Early the next morning, Makoto awoke to somebody hammering on the door. She trotted down the stairs and opened it to find an exasperated and irate Hotaru on her doorstep. The woman's face was paler than usual and drawn with dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was in disarray and her usually neat attire was rumpled.
"You will not believe the night I've had," She growled as she stormed across the threshold and headed straight for the kitchen, following the scent of coffee.
"Good morning, Hotaru. Come right in. Would you like something to drink?"
"After you left, I spent hours grilling that morgue attendant. I then went to every morgue in the city, even the civilian ones. I personally searched every single cabinet in every single morgue. I couldn't find her anywhere."
"Yeah, about that."
Hotaru froze as she entered the kitchen and spotted Ami, who was sitting at the table with a mug of steaming brew in her hands. She stared at Ami before shifting her gaze to Makoto, "How long?"
"She showed up right when I got back from being with you."
"And you didn't think to call me?"
"I find it interesting that you're more upset that I inconvenienced you than the reanimation of a woman we both knew was dead."
She turned to Ami, "How?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. To be honest, I don't really believe it myself."
An energy portal opened up in the middle of the living room and Setsuna tumbled out, "The damnedest thing happened. Ami's time line restarted?...continued?...I don't know what but it's like she's back from the dead. I've never seen anything like it."
Makoto nudged Hotaru, "Doesn't miss much, this one."
Setsuna made a face, "What are you going on about?"
Setsuna did so and spotted Ami, sitting at the kitchen table. Ami waved politely.
Ami shrugged, "I was told by a Kami that I still had things to do here so he sent me back."
Her eyes narrowed, "Sent you back? The Kami know better than to do such a thing. You wouldn't happen to know this Kami's name, would you?"
"He calls himself the Coyote Father?"
Setsuna's eyes widened. Her face turned from white to red to purple and she let out a string of profanity long and loud enough to cause the others to blush.
"Okay, okay Sets. Calm down now." Ami soothed.
"No I will not calm down. He does this all of the fucking time and it pisses me off to no end. It's like he has absolutely no respect for the time stream."
"On the contrary, dear Pluto," a low slow voice said. "I hold a great deal of concern for the time stream, hence why I do what I do."
They all turned to confront the Kami standing in the living room. Setsuna's face twisted into a horrible snarl, "You."
She crossed the room, "You."
She jabbed a finger in his left muzzle, "You."
He gripped her by the throat and lifted her off of the floor, "Me."
Ami, Makoto, and Hotaru moved to assist Setsuna but a gesture from the Coyote Father froze them. He returned his attention to Setsuna, "Never threaten me, Pluto. That would be the definition of foolishness. Know that I am a Kami and not beholden to anybody, especially an arrogant demi-goddess like you." He bared his teeth and released her, "Stay out of my way."
He released his power on the others and vanished. The rushed over to check on Setsuna, who was coughing as she fought for breath.
"Are you okay?" Hotaru asked.
Setsuna nodded, "Fine." She croaked, "I'll be fine."
"What was all of that about?" Ami asked.
She shook her head, "We've feuded ever since the Silver Millennium. He'd change something and I'd change it back. He'd accuse me of being short-sighted and I'd accuse him of being a meddling fool."
"God, you two sound like Saeko and Ramon."
Setsuna let out a humorless laugh, "That's not too far from the truth."
"I beg your pardon?"
Hotaru blinked, "You don't mean..."
"That's right." Setsuna confirmed with a nod, "He and I fight like siblings because we are. All of the Kami and Demi-kami, like myself, are related. All of us are the children of Kronos."
Ami shook her head, "This reality just keeps getting stranger and stranger. I'm not sure I believe any of this and it's my life."
"Well, get ready." Hotaru said, pulling a folded piece of paper out of her pocket. "Part of the reason I came over so early is that we've received new orders." She opened the paper, "Starting today, we're to begin open recruitment."
Ami blinked, "I'm sorry?"
"The Council has given us permission to begin open recruitment for any and all consenting adults. Any Normal who wants to be a were-beast, a vampire, or really anything, simply need to swing into one of our convenient recruitment centers, give some information, sign a few papers, and be ready for training with an experienced instructor by nightfall. It's all here in black-and-white."
"They do realize that this could raise attack potentials internationally. These recruitment centers would be incredible targets."
"They'll be unmarked and we'll recruit through word-of-mouth only. There's still that degree of risk but we've minimized it as much as possible. The Council feels, especially after the Westhaven incident, that an aggressive recruitment initiative is the answer as opposed to the passive-aggressive defensive movement that we've been embroiled in for all of these years."
Ami nodded, satisfied with the Council's decision. This marked the turning point in the war against the League and the Brotherhood. With their numbers growing, the Stalkers now had a real chance of winning this war once and for all.
"What do you need me to do?" She asked.
Hotaru turned a dark gaze on her, "Nothing. Technically, you're now Missing In Action and we intend to keep it that way for now."
"But our numbers are so few. We need as many as we can get. I'm willing and available."
"I have no doubt but I have something special in mind for you. As far as everyone, save us and the cubs, you're dead and gone. Ami, I'm going to give you another shot at Mamoru and you'd better not fuck it up this time."
Ramon walked hand-in-hand with Rika. They had been dating for a few weeks and he was quite content with the relationship. He was on cloud nine when he was with her and nothing could ever change that. Rika was the only person at school that didn't stare at him from the corner of her eye or mock him behind his back like the rest of his peers. They all called him Daken, Mutt, which stung all the more because of what he was. Rika never called him anything foul and he appreciated her all the more for it. He couldn't imagine the ridicule she endured from her friends because of him.
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed.
"What was that for?" She asked.
"Nothing. I love you."
They turned down a side street and ran into three other boys from school. Ramon smiled politely and tried to guide Rika around the trio. The bullies moved to block.
"Hey, guys. You're in the way." He tried to move around them again.
The middle one, Jiro, snorted, "What are you doing with her, Daken? She's proper Japanese, not some mixed-breed mutt."
"We should correct his mistake," one of Jiro's friends muttered.
"Back off, Jiro." Ramon snarled, "We don't want trouble."
"I disagree. I think that's exactly what you want. If you didn't want an ass-whipping, you wouldn't have hooked up with her."
"That's enough!" Rika screamed, "Leave us alone!"
The three converged on Rika and Ramon and pulled them apart, dragging them into an alley. Rika was held back by Jiro as the other two began to beat Ramon. She was screaming as the beating escalated. Jiro backhanded Rika to silence her and Ramon saw red. With superhuman strength, he bodily flung the two assailants off of him.
He and Jiro locked glares, "Let her go."
"Eat me, mutt."
Ramon removed his clothes and shoes, "Eat you? What an excellent idea."
He Changed and, as he Changed, Jiro watched him with wide eyes and a slack jaw. Ramon, fully-Changed, roared and he saw a damp spot formed on the crotch of his pants. Rika crouched down behind a pair of garbage cans and hid as Jiro fled, screaming that demons were chasing him.
Ramon Changed back and redressed as quickly as he could. He rushed to check on Rika, "Are you okay?"
She was pale and shaking and she refused to meet his eyes. She whispered only three words in a fear-choked voice, "What are you?"
Police sirens sounded, growing nearer. He gripped her shoulder, promised he'd call her, and ran.