The first thing I noticed upon gaining consciousness was the pain lancing through my head. My efforts to forget my problems last night had caught up with me, and the hangover I was experiencing was telling me that I had consumed a great deal of alcohol in pursuit of that goal. I was face down on top over what ever I had fallen asleep on, so I couldn't see anything. Come to think of it, where am I? I thought to myself. Did I even make it home last night? As if in answer to the question, a memory floated up from the depths of my mind.
"Well, it seems you had an eventful evening." Miya said with a hint of concern from the doorway.
"Itss okay! Ima drunk!" I responded cheerfully as I tried to walk forward, but gravity was once again proving to be fickle and tried to drag me down at a weird angle.
Fortunately, Homura had his shoulders under my arm and was assisting in leading me forward. "You were drunk an hour ago." The man said dryly. "Now I think it's amazing that you aren't so saturated in alcohol that you've spontaneously combusted."
"Naah, I got it to stops that a long time ago." I said. "Though I could totally do it now if you-"
"No!" Both Sekirei yelled at me.
I gave a small moan as bits and fragments of last night came back to me. It seemed that I was partially successful in removing some of my memories, although I failed to remove the one that caused me to try to forget in the first place. Well, at the very least I was back in the inn. Considering the state I was in, I decided to get comfortable and lay there for a little while longer while I collected my scattered thoughts, and get over the pounding in my head.
Despite the pain though, I focused a little harder to remember what happened next. There was something important… no, someone important.
"Merem! What are you- oh right…" I started to say before I remembered Yukia's call about my associate's arrival.
"It seems that my timing is inconvenient." The Apostle said with an arch of his eyebrow. "I would not have expected you would respond to the destruction of your apartment like this. You usually love a good conflagration."
"Yeaaah…" I said as I awkwardly rubbed the back of my head. "It wasn't the fire 'sactly, it was the old friend that was in the coma that I put her in that showed up suddenly and isn't quite thinkin' right that got me down." Well, and the fact that I still loved her, but he didn't need to know that.
Merem blinked at this and was silent for a moment, parsing my previous sentence into something he could understand. "Ah, do you mean the Matou girl? Is she truly awake and here?" He asked, genuinely surprised by this information. "Fascinating! I do wonder how her condition is after all this time. It seems that coming to this city is giving me even more things to research than I thought!" He said happily.
I was mildly annoyed at how he considered Sakura a 'thing to research', but I put that aside for the moment. "Hey, about that, how didja get into tha city? I thought MBI had the whole thing locked down."
Merem scoffed. "Please. Though I may not flaunt it like some of my brethren, I am still a Dead Apostle Ancestor. I have enough skill to slip by a few humans with guns."
"Huh. So are you the only one?"
"For now. I am going to assess the situation in the city before reporting back, though unless things are much worse than we thought, I don't foresee there being a need for many more. Besides, I of course brought my usual entourage with me." He gestured to the side with his right arm, as his left arm was currently in its human form chatting with Miya. She had something of a sour look on her face as the King of Rats spoke of his origin and all it had seen over the millennia.
She was probably having a slightly harder time disbelieving the whole magic thing now.
Things got fuzzy again after that, but I vaguely remembered Merem saying something to the effect that he would be back again later so he could speak to me when I was sober. I would likely be seeing him later that day, but I found it to be hard to plan that far ahead when my bedding was so comfortable.
I spared a moment to consider just what it was I was on top of. I at first thought it to be a particularly lumpy part of the futon, but it was much too warm and soft for that. On a hunch, I shifted my head around a little and indeed found it to be surrounded by a distinct pair of lumps. Ah, of course, I was on top of Nero. Usually it would be the other way around, but I certainly wasn't going to complain.
Still, I knew that there was at least one other important thing I had to remember before it could let my mind drift off again. It was something Merem told me and Rin. Something… about Sakura. Right, he took a look at her before he left. He told us what was wrong with her.
"Nothing!" He said cheerfully.
Rin and I gaped at the apparent child in front of us. "You can't possibly be serious." Rin said incredulously. "She herself admitted that she isn't behaving normally!"
"Well, to be clear, there is nothing supernaturally wrong with her." Merem clarified. "There is no trace of physical or mental corruption in her. I must say, you did a very thorough job, Kotomine."
"Y-yeah, but she ain't fine." I said. "She's not actin' like herself."
He shrugged. "Given what has happened to her, Sakura is acting as a human normally should, if not better all things considered."
"What do you mean?" Rin asked.
"I have never looked too deeply into the workings of the Matou family, but there are… rumors about how they train their magi." Rin and I shifted uncomfortably at this, not wanting to think about that part of Sakura's past. "She also had to participate in a brutal and bloody secret war, in which she was possessed wholly by all the evils of mankind and almost killed her two closest friends. It is safe to say that the poor girl has gained some mental scars over her relatively short life."
The two of us were silent for a moment before I said "But how do we help her?"
"Get her a therapist." We glared at Merem as he gave a small chuckle at his own joke. "Sorry, I couldn't help it. Although it's worth noting that it would actually be very good for her. Of course, you would need one who would be able to deal with magus problems, and those are hard to come by. However… hmm, if magi therapists did exist, it might make you lot more pleasant…" Merem cupped his hand to his chin, his mind already off in its own place.
"Hey! Focus!" Rin said as she snapped her finger at him.
"Oh, sorry, drifted off for a second there." He apologized. "In any case, I would say the best that can be done for her is to just be with her. Care for her. Try to give her a normal life. It won't be easy, but with enough time, she will heal."
It wasn't what I was expecting, but it did give me a little more hope than I had a while ago. "So, that's it? You didn't find anything off with her?"
"I did not find-" Merem paused as a thought occurred to him. "Well, I found nothing wrong, but there was something odd. The basis of the Matou magic is Absorption, correct? They use a form of Water magic to accomplish this."
"Yes. Why?" Rin asked curiously.
"Because Sakura does not have a Water alignment in addition to her Imaginary Numbers alignment. It seems to have changed."
"Fire. It is only a guess on my part, but I don't think she is able to use the Matou magecraft anymore. I believe that she has gained a different ability in its place."
"What would that be?" I asked
"In a word, Disintegration."
The fact that one of Sakura's alignments had changed was somewhat troubling to me. More so because I was most likely the one to blame. Changing an alignment was no small task and was usually highly dangerous, but it looked like I had done just that as a side effect of pouring so much Scourging Flame into her, by accident no less. Still, it didn't sound like it was bad for her, and there was nothing I could do about it. So for the moment, I decided that I had had enough critical thought and tried to go back to sleep.
Besides, thinking was rather difficult at the moment, not just because of the hangover, but because Nero's breasts felt fantastic that morning. Seriously, it was almost like they were a full size bigger than they should have been. Not only that, she had opted to sleep sans clothes, so there was nothing between me and the things I was using as pillow. It was kind of weird how she smelled of clean linens, but I didn't feel like questioning it. I nuzzled in a little deeper and gave a contented sigh.
My wife apparently noticed, as a moment later I felt a pair of arms wrap around me. "Chiho…" she murmured happily.
The name Chiho puttered around in my brain for a while, but it failed to connect to anything. Nero had called out her old wife's name once or twice in her sleep (something I had come to accept), but I had no idea who this new person was. "Who's Chiho?" I asked as I picked my head up to look at my wife.
Naturally it took me a few seconds of looking at her in my sleepy and hungover state to realize that I was in fact not on top of Nero. Uzume was in a similarly confused state until she realized at the same time that I was not 'Chiho.' The two of us looked at each other with wide eyes for a second before we glanced down at ourselves to find that the only thing separating us was a pair of panties and boxers.
We were perfectly still for several long seconds, the awkward tension between us so thick you could cut it with a knife. I had to say something, anything! But what they hell do you say to a woman who you've been pretend flirting with when you both wake up almost naked in bed with each other?
"Let's face it, we both knew this was going to happen eventually."
Well, there's that.
Uzmue looked at me incredulously for a moment before she burst out laughing. This in turned caused me to laugh as well, and soon we were both rolling on the floor instead of each other. The tension successfully defused, the two of us then found ourselves leaning against the wall next to one another. "So, how did we get like that anyway?" I asked.
"Beats me." She said, hugging her knees in a simply effort at modesty. "Me and Kazahana-nee-san were out drinking last night, and things got kinda hazy."
"Kazahana?" I asked.
Uzume pointed, and I followed her finger to find that we were not the only two in the room. There was a dark haired woman (who was in an identical state of undress to the woman next to me) sleeping on her back a short distance away, which I was only then noticing. I was also noticing that Nero, just like I was a few moments ago with Uzume, was lying on top of her with her head firmly on her chest. Thankfully she had a nightie on. I considered waking my wife up, but…
"Boobies…" Nero muttered happily while nuzzling her makeshift pillows. She looked so happy.
In any case, the name Kazahana was definitely familiar, and I could tell from my senses that she was a Sekirei. I couldn't remember exactly who she was though. I really needed to start researching more Sekirei beyond the ones I was immediately interested in. I spared a glance at Uzume. "So I'm guessing she's your… sister-Sekirei?" I asked, not really sure what the term was for Sekirei who belonged to a single Ashikabi.
Uzume seemed to know what I saying though and shook her head. "Nah, she and I are just friends. I don't think she even has an Ashikabi yet."
"And is it normal for you two friends to sneak into people's rooms mostly naked?"
She gave an embarrassed grin. "Sorry about that bro. I did say we had a lot to drink…" she trailed off and looked at me in confusion. "Wait, what are you doing here? I thought you had your own place."
I sighed. "It's… complicated. A lot happened yesterday and, well, let's just say you weren't the only one out drinking last night."
"Really? What happened?" She asked, genuinely curious.
My relationship with Uzume was an odd one, and a bit difficult for me to classify. Even though my contact with her was more sporadic then with anyone else at the inn, I always found the woman easy to relate to and comfortable to be around. Maybe it was because her playful attitude reminded me of Ayako so much, but it just seemed natural to confide in her.
So, I told her. Not everything of course, as I had to leave out the parts involving magic, but I managed to give her the gist of the situation between myself and the 3 women who were complicating my life at the moment.
Uzume let out a low whistle at the end of my tale. "Damn, so you had these problems even before you got to this city." She said with a small chuckle. "I guess there's something to your roguish charms after all."
"Yeah, that they only work when I don't want them to." I said flatly. "I mean, I'm married for Christ's sake, I shouldn't have to deal with this."
"Well, sorry to say I ain't got any advice on how to handle your particular problem." She said with a shrug. "Maybe if they were all Sekirei you could get them to play nice, but you humans make the whole thing so much more complicated." A lecherous smirk then slowly spread on her face. "Although, maybe you should just avoid the problem altogether by switching to the other side. You know, seeing how you already winged Homura…"
"Actually, I'm already bi." I remarked off hand. "And besides, I'm sure all that would accomplish is dragging some other poor bastard into this mess."
Uzume had not expected that response. "What?! S-so you and Homura are-"
"Not like that." I stated firmly. "He's still perfectly straight and I have no interest in him in that manner."
"Oh. Well, that just takes all the fun out of teasing him then." Uzume said with a frown. I gave her a small frown of my own at the comment and she continued. "Oh, it was nothing serious. Besides, I was actually trying to connect with him a little seeing as how my own Ashikabi is female."
"Really?" I said in surprise and she nodded. "Ok, just to be clear, the whole thing with Sekirei and their Ashikabi is about mating, correct? Then why in the hell have the majority of the Sekirei I've met had same-sex partners?" Seriously, how did that help with their species reproduction? I would accept it if the ratio was simply more than humans, but the only pair in the inn at the moment who were opposite sex were myself and Matsu.
The woman's brow furrowed at the question. "You know, I've never really thought about it before, but yeah that does seem kinda weird."
We were both silent for a moment before I said "So, I'm going to guess that Chiho is your Ashikabi?" Uzume gave a start of surprise and looked at me in mild alarm, so I clarified "That was the name you said when we were both… you know."
The woman next to me then became uncomfortable and started to fidget. "Uh, well…"
"What's wrong? Do you not want to talk about it?"
"Not exactly, it's just…" she trailed off before giving a sigh. "You don't want any part of the Plan, right? That's what you told the CEO. That you would burn him to the ground or something."
"Something like that."
"It's just that I don't want her to get involved in this." She said. She paused for a moment to give me an appraising look before she became resigned. "Ah to hell with it. Chiho's sick."
I blinked. "I'm sorry. With what?"
"No idea. Over a decade of research and the doctors don't really know either. All I know is that she's really weak, and any physical exertion makes it worse. She has to live in the hospital because of it. And the one who owns the hospital…" she trailed off, her face darkening for some reason. "It's not important. What is important is that I don't know if I could protect her if others in the Plan found out."
Ah, so that's why she had been hesitant to talk about it. It was probably only the fact that I had so openly declared my contempt for all the nonsense going on with MBI that she said anything at all. It was actually pretty smart of her all things considered. Still, there was one thing she said that nagged at me. "A decade of research and she still can't leave the hospital? Is she… getting worse?"
The silence that followed was only made worse by Uzume's short, bitter response. "Yes."
My heat sank to hear that. "That means that you…" I trailed off. When I had been planning with Matsu about how to handle MBI, I was told of all the most effective ways to terminate an enemy Sekirei. I was then made aware that when an Ashikabi dies, so do all of their bonded ones.
Uzume knew what I was getting at, judging by the sad smile on her face. "I know. But I don't regret it, not one bit. I am Sekirei, and Chiho is my Ashikabi. She is the one who makes me complete, the one who I'm to spend my life with, for however long that might be. I will gladly trade all those years I might have had alone for the few I have with her."
I felt a small amount of awe at the commitment that I saw in the woman before me. I often found the Sekirei bond to be a strange, alien thing which forced emotion out from biological and psychic urges. But looking at the woman next to me who was happy to die because she had met the one she was reacting to, I had to wonder if maybe there was more to it than that. Maybe it was more real than I gave it credit for.
I leaned a bit closer to her, touching my shoulder to hers. "If you ever need anything, just let me know." I said softly. I wasn't sure what I could do for her; I wasn't exactly a healer, and the Church did not like sending those that could do so just on the personal request of its agents. Still, if there was anything I could do for Uzume, I wouldn't hesitate to do so.
She was a little surprised by the offer, but she still smile back in thanks. She then leaned into me much harder and more quickly than I had, causing me to fall over on my side with a yelp. "Ah geez, how'd things get to serious?" She asked with a small smirk. "We're supposed to be talking about you and your developing harem. And how you still failed to add me to it."
I pushed myself back up. "Well, I think the fact that you're a lesbian might have had something to do with my failure."
Her smile turned coy. "Oh really? And who says you're the only one who lets the door swing both ways?"
I chuckled. "Whatever the case, if and when I do eventually snap and begin my conquest, there will always be a spot open for you if you want it. At the very least it will make Nero happy."
Uzume let out a soft laugh before she turned her attention to the other two occupants in the room. "Speaking of which, we should probably do something about that before Miya stumbles in here and finds out."
I nodded and crawled the short distance to reach my wife and the person she was using as a body pillow, Uzume not far behind me. As our conversation hadn't woken them up, I was going to have to use a different approach. "Hey, wake up." I said as I shook Nero.
Nero blinked sleepily and picked herself up somewhat, giving a yaw that would have made a lion proud. Her expression quickly turned to one of surprise when she noticed that her pillows were in fact a pair of breasts. She looked up at the woman's face, looked back down at her chest again… and then gave a shrug before she laid her head back down, this time with a cat like smile on face as she made herself 'comfortable'.
I rolled my eyes as I ignored Uzume's snickering from behind me. "Nero, what have I told you about using random women's breasts as head support?" I said flatly.
She looked back up at me slightly confused. "… I don't believe you've ever said anything about that."
"That's because I shouldn't have to!" I yelled in frustration.
This outburst finally prompted Kazahana to wake up, and she gave a small moan as she clutched her head. "You don't have to shout, I'm right here." She shifted and felt the weight on top of her, causing her to open her eyes and look around the room in confusion. "What the… how did we get like this?"
I sighed. "I honestly don't know, but I'm sure that copious amounts of alcohol played a factor."
The dark haired woman turned her attention to me looking like she was about to say something, but whatever it was died on her lips as soon as we made eye contact. Her eyes widened, and a flush crossed her face. She slowly got up (pushing Nero of her in the process) and leaned towards me, her hand coming up to touch my face. "You… look so familiar. The shape of your face, it's just like his."
"Damn bro, this was even faster then last time." Uzume said in surprise. "If you keep this up, half the Sekerei in the city will belong to you before the month's out."
I leaned back awkwardly, but Kazahana simply leaned forward more and I found myself bumping into Uzume. Considering how much this situation was reminding me of when I first met Matsu, I really wanted to get away before I ended up with yet another complication in my life. "Uh, Nero, a little help here?" I said, trying to keep my discomfort out of my voice.
When my wife answered with laughter, I knew I had made a mistake. "Ho ho ho! I do believe I can see where this is going." With a swift motion, she removed her nightie and playfully jumped at the three us, causing me to be at the bottom of a pile of mostly naked women.
"Not what I meant!" I shouted as I tried to dig myself out without touching anything inappropriate. It was difficult with all the tangled limbs, but at least I had some camaraderie with Uzume, who looked as uncomfortable and awkward as I was with our sudden position.
That was, of course, when the door the room opened and Homura stepped in. "Hey, it's almost lunchtime, are you feeling up-" the sentence cut of when he saw the lot of us, and everyone went still. The room was silent for a moment before Homura's palm met his face. "It's just not fair." He muttered to himself.
"Homura! I'm trapped! Get me out of here!" I yelled as I tied to squirm out from under the other 3.
"Your problems are completely alien to me." The man replied flatly. "Also, they make me want to punch you for contextualizing them as problems." Despite this, he still walked over and managed to help separate the lot of us (a feat made more difficult by Nero's attempts to add him in as well).
"Mou." My wife pouted as everyone started putting on clothes again. "This is a waste of a perfectly good opportunity."
"Ignoring the rather questionable consent of all the parties involved, I am really not in the mood for this sort of thing with a bunch of random people right now." I replied.
"Oh? So does that mean that you have certain people in mind?" she asked coyly.
My eyebrow twitched. Ok, I walked right into that one.
Thankfully, Homura came to my rescue once again. "Oy, that's enough of that. You're lucky that Miya is with Sakura in the kitchen making lunch, because I know she'd be unhappy if she walked in on… this," he gestured vaguely "rather than me."
I looked at him questioningly. "Aren't you curious as to how this happened?"
"No." He said. "I've come to learn that any explanation involving you will be so absurd that I would have rather not learned about it at all. Like last night." Houmra twitched in annoyance as he remembered the explanation of my relationship with the sisters Tohsaka. He then perked up as he remembered something. "Speaking of which, that… thing that showed up last night left this letter for you. He was going to hand it to you on his way out, but you were passed out by then."
I frowned as I took the letter from him. "A letter? Who on Earth would be sending me a-" I cut myself off as read the name on the envelop.
My brow began to twitch furiously. I wanted to burn it right then and there. I knew that it would keep my headache from getting worse. But she would find out. She always finds out. Giving the sigh of the damned, I opened it and read the contents.
It has been awhile since we have seen each other. One might say that you're actively trying to avoid me, but since it would be silly for a member of the Burial Agency to be afraid of a mere, sickly Exorcist, I'm sure it is just my imagination. Then again, you have simply been doing your job in Shin Tokyo, so that is commendable.
Speaking of which, I've heard that you have been doing a good job with that new species that was found. This is even more impressive considering your terrible personal skills, so I congratulate you on overcoming your deficiency. In any case, I am writing to inform you that I will be take over the duties our father once held in Fuyuki very shortly. I'm sure that I will be visiting you at the earliest possible convenience. I've heard that there is some nonsense going on with a local corporation, but I'm sure you'll have that all cleaned up before I arrive.
P.S. I've decided to take up a hobby, so I've commandeered your room at the Vatican as a sewing room. Seeing as how you have your own place in the city, this should not be a terrible issue for you. Unless of course you burned that to the ground, but I'm sure that is not the case.
Sincerely, your beloved Imouto.
The paper crumpled in my hand as I shouted in frustration at my oncoming doom. "CAAAAAAREEEEEN!"