what are you thinking about now?”

I sighed and leaned back. “There is one more thing I just thought of. I mentioned that fan fiction worlds might also exist somewhere, so there is a question of if we should aim for one of them instead.”

Taylor was the one who asked the question. “Why would you want a non-canon version of the world?”

I smirked at her. “First, other HP worlds may have more advanced or varied magic. The canon HP world is kinda simplistic, while others envisioned worlds with much more magic to master. Plus, Harry Potter could become Heather, Iris, Holly, or Hazel Potter and as a woman I would want to grab her too. I mean a female Harry would be powerful, kind, and moderately smart.” Everyone rolled their eyes at me, but I could see everyone was thinking about it. “The other change I would be considering is finding a universe where everyone is aged up slightly.” While everyone was thinking about that I spread my arms. “Although now that I am thinking about it, we can pop away temporarily so there really isn’t a reason to leave before seventh year and when we do we will bring as many magic books with us as we can.”

Amy breathed deep and nodded in agreement before she asked her question. “I can see this female Harry Potter being an interesting recruitment, even if it would be kinda a big deal to magical Britain if she disappeared with us. But on the other hand, why would you want everyone to be aged up?”

I nodded before I explained. “Well one, it would make more sense. Giving magical weapons to eleven-year-olds is kinda ridiculous. Worse, allowing fifth years who pass their OWLS, kids who may still be 15, to cast whatever they wanted without restrictions is kinda foolish. Then again, not letting the students practice during the summer in say, Diagon alley, during the summer also seemed kinda dumb as well. We will have to wait to see if purebloods can block the trace via their home’s wards, since that seems exactly like something they would do, once we arrive but that is a separate discussion. The second reason is that I would feel much less weird about attempting to bind girls who are seventeen and eighteen in their fourth year because they started Hogwarts at 13 or 14.”

Everyone looked at me before at each other before Taylor spoke up. “You really do prefer the women a little older, don’t you?”

I noticed something in her voice, but nodded anyway. “I prefer adult women, but adults can mean a lot of different things to different women. I would say some women are full adults at maybe 19 while there are females who act like young girls well into their 20s”

Dinah spoke up at that. “Like how Akko here is actually sixteen?”

Everyone swiveled their heads to stare at Dinah. “Really?”

Dinah nodded her head and I sighed. “Yeah, that is a good example. She may be 16, but she still acts like a child. Dinah may only be 12 now, but as much as I am not happy about you rushing your childhood, you are already much more of a young woman than Akko is.”

Everyone just looked at each other for a while and I decided to close the meeting with a small clap. “Ok everyone. Let's rest for a bit after that jump. Why don’t Taylor, Sabah, and Ahri work on finding and copying any magical books in town. Amy, Dinah, and I will be poking the nearby villagers in their sleep to try to understand how they access magic. Everyone, if you can try to get access to the school then try. I don’t think it is a good idea to just try to portal into the dorms or library, but if we can get access, all the better.”

Then I smiled. “If we can do that I think a vacation is in order.” Everyone looked a little confused. “Remember I mentioned that this world is an anime for young girls. That means there is a pretty much guaranteed beach episode somewhere. I think a week on a beach where I take each one of you on a date will be a good change of pace.”

I smiled as I watched each of them smile as they got up to get to work.

The basic books ended up being moderately easy since we had some gold coins from Runeterra, but access to the school wasn’t as easily gained. This version of Little Witch Academia was a girls only school and worse yet, they only accepted student applications in June so we would need to wait nearly an entire year.

Amy and I had started our explorations of the townspeaple by shaking hands and people watching respectively, but we weren’t getting very far very quickly. After an entire week I could only now start to see a section of the witches' souls that seemed unique to them. Amy had also found parts of their bodies that seemed different from the general populace as well, but hand shakes didn’t give her enough time to really study them.

Dinah, who was probably eager to try magic, had asked if we wanted to test them on her. Still, after an uneasy glance with Amy we decided not to do anything yet. We didn’t want to change our bodies or souls just here since Harry Potter might be different, especially without being able to study the bodies in greater detail.

The major change was on the fourth night here when I heard a knock at my door. I opened it up to find Ahri standing at the doorway. I was momentarily shocked to find her fidgeting in a fairly revealing nightgown. Her tails waived slowly behind her in a pattern I recognized as nervous. Even from a quick glance I could tell she was wearing nothing underneath and I slowly swallowed and with difficulty brought my eyes up to look at my beautiful fox girl’s face. Opening the door wider, I smiled while keeping my eyes on her’s. “What can I do for you, my dear vixen?”

Ahri rolled her eyes, but still stepped inside. Then with a little bit of embarrassment she continued talking while fiddling with her tails. “I am not yet in heat, but with Amy’s help I might not ever need to worry about that again.” She seemed happy about that, but her nervousness continued. “But I still want to connect to you like the rest of my sisters.”

I smiled as kindly as I could. “That is perfectly fine. I am happy to spend time with you whenever you want to. Plus, I would be happy to sleep with you if you want, but you don’t need to if you aren’t ready.” I paused and smiled sheepishly. “That and I have to ask. Will it cause problems trying to sleep together if you aren’t in heat? I don’t really know anything about your species’s mating habits.”

Ahri simply nodded, “Yes, I am sure. And no, Amy helped me make sure it wouldn’t cause any problems.”

I smiled a little more surely as I walked forward and embraced her as I leaned down to kiss her. I was absolutely going to enjoy this. Plus, I kinda wanted to bury myself in those tails.

Half an hour later I could confirm. Being buried in fox tails after being buried in her was absolutely amazing.

Surprisingly it was Ahri who was happily humming while asleep. It wasn’t exactly a cat’s purr, but it was close and I loved it as I slowly fell asleep while spooning her.

I woke the next morning surprised with someone touching me. That was surprising as Ahri had seemed pretty wiped out when we fell asleep yesterday. Plus, she didn’t really seem too experienced in that sort of thing, even if she was the only girl so far to not have been a virgin when we met.

However, just before I called out her name, I opened my eyes. Shocked, I was glad I did. There wasn’t the raven black hair of my fox girl, but Taylor’s beautiful brown locks.

Reaching down, I stroked my youngest lover’s head and sighed internally. “I appreciate the wake up call, but where did this come from?”

Taylor frowned before sighing and grumbling. “Amy and Dinah say I need to talk to you.” She turned away from me before continuing softly, almost sadly. “I just don’t want you to forget me now that you are getting more beautiful women.”

I winced and sighed internally. I really should have seen this coming and it made me feel like scum to have missed it when I knew she still had some pretty extreme insecurities. However, I tried to keep my voice even and smooth on the outside. “Taylor, look at me. You are essentially my first girlfriend since Dinah definitely doesn’t count. You and Amy have been with me since the beginning, I mean we took down the bloody Slaughterhouse 9 together. Seriously, you two have been central to my life along with being my first two wives. That would make you unforgettable by itself, but what you don’t seem to understand is that you are both incredibly beautiful, smart, and talented as well, even before Amy’s modifications. You are the complete package, Taylor.”

I reached out and hugged her tight. “I know you are worried, but I want you to know that I truly am impressed with you. You are the youngest besides Dinah and you are already learning to plan and fight despite your supposedly weak powers. Again, you were absolutely crucial to the fight against the gangs and the S9 on Earth Bet. You took the hunter exam and passed. You are incredible, Taylor, you are smart and only getting smarter. You are strong and only getting stronger. You are kind and you continue to be kind despite everything. I know you have trouble believing it, but you really are.” Taylor was starting to tear up so I pulled her closer before I smirked. “I mean, if you need proof then all you need to do is look down to tell just how attractive you are.”

Taylor giggled wetly, still a little teary before I pulled her into a kiss. Obviously, this could only end one way, and we both enjoyed the follow-up as well.

Thirty minutes later while walking downstairs with my arm around Taylor, smelling something cooking, I came around the corner to another surprise. It seemed that Amy had made breakfast while Sabah was cuddling up to her. It seems like all of my wives except Dinah had enjoyed some affection since dinner. With a creak from the floorboards behind me I noticed Arhi arrive while drying her tails from her shower. Looking around I noticed that it was only Dinah who wasn’t awake yet so I pulled Taylor into the room before I spoke up. “You know when we have time like this, I think we might want to instigate date night every Friday night. We can play games, watch movies and just talk. Afterward, any of the adults that want to can join in for the night together. How does that sound?”

All the women except for Amy instantly turned scarlet. Amy, proving she was not only enjoying the dynamic, but thriving, simply smirked before looking at me. “Sounds good to me, love~”

I was a little surprised at her saying the L word right now in what was obviously a fairly serious manner, but after a second I decided that yes, I had started really falling for her and Taylor. It was also good to see and made me happy that she was doing well here. She had been denied affection and affirmation by just about everyone except for her sister Vicky for so long back at home. So considering that, It probably wasn’t surprising that she was improving while surrounded by affirmation and affection while doing a job that was absolutely central and critical to our group.

Ultimately it only took a moment before I responded in kind, I smiled and simply stated. “Yes, I think I have really started to love you and Taylor.” I gave Taylor a little squeeze in my arms. “I think you Sabah, and you, Ahri, are coming along in my heart as well.”

Sabah was surprised when she was included, but after a moment of obvious indecision she stood up from Amy’s arms and marched over to me and proceeded to kiss me on the cheek then quietly add. “I really wasn’t sure at the beginning, but it is clear you do care in your own way. So, while I can say I tried it and I still really prefer girls… I can say that I definitely do care about you as well.”

Ahri didn’t say anything, but after a moment of hesitation, she leaned forward and gave me a peck on the lips, saying nothing, with a smile before going to sit down for breakfast. Amy rolled her eyes, muttering “Damn sappy man.” before marching over and giving me a kiss as well.

Despite the somewhat romantic mood, we didn’t head right back up to the bedroom and instead just finished breakfast. Especially since it was only a few minutes later before Dinah arrived for breakfast. Still, I could feel my spirits lift at the positive atmosphere and I was pretty sure the girls felt the same.

The problem was that regardless of the good mood, we didn’t find anything definitive to help us with our magic quest.

We had combed just about all the publicly available books in town and had confirmed there were no other books that explained how to get magic and specifics on how to cast it. Or at least no other books they would sell to strangers. We might have been able to steal them, but without being able to defend against even simple anti-theft charms, that was a really stupid idea. Heck, we couldn’t even tell if they were charmed in the first place.

I looked at the girls before Dinah sighed. “Chances we will find something in the next month. 18.3%.”

I sighed back and shook my head. “I don’t like those odds. It sounds like getting magic here is going to be a little more complicated than we would prefer, and we really did want to head to Harry Potter anyway.”

Everyone nodded before I smiled. “Guess it is time for a beach trip.”

I smiled wider as Amy and Sabah eyed each other before eyeing me in turn. Taylor had already started grinning and Ahri’s tails started dancing happily. Even dinah looked like she was stopping herself from bouncing in place. A few questions to the townspeople gave us the general direction and we were off.

It took nearly three hours but soon enough we were stepping forward to the edge of the beach town and walking into a clothing store. I had been curious why Sabah hadn’t made everyone a swimming suit, but when I asked she had responded. “I didn’t think to get the materials in Brockton Bay and besides, shopping for swimming suits is fun.” I smiled back and rolled my eyes as I saw her eye the other girls with me.

Amy ended up with a navy blue bikini with a matching wrap. Taylor hesitated for several minutes before, with our encouragement, picked a maroon red bikini with a white wrap. Dinah was disappointed when I requested she wear a one piece swimsuit, but agreed when I let her buy a bikini to wear when she was a little older. Ahri drew a few strange looks, but this world was just magical enough that she didn’t need to hide her fox features. In the end she picked a black bikini that really highlighted her pale skin and raven hair. I actually gulped as I looked at her smirking at me. Sabah was the last one to pick and ended up with a purple Bikini with a matching wrap. She smiled as she saw Amy checking her out, but to my surprise she gave me a little twirl so I could check her out as well.

Smiling, I complimented each of them. I had to admit that I loved their blushes even as I made a note to pay extra attention to our surroundings as I didn’t want them to be harassed.

However, I was surprised when I saw the girl’s faces turn a little predatory. Even Sabah looked like she was smiling a little too viciously.

Gulping, I took a small step back and asked. “What? Why is everyone looking at me like that?”

I watched as the girls turned to smile wider at each other before I paled as the girls approached holding up several different speedos for me to try on.

The following twenty minutes were mortifying even if my ROB given body with Amy’s modifications didn’t leave me with anything to be ashamed about. Really I probably wouldn’t have minded if we had done it in private, but only five minutes in the show had already attracted both men and women who were all chuckling at me. A few of both genders even seemed to be eyeing me speculatively. The entire time I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be flattered or embarrassed.

In the end I paid for a speedo which was only a little bigger than the girl’s bikini bottoms along with normal swimming trunks with a Hawaii palm leaf type pattern.

Still, the girls deserved to be pampered so that is what I decided to do.

The first day was spent all together on the beach and in the ocean. I was a little concerned when I realized that neither Ahri or I really knew how to swim, but by the end of the day we weren’t useless in the water anymore. We even ended up making a sand castle and only had to shoo away two guys for hitting on the girls. In fact it was Taylor who did most of the intimidating. Her death stare was just as scarry in person as I had read about in the story.
I had considered taking each girl out on an individual date each evening based on when they joined me, but before I could voice my opinion, Dinah pulled me aside and pointed towards Taylor. After a moment I nodded. It was a good idea to reinforce how important she was to the group so around dinner I pulled her aside and it became a date with just me and Taylor. When I asked what she wanted Taylor actually smiled and simply requested a stroll across the beach before a private dinner.

The second day was spent relaxing in a spa. Well the girls relaxed while I read the wheel of time. It was another world I was interested in, even if I was terrified of actually going there. That night, I took Amy to a fancy steakhouse before sitting on a bench and watching the ocean.

The third day was spent relaxing on the beach a little further away to avoid being bothered. That night I finally got to Dinah. This time I suggested a movie date in a public theater followed by a simple dinner with the family. It was the most Platonic way I could think to approach this, which despite a small conflicted look at the beginning when I explained the plan, she seemed to appreciate.

The fourth day was spent shopping in town followed by a date with Sabah. I was surprised when she requested her own stroll down the beach followed by a fish fry dinner instead of something like a movie. I suppose that proved that she did like me just a little, even if it might not ever go further.

The fifth day ended up with the rest of the girls doing a girls day out while I was left alone to once again study the few magic theory books we found. That night, I ended up going swimming with Ahri since we were both finally getting it, followed by dinner on a rooftop.

All in all, it was a peaceful week and I had to admit that I was glad we took the time to do it. Yet, we needed to move on. After buying a little more food to replace our stores, I called everyone to the living room.

After a little longer pause, I reached through a portal and picked up Hookwolf’s soul jar. Taking a deep breath, I asked one more time. “Bigger souls seem to give me a better ability to determine where we go. So, does anyone have a problem with me popping Hookwolf and aiming for a non-canon Harry Potter universe?”

Everyone looked at each other before one by one they shook their heads before Amy spoke up. “Just keep in mind it is better to get a canon Harry Potter than something else or even a doomed version of the universe. Let's not even think about a version where Tom was never actually defeated or where Dumbledore is Evil.”

Nodding, I winced. “You’re right.” Taking a breath, while Amy and I put Dinah to sleep, I considered the target as carefully as I could.

After a moment, I decided to speak out loud to try to keep it straight in my head. “We wanted the HP universe. Arriving maybe 1 or 2 years before Harry starts school. We want Tom temporarily defeated, with events following the cannon story. We want a universe a little more rich in magic and lore. Likewise, we want the students to be a little older than 11. Also, if possible, we want Harry to be female without gender flipping everyone.”

Reaching out, I could feel the possibilities had diminished considerably with all of these options before I found one that was almost what I was looking for. I couldn’t find any others exactly what I wanted, so deciding to just go for it I released the power and we were on our way.

Interlude Taylor:

Taylor was still a little embarrassed about what she had done by going in and waking Max up like that last week. Still, at the time she hadn’t been able to stand it anymore.

She could still feel the worry in the back of her head, but Max had done his best to reassure her.

She knew objectively that she had never been what the 3 bitches in Winslow had claimed she was. She wasn’t ugly, just a bit thin. She wasn’t stupid, she was actually smarter than any of them. She wasn’t weak and she was only getting stronger.

None of those bitches would have been able to make it through the hunter exam. She had even kept the Hunter ID card from that test in a frame on the wall, just to prove it.

Yet, sometimes it was hard to remember that.

If she was being honest, she was pretty sure half of why she had come with Max in the first place was just to have someone who wanted her. To remind her that she mattered.

What she had gotten was way better than that. Amy was supportive if a little brusk at times. Especially when she didn’t have her coffee. Even if she did seem to enjoy teasing everyone about threesomes a little too much.

Dinah was like a younger sister she never had.

Plus, while she wasn’t quite certain what to think about Ahri or Sabah, they had been nice to be around so far. No, she shouldn’t think like that, those two weren’t like Emma, they wouldn’t betray her or Max at the drop of a hat.

No, she could admit that part of the problem was her own insecurities. Insecurities that should be gone when Amy had arguably made her look amazing.

She sighed. She needed to focus and everyone agreed she needed to have more confidence in herself.

She was going to get magic and become even stronger. Not for Max, but because it would allow her to control her own life and her own destiny.

Yet, she felt a tiny smile when she reminded herself that she would still have Max and the girls behind her.

Chapter 14: Chapter 14: ? - Getting Started at the Ground Floor

Notes:

Sorry for the delay, I was traveling and didn’t get enough time to edit.

Good news is with the holiday tomorrow, I might still finish Chapter 15 for a normal Wednesday release.

I have gotten a few suggestions for future worlds, but while they won't be introduced very soon, please send more.

Chapter Text

We popped into what was hopefully London while it looked like it was about to start raining. While London not yet raining wasn’t completely surprising, Dinah’s condition was.

Dinah slumped as we woke her up after letting her sleep in the world for an hour or so. We watched concerned as she stretched, sighed, and rubbed her temples. “Uhhh, wow, that feels weird.”

I frowned before picking Dinah up and putting her head on Ahri’s lap so she could stroke her hair while I rubbed Dinah’s feet. “Is your ability completely off or…”

Dinah hummed. “It is weird. I feel like it wants me to give generic answers or something.”

I sighed. “I suppose that isn’t too surprising. It seems like one of the constants in Harry Potter universes is that this reality gives some of the least helpful prophecies. Will you be able to give us answers if we ask you yes or no questions?”

Dinah hummed to herself for a moment before she slowly nodded. “Yes, I think I can give you a probably yes, probably no, and unknown answers.”

“Are we in a version of the Harry Potter universe?”

Dinah squinted and then nodded. “Yes, we are.”

Nodding to myself, I decided to ask only one more question, since it was a big one. “Is this world going to follow the general outline of the cannon universe?”

Dinah frowned even harder and spent nearly ten full minutes staring into the distance. I had just wanted to ask it as a general question, but Dinah seemed to have decided to ask for specific details.

Finally, she sighed and then nodded. “As far as I can tell, Yes… at least generally, horcruxes in the same locations, potter child orphaned, Quirrell first year, basilisk second, Sirius Black third, Tom resurrected at the end of fourth year after being kidnapped during the triwizard tournament. Even their eventual victory over Tom even if a lot of the details are wrong. The biggest difference I can find so far is that Hogwarts does start at 14 here and we should enter this year.”

As she finished speaking, Dinah seemed to slump in exhaustion. Frowning at her condition, I sighed and picked her up before carrying her to her bedroom.

Turning towards Amy and Taylor as I returned, I sighed. “Well, it is unfortunate we couldn’t arrive earlier, but it is something we can work around. At least we know that we are mostly dealing with cannon events, even if the details are a little different. The question is what day is it currently?”

As everyone shrugged, I opened up a scrying portal and noticed that it had started raining. While the rain reduced visibility I just needed to find a newspaper. That turned out to be harder than expected, probably because it was already perhaps noon. Eventually I found a subway station with a newspaper dispenser with a newspaper still inside. A quick portal let it drop directly onto our coffee table.

Looking at the top of the paper, I sighed in relief. March 20th, 1990. “Well, it looks like we have a couple of months to get ourselves magic before school starts this September at least.”

Most of the girls smiled a little at that, but I decided to keep moving the conversation along and gestured towards Amy. “I am not really sure how the magical invitations are created, but the first step is probably adjusting our bodies back down to either 13 or 14 years old again. However, before we make the switch, I also think we might want to think about exact relationships.” I chuckled sardonically, “If we are going to pretend to be related, then it would be weird if we didn’t look anything alike. Otherwise we need to figure out where we are going to live since I am not sure 1990 London still has orphanages. It might be really complex to get ourselves into the foster care system.”

Sabah hummed a little confused, but I shook my head as I continued. “Plus, it would be kinda unbelievable that there are that many magic users growing up together. I am not sure but with Hogwarts only having 50 or so students per year and they live to be around 100, then there are only a few thousand wizards total in Britain. 5 magical children showing up in the same orphanage or foster home would be incredibly strange and we might even have to split up.”

Everyone winced and nodded their heads at my point and so I continued. “My rough plan was for us to pretend we are immigrants from the US or Australia or something. Then, we could all be extended family, maybe being raised by Ahri here as long as we can disguise her tails and ears.”

Ahri frowned and I turned to her. “We can still help you learn magic, but it might actually be better for you to stay on the outside as an adult in case we need to do something outside of school. The rest of the time you can watch our lessons via one of my portals.” Ahri frowned, but slowly nodded.

Taylor looked around at the others before wincing. “Uh, we don’t exactly look like we are a family. Especially Sabah. No offense Sabah.”

Chuckling before I sighed, I then nodded as I replied. “Good Point. Unless Sabah would be willing to get a little more Caucasian looking she is going to have to be a step-sister I think. We also need to think about how we are going to space our ages out in this hypothetical family.”

Sabah startled for a moment before slowly shaking her head. “No, I think I would prefer to keep my skin tone.”

I simply shrugged. “I really like your skin as it is as well, I was just giving options here.” Sabah looked a little more pleased at that, so I continued. “Well then. I would say that Amy and I could be cousins with Amy’s younger sister Dinah as a family. Ahri can pretend to be either our older sister or parent. The other family can be Sabah and her younger step sister Taylor.”

Everyone nodded again before Taylor tilted her head. “Then how are we all staying together?”

I shrug. “That is the story we need to come up with. We can say something like Ahri is our older sister who already graduated. She is taking care of us because your parents are working as traveling curse breakers and mine died or something. Our parents decided to send us to Hogwarts because they wanted us to have a permanent resistance while going to school.”

Amy hummed and then nodded. “I can give us some small facial similarities, but I would prefer not to go with anything more since it would be weird to me if we got intimate.”

Quickly nodding, I kissed her hand before she could say anything else. “Good thinking, honey. I really don’t have any intention of imitating the Targaryens. That was pretty messed up.” At everyone’s raised eyebrows, I sighed and waved my hand. “It is a book series and set of movies called Game of Thrones. Overall it was pretty good even if it was a little graphic with some convoluted plot points sometimes, remind me to introduce you all later.” then I winced, “Well, maybe not Dinah, not yet at least.” Dinah frowned before she huffed good-natured and rolled her eyes.

Focusing on the girls again, I asked. “The next question is if anyone is going to be a year or two behind us.”

Everyone winced and looked at each of them as the clock ticked on. Finally, I shook my head. “I take that as a no, which I totally understand, waiting around for another year just to attend school would suck.” Looking towards Dinah’s bedroom I sighed. “I also doubt Dinah wants to be left behind.” Rubbing my chin I stared up at the ceiling for a moment. “Well, If we make Amy as old as we can before the cut off and then make Dinah as young as we can before the cut off, it could work. Then, since Taylor and Sabah are step sisters we will just say that Taylor came in from a previous marriage.”

Nodding, I glanced at my girls. “Dinah had earned a rest. Maybe we should all take a break as well.” Then I smirked and licked my lips while running my eyes down each of my girls. Each of them noticed and I could see Taylor perk up and Amy smirk back. Ahri’s face seemed a bit uncertain, but I noticed her tails waving her hesitant approval. Sabah winced before looking around and slowly turning red, but I was pretty sure she had a smile while glancing at Amy and a very small one at me out of the corner of my eye.

Standing up, I walked forward and grabbed Amy and Taylor as they stood up. “Come to bed, loves, we need to celebrate both figuring out how to aim and finally arriving in Harry Potter, I think. Plus, if we are going to be 13 or 14 again, we might not get the chance for a while.”

Ahri and Sabah hesitated again as I led Amy and Taylor up the stairs, but as I glanced behind, both of them followed.

This was going to be fun, I just needed to make sure everyone except Amy was comfortable. Amy was probably going to love it regardless, based on how often she invited others to join her when she visited me. She would also be happy to take care of Sabah. Still, I really wanted to make sure we all enjoyed this, as I had explained before, I wanted this to end up being a semi-regular end to our weekly Friday date nights when we were old enough again. Man, add age regressions to the list of things like time travel that made verb tenses weird.

It was over an hour before we returned down the stairs with all four of my women a little disheveled. Even Sabah walked with a slightly goofy smile on her face after some attention from both Amy and I. However, the smiles lowered and turned a little sheepishly as we turned the corner into the living room and found Dinah waiting while reading a book. Her cheeks were a bit flushed, and I was certain she knew what we were doing. Rubbing my head, I winced internally but didn’t apologize. That would send the wrong message to the rest of the girls since I didn’t regret anything we did and wanted them to be happy with it as well. I also didn’t want Dinah to think that her waiting was somehow a problem either so, in the end, I just moved the discussion along.

I sighed and smiled a little thinly. “Well, I would say that we are going to need to get started getting into our new bodies.”

Amy sighed back before walking down the stairs to the basem*nt to create our new bodies with the rest of us following her. I was pretty sure she was still a little uncomfortable being watched as she worked, but as she got started I was happy to see she had a small smile. It was good to know that she did actually enjoy tinkering with biology, instead of feeling like we were forcing her to do everything.

Additionally, I had to admit that, while slow, the process was fascinating to watch. She had one hand on the body of one of the generic body templates she had been preserving, while the other hand was over another cot next to it. The new bodies started as small pools of odorless red goo pooling at the bottom of a new camping cot. I wasn’t sure, but I assumed Amy made sure we couldn't smell anything, which was appreciated. Then that goo grew outward and upward as she used up the other bodies we had. A part of me was a little amused that she was basically splitting an adult into two halves to create children. It was weird, but at this point in our lives, what wasn’t? Regardless, about an hour later, Sabah, Taylor, Amy, and I had new bodies.

Deciding there was no use procrastinating, the four of us, laid down in cots on the other side from our new bodies. Taking a deep breath, I located where I wanted to connect to and I released my soul from my current body. A few moments later I opened my eyes in my new 14-year-old body.

Once everything felt connected, I sat up and stretched. As I felt the loss of muscle mass and arm hair, I sighed, slightly annoyed. At least I didn’t need to feel the difference in any lower body hair as that was one of the first things Amy had removed in her upgrades. The other girls had all appreciated that decision. Part of me was still amused at that. Using superpowers for personal grooming… what was the world coming too?

Regardless, I turned and slowly and carefully pulled Amy’s and Taylor's souls into their bodies as well. Then while I was working on Sabah Amy turned and boosted Dinah by the approximate 7 months needed to turn 14 in July and start school in our year.

However, before I could declare us done, Amy turned around and started on another body. I was confused for a moment before I noticed it was one that looked a lot like Ahri but without the fox features. Amy finally seemed to notice me looking since she had been focusing on her work. Smiling a little tiredly she explained “I assumed Ahri will be able to use her illusions to hide herself, but if we ever need to go into the vaults in Gringotts or the ministry or something where she might be closely examined, Ahri should probably use this body since I don’t know how her illusions would react to their magical defenses.”

Ahri winced, but still nodded with the rest of us. I summed up the opinion. “Good thinking.”

Looking over each of my girls in their younger bodies, I smiled. Looking at each of them, I tried to express how thankful I was that they were with me. “Wow, you are all still cuties, I probably don’t deserve you all.”

Amy rolled her eyes while Taylor and Dinah blushed. Sabah fidgeted. Finally, Amy punched my arm which actually hurt a bit. It seems she didn’t put in as many physical improvements into these bodies which was probably smart if we were trying to blend in. Still after a moment Amy leaned forward and gave me a small hug. “Just don’t forget it, asshole.”

I smiled back and playfully rolled my eyes while rubbing my shoulder. “Wow, those reactions were cute too.” At the increased blushes followed by a hug from Taylor I continued. “I guess we can confirm that a younger body and brain really does affect us despite all the soul body separation.”

There were some tentative and thoughtful nods and I smiled, but still led us out of the basem*nt. We really did need to get to work, so once we were once again back in the living room so I sighed and pushed us back on track. “Now the big one. We need to find a witch or wizard in this world we can capture and study to figure out how to give ourselves magic.”

Frowning, I looked around. “Any ideas on how to find one? I am not sure with Dinah having trouble with her power.”

Taylor winced but still spoke up. “We could probably scout out the leaky cauldron if we get the chance. Dinah can probably still give us a general location, right?”

After a moment, Dinah nodded.
As I turned back, I noticed Amy swaying slightly and cursed internally. Walking over I smiled and decided to pick her up bridal style. It was significantly harder in my younger and weaker body, but still possible. “Come on, this must have been exhausting, why don’t you rest in your bed while we search?”

The search actually took nearly four hours despite finding the Leaky cauldron within the first 20 minutes with Dinah’s help despite her current limitations. Well, we probably found it, at least, since we couldn’t actually see it. I wasn’t sure if it was a Muggle notice-me-not or if it was somehow actually invisible to Muggles, but either way we couldn’t see it, so all we could do was try to spot a wizard walking into London.

However, eventually our patience paid off as we found what appeared to be two normal people leaving the area while the father was carrying books and a small cauldron. They also had a young girl between them. I looked at Amy who had woken up after a quick nap who winced but finally nodded. Deciding to speak up I tried to soothe the group's worries. “Don’t worry. None of this should hurt them, Ahri, will just make an illusion so no one sees them disappear while Amy knocks them unconscious once they are inside their car. With all the studying we did in the Little Witch Academia world, I am pretty sure we can figure it out in a single hour or two. To them, it will just be a small nap before they head home.”

As we watched, the three moved towards a gray sedan and got in after the father put the girl’s school supplies in the trunk.

After a deep breath, Amy reached through the portals I created and put the mother and father to sleep near instantly before they could realize anything was wrong. Then, as the younger girl was buckling up, she reached through for her as well. However, as she pulled her hand back, Amy frowned. “Something was fighting me a bit there. I guess it is true that magic is somewhat sentient then because the girl herself definitely didn’t realize what was happening.”

Humming, I nodded. “Makes sense, I guess. We already know that Dinah’s abilities have been altered somewhat by this reality. Other realities like Star Wars have semi-sentient magical forces as well.”

Amy frowned as she nodded. Then, realizing again what we needed to do, sighed as we portaled the entire car onto our front lawn and she got to work by touching all three of them with her hands. I also started studying their souls at the same time.

After a few minutes, Amy sighed and sat up. “I didn’t notice it at first but, but it seems like the father also has something extra going on within him as well, just a lot less than the girl.

I tapped my chin. “I would guess that he is a squib then. It would make sense since I think I heard that all muggle born get their letters and supply lists in the summer when the professors can walk them through Diagon Alley. Without that, I doubt this family would know where to go and what to get otherwise.”

Amy hummed again as she put her hand back on the girl. Going back, I tried to study the small differences I could see in her soul. I kinda wished I could watch as she used magic, but that was a risky option since we didn’t have any good way of erasing memories, especially when magic seemed to resist Amy’s manipulations.

Sighing, I studied her soul even more carefully. I had noticed two changes made to her soul. One looked like a funnel to my soul sense. The second looked like a tree tap. Looking at the father he did have the funnel even if it was smaller, but the tap was smaller and crooked. I blinked. I suspected that I might be able to adjust his tap. I thought about that. If that was what made him a squib then I could fix his magic. That was kinda incredible, but it would also make us the target of literally every magical family on earth. I would have to remember this. Maybe I could figure out a ritual or potion that could fix since I could see what was wrong.

Still as careful as I could study her soul, I couldn’t actually fully study what was happening internally because the souls were only a little transparent when I looked at them. So, as I tried to visualize how they would interact and considered what would make sense. The magic needed to be stored somewhere and then directed. The question was how the magic was used by people who didn’t have my direct soul control. Turning to Amy I cleared my throat to get her attention and then asked. “Amy, have you found anything?”

Amy hummed for a moment before she turned towards me. “Yes, and no. I can see a lobe in the brain and heart that don’t seem to do anything in both the man and girl which isn’t present in the mother.”

I nodded. “There are two sections in their souls that appear to allow them to access their magic. There is a bit of a funnel as well as a sort of tap. Purely guessing from the positioning, I would suspect that the heart node is supposed to collect the magic and the mental one is supposed to control its output. I should note that the tap of the father seems malformed. It does support our theory that he is a squib.”

Amy simply shrugged before going back to staring absently while touching the two of them.

Once again, clearing my throat to bring her attention back to me, I asked. “Do you see anything different between the two?”

Amy simply shook her head, still staring absently forward.

I was starting to get amused at how interested she was in the new biology of this random family. It was almost as bad as the first time she touched Ahri, so I asked. “Amy, do you think you could add that biology to me?”

That finally got her to blink before turning towards me, frowning. “Don’t you think this is too fast?”

I was about to wave her concerns away when I thought about it a bit more. That concern was fair and as much as I wanted magic right here and now, it could turn out badly. “I was pretty sure we would be fine, but you have a point. It is probably best if we do this testing somewhere outside our home, just in case something goes wrong. We don’t exactly have a back-up home.”

After a moment of indecision on where best to go, I opened a portal in the nearest park. Reaching out, I grabbed Amy’s hand and after a moment I could feel some tingling as she reworked my biology. After a moment, once the tingling stopped. Then trying to be as careful as I could, I focused on adjusting my own soul to mimic the young girl. After a few moments I felt something seem to click within my soul and I stepped out into the slightly foggy London afternoon.

Looking around, I tried to focus on what my soul was feeling. I pushed. I pulled. I tried to scare myself. I tried getting angry. I tried getting frustrated. In a moment of frustration, I even tried getting horny from one of the strangest fan theories I had read of. Nothing worked.

I sighed and stared into the distance before I poked my soul. I winced. My soul felt heavy and sluggish and my poke actually hurt. My eyes widened before I widened my metaphorical soul tab and tried pushing again, this time with the desperation of a bit of fear. I did not know what blowing my soul up with magic would do, but it wouldn’t be good. It might even hurt my girls.

This time the reaction was instantaneous as a streetlight’s bulb in front of me and the glass surrounding it exploded before I flinched back from the flying debris. A moment later those shards turned into bubbles and I felt my jaw drop. I turned back, eyes wide, to look at the girls who had all been watching through the portal a few yards behind me. Then, as I saw their faces, I had to hide a chuckle as they all had their mouths hanging open as well. To break the tension, I smiled. “Well, I guess I have magic now, huh.”

As I got some sympathetic chuckles from the group, I turned around and walked back into the portal before I collapsed into a chair. The girls all looked incredibly concerned, but I waved them away, shuttering slightly. “I think it was just a mismatch between my soul, funnel, tap, and the body’s magical potential. Amy, how big did you make my nodes?”

Amy frowned before nodding towards the little girl. “I copied hers as exactly as I could in case there was something wrong with her father.”

I nodded. “I did as well.” Then I winced as I took a bigger look at my soul. “Ah, no, damn it!” Rubbing a hand across my face and tasting just a little bit of the coppery taste of blood, I sighed. “I think I might have subconsciously increased the size of the funnel a little since I really wanted to have it work.” A sardonic chuckle crossed my lips and I tried smiling at my girls who all looked extremely unimpressed. “At least the shock and a bit of fear of what was happening seemed to be the correct motivation to get the accidental magic to trigger. I also think I have a better understanding of how to properly connect it all, so it should be a lot easier for all of you”

Amy sighed before lightly slapping the back of my head. Then she nodded to herself before asking. “So what exactly did we miss before?”

I shrugged. “I suspect that I missed some sort of regulator so my soul was overfilled, then when I opened my tap a little wider to let out the excess it overwhelmed the biological magical organs.”

Everyone sat back at that while Amy poked me a bit longer before nodding. “The two nodes do look a bit strained, let me see if I can do anything about that.” After a moment, I felt the tension recede a little and I relaxed a bit even if my soul continued to ache.

As everyone noticed me starting to relax a bit they relaxed as well. Looking at the girls I sighed before explaining. “Well, I am going to try to figure out what I am missing by looking at the little girl’s quickly. Then we can return them. Well, we should also really try to study an adult magical at some point to know how this all changes with age, but we can always do that later.”

It took nearly another hour before I found the difference I really should have seen before. It turned out that magical people here didn’t really store magic, instead they fed it throughout their bodies. What I had been calling the tap had a smaller tap that seemed to always be open. After a moment of consideration, I hummed in realization. This might be the source of the wizard’s and witch’s durability. No one should be able to survive a death trap sport like Quidditch unless they had some sort of magical durability boost. Those bludgers were damn flying iron balls after all. Then again, maybe the Quidditch armor helped as well. I really shouldn’t make assumptions since I didn’t have any idea what enchantments those armor pads the players had in them after all.

Releasing the family we captured back into their car, we watched as the family of three woke up and looked around wearily before driving home quickly. I suspect I had just given the three of them nightmares with lost time. The squib in particular had lived through Tom Riddle’s first war and would be worried even if the others weren’t. Again, I would have liked to memory charm them if for nothing else than removing their trama, but we still didn’t know how to do that. The best we could do was have Amy adjust their brain chemistry to forget short term memories, but that was crude at best and I would have been worried if we had let them see any of our faces.

It also made me sure we weren’t ready to take down Tom quite yet. While I was fairly quite sure we couldn’t be killed since our phylactery should work more or less the same as Tom’s Horcruxes, being unkillable was very different from being unbeatable.

I turned to my girls as Amy and I made the changes to the rest of the girls. “OK, this afternoon we are going to sell just a little bit of the gold we were able to collect in Runeterra. That should allow us to buy books. However, we need to determine how exactly we get into a magical school, and we need to determine if there is anything different about this world than we escape. Dinah has confirmed the broad strokes are the same, but that doesn’t mean the details will be.”

At the chorus of yes, I turned back to where we suspected the leaky cauldron was, and I jumped slightly. Taylor even gave a little gasp, and Dinah eeped. We could actually see it now. I supposed that conclusively proved we actually had magic.

Admittedly, it wasn’t much to look at. The books and movies hadn’t lied or exaggerated, it really did look like a run-down pub, but I guess it proved we were now magicals. I quickly opened another portal in front of the bar and we quickly walked inside. I had to admit that a dirty pub wasn’t really a very good introduction to the magical world, but I supposed that a world that was this hostile to muggleborns wouldn’t care much about the appearance of the Muggleborn entrance. The magicals all probably arrived somewhere else after all. In fact, as we walked in further I could see the area around the fireplace in the corner of the room was much cleaner. That was probably the public floo fireplace. From what I could remember, floo was the method of traveling through fireplaces used almost exclusively by those who couldn’t apparate, aka teleport or when one of the ends of the journey was under wards that stopped people from just teleporting directly… like Hogwarts.

Looking around a little more I spotted our target and led our little presentation towards Tom the barkeep and owner of the pub before asking about getting into the alley. “Uh, Sir, we are new to England, could you show us how to get into the Alley. We were told the entrance was around here somewhere.”

Tom smiled, putting down the glass he was cleaning. “Ah, from the colonies are ya. Well, welcome to England, then. Let me show you how to get into the alley.” Walking over, he pointed towards the brick wall. “Three up and five across.”

I had to ask. “Three up from what? Which brick do we start with?”

Tom smirked. “Good eye on ya. It don’t rightly matter. Any two taps on any two bricks will work, just as long as you do it with a wand or magical focus. I just enjoy messing with people since no one bothers to ask, laddie. You would be surprised how often people freak out at the wall trying to remember which two bricks to tap.”

All of us turned to look at him, deadpanned, before after a moment longer of surprise gave way to the humor of the situation and Ahri chuckled. I should have expected her to enjoy a good spot of fun trickery. A moment later the rest of my girls started giggling as well… well, everyone except Dinah who was pouting cutely.

Tom waved as he turned around to leave, “Enjoy yourselves.”

I nodded before stepping into the magical world. It really was fantastic. The books and movies really didn’t do it justice. The alley had the sights, sounds, smells unlike anything I had ever seen. However, what was hard to explain was the very real FEEL of the magic we were now surrounded with. It was only when an older wizard pushed past us, muttering something under his breath about muggles, that we shook ourselves out of it.

Shaking my head, I turned and looked around for Gringotts home of the Goblin bank. With the chaotic nature of the street I had to look several times before I noticed the white marble building at the end of the street. That matched the description from the books, even if it didn’t quite look like the movies which was buit into a fork in the road. This one had a lot more pillars. Enough that I wondered if the Goblins were just showing off. Still, we headed directly towards it.

Walking forward we must have really looked out of place because I noticed quite a few sneers and internally I sighed. Ahri, who had even better hearing than we did, looked especially annoyed.

Regardless, we made it to Gringotts and, after a few minutes and a few sneers from a Goblin money exchanger, we had 61 galleons and some assorted change. I vaguely remembered a discussion from a fan fiction work that explained a conservative price of gold at the time was something like 10 thousand dollars to the kilo which weighed a little more than twice that of a pound. Meanwhile the conversion from dollars to the british pound was something like 1.8 dollars per pound. So doing some mental math, our half kilo of gold should have been worth something in the ballpark of about three and a half thousand pounds. In the Harry Potter books, Rolling said a Galleon was worth about 5 British pounds which made absolutely no sense if they were supposed to be solid gold. If that was true then that half kilo of gold would have gotten us over 650 Galleons. It also meant that each galleon would have needed to be either tiny or waifer thin which is not what Rolling described.

Instead, we had gotten 61 Galleon which mean that the conversion was probably something around 50 Pounds to the Galleon. That did make a little more sense since, while they weren’t hubcap sized in this world, they were still relatively thick and nearly two inches across. It also explained why everyone would go crazy for a 1000 Galleon price pool, as it would be something like 50 thousand British pounds or almost 100 thousand dollars. Still, while it was crazy to expect children to compete in a death tournament, it now made more sense as to why the students actually signed up.

As I hefted the 61 Galleons, wondering what the conversion fees were, I realized the coins were still heavier than the gold we had given them. The bag of Galleons probably weighed three or four times the raw gold we had given them.

I paused and considered that. Some fan fiction writers had theorized that the coins were either alloys or only gold leaf coated for the conversion to make sense. However, the surrounding wizards seemed to believe they were pure gold from what we could hear of the conversations going on around us. So either something strange like an enlargement spell was going on here, or the goblins had some sort of magic that hid the purity of the coins when checked. I paused, the other option was that maybe no Wizard actually bothered to check. Wizards did seem kinda lazy like that. Regardless, we now had the equivalent of about 3000 British pounds in 1990 prices. That should hopefully go a long way.

It turned out it didn’t.

61 Galleons did not go nearly as far as I would have liked. After buying a trunk with a lightweight charm we were down a full 5 galleons. New wizarding clothes for each of us took another 6 Galleons. Some basic potion ingredients for Amy to study took another 2 Galleons. Finally, the two dozen large text books bought on the wizarding world, magical theory, and household charms cost on average a Galleon each. That was another 25 Galleons down. In near moments we were down to only 23 Galleons left, and we hadn’t even bought Ahri’s wand.

That was another thing that made a little more sense. Having a wand priced at 7 Galleons had been a little weird in the books since that would only be 35 British Pounds. Why would Ron have needed to borrow his brother’s wand if it was probably much less than the grocery bill for a single week at the Weasley household.

Since, with this world’s conversion, the seven pounds seemed to be around 350 British Pounds, it made the prospect of sharing wands much, much more necessary.

Still, since I wanted to make sure my girls had the best equipment they could, we were going to get wands from Olivander’s in order to get ensure a good match… even if I wanted to figure out how to cast wandlessly eventually.

As we walked in the door we didn’t see anyone but a dusty room filled to the brim with the long thin gray wand boxes famous in the descriptions of Olivander’s wand shop.

Before any of us could say anything else or even move away from the door a surprising voice popped up from our left where I was quite sure no one had been in before. “Ah, what an interesting set of customers.”

Trying to recover from the scare, I tried not to whirl towards the sound, but I still probably failed. Actually considering our training, even if Amy had only modified these bodies to be slightly better than normal, it was a good thing that none of the girls had tried attacking the man. We did not need to be arrested within days of arriving.

Still, how the hell did he even show up there? The man was both tall and had wispy white hair with gray eyes that didn’t seem to focus any of us, yet I couldn’t help but feel like he was staring into our very souls.

After a few moments of awkward silence, Ahri stepped forward to explain. “I am afraid that my wand no longer seems to work for me and so I would like to be measured for a new one.”

Olivander turned and stared into her eyes for several long seconds before he chuckled. “Yes, yes, your… previous wand, was it… yes that will certainly not work here.”

All of us were once again on edge, but he simply waved her forward to start trying different wands.

Internally, I couldn’t help but wince when I considered what this probably meant. It seemed that this universe had an unnaturally perceptive Olivander. A part of me wondered if he was even human since that was something I had also sometimes read.

Surprisingly, as Ahri walked forward, Olivander didn’t even bother with the measuring tape. I wondered if he didn’t need it this time, or if he never needed it in the first place as Ahri reached forward to start picking out her wand.

In the end, regardless of our reservations about the man, Ahri had a surprisingly easy time finding her wand. 10.5 inches, Ash with a dragon heartstring core. I didn’t know much about wand lore other than dragons were powerful but also temperamental which made sense about our literal soul eating fox companion. Still, as we left I turned around to see Olivander eyeing me in particular. “I look forward to seeing you soon, I am sure I will hear great things about you.”

I actually shivered this time before I followed the girls out of the leaky cauldron. We walked with our supplies around a few corners just in case anyone was watching followed by Ahri producing a few more illusions before we portaled directly back into our home.

Looking at my girls I sighed. “Ok, well it is time to get to work. We need to research this world. We need to trigger our accidental magic to try to ensure we get a school letter. We need to start learning everything we can if we are going to be ready to help defeat one of the most powerful Dark Lords in only a few years time.”

Then turning to Ahri I sighed. “Plus we need to make more money. We are down to only 16 Galleons. That isn’t even enough to pay for all of our wands and I don’t want to use up all our gold. I suppose in the worst case scenario we could probably just portal in and take it from a bank. Insurance would replace it anyway.”

I paused as everyone looked at me a little surprised. Was I really considering robbing a bank while in a group of teenagers that included Taylor? I shook my head and smiled like it was a joke which pretty much everyone chuckled at before leaving.

Sitting down while the girls started to go organize their stuff and prepare for dinner I had to stop and think for a bit. What exactly was I trying to achieve here? What exactly did I want to achieve, period? Joking about robbing a bank was in bad taste since it would remind Amy, Taylor, and Dinah about what would have happened to them. I hadn’t robbed any innocents until now, why had I even considering it now?

Interlude Dinah

Dinah sighed. She wanted a friend her age. It was kinda hard being the youngest and the only one who didn’t have a physical relationship with Max.

She understood why, of course. Sabah was 23 now, Amy had just turned 19 and Taylor was nearing 17 while she herself was still only mentally 12. Then again they were all children including Max’s estimated 21 when compared with Ahri. Ahri had repeatedly told them she didn’t know how old she was, but between Amy’s physicals and vague memories the family was pretty sure she was somewhere around 200 even if the vast majority of those years were spent with a pack of demi-human foxes who lived in the arctic. That made her both extremely old and experienced in some things and amusingly naive in others, even if the majority of her naivety was about technology.

Sighing, she looked out the window towards the London streets in consideration. It was nice Max made an effort to let them see out of their pocket dimension, but They would be in Hogwarts soon, so hopefully she would be able to find a friend her age. Yeah, she would prefer they join the family so they would be together even in other worlds, but at this point she would settle for just about anyone even if it was temporary.

She almost asked her power again before she stopped. Her power was strange in this world and refused to give her straight answers. Reconsidering how to ask she finally settled on. “Will I find a friend if I try to find one.”

Her power seemed to return a vague feeling. If she had to translate it she would have described it as ‘You will meet many people here who will all arrive when they are meant to.’

She sighed. That wasn’t a no, at least, even if it really didn’t make her feel better.

The other problem was her family. She knew the family had issues. She knew that she had issues too. The problem was she didn’t know exactly how to address them. She didn’t even know who to ask for help. It wasn’t like they had met a psychiatrist on their travels, let alone one that the family would trust to hear their problems and secrets.

Yet again she wished her powers could work on other realities so she could help guide Max’s jumps, but that was definitely not something her power could do, she had tried. Heck, she couldn’t even see what was going on back on Earth Bet from here.

Sighing, she drank her hot chocolate after dinner and waited to see what the others picked as the movie they wanted to watch for family night. The group seemed to be settling on having a movie marathon for the Harry Potter Series. It was only Max and Sabah that had been leaning towards a comedy of some sort. Probably not wanting to think about what they needed to do in this world until they really had to.

Swallowing another sip, she got up and walked over. Max noticed her and smiled, even as she voted for the Harry Potter movies as well. She hadn’t seen past the first three movies personally since her parents decided the later ones were too scary. That was a little silly since pretty much everything including the news was traumatizing on Earth Bet.

Still, as she snuggled into the sofa and then leaned against Max’s arm she relaxed. She was still a little lonely, but at least she had her possible future boyfriend and sisters to spend time with. She wanted a friend, but it was still probably better than when her parents left her behind with friends or relatives to go on business trips.

Chapter 15: Chapter 15: HP/?? - Starting School Again

Notes:

Despite being 8k words, this chapter still feels extremely rushed to me, but I did write another Harry Potter Story (I didn’t finish) where Harry, Luna, and Hermione go back in time, and it takes over 40k words to even start school… (some of it was pre-time travel though…) and I really wanted to get this arc started instead of endless planning

On the other hand, this chapter hits 100k words for the entire story … so yay regardless :)

The next few chapters will really be getting into this non-cannon Harry Potter world. I really hope it goes alright… but I guess we will see. (They need sooo much editing)

Chapter Text

Once we returned to our pocket home, the first thing we did was try to figure out what was actually going on. Opening up the history books along with a few newspapers, the only thing we could do was blink in surprise at some of the changes we found. The good news was that indeed the savior of the British wizarding world was Holly Potter, not Harry. That meant she was now on our list of possible recruitment targets. However, the bad news was that she was already 14 and was already enrolled at Hogwarts. That pretty much blew all the tentative plans of exposing and capturing Tom early while he was a teacher out of the water. So much for our tentative plans of changing things early. The silver lining was Holly would be 18 and hopefully much better prepared when she met Tom in the graveyard if we couldn’t do anything to stop it.

I rubbed a hand down my face and looked at my girls. “Well, just as we said last night. If we wanted to help then we were going to have to really study hard. Now that we are a year behind Holly and friends, we are going to have to study even harder.”

I rubbed the back of my neck then continued. “I guess this is a good rationale for why we should stick to cannon timelines in the future as much as possible even if something tells me we might not have that choice. Bad information or planning is sometimes worse than no information at all. Even if we just watched the movies as a refresher, we probably should verify every bit of information we think we might know.”

I sat back in the sofa where I had been reading before shaking my head again. “Still, in the end all we can do for now is just start studying. The question is if we should go to Hogwarts or try to go to Beauxbatons and transfer back or directly attend the tournament during her fourth year. I am still worried about messing up the timeline, but with Tom no longer able to potentially read our minds via his possession of Quirrell during our first year, the worse case scenario is gone.”

The girls all looked at each other for a moment before Dinah, Sabah, and Taylor all responded in sync, “Hogwarts!”

I shook my head. “Yeah I should have expected that.” Then I nodded my head “Plus, the chances of getting a transfer or attending the tournament with the older years is slim. As for Hogwarts. This book here” I tapped a book named Introduction to the magical world for Muggleborns laying on the table “confirms we just need to perform accidental magic and be detected by Hogwarts master book of admission before we turn 14. There isn’t even any tuition because the professors are paid by old trust money… although that in turn does explain why the training brooms for flying class are so bad.” I shook my head before continuing. “We can even write to Hogwarts to confirm our attendance. So I say we try to trigger accidental magic for each of us this week then ensure that we are all on the list of prospective students.” I smirked and then shrugged with a wink. “Now perhaps the most important decision of the trip so far. We need to determine what our surnames will be.”

Dinah raised her hand. “I would like to be an Alcott again.”

I looked at Amy, but she simply shook her head. “I don’t care about my old surname. I don’t hate the Dallons, but I want to be a part of this family now” She quieted down for a moment before whispering, “even if I still miss Vicky.”

I nodded my head. “So our half of the family will be Amy, myself, and Dinah Alcott, with our older sister Ahri Alcott. What about you, Taylor and Sabah?”

Sabah frowned and then shook her head. “I don’t care. I don’t have much attachment to my surname either.”

Taylor winced, but then sighed. “I had some issues with my Dad, but I do miss my Mom. Could we be the Heberts again?”

I smiled at her, trying to be as reassuring as I could, since this was obviously a sensitive subject. “Of course. We will just report our names to the ministry so they know who we are. My hope is that magically declaring our names with the ministry will make sure Hogwarts uses those names as well in their admission records.

So let's go with your father being a Mister Danny Hebert, who has a new wife with a daughter from a previous marriage which is where Sabah comes in. You both grew up near Salem, but recently, you have been staying with us since your father couldn’t take care of you while traveling for work. Basically, the closer we can keep it to the truth, the easier it will be to keep straight.”

There was a moment of quiet as Taylor thought about her father, but we all noticed it was shorter than before, and I was glad she was starting to move through everything, even if I wasn’t naive enough to believe it could just be ‘fixed’ like that.

With that, we all got to work on taking turns sitting in the park while we tried to trigger some accidental magic for each of us.

It turns out that accidental magic was actually kind of easy to trigger, with Ahri using her illusions to create either horror scenes or jump scares to trigger it. However, no one enjoyed the process.

The following months flew by. Ahri reported herself originally as an immigrant from New Zealand who moved to America with her family. A contact we found in Knockturn Alley even managed to set up a fake identity for Ahri in case anyone actually started looking into it. She was a witch from Ilvermorny, graduated middle of her class 2 years ago. The man even faked an apparition license, even if we hadn’t actually figured out how to do that yet.

Obviously all of us were too excited to wait so we all tried to use Ahri’s wand. Surprisingly it did work moderately well for all of us. Or at least we didn’t feel any massive resistance when we tried the light spell Lumos, the levitation spell Wingardium Leviosa, and the fire starting spell Incendio. However, it was Amy that reminded us that Tom had been able to do simple Magic even before Hogwarts. So we all decided it was worth the effort to try wandless casting before school as well.

The setup had been fairly simple. We all took turns trying to summon a ball laying on the floor in front of us for weeks. It didn’t work. Well, Sabah obviously got the ball to move instantly, but she couldn’t tell how to divorce her shard derived telekinesis from her new magic. Her attempts to create a wandless Lumos spell were just as fruitless as the rest of our efforts with the ball.

Surprisingly or not, it was when Ahri continued to scare us that Taylor and then Sabah managed to get the ball to wiggle and eventually start to move. Then the percentage of times they needed to be startled slowly decreased. Alternatively, Dinah and I found more success by focusing on what we wanted and really concentrating. Finally Ahri and Sabah didn’t find anything that helped, but still managed to make slow but constant progress. Maybe it had something to do with their more mature minds, but I couldn’t be sure.

It took hundreds of attempts but in the end everyone was able to wandlessly summon a ball when it was placed on the floor in front of them. It wasn’t fast, more like a slow roll towards whoever was practicing, but it was progress.

As I sat back after the last attempt, I had to admit that I wasn’t sure if this was because of the months of effort, because we were in a fan universe where wandless casting was easier, or because all of us had the mental maturity to push for what we wanted already. Regardless of the reason, it was a welcome start since no one wanted to be dependent on a wand, unable to come back and replace it. Especially if it broke in a future death world.

Really if I was to describe the process of learning to cast wandlessly a spell we learned from the textbooks normally first with a wand, it was like trying to feel how your heart pumped and your legs moved in a dance with a partner, then suddenly removing the partner and needing to perform exactly the same thing. This time without someone to lead you or take your weight during turns. It was hard, frustrating, and slow, but another week later we could all cast a small Lumos while Sabah seemed to finally move a steel ball bearing too heavy for her normal telekinesis.

In the meantime, once the weather warmed up, Taylor finally used a swarm of flies to find a few drug dens. Drug dens that which we promptly robbed blind. However, the number present in this 1990s London was much smaller than I had expected.

Our next money making idea however also proved useful, even if it took two months of practice for Ahri to get the magic required. The process involved Ahri using her illusions to hide what she was doing while walking along the beach, rivers, and theme parks and casting the summoning charm on any lost jewelry or artifacts.

I had been a little nervous about the Aurors, the magical police, to track us down for breaking some law out there somewhere. However, no one came to check.

After some theory crafting with the girls I supposed that proved Ahri’s wand didn’t have the underage trace as even when we practiced with her wand no warning letters came. Was it because they assumed magic coming out of her wand was from Ahri? How did they know Ahri was an adult in the first place? Was there a charm that could test a person’s age from a distance? Then again, it might have been as simple as Olivander reporting that it was an adult that purchased the wand so they ignored magic cast around our home and didn’t have anything set up for the beaches in the first place. However, in the books Hermione said she had tried out a few spells before school, and she hadn’t been giving a citation either. Man, this was confusing.

Regardless, it was soon July when a flurry of owls approached our small cottage. We had rented it from the landlady a few doors down in order to ensure we had a physical address that any postal owls could find us at. She had looked at Ahri in reproach when she had showed up to request the small cottage. I guess I should have expected that. The 1990s were not nice to single mothers. Then again, when she explained she was just the older sister while the parents were working, the landlady seemed to relent a little. She even praised Ahri for working so hard. However, she also warned Ahri from bringing any men over. I blinked at that.

Really? She was trying to enforce who could visit on an adult renter? What business was it of hers as long as the rent was paid, and the house kept clean. Sighing, I shook my head. I guess I could just give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she wanted to make sure us “kids” weren’t exposed to any potential shady characters.

It was old-fashioned and a little patronizing, but then again, a vague memory of 2010s America reminded me that teen pregnancy and single motherhood could be problems too. All the respect in the world, of which I had a lot, didn’t make caring for children easy, and a lot of people ended up poor and struggling because of it. Vulnerable girls then led to even more instances of single parenthood and even exploitation. Shaking my head, I pushed those thoughts away. Focus on Hogwarts now, wondering if the old landlady was a nosey prude or an annoyingly insightful grandma later.

Turning towards my letter, I smiled as I watched my girls all excitingly opening their letters. All five said the same thing, Dumbledore’s excessive title and all.

‘Dear Mr Max Alcott,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find an enclosed list of all necessary Books and Equipment.

Term begins on September 1st. We await your owl by no later than July 31st.’

I hummed to myself while glancing at the calendar and seeing it was July 2nd before speaking. “Well, I am glad we got our letters more than 4 or 5 days before the deadline. Leaving Harry’s letter at the last second seemed extremely strange in the books.”

Sending our replies with the school owls that had delivered the letters got our acceptance taken care of. We just needed to take another trip to Diagon Alley to purchase our supplies. At least we were able to legally buy wands now that we had our official Hogwarts letters.

The gold we collected and the cash we stole from gangs totaled up to be another four thousand British Pounds which the goblins gave us 75 Galleons plus some change. It appeared that the exact exchange rate was a little over 52 pounds to the Galleon, at least at the moment.

Still, that would give us the 35 Galleons needed for our five wands to start with.

When we returned down the street we discovered that despite the increased customers in the alley, Olivander was just as creepy as he was the first time. As we walked in, we waited for nearly 10 seconds before he appeared behind a stack of boxes that shouldn’t have been wide enough to hide him. At least this time, we managed not to jump.

“Good afternoon. How are you all doing? Mrs Alcott? Is your new wand still performing satisfactorily for you?”

I could tell that all of us were a little surprised he knew her last name since we hadn’t given it the first time we were here. Heck, we hadn’t even picked it yet. Ahri, in particular, swallowed before nodded curtly and replying. “Yes, it is. We are here to get wands for the rest of my charges.” Really, despite being a soul eating fox, I didn’t blame her for being a little intimidated.

Olivander chuckled and beckoned me forward. “Well, we might as well start with… the man of the family, shan't we?”

Everyone twitched at that, but soon enough after trying a dozen or so wands I found a wand that gave me a rush and tingle down my arm when I picked it up. One by one the girls performed the same tests in what still looked like trial and error to me before finding their matches as well.

It was while we were testing wands that I found my eyes widening slowly as each person picked out their wand. Every single one of us had a dragon heartstring core. I looked at Olivander who simply tilted his vacant eyes to look back at me. “Interesting, most interesting. I have never seen a group of children this connected before. It is almost like your very souls have a connection.”

All of us froze at that and the room was deathly silent for a moment before he chuckled. “But that would be ridiculous, how incredibly silly of me wouldn’t you say, Mister Alcott.”

I simply nodded, not taking my eyes off the old man. As we paid, I looked at the wands we had all selected. Sabah had gotten Ash wood like Ahri. Dinah had gotten Holly wood. Amy had gotten Willow. Taylor had gotten Ivy wood. I was surprised when my wand was made out of Elderwood. Finally deciding I needed to know, I spoke up to ask. “I thought Elderwood wands were rare.”

Olivander looked at me for a moment before chuckling. “I think you have been listening to the stories of the Elder Wand too much. Elder is just another type of wood, in fact they are not normally stronger or weaker than other wand woods. The problem is that they are often considered unlucky even if I have never seen proof. However, wielders are often perceptive and sensitive to magic.” Eyeing me for a moment longer, he nodded.

Turing to Sabah and Ahri he continued. “Ash wood is for those who are kind and romantic with an inner strength.” Turning to Dinah he smiled. “Holly wood is often for those who will grow to be wise, but energetic.” Eyeing Amy, he nodded. “Willow wood is for those with healing abilities or with those who will work the hardest” Finally, eyeing Taylor, he smirked. “Ivy wood is for those who are patient and goal-oriented above all else.”

I looked across at my girls and they smiled a little back. “I guess they are.”

Heading out of the store we crossed the street to collect our books. Only then did we realize that this year we would have Lockheart. The same Lockheart that wanted us to buy all 8 of his books, which despite being much smaller than the other text books, each one cost nearly a Galleon. We were down to 40 Galleons for school supplies, and Lockheart was requesting we spend about 32 Galleons on his books alone.

Turning to my girls I scowled. “Wow, suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for the Weasley’s efforts to support their family.”

Taylor and Sabah who both knew how difficult things were when money nodded. Amy hummed while looking over the books. “Why don’t we purchase two of each book and we can just share. I suspect we will be doing our homework together regardless. I doubt there is anything useful in Lockhart’s books, so a single copy is probably more than sufficient for all of us.”

I raised my eyebrows as I expected everyone would want their own, but everyone nodded, so I just shrugged. “Not a bad plan. That would only set us back another 15 Galleons which leaves us 25 for more supplies.” I hummed, “we should probably focus on the trunks and clothes next.”

It was Sabah that spoke up. “Should we maybe get Muggle luggage instead? When we walked past the shop I noticed it was all pretty expensive.”

That brought me up short. “I don’t know. What does everyone else think?”

It was Amy who spoke up after a little time considering. “We don’t want to stand out, why don’t we get the basic trunks without any extras except the featherlight enchantment like we got for Ahri. That was pretty simple and only cost about a Galleon each.”

Nodding we headed in and purchased a trunk for everyone except for myself and Ahri since I was going to use hers for school and it only set us back 6 Galleons.

Two sets of school robes for everyone took another 4 in total even if we just got the basic sets along with 3 more Galleons for the basic potion equipment.

Finally, we glanced through the pet store and flying broomstick shop, but with only 12 Galleons left we decided we would have to wait on those despite how interesting some of those animals and brooms were. Some of the gold-plated ones were over a thousand Galleons each or over 50 thousand British Pounds. That was more expensive than most Muggle cars.

As we returned home having spent the most on our books we decided to throw ourselves back into our studies, even if the jokes about how we were all mini-hermiones and going to end up in Ravenclaw were getting more common.

Still, We were all excited, including Ahri, that we would be at Hogwarts soon.

In fact we lost track of time as it was Sabah who came running into the living room where we had gotten used to studying in and reminded us of Lockhart’s book signing event.

Cursing, I threw myself off the edge of the sofa and sat up. “Crap, how could I have forgotten? This might be the best chance for us to completely stop this year’s dangers.”

Taylor spoke up in question. “Wait, but if the Basilisk isn’t killed, then how will Holly and her friends destroy the other Horcruxes. In the story, the stupid soul jars are supposed to be nearly impervious to just about every source of damage.”

That gave me pause, but I shook my head. “We can always find another way to kill it if we really need to. Better not to have a snake with an instantly lethal gaze moving around the school filled with children. It really was a miracle that no one dies this year, and if we can stop it, we should.”

Everyone nodded and I portaled us outside the Leaky Cauldron before we all hurried inside.

The problem was that it only took mere seconds for us to regret the decision to come to Lockhart’s book signing. The Harry Potter books did not exaggerate on how annoyingly self-important and congratulatory the man was. The first words we heard from the man as we walked into the bookstore were. “Welcome, welcome! You are all fortunate to be able to meet ME! The Famous, Powerful, Beautiful Gilderoy Lockhart.” It was only then he noticed we were 14-year-olds and he only toned it down slightly as he continued. “What beautiful girls you all are, I am so pleased to have such cute fans.”

I could almost feel Sabah, Amy, and Taylor in particular forcing themselves not to shiver in revulsion, right then and there.

Twenty minutes later we unanimously decided we couldn’t stand him anymore and we quickly agreed on a rotating 30 minute schedule where two of us would stay and watch out for Malfoy around the bookstore while the others either went back to our pocket home or stopped at the ice cream shop three shops down the row.

The problem was, despite hanging out in and around the bookstore all day, neither the Weasleys nor Malfoys showed up, let alone started a fight in the store.

As we returned home exhausted after being surrounded by middle aged house wives enamored with a pretty face for an entire day, I slumped into a sofa to decompress, followed quickly by everyone else. Dinah straight up threw herself into a bean bag chair she had pestered us all into buying for her.

Turning to Dinah, I asked the question we were all wondering about. “What happened to the Diary, is it still going to show up this year?”

Dinah lifted her face up from the bean bag and looked into the distance for a moment before she sighed. “It is still definitely happening, but I can’t get much more information than that.”

Sighing, we all looked at each other concerned before we shrugged, slightly frustrated, and got up to eat dinner.

The morning of September 1st saw us all at platform 9 and three quarters. It was an incredible sight, even if none of the people we were carefully watching out for were here yet.

Looking around in wonder, I once again was in awe of how magical everything was… even if the entire idea of a slow 7-8 hour train ride was kinda stupid for a people who could teleport.

Turning around, I caught sight of Ahri. She was smiling, but looking closer, I winced when I realized how disappointed she was. Inwardly, trying to figure how we could make this work, I hugged her. “I will see you soon, love. I am sure we can sneak you into the castle as soon as we arrive.”

She perked up slightly at my term of endearment and again at the promise, but she still seemed disappointed and I frowned into her shoulder.

Amy was the one who spoke up next. “I know we need an adult to be the one who takes care of us, but what if we made you a cat? No one is going to find it strange that you are never seen with our cat like it would be if you were both a student and our guardian. Nor would it be strange if our cat disappeared if we need you to do something for us outside of school.”

I winced at the thought of forcing her to be in a cat body, but Ahri just looked confused. “Wouldn’t that be detected in Hogwarts?”

Amy shook her head. “If they can’t detect Animagus on the school grounds, they wouldn’t have the slightest chance at detecting you inside a real cat.”

I thought for a moment before I sighed. “Yeah, that probably would work. It is only if you want to, though. You will need to be seen in our cottage occasionally unless we move somewhere else, but I can portal you back and forth for that. Otherwise, you can just ride around on my shoulders all day if you want. That way, you could attend all my lectures with me and not really miss out on anything.”

Ahri bit her lip for a bit, but after a moment she nodded, and I smiled before patting her arm. It was still kind of weird being this small again. Ahri wasn’t particularly tall, but I didn’t even come up to her collar bones anymore. “Ok, why don’t you go home, then I will let you into our pocket home. Then we can transfer you over once Amy has made the body.”

Ahri waved goodbye before she turned around and headed back out to the street to catch the night bus. Inwardly I sighed, we also really needed to get her apparition training soon. The night bus was a convenient way to travel around, especially if you didn’t know where exactly you were going beyond an address, but I didn’t want us to rely on it. While exceptionally fast, it was still the slowest method of travel besides brooms and the aforementioned train, and I didn’t exactly want people to be able to track or ambush us.

As Ahri left through the pillar, I saw the first red head enter from the other side. I paled then winced before I turned to Amy. “With all our preparations, I forgot about Dobby. He is going to stop Holly from getting to school.”

Amy bit her lip. “They still get to school though, don’t they?”

I frowned, but then nodded. “Yeah, in the story they ride that flying car to school… probably causing a lot of work to cover it all up. We could just let this play out, but this is as good a time to introduce ourselves as any. Maybe start to become friends, since even if we don’t recruit them to the family, it would be helpful to be on good terms. What do you think?”

Amy bit her lip before nodding slowly. Turning to Taylor, Dinah, and Sabah who were standing behind us looking at the train. I spoke up. “Why don’t you three go grab us a cabin before they all fill up? We don’t want to overwhelm them, and we will meet them soon enough anyway.”

The three looked a little uncertain for a moment before Taylor took charge and picked up the featherlight trunks and headed onboard the Hogwarts Express.

When we finally turned around, Percy Weasley had just entered the magical portal to the platform. Which, if I remember correctly, mean the twins would be next to enter the portal, followed quickly by Holly and Ron. Quickly walking back out the back side of the pillar to avoid running directly into the twins we looked around and spotted Ahri slowly walking away.

Running over, I caught her hand and whispered softly. “Ahri, we forgot Dobby trying to stop Holly from getting on the platform. Amy and I are going to be trying to make a good first impression to start up a friendship. If you try to open the portal back up with your wand I should be able to just portal us all through. I might be able to make it transparent, but best to use your illusions to hide it regardless.”

Ahri bit her lip for a moment before she smiled and nodded.

Walking back, I watched and then winced as Holly and Ron ran right into the pillar and bounced off. Watching Hedwig rolling across the ground, I felt bad that I hadn't spoked up sooner, despite how doing so would have ruined our cover.

Nodding to Ahri who stepped up to the security staff to take attention away from the two on the floor, I reached forward and offered my hand to help them stand up before bending down to pick up their stuff.

However, as I did, I noticed something strange, it wasn’t actually Ron that was next to her. At least not unless Ron was also a girl in this universe. I blinked then shook my head. Speaking up I asked. “Sorry that happened to you both, I guess something might have happened to the portal. We just came out to say goodbye to our older sister, and it was working before.”

The two girls looked at me before looking at each other. “Americans?” but before we could answer, they turned to us to ask tentatively. “You two are headed to Hogwarts then?”

I smiled and stuck my hand out for a handshake. “Yep and Yep. Our whole extended family are as well. You two look older, are you second years?”

Holly smiled. “Yeah, My name’s Holly and this is my friend Ginny, she is a second year too.”

I paused before nodding in confirmation. Well, that answered a few questions but raised a few more. Where is Ron, and who has the diary now?

Smiling, I walked up to Ahri who had dismissed the security guards after they gave the five of us warnings to keep our carts under control. Getting Ahri’s attention, I gave our cover story. “Can you open up the portal again, Sis?”

She smirked at me and I rolled my eyes making sure Ginny and Holly didn’t see. Turning to the portal she said “Sure thing, just a sec.” Pulling out her wand, she tapped a few times discretely and I opened up a portal into the platform directly. Just like I had suggested to Ahri, I had tried to exclude light from going through making it transparent, but I could tell it was still far from perfect so it was a good thing Ahri covered for me with her illusions regardless.

As the four of us entered, I waved goodbye to Ahri one more time before we got back on the train. Ginny and Holly left saying they needed to find their friend first and we nodded before we looked for Sabah and Dinah.

They had already picked a cabin, and the five of us rested for a bit while we waited. Finally the train began to move toward Scotland and Hogwarts. Turning towards Amy I opened a small portal into our home in front of her and Amy got to work on a new cat body for Ahri. By the time we were finished, Ahri was back in our rented cottage and I opened up a portal back into our pocket home before she got a quick switch. A few minutes later our new cat was stretching in our arms. The cat Amy had created was black with a little white front left paw and was absolutely adorable.

Plus, I had to admit that once I had Ahri across my shoulders in her new body, I felt better. I wanted my girls, my family, to always be with me. Being separated made something absolutely sickening rise up in my gut.

Turning to my girls, I decided to ask. “The question is, what should we name you, Ahri?”

Ahri turned to look at me before rolling her cat eyes. “Just call me Shadow and be done with it.”

I frowned. “I am not sure why I am surprised you can talk.” Seeing Amy smirk, obviously proud of her self, I rolled my eyes back. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Amy would show off her bio-tinkering like that.” Still, I leaned over and gave Amy a small kiss on her cheek, which made her blush in her younger body. It was still weird how reverting had changed some things like reactions while not completely changing our thought processes.

As we sat and watched the countryside pass by, we relaxed for a time. However, it wasn’t too long before Dinah and Taylor decided to explore the train. As they were getting up to leave. Amy, Sabah, and I pulled out our books to read. We spent the next hour or two enjoying the quiet while Ahri napped.

It was finally Ahri’s question that pulled us back to the present. “What houses do you think you will all be in?”

Looking back out the window I sighed and tapped my fingers across my knee. At that moment Taylor and Dinah returned from their exploration of the train. “We think we found Draco. He is still just as stuck up as we thought he would be from the books. We also found Ron, he was in a separate cabin with what turned out to be Colin Creeve and a younger Dean Thomas.”

I frowned. “Ok, so he has very little connection to Holly in this universe. I wonder if he is going to take Ginny’s place and be obsessed with Holly.” Everyone winced at that. We obviously couldn’t know what his personality would be like, but if he was both jealous and obsessed with Holly that could turn out to be incredibly annoying.

It was Amy who followed the thought up and said. “We are probably going to have to set him up with someone else and make sure he has friends. We don’t want a stalker around us while we are offering to recruit her. If she declines, they can get together I guess, but until then he needs his own life.”

A set of firm nods let me know everyone agreed on that so I nodded. “The only thing left is to do is discuss our houses, like Ahri said. Unfortunately, I think we need to make sure we aren’t in Slytherin. I admit that several of us might be good fits for the house, myself included, but I don’t think it is a good idea if we are trying to make connections with the golden trio this year. Especially once Draco starts yelling about heir of Slytherin and calling everyone Mudbloods. If we end up there anyway, it won’t be the end of the world, but it could make things harder.”

There were a few firm nods, but no one had anything else to say so we finally ended up going back to our reading while Dinah convinced Taylor to try some Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. The dares to try some of the stranger colors eventually spread to the rest of us as we enjoyed the relaxing rest of the train ride.

It was a random Hufflepuff Prefect that stopped by to tell us to put on our robes before we exited the train and spotted a Hagrid waiving everyone towards him with a loud “Firs’ Years, Firs’ Years wi’ me.”

Our peaceful walk down the stairs towards the boats was broken by a strange platinum blond girl with some red colored earrings I couldn’t quite see in the dark and strange glasses. “The Humdingers say that you will be able to stop the Nargle’s influence, both here and with the stupid dark one.”

All of us blinked, unable to believe what had just happened. I was actually the first to reboot and I actually facepalmed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. This Luna seemed to be somewhat of a seer as well. I hadn’t even really considered her for the harem and family, but she was obviously going to be involved, one way or another.

As I considered that, I turned and looked at Dinah before raising my eyebrow. Looking back at me, she looked confused before slowly widening her eyes and wincing. “Sorry, I didn’t know what it was like to be on the other end of my predictions until just now.”

Luna looked at Dinah before smirking in an almost predatory way. “Ah, you are like me, then?” I was a little surprised that Luna would be this clear and upfront about possibly being a seer. Maybe her craziness was all an act. Then I watched as she handed Dinah a radish earring, and I doubted it was all an act, even if she did have some logic down there somewhere.

Dinah in particular looked uncomfortable at the attention, and I simply waved all of us towards the boats so we weren’t left behind. After a moment of indecision, Dinah finally sighed. “Yeah, I knew I was in danger so I found him on the street and basically demanded he help me.”

Luna simply nodded so I decided to ask in a low enough voice no one would hear us. “So why are you asking us to stop the Nargles?” At this point Sabah, Amy, and Taylor entered one boat while Luna, Dinah, and I entered another. Ahri had decided to stay on my shoulders instead of going with the other familiars and luggage.

Luna seemed to think about for a bit as we rounded the corner and finally saw Hogwarts. It was incredible. The lights flickering across the lake really did make the entire thing seem incredibly magical and special. I didn’t know if the other magical schools were like this, but I had to admit this made be glad I had agreed with the choice to come here.

Finally, as the shock and wonder of seeing the castle for the first time wore off, Luna finally turned to us to continue the conversation. Luna seemed to eye us each deeply for a moment before she hummed and looked back at the castle before answering. “I think you are good people, and the Humdingers seem to be suggesting that I might even find new creatures if I follow you. I suspect that Crumple-Horned Snorkack will be the least of the animals I might meet on our journey.”

I sighed and then looked back at my girls before I nodded. “Well, we wouldn’t mind another friend.” At her suddenly radiant smile, I smiled back a little tiredly. She was going to be a handful, but with how cheerful she was, I suspected I would have a hard time telling her no if she did eventually join us. As we got out of the boat and waited for our sorting, she nodded at us before skipping away to talk to a few other girls around us, even if most of those girls looked confused at what she was saying.

It was a few minutes later, after an apparently obligatory jump scare by the ghosts who seemed to avoid me and my girls, that Professor McGonagall returned to start the sorting. As we were led into the great hall, we were once again overwhelmed with the beauty and magic of the famous hall. Words or movies really didn’t do it justice. I would have felt embarrassed, but apparently it was expected, as no one broke the first year’s awe for nearly a minute. It was only then that Professor McGonagall started explaining how we would be sorted by pointing out the hat.

While she was talking, I noticed Holly and Ginny sitting at the Gryffindor table next to a bushy haired girl I assumed was Hermione. Surprisingly or not, she wasn’t nearly as pretty as I had imagined, but then again the books had described her as rather plain at first, unlike Emma Watson. It was why Harry and Ron hadn’t really noticed her until she dressed herself up for the Yule Ball.

Since Amy, Dinah and I were Alcotts, we were sorted first.

Amy ended up in Gryffindor and I nodded. Ever since she had made the decision to join us, she had preferred action. Maybe it was something about not being left behind or being stuck in a rut anymore.

Dinah ended up in Ravenclaw, and I nodded to myself again. That also made sense, even if I was a little surprised she wasn’t in Gryffindor with how impulsive she was sometimes at home. Then again, she didn’t usually act on anything important without a lot of planning using her power, and she enjoyed reading about the world around her and watching documentary movies way too much for anything else. It was unfortunate we wouldn’t all be in the same house, but we could always meet together whenever we wanted if we missed each other.

As I walked up I heard some whispers about our origins. That wasn’t all that surprising, though, since three children from the same family in the same year was pretty crazy in this world where one or two kids total per household was normal. However, before I could worry about it, Ahri simply rubbed her cheek against mine to distract me.

Sitting down, I watched as the hat was placed on my head and I waited for a moment, wondering if it would actually talk to me. So when I heard the voice in my head I didn’t jump, but it was still surprising. ‘Well, now I get to meet the mastermind behind bringing all these girls here. And what’s this? Your little fox girl as well?’

I didn’t say anything, but I was sure the hat felt my nervousness, especially since I didn’t think the hat would be able to just read Ahri’s mind as well. True, she was on my shoulders, but I didn’t think just being under the hat’s brim would be enough.

Chucking the hat broke the tension by swayed back and forth. ‘Oh, don’t worry boy, if building a harem while trying to save people was wrong then Merlin would be the Devil himself…’ then quieter I heard the hat mutter ‘plus you need like 100 more women to match that manwhor*. Only being half Incubus, my nonexistent ass.’

After another moment, the hat chuckled again and I relaxed. ‘The hat hummed, So yes, I can see you don’t want Slytherin which is a shame, you really do fit in there fairly well, but that house has changed a lot since the founding. I suppose the next best choice would be’ “Gryffindor.” As the hat was taken from my head, Ahri and I heard one more comment. ‘Ahri, you would also do well in Ravenclaw, but you are also best suited to Gryffindor. I will make sure the castle permits your use as well. Good luck to you two. Your help will surely be needed if what I saw in your heads is true. However, be careful, this world isn’t exactly what you seem to imagine.’ With that foreboding warning, I tried to hide my nerves and stood up, smiling.

A bunch of cheering followed me and Ahri as we sat down at the house of red and gold. I didn’t sit too close to Holly and Ginny in case they thought Amy and I were stalking the girl-who-lived. However, they simply waved, perhaps in congratulations for joining the Lions and perhaps in thanks for our earlier help. Regardless, they soon turned away and left us alone.

Luna ended up in Ravenclaw along with Sabah, while Taylor ended up in Gryffindor with Amy and me. That meant that with Luna there would be an even split of us between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Still, as much as I wished we could be together in one house, I was glad that Dinah and Sabah would be there for Luna. She definitely didn’t deserve the bullying she got in the beginning of her schooling for being just a little bit odd.

The feast continued, and I had to admit that Holly or Harry had good taste because the apple tarts here were incredible, even if I didn’t really care for the pumpkin juice.

Still, soon enough the entrance ceremony ended with the school song. A song so bad that I had to cover Ahri’s ears and wished I had figured out the silencing spell already. I looked up at the old man, headmaster, who somehow was still smiling happily at all of us. “Ah, Music, a magic all its own. Now it is time for bed, off you trot…”

I glanced back at Amy and Taylor before eyeing him again. Maybe this old man was simply insane. We would have to keep an eye on him. Maybe we would need to ask Dinah and Luna a little more about him before we made any moves. Dinah had assured us that he wasn’t evil, but not evil left a lot of wiggle room for insanity.

Regardless of our thoughts, we were dismissed up to our dorm rooms for bed and I had to admit that my younger body really needed it, even if it wasn’t nearly as bad as if I had been 11 again like in cannon.

As I followed the Gryffindor Prefects with Taylor and Amy, I tried to take in as much as I could of the surrounding castle. Surrounding us, I marveled at the magic I could feel flowing through everything, including the stones. It was fascinating. I wasn’t sure if it was my soul sight or if it was literally visible at some points, but the entire thing was breathtaking.

Heck, with a campus and topics like this, I might even enjoy school this time. What wasn’t to like about magic.

Interlude Ahri:

Ahri sighed as she stretched out to sleep on Max’s chest. The young Weasley boy had been disgusted when Max had brought her into their dorm room, and she had to make it clear she wasn’t going to attack his rat.

In fact, they had all forgotten about Pettegrew, but after a quick conversation with Max they agreed to do nothing. It really wasn’t wise to jump the gun and expose him unless they had a real plan to get Sirius a trial. If Pettegrew just disappeared because she killed the little traitor, then Sirius might never be free.

In the end because of Ron’s incessant complaints, Max had to compromise. Scabbers the rat would have to be in his cage tonight but Ahri would sleep most nights with Max’s ‘cousin’, Amy. On the other hand Ron wouldn’t cause a fuss when Max walked around with ‘Shadow’ on his shoulder to classes and in the common room.

That allowed the boys to finally head to bed and prepare for tomorrow.

As she felt Max’s slowly falling asleep, she stared out into the dorm room. This form and situation really wasn’t ideal, but her foxy nature did enjoy pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, and it wasn’t like her family, her pack, didn’t still care for her. Plus she could learn magic during the day, practice at night and be able to avoid all that stupid human ‘homework’ everyone else talked about.

Again overall, while this wasn’t ideal, it certainly could be worse. The family really did need someone who could do work outside Hogwarts and be seen as their guardian if anything happened.

Still, while petty, she mostly just missed her other tails.

Chapter 16: Chapter 16: HP/?? - Progress and Grave Mistakes

Notes:

This chapter is where I really start trying to earn that character growth tag. I have also tried to hint this is coming for a while.

So yeah, here is your warning for spiraling depressive thoughts based on my own experiences. If that isn’t your jam, skip to the end once he is alone in bed.

Max won’t bounce back next chapter instantly, but it also won’t be this (moderately) dark again for a little while.

Chapter Text

It was only the second week when I determined that no, magical school or not, school still sucked.

The only redeeming factor, of what was basically high school again, was some of the classes were way more interesting. Plus, the entire curriculum was significantly more advanced and customizable.

In this particular universe the first years had the same classes as the books, namely Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy and Herbology.

However, they also started first year with Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, and Ancient runes. There was also a basic lectures on Muggles and Wizarding customs. Albeit, the Muggle lecture was still extremely out of date.

The big difference happened in third year. The students were allowed to drop any of the side classes as long as they had passed a basic competency exam. So Astronomy, Arithmancy, Divination, Herbology, History of Magic, Care of Magical Creatures, and Ancient Runes were only required for the first two years.

Basically the students, from third year and on, were expected to figure out what classes they had interests in and were allowed to drop classes unrelated to said interest. The only classes everyone was required to take were the ‘core’ four classes of Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. I found out from some upper years there were some students who did drop everything except those four classes, but they were considered idiots because, unless they had a job lined up in their family business, they would be unemployable after school.

Instead, from third year onward, the side classes continued and even branched out to allow students to take introduction courses on Rituals, Alchemy, Warding, Curse Breaking, Ancient Studies, Healing, Enchanting, and Relations with Magical Beings.

Those all culminated with the OWL or Ordinary Wizarding Level tests at the end of Fifth year. These tests mattered quite a bit more than the OWLs in the books, as about a third of students dropped out there and went directly into the workforce.

The students who stayed for the next two years then could take the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests or their NEWTs. The qualifications helped, but were not needed for every job. It was a lot more like having a Bachelor's Degree vs only an Associate Degree. Helpful or even mandatory in some jobs, but completely unnecessary in others.

The Master or PhD equivalents were called Spell Masteries and were done via one-on-one apprenticeships.

Still, that was way out in the future and we were still just getting started. Plus, I didn’t really know how long we would even stay in this world in the first place.

Really, while it was actually a little overwhelming, the course work made a lot more sense. While astronomy was useful to understand, and the phases of the moon and star alignments needed to be taken in account in some delicate rituals and potions, most students really didn’t need to study astronomy for all 5 years. Similarly, as interesting as it was, not everyone needed to study Herbology for all 5 years either.

Again, while it wasn’t exactly what I would have picked if I was designing a magical curriculum, it was, in my opinion, significantly better than what existed in the books.

The problem was still the professors. Snape was the most obvious place to start. He was still in charge of potions and was still an asshole to everyone that wasn’t Slytherin, regardless of if Holly was in the room or not.

I was a little amused that he apparently gave the same opening speech to each of his first year classes. At least he didn’t end it with an impromptu pop quiz.

Still, I couldn’t help be in awe of the sheer presence he exuded as he swept into the classroom and walked down the rows of benches. Something about the speech resonating deeply with me.

“There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. As such, I don't expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making.” Turning he eyed each one of us, he sneered. “However, for those select few who possess the predisposition, I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses.” Then slowly turning, he smiled a condescending smile at the Gryffindors before being a slight bit more genuine with the Slytherin side of the room. “I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.”

While, unlike the books, he did have the safety information written up on the blackboard. It was still absolutely a sh*t way, and arguably criminally negligent of him, to teach the absolutely crucial aspects of laboratory safety. Compounded by something inside bristling at the disregard. I mean, it was better than cannon, but still absolutely terrible.

It was only made worse when just like in cannon he proceeded to reveal the instructions for the boil-curing potions and tell us to get started. Again, absolutely terrible teaching. Potion savant he might be, he was a terrible teacher, even if his biting and insulting comments addressed most of the student’s mistakes.

Another similarly useless professor was Professor Binns. It should have been incredible, being taught by someone who remembered the events as they were happening. However the History of magic class was still taught by said ghost that basically repeated the book word for word and ignored student questions.

Now considering this world was about to go through a second wizarding civil war in just a few years. It would have been nice if this had been a universe where Lockhart was actually competent, but it absolutely was not.

He was so obviously a fraud and useless that it was hard to even attend his lectures. I had honestly attempted to fail a charm in our third class to see what he would do. The fire starting charm, incendio, was incredibly easy, but the stupid excuse for a man couldn’t even tell me what I was doing wrong, instead I was corrected by a random Hufflepuff. A Hufflepuff named Jemma who was eerily familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure where I remembered seeing her.

Really, why didn’t Dumbledore do something about this? If he couldn’t break the curse on the position, then why not just remove the class and break up the topics it covers into other classes? Heck the class was already basically dueling practice plus a little bit of everything else. Why not split it up that way and not risk a new professor each year?

Divination was actually a little amusing in that I was sitting next to perhaps one of the most powerful precogs in literature while being taught by a literal drunk. Heck, I was pretty sure Luna was a better seer than Trelawney and I didn’t understand half of what she was saying.

Then, past the bad teachers, there were the boring classes.

The Astronomy class was sorta interesting, but still seemed to be mostly useless until we got a lot further in other classes.

Herbology was vaguely interesting. Professor Sprout even helped the topic with her obvious passion for the subject and teaching in general. However, none of us except for Amy had any intention of attempting to grow anything long term.

Similarly, Taylor was the only one interested in care of magical creatures from Professor Kettleburn. That, however, might have had something to do with us starting with what were basically magical bugs.

It was a little bit of a surprise that I enjoyed Runes and Arithmancy as much as I did. However, from what I could gather, I wasn’t Hermione level good, just well above the norm. I hoped that would allow me to craft wards, enchantments, and rituals soon. Especially since in this universe the two subjects were critical to those disciplines as opposed to being just another language class and numerical analysis tool of dates and numbers.

In the end, it really wasn’t a surprise that our favorite classes were Charms and Transfiguration… even if McGonagall was a little overly strict.

We were all actually moderately quick to pick those spells up too. We even managed to get a few points for Gryffindor by being the first to transfigure a matchstick into a needle. However, perhaps because we were all 14-year-olds instead of 11, most of the class was able to do it by the end of the two-hour block.

What was a little concerning was our lack of power. Neither myself or any of my girls was particularly powerful. In fact, none of my girls held a candle to Luna. I was tempted to see if adjusting our souls would do something to change that, but something, maybe my long dormant Soul Mage instincts, were telling me to hold off.

The good news was that our homework, which was developed for 14-year-olds, was fairly easy and finished quickly. Really, we probably still wouldn’t have beaten Hermione, but that girl was still turning in essays twice the length of what was requested.

That left us time to practice additional magic and make our plans.

The bad news was we were kind of stuck. I didn’t know who had the diary nor how to get to it.

Dinah was still pulling a blank on who exactly had it, but suggested it was related to the Weasleys. We had done a complete search through Ron’s things in my dorm room and the Girls had done the same to Ginny’s stuff in hers but came up with nothing.

Worse, I didn’t know what to do with Ron’s bloody rat. I could actually see the magic on the collar that would probably raise some sort of alarm if he was taken or lost. The Animagus revealing charm was 3rd year, and the reversing spell to force Pettegrew into his human shape was at least 5th year. Then, even if we learned them, we would have to explain why we were trying it out on Ron’s rat in the first place.

We would also have to do this in public or after stunning the rat, as Pettegrew had access to at least two wands and was a fully trained wizard. I didn’t know where the clothes and items the wizards were wearing went when they transformed, but in the books, he was carrying Voldemort’s wand in addition to his own.

It was kind of sad, but without any bulletproof ways of exposing Peter without outing ourselves, we once again turned to Dinah once we all met up in what had become our corner of the Library. “Dinah, if we are forced to expose ourselves, when should we try to reveal Pettigrew if we want Sirius free and our family safe?”

Dinah actually began to wince as she thought about it. “I don’t know… I would say I am getting an ‘anytime’ answer, but it isn’t clear.” Gritting her teeth, she frowned. “The answer feels a little better next year.”

I sighed and looked at the other girls, who shook their heads back. They didn’t like the idea of leaving Sirius with the Dementors any more than I did since he seemed pretty awesome in the books and movies, but I nodded in agreement. “Ok, we leave Pettigrew for later, but I still kinda want to know why if we can puzzle it out.”

Sitting back, I tried to consider things for a few minutes. “If it is best to wait until next year, then the only things I can think of as to why are: 1, Something big changes like Minister Fudge getting sacked this year.” A pause and Dinah shook her head, nodding I said. “2, our status will be more secure next year and so won’t cause nearly as many problems.”

Dinah frowned but only tilted her head, so I continued. “3, Something in the Ministry of Magic won’t let Sirius go this year. Maybe something like the Ministry covering up their wrongful imprisonment if Pettigrew’s capture isn’t public enough with questions about Sirius Black on everyone’s mind.” Everyone looked confused, so I elaborated “Like how they quietly had Crouch Jr. kissed before anyone could question him further fourth year.”

Dinah frowned before she just shrugged, and I sighed before finishing my thought process. “Or 4, because Pettigrew needs to escape for some sort of prophecy that is controlling your predictions.”

Most of the girls looked concerned, but Dinah looked horrified, so I tried to soothe her worries. “It is probably nothing, just something I was considering, since we don’t know how prophecies work in this dimension.”

It was at that moment that all of us jumped as Luna came around the corner and nodded. “The Humdingers agree. It is best not to release the walloping snorgalsnouts and their mount too soon.”

I blinked in confusion at the apparently non-sequitor with my girls similarly confused before we all seemed to realize she was most likely just agreeing and so it was probably just more precog cheating again. Really, Luna hadn’t arrived until just now so shouldn’t know any what we had been talking about since we had been extremely quiet with a privacy charm up to block ease droppers, yet she obviously did. Taking a breath, I patted the chair next to me, which was empty because Amy had gotten up to look for books on Mandrakes.

It was that moment that Amy returned and plopped the open book down in front of me. Then, after eyeing Luna, she sighed and flopped into a chair on the other side of the table. “I know you were hoping we could help with the restorative drafts in case someone was petrified, but after skimming this book,” tapping the cover, “I suspect I can accelerate their growth only a little bit as they seem to gather magic as they grow. It is why they are such a powerful catalyst. Additionally, it would be nearly impossible to hide my involvement unless we do it each night via portal and I suspect the faculty would set up monitoring spells fairly quickly after we started.”

I sighed and rubbed my hand through my hair. “Then why can’t we just buy them. It seemed quite strange the faculty didn’t do that in the books.”

Amy frowned, but then shrugged. “Mandrakes are usually only grown for a short period of time which is sufficient for nearly everything except for what a full mandrake restorative draft requires. Said draft requires a mandrake nearly five years old. Most are harvested between one and two years old. Additionally, Mandrakes of that age really will kill a Witch or Wizard from just the sound of their cry alone, even if it isn’t remotely instant… more like 20 or 30 seconds.” Amy sighed. “Basically, I don’t see any way of helping out without being obvious with our involvement. As for other suppliers. Well, it would be easy for Malfoy to simply buy all the mature Mandrake stock before the professors realize what is going on, if he knows what is going to be happening.”

Nodding while scowling, I agreed. “Yes, well… Damn…” Running a hand through my hair I sighed. “Yeah, I really don’t want to gain too much attention too soon. Especially when that bastard Pettigrew can stand there and watch me sleep.”

I shuttered, followed by most of the girls. The girls hadn’t seen him in their dorms, but the rat did disappear some nights, and the idea of a balding, overweight man watching any of us sleep was nightmare inducing.

Shaking my head, I sighed. “Let's just keep studying. There is one time when we should be able to catch the perpetrator, guaranteed. We just need to learn the shield charm and stunning spells to take him down.” Everyone looked a little confused, so I smiled. “We will wait for the possessed student down the hall from the second floor girl’s bathroom on Halloween night. While the date of the first attack might have changed, I doubt it. Either fate or Tom seems to be obsessed with Halloween, so it is a pretty safe bet it will happen after the feast, and we can swoop in and capture him or her then.”

I frowned before I turned towards Dinah. “Will we be able to capture them?”

Dinah sighed and stared for a moment before she shrugged. “...Maybe”

I nodded to my girls. “We are just going to have to try. Best to hit them quiet and fast before anything can get out of hand.”

It was at that moment that I spotted Holly and Hermione in the corner of the library and I gestured towards them. “We should also probably start building connections with the golden trio as well. If we want to invite them along on our adventures then it is best to start as friends. Not everyone has a reason to leave their pasts behind like you all did.” Looking at their expressions, which had been turning a little depressed, I tried to keep my tone teasing as I continued. “On the other hand, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me and I will do my best to make sure it becomes that way for you all as well.” The frowns that had begun to fall were quickly lifted into small smiles and I sighed inwardly in relief, having hopefully blunted any bad memories. “Now we just need to get to work.”

With my girls reluctantly nodding with grim, determined faces, we all turned our efforts into practicing the stunning spells and shield charms.

The best chance to talk to Holly and Hermione was two days later in the common room. Everyone else in our half of the common room had gone to bed so it was just Taylor, Amy and Me while Holly and Hermione were working on an essay for Runes. Apparently Ginny had decided to deal with it later and had gone to bed early.

As we approached, I waved a little to break the ice as I spoke up. “So, we really haven’t had a chance to talk since the platform.”

There was a blink where Holly looked confused before she smiled and nodded in greeting before turning to Hermione. “Ah, yeah. Hermione, this is… Max Alcott, right?” Turning to me, she saw my nod and then turned towards my girls and attempted to continue the introductions. “And that was… Amy Alcott… and.” Obviously struggling to remember Taylor’s name.

Hermione, rolling her eyes, nodded. “Yes, that is Taylor Hebert.”

I smiled as well. “I don’t think you have actually met Taylor yet” Looking back, Taylor smiled as she shook her head. “but I have to say I was impressed with your memory, since we only spoke once, and I am not sure whether or not we even introduced ourselves properly at the time.”

Nodding in relief, Holly smiled at us, but I turned to Hermione and raised an eyebrow. “That just makes it all the more impressive that you knew our names already.”

Hermione actually scoffed at that before getting embarrassed. “I am just good at remembering things.”

I smiled, “Yeah, you are. Even us first years have already heard how well you do in all your classes. They say that you know just about everything up through third year.”

There was a moment of quiet where we all waited for her to deny it before we realized she couldn’t, looking embarrassed. Glancing to Amy and Taylor, I saw their eyes had also widened, obviously impressed. It was Taylor that voiced the thought. “That is really impressive. We have been studying our butts off and we only managed to get a little ahead.”

Hermione actually blushed and squirmed a bit. Elbowing her Holly smiled and looked at me, probably wondering if we were trying to ask Hermione out or something. As I suspected, now that the attention wasn’t on her in particular, she was significantly more confident.

Smiling, I turned back towards Holly before asking. “We came over to introduce ourselves, but also to ask a question, if you don’t mind.”

Both Holly and Hermione both looked a little nervous at that, so I smiled a little, apologetically. “We heard a lot of tall stories from last year and a lot of them seemed to revolve around you.”

The unease seemed to grow so I just paused and looked to Amy who spoke up. “We don’t like listening to rumors, gossip, or stuff ‘everyone just knows’ so we were wondering if we could ask you the story so we know the truth.”

There was a momentary pause where I wondered if we had pushed too hard too fast or something. Taylor and I had been sure asking for the truth was a good way to become friends since we both didn’t like assumptions, even if I personally couldn’t remember why. Amy had been a little more cautious but had tentatively agreed. Still, maybe the girls didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe they thought we were being pushy.

It was then that the two older girls looked at each other before smiling slightly, tentatively. “We could probably do that.”

What followed was a slow and sometimes vague explanation of their first year. How a troll had entered the school and how Hermione had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but Ginny and Holly had managed to distract it for them to run away. How it seemed like someone was trying to kill her all year. How Dumbledore had placed an important item in the school to guard it. How they wondered if it was Professor Snape. How it had turned out to be their possessed Defense Against the Dark Arts, or DADA, professor trying to kill her.

All throughout the explanation, the three of us ‘oohed and awed’ at the appropriate times. It wasn’t like we were acting either. The story was actually really impressive for anyone let alone 14 and 15 year olds.

There were however some major differences I noticed. Or at least things the girls weren’t revealing during the retelling. Some were expected, like not explaining why Hermione had been away from Ginny and Holly when the troll found them. I wasn’t sure it was Ginny that had insulted Hermione in this world, but someone probably had. Or anything to do with Hagrid getting and hatching a very illegal dragon egg in a wooden hut.

Others though made it clear either they didn’t trust us, which was… quite fair, or they weren't sure they would be believed. The biggest one was they never explained who or what had been possessing Quirrell. They also didn’t discuss what exactly the artifact was that the possessed Quirrell had been after.

As they finished up I smiled. “Wow, you three really did a lot. That was both really brave, crazy smart, and also extremely impressive spellwork.”

There were a few moments of embarrassed silence where Hermione started to deflect our praise when Holly interrupted, obviously a little incredulous. “You all believe us, just like that?”

I didn’t have to fake my confusion. I knew she was telling the truth, but even if I hadn’t, they had been too consistent in their storytelling and too earnest in their retelling for me not to believe them. Additionally, looking at their souls, really looking I could kinda tell they were being mostly honest. Still, as another thought crossed my mind I smiled. “I do. I like to think I am good at telling what kind of person someone is and you are both honest to a fault, but if you want to double prove it let Amy touch your hands. She has a magical gift that lets her know if you are knowingly lying.”

The two turned their now confused eyes to Amy who shrugged and held out her hands. Once they slowly, gingerly placed their hands in hers Amy smiled. “Were you telling the truth?”

Holly and Hermione both hesitated before turning back and answering, “Yes!”

Amy smiled and squeezed their hands for a moment before nodding. “They were telling the truth.”

The following half an hour was predictably spent having Hermione run through every different test she could think of to try to trick Amy’s sense, which she obviously couldn’t do. Then, every different way she could think of to try to understand how she could do it.

Finally, I had to cut off what was quickly turning into something in between an interrogation and a laboratory study so we could head to bed. Turning around, I stopped us before we left and said to the two sitting on the sofa, “Holly, Hermione. While we would prefer you keep Amy’s abilities a secret, if either of you, or Ginny for that matter, needs help. Please let us know. We would be happy to try to assist. You deserve it.” Watching I noticed as Holly became a little uncomfortable, and I realized she probably believed our offer was due to her girl-who-lived fame, so I continued. “Plus, I mean we can’t let you be the only one to stop a possessed professor in your first year, now can we?”

At their relaxing postures, we turned in and went to bed. Glancing over, I noticed that both Amy and Taylor were smiling just as widely as I was.

It turns out that Holly and Hermione were actually pretty fun to be around. Plus, they seemed to enjoy our company as well. Well, as long as the topic didn’t stray too close to Holly’s fame or Hermione’s bookishness.

In the end it was just more of a reason to help them if we could.

In the end I had to admit that the following weeks were tense and I think most other students noticed as we became even more isolated than before. Holly, Hermione, and later Ginny being the only exceptions. The three often stopping by our little corner of the library to ask us how we were doing along with a little meaningless small talk.

However, it seemed to be worth it, as in under two months we all managed to be able to cast a Stupify, a Protega, and a Petrificus Totalus which were a stunning spell, the basic shield charm, and a body binding spell respectively.

A few more questions to Dinah let us plan out what we needed to do on Halloween and saw us eating the first part of the feast. It was only as we saw Ginny, Hermione and Holly getting up to go to the death day party that we also started to get ready to leave. However, it was then that Luna stopped by our table and sat down in Amy’s lap. “Are you ready to catch the burrowing shadow snufflers?”

I blinked before turning to look at my other girls before shrugging. “I guess?” Then tentatively, “Are you going to be helping us, Luna?”

Luna smiled and this time her smile was a little predatory which made a shiver run up the back of my spine. “Yes, yes I am…”

Everyone blinked at her tone before smiling tentatively in agreement. However, before we could leave we were interrupted by Ginny. “Hey, Luna. It has been awhile.” Then seeming to notice the rest of us she frowned in what might have been suspicion. “So, what were you six talking about?”

Luna hummed and smiled. “How much better friends we will be once you join the collective and gain your own fluffy turtlesnort. We have pudding.”

There was a momentary pause when I realized she might really understand what was going on and did a double take before I facepalmed, followed shortly by Amy and Taylor while Sabah groaned softly and Dinah frowned. Worse yet, Luna seemed to have actually lost interest and had started making a pudding sandwich. Which was especially weird since pudding hadn’t even been served yet.

Ginny frowned for a moment before shaking her head. “Sometimes I really don’t understand how your brain works, Luna.” Then obviously looking over the rest of us “but I am glad you are having fun with your new friends.”

With one final shake of her head, and a wave goodbye, Ginny got up and walked over to Hermione and Holly before the trio headed out of the hall towards the dungeons and Nearly headless Nick’s 500 year death day party.

Turning to Luna I simply raised my eyebrow before she responded. “Max, you should understand more than just about anyone else that true information is sometimes the best deflection.”

Everyone froze before taking a breath. “We really should talk about this privately.” Luna nodded, looking serene.

Glancing around, I pulled her up and the six of us made our way to the corridor leading away from Moaning Myrtle's second floor bathroom. The one the books explained held the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. It was the only corridor left leaving the area and connected the bathroom corridor to the main staircase and the rest of the castle. Additionally, and probably crucially to Tom, it didn’t have any paintings to report who went down the hall or what happened.

It was at that point that we circled around Luna. “Luna,” I started, “I suppose what you said about deflecting questions with truth is true… heck I do it myself sometimes.” Then taking a breath I asked. “I am sorry, but I have to ask… what exactly do you see and how much do you know?”

Luna hummed with her eyes particularly glassy and then smiled. “I see a lot of things, Mr Soldier.” All of us jumped and I glanced at my girls who looked back startled. “But almost all of what I see is disjointed, for instance I do not know if that was your past, present or a possible future. There are even events or creatures that seem to change some futures even as I am watching.”

I swallowed and glanced at Dinah who was looking back at the girl, wide-eyed, but before anyone could ask Luna sighed and nodded. “So, no. I can see possible futures based on what is going on, but I can’t give straight predictions like Dinah. So far I know you will probably recruit me into whatever group you are forming and I will be happier with you than if I stayed away. We can talk about more at a later time.”

Swallowing, I nodded. “I understand. You are already keeping our secrets so we will obviously not talk about your abilities either.” A thankful nod back was all I needed to get us back on track.

It was then that I opened a portal and let Ahri, now in her original nine tails body through to join us. We had found that my portal making abilities were much more difficult in Hogwarts wards. Both to open and also to keep them open in order to transport things, but it was still possible, just slow and tiring.

Luna turned to Ahri and smiled. “Hello, Shadow.” Before taking a leap and landing in the middle of Ahri’s nine tails. The groan she got was almost indecent as she mumbled. “This was over half the reason I had joined.”

I sighed one again, rubbing my forehead. “Ok, ignoring the past tense you just used, we get it. You probably know all our secrets. You haven’t done anything with the information yet so we can probably trust you, but we are about to try to stop Tom before anyone can get hurt this year so we need to focus.”

Turning her head Luna pauses for a moment before she smiled. “Ah, yes, Tom… So that is who he was. And yes, I will help.”

Turning to my girls I threw up my hand before rolling my eyes and most of the others shrugged back so I simply pointed to the corners we had picked out to ambush the student from and we sat back to wait.

There were several minutes of silence where we heard nothing except the occasional echos down one of the halls. The sound traveling further than I would have liked, but not nearly as far as I would have thought in what was basically a stone tube. Maybe it was magic or maybe the tapestries were enough to dampen out the sound produced. I didn’t know, but it gave me something to think about as the time ticked onward.

It was then, as I wondered what a snake would sound like, that we heard the slow shifting down the hall like someone dragging a bag across the stone floor. Then we heard a soft clunk from the area around the corner. Glancing at the rest of my girls I swallowed as I felt my stomach settling around my knees. Bloody Hell! How did Harry fight something like a 60 foot Basilisk? Even the idea seemed ridiculous. Hell, just hearing the damn snake slither around with sounded like quiet hissing was terrifying.

It did make me wonder why Tom didn’t just lay low and take over the possessed student’s body completely before making his move. Why drive out Dumbledore before making the switch? Did he worry about being interrupted? That didn’t really explain things either since Dumbledore wouldn’t have known where the student had disappeared to if Tom hadn’t left any clues. Really, as sad as it was, the only answer that made any sense was Tom was a drama queen that needed everyone around him to fear and worship him. Doing things in secrete was an antithesis to that.

Shaking myself I tried to focus more on the hallway and after a few more minutes we heard a soft Yowl that must have been Miss Norris, Filch’s Cat, being petrified, something that might have been painting, another few hisses and a shifting wait, and then footsteps moving towards us. Nodding to the girls on the other side of the corridor, we all tensed ourselves to move and waited for the student to appear.

It was only as we saw a mop of red hair pass that I yelled, “Now” that we jumped out and started throwing every stunner and body bind we could at a young boy.

The shouting after so many minutes of silence left my ears ringing and my mind a little confused which didn’t help at what I had just seen.

To our utter horror, Ron Weasley turned to us with burning red eyes bringing up a silent protega shield before instantly returning fire with some sort of blood boiling hex.

Following my training in Runterra we all scattered and behind Ahri an crack sounded ringing down the halls as the stone of a doorframe exploded followed by the tinkling of stone bits bouncing down the hall.

Then there was a moment of calm while we all looked at each other before Ron’s face sneered.

It was at that moment that I knew we had screwed up, screwed up bad. Worse it was clear that Tom’s wraith knew it too. After one last moment of silence passed Ron’s wand began to dance as he started casting at us with a speed that forced all 7 of us to take cover while trying desperately to shield, each shield breaking after one or two hits from Tom’s curses.

I dove right back behind a suit of armor, with Dinah right behind me. Ahri used a dash to get around a corner further down the hall, while Amy and Taylor hid behind an alcove corner. Sabah and Luna ducked back around the corner of the alcove on the other side of the hall.

It took me a moment to realize how screwed we truly were. I knew we weren’t particularly powerful, but due to Amy’s modifications, we should have been faster to cast and dodge than anyone who wasn’t a professional duelist. Yet we were being demolished.

A chill passed down my spine. It was obvious that Ron couldn’t be doing this, ignoring the speed, he was terrible at theoretical or book work and no one would have taught him any of these spells.

Damn It. That meant we were dealing with not only Tom’s mind, but from the variety of spells coming from him along with the bangs from each of his spells hitting walls or floors and exploding a small bit of the stone, we were also up against at least some of his power.

We were barely holding on, only occasionally returning fire and Tom seemed to actually be enjoying it now as well. He had glanced down the hall behind him at the beginning, but after a moment of hesitation he actually started walking slowly towards us, his sneer only widening.

It was then that it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Taylor shove Amy out of the way of a spell, taking a piercing hex through her chest.

It felt like time slowed down as I watched her top turn crimson nearly instantly before the look of shock finally crossed her face and she collapsed bonelessly to the floor in front of Amy.

I growled in fear, then an all encompassing rage before I decided to screw subtlety. Yelling out “Ahri, Distract! Amy, keep casting as you help Taylor. Luna…” I could feel a soft whimper leave my throat, “do whatever you can, but stay safe.”

Once again, I kicked myself. What the hell was I doing? Luna didn’t even have the damn Phylactery protection.

That seemed to snap everyone into action. The spell fire increased as Amy stopped looking where she was firing casting as many stunners as she could in the general area. Luna and Sabah did the same. I wasn’t entirely sure what Ahri was doing, but suddenly Tom started dodging spell fire I was pretty sure weren’t there a second before.

Yet, even with Ahri running illusions, we were just barely holding on.

Gritting my teeth I racked my brains before I heard Luna call out. “Roots can fall the tallest mountain.”

I blinked before hoping I understood, I opened two small portals next to Ron’s feet and cast a stunner through both of them. Insanely, Tom wearing Ron’s body managed to dodge the first one completely, and I only managed to clip him with the second.

However, my moderately weak stunner managed to slow Tom down enough that he took two more stunners from Luna and Sabah before a body bind from Ahri took him down.

Running up to the bound boy, I nearly ripped open his robes looking for the damn Horcrux. It didn’t take long to find. Ron had the stupid diary in his front left pocket over his heart.

Swallowing the bile at the dark magic I could feel from the journal, I ripped it away before throwing it into a pocket dimension and into a cast iron box next to Gray Boy’s soul vase. That was about as isolated and safe as I could make it for now.

Running over to Taylor and Amy with the rest of my girls close behind, I found Amy frozen over Taylor’s body. As she looked up at me with horror in her eyes, I felt my heart drop even before she said the words. “She’s dead.”

There was a moment of blind sorrow and loss before I grit my teeth. As tears starting to fill my eyes, I opened a portal directly into the safe with our necklace Phylactery. Reaching out with my hand I traced across her ruby and after a moment I sighed and relaxed, albeit slightly. “She is back inside her gem” Taking a shaky breath I continued. “We should need to just repair her body and stick her soul back in.”

Dinah sagged to the ground and Luna actually let out a little sob. I once again turned around and realized she was still with us. Shaking my head I pushed the thoughts of exactly how much she knew about us out of my head.

Focusing on slowing my breathing, I picked up Taylor’s mostly intact body up before opening a larger portal into our pocket home’s living room.

Behind me, I heard Ahri casting some cleaning spells, while Dinah attempted to summon Scabbers in case he had seen us while Luna started casting repairos at the chipped stone.

Somewhere in my mind, I was glad they were so reliable. Yet, said battle evidence was just another example of things I had failed to account for. Worse, after all the time we had spent avoiding the rat, we might have just given Pettigrew a demonstration of what we could do.

It was bad enough that I only relaxed slightly as Dinah mumbled something before shaking her head. “Pettigrew was never here.”

Sabah who had been quiet up until now spoke up next. “Just wake Ron up. If the books are to be believed, he won’t remember anything anyway, and we don’t have time to do anything else.”

Nodding, Ahri and Luna turned to him as they finished cleaning up. Gesturing quickly to the portal I pulled them through. The battle in the hall had only taken about 30 seconds or so, but it had felt like a lifetime and we could already hear confused voices getting closer, probably attracted by the sounds of the splintering stone.

Casting again, Ahri released Ron from his body bind while Luna revived him before I let the portal snap shut. At this point, it didn’t really matter if he remembered something if waiting caused us to be caught by the rest of the school.

Turning back to Taylor I once again felt my Stomach drop as my dread somehow managed to rise further. Amy had already closed the gaping hole, but Taylor was still laying there pale and lifeless and it was obvious that Amy still had a lot to do.

No one talked as we waited. Even Luna didn’t do anything but stare at Taylor’s face as Amy worked. The only sound that could be heard was the click, click, click from the wall clock next to the kitchen.

It felt like an eternity, but according to the clock, it had been only about 10 minutes later before Amy leaned back and I leaned forward.

Pushing away what felt like real physical pain at seeing my wife like this while feeling a tear roll down my cheek I reached forward and slowly started reconnecting her soul to her body.

Having done this so many times before it didn’t take long but the entire time I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if it didn’t work.

As I finished, I could almost feel my heart stutter as there was a moment of stillness where nothing happened besides the slow rise and fall of her chest.

At that moment I let my fears overtake me. None of our group had actually died. What if the trauma of dying did something irreversible to her mind. Something that our revival method couldn’t fix.

But before I could actually start to spiral I watched as Taylor’s eyes slowly fluttered. I sat back up a little more and took a shaky breath, as behind me, I could feel literally every other girl doing the same thing.

When Taylor finally opened her eyes, there was a moment of pause before she was tackled by everyone, Amy beating us all there.

There were a lot of sniffles, but it was Amy who spoke up first in a shaky voice that I could tell she was trying to hide. So in a professional voice, which fooled no one as her voice cracked, she looked Taylor in the eye and explained. “You Moron! You were lucky that there weren’t any lingering magical effects or I would have had to start over building you a new body. You would have been stuck in your gem for hours, maybe days.”

There was a moment of silence before Amy paused and sniffled, then continued quieter, “Still, thank you.” Then at just above a whisper, “Please don’t do anything like that again…”

Reaching out, I moved my arm, so I was squeezing both Taylor and Amy before I spoke with the same hitch in my voice. “Yes, Please… I really don’t know what I would do without any of you.”

It was then that Taylor seemed to start to remember what had happened, she reached forward and hugged both Amy and me. Then, after a moment where she fully realized who else was here, she reached out and moved her arms to hug the entire hug pile.

We took a few minutes of cuddling where each of us reassured ourselves that Taylor was still with us. I even gave her a small peck on the lips despite our younger ages. Then after a moment of hesitation, so did Amy. Then Sabah, Dinah, and Ahri followed with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, other cheek, and forehead respectively. Finally, Luna, who I had once again forgotten was even there, gave her a hug and a kiss on the nose.

Looking over my girls, I smiled before I turned towards the clock. It had been nearly an hour since we had entered our home, and it was nearly certain that the castle was currently being searched for anyone out of bed along with the culprit of tonight’s attack.

Speaking up, I gestured to the clock before sighing out, “We are going to need to go to bed.” I looked sadly at Taylor before I turned to Amy. “Amy, I am going to have to ask you to take care of Taylor tonight. Can… can you make sure she is alright.”

With a firm nod, Amy turned to look at Taylor who had rolled her eyes in response. Still, I wasn’t about to back down, especially as I had noticed Taylor’s hand shaking occasionally over the last few minutes.

Turning towards the front door of our pocket home, I opened a small portal outside of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tower before, ensuring that no one was coming, I gestured for everyone to head back to their respective dorm room.

There were some questions on where we had been, but no one seemed surprised we had been together and had simply been coming back from the library. We were all only first years, after all.

Yet as I laid down in my bed, listening to an already snoring Ron across the room, I frowned.

I was a complete and utter moron. Worse, I was an egotistical moron that got one of my wives killed. I had tried to lead us into a direct confrontation with an unknown foe and had nearly gotten us slaughtered.

What kind of fool leads his family into danger while only half trained and holding back most of their trump cards?

There were so many better ways of doing this.

We could have spotted Ron then followed him back up to his room and stolen the Journal later. We could have told someone that they saw Ron acting weird with some nasty feeling magic book and let the adults handle it. Heck, just waiting a few more minutes for Tom to lose more of his influence before attempting the ambush would have been better.

Or best yet, ambushing from our invisible, probably undetectable, pocket dimension… LIKE WE DID EVERY TIME BEFORE.

Dragging my fingers down my face I groaned softly. I had started to believe we were big shots and I endangered my family with what was obviously the stupidest, worst way I could have approached it with.

Letting my chest pang painfully as I thought of Taylor laying on the table in front of me. Unable to wait to see her until tomorrow, I opened a tiny portal above Taylor’s bed like I had done when we had been talking into the night. However, this time I just looked in. I wasn’t too surprised that Amy and Taylor were lying together in bed. While they were just laying there holding each other Platonically, my heart once again seized in fear of what I had nearly lost.

It was then that I felt something metaphorically snap within me, and I blinked. The pressure I had been feeling for as long as I could remember, but hadn’t noticed, was suddenly gone.

At first, I couldn’t figure out what had changed, but as I looked up through the little peephole into the girl's room, I blushed and closed it.

I blinked. I was embarrassed on how I had been acting. How much focus I had been placing on them.

Basically, the soul deep drive to find and collect women at almost any cost was completely gone.

Well… no, that wasn’t fully accurate. I still liked the idea of finding various women to love me and joining my family. A desire to find them. A desire to help them. Then, if they wanted to, bring them along with me and my family on our many adventures.

However, the unstoppable itch, the unending compulsion, to find more girls that had been only slowly and gradually diminishing with the girls I already had was now gone.

Then, before I could analyze those thoughts, it felt like my emotions came roaring back. What the bloody hell was going on? It wasn’t like I was emotionless before, but I suddenly was forced to think about things differently.

As I felt my breath start to speed up I could tell I was starting to spiral. I couldn’t do this right now.

Grunting, I bit my lip and focused on the pain to try and ground me in the here and now. Trying to focus on the coppery taste to keep myself in the present. I knew pain was a bad coping mechanism, but I didn’t want to see where this spiral took me. Yet I could feel it starting as my mind began to wander.

What did this mean?

What had I been doing?

Why had I been doing it?

Then the questions I had been pushing away for months came roaring back.

Who was I?

What was I trying to do?

What was I doing to my girls?

What kind of monster was I?

Biting harder, I felt my lip fully split and the shock of the pain in my lib and in my arms from my nails digging into my arms got my to uncurl my body slightly.

Taking a shaky breath, I focused on the taste of the blood while tracing the ceiling with my eyes.

Ok, I didn’t know who I was, but a lot of people forgot things. What mattered was what I had done…

Ok, so I had taken girls away from their families and homes… yeah that was a pretty bad thing to do… ok… no, it was straight up monstrous.

I felt the pit of dread inside my stomach do a back flip and my entire body started to ache.

No, don’t just spiral. I hadn’t forced anyone to do anything. They chose to come with me… Well, no… I had definitely kidnapped Dinah. An 11-year-old was not old enough to make the decision to come with me… Hell, even Taylor had been kidnapping.

While Amy was an adult, I had given her emotionally disturbing information to get her out of her right state of mind before asking. Hell, I had basically blackmailed Sabah and kidnapped her as well.

Did Ahri even have a real choice with people after her?

The rational part of my brain was trying to tell me that they all knew their options, I hadn’t forced anyone to do anything, but I couldn’t listen.

The memory of Taylor’s cooling corpse in my arms nearly caused me to once again bite my slowly healing lip again before I caught myself.

Slowly forcing my body to relax despite my instincts, I stared into the ceiling thinking through all of my many, many mistakes…

After multiple hours of fretting, I finally fell asleep to my self-recriminations.

Chapter 17: Chapter 17: HP/?? - Aftermath and Decisions

Notes:

AN:

I am sorry if people don't like the emotional drama, but this is the character reflecting and discussing it ... hopefully like adults.

We are nearly to the end of the originally written chapters. I have written more, but the changes I keep making has required a lot of edits... We might eventually get a gap week or two when I have to do more planning, but I am still going strong.

Please comment on things you like or want to see more off.
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Chapter Text

I woke up with the sun already streaming through the window. I blinked and then rolled over to glance around the room. Everyone else was gone, which made sense. It was a Saturday and everyone would have headed down to the great hall for breakfast, cryptic message on the bathroom wall or not.

Rolling to lay on my back, I once again started to lose myself in a spiral of thoughts. What was I even trying to do anymore?

It was at that moment that the door to my dorm room literally slammed open and I blinked as I sat up and looked at all of my girls filing through the door, Taylor and Luna at the head.

Before I could question what was going on, I was knocked back onto my back by a leaping Ahri in her cat form.

It was Luna who then broke the silence. “Here you are, my friends. However, scaring away the Nargles is still up to you all… for now.” With that she walked out of the room, and knowing her, was probably now headed out to find some magical creature to pet or something.

Once again feeling my chest ache looking at Taylor I started by saying. “Girls, I am so sorry I…”

I was once again interrupted, this time by Taylor pushing me down with a small peck to my lips to shut me up.

After a moment to consider, I put my arms around Taylor and let out a shuddering breath, which I felt her return.

The moment of silence was broken when Amy sighed. “If you are going to spend the afternoon cuddling, you might as well do it in your mature body so we can all enjoy it.”

Amy’s usual crass humor was enough to break the mood and I slowly and softly chuckled before I looked at her and the bags under her eyes and internally winced. It was clear she wasn’t as unaffected as she wanted us to believe. If she hadn’t been distracted, there was no way she would have forgotten to heal any effects like that away.

Taking a deep breath, I nodded before slowly opening a portal into our pocket home. After stepping to the side, I waited as my girls all walked through before I closed the portal.

Now feeling distinctly out of place, I spent about two minutes putting Ahri back in her nine tails body while Amy and Sabah made us some late breakfast, the rest of us all sat down.

No one said anything, but I noticed that everyone once again touched Taylor’s shoulder or arm as they passed as we waited for breakfast. Probably to reassure themselves that she was once again fine.

What I didn’t expect was the girls doing the same to me. In fact, it wasn’t until Sabah ran her hand down my arm as she brought me my breakfast burrito, that I realized something was going on since she was not normally one for physical contact outside of Amy.

Smiling up at Sabah I reached up and patted her hand which actually made her give me a small smile. Then she turned and sat herself down next to Amy.

However, seeing the two of them so close, I once again felt my heart seize up. Was I forcing Sabah to be with me and the rest of us when all she really wanted was Amy?

Opening my mouth, I was about to ask… something. But I closed it before I could actually figure out how to ask.

Internally, I tried to shake these thoughts away, I needed to focus. Taking a deep, shaky breath I started my apology. “I am sorry. I was a moron and nearly got us all killed. Especially when there were so many other, better ways of going about this.”

There were some uncomfortable looks before Taylor spoke up. “Look, Max, Luna told us that you were beating yourself up about this… and about some other things, but none of us stopped you because it did seem like a reasonable plan at the time.”

I blinked, disbelieving, and shook my head. Taylor rolled her eyes. “Ok, so obviously it could have gone much, much better, but it also could have gone much, much worse. Especially with our trump weapons out of commission.”

I must have looked confused, so she sighed and elaborated. “Amy and I had already decided that using our normal bugs or Amy’s biokinesis pokes weren’t really an option right now.” Waving her hand for emphasis, she continued. “Did you know there are like 14 different spells I could find that would kill all the bugs in a sphere around a wizard. Plus, Hogwarts seems to be periodically killing my bugs so it is hard to build up any kind of swarm. And even if that wasn’t the case, Amy and I still have no idea how much venom is necessary or safe for wizards, since we don’t want to practice on the other students.”

Then Taylor gestured toward Amy who cleared her throat before continuing. “Meanwhile, I have never tried to take down anyone other than a squib and an untrained 14-year-old witch. It might have worked, or it might have turned into a protracted battle while I fought for control of his body. So yeah, our trump cards really weren’t an option until we had more time to practice and prepare.”

I blinked as I thought about that and then nodded slowly. “Ok… yeah, I guess you do have a point there, but I really should have brought it up.” Taking a deep breath, I looked up at the ceiling and frowned. “And that is the problem. I still didn’t ask.” Running a hand through my hair, I sighed. “I guess I was just too caught up in the magic of magic, pun intended, and started thinking in terms of solving the problems here only using magic.” I paused then continued. “And I was doing that in Runterra as well. We had Irelia teach us a crash course in fighting with a blade, but I never encouraged you to fight with your abilities to combine the two.”

The girls looked at each other before they slowly murmured their agreement when Amy spoke up. “That is true, but once again, it isn’t your responsibility to solve all the problems yourself.” She smirked at me while patting Sabah’s leg, which made my heart tighten as a part of me considered the two of them leaving me. “You knew more about the worlds we were passing through than us until now, especially about what was happening on Earth Bet, but we know almost as much as you do here, especially with this world already being non-canon. So, No… You don’t need to come up with every plan and idea yourself, let us help.”

I slowly took a breath before letting it out just as slowly. “Ok, but that does bring up the elephant in the room.” I winced. “I don’t know what to do to fix this… the fact I kidnapped you all…”

That was as far as I got before Dinah came flying over the edge of the sofa to cling to me. “No!”

It was Taylor who followed up, nearly yelling, face panicked. “We ASKED you to bring us along…”

I cut her off as I responded. “Coercing you to come with me is still kidnapping.”

Sabah winced and then cleared her throat loudly to get everyone’s attention, “You might be right with an incredibly strict interpretation of the definition, but you need to think about this.”

Amy followed up, nodding, voice rising. “Warning us of danger, and offering an escape, is hardly kidnapping. Especially when, as I understand it, Dinah literally stopped you on the street and basically demanded you save her.”

Wincing, I slowly nodded, acknowledging the point, but Amy shook her head, narrowing her eyes. “No, I don’t think you understand yet. All of us are here because we want to be. We aren’t going anywhere.” Reaching forward, she put her hand on mine before frowning and sighing low and frustrated. “You don’t believe we would want to be with you…” taking a breath, she let it out slowly. “Well, we will just have to prove it” She got up to probably initiate something, but I held up my hand in a wait motion.

Sighing, obviously frustrated, she sat back down before I turned to Dinah. “Ok, even if I accept the others, you really can’t be expected to have understood the consequences of coming with me. Especially not the romantic consequences.”

Dinah puffed out her cheeks in a way I could tell was exaggerated. “I was nearly 12 at the time I joined you, and it has been nearly two years now. Do not call me a child.” Then her face dropped to a neutral one that was all the more jarring from it’s previously innocent facade. “And I was always mature with absentee parents.”

She took a shaky breath, eyes going glassy. “I triggered when I watched the news about the plane my parents were supposed to be on crash after a villain attack. After I woke up, I was able to find out they were completely ok, which was nice, but then I got to see the futures of everyone else.” She shuttered hard before she took a shaky breath. “I couldn’t really be a child again when I realized I could know the answers to questions like, is one of my classmates going to die this month and finding out it was nearly 100%. My second trigger was being unable to stop my best friend from being kidnapped, then killed.” Now shaking she bit her lip but continued. “Even after that, I realized I was going to be captured by Coil and kept as a slave in a basem*nt. I… I…”

Looking at the obviously traumatized girl, I slowly got up and sat down next to her before pulling her across Ahri and my laps. As she laid down, I slowly ran my hand through her hair and patted her head while Ahri drowned her in her nine tales.

There was a moment of silence where we realized that Dinah might have been just as traumatized as the rest of the group which was saying something when put next to Taylor’s extreme bullying and Amy’s emotional ping ponging growing up.

It was Amy who finally broke the silence. “Ok, so we all agree that we are happier with Max than before, and we don’t want to leave even if we could.”

Dinah gave a little twitch and I blinked down at her, which made her sigh. “When I asked if you could figure out a way to let us leave, the answer was nearly 100%... eventually.”

Ignoring the angry sounds my other girls were making, I looked at our connection and got to thinking. I was wrapping around each of their souls, holding them in place, but also reinforcing them slightly.

There was a little bleed through where our very souls were mixing together ever so slightly, but I realized that with being able to see through my soul, I could see the edge where my girl's souls started. So yes, for lack of a better word, I could tear the girls out of my soul. I could even make sure the tear was on my half of the bleed through, so the girls wouldn’t lose anything and with my soul’s nature, it would probably heal eventually. It was probably something that only I could do since, as far as I could tell, only I would be able to see through my own soul.

I opened my eyes. When did I close them? And looked at Dinah cutting off the angry muttering in the room. “Yeah, I can free you all.”

Amy stood up, but it was Taylor that beat her to it, by leaning over and slapping me across the face.

It wasn’t excessively hard, but it took a moment to realize that while obviously furious, Taylor also had slight tears in her eyes. Looking into her eyes, I had a moment of clarity. She looked like she was about to run away, I caught her hand and after a momentary tug back and forth I pulled her down into the sofa next to me before she could run off.

Taking a deep breath, I tried to chuckle but it came out weakly, cheek still stinging. “I… I am sorry, everyone… I am sorry, Taylor, I understand that that might have come out especially wrong with your past.”

After a moment, Taylor nodded jerkily, and so I sighed. “I… I understand… I understand that I am not in the right headspace right now.” Swallowing, I tried to smile. “I will even believe that you want to stay… just… just promise me you will talk to me if you want to leave. I really do care about you all, and I want you to be happy.”

There were a chorus of nods, so I continued. “So, besides my… concerns… about your choices to come with me.” I gulped. “I also have been having some concerns about who I am and what exactly I am doing. I felt… something… break last night. It felt like what our textbooks describe as a magical compulsion… to collect women. That and to not think about my past or powers.”

Amy rubbed her forehead. “I was asked to examine a lot of case 53s. I don’t know if it is the same advice everywhere for those who can’t remember their pasts, but you need to stop worrying about it.” She sighed. “Focus less on who you were and instead focus more on who you want to be.”

Once again, swallowing, I nodded.

Surprisingly, it was Sabah who spoke up next. “Putting aside where a magical compulsion came from, for now, how do you feel now that it is gone?”

I sighed and rubbed my hand through my hair. “Well, to be honest, I still feel like trying to find, help, and maybe even… yes, seduce… some of my favorite women in fantasy. I mean, the very idea sounds incredible, but now it is less of an all encompassing desire and more of an unreachable dream.”

Sabah actually scoffed at that. “You have a literal vixen, a beautiful hero, and two bisexual women, all of which semi-regularly visit your bed… how are you not already living the dream?” She leaned forward and smiled. “Especially when all of us in the… family… are perfectly alright with you finding others to join as well.”

I blinked and then looked at my girls again. “What…”

Amy rolled her eyes across from me while patting Sabah’s knee. “None of us seem to have been under any compulsions, and we are all still completely fine with your goals.” She smirked and rolled her eyes. “As they say here in Britain… Max, what the Bloody Hell is wrong with you?” Amy smirk grew a little bigger, “Sabah and I are even hoping you find another girl soon who is interested in a little bit of,” her smirk turned mischievous, “girl fun on the side.”

Sabah blushed as Amy finished before Ahri actually spoke up. “We understand being worried about your past and what happened to you. You know I do especially… but we are going to be with you the entire time. For now, let's just focus on that. Plus, if a woman you like wants to join us of her own free will, understanding the binding and we all agree, why shouldn’t you let her join us?”

I slowly swallowed and sighed. “You.. you are right… it will be a Family choice, which does make me feel a little better.” I paused, a little more contemplative now. “However, part of me wonders if the compulsion is actually gone… and how a compulsion from a ROB would wear off. Plus, why would a compulsion from a ROB behave exactly like a compulsion using Harry Potter Magic?”

Shaking my head, I smiled a little. “However, if nothing else, the compulsion did push me to actually contact each of you. Without that push, I might have just attempted to leave Earth Bet by myself as soon as I could, without doing anything to help.” I frowned. “Well, either that or I would have tried to do something alone and gotten myself killed, since I was nearly powerless in direct combat at the time…”

There were a few scoffs that seemed to imply that I was still fairly powerless, but I took them in the good fun they were probably meant as.

I then continued. “But it also makes me wonder where exactly my powers came from. Now that I can sit and think about them, moving a shard super computer into a soul isn’t just dimension shifting. It is full-blown reality manipulation…” I frowned. “But If I can do that, why can’t I do anything else?” Everyone looked at each other, uncomfortable, but no one offered an answer.

After a moment of silence, I cleared my throat. “Ok, so… ignoring questions we have no way of knowing now, back to the question at hand since Amy is probably right. What should we do? What are our priorities.”

Taylor looked like she was going to speak up, but Amy beat her to it. “First priority is always the safety of the family.”

I blinked before I nodded. “You know, we never really figured out a name, but I like calling our group, The Family… capital letters and all.” Amy rolled her eyes but then nodded.

Taylor cleared her throat and then nodded back. “True, but I think that the next priority should be Minimizing suffering.”

It was Sabah who tilted her head and asked. “I agree we should minimize suffering, but why not saving innocents or something… I don’t know, heroic first? I mean, I was a Rogue on Earth Bet, so I didn’t exactly want to fight, but I thought you wanted to be a hero.”

Taylor sighed. “I know I was called the Queen of Escalation. I often did anything and everything in pursuit of my goals. Yes, I was trying to improve things, but I think I let the mission cloud my judgment sometimes.”

I blinked before I nodded slowly. “I guess I understand what you are saying.” I took a deep breath. “I think we need to get someone to watch us, maybe a few members of the Family to double-check our plans. They would be there to make sure we don’t fall down the ‘greater good’ paradigm.”

There were nods all around, even if some nods were thoughtful, others firm.

Dinah took a breath before speaking up. “After that we can go about saving, or avenging, the innocent, right?”

Amy nodded instantly. “We can’t always save the innocent, but we can try… and if we fail, we can sure as hell punish the ones that did it.”

Ahri was the final one to speak up next, which surprised me as she was often alright just to follow along with the group’s decisions. “If none of that is required, then we should just try to improve people’s lives.”

Smiling, I reached over and ran my hand through the fox girl’s hair. She was shorter than me even in this 15-year-old body, so the action wasn’t too awkward.

Amy tapped her chin pulling my attention back to the group. “Ok, we actually have a name and goals to work for. Plus, from now on, we will speak up if we find any faults in Max’s plans.”

Cutting her off, I shook my head. “Or even if you have another idea on how to do the exact same thing. We should always look for options.”

Nodding her head, Amy continued where she left off. “Yes, we will brainstorm together. However, with our first rule being to protect the family, we are probably going to end up doing more covert work than going up and punching a villain in the face.”

I nodded before I tilted my head. “Plus, I will probably be moving leadership of any conflict to Taylor soon.” Turning towards her on my other side I smiled. “I know you haven’t had the experience of your counterpart, but your multitasking abilities should help us organize and execute our plans, significantly.”

At the confirmation from everyone, we ended up in a snuggle pile. It was then that Taylor spoke up once more with a small smirk. “As someone who was only ‘mostly dead’ yesterday I demand we watch the Princess Bride.” Smiling, we all agreed.

By the end of the first half hour, I had to admit that even my insecurities couldn’t escape that movie completely intact.

The following weeks were a little strange in that every time I started to get lost in my thoughts, Dinah, Luna, or one of the other girls, probably sent by Luna or Dinah, would show up to pull me out of my worries.

I also realized we probably looked kinda strange to the rest of the student body. I just didn’t know what to do about it, as we couldn’t exactly fake the fear everyone else had about the chamber of secrets now that we knew it had been taken care of. We also couldn’t exactly explain any of this either, so we just came across as oblivious.

There was a major difference from cannon, however, as I overheard two third years speculating that Draco was the heir of Slytherin. I wasn’t sure how that had happened, but I suspected that one of my girls had been pushing the rumor.

It didn’t hurt that it seemed reasonable after all. He was probably the one student who was the most openly dismissive of Muggle-borns and frequently questioned their attendance at Hogwarts. Honestly, it was amusing to see the boy attempt to defend the Heir of Slytherin’s actions while also denying he was said heir. If nothing else, it really did show how the boy wasn’t much of a Slytherin at this point in the story. Almost no cunning or guile, just like in the books. It was arguably only the sixth year that saw him showing planning and subterfuge, as simplistic as his attacks on Dumbledore were.

Shaking my head, I walked after the rest of the Gryffindors who were all heading towards the Quidditch field.

It was time for the infamous rogue bludger attack. The Quidditch match that had ended with Harry being hit and breaking is arm as he caught the snitch to end the match. Then was accosted by Lockhart who vanished his arm bones and was forced to regrow them all.

To prepare for the match the girls and I had been practicing our levitation spells, momentum canceling spells, and cushioning spells. However, most of our effort had been in starting to learn the banishing spell to push the bludgers away or the explosion hex, bombarda, to blast the bludger out of the sky if needed.

The problem was, we quickly found out why they were considered second and third year spells, respectively. They were significantly more difficult, but our practice did eventually pay off.

The practice once again made me wonder if we were doing something wrong, as our spells weren’t particularly powerful.

Still, we watched our first Quidditch match and I had to admit two things. One was that Holly was an incredible flyer. The second was the entire sport was incredible to watch. Even with the slight drizzle, it was completely worth the discomfort from being wet and a long hike to the field in the rain. In fact, I would probably be out here for all of the matches.

The only negative was watching the chasers flying around, I had wished this universe was one where the seeker wasn’t the only position that really mattered. From what I could understand, it was rare for one team to be up more than 150 points, so the win almost always came down to the luck and skill of the seekers… which made quidditch, as beautiful as it was to watch, an incredibly stupid sport.

Maybe if we stayed long enough, we could convince the wizards to do something reasonable, like making the snitch 10% of the team's scored points. Or making the Snitch worth about 20 points, so it was just how to end the game when your team was ahead. Basically anything to make the chasers and keeper positions actually relevant to the game.

Shaking my head, I focused my attention back on Holly and the bludgers. I didn’t know when they were supposed to start going crazy, but they seemed normal for now. While that was good, the wait was making me nervous as we were continuously on edge waiting for the attack.

Yet despite our vigilance, nothing happened. In fact, the game only lasted another ten minutes before Holly caught the snitch, completely out flying Draco. I watched bemused, only vaguely remembering to cheer before looking around in confusion as she took a lap around the pitch in celebration. As I turned away from the sight, I looked at my girls who looked back at me in mirrored confusion, even Luna and Dinah.

Taking a deep breath, I was about to ask Dinah, who had predicted an attack, a question about what had happened when everything changed.

Holly, who was flying above us, suddenly jerked to the side. Then before anyone could say anything, we were all hit by a sudden gust of wind and rain. Yet out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Holly being yanked from her broom backward while still over 20 feet in the air. Watching her fall Amy and I managed to get off a levitation spell and a cushioning spell, but to our surprise neither one seemed to work. The two spells just seemed to fizzle when they made contact with the quidditch pitch. Did the pitch have some sort of enchantment on it to prevent spell fire around it?

Chest tightening, I watched as Holly twisted around as she fell before landing badly and letting out a small cry of pain. When she rolled to her side, it was obvious her wrist was broken, as it was snapped backwards at a nauseating angle.

My girls and I tried to push forward to the pitch to help, but we found ourselves unable to get down the stairs until we pushed a few upper years out of our way.

When we finally made it to the pitch, despite it only taking less than a minute to do so, we slumped in defeat when we heard that idiot, Lockhart, proclaiming. “Don’t worry, My Girl, I will have you right as rain in just a second. Brackium Emendo!”

I turned away after I watched the bones in Holly’s arm simply disappear, leaving a nauseating tube of flesh behind instead of an arm. Except, now said arm analogue was bleeding even harder from a hole. A hole that had previously been filled with the now vanished bone. It wasn’t enough to make me or my girls vomit, but someone behind us wasn’t so lucky.

Really, as I watched Madam Pomfrey who was running forward and now appeared ready to murder the idiot, I winced and motioned to my girls to stop and head back to the castle. We had somehow lost our chance to help and would just be in the way for now.

In the end, despite basically waiting for it, we had somehow been caught unaware.

The question was what happened. Is this how it was supposed to play out in this universe? Did someone warn Dobby? Did Dobby realize that we were watching for the bludgers? Or did something else we did butterfly Dobby’s method down the line?

Shaking my head, I headed back to the common room. Hopefully we would be able to visit Holly tomorrow.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, an entire week passed where we were unable to catch the golden trio alone. Apparently I had underestimated how much attention Holly would get after quidditch games.

The problem was the next event was coming up, and I didn’t know how to organically bring up Parseltongue and how it was viewed in this country.

We even considered letting it play out without interference. However, pushing to become closer to Holly while she was being ostracized by the rest of the school felt too much like some sort of manipulation to join us for me.

Taylor was just as adamant to stop it. The possible bullying was probably too close to home for her.

In the end, we showed up in front of the dueling club before Holly could arrive. We then waited for Holly to get into hearing range, before I started talking about what I ‘learned’ about Salazar Slytherin’s ability to speak to snakes.

“Yeah, the ability to talk to snakes was one of Slytherin’s most famous skills. It is called Parseltongue. Apparently this country’s last dark lord was able to do it as well, which has made people in this country think it is a sign of an evil wizard or witch.” Seeing Holly freeze for a second as she obviously heard us, I continued. “Which is of course strange since those Native American tribes have quite a few who could speak Parseltongue, and they didn’t think anything bad about the skill at all.”

I wasn’t particularly proud of how blunt I was being, but I kinda doubted these school kids would be able to realize how ham fisted I was acting. Plus, it wasn’t like I really cared about what they thought. I was just trying to warn Holly about displaying her skill in public, while explaining we didn’t think she was evil.

After a few moments I turned to Taylor who cut off the fake conversation with a quick, “Let's get going, we don’t want to miss out,” then leading the two of us into the expanded dueling club practice

The sad thing was I was actually kind of happy to see Holly, Hermione and Ginny after so long. Which was a shame because this was possibly going to be even more of a disaster than in canon. This Hogwarts school already had a dueling club after all, but Lockhart had somehow managed to either bribe, blackmail, or sweet talk his way into making a special session for ‘a demonstration on how to protect one's self from the terrible and horrible threats around us.’

The seven of us watched in fascination as the man managed to somehow bluster his way through the formalities and demonstrations. By the end, I was actually looking forward to seeing Snape knocking the idiot on his ass, but the iconic duel between the two professors didn’t happen.

I glanced at my girls, wondering why that particular point from canon had been skipped. However, before we could question it further, Holly and Draco were dragged up on stage for a demonstration. Again, why they decided to have the second years demonstrating when there were literally seventh years, who actually knew what they were doing, was beyond me. Yet, the practice duel continued.

I was a little surprised when both students actually managed a few stunners, disarming spells, and shields even if they were obviously amateurish compared to when Professor Snape demonstrated them. Yet Holly in particular was just plain better as she cast then ducked and shielded the return fire with relative ease. Holly managed to actually disarm Draco two times before they lined up for a final duel.

We all waited for the finale with the expected summoned snake, but this time when Draco summoned the cobra, Holly simply took a step back and Snape nearly instantly vanished the snake back into nothingness.

I blinked and looked towards my girls. I would have thought he would leave it there to taunt Holly longer. Snape even called Holly the victor and dismissed the two. However, my girls didn’t seem to have any ideas as Amy just shrugged, while Sabah looked thoughtful, and Dinah bit her lip.

After practicing a few spells with the rest of the students attending the demo we walked up to our dorms while my mind whirled. We were changing things. Heck, we were changing things just by existing. We also had no desire to see the canon ending with so many students dead or mauled.

The problem was what happened if the changes made things worse and we weren’t able to fix them.

Yeah, it was kind of late to be worrying about that now, but this was the longest we had ever stayed in a world and I had to admit that the butterflies were only going to be getting worse.

We would probably need to abandon any canon knowledge sooner rather than later.

I wasn’t overly surprised that the final month of school saw Holly avoiding us. I had suspected that Holly wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about her ability to speak with snakes after overhearing what it meant, but I was still a little disappointed. We had given her one of our secrets, so I had been hoping she would return with one of hers as well and we could become closer.

Then again, the ability to tell if someone is lying might not seem as big of a deal as the supposedly evil ability of Slytherin to speak to snakes. Especially with the attack over Halloween by the supposed heir of Slytherin who was theoretically still running around.

It was only when we passed the second floor bathroom and smelled a potion brewing that I realized that the trio were probably brewing Polyjuice potion to try to find out who the heir was from Draco.

Part of me was once again a little disappointed they didn’t want to involve us, but I reminded myself they probably assumed we couldn’t do anything to help as only first years.

Pulling the Family into a group discussion, I sighed. “We have been getting ahead in classes, but I think it is about time that we really start pushing ourselves. I am thinking we should try to join the dueling club. Then we do our own practice with our full abilities when we are by ourselves.”

It was Luna, who walked around the corner just in time to hear my entire plan, who spoke up excitedly. “Oh, goody” Then something changed with her voice and I felt a shiver run down my back. “I am looking forward to our practice.”

Turning towards Luna, Sabah seemed to get the same feeling as she eyed the little blond warily. “Do you know how to duel, Luna?”

Luna’s smile just grew. “The Humdingers will teach me.”

The following month showed us that something in Luna had definitely changed since our fight with the possessed Ron and the girl was downright scary in the ring.

However, surprisingly, it was Sabah that quickly proved to be the best duelist at the basic spell slinging level. Being able to levitate small stones in the way of the spells allowed her to devote herself to almost pure offense. I suspected that might change at a higher level where she would have to deal with things like the ground being turned into a swamp. Or a stone pillar being turned into a snake… or really anything else that wasn’t direct spell fire.

Luna, in contrast, was by far the most unpredictable and versatile of the duelists. Her spells always had a strange twist and often were both silent and with non-standard wand movements, keeping us on our toes any time we practiced with her.

However, in the end, it was Ahri who was just straight up unbeatable if she wanted to be. None of us could pierce her illusions, nor did we have any area of effect spells that could hit her regardless of where exactly she was. Even Luna struggled, despite pulling out some truly strange spells like the one that turned dust motes into a swarm of attacking butterflies. She also seemed to be trying to somehow see Ahri through the illusions, but hadn’t had any success in doing so just yet.

Taylor had the opposite problem, namely being able to spot Ahri by landing a bug on her, but being unable to dodge or shield spells she couldn’t see coming because Ahri was careful enough not to let a bug land on her wand. I suspected she would be able to block spells via bugs just like Sabah, but generally avoided doing so with the limited number of bugs in the Castle.

Dinah and I simply did the best we could. Sad as it was to be left in the dust, it was nice to have each other, as we simply couldn’t fight at the same level as the others when they brought out their abilities.

At least this time, we wouldn’t be blindsighted as badly if we needed to fight.

We all obviously stayed in the Castle over the holiday break. It wasn’t like we had any family outside the castle to visit. Even Ahri, who had continued a weekly schedule of studying through the week and then traveling to Gringotts on the weekends. Her strategy was just selling jewelry she found on beaches, along with anything that looked valuable in the room of requirement, but it seemed to be paying off.

With that, I found myself being woken up Christmas morning with a bang and a yelled, “Good morning! Happy Christmas!” Looking over, I saw Luna walking towards me with a comically large bow on her head. “Max, you were taking too long to wake up, so I decided to come find you. I am here as your next present.”

I blinked, then blinked again before I paused and I facepalmed. “Luna, I am glad you are eager to join our family, honestly I am, but you don’t even know what joining us means. Plus, you are not even 15 yet and I am pretty sure your father should be involved in this sort of decision.” Patting her head now that she was sitting next to me I continued. “We can revisit this again when we are all 18.” I paused and scrunched my brow. “Plus, how do you keep getting in here? This is the Gryffindor boy’s dormitory, and you are both a Ravenclaw and a girl.”

Luna pouted. “Oh, Poo.” before smiling again, “And whatever do you mean?”

Shaking my head, I had to remind myself that Luna was just being Luna, so I simply sighed and said. “Fine, it is about time that we explain everything anyway.”

Luna’s smile dropped a little and I blinked as she focused completely on me. “Please tell me, everything.” Her face remained serious as she continued. “I have seen a lot of things with you, but it hasn’t given the full picture.”

Sighing, I reached around to adjust the pillow behind me, so I could sit with my back against the headboard for the conversation. Looking around, I realized that I hadn’t confirmed that Ron was actually gone. But, much to my relief, there wasn’t anyone in the room, as Ron had almost certainly gone down to spend time with his family. That was good, as I really didn’t want to explain why Luna was visiting me in my dorm room.

In fact, that was yet another reminder as to why we needed to learn memory spells. Shaking my head, I tried to get myself back on track.

Casting what basic anti-ease dropping spells I could, I then turned back to Luna, and asked, “What do you know about the multiverse?”

The conversation took quite a bit longer, as Luna wanted to know exactly what would have happened in this alternate world we had seen, along with what had happened to the other students around her. When I finally finished explaining, she sighed. “I see… Yes, I am sure now. I don’t want anything to do with that future, besides the friends part of your family has been very nice. Really, Dinah and Sabah already have been taking wonderful care of me. The other girls in Ravenclaw haven’t been bothering me at all.”

I smiled before I patted her head. “Yeah. My girls are good girls, aren’t they?.”

Luna finally tipped her head back and looked at me, smiling. “So who else are you going to bind to you here?”

I sighed, trying not to let my discomfort show. “You are going to be another Amy, aren’t you?”

Luna simply tilted her head in obvious thought before what I said seemed to click. Looking back at me, she blinked in surprise before smirking. “That is funny. Amy is more interested in growing your harem than you are.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes, but before I could say anything else, I heard a voice from the door. “Maybe a little bit.”

Looking up, I noticed Amy and Taylor walking through the door with smirks on their faces, with Sabah and Dinah right behind them. Then the four paused before Ahri bounded into the room and the door was shut.

I sighed and motioned for them to wait. Standing up myself, I opened the portal and the seven of us filed into our pocket living room. Once we had all sat down, I smiled tiredly at Luna. “First things first. I will explain what joining us means so you can think about the choice.” She nodded, so I wrapped an arm around Taylor, who was sitting next to me and continued.

“So the women I am looking for are those who are powerful, smart, and kind. We also want people who want to join us willingly. I am trying really hard to build a family here. In fact we call our group The Family. So we are exceptionally blunt with our recruitment.”

Swallowing any worries I still had about my girl’s desire to be with me, I smiled. “Between Amy and me, we can make ourselves more or less immortal by maintaining the body and soul, respectively. With the two of us, we can make you a new body and return your soul to the new body if you are ever killed.” I took a deep breath, “As for what we are going to do. I can also jump between worlds, and we have every intention of seeing as many as we can, eventually.”

I then looked Luna directly in the eye. “The thing is, I am still a male and if I am going to keep a woman with me forever, I want her to be my wife. That isn’t to say that intimacy needs to happen, as at this point I am already fairly well taken care of on that front, but I do want that commitment to stay and be only with the Family.” Swallowing, I continued, “That said, even if you were to join today, I am not touching Dinah or you until you are older.”

Then, wincing, I sighed. “The only exceptions to the willing requirement is if they need to be removed from the world in question, but we don’t want to kill them or feel we still could make use of them.” Luna frowned for a moment but then nodded firmly, so I finished after a little nudge from Taylor. “In the past, we have also considered forcing women to come with us if it was for their own good or if our family desperately needed their skills. We just haven’t run into that situation yet.”

Luna frowned harder before nodding slowly again. “Are you talking about forcing people like Bellatrix LeStrange then.”

I raised my eyebrow, but then shrugged and nodded, “If we can stop her from being evil she would be an extremely powerful witch to have on our side,”

Luna bit her lip before she sighed. “She is my second cousin once removed… since my mother was once a LeStrange.” There was a moment where Luna paused and then bit her lip again before nodding. “Yes, better your sex slave than letting her rot in Azkaban, having her soul slowly sucked out by dementors or dying after breaking out.”

I hummed but shook my head. “Again, I admit that I won’t abstain from sleeping with any of my girls once they are old enough and they desire it, but I have enough wives that I am not really interested in forcing anyone into anything. Well… not unless one of my wives is into that kind of role play, I guess.” Despite my discomfort in the discussion, I was still amused at the blushes I saw on my girls.

Luna actually smiled at that. “I will be happy to join your family as well then.”

I chuckled to myself but shook my head. “I think you should wait. You can think about it and we can make a decision in a year or two.”

Luna smirked then held up a note. “Don’t worry, I brought a note from Papa.”

As I read it, the blood drained from my face. Around me, my girls noticed something was up and circled around to read it over my shoulder.

Hello Mr Max Alcott, formerly Max Noname

I formally give you permission to bring my daughter Luna Lovegood into your coven, harem, or family unit, as she has been quite certain that she will be happier there than anywhere else.

In return, I hereby formally request that you take care of her and make her happy in any way you are able. I also hereby request that her children continue the Lovegood name as I have no other children by which to do so.

While this notice may serve as permission to wed my daughter, I still wish to have a formal wedding when you have both graduated along with your other wives.

Happily your father-in-law,
Xeno Lovegood

It was dated September 11th, the second week of the semester, well before we told her anything about any of us. Heck, I had probably only said a few hundred words to her total at that point, and I doubted my girls would have said much more about our secrets.

Looking up, I just stared for a while at Luna. That was kind of scary. How did she manage to not only organize this all, find us, befriend my girls, and convince her father via owl mail that this is what she wanted. All without letting any of us know what she was up to.

Shaking my head again, I paused and considered a little longer. Luna would be a great friend for Dinah since they were almost the same age. I wouldn’t be touching either one until they were about 18, and so it would give them the chance to change their mind, wherein they could leave.

Turning to Luna I sighed, “Last chance to back out.”

With a shake of her head, Luna simply said. “Nope”.

Smiling ruefully, I shook my head back. After placing my hand on her stomach, I smirked and motioned to my girls to grab Luna’s arms and legs. The six of us enjoyed tickling our little troublemaker until she called ‘Pixies’. That was a little different from calling ‘uncle’ but still funny.

However, soon enough, I got back to work. Putting my hand on her stomach, I started the binding process. The entire time I bound Luna, I stared into her silvery eyes. She had a little button nose and silvery blond hair, but she was a little, petite thing that reminded me of the stories of the fae.

It seemed like only a minute or two, but must have been over twenty when I felt the snap of her soul being bound to mine. Once again, something felt right about the process. Like I was somehow more whole, but the feeling was gone before I could really examen it further. Yet despite how strange it was, I couldn’t help but smile at our little Luna, who was smiling back just as brightly.

Sitting her up slowly, I then extracted and bound her soul into a gem in our necklace before sitting her up on my lap.

“Well, I am glad you have found your sisters friendly because we will be with you forever. So welcome to the family.” Smirking again, I rolled her over and gave her a little smack across her bum. “Now stop being such a little troublemaker.”

To my surprise, the little minx just giggled. Rolling my eyes, I watched amused as she just rolled her eyes back. Giving up, I sighed. “As I was saying, you will be with us forever now. You will have us as friends, family, and in a few years, lovers, if you want us to be.”

I tried to be a tad bit teasing at that, but Luna actually teared up a little before hugging me tight. After a moment, I spoke again, trying to lighten the mood. “To answer your earlier question. If we get lucky, I am hoping to bind Hermione, Holly, and possibly Ginny. Fourth year I am also hoping to get Fleur and maybe Tonks to join us as well, but they might be hard as we won’t have nearly as much time together to convince them. Anyone else is just a bonus.”

I winked at her. “So, anyone you have your eye on, Luna?”

Tapping her chin, Luna seemed to consider it for a moment longer before nodding. “Those are good girls. Sabah and Dinah told me about the girls normally found in this world.” She smiled, but I noticed a little bit of a teasing lint to her eye. “It is too bad that the Padil twins are boys in this world. Twins could have been nice. So maybe we could get the Carrow Twins to join us.”

I blinked and then gave a fake sigh. “Yep, you are absolutely going to be another Amy, aren’t you.” Luna simply stuck her tongue out at me so I caught it in my fingers for a few seconds until she tried to nip at my hand.

As we sat up, Luna spoke up again and I froze as I heard her words. “Dinah said something about getting me a Pokémon. When can we do that?”

I slumped. “I don’t know why, but somehow, I should have known you would ask for that.”

After another quick breakfast, I set up several Christmas movies to play for Luna and Dinah before the rest of us went down to swap back to our original bodies.

As I finished the setup, I felt Amy stroke my arm as she walked towards the stairs and the bedrooms. With school, it was hard to get some time to ourselves, but it was about time we gave each other our Christmas gifts, very vigorously.

By the afternoon when we came back down from the bedroom, my girls and I were walking a little stiffly, so it was probably a good thing we were swapping back into our younger bodies for the Christmas feast with the rest of Hogwarts that evening.

Still, as we sat down in the Great Hall for the feast and I looked across the table in Hogwarts at my girls I just smiled, life was still good.

Interlude Luna:
(Yes, this Luna isn’t nearly as quirky as I would like, but I tried and will keep trying. I love good portrayals of her as excessively quirky, someone who cares for friends while being terrifying to enemies, a conspiracy theorist, and someone who just knows things she shouldn’t.)

Luna hugged Dinah as the two of them watched another one of what Dinah called an animated movie about a red-nosed reindeer saving Christmas.

Still, she wasn’t actually paying much attention. She was much more curious about the world the characters were in. Luna remembered when her father had taken the two of them to the actual North Pole to look for Heliopaths. It made sense that creatures of sun might migrate up there in the summer months when the sun never set.

Additionally, everyone knew that Santa was actually Lord Klaus, a Wizard in the 1200s, that went around with his elves giving presents to all the boys and girls in Denmark that helped out their parents. The stories even remember his army of house elves that helped him. That practice spread to the other communities until there was a Santa position for each country. The position even temporarily continued after the statue of secrecy, even if it died off soon after that when the Goblin and Centaur Alliance made the Ministry crack down on gift giving.

Sighing, she looked up at the ceiling and wondered where Max would take them first. Maybe she really should push for Pokemon.

Still, it was nice to have a friend. She had been so lonely after her mother had died and Daddy had retreated into his newspaper, as much as she understood how important it was to get everyone the truth in the Quibbler, she still got lonely at times. Especially last year when Ginny left for school.

She knew she was a little different, but she had to admit that she actually enjoyed messing with people. Especially since she now had a family to back her up and support her.

Leaning even more against Dinah she smiled. Things certainly could be worse. Heck, who knew what sorts of creatures she would find in other dimensions. Maybe the Wansportals would be in the next world they visited.

Wouldn’t Daddy’s critics be all sorts of embarrassed if she brought one back home with her?

Interlude Hermione:

Hermione huffed as she once again checked to ensure Millicent Bulstrode's hair was actually human. She wasn’t sure why that strange blond haired girl had walked by while reading about what would happen if you put an animal’s hair in Polyjuice potion, but it had scared her.

Really, what was with that entire group of first years. They were insane half the time and brilliant the other.

The Alcotts seemed normal the majority of the time, even if Max and Amy seemed a little overly focused on Holly, Ginny and her. Then they would do something completely out of left field. The Heberts seemed equally strange with Taylor’s occasional staring into space and Sabah acting way more mature than any 15-year-old should be.

Even their cat which always seemed to be on Max’s shoulders seemed extremely intelligent.

It was maddening because as much as she wanted to get to the bottom of it, they had bigger fish to fry. Like finding the damn Heir of Slytherin before they started attacking the students.

And in that it was obvious the Alcotts and Heberts were not said Heir. They weren’t even from Britain, nor did they seem to care about the Hogwarts houses at all, so their secrets would have to wait.

Turning back to her potion, she pulled up the vials she would use to transform Holly, Ginny, and her into Gregory, Vincent, and Millicent. Personally, she was thrilled she didn’t have to transform into a boy, but it was still going to be weird being Millicent.

Taking a deep breath, she put a cork in each of the vials and sat back and waited for Holly and Ginny to arrive.

Really, they needed to find the culprit before anything bad happened. Especially since a few people seemed to think that Holly did it, as someone seemed to have overheard when Holly told Ginny and her that she could talk to snakes.

Tonight they would find answers while everyone was relaxing after the Christmas feast. Really, it wasn’t like anyone else was going to do anything to help.

Chapter 18: Chapter 18: HP/?? - Making Connections

Notes:

Sorry everyone, I wanted to finish the school year in this chapter to keep from letting the HP section from starting to drag too long… but it was approaching 14k words and I wasn’t even done fleshing it out…

So I did it, I split the chapter… sorry… I hate when authors do that, but at least it is 7k words of world/character development~

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Chapter Text

The attacks on students resumed after the Winter break.

The news was shocking enough that I actually pushed my way to the front of the group of students in our common room in order to find out more from the impromptu meeting. “What do you mean there was another attack?” I asked the prefect.

“Just that, it appears there was another attack. The student was petrified, but this time Pomfry was able to revive them. The problem is they have no memory of the attack.”

I glanced at my girls, who were all as shocked as I was, but I didn’t see any that seemed to have an idea of what was going on. Turning towards the prefect I asked again. “Who were they and where were they found?”

The prefect shook his head. “That isn’t being spread around, but the student was a fourth year and was found in the back passageway behind the library. Now everyone back to your rooms, we are all waiting here while the castle is searched again.”

I wanted to talk to my girls, but I knew I wouldn’t get the chance for a while. Not when their roommates would undoubtedly want to talk to them about what had just happened. Hiding themselves in their beds with the current drawn would undoubtedly be suspicious.

Yet, as I was walking back I heard one of the girls whisper to her friend. “Do you think it is safe? I mean Holly is in our dorm after all.” I actually stopped and gawked at the girl, but her friend elbowed her in the arm. “Do you really think Holly Potter, girl-who-lived, is actually a Parselmouth?”

I nearly slapped my forehead as I continued my path up to my dorm room. Either Holly had let it slip or there was a way of finding Parselmouths I wasn’t aware of. The only good news was that apparently most people didn’t believe it. Good for Holly, I guess, since her current treatment was much, much better than canon.

Still, it only made me focus again on the attacks and wondering what the hell was happening there.

Indeed, my roommates were just curious as everyone else, but since none of us knew anything there was only so long we could speculate without actual clues to go over. Ron in particular lost interest relatively quickly and drew the others into a discussion on Quidditch.

That gave me some time to myself. Sitting down on my bed, I closed my curtains before opening up a portal to the safe where I had stuffed Tom’s diary. After some careful prodding, I confirmed that the diary’s soul shard was still there and didn’t seem to be expanding in any way out of the book.

The next suspect was Ron, but I couldn’t exactly examine Ron perfectly while he was awake. Still looking over, he seemed exceptionally focused on reading his Quidditch magazine. Taking the chance, I opened a small portal behind him to look at his soul a little.

Ron’s soul seemed stressed and a little, for lack of a better term, frayed along the edges. However, it already looked better than what I had seen on Halloween. He also didn’t seem to have any strange connections to Tom either.

That check reminded me to check on Holly as soon as I could. We really needed to figure out how to remove Tom’s shard without killing her. Asking her to die wasn’t a very good solution in any world.

Especially if it required Tom to first resurrect himself using her blood, then have Tom cast the killing curse using the Elder wand (the same Elder wand that belonged to Holly), and finally have her killed by a killing curse after committing to willingly sacrificing her own life… Damn canon was a twisted mess of potential factors.

Seriously I didn’t have any idea which of those, if any, were required, in addition to the soul fragment in her scar, for her to survive Tom’s killing curse. I was just sure I didn’t want to have to rely on that in any way, shape, or form.

It was enough for me to once again focus on the here and now. Who the hell was attacking students now?

A part of me wondered if it was Pettigrew since he was a death eater and currently in the Castle, but that didn’t really make sense either, since he shouldn’t be able to open the chamber. But then again, was the Basilisk the one that was still attacking students? However, if it wasn’t the stupid snake, then who the hell was doing it, and how were they doing it in a way that Pomfrey was struggling to treat?

It was incredibly frustrating, especially since even doing a check of all the students who could speak Parseltongue in the castle wouldn’t necessarily find the culprit if they lost the ability when not possessed… if it was even a possession. We also didn’t even have an idea of when the next attack would be, with this year already butterflied as heavily as it had been.

As I sat there and thought about it. I still needed some sort of plan. We couldn’t just give up now that we didn’t have all the answers.

I sighed. Until we knew more, there wasn’t much we could do other than watch the chamber. A small portal that Ahri could use to watch the outside of the bathroom during classes should be sufficient to make sure nothing goes in or out. We then could take turns for the remaining evenings.

It was actually the next morning after breakfast that I pulled the precog girls aside to ask my questions.

“Dinah, what is the chance it is one of the students?”

Dinah frowned, but sighed. “Unlikely.”

“What is the chance it was someone using one of the children via possession or some sort of magical or physical compulsion.”

Dinah paused and considered the answer for a moment, still frowning. “Unlikely.”

I frowned. “What is the chance it is one of the faculty?”

Dinah frowned harder. “Unlikely.”

I sighed. “What is the chance it is something, or someone else.”

Dinah blinked and wiped her hand down her face. “Unlikely.”

Amy turned to Dinah, confused and a little worried. Taylor also scowled and looked around before speaking quieter despite our privacy spells. “If it isn’t the students, faculty, or something or someone else. What exactly is going on?”

Dinah sighed and slumped. “I don’t know. I can’t see anything about the attacker. It is hard to even consider looking for him, her, or it” At that point Ahri noticed Dinah’s distress and jumped up to her shoulders in her cat form and began to rub her head across Dinah’s cheek in an obvious attempt to cheer her up.

Luna frowned, staring out into the void but slowly shook her head, incredibly serious. “I can’t see anything about these attacks. They really don’t make sense. It is like there is just a fog over anything and everything related to the whole thing, including the identities of those attacked. The only thing I am certain of is that someone will be attacked again.”

All of us looked at each other, obviously worried. Finally, I sighed before running a hand through my hair. Looking at my Family’s worried faces, I decided to try to break the mood. “Well, let's stick together then. The best we can do is follow Mad Eye Moody’s mantra of ‘Constant Vigilance!’” The girls all smiled at that, even Luna, who had read the Harry Potter books over the Winter Holidays.

I turned to the girls and decided to ask. “We have been focusing on spells and dueling, but what else do you think we should work on?”

Taylor perked up. “I think we need permanent protections. If the Weasley twins could create a hat that blocked most low level curses by year 6 in canon, then all of us working together should be able to do something similar in the next few years. Especially if we focus it on a specific attack like bullets or knives instead of a broad category like harmful spells.”

I blinked and looked at her. “I like it! Good thinking, love! We should look into that hard, maybe order a book on enchanting to get us started, since the enchanting elective only officially starts third year.”

Taylor blushed pink at the endearment, and I smiled, wondering if she would ever grow out of that and hoping she wouldn’t.

Luna raised her hand and I smiled at her. “You don’t need to raise your hand, we are family here.”

Luna blushed, but then smiled a little. “I kinda want to find my animal form like Professor McGonagall. The Lovegoods have been doing it for generations.”

I felt my smile widen. “Good suggestion. Honestly, trying to find and transform into the animal representation of our soul is one of the coolest parts of this world.”

There was nearly a minute of silence as everyone considered their potential animal forms before I got a chorus of slow nods and hums in confirmation. A few more seconds of silence stretched before Amy sighed. “I think we need to work on learning memory charms sooner rather than later. There have been quite a few times when that would have been helpful.”

I nodded my head. I knew Amy still had a fear of messing with people’s minds, but I had been wanting that since nearly the beginning. “You are right. Maybe I will take point on that as well.”

Seeing Amy a little more comfortable now that she wasn’t going to be the only one who would be responsible for memory modifications, I smiled and moved on. “Well, then, let's get to work. I know we have nearly finished this year’s schooling, but let's see if we can’t push into next year’s as well. We are going to have to deal with Tom in less than two years if we want to stop him from getting a body after the tournament. That and we really should keep up our dueling practices.”

Seeing the firm gazes and small nods from everyone, I smiled as we picked up our things to head back to classes for the day.

As the weeks turned into months, the pattern continued. One to four students would be found petrified around the castle, which would be undone by Madam Pomfrey after a few days. However, the students in question would have no memory of their attacks.

In that time, we really focused on our studies, even if we didn’t advertise them to the rest of the school. No reason to let everyone know what we could do beforehand, after all. Our dueling also improved dramatically, even if we couldn’t show our full capabilities to the dueling club.

After some consideration, we even walked up to the room of requirement and removed the Diadem, just in case that was somehow possessing someone to continue the attacks.

Really, that entire mission was anticlimactic, as we didn’t get within 10 feet of the thing. I simply got close enough to confirm that it was indeed a Horcrux, then dropped it through a portal into another lead box with some suppression runes I found in my textbook for safe keeping.

The following day we were finally able to catch the golden trio on their way back from the Library. Gesturing for Sabah, Dinah, and Luna to pull to the side of the hall, I decided to ask our precogs rather than guess if now was a good time to talk and try to get closer.

“Dinah, would Holly and friends be ok if I asked to inspect her Scar? And would it be alright to tell them a little about our abilities? I don’t want to tell them everything yet, especially if Tom can read her mind and finds out we are collecting his Horcruxes, but she needs to know a little more if we want them to trust us.”

Dinah frowned for a moment before she nodded. “Should be mostly alright.”

Luna interrupted and sighed, a little sadly. “Too many cooks will ruin the pudding.” Turning towards Sabah and Dinah, she took each of their hands and pulled them away towards the Ravenclaw tower.

Blinking, I glanced at Taylor and Amy before sighing. “Well, I guess it is up to us three, then.”

Catching up to the golden trio wasn’t actually too hard, even if I noticed the three of them had palmed their wands as we called out to them until they realized who exactly was calling them. Even then, I noticed Holly and Hermione put their wands away by sliding them up into their sleeves where they could get them back easily, while Ginny didn’t even do that. I thought we were closer than that, but the trio might just be on edge. The entire castle was getting more and more paranoid, even if most people dismissed Holly’s involvement.

“Hey Holly,” I started, “How are you doing?”

Holly looked confused for a moment before she smiled slightly. “Fine, how about you?”

I smiled back, I tried to look calm despite Ginny’s glare. “Good, we have been really studying hard to get ahead. Both because magic is awesome, but we really were serious when we said we wanted to be able to help if you run into issues like last year. Since it looks like that is happening, we wanted to be ready.”

That seemed to bring the trio up short. They probably didn’t think we were serious about helping them out, which made them pause while Amy continued where I left off. “With our abilities and studies, we are hoping we could really help out if anything happens.”

Ginny looked confused and I realized that she hadn’t been told about Amy’s ability, which was actually pretty nice of Hermione and Holly, keeping our secrets like that. However, that thought was instantly dashed when Holly frowned, looking confused, while Hermione looked thoughtful. Did they really just forget what Amy showed them?

Then again, they were probably distracted by the attacks. Predictably, it was Hermione who remembered first. “Ah, yeah, but how can being able to tell if someone is lying be able to help us? Didn’t you have to touch them? Plus, I don’t know how we could go around asking each and every person in the castle if they are the heir of Slytherin.”

Amy blinked before she sighed. “Yeah, that is something I had thought of as well. However, since it was our first meeting, we didn’t explain everything. Yes, I can tell if someone is lying, but it is bigger than that. I actually have the ability to heal just about anything. Well, anything that isn’t immediately fatal… besides brains. I can help a little there, but brains are really, really complex.”

That seemed to surprise the trio, so I continued. “We aren’t going to explain everything right this second because we are still getting to know you, but we do have some gifts to help you three. As for my ability, given enough time, I can open a portal to just about anywhere on earth that isn’t magically protected against my type of magical travel. That includes here at Hogwarts, even if the wards here make it much harder than other places. The caveat is the further away I want to go, the longer it will take for me to open said portal.”

To demonstrate, I exaggerated the difficulty a bit in case Tom saw this memory, and opened a portal to just down the hall from the Gryffindor common room entrance. I made sure it took about a minute, but it still saved us having to walk up 4 flights of stairs.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when the trio looked nervous going through the portal, but after watching my girls and me walk through without hesitation, the golden trio followed through as well.

Now in the hallway outside our common room, I smiled, trying to not spook them too much. “We know we are just first years, and we would appreciate you keeping our abilities secret for now, but we really do just want to help.”

Ginny still looked a little wary, but Hermione actually looked thoughtful, if not a little excited. I could tell she was probably bursting with curiosity, but I didn’t want to deal with that just yet so I changed the subject. “Holly, the common room entrance is just there if you don’t want to, but Amy would like to take a quick look at your scar. We heard that it sometimes hurts and she wanted to see if she could do anything about that.”

That brought the trio up short. However, despite the concern from the other two girls, Holly actually smiled a little sadly. “No one has been able to do anything about it, not even Dumbledore,” then seeing our crestfallen faces she sighed. “But if you really want to take a look, I don’t see the harm.”

Amy smiled and gestured towards an empty classroom a little further away. Once again, Hermione and Ginny both looked concerned. In fact, Ginny was now openly twirling her wand around her fingers. Yet neither one stopped Amy from pulling Holly down the hall, then sitting Holly down on a seat in front of her before holding her hands and letting her eyes go blank and distant.

Trying not to draw attention to myself, I also stepped forward and stared as carefully at her scar as I could. As I focused on my soul sight, I tried to keep my revulsion from my face. Indeed, there was a small leech shaped soul piece latched onto Holly’s soul. Yet it was being mostly kept at bay by some sort of magical barrier with a red hue. Was that the blood sacrifice? Still, I could tell that despite the barrier’s best efforts, a minuscule part of Holly's soul had been blackened ever so slightly. Meanwhile, Tom’s soul had no such mixing.

After a minute or two of study, committing what I saw to memory, I stepped back. Amy must have been waiting for me as she also let go of Holly’s hands.

As I got to thinking, I considered what I had seen. On the one hand, the books seemed correct. There was a soul fragment in Holly. Yet, on the other hand, I was pretty sure there was no formal binding of any kind between the two. That would make severing Tom’s soul from Holly’s relatively easy in theory. I might even be able to just rip the thing off like the leech it was. The only problem was the mostly-metaphorical leech’s hooks. I didn’t know what they could do. How much Tom would be able to fight me and what it would do to Holly.

Ideally, I would just reach in and over power the stupid soul shard, but I wasn’t just wrestling with Tom’s soul which I could almost certainly overpower, but also his magic which I probably couldn’t. Again, I suspected his soul wasn’t as firmly attached as a proper Horcrux, but it was obviously attached somehow.

Really, I needed to figure out some way of dealing with Tom’s magic and soon. While the blood barrier was stopping most of Tom from influencing Holly, there was still the hint of bleed over from his hooks, trying to corrupt her and control her.

Without her mother’s sacrifice blocking Tom, Holly might not have made it to her second birthday without being taken over like the diary had tried to do to Ron.

Again, that sacrifice didn’t excuse Dumbledore for not doing more to try to help Harry prepare for the fight against Tom in canon. It definitely didn’t excuse the abuse Dumbledore allowed to happen under his watch. I also doubted that Harry, and now Holly, actually needed to live with relatives for the protection to work. It seemed too deeply rooted into her soul for it to just fade away. Instead, it probably protected her relatives, helping them and thus allowing Holly to grow up theoretically safe.

Still, Dumbledore was probably right in that it was love, specifically her mother’s sacrifice, that defeated Tom as the power he knew not. I just didn’t believe for a second that Holly was required to die the same way to finish Tom off.

Shaking my head discreetly, I focused on the here and now again. Checking over Holly’s work, I noticed things had improved a little. The scar definitely looked less puffy and red after Amy’s work, but it was still visible. Wordlessly, Hermione pulled out a small mirror from her handbag, and Holly’s mouth dropped while inspecting the scar.

Amy grimaced, obviously frustrated. “Sorry, I couldn’t do much more, there was something blocking me, but maybe if I tried again every few months I might eventually be able to finally heal it.”

There was a moment’s silence before Holly reached forward and hugged Amy, who blinked in shock before she smiled a little and hugged Holly back.

It was at that moment that Hermione seemed to finally be unable to contain all of her questions anymore. “How did you do that? Where did you get those abilities? Could you teach me to do that? How did you learn how to heal? Who taught you? Why haven’t I heard of anyone who can do what you just did? Does your sister also have abilities? What about your friends?”

Amy looked overwhelmed, while Taylor and Ginny paused before they both actually guffawed at the rapid fire questions. Amy blinked a few more times before she sighed. “No one I know can do exactly what I do. I learned on my own, some is instinct, some was studying medical textbooks, and some was asking doctors. Yes, we each have some abilities, but we can’t really teach you or give you these abilities, not yet at least…” Pausing, she was obviously not entirely sure what to say after that, so I decided to continue.

Gesturing towards Taylor, I nodded. “Yes, we all have abilities, but I am not going to give away my companion's abilities. It is up to them if they want to share them.”

Taylor hummed for a moment before she spoke up. “At the basic level and with a little setup, I can know where everyone and everything is around me in several hundred meters at any given time.”

That seemed to just bring up more questions, but Hermione actually managed to get a hold of herself and we smiled. Amy decided to speak for the rest of us when she explained and cut off the discussion. “We can talk later. We really do want to help, but I am a bit tired now, so we can talk more tomorrow.”

Holly looked surprised before she once again smiled and nodded. “Yeah, we can talk later.”

As we got into our own dorms, I waited for an hour or so before I opened up a tiny, penny sized portal to each of my girls' beds to update them on what we had learned.

Amy had described her inability to heal the scar like it was an infected wound that refused to be cleaned. Even after removing all the scar tissue, the new flesh she created in the area formed the same scar tissue as before. The only thing she was actually able to do was change the skin around the scar to be less easily inflamed. At least the result looked much smaller. She suspected she might eventually devise a type of tissue which would ignore the curse’s effects, but it wouldn’t be easy when she couldn’t actually use her power to influence the curse directly.

After that, I let the girls know what I had found. The girls were suitably horrified that Tom’s soul was trying to stain and overwhelm Holly’s soul.

It was made all the worse when I admitted it was sort of similar to our own bonded souls. Yet despite my inner fears, which my girls confronted and dismissed, our bond had my soul strengthening theirs while they supported mine back. Plus, we seemed to bleed into and influence each other equally. So more of a mixing of equals than the parasitic arrangement Holly had.

Which made sense, I supposed. Tom was using the artifacts or living hosts as sources of power. He wasn’t about to use his very soul to empower others.

Unfortunately, we were unable to meet up with the trio the following day due to another attack, and so we continued our studies. We would just have to meet later.

However, with that focus to improve ourselves, time slipped by and with all of that studying, dueling practice, monitoring the chamber of secrets, and occasional brief surface level talks with the golden trio trying to become better friends, we were somehow caught unaware when Dumbledore was removed from the castle.

Half expecting it from the books or not, it was still astounding to find out he had actually been removed. Maybe there was something I wasn’t understanding, but as the victims were being revived within a couple of days, I didn’t think things were actually all that bad.

Especially in the eyes of the probably bigoted school board of governors since the victims were almost exclusively Muggleborns with a few Half-Bloods.

The problem was no one could figure out who would be targeted next. There were also a mix of years, from a few first years to one seventh year girl, although most of the attacks seemed to be between third and fifth year. The attacks were across all houses except Slytherin and included a mix of both boys and girls.

In the end, no one had any idea what was happening. So why would it make sense to remove Dumbledore while not calling for outside help. Why did they think the teachers would suddenly be able to find the culprit when they were now covering for the missing Headmaster as well?

Worse in my mind, the next day Hagrid was arrested and sent directly to Azkaban.

That legitimately shocked me as it didn’t even make sense. If he was guilty or knew what was attacking students, why wasn’t he being questioned by the department of magical law enforcement, the DMLE? If it was to prove his innocence, then why send him to prison? Wouldn’t a simple ministry holding cell or house arrest work better? Plus, not lead to torturing a potentially innocent man without a trial?

Worse, why weren’t the magical police force, or Aurors here in droves? People were being attacked. The Ministry obviously knew it was happening, since the Minister had shown up to take Hagrid.

What was everyone smoking? If I had been a parent and heard how bad it was, I would have pulled my kid from school, just to be safe, yet only two students who had been attacked actually left.

To make things worse, Hagrid’s arrest was immediately after one of the attacks, so another attack wasn’t due for another two weeks or so. That was a long time to be stuck on Azkaban Island for what was almost certainly an innocent man… thinking about that also made me feel worse about not doing anything for Sirius yet.

Still, as we waited and watched to try to catch the attacker, we continued to see nothing. It was infuriating.

Luna and Dinah were perhaps the worst off. The two of them seemed to be running themselves ragged trying to see what was going on but continued to get nothing. If nothing else, it was showing us how easily our planning could be derailed by blocking our precogs.

It got bad enough that I actually sat down to think about it during lunch. I didn’t know why or how the culprit was hiding here, but there were blind spots via powers on Earth Bet so theoretically we could run into them in other worlds as well… the question was what we were going to do about it when we encountered these blind spots.

I got up to head towards the Library. Maybe I could find something in the library about privacy charms and if there were stronger variants.

Yet before I could do anything to actually help Luna or Dinah… or at least try to convince them to take a break, the two came running up to Amy and me.

Out of breath, Dinah was the first to speak. “The trio are headed out to the forbidden forest. They plan on visiting the spiders. They are looking for the Acromantula nest right now.”

I froze for a moment before I nearly facepalmed. They didn’t have the Weasley car to rescue them. Plus, I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen any spiders leaving the castle since Halloween. So why were they heading out there? I nearly facepalmed again. I supposed that Hargid might have told them something while he was being led away. That was still an absolutely stupid thing to do. Powerful or not, the trio were still just second year students and the Acromantula were 3X tier on the danger rating alone and a nest was a 5X, top tier, threat.

Pulling myself back into the present, I turned to Luna, “could you bring Taylor to that classroom,” I said, pointing to an empty unused classroom down the hall. As she agreed and ran towards the library, I sighed internally. Of all the days for the trio to head into the forest, why did it have to be the day our family decided to split up and decompress after so much studying together.

Once inside the room in question, I started opening a portal in front of me while moving the other side around, trying to find the trio in the forest. Unfortunately, despite Dinah pointing me in the general direction, I didn't find anything except the edge of the webs before Taylor arrived. The forest was just too thick and dark.

As she arrived looking worried, staring out of the portal, I brought her up to speed. “I have no idea where the trio is right now. Can you find them with your bugs through the portal? Also, can you control the Acromantula?”

Taylor glanced at me and nodded, “I will start looking now.” Before letting her eyes go blank as she focused on the area on the other side of the portal. She searched for a moment before she paused and grimaced while explaining. “And no, it looks like I can’t control them, not really. I just found a few smaller ones along the edge of the web to test on. And yes, I can control the newborns and juveniles, but none of the older ones.”

I bit back a curse before I saw Taylor point along a path between the trees. “Found them! They are fine, but they seem to be approaching the main nest right now.”

Nodding, I pushed the portal forward before while making it smaller, no reason to let the spiders know what we were doing. Turning to Ahri, who was sitting next to us on one of the desks, I asked. “Can you hide the portal or distract the spiders if we need to help the trio escape?”

Ahri in her cat form looked at me before staring back at the portal, “yes.”

We slowly moved our portal closer to the trio and watched as the trio interrogated the Acromantula chief. This time Aragog didn’t seem to know what was going on in the castle, but told the same story as in the books about how Hagrid was raising him but got blamed for the Chamber of Secrets the first time.

It was then, when Aragog said he would let his children eat them, that we moved to rescue the trio. Yet before I could do anything, Holly and Hermione whipped out their wands and cast a bluebell flames charm while Ginny whirled around, pointing her glowing wand at any spider that got too close.

Holly practically yelled. “Get any closer, and we will set this entire web ablaze!”

That got the spiders to back up again, and the trio slowly started to back away from the nest, holding their wands ready to fight and burn anything that got too near.

I had to admit that it was a good bluff. The bluebell flames wouldn’t burn anything except magic, but the spiders didn’t know that, so it allowed them to be surrounded by floating flames while keeping their wands free and ready to fight.

Yet as they continued to back away, getting closer to the edge of the web, I realized that the spiders were creating an ambush behind them.

Whispering to Ahri I moved the portal to a spot a few paces behind them while still in front of the spiders and gestured to Ahri to create an illusion surrounding the trio. Immediately, the illusions took a slight turn to head towards the majority of the spiders.

I opened the portal behind the trio fully, calling out as softly as I could. “Holly, Hermione, Ginny. We are behind you.”

It was that moment that the plan went tit* up. The spiders must have had much better hearing than I had thought, as the spiders immediately lunged towards both my voice and Ahri’s illusions, and after a moment, the trio’s current location.

I supposed they didn’t know what had happened, so they attacked the sound, the visuals, and perhaps the vibrations they were getting from any remaining webs.

Still, after only a split second of hesitation, the trio turned and sprinted towards our portal.

Getting out of the way, I stuck my wand outside the portal and angled it away from the trio before casting, “Incendio”, and watching as a small pillar of fire was shot to the trio’s left side. Amy turned and did the same for the right.

That seemed to make the trio run even faster as they jumped for the portal but before Ginny could make it through she was tackled by a large, pony sized spider just inches from the door. Turning around, Holly’s face turned into a mask of anger as she yelled out, “Dispulso”, with more force than I thought possible.

The spider on top of Ginny was literally blasted back, smearing itself across a half dozen of its kin, probably killing them as well.

Damn, that was a lot of power!

Hermione wasn’t far behind as she literally summoned Ginny by yelling “Accio Ginny’s clothes.” And I watched as Ginny literally flew into Hermione, knocking them both back.

Luckily for all of us, that didn’t distract me enough to not close the portal right after she got back. Yet, as I watched the sea of angry spiders through the closing portal, I noticed arrows beginning to fly into the horde.

Was that the centaurs? Were the Centaurs how Holly and friends were supposed to survive this? Or was this the world’s new way of protecting the chosen one until she could fight Tom? Was fate, or whatever controlled prophecies, somehow forcing things to happen to make Tom and Holly got to that final fight?

No, I needed to focus. “Are you three alright?”

Yet before they could answer, Amy was already poking each of them. Ginny actually sighed in relief as her probably bruises were healed, but the other two seemed mostly alright.

Ginny started shivering before she answered. “Yeah… I, uh… I am never going to make fun of Ron for being afraid of spiders again.”

All of us, including Ginny, actually chuckled at that. Hermione and Holly looked at us before Holly nodded. “Thanks, You all really saved our butts out there.”

Ginny finally seemed to realize that Luna was here with us. She looked exceptionally confused, probably because she had known Luna before Luna had met us, so it didn’t make sense to her. Not when we said all our group had abilities, but she obviously decided to drop it for now.

I sighed. “Look, we really do want to help you and we can do a lot, but you need to let us know what you are planning for us to be able to help.”

Holly grimaced, but Hermione sighed. “We are looking for the heir of Slytherin alright? So unless you know who that is, there isn’t much you can do.”

We all winced and the trio looked shocked. I held up my hand to slow down the questions. “We are pretty sure we stopped the first attacker. The one that got Filch’s Cat. But we haven’t been able to find out who took over after New Years.”

The trio looked shocked again, but Hermione narrowed her eyes. “How are you sure you got them if the attacks are still happening? And why didn’t we hear anything about them being caught?”

I sighed. “The culprit was a possession via a cursed book. We caught the student in question in the act. We have isolated the book so no one can be possessed again, and we were going to bring it to Dumbledore when the attacks started again. As for how we know…” I turned to Dinah and Luna.

Dinah sighed. “Luna and I are Seers. We can often see a bit of the future. Yet whoever has taken over is somehow blocking our sight.”

Luna smiled. “You are starting to remove all the Nargles from your path. Yet the Humdinggers have made the soup too thick to stir.”

We all rolled our eyes while the trio just gaped, open-mouthed. I sighed. “Luna, less cryptic please.”

Luna actually giggled at that. “You aren’t as blind anymore, but even we don’t know everything, as there are too many tangles to make out the weaver.”

I sighed. “Good enough. Look, girls. We can talk about this more, but I am sure you don’t want to play 20 questions right now, since we don’t actually have any big answers yet. We can talk more once you have had some time to clean up and rest.”

Nodding, the trio thanked us once more before they filed out of the classroom, a little amazed at being back inside the castle, and walked towards the dorms.

Turning towards Amy and Taylor I sighed. “We are going to have to figure out a way of killing the Acromantula.”

The two nodded before I looked at a frowning Luna, but before I could say anything she looked up and agreed. “You are right, Max, sometimes things like this need to happen.”

Amy frowned before sighing. “I might be able to design some sort of magical plague to kill them all. Or we might be able to surround them with wards to keep them from escaping and snipe them from our pocket dimension… it might be tedious, but it is probably doable.”

I nodded. “Good, worst case scenario, in which we aren’t able to stop Tom and everything goes like it did in the books, we don’t want them to join the death eaters and start attacking the castle again.”

I turned to Taylor. “Still, if we can get a few juveniles and put them into a pocket space, do you think you could weave some clothes for us? I assume Acromantula silk robes would be super strong like regular spider silk and might even be magically resistant.”

Taylor frowned for a moment before nodding. “Yes, easily.”

I sighed. “Well, at least we will have that at least.”

Interlude Sabah:

Sabah sighed as she put her feet up and sipped at the tea that Max handed her while leaning back against Amy.

She had to admit that the start to this crazy adventure had been rocky.

No, it had been nearly disastrous, but Dinah had been right that evening. She had been relatively happy.

The problem was Max. She was worried about him. He was changing.

Oh, it was mostly a good thing in that he was more concerned with their feelings and opinions. Yet, he was getting quieter.

She didn’t know what to think about that.

Additionally, Amy seemed to be getting more and more nervous. That one was a little more obvious. They had been in this world for nearly a year and so hadn’t had the opportunity to receive or send mail to Earth Bet.

Sabah could understand conceptually, even if she had been thrown out of her family when she had dropped out of her engineering degree, she did miss them a little.

Taking a deep breath, she sighed and set the cup down on the saucer before pulling up the textbook once more.

These thoughts weren’t helpful. She could relax on their weekly date night because Max and Taylor were right. They needed to work hard if they wanted to help Holly take down Tom before the end of her fourth year.

Then they could actually relax in this world.

Plus, deep down, she had to admit that Max had been right. She was very curious to see what a Veela was like. So best make a good impression, especially since she would appear to be a young teenager when Fleur arrived.

It wasn’t like she was even going to try to seduce Fluer, just wanted to make sure she wasn’t embarrassing herself or Max.

Interlude Holly:

Holly paced back and forth in her room.

She knew things were going to get worse. She felt it in her very bones.

It was nice of the Alcotts and Heberts to offer to help, but she didn’t want them to be in danger.

No, she could admit that part of her just didn’t want to ask them for help. Asking for help had never worked before, why would that change now?

Ginny and Hermione had basically forced their way into her life and had stayed there. It had helped… But they also nearly both died last year.

How could she ask for anyone else to do the same?

Maybe it would have been better if she had walked into the forest alone…

No! Focus Holly!

Then again, if Dinah and Luna had just let them know about the spiders. That it wasn’t necessary to ask the man eating spiders for information…if ANYONE would just tell her what was going on.

No! That wasn’t fair either. Kicking her trunk and then wincing at her aching toes, she slumped onto her bed.

Ok… Find the new bloody heir, kick his ass, then think about why everything always seems to happen to her…

Why her… when she just wanted to be left alone… not be a freak.

Holly sighed again.

Damn it!

Chapter 19: Chapter 19: HP/?? - Overlooked Possibilities

Notes:

AN:
OK, wow… The sitting/talking/planning this chapter had was supposed to be short, but I realized Holly and friends would absolutely not accept deflections at this point. So it ballooned to 12k words… At least we get to the action and quite a few questions should start to be answered towards the end.

(And yes, short term money issues are also solved once they realize it)

On a sad note, we have long ago passed the rewritten and edited chapters mark and are now almost to the end of the chapters that even have an outline. I am proud of myself since I wrote or rewrote about 40k words since New years, but I am falling behind. So while I will try (and sometimes succeed in a once a week schedule)… I have a full time job and family, so once every other week might become more common.
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Chapter Text

It was the next day as we were once again in the library studying for end of year exams when the trio found us. Yeah, we had finished this material months ago, but it didn’t mean we wanted to be unprepared.

The trio actually swooped in and, when we apparently didn’t move fast enough, nearly resorted to physically pulling us into a secret room on the fourth floor. Apparently their desire to talk to, AKA interrogate, us on everything we knew wasn’t going to wait any longer.

At least they had set up the chairs to be a rough circle instead of two rows of chairs facing each other, so it wasn’t quite as confrontational as it could have been. That might have been because Ginny knew and respected Luna or because we had just saved their lives yesterday.

Yet, it was pretty clear they wanted answers, badly, as the trio sat down facing us and narrowed their eyes a little. I still didn’t want to be that confrontational though, so I sighed and actually sat down in between Taylor and Amy right next to them instead of across the circle from them with Ahri, in her cat body, joining me on my shoulders.

That left Dinah, Luna, and Sabah to sit in the remaining third of the circle with Luna leaning against Ginny’s shoulder before sliding her head down into Ginny’s lap. Then a moment later, she put her feet up on Dinah’s knees. It was a little amusing to watch her use her chair and two girls on either side of her as an impromptu bed, but I didn’t let it distract me. Plus, I wasn’t about to try to stop her. Controlling or even understanding Luna was an exercise in futility and I was pretty sure everyone except perhaps Hermione knew that here. Ginny didn’t even seem to question what was going on.

Luna’s alternate sitting arrangements also didn’t distract Holly and Hermione for very long, even if they still looked a little confused. Holly started out, “Ok, what do you know?”

Trying not to sigh in their faces, I put on a smile and nodded at the trio in greeting. “Yes, it is good to talk to you again, I am glad you are well after yesterday. We are looking forward to working together, so I promise to explain what we can.”

I sighed at her darkening scowl. “Look, I understand you want answers, but we can’t tell you everything.” I winced as I remembered that this Dumbledore, if he behaved like the books, avoided answering questions.

Facing Holly directly, I thought for a second before I changed my mind. “How about this? I will answer any question you ask, anything at all. The only exceptions are our family’s secrets or things I think we shouldn’t talk about yet. In those cases, I will tell you that it is personal or try to explain why we don’t want to tell you. If you don’t agree, we will tell you as much as we feel is safe for us to say.”

Holly blinked before she slowly nodded, obviously thinking hard, probably trying to test me. “Why is Voldemort so obsessed with me?”

I sighed and rubbed my face. “Damn it, you don’t start with the small questions, do you?” I glanced up at the ceiling and considered for a moment. “Ok, so it started with a prophecy from Professor Trelawney…”

Before I could say anything else, Hermione cut in. “The fraud?”

I sighed again. In this world Hermione wasn’t allowed to drop Divination until next year regardless of what she thought about the subject. At least she didn’t seem to think of all divination as useless. Then again, we had tentatively demonstrated skills she couldn’t explain, so she might have become a little more willing to believe.

Focusing back on the conversation, I considered how to respond about Trelawney. “Ok, so she doesn’t actually have any skill in normal divination and is just teaching from the book… badly… but she is what you might call an oracle or prophet.” Seeing the confusion, but interest from the trio I continued. “This is our own research and theories, but the textbooks here seem to agree with us.”

Trying to think of how to phrase this, I started slowly. “As an oracle, prophecies from her behave a little differently. Wherever she gets her prophecies from, they always come true, but rarely in the way you think. These Oracles or Prophets are different from Seers like Dinah and Luna.” Once again, I gestured towards the two of them, which made the girls look over to see Dinah’s little wave and Luna’s finger wiggle as she seemed to stare into space.

Ignoring that, I turned back to the trio and started explaining again. “Seers can see potential futures and possibilities, but they are still only possibilities. Prophecies ALWAYS come true… or at least eventually come true, even if it isn’t the way we were expecting. Which is the problem here.”

The trio once again nodded, so I licked my lips and considered for another moment before continuing. “Short story is, Tom Riddle, AKA, Voldeshorts was told part of a new prophecy, a prophecy about a child about to be born that would have the power to defeat him. Like the psychopath he is, he decided he just needed to kill any child fitting the description and then he would become invincible.”

Hermione’s brow furrowed and I smiled and pointed towards her. “Ah, you already see the problem. If it was a true prophecy then there is absolutely nothing he could do to stop it and if it wasn’t then it didn’t matter. This is actually just like those old Greek prophecies. Especially as part of the prophecy required him to ‘mark them as his equal’ and with Holly’s scar well…” I said trailing off.

Hermione again nodded like this all made sense to her but Ginny interrupted. “What Greek myths are you talking about?”

Hermione turned towards her with her tutoring face already on and proceeded to explain. “One of the near constants of the Greek mythos, even in Muggle stories, was that trying to avoid or stop a prophecy doesn’t change it at all. It is mentioned in quite a few stories, but the most famous is the story of Oedipus. The king of Thebes heard a prophecy that his son would kill him and marry his mother, so he abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside. Oedipus was then found and grew up as the prince of another country. When he heard the prophecy, he left his home with his adopted family as he didn’t want to end up hurting them and traveled back towards Thebes. He met a traveler and ended up killing him, not knowing the man was his biological father. Arriving in Thebes, he then eventually married the widowed queen, who was of course his mother… again not knowing who she was. In the end, the prophecy was fulfilled and everyone pretty much killed themselves. It is often described as a classic example of the inevitability of the gods’ will and the futility of man to truly change his destiny.”

As Hermione finished, obviously both proud of herself and excited about the chance to discuss philosophy, she finally seemed to see the uncomfortable faces me and my girls were making along with the outright disgust from Holly and especially Ginny.

I tried to break the awkwardness and spoke up. “So, yeah… that is pretty gross, but it does demonstrate the moral of how you deal with prophecies. You mostly just ignore them.” At the trio’s slight confusion, I continued. “Knowing what I do about prophecies, I kind of doubt that the prophecy in question actually named Oedipus by name, so he could have escaped his fate and left it for another. Especially since he would have lost his original name when he was abandoned as a baby, and so he would have ignored it when he heard it as an adult if the prophecy called him out by name. The prophecy probably said the king’s child… which meant it didn’t have to apply to him even if both his parents were royalty. The best thing he could have done was to ignore the prophecy and live at either home peacefully, then refuse to marry anyone, or at least anyone older than him. Instead, he tried to deny fate and walked into fulfilling it instead.”

Turning towards Holly, I asked directly, “Are you sure you want to know? It won’t change anything, and apparently Tom cares enough that he might find someone to break into your mind to find out.” I looked at their wide eyes and nodded sadly. “It is called legilimency and while it is illegal to do, especially against a minor, you probably wouldn’t even feel the intrusion unless you are trained to resist via the discipline of occlumency. You would just feel a slight headache.” I wasn’t going to mention their connection until I had a way to break it. Or at least cut it off.

Holly slowly bit her lip before she looked up and took a deep breath. “Still I… I want to know. I need to know.”

I paused for a moment before I sighed. “I don’t know the prophecy word for word, since we saw it in a possible future, not this specific one. It might be different in reality here, but in general it goes like this. The one with the power to vanquish the dark lord approaches…. Born to those who thrice defied him, as the seventh month dies, marked as an equal, with a power he knows not, and neither can live while the other survives.”

At that moment we all watched as Holly stood up, knocking her chair to the floor before leaving the circle to start pacing back and forth cursing under her breath. “Bloody wanker who does… Stupid, self-centered… Asshole murderer who can’t… Buggering inbred idiotic wizarding public…”

All of us watched, wide-eyed as Holly’s pacing started to pick up in intensity as she started to throw her hands up in frustration, not looking at any of us. The entire group of us jumped as one of the chairs across the room suddenly splintered. Then we jumped again when one of her footsteps made the floor shake like an earthquake. A few seconds later, a glass window shattered. I had to admit that the bouts of accidental magic were both impressive and terrifying, as everything in this castle was supposed to be magically resistant. That was some incredible power.

It was only then when Ginny started to get up to perhaps try to calm her down that Holly slumped like the wind had been suddenly cut from her sails. Or perhaps having her puppet strings cut was a better description, as she paused before slowly leaning down and picking her chair back up and slowly sitting down, staring at the ground in the center of all of us.

Quietly, she asked, “Did he really murder my parents because of some vague warning about a child?”

I paused before a moment, then simply nodded. Holly slumped even further. “And now we are locked into this prophecy where one of us is going to have to kill the other.”

That is where I shook my head. “No, you are missing the point of our discussion on prophecies. We aren’t even sure that prophecy is actually talking about you. It might be the next dark lord. The ‘power he knows not’ might be the power of friendship, and one of us or even someone you meet next year might kill him for you. Your mother might have already fulfilled the prophecy of defeating him by surprising him with her blood magic self-sacrifice, and we are just waiting for him to finally croak.”

My rant seemed to have surprised her, but I tried to smile reassuringly. “The important parts are, don’t give up and keep fighting. Prophecies will always work out somehow but predicting how is almost certainly futile, even with actual Seers on our side.” I hesitated but continued, “Additionally, I would say to ignore anyone or anything that tells you that the prophecy can only be interpreted one way. As we explained, prophecies don’t work like that.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone thought about that. Then Hermione, trying to distract Holly, turned and gave Holly’s shoulder a tentative squeeze. She paused there before she turned back to ask us, “So, why are you calling, he-must-not-be-named, Tom Riddle? You have been avoiding saying Voldemort, but it is pretty obvious you aren’t scared of him.”

I cleared my throat softly before I smiled at Hermione and explained. “Holly, you probably would have found out about it this year, but Voldeshort’s real name was Tom Marvolo Riddle… which is an anagram for I am Lord Voldemort. Which is a bastardization of the French phrase meaning to run from death…”

I sighed, realizing I needed to take a step back for a bit. “Ok, wait… let's clarify some things, three things. One, immortality isn’t the problem. It is something my girls and I are working on.” I waved my hand, dismissing the questions I could see, and simply continued. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, eventually everything ends, but we have made significant progress at making sure it won’t be anytime soon.”

Hermione spoke up, “Then why did you look so disgusted just now?”

I winced and considered how I wanted to answer. I didn’t want to lie, but I also didn’t want Tom to be able to find out we knew about his Horcruxes too soon.

Deciding I would talk about the sacrifice aspect for now, I started to explain. “Tommy boy went straight for the nuclear option. He performed dark rituals we don’t understand using murder and human sacrifice, probably newborns, to try to make himself immortal.”

Before the trio could ask additional questions, I held up my hand to wait before speaking. “I won’t tell you more unless you really make us. We have our suspicions of some things he might have tried, but we don’t want to let it leak until your minds are protected.”

The trio nodded, so I continued. “The second reason we avoid saying Voldemort is that Tom might have put a curse on his name. You were told that anyone who spoke his name, even alone, would have a death eater show up to attack them, right?” A hesitant nod from Holly made me smile sadly. “Tom probably set up a country wide taboo on his name. It is a spell that allows people to find you if you say the taboo word. It was originally set up to monitor for anyone using the unforgivables like the killing curse, but this corrupt country apparently stopped monitoring those spells at the same time Tom set up his own Taboo on the word Voldemort.”

Holly looked confused. “So why does Dumbledore encourage everyone to say it, then?”

I smiled. “Good question. I can’t say for sure, but he is probably right to encourage its use for two reasons. One, if everyone uses it, then the fear of the name and thus fear of the dark tosser will diminish. But the other reason is that if everyone uses his name often then the taboo, if reactivated, is basically useless since no one can identify any single case of the name being said. It is why you can’t set up a taboo for the word magic to protect the statue of secrecy. It is being said nearly constantly by someone in this country somewhere.”

Holly slowly nodded, so I shrugged as I said. “I just think it is more effective to just mock his name by calling him Moldymort, the dark tosser, or Voldeshorts, etc, etc…”

I smirked a little. “That brings us to the final reason we call him Tom. It is his actual name and he hates it. He was named Tom by his squib mother because it was the name of his Muggle father that she was obsessed with. The same father that abandoned her once she stopped dosing him with love potions.” I paused for effect, “Plus, the ‘dark lord Tom’ isn’t nearly as intimidating. ”

The revelations that Tom was a half-blood seemed to rock the trio almost as strongly as the prophecy, so we simply waited in silence as they considered this. To my surprise, it was Ginny that spoke up after considering me for a few more seconds. “No one else seems to know anything about who… the dark tosser is. What proof do you have?”

That actually made me pause for a moment before I sighed. “Ok, I can show you the dark lord’s diary, but I am not going to let you write in it as it will start trying to take over and control you… probably slowly killing you in the process. I am only going to write a simple ‘Hello’ to see if I can get it to react.”

The trio waited in silence as I slowly opened a portal to where I had the containment box before pulling out the diary and wrote ‘Hello’ in the book. We all watched as the ink slowly disappeared, but nothing replied immediately, maybe sensing there were too many people around. I checked my soul sight, but it didn’t seem to be attacking me. Shaking my head, I slowly let out my breath. Turning to the trio, I carefully handed them Tom’s diary. The three of them touched it gingerly while looking at it from every angle for several minutes while Hermione ran as many detection spells over the book as they could before she nodded, looking at the name ‘Tom M Riddle’ embossed on the cover. “I believe you.”

I raised my eyebrows, and she glanced at me before snorting. “I couldn’t detect anything. Not only did it not return as anything dark or sinister, but it didn’t even return as magical in the first place. Yet it is so obviously magical that it is hard to believe it isn’t malicious in some way. I mean, if it was benign, why would someone go so far to disguise what it was?”

Smiling, I nodded at her while Holly spoke up. “Ok, ignoring that… well that Tom is one of the biggest hypocrites I have ever heard of, how and why did he open the chamber? Plus, who is doing it now?”

I sighed. “We don’t actually know who is attacking students right now. We have been watching the chamber of secret’s entrance for nearly the entire year, especially since New Years.”

It was predictable, but Hermione turned to me next and asked. “You don’t seem to have talked with Headmaster Dumbledore… why not?”

To be fair, that was a lot more civil than a 12 or 13 year old Hermione might have been, but it was clear this Hermione hadn’t quite removed all of her authority deference of her younger counterpart. That or this particular version of Hermione wasn’t quite as much of a rule follower as in canon. Still, regardless, she did have a good question.

Considering how I wanted to approach this, I frowned slightly, which the trio all caught. Shaking my head I tried to dismiss their unasked questions. “I don’t actually hate the man or anything. The problem is all the things he has done wrong. And when you know everything he has done, you will agree that he has made many, many mistakes in his life. That would be fine normally for someone at the end of their life, but at one point he believed in making sacrifices for the ‘greater good’ and I have always wondered if I could trust someone like that.”

As I watched the three stiffened before looking at each other, I wondered if they would keep our secrets now that they knew we didn’t exactly stand with Dumbledore. Then again, the three didn’t seem to be as worried about us as their younger counterparts probably would have been.

Suddenly I realized what I was doing. Swooping down to help them while tearing down all of their established connections. Literally pointing out all the mistakes their leaders were making while making it seem like we were the only ones who could help, the only ones that cared… it was the textbook example of how cults were formed… how toxic relationships were made.

I tried to remind myself that Hermione and Ginny were already 16 with Holly only a few months behind. They would need to be making decisions for themselves soon, especially if we failed and Tom returned. They needed to know what was going on for that. Explaining things was what Dumbledore should have been doing so they could make the right decision.

Yet, that was my dilemma. Dumbledore in canon had guided Harry to let himself die like a lamb to the slaughter. The idea Dumbledore set everything up around Harry to guarantee that Harry would survive was ludicrous, it was a Hail-Mary at best. Dumbledore moved everyone around like pawns by controlling the information they had. Yeah, he did it for informational security and to not worry people with what they couldn’t change, but it didn’t change the result. He was literally controlling their lives.

Was I controlling the trio to become my wives? Was I letting them know only the information I wanted them to know to drive them into my arms… into my bed? Was I another Dumbledore?

It was then that I noticed that everyone had gone quiet, while Luna was now standing directly in front of me. I didn’t even have time to blink as the silvery eyed girl leaned down and flipped my nose before she turned around and sat her butt down on my lap. “If you are going to worry about silly things, then you have time to be a chair.” Then twisting, she laid down her head in Amy’s lap while extending her legs across Taylor's knees.

I blinked again and glanced around the room. My girls all looked at me a little worried, but the trio now looked a little confused.

I cleared my throat. “I, uh… sorry… did you ask something?”

Holly glanced at her friends again before she smiled a little tentatively. “I was asking you all what you plan on doing when I noticed you going a little pale. You didn’t respond when I asked if you were alright. Amy and Taylor tried to get your attention before Luna flicked your nose.”

I sighed. “Let's talk about this later. It is just some of my own insecurities.” Glancing at my girls, I smiled. “I really do think they are too good to me most of the time.”

I blinked before I realized that we might have already given the game away. Internally I started cursing myself before I sighed looking at the confused faces of the trio. “Damn it… Ok, last thing before we focus back on the attacks.” I opened my mouth to explain again, but shaking my head I gestured to Amy. “Actually, I think I am just going to let Amy explain.”

Amy rolled her eyes, but actually looked a little worried at me. Smiling a little tiredly back at her she huffed before she started explaining. “Ok, short story that we REALLY don’t want to get out.” Rolling her eyes again, she continued. “Well, first, we are actually a couple of years older than we look. Don’t ask how. We did that so we could get into Hogwarts, as we didn’t have the chance to attend before.”

Amy then sighed. “Second, we aren’t actually related. Not any of us, including our caretaker, Ahri.” Amy probably saw the trio making the realizations I did as their eyes snapped back and forth between Amy, Taylor, and Sabah before she snapped out. “And third! There are no secrets within the family… and no one in the family does anything to anyone else before they are fully ready.” Hermione and Ginny seemed to instantly understand the implications and were already blushing up a storm. However, as was probably not all that surprising, Holly didn’t seem to understand for several more seconds as Amy let the silence stretch.

Her eyes turned a little considering, before she smirked. “That and we are always looking for new girls to add to our little family. Our rules are they must be Strong, Kind, and Smart, get along with everyone in the Family and be 100% committed to Family in loyalty and… love.” At this point even Holly seemed to understand the implications as all three were cherry red while Hermione seemed to be trying to figure out how to splutter something out. Not one of the three seemed to know what to think when Amy openly checked each of them out with a smirk.

I tried to interrupt, but Amy barreled through my interruption. “Max here worries about us, he really does, and is often concerned he is controlling us somehow, but we are happier now.” She paused for a moment but continued. “We came from some pretty sh*tty situations, and we don’t want to leave him… or each other.”

I sighed. “Ok, well… Amy, you aren’t in charge of explaining our relationship anymore.”

Amy rolled her eyes and waved her hand. “Are you saying anything I said was untrue?”

I paused but found myself sighing again. Damn, I needed to stop doing that. “No, but they aren’t on such a tight time limit like we had in BB. We can talk about letting them join when we aren’t worried about someone or something attacking students.”

That finally seemed to break the awkwardness, even if the trio didn’t know how to move on. It was Holly that asked the big question. “What do you know so far?”

I sighed. “Short story version of this year, then.”

The trio listened carefully as I described how Tom’s diary would possess a student. Said student would then attack Muggleborns while Holly was blamed by many because of her parselmouth abilities. As the year passed, a lot of students would be petrified, ending with Hermione. Yet before Hermione was petrified, she would figure out the culprit is a basilisk moving through the pipes. It was why Holly could hear talking in the walls on Halloween. Holly, Ginny, and Lockhart would head down to investigate but Lockhart would try to abandon the other two. Holly, finally left alone, confronts the shade of Tom before fighting the basilisk, getting bitten, destroying the diary, and being healed by Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix.

Holly looked pale and Hermione gave her a little hug, not looking too much better.

I rubbed my face, “I am sorry, that was probably too much, too fast, but I didn’t want to make you think I was leaving anything out even with my rough summary. It is, however, why we tried to stop this all from happening in the first place.”

Ginny followed the train of thought. “But now we don’t have any idea of who is attacking the students anymore.”

I shook my head. “We have been watching that bathroom just in case. In fact, we had Ahri watching the bathroom door via a portal since New Years. She can’t be there 24/7, but none of us has ever seen anything suspicious from the chamber of secrets besides that Halloween… well other than the three of you brewing polyjuice potion in the last stall before Christmas.”

The three of them blushed a bit at that before they jumped. Holly blurted out, “The chamber of secrets is in a girl's bathroom?”

All of us actually started laughing at that, so I continued on. “Yeah… it really is hilarious, even if I am not sure if it was originally a bathroom. Also, to give credit where credit is due, it was Hermione who figured it out, we just saw her or a possible future of her actually put it together.”

Hermione blushed at everyone’s encouraging looks before she changed the subject. “We really should go through a list of all the possible suspects… if only we had a way of tracking the students in the castle.”

I nodded and then froze. Beside me I noticed Taylor freeze at nearly the exact same time. Looking over at her she turned to me and asked, “The map?”

I nodded slowly. “It would work great, plus we could get Holly a little piece of her parents.”

That got everyone’s attention, and I sighed before I started to explain, this time about the Marauder’s map and who currently owned it and what it could be used for.

Ginny spoke up with a mischievous smile. “I will have it by tonight. The twins know better than to mess with me.”

I blinked before I snorted, followed closely by Luna, Holly, and Amy.

I smiled. “We can make a list of all the possible targets and watch them. The attacks happen in the evenings when the castle is emptying out or on the weekends when most people are in Hogsmeade.”

The girls all nodded, so I continued. “If that doesn’t work, we can check the chamber to see if we missed something down there. There should be the inner chamber and the outer chamber, which we can search to see if anyone else has been there recently. As long as we bring a lot of roosters, we should be safe, since a rooster’s crow should kill a Basilisk.”

As we all left the room, I gestured towards Amy and Taylor to follow me for a second while the Ravenclaws in our group headed back to the library and the golden trio headed towards their dorm.

I was glad to see that the trio seemed a little less wary of us, even if Holly and Hermione didn’t seem to want to meet Amy’s or my eyes directly… probably thinking about our offer to join them.

Letting that go and instead focusing on what we needed to do, I waited until we were out of hearing range before putting up some new anti-listening charms. “Ok, I am going to open up a portal to Hogsmeade this afternoon. I want you to practice trying to incapacitate some of the drunks, stuck up, or belligerent wizards out there. Your two abilities are just too useful not to utilize, as long as the damage you do in testing is reversible. As for students, well, Draco and his two bookends are about as guilt free of a target as we are probably going to get with all their ‘Mudblood’ talk this year.” Then, looking at Ahri in her cat form on my shoulders, I continued. “I want you to practice confusing their senses to see if we can get Taylor’s bugs close to the wizards without the wizards exterminating them. It isn’t useful here in Hogwarts but will be useful elsewhere.”

Amy winced and Taylor frowned while Ahri tilted her head in thought, but the three of them nodded before we began to once again talk shop as we headed to the library, following the rest of our group.

Unfortunately, all our preparations ended up being useless as Dinah came up to us during dinner with Luna and Sabah trailing her and whispered. “The trio is going to find the culprit and the victims will end up in the chamber of secrets. I still can’t tell who it is, but Luna says we need to get there to help.”

Face pale, I turned towards Taylor and Amy who had stayed with me as we had been practicing on the surrounding students. It had been a little funny to see them temporarily fall asleep only to have them wake up a few seconds later, obviously feeling better. It was our little game to find the ones who were the most affected by cramming for end of year exams and poke them asleep through a portal, then heal them, before letting them wake up as they started to fall over. But with the warning, the light amusem*nt we had been feeling was completely gone, replaced with a feeling of dread.

Getting up as covertly as we could, we exited the great hall and headed towards the staircase before talking.

“Where are they?”

Dinah bit her lip and shook her head. “I can’t tell. I was only able to tell the trio would be attacked because my plans to talk to them after dinner suddenly seemed impossible.”

Groaning, I glanced at Ahri who was still riding my shoulders. “Dinah, Luna, do you think that we need to get Ahri back in her body?”

Luna paused for a moment but shook her head. “I don’t think we have time.”

I nodded, turning to Taylor. “Do you think we can figure out where they are?”

Taylor scoffed. “I put a ladybug on the hems of each of their robes after the forbidden forest fiasco.”

I paused before I smiled. “And that is why I said you are one of the best tactical thinkers in our Family.”

Taylor smiled at me and turned towards the stairs. “Follow me, the trio are headed towards the second floor but I don’t have enough bugs around to tell what is being said.”

Following her up the stairs, I turned and asked. “Do you think they are headed for the chamber right now?”

Taylor hummed for a moment before she nodded. “Yes.”

I frowned. “We had best hurry. We aren’t prepared to fight the snake if they get inside.”

As we arrived at the bathroom door, we paused as we heard talking inside. Holly seemed to be saying something I couldn’t quite hear but she seemed agitated. It was then that we heard a clear, annoying voice through the bathroom door.

“Excellent, girls. Well done, indeed.” The voice was obviously Lockhart and I paused, eyes wide, while I heard what had to be the opening of the mirror leading down into the chamber proper. Gesturing to my girls to get ready, I then prepared to start a count-down to storm the bathroom, but before we could move we heard him talk over whatever Hermione had been trying to say.

“You have done incredibly well. I will write about all of you fondly in my next book. It was just a shame that none of you will be able to remember any of it.”

Rolling my eyes at the obvious villainous monologue, I counted down from three, but as we hit zero and started to move forward we heard a large explosion which made us stumble a step. Wide eyes, I turned towards my girls and yelled “Go, go, go!” before jumping in as well.

The problem was, by the time the three of us entered, Ginny was already unconscious and Hermione and Holly were gone. From inside the slide we heard a scream and I glanced at my girls before grimacing. “Dinah, Luna, stay here with Ginny. Try to get her healed and awake if you can then, Dinah, go for help. Taylor, Sabah, Ahri, Luna, follow me. Holly and Hermione don’t have our protections and I don’t know if we are immune to memory spells, so if we can’t take Lockhart alive, just kill him.”

As I turned and threw myself down the slide, I couldn’t help but wince at the slime, smell, and darkness. It was absolutely both disgusting and terrifying. It felt like minutes of terror as I slid into the darkness, but was probably only 20 or 30 seconds. Finally, I found the bottom by shooting out and rolling across the bones of small animals scattered across the floor, landing in a heap.

Popping up, I started looking around frantically. Fairly quickly I noticed Holly and Lockhart’s duel down the hall from the flashes of offensive spells being sent back and forth.

It was hard to see clearly, but I was surprised to note that Lockhart was actually managing to not only hold his own, but actually push Holly back. Yeah, she was still only a second year, but Holly had been well above her year mates in dueling skill.

Internally I grimaced. Really? Did Lockhart somehow being a semi-competent duelist really have to be one of the changes in this universe? I paused and then growled slightly. And if he was not a complete idiot, why did he have to be such a sh*t teacher.

It was then that I saw the body on the floor, and I felt my stomach drop and my blood boil. Hermione was crumbled in a bloody heap on the stone floor and for a moment I wondered if she was dead. Yet as Taylor crawled over trying to avoid notice from the dueling pair using a very faint lumos spell, I saw Hermione’s chest slowly, shallowly rise and fall.

Yet as I scurried over to her now surrounded by the rest of my girls I grimaced at the sight. Her arm was bent backwards and she had over a dozen bruises across her face and arms. I suspected that she had gone down the slide while physically fighting Lockhart for some reason. Maybe she was trying to get his wand, after he had attacked Ginny in the bathroom. However, as a small teenager, the trade had obviously been in Lockhart’s favor.

Still, glancing over at Holly, I noted that she seemed to be holding her own, if barely. Even if Lockhart wasn’t a master duelist, he was still a fully matured wizard with the power inherent behind that, so we needed to move before she either tired or was overwhelmed.

It was the next statement though that made us pause. “Sod off you stupid girl. I am Gilderoy Lockhart.” A quick duck from another stunner had him cursing. “Bloody Hell! Daft slags should be begging to join me.” A surprisingly vicious cutting hex flew through the air and Lockhart ducked, then snarled. “Well, girl, since you are too daft to realize it, then I will just have to make you submit. You will learn to like it, just like the rest.”

This time the cutting curse was a little more sickly yellow and flew right past his head and he yelped before sending back a sickly purple spell that made me nauseous just looking at it.

Glancing around, I noticed we really didn’t have a good shot at him without circling around past the open entrance way. Trying to open a portal made my eyes widen.

I considered our options for a moment. Turning to Luna and Sabah I gestured to Ahri. “Portals are nearly impossible down here with these stupid ancient wards. You three use Ahri’s illusions to make sure he can’t see you flank him.”

Turning towards Taylor, I continued. “Taylor, guide us so the two of us can help Holly directly and give covering fire for the other three. I am going to open a tiny portal to call for Amy’s help with Hermione, but we will just have to leave her for now.”

Nodding, I watched as Ahri obviously started her distractions on Lockhart as the man had to jump out of multiple flashes of light coming from nowhere.

Running over towards Holly I called out. “Holly, backup has arrived. Keep firing!”

I just got a grunt in return before the three of us started peppering where Lockhart was hunkering down behind some pillars. I managed to get a message to via a pea-sized portal Amy that Hermione was hurt and needed her help. However, before I could say anything else Lockhart moved forward.

It was then that I thought we had him, but impossibly he danced out of the way of each of our spells. It was then that I heard Dinah yell out “Move!” and I watched as Lockhart aimed a blasting spell directly above us. The three of us got up and ran as fast as we could, shooting spells widely behind us. As the explosion hit, the ceiling above us suddenly rumbled as a column of rock slammed into the ground behind us, and we continued to scramble backwards.

At this point I was fully willing to admit that I was out of my league here, but somehow even while falling even further back I noticed that Holly and Taylor kept firing spells towards the asshole. Spells much more focused than my wild flailing. Yet somehow the stupid man kept dodging by the skin of his teeth.

It was then that another large stone fell, hitting me on my shoulder and causing me to cry out in pain. A cry that let Lockhart manage to locate me in the mess, and I was forced to drop and roll under a vicious cutting curse.

Damn it. We needed to do something quick. But still, how the hell was the bumbling idiot this good?

Frowning at my throbbing shoulder, I considered throwing some explosion spells back his way for the trouble, but with my girls somewhere behind him, friendly fire was the last thing we needed.

Gritting my teeth, I pulled myself up and got behind a bolder before starting to cast towards Lockhart again.

It was then that I saw the asshole lit up by a half dozen spells from behind and to the right, and yet somehow he dodged backward, missing all of the real ones.

How in the bloody hell was he doing that?

Shaking my head, I turned and started firing more and more spells towards the man as he was forced to spend more and more of his effort just dodging the volume of fire headed his way.

For a moment I saw him put up a shield, but it was nearly instantly broken under a spell from Holly, yet he was still dodging.

The dance went back and forth for what felt like hours, but was probably no more than a minute or two when suddenly, finally, Lockhart stopped moving like he was a dancer, impossibly weaving through our spells. Suddenly he stopped, jerked, then convulsed as he was hit by what appeared to be two stunners, a full body bind, a knockback jinx, and then moments later a jelly legs jinx and some sort of full body overpowered tickling charm from Luna.

His entire body twitched and convulsed again as his body seemed to fight itself before he fell forward onto his face. It looked exceptionally painful, but I had to admit that I really, really didn’t care at the moment.

Turning towards Holly, I asked. “You ok?”

Holly took a shuddering breath, looking frazzled. “What are you all doing down here?”

Looking around, I noticed Amy had just arrived to help with Hermione. With that being dealt with, I decided to break the ice and smirked a little,“Saving a damsel in distress?”

Holly raised her wand once more in mock offense, but then snorted. “Yeah, sure whatever.” Turning away from me, she smiled as she walked over to Lockhart and simply kicked him across his face. Then a malicious smile crept up, and she walked over before swinging a foot into his crotch. A small part of me winced, but considering his threats, it was completely justified. Seeing as he wasn’t going anywhere, she then turned and spotted Amy healing Hermione. “How is Hermione?”

Amy frowned and my stomach curled in dread. “I don’t know what he did, but Ginny is completely unresponsive, despite apparently being in perfect health after I healed her. Hermione was pretty banged up, but I should be able to get her up pretty soon, I just need to be careful as she took a pretty big hit to the head.”

Holly cursed before turning back towards the bound professor. “He had some sort of artifact that he held up that made Ginny freeze and miss fire her knock back jinx before Hermione tried to grab the mask looking thing and the two fell down into the chamber. He didn’t seem to have it during the fight just now or I assume he would have used it.”

I frowned. “That also again begs the question of how he was that good. He wasn’t nearly that good in class… or pretty much any time this year.”

Holly walked up to him and pulled a smoking bundle from around his neck. “He set this on fire when you joined the fight.”

I frowned, picking it up. It looked fuzzy, like an animal’s foot, but why was it burnt?

Luna reached out and sighed, absolutely serious. “Briar hare. They are from Africa, where they are called a Br'er rabbit. They are a magical rabbit that can talk a little and are exceptionally tricky. Their feet are extra lucky and can be burned for a burst of luck almost as strong as Felix Felicis.”

I blinked. “You know a lot about this, Luna.”

She shrugged. “The rabbits are nearly extinct after being hunted for their feet. My father and I have been trying to find some to study them for years.”

We all grimaced before I asked. “What other artifacts do you think he has?”

Luna frowned before casting a localized dispel at his body, then paused before reaching out and opening Lockhart’s mouth. Tilting his head back, she pulled out a ring previously stuck to the roof of his mouth. Holding it up, she blinked and then looked down at Lockhart in wonder. “I can see him again. I didn’t even realize he was missing in my visions until just now.”

I sighed. “Well, that answers one question but raises quite a few more.”

It seemed that Sabah was going to say something, but we didn’t get the chance as we all heard the click, click, click of the door behind us start to open.

I could see the blood drain from each of the girls' faces, mirrored by my own horrified face.

The door to Slytherin’s chambers was voice operated using parseltongue, something the basilisk inside the chamber could speak as well.

We were absolutely screwed in just about every way. I couldn’t make portals quick enough to get everyone out.

We didn’t have any way of hurting something as magically resistant as a bloody basilisk.

We couldn’t even look at the damn thing with its damn, instant death gaze.

It was Taylor that barked out a “Run” that got us moving to cover while Amy dragged Hermione into a corner by the slide. Carrying Hermione was impressive, but she probably modified her own body on the fly to be stronger.

We all listened to the snake enter the chamber, cold sweat starting to drip down my spine. I noticed that Holly, Taylor and I had gone one way while Luna, Sabah, and Ahri had gone the other.

Whispering, I asked Holly, “Can you talk to it? Call it off?”

Holly closed her eyes and started hissing, but didn’t break cover.

We all paused and held our breath as the conversation went back and forth.

After an angry hiss Holly broke it off and whispered back. “He is willing to let me go, but he says he has waited long enough for food and he won’t let the rest of you go even if we let him eat Lockhart.”

Turning towards my girls, I wondered how the hell we were going to get out of this when Taylor flipped her wand around the corner of the pillar she was behind and started casting blinding spells.

I gaped open-mouthed wondering how she did that when I realized she was using her bugs to tell where the snake was. Yet her spells were obviously not enough.

It was then that the snake seemed to notice Lockhart who was laying on the side of the cavern looking vacantly outward towards the basilisk. Before I could do anything, he froze and stopped breathing. I waited to see his soul leave, but after a few moments it didn’t. He didn’t die.

How the hell did he pull that off? Did it matter that he had only one working eye as the other swollen shut? Or was it because he was partially blinded and unconscious with the curses running through him?

I didn’t know and I didn’t want to test it out, but I still passed it along. “Close one eye. It might have saved Lockhart just now and it is better than nothing.”

It was then that Ahri, still in her cat form, made her move, causing excruciatingly bright lights to bounce on the other side of the cavern.

Taylor’s eyes widened as she yelled, “MOVE!”

None of us paused as we threw ourselves further down the cavern away from the giant snake.

As we felt the ceiling once again start to crumble as the basilisk rammed the pillars and stones we were hiding behind, I realized I could still do something if I could get a second to actually open a portal.

Sprinting a little further than my girls, I whispered. “Give me a second. I will try to open a portal to Hagrid’s farm.”

Taylor seemed to realize what I was saying first as she once again stuck her hand around the pillar and started shooting anything she could at what I assumed was the snake’s eyes.

Ducking behind another pillar a little further on, I started opening a portal looking around for the stupid roosters, it felt like it took forever to get it open wide enough.

It took maybe a dozen heart pounding seconds before I spotted one of Hagrid’s roaming roosters.

Moving the portal over, I reached out and nearly strangled the rooster with how hard I yanked it down into the chamber.

Holding it up, I waited for it to crow, but the damn thing just squawked and tried to rake its claws forward across my face, making me release it.

Immediately, it flew away from me, directly around the corner. Glancing at it flying away, I noticed it suddenly shutter and fall from the sky. I nearly facepalmed. The stupid thing had looked at the damn basilisk and had died.

Now furious as I listened to my girls behind me running for their lives from another attack.

I didn’t care anymore, I was going to kill that stupid snake.

I got up and sprinted towards Amy.

I didn’t know how to cast a compulsion yet, but Amy should be able to make the damn roosters want to crow.

Diving behind the pillar protecting Hermione and Amy, I reached through and snagged another rooster before shoving it towards Amy.

Amy seemed to understand what I wanted nearly instantly because she reached forward and grabbed the rooster’s leg. After only a second or two, the rooster tilted its head back and started to crow as loud and hard as it could.

Instantly things changed, but not necessarily for the better.

The snake let out a bellow and hiss as it started to flail.

Peaking around my cover I watched as the snake shook, eyes closed in pain. It was then that I heard Taylor call out. “Bring down the roof!”

There was a momentary pause before spells from all around the room started hitting the roof directly above the basilisk.

Three hits before an exceptionally powerful hit, which must have been from Holly, struck the roof of the cavern and the roof began to fall.

I watched in morbid fascination as this time the collapse didn’t stop, with just a small section of small, loose rocks falling to the floor.

This time stones, easily 6 feet across, fell from the ceiling. The basilisk shrugged off one or two before a larger one fell directly on its skull and the snake twitched, then twitched again as it was buried. I wasn’t sure it was dead just yet, but it should suffocate under all of that stone, or at least let us get out of here before it dug itself out.

Amy let go of the rooster, but the bird continued to crow as hard as it could.

Taylor came carefully around the corner. Turning towards me, she asked. “Can you get them out? I think the collapse cut us off from them.”

I nodded, focusing first on where each of my girls were using the soul portals to their bodies. Luna and Sabah were off to one side, with Ahri on the other. Unfortunately, it was slow. Really slow. If Hogwarts made it twice or three times harder, then this was a dozen or two. I didn’t know what ancient magic Salazar had used to hide his chamber, but it was wreaking havoc with my powers.

I didn’t instantly know where Holly was, but Luna, Sabah, and Ahri seemed to be moving together. Opening a portal slowly I spotted Ahri already standing on Holly who seemed to be sitting against a pillar gasping.

Seeing Holly’s distress, Amy lunged forward, while Sabah and Luna finally reached the rest of us while stumbling towards us.

Reaching Holly, Amy went wide-eyed for a moment before she cursed. “How the hell did you get bit?” then almost frantically she yelled. “f*ck! I can’t do anything to the venom directly.”

Luna spoke up, coughing. “Move it into her hand, then just cut it off.”

Amy only hesitated a moment before we watched as the concentrated venom caused her veins to darken before starting to dissolve Holly’s right hand. Taylor didn’t hesitate as she pointed her wand out and yelled “Diffindo” cutting Holly’s hand off above the wrist.

Holly cried out for a moment, but after that and another wheezy breath, Amy obviously knocked her unconscious while continuing her work.

Meanwhile, we all grimaced as we watched the venom continue to dissolve the hand. Turning back to Amy, I gulped at what had nearly happened to the young girl in front of us.

After a moment Amy cursed. “There are still tiny remnants or something lingering in her system. I can’t seem to purge it all.”

Looking around wildly I tried to think of a solution. I could pull her soul out as fast as I could and bind her to a gem. Then just rebuild her body later. I could perhaps move her soul to another body, that might be faster. Just put one of my girls back in a gem for a while. Yet I wasn’t sure that would be fast enough.

Biting my lip, I considered for a moment longer before I tried for my own Hail-Mary. I called out. “Fawkes, FAWKES, if you can hear us, we could really, REALLY use your help right about now to save a student. A student who was trying to protect the school.”

Almost like he had been waiting for us, we heard the soft energizing song of Fawkes as he swooped down, circling us for a moment before landing in front of Holly.

I held my breath, but apparently this was just fated to be or something because Fawkes instantly cried on the large gash running across her shoulder.

Almost instantly, Holly started to relax as the residual damage that the venom had done and which Amy had been struggling to remove was healed.

It didn’t give Holly her hand back, but as we noticed Lockhart still laying over to the side I gestured towards him. “Let's get Holly her wand hand back. Lockhart wasn’t doing anything useful with his anyway.”

There were grim smiles all around as Holly got her hand back.

Not wanting to have her waking up where she had nearly died, We got everyone back through my portal and woke her up right next to the entrance and within touching distance of Hermione.

Holly stirred for a moment before her eyes shot open. “What happened?” She took several shaky breaths before she looked down at her hand before flexing it open and shut a few times.

Taylor gestured towards Amy. “Amy healed you, you probably don’t want to know the details though.” She looked up at the slide. “We should get out of here though.”

I looked at the slide down before sighing. “Give me a second, I will make us a portal back to the bathroom as long as no one is up there.”

After a quick check to ensure that no one was in the bathroom, I started opening another portal to the bathroom. Apparently Dinah was still gone and out looking for help.

We lifted Hermione up via a Leviosa spell, while I simply prepared to drag Lockhart by his ankle.

Yet, before we could leave, Hermione started to stir. Lowering her to the ground, Taylor let her slowly stand up before Hermione winced and cradled her previously broken arm. “Ouch, wow… huh, Holly, where are we exactly?”

Holly nearly tackled the older girl before shuddering out. “Oh, Hermione, I am so glad you are alright.”

I smiled, it was good to see the friendship between these two was just as strong in this universe despite all the differences.

After looking around Hermione finally seemed to actually notice us with Taylor casting a third lumos along with Sabah and Holly. I obviously couldn’t since I resumed dragging the bound Lockhart behind me through the portal to the bathroom.

Ignoring Hermione’s rambling on how we would need to come back and explore the chamber to learn more about the founders, I gestured to the others to follow me through the portal.

Once we piled into the bathroom, we found that Ginny was still collapsed against the wall which finally got Hermione to forget about the chamber for a while as they rushed to check on her.

Luna frowned, staring at Ginny. “I can see a little better already. Madam Pomfrey should be able to fix her in a day or two.”

At that, Hermione and Holly slumped in relief.

After a minute or two of decompressing while the five of us, plus Ahri, tried to avoid staring at their private moment as they ensured Ginny was indeed alright with their own spells, I cleared my throat.

It was then that they seemed to remember that Lockhart was right behind them. Narrowing their eyes it was Holly, unsurprisingly, that pulled out her wand first to curse the man. Holding up my hand, I said. “Wait, let's talk about his punishment.”

The duo paused and looked at me confused, so I continued. “Anything we know how to do is probably reversible by Madam Pomfrey or St. Mungos, so let’s let Amy take a crack at him first before the teachers arrive. What she can do might still be reversible, but I doubt it. Then you can just curse him with whatever else you want.”

As everyone gave their assent, Amy got to work. She started to explain what she was doing and I had to admit it was kind of terrifying. She started by removing his ability to wake up. He was going to be in a coma for the foreseeable future. Then she removed his ability to recognize faces. Then his vocal cords. Then she shrunk his manhood to be nearly nonexistent. Then she nearly removed his magical control organ outright. As she did that, I did the same to his soul tap. Amy finally finished her modifications off by shrinking the pleasure centers of the brain to make everything he did unsatisfying.

It was a little terrifying and internally I reminded myself to always treat my girls right, but I couldn’t say he didn’t deserve it. He had been causing nothing but suffering including probable rapes of students here at school. I was probably going to rip his soul out and rip it up for a jump once we weren’t prime suspects. In order to accomplish that I spent a few minutes pulling a small corner of his soul through a portal into one of my remaining shot glasses.

In the end, even if he woke up, everything we could change here that he loved was gone. He had loved his face, his voice, sex, and his magical abilities more than anything. All of those were hopefully permanently removed. Then, even if magic could fix those, I was pretty sure no one would be able to fix my direct soul modification to make him a squib.

As we pulled back, Holly simply went with the direct route and, remembering the bone vanishing spell he used on her, proceeded to remove his bones from both legs.

Hermione was the most surprising, by cursing the man for nearly a full minute. When Holly asked what she had done, the terrifying muggleborn just smirked.

I was not too proud to admit that I was both intimidated and a little bit turned on by that. Amy seemed to agree with me if the slight flush on her cheeks was any judge.

The man’s life was ruined, just like he had done to the people who had their deeds stolen. Plus, he was metaphorically screwed, like he not so metaphorically probably did to some of the students in this castle.

It was that moment that Madam Pomfrey arrived and after some minimal explanations where in she grimaced and ushered us towards the hospital wing. She levitated Ginny while I dragged Lockhart along across the floor. While she didn’t look happy, per se, at my treatment of Lockhart she didn’t say anything and I think I even saw a small smile as we went down a flight of stairs.

It was as we arrived in the hospital wing that we found Dumbledore walking back into the castle as if nothing had ever happened. As we all blinked, the golden trio (obviously minus Ginny) rushed forward to congratulate him on his return. However, as we moved past him and into the hospital wing proper I noticed something that nearly made my blood run cold. Dumbledore as he heard that we had come to the trio’s aid turned towards us and smiled and winked in a grandfatherly way, yet below that I thought I saw a narrowed, judging gaze for half a second.

I didn’t know what he had seen. I didn’t know what he knew. I didn’t even know what he wanted. I didn’t know and it honestly terrified me at that moment.

It had been something we had been dancing around for months because Dinah and Luna couldn’t give us definitive answers on how he would behave.

In some stories, Dumbledore was a saint. Sometimes he was a naive fool. Sometimes he was an evil so dark even Tom looked tame in comparison.

However, regardless of story and therefore world in the multiverse, he was always a titan of magic and influence.

Even finding out that, in this universe, his positions were mostly ceremonial didn’t lessen his power at that moment. Caught in his gaze I considered just picking up my girls and popping away, but even then I wondered if we would actually manage to escape.

Then as suddenly as the pressure had arrived, it was gone and he was just a grandfather once again. He even looked at us proudly and bowed his head in thanks. Still, I wasn’t really paying attention to what exactly he said to Holly and Hermione, still overwhelmed with what had just happened.

As I kind of expected, Dumbledore brought Holly with him to his office to talk a little more while the rest of us still standing were examined and then dismissed. That left Ginny who Madam Pomfrey promised would be up and well by tomorrow morning.

It was as we were headed across the halls towards our dorms that I spotted Lucius Malfoy.

I blinked. Turning towards my girls, I noticed they were as surprised as I was. Was everything really going to follow the same pattern as before?

However, after a moment I realized it couldn’t. Holly didn’t have Tom’s journal, so she wouldn’t be able to give it back to Malfoy and thus trick him to free Dobby. She might not even realize that it was him that gave the diary to Ron since the diary had apparently not been given to him in the bookstore over the summer.

I paused for a moment and thought through my options as quickly as I could.

I winced as I watched Dobby be kicked as he carried some of Malfoy’s papers. The two seemed to be headed towards the headmaster’s office, so I tried to think of my options.

Deciding that I needed to do something about this, I pulled a sock from my foot. Turning to Hermione, who had been following us I asked. “Can you use one of your notebooks or something to make a copy of Riddle’s diary, except make it disgustingly dirty.”

Hermione blinked but decided not to ask questions despite the confusions and horror of seeing Dobby’s treatment and my strange request.

A few moments later I had a copy of the diary, albeit almost unrecognizable and definitely unpleasant to touch. I even ripped the book a little more to exaggerate the damage before putting my sock in it.

The plan was simple, what could go wrong?

Surprisingly, the plan worked flawlessly, except for one thing. Apparently it wasn’t the Malfoys that gave Ron the diary because when I handed the diary to Lucius he didn’t even seem to recognize it. “What is this… Child?”

I simply shook my head. “I am sorry, I thought you dropped it.”

I watched as he still handed it to his elf before Dobby opened it and saw the sock. “Dobby is Free!”

Lucius looked shocked and then furious, whipping out his wand he pointed it at me and yelled. “You cost me my servant, BOY!”,

It was then that my six girls, plus Hermione, stepped forward, wands already out.

That was apparently enough to make him pause. After a moment longer he sneered and turned tail and left, but not before muttering, “Best watch your back, Boy. If you were smart, you and your little girlfriends would leave before someone gets around to… dealing with you.”

I scoffed, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about our wands. In fact, I suspected he was more worried about the fact we were within a hundred meters of the headmaster’s office.

Outwardly, I sneered back but didn’t respond. Internally I winced. We might have to remove all the death eaters if they are that terrible to the wizards around them, let alone muggles and elves.

Wait, was I really considering a purge? No, get lost in thoughts later!

As we watched him walk off, we all breathed a sigh of relief. It was then that we got to finally meet the excitable elf, Dobby.

“Dobby is finally free thanks to strange kind Mr. Wizard and his Misses.”

I shook my head. I was not going to even deal with this for now. I even wondered if I could somehow get him language lessons.

Narrowing my eyes, I got an idea. “Do you want to help Holly Potter, Dobby?”

Nodding his head so fast, I worried it might fall off, I watched as the poor elf nearly begged me to let him help. “Yes, Mr Wizard, Sir. I would like nothing more than to help the great Miss Potter, Ma’am.”

I had to cut off my chuckles at that and simply smirked. “Well, as long as you can use your magic without alerting the ministry, I think Holly could use help with her chores and meals. I don’t think her family likes her much and she could use your help as long as you are discreet. We are more than happy to pay you for the service.”

Slapping his forehead in his eagerness to salute, I watched as Dobby nearly bounced in excitement. “Dobby would love to be doing that, Mr Wizard, Sir”

I waved him off. “Just call me Max, we will call you and figure out your wages and the details later. Thank you.”

Dobby teared up at that and I got a bad feeling as he responded. “Mister Max, sir, is a wonderful wizard as well.” He lunged forward and hugged me, getting some snot on my robes. It was almost cute, but he was a lot to handle.

I let out a relieved sigh as he popped away. I hoped he calmed down first if he ended up coming with us in our world hopping travels.

The remaining two weeks of the semester passed uneventfully. Hagrid was returned the day after Lockhart was arrested and the entire castle actually seemed to relax, despite exams.

The house cup was actually won by Ravenclaw this year. Apparently Dumbledore hadn’t felt the need to give Holly and company a ton of points to play favorites.

That actually made me feel better. It really was a dick move to constantly be ripping it away from the Slytherins, even if I was pretty sure they were only ahead in the books due to Snape’s favoritism.

As we wrapped up the year and got back on the train to head back to London we found ourselves sitting in a cabin waiting for the trio to stop by like they promised.

This ride was honestly a little ridiculous for us now, but it was a nice change to meet Hermione and Ginny’s family.

From Ahri’s work all year selling stuff we had found in the room of requirement, finding more jewelry, and going around fixing cars, she had finally gained enough money to purchase a small house. The entire lump sum had been nearly 100 thousand British pounds and was just enough to purchase a cottage at the edge of Hogsmeade.

So ironically, after the long train ride to London, we were going to take the floo directly back to Hogsmeade where we started before walking to our new home.

The fact the house was a tiny two bedroom thing didn’t matter to us since we still had our pocket home. The reason we purchased the home was, after asking a few Slytherin and Ravenclaw sixth years, we learned that in such a high magic neighborhood like Hogsmeade we could cast magic without triggering the underage trace. The sixth years tried to claim that it wasn’t discriminatory since the adult wizards could make sure we were practicing safely.

While I wasn’t sure if this loophole was true in the original Harry Potter world, even their system seemed inconsistent. Hermione got away with practicing spells before first year and Harry only got in trouble for the Patronus the night of the dementor attack, not the Lumos he cast after. Really, the entire system seemed problematic at best and outright maliciously discriminatory at worst.

As I was considering that, We noticed the golden trio looking at us through the window. As they entered and then sat down in the now very cramped cabin, I smiled. “Well, Lockhart is now in Saint Mungos.”

Hermione huffed. “Headmaster Dumbledore also promised to open an investigation into his crimes as well.” Then she scowled. “The problem is he was superb at hiding his tracks. That and the Wizengamot isn’t going to convict a pure-blood like him, since apparently his crimes were all against muggleborns”

I frowned and then looked carefully at the trio. “We… might know a way of making sure he is punished.”

Hermione looked the most uncomfortable, but even she paused for a moment and then nodded.

The remaining time was spent with promises to write and maybe even stop by for a visit. I promised Holly a ‘manic gift’ which made Ginny and Holly confused while Hermione just rolled her eyes, but she didn’t ruin the surprise.

The trio left us to find another cabin where they could have a little more room and we spent the remainder of the ride trying to relax.

When we arrived in London, we were able to briefly meet the Grangers and the rest of the Weasleys.

I frowned as the Weasleys mentioned their planned trip to Egypt, but decided I shouldn’t bring it up as I looked at Scabbers in Ron’s hands.

We even saw the Dursleys from afar as we walked with the Grangers towards their car.

As we were leaving, Luna spoke up. “Can we see that newspaper, Hermione?”

Hermione looked down at the paper her father had let her read as he asked about our family. Hermione blinked in surprise for a moment before smiling. As she handed it over, she pointed towards the bottom. “My neighbor is actually on that expedition. The entire thing is very exciting.”

I caught the headline and my eyes bugged out and my heart dropped.

‘Expedition sets out to search for the mythical Yamatai island’

Interlude Dumbledore:

Dumbledore sat back in his chair and thought about everything that had happened this year.

He sighed as he thought about what young Gilderoy had done. He would never have thought the shy man he had watched 15 years ago would have become so lost.

Maybe if the ICW hadn’t called him away so often, he would have found the attacker before Gilderoy had gone too far.

Now it was too late.

He had ordered Pomfrey to investigate if any of the victims had been assaulted. If they had been then… well he would have to cross that bridge when they got to it.

Picking up a lemon drop he popped it in his mouth and let the scowl form on his lips.

He was sure it had been Tom at the beginning of the year, but his efforts to find out more had been fruitless. Then Gilderoy had showed up to prove him wrong and they couldn’t even question him while he was unconscious.

Thinking about what young Holly and Hermione had been forced to confront below the school was horrifying.

It was very fortunate indeed that the young Hebert and Alcott families had been around to help.

He sighed again as he narrowed his eyes at his ceiling.

He had never heard of those families, and his cursory search had led nowhere. The question was, what were their motives and whose side were they on?

He would have to keep a very close eye on them in the coming year. Especially if they continued to be close to Holly and her friends.

Chapter 20: Chapter 20: HP/TR - Dangerous Magical Exploration

Notes:

Wow, I have to say thank you. I have gotten a lot more views than I dreamed of when I started. (more than I probably deserve)

I have also got quite a few good suggestions and edit suggestions (which I will get to when I have time).

I also got hate comments, but it is the internet so whatever~. That said, the majority of the issues seem to stem from the fact Max comes across as creepy/obsessed at the beginning and I didn’t make it clear there is some ROB related mental shenanigans there. I have edited the intro and will probably go back and edit chapter 1 and 2 as well to work on that.

The other issues are that I am not a great writer and I make a lot of mistakes… which is quite fair.

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Chapter Text

I knew my girls had seen my panic at seeing the news article about Yamatai, but none of them had apparently played the Tomb Raider game. Then again, it had been 2011 on Earth Bet and the Tomb Raider reboot had been made in 2013. Plus, Earth Bet might not ever make the rebooted Tomb Raider games since they start in a supernatural version of Japan and Earth Bet’s Japan had been devastated when Leviathan sank Kyushu. Not ideal to remind people already on the edge about that.

On the other hand, it made sense that not all media across the multiverse would be created at the same time. I would have to pay more attention to that in the future.

However, this revelation did explain a few things, as Lockhart had several artifacts that weren’t mentioned in the Harry Potter universe. It also opened up a lot of questions and dangers. The Sorting Hat’s joke that Merlin had been half incubus seemed a lot less funny now as demons, angels, jinn and even the Fae which were referenced quite often in the Tomb Raider games. We were going to need to pay way more attention to the potential dangers in this world.

The next problem was this world and how bloody it was. I had only played the first game and heard about the rest, but it started bloody and it apparently only got more so. It was possible that Lara was only going to have to kill a few people in her quest to get her friend back, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t that lucky.

Yeah, we had killed people before, but not since I had broken free of my compulsion. Arguably, I had done worse than killing them by tearing their souls apart for momentary power, but I hadn’t been in full control and we had been pretty firm in targeting the worst of the worst. Rapists and murderers. The only people my girls had killed directly were the Slaughterhouse 9.

Were we really ready to get involved with the plot of Tomb Raider? It might have been exaggerated because it was a game, but Lara Croft guns down hundreds of people on that island. Was I ready to wade that deep into killing?

I thought about it. What would happen if we didn’t do anything. Sam would nearly have her soul destroyed, body stolen. Lara would suffer, suffer tremendously. And if they failed… well if they failed, a lot more people would suffer and die either being sacrificed or killed as they ended up shiprecked on the island or a new Dark Lady would rise in Japan. Then even more people would suffer and die.

The question was, did we need to get involved? Theoretically we could point Dumbledore at the problem, but would he really get involved on vague potential warnings for Muggles? The British Ministry of Magic certainly wouldn’t.

I wanted to help. In the end, my girls would also probably want to help as they would think back to their own struggles. I wanted to help people… if I could… so I would just leave it to my girls. If they wanted to help, and if the trio wanted to help. I would support let them.

I shook my head free of my thoughts and tried to smile. However, even I knew I wasn’t doing a very good job trying to disguise my moment of surprise then panicked thinking just now. How long had I been standing here anyway?

So, as should have been obvious, none of my girls believed me when I tried to tell everyone that nothing was wrong. However, apparently Holly and Hermione had been around me enough to ignore my deflections as well and refused to leave until I explained.

Glancing at Luna who had pointed out the newspaper in the first place, I asked. “I think you know a little of what is about to happen. Should we get involved, and should we bring the others into it as well?”

Luna blinked and looked at the Grangers and then Holly before she nodded slowly. “The Humdingers agree that the Grangers don’t have many Nargles. Plus, they are unlikely to inform the Heliopaths if we try to help. The rotfang conspiracy won’t get involved until later unless we are too noisy.”

I paused and tried to engage my Luna interpreter. After a moment of thought I turned to the Grangers who looked exceptionally confused. “Well, it seems Luna thinks you are all good people and aren’t likely to tell the ministry on us. I am not sure what conspiracy is out there, but let's keep our heads down for now.”

That didn’t really seem to clarify anything for the Grangers, but I looked around before I waved them to lean forward while Ahri cast a subtle anti-eavesdropping spell. Thankfully, everyone including my girls leaned forward without making a scene.

I took a deep breath before I looked around, face serious. “I have some… knowledge… that suggests that for just about everyone on this expedition… well, it will go very, very badly. Nearly everyone dead, kind of badly.” Seeing their widening eyes I looked at the Grangers. “You all three know about the more fantastical side of the world. The possible future we have seen is that the expedition is going to run face-first into one of the more extreme examples of it and well…” I trailed off as I looked around the group.

It was Taylor and Amy who spoke up among my girls. “We are helping.”

I sighed and looked at Holly plus the Grangers.

It was Mr Granger that spoke up. “What do you mean, young man?”

Seeing their worry, I sighed. “The specific future I know about is one where Lara Croft and the entire expedition on the Endurance is going to be shipwrecked after a freak storm. Lara is going to step up and save as many as she can, but it is not going to be easy and a lot of people are going to die.” I saw the flinch and I realized that Lara was probably the neighbor they had been talking about.

Holly was already looking determined and I thought about confronting her about her saving people thing, but before I could, Hermione interrupted me. “How are we getting there then?”

I winced and looked at her parents who predictably didn’t look pleased with their daughter’s declaration, but to my surprise they didn’t stop her.

I bit my lip for a second, considering if it might be better to exclude Hermione and Holly, but ultimately I didn’t think I had the right to make that decision for them. Especially with Hermione’s parents right there. Really, protecting them from the world around them is a nice thought if it wasn’t for the fact she was arguably around as strong as us and this was her friend we were talking about.

We couldn’t even play the minor card as Holly was two months shy of turning 17 while Hermione was only 4 months from being 18.

Maybe that is why her parents, who still seemed quite invested in their daughter’s well-being, were going along with it. Then again, a lot of stories had Hermione’s parents as somewhat absentee or overly permissive parental figures. Erasing their memories did imply something. If removing their memories was the only option, then maybe they were completely dismissive of her warnings or that her parents were either actively neglectful or abusive, in which case she wanted to be rid of them.

Otherwise, she was too smart to not have done something better and less drastic. Maybe like having them moved into hiding in France and erasing her own memories of where they were. She could then know that they were safe even if no one knew where they were. They could then just wait for the all clear from England before returning.

I shook my head and focused on the present. I could look into Hermione’s living situation later.

As I noticed the Dursleys getting annoyed at our delay, I realized I needed to end this quickly, and gestured towards the red-faced Vernon waddling towards us. “We don’t have much time.” I glanced at the newspaper which said the team had flown to Japan and their chartered expedition two days ago. “We might only have a day or two to get ready, but we are going to be going. We will contact you both the day after tomorrow if you really want to go.”

Hermione looked firm as she stared into my eyes and declared, “I am not going to leave Lara all alone when I can help.”

But I shook my head. “You don’t understand. This isn’t going to be easy. We might have to kill a lot of people along with an ancient female dark lord in order to save the expedition.”

There was a moment of silence as Vernon finally got close enough to yell at Holly. “Come on, girl. Get your freaky things and get in the car.”

I looked at Holly who winced and I smiled a little. “We will contact you soon so…” I swallowed then continued. “Think about if you really want to join us for this. Until then, keep this on your person. We can communicate with it soon.” I said, handing her a fairly nice fountain pen with a new tiny portal on the clip.

I had refused to use quills for writing when the modern world had already invented pens. Predictably, the professors had grumbled as it apparently wasn’t traditional and magic didn’t flow through them, but there wasn’t a rule against it so I got to keep using them.

Holly nodded and placed the pen in the pocket on her blazer.

Turning, I handed another pen to Hermione who looked at it and then nodded, emphatically.

Returning to the magical side of the platform we took the floo back to the three broomsticks in Hogsmeade. I didn’t know what condition everyone would be in when we arrived as the game didn’t really give me a good timeline of events, especially at the beginning, so we needed to prepare.

The good news was we had money. In the last week, after the confrontation in the chamber of secrets, I had opened another portal into the chamber and let a rooster crow for nearly thirty minutes before checking it myself.

Again, I wasn’t sure what wards the chamber was using, but I was absolutely going to be studying them. Even with my ROB given powers, the chamber was exceptionally difficult to enter and I wanted that for our home defenses outside a defendable entrance way.

The start to the previously mentioned good news was that I was able to confirm the Basilisk was dead, crushed to death in the rubble. The girls and I had spent nearly an entire day digging the stupid giant snake out, but it was going to be worth it.

However, the process of selling the basilisk to the goblins wasn’t actually as lucrative as I had hoped. Apparently the wizards here were marginally smarter than I thought they were. Basilisk was an important ingredient in potions, so small ones were grown in captivity and blinded at birth.

That meant that Slytherin’s monster wasn’t worth the millions of British pounds I had hoped for. However, it still netted us a cool six hundred thousand. Mostly because of the amount and potency of the venom along with the eyes which were still huge and mostly intact. We obviously kept a bottle of venom for ourselves.

My plan was to split the pay evenly, with half for our entire Family, and the remaining half split evenly between the trio.

That left our family with a solid 300 thousand British pounds, or just shy of 6 thousand Galleons. The trio were then left with about 100 thousand British pounds, or about 2 thousand Galleons each.

I knew that Holly had some money left from her parents, but the books didn’t specify exactly how much. Because of the lack of surprise at her distinctly average clothes at school (probably because Holly was a girl and thus couldn’t wear Dudley’s old clothes) I suspected this wasn’t one of the stories where she had a giant fortune waiting for her when she turned 17. Some of those were a little silly, with the Potters secretly owning half of magical Britain.

Hermione, daughter of two successful dentists, was also obviously upper middle class as well. Especially if the Grangers were neighbors with Lara Croft who lived in a small family manor according to the games.

So while not enough to retire on, it was still enough money to get those two started in their lives if they didn’t join us. It was Ginny that would probably benefit the most from the money, and I had to admit that I had really hoped it would help her, and to a lesser extent, her family.

The Weasleys were usually good people, discounting all the stories where Molly tries to love potion Hermione or Harry into marrying into their family for money, control, or whatever.

Then again, the Weasleys did seem to discriminate pretty heavily against Slytherins. Then, despite Mr. Weasley’s job, the family didn’t seem to understand or respect Muggles at all. Plus, they were also almost actively stupid with money management. Ron had reportedly been using a broken, old family wand for all of second year, implying they were basically destitute. Using a broken wand was incredibly dangerous, after all. Then they won a lot of money and apparently immediately spent all of it on a trip to Egypt instead of saving or investing it.

I sighed, I guess I would need to pay attention to them as well. However, for now it was probably best to give Ginny the money, making sure that she knew she should keep at least some of it to take care of herself.

Focusing on the girls I tried to call a council about if we should move to help, but before I could even explain Amy and Taylor confirmed that we were helping and that was that.

The first thing we did was start preparing. Buying massive amounts of various healing potions was the first step. Yes Amy could heal, but she was still limited to healing one person at a time and we didn’t know what would happen.

The second step was buying a lot of food. With magic we could finally store the food under preservation spells. No more worrying about having fresh fruits and veggies going bad while we traveled.

The third thing we did was purchase magical tents. We were hoping we didn’t need to use them in view of Muggles but it was better than showing them my pocket home.

The fourth thing we did was look for mundane weapons and ammo. Heading towards a sports equipment store on the Muggle side, and we tried to purchase hunting bows and firearms.

That did not go well. Not only did we not get anything, but they blacklisted us from the entire chain of stores when we said we were looking for the ammo for a AK47. It probably would have been smarter to focus on sporting rifle ammo, but I had wanted to be able to use the more powerful guns we had stolen from the gangs back on Earth Bet. We would keep our eyes open, but we might need to steal it from the people there, like Lara did.

Another sporting goods shop did allow us to purchase a dozen small hand held radios in case we needed them, even if I planned on keeping portal communication when possible.

Going back to the magical side, we then focused on getting armor. That went better than the ammo.

Using the shed skin from the chamber large supply of material allowed us to get long armored trench coat style jackets for everyone, designed by Sabah with a little help from Madam Malkin on how to process the skin. Said clothing store owner had obviously been surprised by the request, but had been happy to help after we offered her a jacket of her own.

Finally, we looked around for some sort of protection against bullets or arrows in the magical shops and I was surprised to find very little. Apparently the wizards still didn’t understand the risk bullets posed. Or maybe it was because they never left a country that heavily regulated their ownership. It made me wonder if the wizards in America had better options.

The best thing we could find in Britain to protect against bullets was something like modified quidditch armor. Apparently, quidditch armor placed a minor shield to ward away blows to the head and softened blows against the body.

After testing, it turned out my own attempts at creating enchanted runic protections against bullets were more effective than Britain’s mediocre offerings. I had taken the idea of modern armor by creating momentary tiny, angled shields that deflected bullets away from our head. It wasn’t perfect, and a particularly high-powered shot might still break through. However, it did mange to block two direct shots from one of the three AK47s we had before failing. Not great, but better than nothing.

The enchantment basically activated whenever something flew towards the rune work faster than the speed of sound, which was apparently magically significant. That left us vulnerable to arrows, slings, or melee weapons, but it was a start.

I might have even felt proud, except I knew we were likely to run into those more primitive weapons almost immediately, so it felt like we were still under-prepared.

Still, as much as I wanted to keep working on it, we didn’t have time. Instead, while the girls prepared our pocket home to move, Luna and I created headbands out of bronze. We focused on making sure we had one for each of our girls, plus Hermione and Holly. Apparently, bronze was nearly as good at conducting magic as gold, while silver repelled it. The ability to negate magic while still being incredibly strong was why goblin silver was so prized.

Caving to gender stereotypes, rather than get a headband to hold back my moderately short hair like the girls, I decided that I would go get a hat and put the metal band around the brim. As we were in England, I decided a traditional newsboy cap in black seemed appropriate.

It was then that Taylor and Amy asked me to open up the portal to the forbidden forest. I watched, a little nervous, as forty tiny acromantula were then walked into transfigured fish tanks in our basem*nt. Worse yet, I saw Amy begin to poke them, obviously making changes as those two prepared for their own form of battle.

It was yet another reminder of how I never wanted to get any of my girls mad at me.

The final problem we needed to solve was how to get there.

We could theoretically get on a plane and fly to Japan to start pushing my portal out to look. Flights in the 1990s were much more relaxed about security than the mid 2000s after all.

However, even with those relaxed requirements, it would be difficult as we didn’t have any Muggle identification at all. We could probably get it relatively easily since forging Muggle identification was something the Magical world would have to deal with moderately regularly, but I doubted it could be done in a single day, maybe not even a single week.

Conversely, I could push my portal to the other side of the world directly from here. The problem was I was still limited to about 100 miles per hour. And just like we had realized previously, that was fast, but it wasn’t nearly fast enough when we wanted to travel long distances.

The earth was almost 25 thousand miles around, and Japan was nearly exactly on the other side of the earth. That meant I would need to push my portal about 12 thousand miles, which would take about 120 hours. Five days delay, five entire days without sleep as I pushed the portal onwards.

Finally, we could travel to Japan the magical way via several Portkeys which would only take a day or so, but then we would be monitored pretty heavily by whatever the Japanese Ministry of Magic equivalent was.

Sighing, I laid out my options to the girls, and unsurprisingly it was Taylor who found the loophole. “Why don’t we travel to Japan via Porkey and see the sights for a day, maybe purchase a few books, and leave one of your portals there before returning home? That way the Japanese ministry would see us arrive and then leave, but your portal would almost be to Yamatai island already.”

That suggestion was so obvious in hindsight that I had to slap my forehead in frustration. I also promised to rock her world as a reward tonight. Obviously, she went red, but also was clearly a little happy about the attention. Amy even gave a little wolf whistle as we then took our little break upstairs after dinner.

After working through the night preparing everything, Sabah reminded me that it was time to call Holly and Hermione and discuss the plan.

As I opened the portal to each of the fountain pens a little bit and allowed sound to pass through, I called out softly. “Hermione, Holly. We need to plan.”

The two girls seemed to have been waiting for me, as they responded almost instantly.

However, it was Hermione who surprised me. “I have Ginny as here as well. When I owled her, she said she needed to be here to support her best friends.”

Ginny scoffed from Hermione’s pen. “You aren’t getting rid of me that easily, Alcott.”

I was glad the portal was sound only as I rolled my eyes. “That is fine, but what about your family trip?”

Ginny scoffed. “We aren’t even leaving for two weeks. Plus, my parents seem to think we are all children, they aren’t even planning on letting us see anything exciting.”

Holly spoke up next. “Dobby has been a huge help. Thank you.”

I waived it away. “We don’t have enough work for him to be happy. Don’t worry about it.”

I cleared my throat, but decided that I might as well get on with it. With my girls listening in our living room, I tried to explain what I could about what I remembered of the Tomb Raider reboot.

“Lara Croft and her expedition is looking for Yamatai Island. It is the mythical center of an ancient and mythical Japanese city state. It was partially formed around a cult who worshiped a woman named Himiko who could control the weather and was proclaimed to be a sun goddess. She apparently had the ability to pass her powers to a worthy successor, thus keeping her people safe.”

I let that sink in for a second, then continued. “Personally, I think she was probably just a particularly powerful witch. However, my future knowledge showed she wasn’t actually transferring her powers, but her actual soul into another body in order to prolong her life.”

Internally, I realized that Himiko was apparently a soul mage like me, except her secondary power was weather control instead of dimensional portals. I then paused for a moment when I realized that Himiko might actually be using Horcruxes as well to keep herself alive.

Damn it. We might be dealing with someone who was a mix of Tom and myself.

Shaking my head I decided to skip over the finer details of Horcruxes for now. I would need to explain it soon, but it wasn’t important right this second, so I glossed over it. “She might also have artifacts she uses to contain her power, which will need to be broken if we want to actually defeat her. However, our first priority should be just saving the expedition.”

Everyone murmured their agreement, so I continued my summary. “Lara Croft is going to be captured, threatened, hurt, captured again… ” I paused, then had to chuckle incredulously. “Ok, actually she is going to be captured and escape only to be captured again… like, a lot. Over and over again, in fact. Her captors aren’t apparently very good at their job.”

I saw Amy roll her eyes at me and scoff as she leaned against Sabah who was trying to take notes.

I decided to roll my eyes back before I continued. “The important things are first that Himiko traps anyone who lands on her island with a perpetual storm. Second, the island is probably magically hidden in some way, but obviously not strongly enough to completely keep people from finding it. Finally, there are two groups beside the expedition on the island we need to watch out for. The first group are her Samurai warriors, who are probably undead minions. The second group are cultists who worship Himiko and will ritually sacrifice anyone who lands on the island in the hopes that her and her undead army will leave them alone.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone thought over what I had just said. It was Taylor who asked. “We aren’t going to be able to convince anyone to stand down and just let us get the expedition and leave, are we?”

I shook my head, despite the trio being unable to see me. “If it is anything like the future I was told about, then no. They seem to rape any women who land on the island before ritually sacrificing them. All that sacrificing is to see if they are worthy to be brought to Himiko for the supposed Right of Ascension when the undead queen takes over their body. On the other hand, all the men that land on the island who don’t immediately join their cult are either tortured and killed… or just killed.”

I could hear Hermione’s seething anger as she bit out. “I am not going to let them get Lara.”

I paused, but had to ask. “How do you know her anyway?”

Hermione paused but finally answered. “She was my babysitter for most of the time I was growing up. She was the only one who didn’t make fun of me for wanting to read all the time. She even showed me her research as she was starting on her master’s degree in archaeology.”

There was a moment of silence before I sighed. “From what I saw of both her and the people on the island, I agree. We really do need to do this.”

It was then that we got to explain our plan with the Portkeys. The trio weren’t thrilled that it would probably take a few days before we could have the portal arrive at Yamatai, but they didn’t have any suggestions on speeding things up.

Instead, they agreed to prepare, albeit with a lot of grumbling from Hermione when she realized we were going to be able to purchase spell books in Japan without her.

It was then when I explained what we had done with the money from the Basilisk that the questions arose. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Ginny who was the most vocal about not taking the money, but Holly. She whispered-yelled “You don’t need to share it with me. You saved my life after all.” The only reason it wasn’t louder was probably because she didn’t want to attract the Dursley’s attention to our conversation.

I shook my head again and after a moment I even opened the portals up so I could look them in the face. “No, you three deserve it. I even thought about giving you all a larger percentage. Yeah there are seven of us and only three of you, but you each earned it. Just promise me that you will spend at least most of it on yourselves, you risked your lives to protect the school this year, not to mention what happened your first year, and deserve to treat yourselves at least a little.”

Handing Ginny another pen through Hermione’s portal along with a key to each of their new vaults before I closed everything down again so we could head to the ministry and start booking our trip to Japan.

Apparently, a direct portkey to Japan wasn’t possible, or at least not one without a wizard more powerful than the common ministry official. Instead, we ended up going through France, Hungry, then Greece where we stopped for an early Lunch. After that we stopped through Egypt, Qatar, India, Thailand, Taiwan, then finally to Japan.

I was so sick of portkeys by Lunch that I actually paid the semi-exorbitant 20 galleons to have a more powerful set of portkeys that would take us to Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York, then back to England as just four jumps back the day after tomorrow.

My girls all agreed with me as we ate in silence before finding a room at the local inn in Tokyo.

The next day we were all feeling a little better and we momentarily searched around for information on Lara’s expedition.

That was when we realized that the translation spells we were using weren’t actually necessary. Again, I was intensely curious why we could speak all the languages we came across after spending some time around people who spoke said language. Was it some aspect of our world hopping nature? I didn’t know, but it wasn’t something we had time to investigate quite yet.

It took most of the morning but with the help from Dinah, we found the information on where the expedition was headed and their overall size. It confirmed the rough predictions that Dinah and Luna gave so we agreed it was a good estimate of where Yamatai was.

The rest of the day we tried to spend in the most famous Japanese market which was apparently called the Mahō no Shōtengai or literally magical covered market. Apparently it had started as a small market that had been operating in the old capital of Japan, Kyoto.

However, while we were happy to find non-humans weren’t as discriminated against in Japan, foreigners of all types were still heavily mistrusted.

We ended up trying the smaller and newer magical districts in Osaka and Tokyo where we got a slightly warmer welcome. I was extremely curious what the Japanese people would have said if we had shown Ahri off as a nine-tailed fox, but I didn’t want to kick that proverbial bee’s nest when we were only planning on being here for a few more hours.

Still, I was thrilled to get some books on the Japanese talismans, called Ofuda, which were usually done on paper and were often stronger than western enchantments. They were created by essentially casting the spell into the ink as it was being written. They differed from western enchantments as the spell was always released all at once even if the effect lasted for years. It was interesting, even if it made them inherently single use only. No matter how good a condition the paper was in, it couldn’t be removed and placed somewhere else.

I wanted to spend more time researching these Ofuda, but I had to keep at least a little focus on moving my portal around looking for Yamatai.

We stayed one last night, where we probably scandalized the Muggle hot springs bath owner when I had all four of my older girls join me in the private bath, before we returned to England.

Upon returning, we let the trio know we were still looking, but we hadn’t found Yamatai yet. Instead, I had time to attempt to inspect the American versions of bullet wards while Taylor focused heavily on making everyone acromantula silk shirts and pants. Said clothes might not fully protect against a sword, but would hopefully stop any knives. I didn’t, however, make much progress working on understanding what the Americans had done for their bullet wards, especially as I had to keep an eye on the portals. Apparently they had used different types of runes while the British were pretty set into the norse and celtic.

Honestly it was a bit disheartening as I had spent hundreds of hours diving into runes and was probably approaching fourth year material. I had been theory crafting how to make bullet wards for months now. Yet I didn’t even recognize some of these symbols or modifiers.

It was on the fourth day when I saw the storm around what must have been Yamatai. Unfortunately, that meant it had been nearly two weeks since the Endurance had set out. I didn’t know when they might have shipwrecked, and I had been growing more and more worried about what we would find.

Our first sight of the island did not help said worry. The entire island seemed steeped in despair and pain.

Still, we had decided that if the trio wanted to get involved, then it was their right to try to help.

A part of me once again wondered if it would be better for me to bind the trio’s souls to their own gems to ensure they didn’t die here. The problem was I didn’t know what would happen to Holly if I tried to pull her soul out right now. Not between her mother’s magic and Tom’s soul leech.

I would just have to encourage them to be extremely careful and have Amy on standby.

After ensuring they were alone and then opening a portal to our Hogsmeade home, I asked the trio one more time if they were sure they wanted to go with us before inviting them into our staging point in our cottage.

It was Hermione who looked at me and answered for the group. “I am going, I can’t stand by while one of my best friends is in danger.”

Ginny shrugged, “Neither can we,” looking at Hermione while Holly just nodded.

I sighed. “Ok, it is time we really get serious then. I am going to explain my plan and I want everyone to suggest improvements. We are also going to be explaining quite a few more of our abilities, so after we get back we want you three to really focus on learning Occlumency to protect your minds.”

Pointing towards the golden trio I continued, “You three are going to be our center force. You are the most versatile and powerful casters. However, while you now have the armor we gave you, you don’t have some of the protections we have so we want at least one of you always on shield duty.”

The trio gave me short nods. So I pointed to Taylor. “Taylor will be leading us when we are together, but will be focused on scouting, flanking, and if needed, ranged lethal force. We don’t want to let them know to start burning the bugs so I don’t want massed direct attacks, but picking people off with the sleeping wasps would be a good idea. Go lethal if you need to. Just don’t let them get even close to the edge of your range. We don’t want to have to worry about them attacking innocents somewhere else.”

Taylor grimaced, but nodded as she spoke up. “Should I tell people where to go?”

I nodded back. “Yes, I want you telling each group to go where they need to go. Maybe have a group of fireflies blink in unison in the direction they should move if we need to keep silent.”

Taylor bit her lip focusing for a moment focusing on the edge of the forest we were arriving at. “Yes, there are enough fireflies for that.”

I turned to Luna, Sabah, and Ahri. “You three are our scouting and direct assault force. With Arhi’s illusions, Luna’s spellfire and shields plus insight, and Sabah’s spellfire with possible close range gun jamming, I expect you can get into and out of fights the easiest. Remember how effective a small rock to the eye is, Sabah”

Again there was a chorus of nods.

I turned to Dinah, “Dinah, You and me will be on overwatch. You focus on risks to us and I will bring our one sniper rifle. I am not a perfect shot, but I shouldn’t have any problems hitting things when I can shorten the distance through small portals for any difficult or long shots.”

I turned to Amy. “Amy, you and Taylor will be a team as you can cover her if needed, but expect to be moved via portal if someone gets hit.”

Everyone nodded so I sighed. “Last thing. It is a little difficult to make portals here. I suspect it is the undead queen’s doing. So while we could theoretically get everyone out, it is going to take time and I don’t want anyone to know about my abilities until we get to that point.”

It was then that I noticed a rescue plane begin to approach the island and I nearly cursed. “Ah, Damn It! I had hoped we could prevent this!”

We watched as the plane was struck multiple times by lightning before it burst into fire and partially exploded. As I moved my portal forward, we saw one crew member jump from the plane only to be caught in a secondary explosion and plummet to the ground burning all the way to the sea.

Turning back to the girls I winced as I saw their horrified faces. I thought about asking them again if they wanted to come with us now that they saw the death and destruction we were up against, but I knew them better than that. They weren’t going to stop now

I had to think now. Where was Lara at this point? My memories of the game weren’t the best, but I was pretty sure Lara was still around the communications tower at this point, so I sent the portal forward up the mountain. Yet when we arrived, I didn’t see her. Instead, I found a rope hanging from the tower as she apparently repelled down. I had to admit that I was glad she had done something to make climbing safer. That part of the game climbing up a rusty radio tower without equipment had been ridiculous.

We approached the back of the communications building and found footprints heading towards some ancient Japanese houses on the side of the mountain. Sighing, I walked through the portal and was instantly unsettled by the shock due to the drop in temperature up here on the mountain. The rest of the girls followed me out also scowling.

The problem was I lost the tracks quickly. I tried to remember exactly what happened before speaking. “I think I remember her going after one of the crew members from the rescue plane who parachuted out. I don’t remember where he landed, but the cult members are going to kill him before Lara could rescue him.”

Everyone grimaced before Taylor pointed. “I found a dozen or so people about a mile that way. I can’t tell who is who from here, but they all seem to be moving in the same direction.”

At that moment we heard the sharp crack of gunfire before multiple guns seemed to open up in retaliation.

I winced. “I suspect that might be Lara. She has already had to kill a few times and I suspect she is in a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mood, after her first two times being captured.”

We all started jogging forward as I tried to keep up while also scouting ahead via portal.

It was only a few moments later that Taylor held up her hand for us to wait. Holding out her gun she fired twice. “Tripwire.”

My eyes widened. “sh*t!”

Everyone seemed to agree, as there was a chorus of “Bloody Hell” and “Damn it”, from the group.

It was then that I spotted through my portal a woman, maybe mid-to-late twenties, covered in blood and mud climbing the outside of one of the homes. She was wearing a torn and ripped leather jacket, a torn blouse, and thick denim jeans. In the back of her pants I spotted a pistol while she carried a bow strung around her torso and a crude sack of arrows hanging made from a torn off sweater sleeve. Her other side held her iconic ice pick.

I had to admit that even covered in dirt she was kinda hot with definite feminine curves, albeit not as ridiculous as the F cups or whatever she had in the old-school pixelated versions of her games. Her wavy brown hair would have fallen just past her shoulders if it hadn’t been in a ponytail and I could already see her striking hazel eyes scanning the environment for threats.

It was then that I saw her stiffen as she noticed my portal, and we both froze. I suspected she didn’t know what she was looking at and so was trying to figure out if it was a threat, but I froze because she had spotted a portal the size of a quarter from nearly 50 meters away through the clutter of the trees and houses.

I pulled my face away from the portal before she could decide to try to shoot me through it, but I kept the portal moving forward. Instead, I opened a smaller portal to the side to judge the distance.

Yet even as my first portal approached, once again defying belief, she swiveled to point her gun at my new portal. I ducked away again in case she decided to pull the trigger. I wasn’t sure if she would actually shoot as the area was apparently crawling with enemies and she wouldn’t want to give her position away, but it did make me incredibly curious how she was doing that. This one was nearly 80 meters out and was only the size of a dime. How the hell did she spot me?

Gesturing to Hermione, I didn’t stop my voice from going through the portal, as I wanted Lara to understand my intentions from the beginning. “Hermione, tell Lara not to shoot us. We are just here to help.”

Hermione swallowed but nodded, but didn’t come out from behind the edge of the portal. “Lara, hey Lara, it is me, Hermione. Don’t shoot, please. We are here to help.”

There was a momentary pause before we heard something shift and I peeked through the portal further away. “She isn’t aiming the gun at us anymore, Hermione, why don’t you step forward. I will make the portal bigger so she can see your face.”

As I watched from the smaller portal, I saw Lara, looking incredibly confused, holding her pistol but pointing it at the ground as Hermione’s face became visible through the original portal.

Lara looked like she was too tired to fully understand what was going on and I tried to think of a way to get her to believe it was actually us when Luna spoke up. “Hermione, tell Lara something that only the two of you would know.”

Lara blinked at the sound of another voice coming through the hole in space, but Hermione spoke next. “Lara. You comforted me in the third grade when Mandy pushed me down after school and said I was a teacher’s pet and a bookworm. You told me that the same thing happened to you by a girl named Susie. You said we shouldn’t be embarrassed. How it proved we were just smart.”

Lara didn’t do anything stupid like drop the gun or run forward, but I could see the tension literally fall from her shoulders as she realized she wasn’t alone. That was of course until she realized that Hermione was now stuck on this island with her, and she visibly paled at the implications. She was still quiet, but we could hear the stress in her voice. “Hermione, how the hell did you get here? Why the hell would you be here?”

I opened the portal a little wider and backed it away from Hermione. “Before we talk about that, we need to rescue that crewman you saw land around here. He has no idea what is going on.”

That seemed to instantly galvanize Lara as her eyes hardened and she nodded.

I walked through and held my hand out to shake wherein she hesitantly shook before introducing the names of each of my girls. Hermione obviously hugged her when it was her turn and Holly and Ginny shook as well.

I gestured towards Taylor who spoke up. “I have got my knockout bugs in position for three of the seven men surrounding the crewman hiding in the house down there.” She pointed and then pointed to the position of each man she had covered. “The four others seem to have some sort of natural bug spray that I would need to force the wasps through last second, and it might not be subtle.”

Hermione frowned but nodded. “We will stun the rest.”

I nodded, but I noticed that Lara frowned. She didn’t seem to want to be merciful. If her experience was anything like the games, I couldn’t really blame her either. Still, I would have to deal with this soon, but I didn’t want to force the issue right now. Plus, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go around killing willy nilly either.

Deciding that I would postpone it for now I gestured to Amy. “We need intel, and Amy here should be able to force them to tell the truth.” I considered for a moment before I sighed. “After we get the crewman we will retreat to a safe location, I saw some caves up the hill I think might be empty. However, I want him unconscious while we use our abilities or magic. We can get everyone else up to date afterward.”

I knew the mention of magic would have thrown Lara for a loop, but to my surprise she shook her head and pulled out her bow before stalking forward towards the last man surrounding the crewman.

I let Taylor give the count down. “Three, two, one…”

At that moment Lara let the arrow fly piercing the neck of the man carrying two machetes Holly, Hermione, and Ginny cast stunners at three others masked by Ahri’s illusions and Taylor presumably injected the remaining three. I didn’t see the bugs, but the one man I could see in question cried out softly before he just swayed and slumped to the ground.

Opening up a portal behind the crewman, Amy reached forward and poked him unconscious before Luna and her dragged him through.

Meanwhile Taylor and I dragged one of the cultists through another portal while Ahri and Sabah grabbed a second.

Lara seemed surprised at how well that had gone, but Taylor shook her head. “There are still eleven men that way, and one of them seems to have seen or heard someone fall here, so they are headed back.”

We all grimaced before I opened up a portal to the caves further up. Taylor immediately scouted the region, but her check came up clear. I hadn’t seen any way of getting to these caves from the main road, but it was good to check.

Hermione sat down next to Lara who slumped to the side in exhaustion. I tried to pull some food from our Hogsmeade cottage, but it was hard. Apparently, between Himiko’s wards and the distance I shouldn’t plan on going back to Scotland for every little thing. Frowning, instead I pulled some food and water from our pocket home. That was much easier.

So while I wanted to keep what exactly the home was and what it represented a secret, it was probably where we would need to station our supplies while we were here. Luckily, about half our supplies were already in the pocket home and the other half could be moved over moderately easy in one big portal dump.

First I passed around the water and some disinfectant wipes. Everyone was pretty happy with those but Lara looked like she might cry. Then I started handing out ham sandwiches, which made Lara actually tear up slightly. The silence continued for several long minutes as we ate, before Lara sat up and asked, obviously not willing to wait any longer. “Ok, what the hell is going on?”

This time, just about all of us groaned, as we all knew this was going to be one hell of an explanation.

Interlude Dinah:

Dinah frowned as she sat in the cave.

The Family was in danger again, but she had to admit the idea of getting another kick-ass older sister was pretty exciting.

Yeah, she hadn’t said anything, but she was pretty sure that Luna was hoping for it as well based on how she was staring at the woman.

Plus her abilities seemed to tell her the chances that Lara would join were fairly good.

Yeah, she had to admit that picking up another girl wasn’t pleasant in the normal sense, but that was what she had seen when she looked into her own future. It wasn’t going to be easy or straightforward, but she would be happy.

She looked up at the sky as it started to drizzle. What was the chance it would stop raining soon.

‘unlikely’

She sighed.

She missed her numbers, but she had gotten a little more used to the more vague answers over the last year.

Looking back at Lara eating she frowned a little. Max had mentioned that Lara’s friend had been captured in the game and her power had confirmed it. They needed to get to her soon.

The problem was if they were going to be able to stop Himiko if they were forced to confront her.

Her ability had been giving her wildly different answers each time she asked. Sometimes it was almost certain, while others it seemed nearly impossible.

It was bad enough that she had almost put her foot down and tried to stop the expedition.

Yet, Lara wouldn’t give up. So Hermione wouldn’t give up. So the Family wouldn’t give up unless they were in true, soul-destroying danger.

They really needed to figure out their limits.

They also were going to have to deal with when they killed people.

Dinah sighed again, this was going to be a long, hard talk.

Chapter 21: Chapter 21: HP/TR - Meeting the Locals

Notes:

Sorry this is late. Still not completely happy here, but I need to get Lara up to speed and get through the basic grunts.

Also sorry, not sorry for the cliffhanger.

Also CW for reference of Lara’s sexual assault. Not discussed in detail at all, but I wanted to be realistic here on what would probably have happened.

For those who are here for just the “plot”, we have probably two more chapters before a long overdue fluff chapter.

Chapter Text

As much as I could see that Lara’s confusion and tension were slowly rising as her mind tried to make sense with what was happening here, I needed some information to confirm the timeline before we got distracted by having Hermione explain about magic. For instance if Himiko had already been resurrected then we needed to move right now.

Turning to Lara, I broke the silence, causing everyone to look up from where they had been slowly eating their sandwiches. “Ok, before we start explaining things, we need to know what exactly has happened. All we saw were possibilities of what might happen. After that, we will explain why and how we are here and what might happen.”

Lara took a shaky breath as she considered my words before she nodded. “What do you want to know?”

I tried to look calm because this was absolutely not going to go over well. “I am sorry, but we basically need a situational report if we know where to help. As hard as it is, this Sitrep will let us know where to focus.” There was a moment while I waited for her to look down and breathe a few times before she looked up and steeled herself for my questions.

Seeing her determination, I began asking. “Was your ship broken in a storm? Is any of the crew still alive, and if so where? Has Sam been captured? Is the ship captain Conrad Roth still alive? And is your expedition leader, James Whitman, still alive?”

There was a moment where Lara looked like she might have been having a flash back but then I saw the steel in her spine and reminded myself why she was a hero in her own right. She started out soft but it got louder as she went on. “We were sailing when a storm hit us. I believe it was 4 days ago, but I have begun losing track of time. Especially as I was unconscious for some of that period.”

Hermione scooted a little closer before putting an arm around Lara. Lara swallowed but continued her story. “I arrived and was captured for a little while and had to fight my way out… it wasn’t pretty.”

Amy seemed to realize that Lara wasn’t as ok as she had maybe let herself appear and walked over to her other side before asking, the very image of a professional doctor. “I am a healer, may I heal you? I only need to touch your skin.”

Lara actually bit her lip for a moment before she nodded, and Amy kneeled down and touched her arm before hissing in distress or maybe worry. “Wow, you have certainly gone through quite the ordeal, Miss Croft, but don’t worry, I have seen and healed worse. Your abdominal puncture is causing some internal bleeding, but your cauterization is doing a moderately good job keeping you up. You have some massive internal and external bruising from multiple sources. Not to mention quite a few burns. Worst of all, you have received two different blows to your head that have given you quite the concussion.”

All of us looked a little horrified at how badly she was doing, but Amy surprised us all. “What is interesting is your body is fighting and healing quite a bit above what would be human normal.”

That confused everyone so I got up and slowly approached Lara who was looking around just as confused as everyone else. Yet as I looked carefully, I could see Lara’s own magical funnel and tap. The tap wasn’t shaped like Holly and Hermione, but it looked a little different from what I could remember of the squib I had seen over a year ago.

That magical boost explained her superhuman abilities and how she was winning a one woman war against a small army. It also explained how she was managing to run and fight after taking what should have probably been crippling injuries.

The question was what I should say about it. I didn’t want to mention souls anytime soon. Maybe just a generic discussion on seeing magic potential?

Looking Lara in the eyes, I smiled as wide as I could and put on a jovial tone. “Congratulations, Lara Croft, you are officially allowed to know about the magical world. You aren’t a wizard or witch like the rest of us, but you do have magic, and it seems to be looping around to be more or less supercharging your body.”

Gesturing towards Hermione, I continued. “In a second, Hermione will tell you more about magic, but since you are a type of squib we aren’t even breaking any rules by telling you about the hidden magical world. However, before we get to that, please finish your story.”

Lara frowned heavily, but after a moment she decided to continue. “I found Sam for a little while with a guy named Matthias. He talked alot about the ancient Queen Himiko that ruled this island. I was so tired that I crashed for a bit. However, when I woke up, they were gone. I found a few more members of the crew and expedition near the beach, but the natives found us.” A flicker of emotion crossed her face. “They killed a few of us”. The flicker of emotion got stronger. “I was captured with Dr. Whitman and then that guard…” There was a momentary pause when I realized the attacker might have actually raped her. This wasn’t a plot that was sanitized for a T for Teen game, this was the real world.

Yet before I could figure out how to ask about something so potentially traumatizing, Lara continued, eyes hard but distant. “While he was distracted… I got his gun and shot him.”

The room was silent as we all waited, not knowing how to continue. Amy didn’t stop and was visibly holding her hand tighter, and Hermione squeezed her shoulder. I didn’t doubt that everyone could tell what had probably happened, but before anyone else could say anything Amy cut through the silence, voice again completely professional. “No egg was fertilized and I have healed and removed any and all evidence of the encounter.”

Lara shuttered, and I noticed a little tear leak down her cheek. I wasn’t sure how long we waited when I realized that I was still standing to her side. I didn’t think she wanted to be treated any differently, but having a man standing in a way that might be considered looming over her while she had been thinking about her experiences wasn’t the best idea.

I decided to split the difference and reached forward to pat Lara’s hand Amy was holding before backing up and sitting down on the ground almost two yards away. Lara glanced at me and then at the people around her for a moment before I could see the determination start to return to her posture and face.

Lara took a deep breath and decided to just continue her story. “I found Captain Conrad Roth. He was hurt pretty badly, but he asked me to get a distress beacon up on the tower. However, when a plane did arrive, it was struck down by lightning that came out of nowhere.”

Internally I frowned. So we were pretty much following the script of the game for now. That was both good and bad, as we could plan a little, but it also meant that Sam would be sacrificed very soon. Plus, as we learned last year, our very presence seemed to be butterflying things heavily. That meant we were probably going to need to figure out what to do with Himiko as well since we couldn’t trust things to just work out like they did in the games.

The only thing I had learned from this talk was a little on how and why Lara was so much stronger and tougher than the average human was. The problem was that this was now real life. I winced, knowing that Lara’s friend Sam, along with an unknown number of crew members were now surrounded by these same sociopaths. I could only hope that Sam’s importance would keep her safe, and we could get to the rest of the crew before anything else happened to them.

I stared up at Lara for nearly a minute before I sighed. “Well, good news is we are here now, but bad news is we have a lot to do to rescue the crew and we need to get to Sam in particular before she can be taken away. However, before I explain why, I think we should let Hermione explain magic.”

I let my mind wander somewhat as Hermione explained what magic was and how certain people could use it, only clarifying that the fact Lara was a squib didn’t mean she couldn’t use magic, just that she couldn’t use a wand. I wasn’t sure if I should have been surprised or not, but she seemed to accept it all fairly easily. Especially as it seemed to answer some of her own questions on her abilities.

Even the revelations that Oracles and Seers were real and we had two here didn’t really faze her too much. Nor did the fact Amy, Sabah, Taylor, and I had special powers.

What did eventually surprise everyone including the trio of Hermione, Holly, and Ginny was that we introduced Ahri as a nine-tailed fox. The trio who understood magic were confused at the mythical creature looking so human until she showed her tails. Then that confusion was redoubled when I said she was hiding as my cat all year. Lara had gone wide-eyed from the mythology that she seemed to represent, and I wondered how many myths she knew about the species.

Ahri just looked amused and flashed through some illusions to demonstrate what she could do. After the multitude of inevitable questions from both Hermione and now Lara about Ahri we got back on track.

It was then that Hermione got to show Lara a little of what she had learned at Hogwarts. Amy had long since finished healing Lara and had apparently decided to lean against me instead of Sabah who was still watching over the prisoners.

I wasn’t sure if she was just picking the closer target or if she was trying to confirm that I was a safe man to be around. However, internally I was kicking myself for not finding Lara sooner, even if the more rational part of my brain knew there wasn’t much more I could have done.

At this point, the conversation finally moved back to my Family. I hadn’t been looking forward to this part.

I cleared my throat, knowing how uncomfortable I looked. I didn’t even try to hide it as it would help show how dangerous the situation was and didn’t need to be faked. It wasn’t like we could just snap our fingers and get everyone back despite all our magic and abilities. We didn’t even know where everyone was being held right now.

After a moment, I started explaining. “Well, good news is that Sam is indeed a descendant of Himiko. Or at least close enough not to matter after over 1000 years.”

Lara interrupted me. “1600, actually.”

I blinked before I shrugged. “So now that you know magic is real, I can tell you she did indeed have powers. The problem is that Himiko was a powerful witch and has some skill at dark and ancient soul magic. She is still alive, kinda, and is going to use her power to try to take over Sam’s body.”

I paused as I considered something and shot a portal towards the peak of the mountain.

I then continued my explanation. “One of her human sacrifices hundreds of years ago killed herself during the transfer and so Himiko was stuck in what is essentially a mummified corpse.”

Lara visibly recoiled as I explained, but after a moment she had questions. “How do you know? What can we do to stop her? Why is everyone else here then?”

I paused before I sighed. “For the first question,” I pointed towards Luna who had started looking over some of the mushrooms in the corner of the room and Dinah who was sitting next to Taylor.

“Between those two along with some records of other Seers we saw this possibility. It is how we knew to come look for you. However, I will repeat. We don’t know everything, only some possibilities. Hell, we don’t even know where anyone is right now or what they are doing. Well, other than the fact that Matthias will be taking Sam to the peak of the mountain.”

Lara paused for a moment before she frowned.

I paused, then considered. “The next question is what we can do to stop her.” I said before I sighed again as I felt my portal destabilize due to the hurricane winds at the peak of the mountain.

“That question does not have such an easy answer, as just now, the portal I tried to push directly to Himiko's palace at the peak popped due to the storm. So my portal might be less than reliable.” I blinked at the uncomfortable faces the trio and Lara were making. Rolling my eyes I explained. “My portals popping won’t kill anyone. They are, what you might refer to as, soft portals. However, it does mean our group would be split up and vulnerable while I am forced to create new ones.”

Lara’s jaw clenched. “But we need to do something. I want Sam, but I also don’t want to let them keep getting away with all of this.”

I swallowed. “I… I think you are right. If we just leave after getting the rest of the crew away, this island will just continue killing passing sailors and pilots until she is eventually resurrected.” I wiped my hand down my face. “I… I have killed before… honestly, I have done worse than killing as I literally tore the few I killed apart. However, the men I killed were mass murderers or unrepentant rapists.”

Once again, I paused as I realized I had already reached my own conclusion on what I would do here, then spoke slowly. “I like the idea of giving those who want to change a chance at a better life, but I really don’t have any problems killing those who hurt and terrorize innocents. Second chances are for those who want to change.”

I eyed each of my girls in turn before facing the trio of Hermione, Holly, and Ginny. “However, I am ok if you don’t want to participate in the violence.”

There was a moment of silence as each girl thought about it. Lara suddenly seemed to realize how young each of us was. Amy had made us look a little older before arriving, but we still looked like we were still just shy of twenty, barely adults. I would need to clarify that later.

Taylor and Amy almost interrupted each other as they spoke a variation of. “We will fight.”

Sabah looked over to Amy before looking at me. She smiled slightly as she responded. “I will fight and kill if it protects our Family. Otherwise, I will just stun them.”

Ahri just raised her eyebrow and I nodded. She felt bad about it, but despite Amy and my modifications, she was still a predator of humans and was still forced to eat a soul every few months. Killing evil men was the best way to get her the food she needed.

Luna shook her head. “I am sorry if it causes problems, but I won’t kill anyone. I can, however, make them wish they had never been born or joined the Rotfang Conspiracy”

Dinah hesitated before she nodded. “I would prefer not to, but I will if I must.”

Ginny and Holly looked at each other for a long time before they slowly nodded. Holly apparently spoke for the two of them. “We will fight and if we think they deserve it, we will kill them.”

Hermione frowned for several more seconds before she shook her head. “I am not ready. I am not against it, I just don’t think I am ready.”

Lara frowned but scoffed as I raised my eyebrow. “If they are trying to hurt Sam, I will end them.”

Hearing each person’s answers, I nodded and I gestured for everyone to follow me over as I examined the prisoners. “Amy, can you paralyze them from the neck down, then wake them up?”

Amy grimaced, but nodded. “Yeah, give me a sec.”

Lara and the trio seemed to realize exactly just what Amy could do and their postures suddenly turned a little more defensive. Realizing it now my turn to demonstrate Amy was safe, I patted her shoulder and smiled as she kneeled down.

In only a dozen seconds or so, two cultists we had captured were awake and staring at us.

The first one started immediately cursing at us and I slapped him. “Shut it,”

That seemed to make the two of them realize that they couldn’t feel their bodies and the panic started setting in before Amy forcefully calmed them back down again.

It was then that the first one started screaming, “Kill the Witch! Burn the Witch! Begone Witch!”

Looking at Amy, I frowned and gestured in a dismissive wave. “Put him under again. Maybe we will get something from the other.”

The silence and the widening eyes of the second cultist seemed promising, so I started asking my questions. “Well, let's start with why you are helping kill people and how many people you have killed before we find out about the hidden strongholds around the island.”

I was pleased to see the gulp.

However, half an hour later, I had to admit I was disappointed with the knowledge we had gotten out of the man.

Oh, he had sung like a canary, but he was a grunt. He didn’t know nearly anything and had only been here for a year or two. He had betrayed his business partner when their jet had crashed on the island. He had gotten the man killed and gotten his business partner’s wife sacrificed. All in order for him to live a little bit longer. He had then killed two men since then. Specifically ones that had tried to surrender and plead for mercy.

Not wanting to listen to his excuses any longer, I had Lara put him under again.

Staring down at the once again unconscious man I sighed and grimaced. He wasn’t the most evil man alive, but I wouldn’t trust him anywhere near the other survivors, and I didn’t think he deserved to have Amy carefully keep him alive and comatose just to spend life in prison. No, he deserved to die here, but I wouldn’t make him suffer.

I only paused for a moment longer before I pulled a knife from my belt and after one final additional moment of hesitation I slammed it down into his heart.

Seeing the cooling corpse, the girls all looked away for a moment. All except Ahri who had obviously decided to discreetly consume his soul since she hadn’t eaten in a few months.

I considered pulling my knife out to do the same for the other captive before Lara pulled out her pistol and shot the other in the chest before she turned to me. “What did he say?”

My girls and I all paused and looked over at the four other girls in the cave.

I was the one to ask. “What do you mean?”

Lara frowned. “You were talking in English so we got the gist of the conversation, but I am pretty sure he was speaking some sort of southeast Asian language. Maybe Cambodian… I don’t know. Was that magic?”

I thought for a moment and looked at Amy and Taylor. However, it was Luna that spoke up. “It is a benefit of joining Max’s Family. His gifts allow for everyone to understand the fabric and the pattern.”

I looked around surprised that Luna just confirmed it was something I was doing, but Hermione, unsurprisingly, was the first to ask questions before I could think about it further. “Does this omni-lingual skill also include written language? How does it work? What do you mean Family? Is this a power you can share? How do you share it? What does she mean, the pattern and the weave?”

There was a moment of silence as grins started to grow on everyone’s faces as we walked back towards the center of the cave with the still unconscious pilot. Hermione would always be Hermione, just like Luna would always be Luna.

Deciding it was simpler to give a short explanation than try to deflect, I sighed and once again gestured to Amy. “The trio here have heard a lot of the details, but Amy will explain a bit to catch you up, Lara. However, we don’t have time for a detailed explanation.”

Turning to Taylor, I continued. “Why don’t the two of us scout for the other pilot via portals in the meantime. After that, we need to find the rest of Lara’s captured expedition.”

That sobered everyone up, but Amy started tapping her chin for a moment, obviously thinking on what to explain. However, when I saw a small smile start to grow on Amy’s face I realized I probably should have asked someone else.

Before I could stop her Amy started explaining. “We don’t have time for all the specifics. But, yes, we can empower women who want to join us to a significant degree. The language ability and other gifts are possible as well. My ability to make our bodies younger is another one of these benefits. However, you should know while all four of you would be welcome, our Family demands that you put the Family first. We want Smart, Powerful, Kind women to join us for our travels.”

Hermione frowned. “That sounds like you are Max’s Harem.”

I winced, remembering how I had started out thinking of them as my possessions while under the compulsion, but Amy just smirked. “Yeah, but you don’t see any of us unhappy, do you? Plus, those of us who swing for both teams get extra benefits. Plus, he has been incredibly clear he won’t touch those not physically ready or those who don’t want it.” She gestured towards Luna and Dinah which made everyone’s eyebrows rise.

I was getting ready to be yelled at by Hermione when she shocked me by instead hesitantly asking. “And you can read everything… a book in any language… and all I would have to do is join your group to get the same?”

I did a double take to really study the bookworm who was now fidgeting slightly before I realized Holly and Ginny were doing the same.

Turning to look at the two of them, they looked a little surprised at Hermione, but I was inwardly a little happy to see they didn’t look disgusted or afraid of me. However, neither did they look particularly interested in our offer.

Turning back to Hermione, I realized that her love of books was strong enough that the thought of reading every book in existence was apparently enough to make her consider this.

Then, as if I didn’t have enough mind-blowing revelations, I did another double take as I realized that Lara was giving me a considering side-eye as well.

Internally, I had to do a little reconsidering.

Apparently, the ways to get girls to join our family was either to find women who were desperate to get away and then be kind and helpful so they happily stayed with you afterward, OR to offer driven women something they wanted.

I shook the thoughts away and changed the subject. “That is something to address down the road. Now we need to save Sam and the others that we can find from the Endurance. However, if you see Dr. Whitman, be aware that what we saw from the Seers showed he is willing you sell you all out, even to death or torture, for a chance to save himself or further research the ruins. In the visions we saw he tries to sell you out to the undead army and that is what finally kills him.”

There was a pause before Lara predictably asked. “Undead army.”

I sighed again. “Sorry, we got distracted. Most of the men like those two are castaways are still just normal humans fighting and killing each other, law of the jungle style. However, Mathias is leading a cult who are trying to find a woman to sacrifice to Himiko. A woman she can use in order to get herself a new body. Although I am not sure if Matthias thinks reviving her will allow him to leave the island or if he is actually insane and blindly obsessed with her at this point.”

I shook my head. “Regardless, back to the undead army. What you should know is that Himiko is what we might call a Dark Lord, and when she was still alive she created her personal army of undead Samurai that protect her even through her death. So if you see someone dressed as a Samurai, don’t hesitate, strike to destroy their body or run, there is nothing left inside to reason with.”

There was a moment of silence before Taylor spoke up. “I think I found the other pilot out of your southwest portal. He is being held alone and is quite hurt from the blood I sensed. However, he is out in the open, probably as a trap for you, Lara.”

Lara grimaced, but took a deep breath and then narrowed her eyes. “Let's go.”

I opened up a portal on the back of another set of houses, but this time I held both Luna and Dinah back with me. If Luna didn’t want to kill, I wasn’t going to put her in the direct line of fire.

Yet, thankfully, before I could even consider giving orders, Taylor spoke up. “I will try to keep a firefly in the direction of all the enemies around each of you like a mini-map in games, but be careful, I have been having trouble spotting tripwires and traps.” she took a breath. “Also, I am switching to lethal bugs.”

There was a momentary pause where we needed to explain video games to the girls who were growing up in the mid 1980 and 1990s. There was then an additional moment of tension when the girls were once again confronted with the fight we were going into, but I nodded. We didn’t have time to mess around here. Not when the pilot was bleeding out up ahead.

Instead, I just followed Taylor and Lara’s calls as they moved forward. Between Lara’s bow, Taylor’s bugs, the occasional flashes of light from the Golden Trio’s spells, and the completely invisible movements of Ahri and Sabah we nearly flew through the random cultist surrounding us. I even saw Amy shoot off a few spells as well, even if she was mostly focused on defense.

Better yet, we didn’t seem to be setting off any alarms even if the group ahead of us was getting a little nervous.

It was then that we spotted the pilot and even without Taylor’s warning we all would have known it was a trap. The entire area made a semicircle around the pilot down below, who was alone on open ground with no way to covertly approach or take cover from attacks. When combined with Taylor’s bugs we could spot the dozen or so cultists surrounding the area making it even more obvious.

Frowning, I spoke through the conversation portals I had kept up. “I can’t just instantly portal him away. I am certain someone will try to shoot him while I try.” I considered for a moment before I continued. “Unless someone is confident enough to transfigure a dome to protect him from a distance, we need a distraction so Ahri can get close enough to use her illusions. Then I can portal him away to the cave safely. Her illusions are nearly perfect, but they are still only short range and only visual, plus I would rather be safe than sorry.”

Lara hummed before she bit her lip. “What if I go up to try to talk to them while Ahri sneaks around. It will keep them distracted. Matthias likes to talk anyway.”

There was a moment where I waited for someone to come up with a better answer, before I sighed. “Let's do that then.”

Lara nearly instantly went loud by switching to her pistol and shooting a cultist further on in the head. The remaining men instantly started panicking and moving around. Taylor continued to pick off men she could get to since her wasps weren’t small. The golden trio also moved up casting the occasional explosion hex to keep up the pressure. This was all while I tracked Ahri through her soul’s portal as she creeped forward, completely invisible.

It was, predictably, Matthias that came out to yell at Lara. “What are you doing here, you stupid girl?”

Lara yelled back, just as angry. “I am here to kill you bloody arseholes and get my friends back.”

Matthias scoffed, obviously dismissive, as I pulled out my rifle and lined up the shot. I might be able to stop a lot of the problems if I could kill him here and now.

Matthias gestured towards the pilot who was still groaning below, saying something I didn’t pay attention to as I worried we wouldn’t be fast enough. Yet, I heard Ahri call out softly through the communications portal. “Pilot is covered, you are good to move him.”

Working as fast as I could, I put a portal directly below him and let him fall through to the cave, while I opened one in front of Amy to allow her to put him to sleep and heal him. I also yelled at Ahri that I was done and to move back.

That appeared to be not a moment too soon as not a second later Matthias lost his patience. “Kill the trespasser and the heretic girl.”

Lara had to duck out of the way as bullets began to rip through her previous position, but as I watched, I saw Holly cast a shield in front of the girl and any bullets began to simply bounce away.

Looking forward as I took aim at Matthias, I saw three other cultists throw down explosives on the fading image of the pilot below. Internally, I scoffed as I slowed my breathing while aiming at the retreating leader. Were all villains also drama queens? Simply shooting the pilot would have been simpler and damaged their buildings less, but then again, maybe big over the top displays helped keep their minions in line. Plus, he may have been trying to traumatize Lara or something.

Letting my breath out, I pulled the trigger and watched as the bullet raced for Mathias’s heart. Yet before it hit, there was a sudden burst of wind that pushed the bullet just far enough to the side that it split Mathias’s left bicep instead of hitting him in the center of his chest.

Matthias lurched and then threw himself away from me into the caves behind him. I saw multiple wasps from Taylor start to converge on the cave he entered, but once again a burst of wind blew them away.

I cursed and all the girls glanced at me. “Damn it. Mathias might have active protection from Himiko. I tried to shoot him and I saw Taylor try to sting him, but both times a gust of wind knocked our attempts aside.” I said then sighed. “Next time, Taylor, we aren’t going to wait if we can help it, just go for the kill. I would send a portal now, but I suspect I will lose him in those caves, and we need to find the other crew members and Sam first if we can.”

I turned my gun and helped the girls finish off the three remaining cultists as the rest seemed to have made a run for it when Matthias left them.

Lara grimaced as we grouped back up. “I think we are going to have to move quickly. I don’t know where the other crew members are, but we hurt Matthias and he might retaliate against everyone else if we don't hurry.”

It was then that we spotted the undead samurai showing up in order to investigate and we stopped in our tracks. I didn’t want to get caught in a firefight with them out here in the open. Not when we weren’t sure the cultists weren’t going to come back.

Yet, as we watched, the Samurai grabbed the dead cultists and started dragging them away. I turned towards the others. “Do we follow them, maybe try to pick these guys off, or do we try to find our way through the tunnels directly to find the crew?”

Lara hesitated. Probably for the same reason I did. Tactically, it made more sense to not leave an enemy alive at your back, but we needed to move quickly.

Yet in the end she shook her head. “We need to find the others before something happens.”

We all nodded before we stepped through another portal to skip past the still wandering Samurai.

Turning, I spotted another two explosive barrels and I pointed them out to the trio. Holly and Ginny understood quickly and banished them over the edge into the group of Samurai below us. Hearing the wails from the undead queen’s minions, we moved on quickly.

The caves seemed to go on for miles and miles.

Occasionally, Lara stopped to inspect an inscription or carving. She also was excited when she realized that we could confirm her translations from ancient Japanese since it just looked like funky English if we weren’t paying attention to the characters themselves.

At one point, Hermione even asked about our ancient runes class back at Hogwarts. She was not at all pleased that part of the reason I was doing so well in that class was because I could read them like a language. I had to explain that I didn't know how to instantly use the runes. It was like writing a story or maybe poetry was a better example. You could understand the overall meaning, but the flow and deeper symbology took time to study out even if you knew the words. Unfortunately for me, the really powerful enchantments and wards all required that deeper understanding.

The discussion was long enough that we were still talking when we managed to find something up ahead. Unfortunately this time we came out to find the area up ahead was being held by five men all pointing their guns at the Irish helmsman.

I blinked as I remembered this scene in the game. Lara was ready to surrender when they threatened to kill the salty Irish sailor. He refused to let that happen and took three of them down before falling to his death.

Just like I expected the first cultist yelled out. “Drop your weapons or we cut his f*cking throat.”

Lara once again hesitated and I whispered quickly to Taylor. “Get ready, you need to put them down before that Irishman gets himself killed trying to protect Lara.”

Lara seemed to have heard me, but not seeing another way, she lowered her weapons. Those who were currently visible followed suit, lowering our weapons as well.

That still left Ahri and Sabah on one side and the golden trio on the other who didn’t seem to have been spotted.

Yet before we could do anything else, the helmsman made the same choice as in the game. “Don’t stop fighting, Lassy, give these bastards hell!”

Taylor’s bugs seemed to have dropped two of the cultists, while the Irishman pushed another one off the edge of the platform. I knew he probably deserved it, but watching him fall at least 50 feet to his death was still hard.

The fight still wasn’t over as the Irishman then turned to the one holding a rifle and pushed him towards the edge. The two men fought for a second before the Irishman tackled the other towards the edge.

The two of them tittered on the edge for a long moment before they too started to fall. Lara screamed out. “Angus, nooo!”

Yet before I could panic, I saw one of the golden trio cast an ‘arresto momentum’ and the now named Angus began to slow in his fall. That gave me plenty of time to put a portal beneath him and a moment later he was also healed and asleep in our cave.

We only paused for a moment to regroup and decompress slightly. Lara walked first up to Hermione who had apparently cast the spell and gave her a tight hug before she turned and walked over to first Amy and then, after a slight hesitation, to me. Giving us both a hug as well. “Thank you… I… I have already seen too many people die.”

Once again, I winced internally as I realized that having only a few survivors in the games implied quite a few more people had been killed. In this more ‘realistic’ world, their deaths might have all happened right in front of her. In that respect, her break-down earlier was even more understandable.

Still, we knew we had to push on.

It was then that I moved us across the gap in the housing to the next set of caves and walkways. We followed them for only a few hundred yards when we spotted a large cavernous room filled with cultists.

I remembered this from the game. This is where they tested Sam to find out if she was ‘worthy’ to go through the ascension ritual.

I started to whisper to the rest of the girls to get ready to attack. Yet before we could do anything, I felt my blood freeze as, out of the corner of the room, three men stepped up and lifted a trio of dirty crooked wands.

“Bombarda Maxima!”

I didn’t have any time to dodge or move. We were trapped in a small alcove with nowhere to go. I didn’t even think I had the power to shield one full powered explosion hex, let alone three from adult wizards.

It was then that I watched as a rock flew forwards into the path of the spell, while I heard three strong voices yell out “Progeto!” and I saw three shields pop up.

There was a moment where time seemed to stretch as I realized I didn’t even have time to open a portal in front of the spells. I couldn’t do anything.

Then time seemed to once again resume and the rock struck the lead spell causing it to detonate early.

This caused the following two explosion hexes to also detonate, and we were momentarily blinded. Yet I could still hear the distinctive tinkle of broken glass as the first two shields failed before the last one cracked but held.

Yet even as I saw the mundane cultist nearest to us being flown away, already dead, I didn’t have time to counterattack as we all heard the ominous CRACK, CRACK, CRACK.

Then before I could think of something to help save us I heard Luna’s voice call out something that sounded like “mons fuga scutum” which my brain translated as something to do with shields to avoid mountains before our world suddenly went black.

Interlude Sirius Black:

Something inside of him shifted and for a moment he felt his mind start again as he looked forward.

He knew he needed to do something.

He was a failure.

He needed to do something.

He was a failure.

He needed to kill something.

He had failed them.

… who was he again?

Chapter 22: Chapter 22: HP/TR - Rapid Response Rescues

Notes:

Got sick this week. That sucked… didn’t help I am still not entirely happy with this and I think I missed things but just can’t find them, However I need to publish it now or I am going to spend the next month rewriting it over and over again then probably lose motivation and stop for a month or two.

No normal Wednesday chapter this week. I will hopefully be back on my goal of weekly chapters by next week.

Chapter Text

I woke up to a touch from Amy which had me jerking upright.

Looking around frantically, I saw we were in a cavern. Looking up, I saw the remains of a rock slide where we had fallen through.

Amy only held on to me for another second or two as I felt my body heal before she moved on to Ahri. Watching, I saw her also jerk upright. Looking to the other side I saw Luna casting a second Lumos spell in my direction which finally gave off enough light to let me fully see what was going on around me.

It looked like Amy had woken Sabah, who had cast the first Lumos before finding Luna, followed by myself, Ahri, Dinah, and was now getting to Taylor and the trio. Looking over, I saw Dinah and Luna were already moving around. It took me a moment to realize they were picking up wands and guns and bringing them back to their owners.

In the time it took me to figure that out, Amy had apparently managed to get everyone on their feet. It was then that I realized where we were. It wasn’t my imagination. The walls and water we were all wading through were all, quite literally, blood red.

I felt a shiver run up my spine as I looked around. Lara had hidden below the surface of this water in the game to avoid the cultists trying to find her. The image of her blood covered head popping up from below the surface was intense when it was just a game. It was horrifying in real life.

I couldn’t believe that it was all blood, maybe there was something in the water making it extra red. That would have to be on top of some sort of plant or chemical that was making it so the blood didn’t coagulate.

Shivering, I shook my head and cursed to myself. “Bloody Hell, focus!” I paused before I physically cringed at how well that described this cave.

Deciding I wanted to be out of the shallows of this bloody and disgusting water, I got a little unsteadily to my feet before doing a quick head count. The fear that we were missing someone who had died in the ambush made me count four separate times before I was satisfied we were all here.

Shaking my head, I gestured for everyone to gather closer while confirming each of my still-active portals. Unfortunately, the one back to England had dispersed while I was knocked unconscious which would make getting back to England difficult.

That left, one to the cave where we had been stashing the rescued people we saved, along with three of the communication portals I had placed on each girl’s ear. Everything else seems to have closed.

Damn, I meant that I had probably hit my head a lot harder than I thought when I fell. I could usually keep them open at the very least while asleep. I would need to thank Amy again for healing us so often soon.

Shaking my head, I opened up a portal to our previous safe cave and gestured for everyone to follow me out. As we all grimaced looking ourselves over, I looked up I noticed a few bats before I smirked and said. “It is good to be back in the bat…cave.”

That managed to break the air of frustration and tension a little as everyone rolled their eyes and Amy reached over to slap me upside the back of my head. It was also good to know Batman was a thing even in this world. Still, the release of tension didn’t last long as we started to take off our bags and shoes.

The newly named bat cave was still isolated as before because the entrance was still a mostly sheer cliff, but it also had a waterfall flowing down on one side of the entrance. As much as I wanted to just shower in our pocket home, I really wanted to keep it a secret as something known only to my family. It was our trump card for a last second escape after all.

That left setting up the wizarding tents, which had their own bathrooms inside. Yet even then, I didn’t want to track blood everywhere and I didn’t want to be blasted in the face with a half dozen cleaning charms to get clean. Not at our level of skill and it would do nothing for my desire to scrub myself raw to get rid of the feeling. So we would just have to start transfiguring us a shower stall out of the side of the waterfall.

As I began I glanced down the 30 feet or so to the jungle floor below us, I noticed a lot of sounds from the wildlife. Apparently they had discovered the bodies of the two men we had disposed of. Casting a silencing spell at the region, I diverted a little of the water into a funnel leading into an approximation of a shower head, then started carving a heating rune to anchor my heating charm.

It took about ten minutes, after which I was nearly bulled over by Ahri, who was probably utterly disgusted by what was stuck in her tales.

I realized that I might not get in the shower for a while, so I rinsed off a bit with the cold water from the water fall and sat down on some of the transfigured rocks while the other girls finished setting up the tents.

About an hour later, along with a few drying charms, we had everyone back in an OK condition, even if everyone was a little frustrated at how badly that had gone.

It was Lara who broke the silence that had once again fallen across the group and asked, obviously frustrated. “How did we get ambushed? I thought we were watching for that. Plus, don’t we have two seers on our team?”

I sighed, but decided it was better for Dinah and Luna to answer the question. Dinah scowled, but the effect was less effective as she was still brushing her teeth with mouthwash next to her. Finally, she rolled her eyes. “My abilities give me answers to specific questions. I have been asking if we would be alright before each engagement and obviously we are.” She said before she slumped. “I asked if we would die and got a ‘no’ answer and we didn’t. I asked if we would be attacked and the answer was a ‘yes’ but I got that answer before each engagement we had. I asked if we would be seriously hurt and the answer was ‘probably not’ and Amy said she had to just heal a few bruises and a slight concussion or two.”

It was then that Dinah’s facade of calm broke and we could all hear the crack in her voice as she sniffed and continued. “My predictions don’t have any certain percentages… plus between Amy and Max, my power seems confused on what should be considered a serious injury. When Taylor was hurt while we took down Tom in the school, my power only said the chance of serious injury was ‘very high’ while the chance of death was ‘low’.” Her voice was now quieter, and she finished by whispering. “Predicting how exactly fights will go might be beyond me, here.”

Seeing Lara’s confusion, I waived her unasked questions away while going over to give Dinah a side hug while Ahri was already on her other side. “We will tell you more about what Hermione, Holly and Ginny have been dealing with later. You will learn more about all of our secrets later if you want to join us.” I said, before I turned to look at Luna

However, Luna simply shrugged instead of explaining fully and said. “I see what I see, nothing more or nothing less.”

I nodded, then addressed the two of them. “I know you two are doing as much as you can. If precogs could predict everything, every single time then they would be unbeatable. It was why Contessa, who didn’t seem to have those limitations, was so terrifying.”

That seemed to confused Lara, but the girls from Earth Bet all nodded knowing that, despite my modifications to Dinah’s abilities, standard precogs always had blind spots.

I gestured towards our stuff which hadn’t all been cleaned and picked up my shoes. “We should probably get back to it as well. Lara let someone know if you need a cleaning charm on your boots instead of a quick rinse.”

As we continued to clean our guns, wands, and equipment Lara seemed to be considering something. “You said something about how Wizards can teleport. Why would those wizards still be here, then?”

I frowned and considered before I answered. “I don’t know, but the trio of wizards that attacked us might not be overly strong. Maybe just a bit stronger than Holly and she is only a second year. Maybe they don’t have the strength to teleport back to the mainland.” I paused, considering, before I continued my train of thought. “Or they were only sailing or flying through this region, meaning they would have to go even further as you can’t apparate to a place you have never seen. Plus, I don’t think there is a wizard alive who could teleport directly to America from here after all. They also probably don’t know how to create a portkey, which can go further, but require special licenses and training to set up.”

Holly frowned, “But then why would they join the cultists. Even us normal second years could survive well enough without needing to join the cult.”

I simply shrugged. “I don’t know. Back in England, wizards are pretty lazy, but maybe they either didn’t know the correct spells or decided being alone wasn’t helping them escape.”

Something niggled at the back of my mind like I was forgetting something and I paused, trying to remember what I was missing. Then it hit me and I sat bolt upright on my transfigured chair, eyes wide. “Damn it. I never played the rest of them. But there was that conspiracy about Lara’s journey, wasn’t there?”

Luna perked up. “The Rotfang Conspiracy, yeah!”

I blinked, thinking back to what she had been saying and realized Luna’s conspiracy might have been about the secret organization from the Tomb Raider games… well either that or she knew about something else altogether. Either way, there was an actual secret organization trying to take over the world.

Turning to Lara I tried not to show how embarrassed I was. “So in all the excitement to get here and trying to help, I forgot this will lead into something bigger after we get off the island.” I said before sighing. “There is a group called the Trinity, or Triad, or something. I don’t know anything else other than some part of this is their fault and they will take an interest in you in a year or two, I think…” I frowned and looked at my girls who seemed to somehow understand my frustration and agreed we should try to get a hold of her games somehow. Maybe we would need to jump to another world just for a fact finding mission.

Taylor turned to me and then glanced out the cave entrance. “We have cultists starting to scout the island below us on the northeast side, they might have discovered that we have disappeared from that bloody cave.”

I winced but nodded. “I will move the portal around until we find an exit in the blood cave, then we can use it to look for the rest of the expedition’s crew which should be around that main base somewhere. We will need to find them soon before anyone else is killed or used as bait to try to find us.”

Everyone agreed as I started to focus, creating another to double my chances, before moving the two around looking for an exit. In the game, I was pretty sure that the blood cave was fairly close to where the crew had been held, but that didn’t mean much in the real world. I would just have to keep looking, maybe having Taylor search for cultist groups.

In the meantime, we actually woke up the two pilots along with Angus, the Irish helmsman, and fed them dinner. Lara explained we had rescued them and healed them, but we couldn’t answer any other questions while we were still looking for more of the stranded expedition. That obviously didn’t go over particularly well, but Amy just discreetly put them back to sleep before we levitated them into the biggest of our three wizarding tents.

It was then that we got a call from the Captain Conrad Roth.

The crackle of Lara’s radio made all of us jump slightly, including Lara. “Lara, Lara! Are you alright, are you safe?”

I had almost forgotten about him. He arrived right as Lara was starting to despair not knowing what to do. He was wounded but tries to support her as best he can until he was killed trying to save Lara from Matthias.

Yet, none of that should have happened yet, so I frowned at the worry in his tone, as something must have happened if he was this frantic.

Lara picked up the radio and swallowed before she replied. “Captain, Captain, I am here, are you alright?”

There was an audible relieved sigh from the radio before the captain continued. “I am… alright. Leg is still giving me trouble, but I managed to get away. What about you? Are you alright? I overheard some of the islanders saying they had finally got you.”

Lara sighed. “No, they almost got us, but we got away… what happened to you?” she trailed off.

Conrad scoffed. “I had a dozen or so arseholes trying to flush me out, but I managed to bring down four before needing to back off.” He paused for a moment where in I could hear the strain in his voice. “Where are you, I should be helping before…”

I glanced at Amy, who twisted to look at me. It was clear that Conrad was dying. His leg had been torn apart in the games and he probably knew he had no hope of keeping it clean or properly bandaged. He probably knew it was just a question of if it was the infection or the blood loss that would finish him off first.

Deciding to interject, I gestured for Lara to hold down the talk button before I spoke. “Conrad, my name is Max, my Family and I found Lara, and we have been trying to rescue the rest of the expedition. Where are you, we will come find you.”

There was a moment of silence before Conrad replied. “No, you focus on getting everyone else out. Don’t worry about me.”

I wanted to facepalm. “Just tell us where you are so we can meet up later then.” I said with some exasperation.

Conrad paused for a moment longer before he responded. “I am near the bottom of the tram going up the southwest side of the island. I found some houses up around the corner from the main offices.”

I looked at Lara before I sent another portal speeding down to look around the area.

It was then that out of the corner of my eye I finally spotted the rest of the expedition prisoners in my second portal. Taylor also noticed, with her attention turning fully to focus on said portal.

I spoke to Conrad one more time, with Lara once again holding down the talk button. “I think we found most of the prisoners. We are going to be hitting their guards now, wish us luck.”

There was a pause before a dark chuckle crossed the radio as Captain Roth replied. “Send the bastards to Hell for me…”

Turning with the rest of the girls, we carefully looked out from our portal, inspecting the room where the captives were being held. I could see 11 prisoners being held in a cage hanging over a deep ravine. The logical part of me wondered about the practicality of building a cage over a cavern when a simple cave with a locked door would have been just as effective.

Sighing, I prepared to open a portal inside the cage while opening another next to two of the seven guards when what they were saying finally registered.

The first guard in shorts was talking to the man with a beard. “Why did Anders say that we could only enjoy the prisoners one at a time?”

The bearded guard rolled his one remaining eye. “Anders explained it like an hour ago, learn English already, Damn Jap.” He rolled his eye again and spat. “Apparently, one of the priests cursed the cage to fall if more than one prisoner was removed at a time. Unless they remove the curse, we can only have fun with them one at a time, well either that or kill them.”

I winced and looked at my girls who equally looked disturbed. That look didn’t improve as we heard crying from down the hall.

Immediately I moved another portal down the hall in time to find a woman with another guard forcing her onto her stomach onto what might have passed as a mattress… if you squinted. Her cries of “Please” and “Stop” were obviously being ignored as he reached out to perhaps start pulling off clothing, but he never got the chance.

Amy didn’t need any direction or encouragement as she reached through the portal and poked the man on the back of his leg before the guard went completely limp, probably already dead. The woman only paused for a moment before she bucked him off before rolling free.

She looked wildly around as she saw us leaning through a tear in reality. There was a moment where confusion crossed her face before her eyes rolled back into the back of her skull and she fainted.

I winced as I saw her collapse, the guard had beaten her before getting to this point, and I sighed before I simply stepped through and picked her up and carried her into the batcave with the rest of us.

I turned to the rest of the group and said, “We have probably 30 seconds or so before the others wonder why things are so quiet here. We need to move fast.”

I turned to the golden trio. “I want you three ready to levitate the prison in case removing the captives via portal counts for whatever wards the wizard cultists set up.” Turning to Taylor, Lara, Sabah, and Ahri. “Taylor will hit the rest of the guards with her bugs, while I want you three ready to help if someone manages to avoid or resist her attack. I can give each one of you your own portal, but I won’t be able to pay attention to all of them and close them again for any returning fire so be careful.”

I turned to our seers. “Is there anything wrong with the plan?”

Dinah frowned for several seconds, “The chance for death is high, but it is probably the best option. Just get the captives out as quickly as you can.”

Luna sighed as she stared out into space. “You will have to show more than you want. There will be consequences… you will have to choose.”

I grimaced and thought for a moment before I heard the guard in shorts comment on the silence down the hall, just as I feared.

Turning, I gestured for everyone to get ready. Quietly I started counting, even as I saw the seven remaining guards start to turn towards the hall where we had already dispatched the first cultist. “On Three, One… Two… Three…”

It was then that I opened up a portal on one side of the hanging prison cage, while opening another portal for each of the members of our strike team.

Not waiting for the prisoners to register the portal and decide if they wanted to trust us or not, I just pushed the portal towards them before reaching out and pulling the first one through.

That was when all hell broke loose. Three of the seven guards flinched and then almost immediately dropped as Taylor stung them, while two of the seven actually screamed and thrashed about for a moment. The last two were felled by spell fire.

The problem was the two that screamed didn’t go down immediately and actually tried to fight back. The one in shorts we had heard speak first turned wildly around to find their attacker pointing his gun around wildly, causing the strike team girls to duck away from their portals. However, the bearded one pulled didn’t hesitate as he realized something was wrong, instead he pulled up his AK 47 up and started to spray into the prison before he too dropped dead.

From my own portal inside the prison I watched in horror as around a dozen bullets ripped through the wall next to us and into the cage still filled with prisoners. A few missed entirely, but one woman in the middle of the group went down hard after taking a bullet through her knee, another cut a bloody line across another woman’s bicep, while the two others slammed into the chest of a large Tongan man furthest away from me before the last bullet flew right through his throat and out the back of his neck.

I didn’t recognize the two women, but I was pretty sure that the Tongan man was one of Lara’s friends she had rescued in the Tomb Raider game.

It felt like time slowed as I watched as the man slowly start to fall backwards, obviously dying. Internally, I started to do calculation on the timing. Amy and I were now pulling our second person through, now with less resistance, as the other prisoners had noticed us and were realizing we were a better option than being hit by bullets regardless of who we were and how impossible this random portal in space was.

As I began to pull in the third person having shoved the second person behind me I realized it was taking about one second per person and I would get to the Tongan in only 3 more seconds, but was that fast enough? I didn’t think I could open a portal faster than that. I would just have to keep moving as quickly as I could.

Then things went from bad to worse. I felt the enchantments activate and the prison began to fall. My portal was in reference to the floor so it kept up with the prison and I began pulling out the fourth captive even before the golden trio noticed the cage was falling. I was pulling out the fifth one by the time they started the levitation spell before throwing him on the pile of bodies behind me. Amy finished throwing her fifth prisoner barely a second later.

I turned to try to pull the Tongan man out before, in a moment of clarity, I realized with everything falling and essentially weightless I could slip the portal edge easily under him. A moment later, I also moved my end of the portal away from me at the same speed, making him land on the cave floor in front of us almost gently. Basically moving the portal forward on either side so to him it would have felt like standing still.

However, despite our quick rescue I realized we might already be too late as I could see the Tongan’s soul start to leave his body.

It was only then that I heard Lara and a few of the prisoners cry out, “No!” and “Jonah” as they realized what was going on.

Now knowing his name I reached across Jonah’s fallen body, I grasped his soul with my hands and power and held on. Damn it, I wasn’t going to let an innocent die right in front of me, not when we could save him.

Amy reached him a fraction of a second after me and immediately started healing the body. There were quiet gasps as Jonah’s body visibly knit itself back together. Amy completely focused turned towards me and called out. “I reconstructed his heart, throat, and spine put his soul back now.”

I grunted my affirmation before I shoved his soul back in and tied it to him as best I could. It felt like there was a resistance.

I pushed harder.

It didn’t work.

There was a moment of silence as the horror of what was happening made me start to panic. Fighting down my emotions, I grit my teeth and called out. “It isn’t working, is his heart beating? Is he breathing?”

Amy yelled back, “Yes!”

I grimaced as I felt Jonah’s soul begin to fray and dissipate as it passed into what I instinctively knew was the realm of death. “Damn it! Let's try tying it to a marble. Put it into his chest.”

Tossing a glass marble to Amy that I reached into our pocket home to get, only hesitating a moment, she opened him up and placed the small sphere into his chest next to his heart before sealing the wound up again. Meanwhile, I was already pulling his soul down and tying it into the marble, and I felt the sweat pour down my face as I worked.

I wasn’t sure if it was seconds or minutes, but when I pulled back once his soul was in place, I noticed that Amy was already done healing the two other injured women.

I stood up slowly along with Amy before I looked out across the gathered people we had rescued and internally scowled. Luna had been right, we hadn’t had time to do much planning, but we had definitely shown more of our abilities than we had wanted to. I could already see the uncertainty and slight fear in everyone’s eyes.

Still, as I watched Amy as she reached down and poked Jonah awake long enough to check his eyes and confirm brain activity, I had to admit that I would probably do it again given the chance. I would just need to practice my memory charms. Some cultists might be brain-dead if I messed the memory charm badly enough, but that was a ‘sacrifice’ I was willing to make after all of this mess.

The problems were Lara, Holly, Hermione, and Ginny. I wouldn’t erase their memories unless they chose to reject my offer and then requested to forget. Erasing their minds before they joined, or threatening to erase them if they didn’t… well, it was either a betrayal, pseudo brainwashing, or a threat, and it felt like a very slippery slope to start down.

A slope that would end with me trying to control my women and then having them realizing what was happening, completely destroying the Family. Plus, ignoring the fact I wanted us to be happy, doing that to the smart and powerful women that I was attracted to… well it just seemed like a way to commit suicide with extra steps.

It was then, before anyone could start explaining or even ask any questions, when we heard Lara’s radio crackle to life and we heard Captain Conrad Roth’s voice come through, already gasping. “Lara! They sent another rescue chopper. I am headed over to warn them. They are trying to set down right next to…” There was a gunshot and the radio cut off momentarily.

I paled and stepped forward again towards my Family, focusing on searching for the captain through the portal I had sent to search for him.

Lara called out on the radio, trying to get more information. “Repeat the location, we are headed towards you. We got the others we could find and we are headed there now.” She swallowed, then yelled over the radio. “Captain, listen, you must NOT get on that chopper, repeat, do NOT get on that chopper.”

There was a moment of tense silence before Roth called out. “I have reached the chopper, we are under fire, this spot is untenable, we will try to link up further down the canyon.”

At this point, my portal had found the coast guard helicopter and we watched in dismay as Captain Roth was being driven back towards the chopper via a hail of gunfire. Worse, I noticed that the helicopter copilot was already slumped to the side in his seat, his chest bloody.

I watched as Lara pulled out a new magazine before she racked the slide to chamber another round and began lining up her shot. A few moments later she started firing small bursts even as we continued towards the chopper.

As we flew closer via portal, Taylor stepped up next to Lara while the trio started casting shield charms in front of the captain and helicopter to block most of the gun fire coming from the other side of the ravine. I also noticed Taylor creating the same heads up display as before for Lara, which made her even more effective, before pulling out her own pistol.

Stepping out of my portal to the side of the chopper, I gestured to the crew to come to us, while Ahri threw up an illusion of rocks to block the gunfire. None of us were skilled or powerful enough for that level of battlefield transfiguration yet, but the illusion along with the real shields inside from Holly and friends was enough to fake it. Yet my more and more insistent gesturing for the coast guard helicopter crew to come to us didn’t seem to get the message across.

Lara was even more clear as she screamed across the radio, which the chopper pilots apparently could hear. “Do NOT try to leave, do NOT leave. You need to get out of the chopper!”

Captain Roth paused for a moment before he looked around his own rocky outcropping and spotted Lara through my portal and nodded. However, the rescue crew didn’t seem to want to listen. They were clearly spooked beyond all reason, and when the Captain started painfully jogging towards us instead of them, they decided to just leave.

It was then that, was we feared, Himiko struck again. We watched as lightning struck the helicopter, barely 50 feet up and we all flinched away. We all waited for nearly a second as nothing happened and I stared to hope they would survive before the engines exploded. Then even as we once again backed away from the fireball, I heard the cry of the crew member in the helicopter cargo bay as he fell backward, out of the chopper.

The golden trio were there, casting protection charms and momentum canceling charms before I managed to catch him through a portal before he hit the ground. Yet before I could do anything else for the remaining pilot we watched as the chopper exploded again, this time more violently, disintegrating into pieces before falling into the forest to the west of us.

Lara was already pulling Captain Roth back through our portal into the batcave as Taylor and I scowled. Turning, I saw Taylor grimace before her face went distant as she probably swarmed the remaining cultists that Lara hadn’t shot. Internally, I almost felt sorry for those cultists at that moment. Unlike being hit with a neurotoxin wasp and dead within moments, being eaten alive by a swarm of mundane insects was possibly one of the most horrible ways to die out there. Then again, they might deserve it for shooting down three men who's only job it was to rescue people.

Ignoring everything else, Amy didn’t waist any more time as she got to work on fixing the Captain’s leg even before I got around to closing the portals and figuring out what to do with the entire group of people we now had saved. People who had seen way more than I wanted them to know.

Yet, as if we just couldn’t catch a break, before we even had a moment to catch our breath and close up the portals to the clearing where we had just rescued Captain Roth, Taylor spoke up. “I think there are more expedition crew members in the ruins below us. They don’t have the smell of gunpowder on them, and they are all huddled together.” She paused, then continued more urgently. “The Samurai are doing something, hurry!”

Gritting my teeth, I sent the primary portal down and to the left, where Taylor was now pointing.

We found a few more members of the expedition, but we didn’t have time to wonder what was going on as said group being pulled towards an altar of some sort. The group seemed to consist of eight members of the expedition, along with three cultists.

As we watched, trying to figure out what to do and what was going on, one of the undead Samurai grunted a half dozen times before pulling out his shorter sword and slitting the first cultist’s throat before stabbing an engraved dagger into his heart.

My family all gasped softly, along with the other people who could see through my portal before we watched as the very color began to quickly recede from the man’s skin. Thirty seconds later the now gray corpse jerked and looked around slowly before kneeling. The Samurai Priest handed him a helmet and sword before the disturbingly intelligent zombie turned to walk away from the altar.

The eight crew members and two remaining cultists were now crying out in fear, but before they could do anything or we could make a plan, another Samurai zombie pulled a cultist corpse onto the altar. It was then that I realized in addition to the alive men and women there were also 6 corpses. Said corpses appeared to be four cultists and two members of the expedition. Each of which was now being dragged to the altar as well.

I knew I should have stopped this but I watched, horrified, through my soul sense as the undead Samurai Priest stabbed the corpse with the knife and I saw the magic take hold. I watched as bands of magic so dark it seemed like ink reach down in through the body before pulling an unknown soul back into the corpse.

I didn’t think it was necessarily the original soul of the corpse, but it didn’t really matter if it was or not as even before the soul fully settled I watched as those bands of magic wrapped around the soul and then started binding the soul with what I instinctively knew was a geas.

The necromancy ritual continued as I watched the newly risen zombie body jerk and then after a moment turn and kneel before the undead priest to receive its own helmet and sword.

It was then I watched as I saw a younger man from the expedition be yanked forward and I yelled out “Girls, Attack NOW!”

That seemed to be enough as the golden trio along with Taylor, Ahri, and Sabah started casting a variety of hexes and curses while Lara had pulled up her rifle and started shooting.

My main portal was still two dozen yards away, but I opened another portal right next to the expedition members and started pulling them through. I didn’t have time to consider different angles that would work better, as the Samurai already seemed to be rallying, so I just had the original portal drift forward.

Dinah joined me along with Captain Roth to help to pull people through into the batcave for safety. Meanwhile, Luna turned and cast a powerful knock back jinx at one of the giant Samurai who had pulled out his club and begun to swing it towards two of the captives.

We were dismayed to see it only knock the giant back slightly, but we didn’t give up, pulling members of the crew through and out of harms way as quickly as we could.

As we finished with the members of the expedition, I hesitated for a moment, but still grabbed the remaining two cultists as well. If I needed to kill them after an interrogation, then that is just what I would have to do.

I paused for a moment before I grabbed a scrap of cloth and, covering my hand, I reached forward to get the ceremonial knife from the Samurai priest. I had no intention of ever creating an undead army, but if I could learn to fight one, then it would be worth the effort. Dropping the knife in another lead box next to Tom’s Horcruxes only took another couple seconds.

Turning to the rest of the group, I noticed Holly and friends eyeing me, having seen what I did. Yet, only after a small moment of hesitation, I watched as Holly cast the strongest flame spell she could at the ruins and then backed away from the original portal.

I closed the secondary portals before moving the original one further away. We all watched as the fire in the ruins steadily grew due to all the dead and dying vegetation around us.

Turning to Holly, “One final explosion hex, just to make sure the altar is destroyed, please.” I said.

Holly looked at me, obviously tired and a little wary, before nodding. “Bombarda Maxima!”

We watched as the entire ruin exploded outward, before we turned and looked across the two dozen people we had just saved.

Saved, and yet all of them were staring at us in confusion and a little bit of fear.

I wiped my face before I turned towards my group. “Show them to the tents. Maybe put the women in the smaller one. Amy can heal those who still need it while we start cooking up some food to feed everyone. I said, before quieter, I added. “We will deal with figuring out what to do about the statute of secrecy later. Plus, these people have seen magic and our abilities, and I doubt they are going to forget it any time soon.”

Turning away, I led our family into our tent to wash up and start cooking. Pausing as we all entered the tent, I turned towards Amy and Sabah. “Thank you two for everything you just did, you really saved us again, once we are back in England I think you deserve something nice.”

Sabah looked confused. “What do you mean?”

I smiled. “I saw that stone you cast, Sabah, that made the original trio of bombardas from the cultist wizards explode early. I am pretty sure it is why we got out of that attack with so few injuries. Just let me know what you want as a reward. I understand you might want something other than a date night like I did with Taylor.”

There was a moment of silence while Sabah frowned, looking at the ground before glancing at Amy and then at me. “I know things might have changed after your compulsion broke, but is… a girl's night of fun… the three of us, off the table?”

I blinked before I remembered what I had said way back when. I considered for a moment before I answered slowly. “Honestly, I might have been less attached to my male body at the time, and while I feel pretty male now, I think I can experiment a bit once we are back in England.” As I finished, Amy suddenly looked a lot more interested, and Sabah smiled slightly.

I was pretty sure the rest of my Family had heard, but besides some amused faces, we were just too tired to do anything else, even teasing each other.

That was probably a good thing as we would absolutely need our strength tomorrow. We had to get Sam back before Himiko took over her body. If that happened, we might just have to run away via our pocket home. We were in no way ready for a direct fight with a Dark Lady of her apparent power level.

If it came to that, then we would probably be forced to try to call Dumbledore and get the international council of wizarding involved. Then ignoring that Dumbledore might be angry about us endangering Holly and friends, we didn’t want either Dumbledore or the ICW anywhere near our secrets.

If that happened, it might be best to just pop away early rather than potentially be captured and interrogated, maybe experimented on for our special skills. I didn’t doubt for a second the wizards of this world would do just about anything to fix a squib’s magic.

Plus, while I was interested in studying squibs and helping them gain their magic as well, but I didn’t want to be the lab rat in said experiments, which required me to have some sort of backing or power first.

That was also ignoring the possibility that, as Luna called it, the Rotfang Conspiracy would find us instead.

Interlude Lara:
Lara frowned as she sat in what Hermione had called a wizarding tent.

Ginny had said that this one wasn’t particularly fancy, but the dozen bunk beds across one wall along with the full kitchen two bathrooms seemed like heaven after what she had gone through.

The second tent was apparently a slightly smaller copy of this one was where Hermione and her two friends along with a little over half the other females who wanted to be away from men were going to be sleeping. The rest of the women had wanted to stay with familiar faces. Finally, Max’s family was going to be staying in a third tent about half this tent’s size.

She couldn’t help but understand both the traumatized women’s desire to be cautious of men, and Max’s Family’s desire to get away from everyone else’s wary side glances.

Amy and Max had healed a clearly fatal wound across Jonah’s neck and chest. More than that, they had done it after he had apparently passed on, saying something about pulling his soul back into his body after it had drifted out.

It was clearly not the same as what the Samurai had been doing, but the similarities were too similar to ignore at the moment.

Even Hermione and her friends had been a little unnerved. That was to say nothing about the half dozen others who had immediately called the two of them necromancers under their breath.

The discovery that Angus couldn’t be awoken until Amy undid whatever it was that she had done hadn’t helped ether. At this point, it seemed like half of the two dozen people here seemed ready to flee, despite Max’s family’s help rescuing them.

She suspected they would calm down a little once they had food in their bellies and had a night of sleep.

Hermione had already passed out what she had publicly called a magical calming tea, but privately called a dreamless sleep potion.

She checked on Jonah one more time and found he hadn’t actually fully awoken yet, another crew member said he just groggily looked around blankly a few times before going back to sleep.

Deciding she wanted to stay with Hermione tonight, she walked back to the women’s tent before she fell back on a bed before staring at the ceiling.

Max and Amy… hell Taylor, Dinah, and Luna were all a little terrifying. In fact, she had a feeling the only reason she wasn’t scared of Ahri or Sabah was because she didn’t know what they could do.

Yet her logical side continued, considering what would have happened if they hadn’t shown up.

They had seemed like good people and even now, despite their abilities, they still seemed like good people.

She just needed to get her best friend back. Maybe it would all make sense once she had a chance to talk to Sam about it all.

Interlude Sam:

Sam whimpered once again as she was dragged towards the summit.

She didn’t know what was going on, but as she saw what was clearly some sort of palace up ahead, she knew she didn’t want to be anywhere near there.

She nearly sobbed in relief as she heard Matthias start cursing as he received some reports of fighting and losses in their forces further down the mountain.

The group stopped and made camp about a mile or so of hard climbing from the peak.

Matthias and the three (they called themselves wizards) turned around and started discussion something to the side where she couldn’t hear it.

She nearly cracked a tooth while gritting her teeth in fury as she saw the expedition head Dr. Withman pull out his journal and start to copy the ruins around their encampment.

It was clear he didn’t care what happened to her, and for a moment she wished she had some sort of magic so she could kill the traitorous, glory-hound bastard.

There was a pause before Matthias called over to Dr. Withman to follow him before the five of them headed down the mountain a little ways.

She wasn’t sure what they were doing, but Matthias had firmly ordered his remaining half dozen men to watch her so it wasn’t like she was going to get away even if she hadn’t been tied up.

They hadn’t even removed the ropes when she had wanted to go to the bathroom.

She wanted to believe she would survive, that she could resist and stop whatever this was, but in the recesses of her mind she had to admit that she was loosing hope.

Worse because she had seen enough carvings and monuments to know that, whatever this rite of ascension was, it clearly didn’t require her consent or cooperation. Plus, since they didn’t seem to care what she thought of them, they didn’t seem to think she was going to survive it in one piece either.

A little whimper almost made it past her lips.

Lara, where are you?

Chapter 23: Chapter 23: HP/TR - Explosive Negotiations

Notes:

I think it might be Wednesday… somewhere still.

I hope this flows ok, action scenes are one of the things I am working on.

Chapter Text

The next morning I woke up being hugged by Amy and Ahri. Looking around I noticed Taylor was already up and had started scrambling eggs and browning some sausage for some breakfast burritos.

Laying in bed I checked the rest of the batcave and noticed that everything was still very quiet which was good as I didn’t want to deal with what the people we had rescued currently thought of us. Being called a necromancer was both not true as I couldn’t do anything once a person was dead and frustrating based on how much we had done to help them.

Yeah, I knew they were traumatized, but that was just another reason I didn’t want to trust them to keep our secrets. However I really needed to get some practice with the memory charms first. I had learned the theory months ago from a book in the room of requirement in Hogwarts, but the book had been very clear that with enough power, an accident could remove an entire lifetime’s memories. While I doubted I had the kind of power needed to do that, the idea of doing that to an innocent was horrifying. The fact I suspected Wizards just practiced on Muggles was horrible, even if there wasn’t anything I could do about it right now.

Noticing that Amy was waking up, I pulled away from her a little and she got out of bed. Amy didn’t look at anyone or anything as she shuffled her way towards the coffee maker. Not even Sabah attempted to get in her way in the mornings. Everyone knew not to interrupt or distract Amy before her second cup.

On the bed next to ours, Luna and Dinah were still asleep, but I could tell they would awake soon enough. I had considered trying to set up some sort of separate room for them, but it wasn’t like anyone had the strength or mood to get intimate in any way. The fighting, killing, and horrors were just too fresh.

As I pulled away from Ahri, I noticed she refused to wake up and just curled her tails back around her with a light growl.

Shaking my head at the literal vixen, I opened a portal to the smaller cavern a little further down the cliff where I had stored the two stunned cultists we had saved from the Samurai ritual.

I stared at the two of them, and for a moment I considered just killing them both to be done with it.

I was getting tired of all the killing and violence here. Amy had mentioned that most of the women had been assaulted in some form or other, and the few remaining men had almost universally been beaten into compliance. A lot of both would actually be currently be suffering concussions if Amy hadn’t healed the cranial swelling and repaired what she could of the neurons.

Just thinking about the horrors we had seen once again made me consider just killing the two to get it over with and I could feel my stomach clench.

It was all sickening… but why?

I considered that. It wasn’t because it was the worst thing that I had seen or heard happen. The things that the slaughterhouse 9 did back on Earth Bet were far, far worse, but that was a small group of psychopaths that were slaughtering everyone around them under the tentative control of a Master who was lightly brainwashing them.

Was it because I had also been controlled until recently?

I considered that a little more, but no, I had been under a compulsion until recently, but even thinking back on what I knew what a few of them had done even before meeting Jack Slash didn’t make me as angry as right now.

Hell, the mercenaries that we had helped Ahri wipe out were arguably doing the exact same thing as these cultists and I wasn’t as mad at them either. Those mercenaries had been capturing innocents, raping, and brutally killing them one by one.

I thought about it a little more. I stared at the two of them. They seemed normal. For a moment, I had trouble believing the things they were doing had actually happened.

I paused. Was that why I was so angry?

Was it because it was a large group of previously reasonable people joined up to commit atrocities instead of standing up for what was right? The sane ones seemed to outnumber the crazies so it should be possible to push back.

I mean, I wasn’t about to jump in front of a speeding train for the slight chance to save someone I had never met, but I was certainly never going to start pushing even more in front of said train. I wanted to believe I wouldn’t do it, even if they threatened me in turn.

Was that all of it? Was that the entire reason I was angry?

Or… or was it because a part of me worried about what we were doing by fighting this war, scorched earth style?

I looked at my hands. I could already see them covered in blood. Was this just a slippery slope

I must have been standing staring at the two bodies for a while because I felt Amy and Ahri come up behind me.

A quick touch from Amy while Ahri stood behind me let the two of them probably know what I was feeling. I often forgot that Ahri was a short range simple empath, and Amy could read my hormone levels to get a moderately good idea of how I was feeling.

Yet neither one said anything. In fact, after another minute or two, Taylor walked through the portal and frowned looking us over before she simply nodded. It seemed I wasn’t the only one who had been troubled by being thrust into what was certainly a war. A war that would see a lot more people die if Himiko returned to power.

Breakfast was quiet and a little somber, but eventually I broke the silence. “Today we are going to try to get Sam back. After that, I think we need a vacation.” I grinned a little more naturally for a moment before I continued. “Just think about where you want to go. I wouldn’t mind another day at the beach. Or maybe we could go to some sort of spa resort.”

There was a moment of silence before I started to see everyone’s genuine smiles start to peak through the melancholy.

Luna looked up and then looked at me, focused. “You should find us a special place to just get away and relax. Some answers will be found there.”

I blinked and then tilted my head before I slowly nodded while getting up from the table. “Alright, Luna, that sounds like a plan.”

As we got dressed and then put back on our now freshly cleaned Acromantula Silk clothes and basilisk trench coats, topped with the bullet deflecting headbands, I considered what to do first. However, to my annoyance the first order of business was pretty clear, so I just opened up another portal to the two prisoners.

The first one looked fairly young, maybe 22 or so, but was covered in blood. Sighing again, I confirmed he was still bound, just in case, before nodding to Amy. Amy reached out and after a moment or two the young man’s eyes flew open. Yet it still took him a moment to realize what was happening.

Already annoyed, I scowled down at him before I asked. “Three questions. One, what do you know about any prisoners? Two, what do you know of your group’s plans? Three, who have you killed?”

The boy started frantically shaking his head ‘no’, even before Amy gave him the ability to speak back. “I haven’t killed anyone. I swear! Our boat sank and I washed up here. I haven’t done anything to anyone, I swear! Please, please don’t hurt me~”

I glanced over at Amy just to confirm once again that he wasn’t lying before I swallowed.

Outwardly I remained scowling, but internally I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. This boy was innocent… and I had just been considering outright murdering him without determining his guilt. How many of the people we had killed yesterday were innocents?

While still reeling from this revelation, I gestured to Amy to shut him up to stop him from continuing his blubbering.

Looking around, I thought furiously as I tried to bring my thoughts back into a semblance of order. Yet I didn’t know what to do here. I needed more time to think.

Needing a little longer to figure out what to do, I gestured for Amy to wake the second one up.

Repeating my questions to the second, older man, saw him smile maliciously at the girls. A sight that was made even more disgusting as he was missing most of his teeth.

We then all listened, horrified, as he proceeded to tell us about the two murders and four rapes he had committed even before he had washed up on this island, let alone what he had done here.

Even the first young man was looking at the other man, horrified.

Amy silenced him once he started explaining how he enjoyed slowly breaking the spirits of the women, watching the fight leave them as they accepted they couldn’t escape. His favorite tactic was to let them think they could escape before beating them to within an inch of their lives for the attempt.

It was Ahri who finally couldn’t wait any longer as she simply pulled out her wand casting a cutting curse to slit his throat. She even stepped back, refusing to eat his soul. I didn’t blame her. Seeing the memories of someone that depraved would be hard on anyone.

In fact, as I watched the soul started to dissipate to beyond this world’s veil, I reached out and grabbed it. Then, without any fan fair, I popped it. I felt the power enter me, but I metaphorically just pushed most of it back out, not doing anything with it. Part of me was sure that destroyed souls like this one would eventually reform, albeit significantly weakened, but he deserved his century or two in oblivion for what he did. Part of me even started to consider ways of permanently destroying souls, even if my soul instincts seemed to imply it was impossible.

Looking back at the younger man who had been staring at the other man, eyes wide, I saw him realize his life was truly in the balance here. He still couldn’t speak but he started to shake his head frantically ‘No’.

I sighed. Looking at my girls again to distract me, I tried to parse my thoughts.

The older man was undoubtably a monster. I had trouble even thinking of a single punishment he didn’t deserve.

The other was innocent…

No… No… he wasn’t innocent. He has been forced into the cult, but he had still been helping them. This was the Nazi defense again. Being given orders to commit war crimes should only reduce culpability, not completely remove it. Well, he hadn’t done anything quite yet, but still.

I took a deep breath then spoke up. “I am open to suggestions here, but we are in a war. In my opinion, he is either a terrorist himself, or assisting them. Monsters like this bastard.” I paused to kick the now cooling corpse. “The question is what we should do with him.”

After a moment, Sabah was the one to speak up. “What if we ask him what his intentions are? Maybe some sort of compulsion or binding that makes sure he can’t betray us or hurt anyone else. Since he hasn’t done anything, yet I think a promise to turn his life around and help people might be enough.”

I blinked then turned to look at her and then nearly facepalmed. I still shook my head in disbelief. “Sabah… you might have just solved most of our problems back home.”

Everyone looked a little confused, but I continued. “We can talk about the details later, but if we force the people we feel deserve a second chance into an unbreakable vow to earn it, they won’t be able to hurt us or any innocents. Bloody Hell, if we come across any repentant death eaters, we should force them to take the vow as well, just in case.”

There was a moment where everyone thought about it before Luna actually smiled. “That sounds nice.”

Predictably, Taylor brought up a warning. “We will need to consider the wording. The last thing we need is the Death Eaters being able to hurt people because they don’t consider Muggles fully human, or being able to hurt Veela because they consider them only magical creatures.”

I slowly nodded before I sighed. Looking at Amy, I considered for a moment longer before I said. “Let him speak, but make sure he can’t lie. We don’t know the spell for the unbreakable vow yet, so we will just have to put a magical binding on him so we can find him again if we need to.” I obviously didn’t really have a good way of doing that, so I just winked out of sight of the boy.

Amy nodded, so I looked down at the young man and I asked my question. “First, tell us your name. Then I want to know your intentions. What we do with you will be determined by your answers.” I gestured towards the bloody corpse.

Immediately, the young man started shaking his head no while frantically explaining once he could speak. “No! I don’t want to hurt anyone. My name is Richard. I didn’t want to join. I just didn’t want to die, and one of the older men said I either could join them or he would splatter my brains across the rocks, so I joined”

I sighed and considered for a moment before I stood up. “Ok. Amy, please change his face a bit so no one recognizes him. Maybe give him brown hair or something. Then, girls, please clean him up a bit with some cleaning charms. We will introduce him as a lost castaway, we found while scouting around.”

Looking at Richard, I narrowed my eyes and raised my wand swishing it around while opening a tiny portal on his left pinky toe, so I could track him. I wouldn’t keep it forever, but I would keep it up until we left the island at least. “I will be able to find you now wherever you go. I will know if you do anything to hurt anyone. If you do, you will die both slowly and painfully.”

Turning as I saw him frantically nodding, I turned away while the girls worked to open a new portal and started to move it towards the summit, this time a little more carefully.

It would take several minutes pushing the portal forward at that speed and I wouldn’t try to get us to the very top with the hurricane force winds up there, but it would save us almost a full day of hiking.

Pulling Richard up and bringing him through to the rest of the camp, I cast an incendio at the corpse before dumping a lot of wood on the body to help it burn. I would need to remember that it was best to burn the bodies if the Samurai were going to try to keep raising them.

When we returned to the bat cave the camp was still mostly asleep except for Lara, the trio, Holly Hermione and Ginny plus the expedition captain Conrad Roth. The five of them were not only awake, but already awake and ready to go.

I guess the full night’s rest galvanized them. Yet I could already see the questions in their eyes.

The Irishman helmsman, Angus, then stepped out of the tent behind them, obviously aiming to join our fight as well. I had seen him fight when we rescued him so and I nodded at him in agreement.

However, I was much less pleased to see Jonah and the black woman I remembered from the game step out to join us too. I didn’t know the woman’s name, but I shook my head at the two of them anyway. It has been obvious during our rescue that neither one had training, and they would probably be a liability at best. To prove my point, I turned to Jonah and asked. “Jonah, how are you doing?”

Jonah seemed to think for several seconds before he scowled. “I am ready to fight.”

That was what I was afraid of. He didn’t seem completely lucid yet. Deciding to let him down easy, I settled on giving them a job to do. “Jonah. I think you and your friends might be better keeping the rest of the other survivors safe.” I explained, trying not to sound patronizing.

Then, to distract them again, I pushed Richard forward towards the two and then explained. “We found this one wandering around this morning. We don’t know exactly what his story is, so just keep an eye on him, but we are sure he hasn’t killed anyone.”

That seemed to do it, as the tangible list of things they could do to help seemed to give the two enough purpose they didn’t protest being excluded again. Then again, I could see Jonah’s eyes narrow and the woman’s lips thin, and I realized that they might also be a little worried about our powers.

Again, I really needed to practice wiping memories.

I considered just avoiding the entire topic of our powers, but if I was going to let them watch my back I wanted the semblance of trust which required a little bit of an explanation… even if Lara and the trio knew most of it already, and I wasn’t prepared to explain much more than that.

Once we were far enough away to give us a little privacy. I sighed before I asked. “We don’t have a lot of time, but I understand that you might have questions about what happened yesterday. So… what do you want to know? Just understand that we are not going to explain everything, they are our secrets and we aren’t hurting anyone… well anyone that doesn’t deserve it. However, we will tell you what we can so you can trust us to watch your backs. Just understand that we want to help but also keep our family safe.”

There was a moment where Holly, Hermione, and Ginny actually flinched. I wasn’t entirely sure if they were flinching at how many people we had been forced to kill, or if it was because they were reminded how we had been trying to help them with fighting a Basilisk less than a month ago.

Lara also looked a little sheepish as it was her friend Jonah who had been saved from our efforts.

However, Captain Roth and Angus still looked firm.

It was Captain Roth that decided to ask first. “Why did you take the ritual dagger?” He paused for only a moment. “And what did you do to Jonah’s soul?”

I sighed low and long as I didn’t want to have to explain the dagger. I had no intention of using it for anything, but trusting me with it would be hard. Taking a moment, I tried to decide how much to explain. “I took the dagger as I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be used anymore. Plus, if I can decode how it works, then I might be able to release all the Samurai souls at once. I might even figure out how to prevent these sorts of problems in the future. However, please believe me that I would never use something like that. So, it is both out of their hands and won't ever be used again.”

Angus spoke up next. “That be all well and good, laddie, but ye haven’t explained what you did to Jonah.”

Once again, I winced. The consideration only took a moment longer this time, but I could always just pop us away if the secret got leaked fully, so I settled on part of the truth. “Amy’s special magic makes her perhaps the world’s best healer.”

Everyone nodded as they had seen her heal an obviously fatal wound in seconds even after the body was apparently dead. “My talent is split between making these portals.” Again, everyone nodded when I opened one for a demonstration. “... and performing what you might refer to as soul magic.”

I took a breath and before anyone could ask any questions, I continued. “I won’t explain every little detail about our powers work, as frankly, unless you are about to join our Family you simply don’t need to know. However, you can rest assured I both don’t know how to control people via my powers, nor do I want to. I also can’t raise the dead in any way. What I am able to do basically amounts to soul surgery and healing. Everything else I can do is something that Hermione, Holly, and Ginny would be able to do… and probably even better at that.”

There was a moment before Amy sighed and answered the obvious, unasked question. “Yes, we all chose to join him. Some of us are also with him romantically, but he isn’t doing anything to us that we don’t want him to do… or if he feels we aren’t ready.”

Luna actually chirped up at that. “Even if some of us want him to move faster.”

There was an awkward silence before I clapped my hands. “Ok, let's focus people. We are about to assault Himiko’s palace. We need to find Sam before Himiko tries to take over her body to resurrect herself. Finally, we need to kill Matthias before he kills or captures anyone else.”

There was a moment of silence before everyone’s slowly nodded one after another.

I grimaced slightly. “Just keep in mind that I won’t be able to use my portals as freely near the peak due to how windy it is up there. If something solid flies through the edge of my portal it will disperse. So, with how much junk is flying around up there, we can’t rely on it.”

There were scowls all around as I had explained it to Lara and the trio already, and I suspected they had passed the news along as well, but no one looked too worried.

Looking out at the portal that I had been carefully moving towards the mountain peak, I noticed some small figures moving around close to the last residential complex before the palace itself. After a moment, I realized that the figures included Matthias before he ducked back into cover in the early light of dawn.

“Found them.” I announced before I felt my portal almost destabilize again. I growled slightly and moved the portal towards the ground. “I will open this portal up wider so everyone can see, but we need to figure out how to assault that compound.” I said while pointing through the portal

Roth scowled for a moment before he lifted a scoped rifle. “I can give support fire, but…” he sighed then continued. “I don’t really have any close quarter skills against those… wizards, you called them.”

Hermione, Holly and Ginny looked at each other before they nodded. Holly was the one to speak up though. “We will work as a team.”

Lara scowled, “I plan on hitting them from a distance. I will work alone.”

Angus frowned but nodded. “I will move in behind you, Lara. I can work a pistol or two just fine.” he said while pulling out two Colt Double Eagle 45 caliber pistols. I blinked before I wondered if Angus was where Lara learned to double wield pistols.

Outwardly I smiled at their determination to fight, but internally I frowned. I still didn’t like how this was going. Splitting up seemed like a bad idea to me, but they weren’t part of the Family. I didn’t really have the right to ask them to work together more closely. Worse, I didn’t know if it would help even if we did work together as they obviously didn’t fully trust us. This entire thing was frustrating.

Looking at our Family, I finally let my frown show as I considered what we should do. “For us, I would like us to stay mostly together. Taylor, please track targets and hit any you can identify are combatants. Ahri, please move around as you see fit, but try to stay close. The rest of us will move as a group. I want support available in case one of us is ambushed.”

Turning to Luna and Dinah. “Anything you can give us on our probabilities?”

Dinah frowned. “No, we will be attacked once we leave the treeline here, and it will be very, very dangerous, but there is no other way to save Sam” then a little more quietly, so the others won’t hear she continued. “The risk of death is high for those outside the Family, but my predictions for them if we stop are even worse unless we drag everyone into our pocket home.”

Luna frowned but nodded to confirm Dinah’s prediction, before she looked at Lara and spoke loud enough for Lara to hear. “You will be tested, but you need to move forward if you want to have the strength to stand up by yourself.”

I looked at Luna for a moment before I simply continued. “Ok, spread out. I have placed a portal on everyone’s ear. I won’t have the concentration to control the messages nor volume so you will hear everything that anyone says and so will everyone around you. So, only speak up if you need to communicate.”

Turning to Taylor I asked. “Can you give real time tracking to everyone like you do for us.”

“Yes, but it will take most of my concentration, so I won’t be able to search out traps as well.”

I gestured to everyone else. “You heard her. Also keep in mind we have possible wizards ahead so magical traps are a possibility as well. I wish we had a better answer on how to detect them, but I would say just trust your gut for now.” I considered for a moment, but I couldn’t think of anything else so I ended a little lamely. “Best I can do is occasionally give you a bird eye’s view through portals if I have the time.”

Everyone looked a little uneasy, but after a moment we started to creep forward through the trees.

Lara and Angus moved to the left while the trio moved to the right. I watched Roth move to a rocky outcropping to the left as well.

Shaking my head, I simply took a deep breath before I started creeping forward.

Ahri moved out a little further on our right before hiding away via illusions while the rest of us disillusioned ourselves. With Taylor’s bugs keeping track of all the enemies, I hoped we wouldn’t have any issues with friendly fire.

The first house we came through didn’t seem to have any defenses or traps, and after a quick detection spell, we confirmed that there was no one inside.

I creeped around the corner and down the alley before sticking my head around the edge of the next building. The opening showed a little bit more of the street, but I still didn’t see anyone yet.

I swallowed. I was pretty sure this was around where I saw the figures from above yet the entire village seemed completely silent except for the constant whistle of the whipping wind. Where the bloody hell was everyone?

I could see Ahri reveal herself across the street before she shook her head at me and went invisible again.

Pulling myself up and out, I watched the ladybugs Taylor was using to represent friendlies and noticed most of the girls moving up on either side of us. Still frowning, I moved up as well.

The next house I entered was just the same.

So was the third.

At this point we were nearly half way though the little village and the absence of people around me was putting me on edge despite Taylor’s bugs indicating no one was close, well overly close with how hard she was obviously struggling with the wind. At least we didn’t need to check inside each of the houses.

It was then that I blinked as I saw a red humanoid wearing a loose robe and carrying a sword walking down the street ahead of us. The soft, clunk, clunk clunk from his traditional wooden shoes was what originally caught my attention, but my eyes were much more drawn to the things that made me realize this wasn’t going to be straightforward. I mean, humans didn’t exactly have large black wings coming out of their shoulders or comically long thin noses.

I tried to study him, as the nearly completely open yukata demonstrated he was almost certainly male, but I already could tell that I didn’t know enough.

The first thing I noticed was I didn’t think the wings looked big enough to fly on, but my memory of the Japanese bird demons seemed to imply they could. I was pretty sure they were called Tengu, but I didn’t know much more than that.

I was a little surprised that Taylor hadn’t spotted him earlier, but he was out in the wind and Taylor might not have known what she was looking at through her bug senses.

Pulling away slightly from the edge of the window I was looking through, I whispered as softly as I could through my communication portal. “Max here. I have spotted what I believe is a Japanese Tengu, the bird demon from Japanese Folklore. He is carrying a sword, but I don’t know anything else about them.”

Predictably, Lara immediately spoke up. “Lara here, I think I see him as well, but he is moving away from me. I have obviously never met one in person, but the original stories say Tengu were believed to be evil, but later depictions just have them being loyal to whatever cause they are sworn to. Regardless, they are known as mischievous at best and malicious at worst. The only other thing I can remember right now is that some sources have them teaching Samurai some of their sword skills… so expect some skill with the blade.”

She paused for a moment but sighed. “If he has his sword drawn then I would say our chances of dealing with him peacefully are pretty much nonexistent. Based on the stories, I doubt they would draw their swords until they truly intended to use them.”

Turning towards Amy, I frowned before I peeked around the corner again trying to decide what we should do. However as I spotted him again I felt my eyes widen as I saw the Tengu stop and stare directly at me.

Instantly, I felt the blood leave my face as I pulled back, away from the window corner, yet before I could do anything else I watched as the demon bird lunged towards me.

That normally wouldn’t have been a problem as I was still over 40 meters from the bird demon, but his jump forward was not only faster than most humans could do, his wings flared out and I watched as he simply seemed to skim across the ground without needing to run.

Pulling my wand, I immediately cast a knockback jinx at him followed by several bullets from my pistol in my left hand.

A few seconds later my gun fire and spell fire was joined by the girls around me who had a clear shot. However, to my dismay, I watched as the stupid bird man flapped his wings and rose above our curses and bullets only having actually taken perhaps one or two gunshots. Worse, the bullets didn’t seem to have inconvenience him any as he just continued his charge.

Thinking quickly, while I dived out of the way, I realized he could see me somehow so invisibility appeared to be useless to the Tengu and could cause problems if anyone tried to help me. So, dropping it, I tried focusing on putting as much gun and spell fire down range as possible.

Again, the Tengu seemed to just ignore the gun fire while side stepping the spells as he charged forward. Then in a sudden lunge, which would have caught me off guard without our training on Runeterra, the Tengu jumped forward forcing me to throw myself backwards to avoid the horizontal sword swing.

Grimacing, if I was a little slower and I might have been in two pieces. He was fast, very fast… faster than me, but not as fast as Irelia. That did give me some options.

Not having time to be careful, I just dropped the pistol and reached through my portal to pull out my short sword. My time training in Runeterra had found I was moderately good at most types of spears, but in pure defense I was actually quite good with Runeterra’s version of a short sword. To me it looked like a slightly thinner Gladius with a large cross guard which didn’t give me a lot of range to strike with, but it was the only thing that let me keep Irelia off of me when she got annoyed. The small light blade with my enhanced body was probably my best chance at survival here.

Throwing myself backwards again out of range of his follow up swing, it took several seconds before I had my sword out, ready to block. The appearance of a sword didn’t seem to give the damn demon anything to worry about as he simply lunged at me again.

Part of me wondered why I was apparently all alone at the moment before I registered the muted gunfire and spell fire from all around me as well as through the portals. Apparently everyone else had found themselves fighting as well.

I adjusted the volume of the sound that could pass through the portal before I realized the enemies probably heard my opening salvo of gunfire through each portal. Wincing, I resisted the impulse to facepalm. I had basically given everyone’s position away to anyone close enough to hear them. Team communication would need to be something we figured out soon.

It was then that things went from bad to worse for me as a cultist along with what was probably an Oni slid around the corner, about 30 yards or so down the street. The glimpse I saw of the creature showed a blue skinned humanoid with a large club and two short horns. Then again, it wasn’t like I knew much about the folklore here, especially in this alternate universe.

However, I didn’t have any more time to consider the types of combatants as I was forced to pull up my sword in an awkward left-handed block that would have cleaved my right arm from my body. It did, however, give me the ability to cast a cutting curse, point-blank, at the Tengu’s face with my right hand.

I watched as the Tengu threw himself backward to avoid the spell meaning that I only managed to clip his temple, but to my relief the blue gray blood from the cut began to drip down and start to get into his left eye.

Deciding I didn’t want to let him play the range game, I actually stepped forward to continue the attack before I noticed the firefly blinking rapidly from my right and I threw myself backwards.

I was almost too late as I felt some sort of dark curse pass right through where my chest was a moment ago. A quick glance let me see one of the cultist wizards pointing his wand at me again.

Not waiting any longer, I returned spell fire before I was forced to break off the attack as the Tengu recovered again enough to perform an overhead chopping swing again which would have cut me in two.

Not even bothering to block I threw myself backwards and actually did a little roll to get back to my feet.

Keeping my backwards momentum I scrambled backwards around a raised planter bed which might have contained something nice, once upon a time, but now mostly contained weeds. Breaking the line of sight gave me a second to consider my options, but I really didn’t have any ideas quite yet.

My instincts from Irelia were the only thing that saved me this time as I rolled out of the way of another swing. I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t realized that the Tengu could just fly over obstacles, but underestimating an enemy had almost gotten me killed… again.

To make it worse I didn’t even get to follow up as I was forced to put up a shield to block curses from the first wizard who was still trying to hit me with spell fire.

The Tengu didn’t actually seem pleased by the interruptions which was interesting, maybe it was something like using dishonorable tactics during this pseudo duel, but I wasn’t about to try to question them while fighting for my life.

Instead I started to make a plan to use a portal to attack from behind the wizard. A plan that became even more crucial as a cultist ran up next to the wizard and started opening fire.

Seeing as the Tengu hadn’t followed up the attack quite yet, I cast a cutting curse at the back of the wizard’s neck.

However, much to my disbelief, the non-magical cultist actually seemed to realize what I was doing and pushed the wizard out of the way, taking the cutting curse across his chest. The man went down in a pool of blood but I didn’t have time to follow up as I was once again forced to block from the Tengu’s sword swing. This time it was only my enhanced body that didn’t see my arm dislocated from the force of the upswing.

However, despite not being physically cut, it did push my off of my feet and I found myself actually being bodily thrown out of a partially broken window.

I wanted to wince at the small cuts I could feel to my hands and face, but I didn’t have time as I saw the Tengu lunging through the window, sword already positioned to stab me as he fell.

I didn’t have enough time to dodge and I didn’t trust my clothes to block this strike. Yet in my desperation I had a moment of inspiration and I opened a portal directly above my chest before the sword point could reach it.

I smiled as the sword passed through the portal and before the Tengu could pull it back out or disrupt the portal’s edge I raised my wand from the floor and cast the strongest banishment charm I could at his unprotected chest.

I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t used a piercer or cutting curse, but it seemed to be the correct decision as I heard the Tengu’s bones crack as he was thrown backwards into the ceiling. A moment later I had widened the portal and dropped it over top of me to get me instantly standing again 5 meters away against one of the walls in the room.

Seeing the Tengu fall back heavily to the floor made me realize the demon still was bird like so maybe it had fragile bones. In which case blunt force attacks that couldn’t be dodged completely might indeed be the correct decision.

Breathing deeply I was actually surprised at how well I was doing, but then again, as soon as the Tengu learned my tricks I would probably be dead. Plus I had put everything I had into that spell and I had only cracked a rib or two.

That moment of thought was all I was able to do when I was forced to once again block an only slightly slower swing from my enraged Tengu.

Just to check the other possible weakness I could think of for birds, I cast a fireball at his face as he charged. As I feard I was forced to block his follow up swing as the effort only produced some slightly scorched clothes. In fact the effort just seemed to annoy him more than anything forcing me to throw myself backwards to avoid another overhead swing.

It was then that I felt my bullet wards ping as the cultist who had saved the wizard was now laying on the floor, obviously dying, but still managed to pull out a pistol to fire at me.

I had to respect the guy a little even if I was pretty pissed off at the guy as I was forced to dodge the followup blasting curse from the wizard. That resulted in me nearly loosing my left hand as I almost didn’t catch the Tengu’s sword on my crossguard in time.

Really, I was just glad that the Oni had apparently not joined the battle. If he had, I probably would have been dead already. That made me want to look around to find him, but I was only barely hanging on, so I was left to simply hope the girls were on top of it.

Trying desperately to figure out a plan I blocked two quick slashes casting a banishing charm at his chest again. This time, the Tengu actually threw himself to the side to avoid as much as he could of the spell.

That gave me a moment to actually swing my sword in offense for the first time at his wing. He had actually flapped it forward to increase how fast he could throw himself backwards. To my malicious delight, I felt the sword bite into the wing and heard the cry from the Tengu letting me know that I had finally managed to actually do some real damage.

However, my elation was short-lived as the angry snarl from the Tengu let me know that if it hadn’t been already, this was now a fight to the death.

Swallowing hard I cast another banishing charm at his chest which I was shocked to see the Tengu actually partially block with his left arm. It didn’t seem to have broken, but it obviously hurt a lot. Yet the Tengu’s followup swing caught me in the bicep and I winced as I felt my right arm scream in pain. In fact, there was a moment where I wondered if the Tengu had just cut it off.

Yet looking down I realized that not only was it still attached, probably due to our Basilisk jackets, it wasn’t even broken. However, with the amount of pain I was now in, I suspected the bone might actually be cracked.

That moment of shock from the Tengu from being unable to cut off my arm gave me a moment to once again cast the strongest banishment charm I could at his chest. This time I heard at least one more crack and the Tengu stumbled back before coughing up blood.

The blood was a good sign and I wondered if I had managed to crack his ribs enough to puncture a lung. Yet the fire in the demon bird’s eyes only seemed to get brighter. He was obviously not ready to admit defeat yet.

I raised my sword to block the next swing, only to have the Tengu pull back his sword at the last second and send a blistering front kick directly into my stomach.

As I felt the air driven out of my lungs, I flew backwards before my body slam into the wall behind me. I felt the wooden wall crack, but it didn’t give way, leaving me to slump to the ground in front of the Tengu.

Looking up I noticed the Tengu stalking forward slowly, blood dribbling out of his mouth, wing limp, and I realized I was winning. I just needed to keep fighting. The problem was I couldn’t breathe, my arms both were screaming in agony, and my head was beginning to swim from the multiple impacts, to say nothing about the building magical exhaustion.

Swallowing down the bile that wanted to rise up after the last kick I opened up a portal to my side before throwing myself through it. If I was winning and the Tengu was wounded, it didn’t make sense to get any closer than necessary.

I appeared on the second floor balcony in the house 10 meters to the west of where I had been before. Yet, I only paused a moment before I started shooting bludgeoning hexes down at the Tengu.

The Tengu didn’t seem willing to increase the pace of his walk, but neither did he stop. In fact, to my shock, I watched him swing at the first incoming spell, cutting it apart, while ducking and weaving through the others.

I felt my mouth open wide. I didn’t even know that was possible. Was it the sword? His abilities?

Damn it, now I wanted that sword to see if I could do it too. The long Katana was longer than I usually favored although I wasn’t sure if it qualified as a Nodachi or not, but I would force myself to learn how to use it if it allowed me to cut incoming spells apart like that.

That distraction nearly got me killed, as I almost missed the crack of apparition behind me. It turned out to not be a moment too soon as the cult wizard was already yelling the killing curse, ‘Avada Kedavra’.

The railing where I had just been standing exploded and I rolled towards the window a little further along the wall before I leaned up to point my wand through said window. “Bombarda Maxima”. My explosion curse interupted him as he was winding up for another killing curse and I felt the entire house shutter.

Despite my efforts, I didn’t actually expect to hit him, but upon hearing his hasty shield charm ‘Protega’ going up I took the opportunity and opened a portal to right behind him and yelled “Divindo”.

I watched, surprised and a little shocked, as the cutting curse actually landed and I watched dispassionately as the head of the wizard rolled off of his neck before the body slumped down.

That moment of inattention nearly got me killed as I felt searing hot agony rip across my calf.

Looking down, I noticed the Tengu’s sword puncturing my leg, nearly completely severing my calf muscle.

Screaming I realized that the Tengu knew not to try to cut my jacket which was laying below me, but as he had walked underneath me and could see me through the gaps in the wood, had instead aimed for my mostly unprotected legs.

My agony redoubled as the Tengu actually started to twist his blade and rip it along my calf muscles. Knowing this was his attempt at a debilitating strike, I yanked my leg off of the sword before casting an immobilizing spell leg and foot. The strongest numbing charm, followed by the portal bandage that I hadn’t used since Earth Bet.

Dropping another portal around me, got me standing across the street at ground level again albeit now with a leg that was nearly useless and a lot less blood.

As the Tengu turned to face me again, I actually tried to swing my sword through another portal at the Tengu’s back. Yet, as I had been half expecting, the Tengu saw it coming and actually straight up blocked my attack. However, that was fine as I was already casting the strongest bludgeoning hex I could at chest from a fresh portal in front of his chest, then another, and another.

This wouldn’t have worked while he was still fully mobile, but I watched intently as the Tengu was forced to twist and flail while trying to block or evade the spell fire from a portal tracking his every move.

The Tengu only took 15 seconds or so before he realized he would lose if he let me continue unhindered. Yet, as he turned to swing at me now ignoring the spell fire in a spiteful last stand, I switched to the strongest cutting curse I could and threw it out at the back of the Tengu’s neck.

It didn’t cut off the Tengu’s head like it had for the human wizard, but I watched, emotionlessly, as the Tengu slumped onto his knees. A moment later I realized that I had managed to sever his spine… the fight was over.

Looking into the Tengu’s eyes I watched the anger and frustration in his eyes as the light faded, but surprisingly I also thought I saw a hint of respect.

Damn these Samurai types were weird.

Shaking my head, I picked up the Tengu’s sword which has fallen from his now limp fingers, only to find the sword was heavier than I had expected. A quick inspection down the blade let me runework that I didn’t have time to parse.

I paused for a moment before something told me to bow to the now dead Tengu. I slowly did, and after a moment I watched fascinated as the body disintegrated. Yet that wasn’t half as strange as I then saw that the Tengu’s soul, in turn, didn’t dissipate, but instead seemed to fade away.

I swallowed. I was suddenly very glad I had been respectful. If the Tengu wasn’t permanently dead then I certainly didn’t want it coming after me again for a grudge.

It also made me wonder what was required to actually kill one of these bird demons.

Having finally dispatched the three enemies, I was finally able to focus on the various sounds from the portal on my ear. I had nearly forgotten about that.

Shaking my head, I realized I was starting to get light headed and with a bit of urgency I started to look through the portals for Amy. I desperately needed healing if I was to keep fighting.

Finding her quickly, I realized she was assisting Ahri in fighting the Oni and the final wizard. This one seemed intent on sending transfigured stone wolves at the pair, but mostly at Amy.

I grimaced, that was probably the worst matchup for Amy as she couldn’t use her abilities to stop the stone wolves and her magic was still that of only a first year, albeit an incredibly experienced one.

Instead, Amy was forced to simply shield and banish them when they attacked. Made all the worse as the wolves were dodging and running around her shields.

Meanwhile, Ahri was jumping around a little desperately as she faced off against the Oni. She was stronger than the average human, but I didn’t think for a second she could block a club the size of her entire body swung from an Oni.

It only took me a moment to plan my attack before I stepped through another portal behind the wizard already swinging my new sword. I watched as the heavy and incredibly sharp sword simply severed the man’s head from his neck before the body simply flopped to the ground.

Not wasting a second, Amy finally was able to run forward and grab the Oni’s elbow as he twisted to once again try to catch Ahri.

That momentary flinch as the Oni wasn’t able to control his body while Amy shut down his nerves was all the invitation that Ahri needed to leap forward snarling and tails spread as she buried her knife into the Oni’s skull.

I didn’t have time to consider how brutal we were being before Amy reached me. A touch and I felt my leg shift and I nearly collapsed as I felt my leg muscles begin to knit back together.

Amy looked exhausted, but her face only showed worry as she obviously checked the rest of my body over. “Are you alright? What has been happening?”

I shook my head. I don’t know what happened to everyone else, but I only barely managed to bring down the single Tengu and the first wizard who showed up to help. I just finally found you two. But I am worried for Luna and Dinah.”

It was then that I saw Luna and Dinah pulling back as they rounded the corner while exchanging spell fire with a small toad like demon jumping around them, kind of like film Yoda did in his lightsaber battles. I blinked in surprise “A Kappa… really?”

Turning I realized that Ahri had actually been eating the Oni’s soul and she turned, eyes already narrowed into slits. I didn’t have time to ask her what happened as she immediately raced forward and ripped into the Kappa with her claws that were now nearly three inches long, instantly killing the toad demon.

I blinked. Did that Oni’s soul do that or was there some sort of anger between the Nine tailed foxes and the Kappa?

It was then that Ahri turned and looked at me before I felt a shiver run up my spine. I had never actually forgotten that Ahri was a predator that hunted humans, but most of the time I felt completely comfortable around her. Now it looked like she wanted to eat me instead.

Yet before I could decide what to do, Ahri raced forward and tackled me. I landed roughly on my back, actually sliding across the wood floor several feet, and I had a moment of worry before I felt her mouth close over mine and her tongue forcefully invade my mouth.

A moment of confusion later, I realized that she was not only kissing me as hard as she could, but she was grinding her body against mine. Not only that, but my younger body was reacting which she seemed to be pleased about based on her increased growling.

A further moment later, I realized she was actually purring and her body temperature was way higher than normal. Was this some sort of heat cycle? Was it just a battle frenzy? Or maybe it was due to consuming an Oni which I vaguely remembered were not shy about pursuing their base desires.

After an embarrassing 30 seconds where I wondered if I was going to suffocate from excessive snogging, I felt Ahri slowly get a hold of herself.

Amy, Luna and Dinah looked concerned, but not yet ready to try to intervene as Ahri slowly pulled away. Ahri in turn looked a little confused at herself and a little embarrassed. “Sorry about that… I just… it felt like… I just needed that…” Ahri said, now heavily blushing.

I smiled. “Don’t worry about it. I won’t ever complain about your affection, but we should probably wait until after we have dealt with all the enemies here.”

While we were waiting I noticed that Sabah had spotted us around the corner of a building a little further up but she looked fine except for a large gash in her ear along with missing some of her hair on that side. Amy did as well, which saw Amy jogging over to fix Sabah up.

A few seconds later saw Taylor joining us from the other side, now dusty, but without any obvious injuries.

Turning to me, Taylor reported the situation. “We need to hurry. Lara is fighting Matthias as we speak.” She paused before her eyes widened, turning to wards the rocky outcropping. “Help Captain Roth, hurry!”

I immediately opened up a portal to the captain, but my heart dropped as I heard another cry of ‘avada kedavra’ at the same time I heard a gunshot, then a moment later three more.

As I opened the portal I saw what I had feared. Captain Roth was laying on his back, eyes already empty rifle fallen to his side.

Yet his assailant had also slumped across rocks, eyes glassy. He must have found Roth’s sniper nest and then apparated behind him and cast the killing curse. Captain Roth was just not fast enough to get out of the way and only managed to pull his gun around and fire.

As we looked across the bodies I notice Angus hobbling around the corner with a still smoking gun while holding his side. The shirt around the area was stained red and I didn’t know if it was spellfire, gunfire, or the melee weapons which had gotten him.

Amy jumped through the portal, startling him a little, but a moment later he nodded appreciatively as he stopped favoring his left side.

Looking at us for a moment he grunted before stepping out of the portal to join us with Amy following him through.

Angus grunted. “Where did these demons come from?”

I frowned. “I don’t know, but Taylor says Lara needs our help.”

As we started moving towards Himiko’s palace up ahead I continued my train of thought. “With Oni, Tengu, and Kappa I guess we should probably just call them all Yokai.”

No one responded but no one seemed to disagree. I didn’t remember the specifics, but I was pretty sure that was the general classification of Japanese demons just like the various fairy type creatures spread across Northern Europe were often collectively called the Fae or Fay.

We actually only made it a hundred yards or so, when we were stopped by an explosion from our right side. Out of said building, we watched several undead Samurai be blown back before another fireball began to burn the bodies.

Out of the rubble we saw Holly, Ginny and Hermione, step into the road to look around before spotting us. However, my relief on seeing them alright was short-lived as I quickly noticed Hermione was being held up by Ginny. Looking down, I grimaced as I realized Hermione’s leg was not only broken, but actually nearly sticking out sideways, bone sticking out at a nasty angle. Hermione was so pale, it was a miracle she was still conscious.

The image was horrible and Amy was instantly sprinting towards her, hand outstretched. The trio flinched back but relaxed as they realized what she wanted to do. About thirty seconds later Hermione’s leg was fixed and we were once again headed towards the peak.

As we reached the foot of the stairs leading to Himiko’s palace we were momentarily forced to stop due to a gust of wind so strong we had to brace ourselves to avoid being blown over the edge of the cliff to our left. As we looked up as it died down we finally spotted Lara and Matthias.

Matthias was firing down with a large pistol at Lara while Lara was in turn diving in between the various different rocky outcroppings on either side of the stairs.

Yet before we could do anything to stop or help her she threw herself backwards, firing as fast as she could at Matthias while still in midair.

Then for the first time, his haughty face looked surprised then confused before he looked down to see multiple bullet holes going through where his heart previously was.

I didn’t understand his confusion. Maybe he had been expecting Himiko to protect him again. Maybe he didn’t believe he could actually die. Regardless, we all watched as he stumbled backwards, then to the left before he tipped backwards off of the cliff, falling towards the rocks below.

We didn’t watch and tried to ignore the wet crunch of his body hitting the bottom as we ran up the stairs to get to her as Lara didn’t immediately get up. To our relief Lara only had a single gunshot wound in her thigh, nowhere near any arteries.

It was then that Amy finally looked around and noticed Angus and what he was now carrying. It only took a moment before she realized he was carrying Roth’s rifle, and Lara screamed out weakly, “No!”

Angus didn’t let the girl continue though as he simply shook his head. “He went down fighting, missy. It was how he would have wanted it. Now don’t let his sacrifice be in vain.” he said while pointing up the palace steps.

At the top, I saw Dr Withman dragging Sam towards the Samurai guarding the temple. We all raised our guns, but before we could do anything we watched as one of the Samurai grabbed Sam away from the doctor before the other Samurai swung it’s sword across his chest, shoulder to hip, nearly cutting the stupid traitorous man in two.

All of us winced even as we continued running up the stairs.

Yet even as we started flinging spells and gunfire up towards the approaching undead army, internally I once again wondered how some things seemed to remain the same despite everything we were changing and how much was different in this crossover world. Both worlds apparently had Dr Withman being cut down by Samurai in the final moments after betraying the expedition for his own ambitions. Shouldn’t have the butterfly effect changed this by now?

I didn’t have long to consider this before I was forced to swing my new sword up to block a downwards stroke from a Samurai that had stepped up to stop us.

Once again the trio moved towards the right to start casting spells and Angus and now Amy and Taylor moved to the left.

With Sabah holding back with Luna and Dinah to protect our rear I was now following Lara with Ahri next to me as we plowed directly through the remains of the palace, following Sam’s cries for help.

We were only 100 yards behind them so we arrived in the main palace chamber only a few seconds behind Sam. Yet we were horrified to see Sam already on top of an altar as the mummified corpse in front of us began to glow.

There was a moment where I hoped I could get there quick enough to stop whatever was about to happen, but before I could act a stream of blue light and power shot forward from the mummified corpse that was clearly the undead queen, Himiko, and into Sam. We didn’t have any time to react before Sam threw back her head and screamed.

From my soul sight, I realized that Himiko was already attempting to absorb Sam’s soul and tie herself to what she hoped would be her new body.

Yelling to anyone who could listen, I explained. “She is taking over Sam’s body. Hit the corpse with whatever you can… NOW!”

No one seemed to need a second invitation, as the spell and gun fire at the corpse was instant and vicious. Yet before any of it actually hit, we watched runes light up across the corpse’s ceremonial robes and a shield sprung up to block almost all of it.

Growling, that didn’t stop Lara as she raced forward grabbing my sword and swung it forward, actually cutting into the corpse’s robes a little before being flung back across the floor to stop behind us.

I frantically tried to think of something before I remembered the ending of the game. “Try fire!” I said before throwing Lara one of the torches as she dashed past me. Holly didn’t even wait for that as she instantly cast a fireball at Himiko’s corpse before Ginny followed up with her own.

I wasn’t sure what the difference was, but this time the enchantments fizzled a little before the glow faded. That seemed to be all Lara needed as she arrived a moment later and instantly and visiously stabbed the torch into the corpse’s chest and was once again blown back.

In the mean time I had reached Sam and was trying to figure out, if anything, I could do with my powers to stop the transfer.

The rest of the girls plus Angus had turned around and were frantically trying to keep the undead army from overwhelming us through the open doors we had blown open to get here.

Watching Himiko’s corpse, nothing happened for a second or two and the light beam traveling to Sam didn’t seemed to dim, before, all of a sudden, an unearthly scream somehow ripped its way out Himiko’s mummified corpse.

The light of the soul transfer dimmed significantly, but didn’t completely go out while Sam began to fall backward away from the low altar she had been forced onto.

It was clear we had mostly stopped the ritual, but as I watched with my soul sight, Himiko didn’t give up. She fought to hang on, to hold onto her corpse, then in desperation, she tried to hold onto Sam’s body despite Sam’s soul not yet giving her room.

Yet, Sam’s soul wasn’t that of an ancient witch and I could see, bit by bit, it began to falter and recede from Himiko’s assault. Sam’s eyes in turn started to dim as I saw her soul start to give way. I didn’t know what to do, but not fully understanding what I did, I tried to reinforce Sam’s soul and I watched as Sam’s soul started to fight back.

However, before I could celebrate, Himiko must have decided that if she couldn’t win, then she could make Sam loose as well as she stopped trying to absorb Sam’s soul and instead held on and violently ripped Sam’s soul free of her body instead making them both drift away.

“What the hell?” I grit out.

Pulling Sam’s soul back towards me, I tried to tie it back to her body before I realized that, just like with Jonah yesterday, it wouldn’t stay attached.

Frantically looking around I realized that no one else even knew what was going on, let alone how to stop it. I was alone here.

Gritting my teeth, not having time to pick something specific, I reached through my portal into our gem strongbox and grabbed a small pearl and a small diamond ring then lunged forward.

I didn’t have time to be gentle as I began to pull Sam’s soul into the small pearl and Himiko’s soul into the diamond.

Despite starting sooner than I had with Jonah’s soul binding, Sam’s soul transfer immediately turned complicated as a small part of Himiko’s soul began to get sucked down into the pearl with the rest of Sam’s soul.

As I started pulling the rest of Himiko’s soul into the diamond ring, I noticed she actually seemed to be somewhat aware of what I was doing. I wasn’t sure if that surprised me or not, since she was apparently a soul mage, just like me. However, regardless, it was that initial hesitation that sealed her fate, as she was already partially bound before she actually started fighting me.

Now, as hard and as viciously as she fought, I had tied her down so it was just a matter of grabbing a small metaphorical handful and putting it in. bit by bit, she started to disappear into the gem.

That wasn’t to say it was easy. Hell, it might have been the most exhausting thing I had ever done. Her soul was stronger than mine, yet I seemed to have more power, or at least more flexibility in my power.

I lost track of time as I fought and fought… pulled and pushed… little by little I gained ground, binding her very soul down then forcing her soul to sleep inside the gem as she tried to stop me.

At the same time I continued to bind Sam’s soul into the pearl as gently as I could. Then, after a few more seconds that felt like hours, both souls snapped in place, with most of Himiko’s soul ending up getting ripped out of Sam’s.

At the same time I finished, the unending winds around the peak suddenly cut off and the sudden silence let me hear the blood pumping in my ears.

Checking, I realized that Sam’s heart had stopped somewhere along the way. Immediately, I yelled out, “Amy, I need your help!”

Not even waiting for instructions, Amy reached me and slapped her hand across Sam’s bare shoulder, before I watched the body jerk as her heart started beating and her chest begin to rise and fall.

Handing her the pearl, I explained. “Himiko ripped her soul out, I had to bind it to keep it here.”

Amy didn’t need any additional explanation as she once again opened up a hole in Sam’s body and placed the pearl next to her heart.

Taylor was the one to yell an update on their battle. “We need to move, the Samurai seem to have gone crazy.”

I hadn’t even noticed the much more desperate attacks from the undead army had become, but looking over I noticed there were nearly a dozen Samurai trying to force their way inside despite the dozen or so bodies already destroyed around the door.

Frustrated I bit out, “Damn it, was it really too much to hope that they would all have dropped dead once we got rid of Himiko?”

Yet, I really didn’t have time to consider our options as we were all startled from a loud bang that came from our left. Seeing even more Samurai begin to pour from the now unblocked entrance I picked up Sam and opened a portal to the batcave. Now that the winds and debris weren’t a problem I didn’t have to fight to keep it open and it took only a few seconds.

Turning to the rest I yelled. “Get in, we are leaving NOW!”

Lara was the first to turn around and sprint towards the portal but instead of going through she stood next to it on my other side while giving us covering fire against the new source of enemies.

Dinah, Luna, Sabah and Amy jumped through before moving the curious people on the other side a