Author's Notes:

Some notes on timeline:

1984 – Ranma ½ takes place (Ranma and co. around 16)

1989 – Usagi Tsukino becomes Sailor Moon (Senshi and co. around 14)

1990 – The Thirty Days of Fire (Senshi off-world fighting Galaxia)

2000 – Our story takes place (Year Ten of the Araiheiji Period)

A Continuation Gone Too Far


By Dr. Suekeiichi Kaiton



The main banquet hall sat beside and connected to the seven-level executive tower in the centre of the palace, a massive, sprawling structure of one high-ceilinged room with various ancillary off-shoots for restrooms and meetings. The quadruple hangar doors were closed against swirling gusts of snow and the mean chill of night. The lights and noise of the royal banquet, however, blared through the clarion-clear crisp air for miles around. Sixteen soldiers hand-picked from the Emperor's personal army stood proudly at the entrances and exits bundled in micromesh parkas and helmets. A steady line of people walked back and forth down the covered walkway connecting the common area of the palace with the triple-A personal apartments of Emperor Ranma Saotome.

One woman in particular stood out from the crowd hurriedly scurrying in the cold corridor to the banquet. She stood a foot taller than most at an impressive six feet and moved with casual grace and deliberate poise. A dark indigo kimono hugged her taut, athletic body, beneath a heavily padded matching long coat. A black fur wrap draped around her supple neck and swayed in time with her generous hips. Her unruly black hair remained in place with the aid of gold dragon pins coiled tightly in a bun. The guards at the door immediately recognized the woman and snapped to attention.

The chamberlain, a portly noble with a pleasing mien and silver hair; stepped out from behind the doors at the soldier's crisp salute.

"So good to see you once again, madam, I shall announce you immediately."

"Enough with the pleasantries, Koga, where is the Emperor?" Her voice boomed with a sultry baritone tinged ever so slightly with irritation. Her deep purple eyes flashed across the collection of nobles milling about the front of the room.

"I believe he is attending to an urgent matter of state at the moment, madam, in one of the private rooms."

She snorted. "Which bimbo is it this time? Certainly not Nabiki, given that this is a state dinner, and not Kasumi for the same reasons. Akane?" A steward stepped forward and took her coat and wrap.

It was a credit to Chamberlain Yusuke Koga's breeding and manners that he did not even wince at the sharp accusatory tone in the woman's voice. But then again, she did have a mercurial temper. "I believe it was a tall dark-haired woman not unlike yourself with a younger girl possibly around twelve."

The woman's right eye twitched dangerously and if one looked they might've seen her hands clenching into white-knuckled fists at her sides before a forced smile split her dark purple lips. "I see. Thank you, Koga, you may announce me now."

While the Chamberlain declared his newest guest, the Emperor himself was in a rather sticky situation…at least in his eyes.

"I just wish that you have discussed this with me beforehand, Ranma-sama." Kasumi was seated to his right at a square low table, the left occupied by a stately woman with a willowy figure and thick, long black hair tied with a white ribbon at the nape of her neck. The traditional paper doors behind Ranma were open and two children and a white wolf played happily in the deepening snow.

"I realize that you don't agree with this, Kasumi, but I'm just asking you to think about it." I reached across the table and set his white-gloved hand atop her place digits. "Believe me, the last thing I want to become is my father with all that arranged marriage crap but this is the easiest way to satisfy our honor."

"I'm afraid Ranma is quite right, Tendo-san, although the agreement was fulfilled by my mother we cannot reveal it for reasons I'm sure you understand quite well." The dark-haired woman adjusted the front of her white hakama and took her thin porcelain teacup from the table. Slitted eyes glanced out at the yard. "Come back inside now, Motoko-chan, and have some tea! I don't want you to catch cold. Drag Hiroshi inside with you!"

"I understand that, Aoyama-san, and I do not have any reservations regarding a joining of our houses, I just wish that someone would have told me before tonight." Kasumi, so long the surrogate mother for her sisters, had developed an almost unhealthy protectiveness for her only child – one that Ranma hoped would fade with her duties as Minister of Cultural Affairs. "I understand better than most the debt Ranma and I owe you and your clan."

Ranma poured two cups of tea absently while his mistress spoke and threw them behind his back at the two children with no warning. Only their highly trained early warning senses saved them from scalding water in their faces. Motoko caught hers gingerly while Hiroshi grabbed his from the air with nary a glance. He was used to Uncle Ranma's strange notions of training.

"Does the Emperor usually do things like that?" Motoko Aoyama asked carefully as the two stepped back onto the wood deck outside the meeting room.

"Oh yeah, all the time, Motoko-chan, Uncle Ranma thinks that everything is training in one way or another. He throws plates, glasses, books, dressers, lamps, grenades, just to see if you're paying attention to your surroundings."

The younger Aoyama sweat dropped at that and silently amended her personal misgivings about helping her aneue demonstrate the Demon-Cutting Shinmei-Ryu strike.

"Cookie, Motoko-chan?" Hiroshi sat down at the edge of the deck so the warm air from the inside blasted against his back and produced a shallow brown bowl of sembei crackers. The white wolf had already jumped back inside the building and curled up with its muzzle resting on Ranma's lap.

"Thank you, Ono-san." Motoko took a large cracker glazed with sugar and sipped lightly at her tea. Truth be told she hadn't understood why aneue wanted her to come to the Royal Banquet this year, she usually went alone, but it was a thrill to meet the Emperor in person and place a face to the heroic stories her mother and sister told of the Thirty Days of Fire. Also, the Emperor's nephew seemed like a nice boy – unlike the boys she'd met at school who all seemed to be perverts.

"Then it's settled. We will wait for the two to come of age and see where things go from there. I'm not sure about this whole genetics thing but Dr. Akagi assures me that no genetic defects will occur if they produce an heir." Ranma patted the wolf's head and gave her a cracker while the two women sipped tea. "I don't want to force them together like some people I knew, I just want to see where things lead and if they decided not to join the clans I'll figure something else out. Agreed?"

"That sounds agreeable to me, Ranma-dono," Tsuruko nodded and finished her tea, "is this acceptable to you Tendo-san?"

"That sounds very good. I do hate the thought of pushing the two together. That type of matchmaking seldom ends well."

"I can vouch for that." Ranma finished his tea and poured another cup for all three. "So, can I expect you and Motoko to join us for the shrine visit this year?"

Tsuruko Aoyama let a smirk toy at the edges of her serene face. She usually left after the banquet since she didn't particularly care for the pomp and raucous festivities following the aristocracy to the sleepy valley in Okayama. Although, frankly speaking, she didn't like going simply because the location brought back bad memories of the Thirty Day War. But, with her little sister along for the trip perhaps she could make an exception. "Would you like to go with Uncle Ranma to the shrine, Motoko-chan?"

Motoko jerked around quickly, her normally serious face wide with equal parts surprise and excitement. "Will I be able to see the kami?"

Ranma chuckled deep in his throat. "Oh, I think we can arrange that for you, Motoko-chan. It's decided then, you and Motoko will accompany us to Okayama tomorrow." He stood and the two women quickly took to their feet. "If you ladies will excuse me I have another pressing meeting."

With that he stepped down into the rapidly deepening snow followed by his pet wolf. He hadn't walked five feet around the enclosed perimeter before a presence dropped to the ground behind him. The wolf flipped around with a low growl and a blazing whirl of celestial fire erupted on its back. Red symbols and glyphs burned their way across its fur as the guardian went to battle mode.

"Attacking me is a bad idea, Kodachi. Especially since Terra's in heat."

"You're no fun anymore, Ranma-sama, we hardly ever 'play' together nowadays." Kodachi Kuno straightened her dark indigo kimono and plucked the golden dragon hairpins out, letting her black locks falling to the small of her back. "Koga told me you were in a meeting. Who was it this time?"

"Nothing like that, 'Dachi-chan. Tsuruko Aoyama and her sister Motoko came to pay their respects. They will be joining us for the shrine visit this year." He stroked Terra's head and ears, causing the white wolf to sit down and the spinning wheel of fire atop her back to extinguish. "I trust you will be civil?"

"Of course, Ranma-sama, of that you can be assured. It strikes me as just a little odd, however, that Tsuruko-san would make this year the first trip she makes to the shrine."

The years had been kind to Kodachi Kuno, like they had been to most of the Nerima Wreaking Crew. Although two broken arms incurred during the first week of the Thirty Days War kept her from the frontlines at the climactic Battle of Tokyo her expertise in potion-making and salves saved more lives than the tardy Red Cross when they arrived a full two weeks after the battle. She was hailed a hero and awarded several distinctions, not the least of which was the restoration of the Noble Samurai House of Kuno in remembrance of Tatewaki's heroic sacrifice before the old Imperial Palace.

Now she owned and operated a thriving cosmetics firm with ties to Nippon-Tech and branch offices in America, France, Russia, and China. She even had a husband, some poor sucker that knocked her up after a drunken celebration party in Paris. But her passion for Ranma had not abated with the passage of years. With her son undergoing education at the national military academy she had plenty of time to renew old acquaintances with her teenage crush.

"Have you been listening, Ranma-sama?"

"Hmm? Yes, sorry, 'Dachi-chan, just remembering something important." Ranma scratched Terra between the ears and playfully rubbed her slightly grey bib. "You know that Tsuruko doesn't like the spectacle and praise. She can't forget what we all lost in Tokyo."

"She certainly seems to when she's with you." Kodachi twirled her hairpins and turned back to the lit meeting room. Kasumi, Tsuruko, Hiroshi, and Motoko were still sitting and talking. "Come now, Ranma, you can't think that your preference for the Shinmei-Ryu school has gone unnoticed. The tabloids still bring out that photo of you and Tsuruko in mid-coitus from two years ago. Thank the gods they don't realize it's you in the photo."

"Well, if that's it, I expect to see you bright and early tomorrow morning for the trip." Ranma stepped forward and embraced the firm woman, feeling her melt in his arms. She was standoffish, pushy, and more than a little conceited but by the gods she was his friend who'd stood beside him at the mouth of Hell itself. Anything he could do to repay that debt he would do with no exceptions. Suddenly she stiffened against his chest.

"Your little fuck-toy is watching us, Ranma-sama."

"Who's calling who a fuck-toy, over-perfumed bitch?" Akane leapt down from a leafless branch overlooking the walking garden in a forward stance, fingers tightened into claws. "Just make a move…"

"Now just calm down, you two. I don't want you two fighting tonight. Kodachi, I'll see you tomorrow." He released the black-haired woman and grabbed Akane's arm in an almost painful grip as he lead them back towards his personal residence.

"Why did you stop me, Ranma, the bitch had it coming!" Akane's brow drew down to the bridge of her nose and her hands clenched. "All right, I suppose I overacted but you know the way she speaks about me!"

"And are you saying that what she says is wrong?" Ranma gestured to the guards as they passed through a security checkpoint into the bottom floor of the tower. "Are any of the allegations she's making false?"

She stiffened and remained silent for the elevator ride up to the third floor. She could feel the metallic grip on her arm subside as they neared their destination; by the time the doors slid open they both were smiling again. Deep down she knew he favored her above all the others save the Goddess herself. He had to - it was the only explanation for his behavior for his loyalty all the long years since the final battle. And so she gave it back in kind, accepting her role and abiding by his wishes. The main dining hall was lit by diffuse runners at the union between walls and ceiling, casting the room into intimate shadows.

Setsuna and Makoto stood as soon as the doors opened and both bowed low as the Emperor strode inside with a pretty blue-haired woman on his arm. Usagi, Minako, Rei, Haruka, Michiru, Hotaru, Ami, Artemis, and Luna all followed but were stunned as the Emperor bowed equally low back to them.

"My greatest and most sincere thanks for the duty you girls have done for this country and no doubt the world. Without your efforts in eradicating the youma threat in Juuban and Tokyo in general – we might not be standing here right now." Ranma saw Akane to one of the empty cushions and took his place at the head of the table. Usagi was the first to reply.

"And the same to you, your imperial majesty for your efforts in waging war against the Eastern threat and providing Japan a future as bright and illustrious as its ruler." Clearly the hours spend listening to Luna about court politics and etiquette was of some use. "If I may introduce myself once again, I am Usagi Tsukino, and this is Ami Mizuno, Minako Aino, Haruka Tenou, Michiru Kairo, Hotaru Tomoe, Luna Lunarian, and Artemis Venusian." She smiled to herself and sat back down.

"Now that all the courtesies are out of the way, let's have some food and get to know one another!" Ranma motioned to the door and a line of servers brought steaming silver platters of food out to the seated parties. "And since two of your numbers are already coming with me and my family to the shrine tomorrow I extend an invitation to all of you. We leave tomorrow morning at ten."

"Your highness, your guest…?" Setsuna glared balefully at the young-looking man and jerked her head in the direction of Akane. "I don't think she's been introduced."

Ranma stopped with a spicy battered shrimp an inch from his mouth and set his chopsticks down. "Forgive me, Sailor Senshi. This is my close friend Akane Tendo who fought with me during the Thirty Days of Fire."

"It's a pleasure to meet you all." And with that the blue-haired woman resumed eating. The Senshi, ignorant of how the woman normally acted simply shrugged and continued their conversation.

In the main banquet hall the party was still in full swing with a classic full-size big band playing favorites from the fifties and sixties. Nabiki sipped from a flute of champagne and made small talk with the President of South Korea while her husband spilled wine down his pants and fell unconscious into a plush club chair in the corner of the room. All the big names were there from the entire Diet to the children and families of the Diet of 1990, invited to honor those who sacrificed their lives for the defense of the country one decade past.

"Prime Minister, if I may have a word?" She turned and saw a chest full of medals below a neatly-trimmed goatee and moustache.

"I'm sorry madam President but I have to speak with this gentleman. Please enjoy the rest of the party." She bid the elder stateswoman goodbye and let the man lead her down a darkened hall to the meeting rooms. Neither spoke a word as he slid a security card through a level-B reader and ushered her inside the conference room. The two men waiting for her were a surprise.

"If this is your idea of a joke Ryu, you're going to be demoted down to desk sergeant after the holiday." Nabiki eyed the stoic-looking scion of the Kumon family and, only seeing brittle seriousness, sat down at the head of the table. "So what's the problem? Nothing serious, I hope?" She tittered nervously at her own joke.

"We aren't sure, Nabiki. We've detected a…anomaly in the Middle East just on the border of India in what used to be Pakistan." Ryu Kumon inserted a secure flash drive into a socket in the wall behind her. A high-definition laser projector descended from a hidden pocket on the ceiling and burst to life. "We aren't sure what it is, only that it doesn't seem natural."

"A volcanic eruption perhaps? A heat storm caused by the odd weather patterns?"

"Negative, ma'am." She hated when he called her 'ma'am' it made her feel so old, but he was a military man now and a certain amount of decorum was expected. Even if he'd fought by her side in the war…

"What about experimentation? The Afghans were talking about testing their nuclear capabilities…"

"Unfortunately that too has been ruled out. I sent Mousse here and Mint to investigate the strange readings but it is moving changing location randomly and we can't pinpoint exactly where it'll show up next." Ryu nodded to the two men who walked across to flank the holographic projection.

Mousse and Mint were special envoys of the Japanese Government with special clearance by the God-Emperor himself to act in his name. Mousse, wearing contact lenses and a black suit and tie, had gained more than a few scars wandering the chaotic areas between Japanese-governed Chinese lands and the Middle East. Mint, on the other hand, acted as a special liaison to Emperor Herb of The Middle Kingdom who ruled what used to be the Bayankala Mountain range and outlying areas. They frequently collaborated together both on and off the battlefields – rumor had it that the two were lovers. Nabiki didn't put much stock in rumor nowadays but she confirmed it through a series of wire-taps and traceless bugs planted in their rooms. It never hurt to know more than they thought you did.

"The high-energy spike was first believed to be underground but no trace of it could be found when I arrived at the scene. Satellite imaging shows that it faded when I penetrated a 50 kilometer perimeter of the centre or area of highest reading. No sooner had it faded completely than it reappeared in the South China Sea." Mousse pointed to a red dot over what used to be Pakistan then 'drew' a red laser line to the ocean. "My sources in Micronesia report no usual occurrences in the area."

Mint 'drew' a large circle around the energy flare and enlarged the area. "At this point Mousse contacted Prince Herb's government and I was told to investigate. The spike disappeared as I proceeded by boat from the south coast. It then reappeared in Tibet, although much more focused, then in India over the ruins of Calcutta before disappearing completely."

Nabiki sat back in her chair and steepled her fingers over her lips, tapping her index digits together in thought. "I presume you haven't told the Emperor about this phenomenon yet?"

"Not as of yet, Minister, we – I believed that it should be brought before you first since we don't actually know what this is yet. There are no signs of it being hostile and no eyewitnesses to any strange lights or heat. For all intents and purposes it doesn't exist as energy as we understand it except for this orbital energy spike."

"Good, we don't want to worry the man unnecessarily. I'll brief him on this after the holiday unless something else happens during the next few weeks." Nabiki stood up and pushed her chair back in before adjusting her suit coat. "Keep me in the loop, General Kumon; notify me immediately if it reappears. Agents Mousse and Mint, you may rejoin the party. I have a few personal words to have with the General."

The two g-men walked out the door, a blazing door of white light pouring into the darkened room before it closed and her eyes readjusted to the gloom.

"The Emperor will not know of this until we have solid evidence that it is worth wasting his time, is that understood?"

"That's very clear, ma'am."


Mamoru Chiba was bored. Very bored and very horny. His eyes gazed lustily after the young women flitting back and forth from the buffet table, gliding easily along the soft curves of their buttocks and breasts. Despite having a rubdown at a Soapland and a quickie in an alley with a high school kogal he still wanted more pussy and this time he wanted quality.

"Mamoru Chiba, I thought that was you." He turned from the punchbowl and saw an unpleasant surprise. The big-titted blonde from the airplane. Shit, what was her name again? He couldn't remember. Best to play the ignorance card, foreigners always thought every Asian was the same anyway…

"I'm sorry, do I know you?" The words fell like ash from his mouth. He'd lost it now he already saw the fires rising in the woman's eyes and her massive tits jiggled with corked fury. "You were…ah…Maris? From the plane?"

"Mallik, Allison Mallik, you were screwing my brains out less than three hours ago?" She slammed her champagne flute on the buffet table. "I thought I'd made more of an impression than that…"

"Er…yeah, I guess you did. Why are you here, anyway, this reception is for press and dignitaries only."

"Oh, I didn't mention that my father was the British Ambassador? How silly of me." She tittered annoyingly, enjoying the nervous tic in Mamoru's eye. "Where is the Emperor? My father assured me that I would be able to meet him tonight."

"His Imperial Highness, Emperor of Nippon and her outlying territories, God-Slayer, Blessed of the Kami, Ruler of the Sun Throne, Ranma Saotome and escorts!" Chamberlain Koga announced from the main entrance. Allison made a trilling murmur of excitement and dashed to the pressing throng of people eager to see his august majesty. Mamoru discarded his punch cup and sauntered behind the English woman, wondering just what the big deal was.

With the official secrets act in place the press couldn't even take pictures what kind of story could he possibly send back to his editors?

Ranma strode into the room with the Senshi in tow and Akane on his arm. A round of applause began from the back of the room and soon the hall rang with it, causing him to blush and scratch the back of his head nervously. Setsuna looked solemnly on, knowing that tomorrow the tabloids would be full of rumors about Usagi and Minako and the Emperor in all the various combinations possible and some that weren't. The only saving grace was that they couldn't take pictures, so as long as the blondes kept their mouths shut the palace would have plausible deniability of any dalliance between the Emperor and two beautiful actress/models. Ranma raised a hand for silence and the room quickly stilled.

"It has been ten years since the Battle of Tokyo and I'm sure all of you still remember our country burning. Although you bestow upon me credit for the eradication of the threat and the time of peace we now enjoy there were many who participated in my army only some of whom are still alive to tell of their bravery. Join me as I applaud and congratulate the survivors of The Imperial Army of the Wild Horse!" He began clapping himself and the crowd enthusiastically followed, ignoring the smirks on Nabiki and Ryu Kumon's faces and the quiet sorrow of Tsuruko and Kasumi. Akane stood motionless with stormy emotions clouding her expression until disengaging from Ranma's arm and walking quietly back to the elevator.

"To those who have fallen!" Ryu let out a roar from the back of the banquet hall.

"To those who have fallen! May their spirits continue to protect our country!" Nabiki raised her glass of champagne.

"To the fallen! Their names will never be forgotten!" Mousse entered the hall holding Mint's hand.

Ranma bit back the bile in the back of his throat and grinned sickly. "To the fallen! May Nippon's light never dim through the long centuries of darkness!"

Setsuna smirked as the Emperor used her eloquent suggestion for a new quotable quote. Since the public never really saw their Emperor (it had been decided by Nabiki and herself that the god-like image would be increased by infrequent appearances) the government needed a solid stable of quotes newspapers and TV could use attributed to the God-Emperor. He made only one public appearance on TV each year and even that was given from behind a colored screen. So far it was working; recent polls indicated a 30% increase in belief that the Emperor was descended from the Kami. Not bad considering he was not in direct succession within the Imperial family.

"Do we have to stand here in front of everyone?" Hotaru's remark stirred the rest of the Senshi from their thoughts regarding the Emperor. "I don't like the idea of all these people staring at us. They don't even know who we are."

"I'm used to it! Strangers love to stare at the things they can't have – it's called 'window shopping', Hotaru-chan." Minako struck a pose with her arms wrapped possessively around the Emperor's mid-section. "Oh, pooh, there aren't any cameras here."

"Don't let Minako's exhibitionism soil you," Haruka wisely moved her surrogate daughter away from the flirty blonde, "we'll be out of here as soon as we can."

Setsuna tapped the bishounen on the shoulder while Ranma mingled a bit with Minako still curled around his arm. "I'm afraid we're all here for the remainder of the holidays. The Emperor has invited you all to stay for the duration and visit the shrine with him tomorrow."

"Oh my, I'll have to call my parents and let them know we won't be visiting this year." Michiru ran a hand through her aquamarine tresses. "Still, this is the Emperor we're talking about, we should feel honored."

"I don't like him. He is the ruler of a single insignificant country on a solitary planet. Usagi will be the Queen of the entire solar system. He's a flash in the pan." Luna sniffed disdainfully to Artemis. "I also do not appreciate the way he ogles Usagi-chan. Does he just expect every woman in the world to melt at his touch?"

"Seems like a nice enough guy. Snappy dresser, good hygiene, lots of money – seems like the perfect catch to me."

"Sometimes Artemis, I wonder whether you're gay."

Usagi's thoughts on the subject of the Emperor went unsaid as she froze-up when the crowd parted. He was there. He was there. He was there and a big-titted blonde bimbo was stroking herself against his body. She recognized the debonair attitude and haughty posture. After ten long years he comes waltzing back into her life and she felt…nothing. The love that had helped her defeat Metallia and Wiseman and Mistress 9 and Galaxia just wasn't there anymore. She felt a hollow dark emptiness full of seething betrayal in her heart. Their eyes met, so she knew he saw here as well, and she looked away. There was no proof of his infidelity but none was needed. He hadn't searched her down and shown-up at the doorstep with roses or half-a-dozen other ridiculously cheesy romantic gestures; no, he met her by accident.

The guardian of Time glanced at the star-crossed couple's exchange and shook her head sadly. It was the Saotome charm, just one more thing she could look forward to kicking Ranma's ass about after the Great Freeze.

"Usagi-hime. I think we should be heading towards the exit now. Hime-sama?" The emerald-haired woman had just enough time to catch her queen as the blonde fainted in her arms. She quickly motioned to Makoto who pushed past a group of Diet members from her place beside Nabiki. Ranma didn't notice the scuffle for Usagi's safety since his back was turned and he was conversing with the foreign secretary from the Middle Kingdom. Setsuna cursed under her breath and dragged Usagi with the other's help into the elevator off the main foyer. From there they ascended to the VIP wing.

"Oh my, it looks like the Emperor's new bed warmer had a little too much excitement – don't you think, Chiba-san?" Allison giggled a bit and took a fresh glass of bubbly from a passing waiter. "Chiba-san? Mamoru?"

She was there and she turned away. That colossal bitch dared to turn away from the Prince of Earth? He was destined to be her consort, he was destined to become Neo-Endymion, it was him! She had to accept him, she had to love him, and there was no choice! It was pre-determined! She was his and he wouldn't have her looking down at him with that sickeningly disappointed expression on her insipid, vapid face! How dare she!? Mamoru Chiba seethed with anger and hastily swung his hand back to ward off the stupid gaijin cunt that'd adhered herself to him, said blow hit her arm and splashed the fresh glass of imported French champagne down her generous cleavage. Surprised by the assault she fell backwards and would have hit the floor were it not for the Emperor's intervention.

"Careful there, miss, wouldn't want your gorgeous body to bruise now, would we?" If the years had taught Ranma anything it was being smooth with the opposite sex. After seeing death and dispensing it freely he'd often wondered why sex had always flustered him. It was natural, far more natural than disemboweling a man and lopping his head off as his warm body fell forward from the increased weight spilling out of his front. No, sex was easy after that and he'd found he was good at it as he was in all things save modesty. "Having a row with your beau, my dear?"

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, oh no, your highness, this is just an acquaintance. I don't exactly know why he knocked me over, though." Allison spat with no small amount of venom lacing her words. "Thank you for saving me. I am Allison Mallik, daughter to-"

"Artie Mallik the Ambassador from England. He told me you'd be coming tonight. Where is the old bastard? He's played more tricks on me this past year than all the other ambassadors combined. Just because I'm a little slow doesn't mean he can take advantage."

"Well, your highness, judging by your saving me I don't think anyone will call you 'slow'." The Emperor lifted her clear off her feet and back on her heels. She felt his hand on her left buttock squeeze lightly and his arms pull her closer against his body. Her head was suddenly filled with cotton – all she could do was hold onto his arm and hope her legs were steadier than they felt.


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