Daisuke had been a near-permanent fixture on the 29th floor for almost a month. I hadn’t heard from Amaterasu since she left him with Dinlas and me. After putting down the operation that had been peddling my mother’s memories, I turned my attention wholly back to the child at hand.

He was mortal. Of this, Dinlas and I were sure. He had no powers, no innate abilities that he exhibited. Except for the incredible speed at which he ran around the house, avoiding pants and Dinlas. Laughing all the while. From what Ammy shared, Daisuke had no family, and I had no idea what she would do with the lad. 

I toyed with the necklace around my throat, the moon and star rolling over my fingers. Engaged. Dinlas’ words rang through my heart like a monastery bell, full and clear. I glanced over to where he was playing with Calligenia and Aode, their happy snorts comforting. Dinlas was as gentle with his girls as he was merciless with his targets. Before the Titans and fighting, I would sometimes daydream of going on a job with him. My version of divine intervention was more a sniper on the roof than a beam of godly light. Mulling this over, I rose from the sofa and went to feed Adrastos.

I was pulling the bag out from the bottom cupboard, Adrastos’ nose pressing against my shoulder, when a sharp crack whipped through the room. I snapped up straight, nearly dropping the dog food. I was halfway through changing into my immortal form before I saw Amaterasu’s portrait floating above the island counters. Adrastos’ sudden barking had Dinlas hurry into the kitchen with Daisuke in his arms, the girls at his heels. My initial delight at seeing Amaterasu dampened as I took in her disheveled face and the cuts across her skin.

“Are you-?”

“I can’t talk long,” she started, her image shaking. Worry rolled through me, and I moved closer to her face, Dinlas behind me now.

“Tell us.”

“Tsukuyomi breached my realm, and he’s pushing in at speed. I,” Amaterasu paused, a resounding crash from somewhere on her side, making her turn away for a moment. She glanced back at Dinlas and me. “I need help, Nyx. I’ve lost contact with many of my kin, and he’s grown so much. I don’t know what happened to him.”

Amaterasu’s eyes darted to Daisuke and back. Dinlas saw her glance and cut me off in response. “The child is safe. There is no place more secure.”

She nodded, a pained look on her face. “I know, purotekutā. But can you keep him safe if you are on a battlefield?”

Dinlas looked at the toddler in his arms, then back to Amaterasu. “I can. I promise you, no harm will come to him.”

I chewed my cheek, watching Dinlas, before addressing Amaterasu. “What do you need?”

Something crashed behind her, but she didn’t turn this time. “Undead have breached sections of Nippon. I have lost energy with my shrines, either destroyed or untouched. I cannot pull upon the energies like you, yozora. I need my people. Destroy the things trespassing on my grounds, and I may rise properly to face this husband of mine.”

Amaterasu’s image shook as the sound of wood splintering echoed, and she was gone. I took a deep breath, turning to Dinlas as Adrastos started barking again.

Amata?”

Dinlas flicked his eyes from the lost image to me as he bounced the child in his arms. “Yes, amorcito?”

“What should we do? Do we go to her?” I finished filling the pitbull’s bowl so he would quiet down, shoving the bag back in its place. “It…it didn’t sound like she had much of a chance.”

“Nyx, we don’t know where she is or even who she is fighting really. You know I would never back down from a fight, but where would we even begin?” He glanced again at Daisuke. “I told her he is safe to comfort her, but who would we trust to watch him if we left?”

I blanked, lifting myself to sit on the counter, ushering Dinlas over to take Daisuke from him. “She said her shrines and the people are what aid her, so perhaps we start there? And undead. I do not want to contemplate what that even looks like right now. We may need the twins.”

Dinlas handed me Daisuke, seemingly reluctantly, then answered facetiously, “I hope you mean to fight, not watch the child.”

I laughed loudly, imagining Deimos changing diapers. “Can you imagine? I wouldn’t trust them to warm a bottle, never mind babysit. Yes, we will need them to fight.” I gave him a rueful smile. “Perhaps a good time to expand your business?”

Dinlas scratched Calli’s ears absentmindedly, causing Ao to whine. He answered slowly. “We have plenty of analysts in the office, and Eleni is running the training facility and the armory. What I am sorely missing are agents in the field. It will be invaluable to have people gathering information for us…” He trailed off in some thought, seemingly having forgotten our ongoing conversation.

I cleared my throat, bringing him back up as I rolled my necklace between my fingers again. “We could probably do some scouting while we’re there. There will be mortals and otherwise on both sides of the field.” My eyes wandered around the kitchen, falling on Dinlas’ face. “Would you be opposed to leaving now?”

His face clouded instantly, and he focused on Daisuke in my arms. “What of the child?”

I exhaled through my teeth. “Daisuke will come with us. Deimos and Phobos will join us as well. It will take too long to cover that much ground without them. I want to keep this small, tight, and quick. It doesn’t sound good.”

I shivered as a sudden chill ran down my spine. Suddenly Zeus and I were talking, during the Titanomachy, at the war-table. Stratagems and machinations clouded my thoughts, and I reveled in them now as much as I did then. I glanced back up. It was Dinlas there, not Zeus. Nevertheless, I needed that same mindset as back then. Regardless of the time period, war was war. Dinlas smiled at me, and I paused in my scheming.

“What?” I challenged him as I chewed my thumbnail.

“Nothing,” he replied with a slight smile. “Are you already planning?”

I grinned at him, hopping off the counter and handing him Daisuke. “Is it that obvious? Would you go pack for us? I’m going to get Adrastos’ things.” The child reached for Dinlas the moment I held him out, and Dinlas scooped him back. I watched them for a moment before exiting. Dinlas said nothing to me, but he seemed to be bonding closely with Daisuke. I hoped that wouldn’t turn into an issue when Ammy came back for him.

“Come on, you,” he said as he headed to the room we had turned into a makeshift nursery. A minute later, I could hear Dinlas packing a bag and Daisuke giggling and laughing. Smiling to myself, I headed to the hall closet to where Adrastos’ leash, bed, toys, and other assorted things were kept. I rummaged through the boxes, pulling out his full body harness, a thick collar, a few toys, and two bags of treats. I hoped Daisuke wouldn’t try to feed them to him all at once again.

Leaving the bags by the front door, I went to help Dinlas pack, only to find him playing with Daisuke. I leaned on the door jamb, grinning. “All done?”

Dinlas blushed that I caught him playing. “Oh, Nyx. Yeah, we’re all set, I just need to grab a few things on the way out, and we are ready to go.” He exited the room, Daisuke stumbling along behind him, and called to the girls. “Calli, Ao? Let’s go. We’re going hunting.” Both wolves clambered into the foyer, tails wagging, and eyes gleaming.

We grabbed everything and exited to the security offices proper. Dinlas went straight to his office to call Phobos and Deimos. I waited outside so I didn’t hear the whole conversation, but it was curt and to the point. When finished, he strapped his sword to his back and holstered both pistols at his sides.

“Are the twins coming?” I asked him.

“Yes, they will meet us in a day or two. They are finishing up something here. That will give us some time to scout the area and formulate a plan.”

I nodded and looked around the office, a flash of anger hitting me. We still hadn’t found the tulpa. Or rather, I hadn’t gone looking for it yet. I would need to do so soon. I mulled around the room, running my fingers over the top of the computer as Adrastos sniffed around the garbage cans. “What else do you need, amata?”

He glanced around, as if he weren’t sure, then answered, “Nothing. I suppose that is it. Eleni can have the crew and captain on the ship in three hours. It’s a floating command center. They can be there inside a week. With her anchored in the harbor, we will be fully supplied with whatever we may need.”

With another quick look around the room, he said, “Let’s go. We have more than enough here to get started.” He grabbed several bags in one hand and Daisuke in the other hand, giving me a challenging stare as I grinned at him. Taking a bag from him, we started towards the elevator and on our way to Japan.

—-

The Star of the Aegean cruised a few days behind us, as Eleni reminded us at least once every twelve hours. At my request, we had gone ahead to set up an in-land base. We being Dinlas, Calli, Ao, Adrastos, Daisuke, and myself. Our initial landing was far too excitable for what was supposed to be a quiet entrance. It took us over an hour to reach the ancient onsen ryokan that would serve us while here. We had to consider the yakuza clans as well. The last thing we needed was an immortal war and a yakuza killing spree, and we were not putting a child in the middle of that kind of danger. Eleni had advised that we would be landing on Yamaguchi territory. Keeping a low profile with our menagerie was going to be difficult. But making it to the onsen ryokan in one piece would be crucial.

It took us hardly an hour to reach our destination. It was an ancient onsen ryokan, well off the beaten path, and close to a temple dedicated to Amaterasu. Eleni had indicated that it was overlooked by most of the yakuza, simply because it was old. Many of the old ways had either retired or passed. Young men and women were eager to build their empires on the back of the modern world, leaving traditional places alone. Not for the first time, I was grateful to have Eleni on our side.

Unbeknownst to us, but as we soon found,  the wolf is sacred in Japanese mythology. We started by having to fend off the locals who insisted on presenting Calli and Ao with offerings. It did nothing to help the situation when they both transformed briefly into their human shapes. It was another hour before we were able to get to the room. The manager bowed profusely to us as he ushered us into an oversized suite on the top floor, with enough space for the wolves and Adrastos to sleep comfortably. I was grateful that the owner had decided to upgrade us from tatami mat beds, replacing them with more westernized versions. I had not been keen on sleeping on the floor on our first night in Japan. Calli and Ao stretched out on the thick-cushioned mats that the manager provided for them. My poor Adrastos was forced to sit, stare, then finally lie down on the hard floor next to them with a sullen look on his face. I chuckled, going through the closet to find a spare blanket for the sulky pit bull, earning me a few tail wags. 

I unpacked the few things we brought with us and fed Daisuke while Dinlas took his leave to walk the grounds. Ever distrustful, he wanted to know his surroundings, even though, as far as we knew, no enemy was even aware of our presence on the island. Taking a page from his book, I centered myself in our room and cast a protection dome over us. I had no idea what the kamis were capable of, but I’d rather be safe rather than sorry while we were here. Dinlas returned a bit later, removed his sword, and pulled off his suit jacket, hanging each in the closet. Underneath, his pistols were still holstered, and he removed those as well. I sat watching him and realized that in his usual clothes he stood out like a sore thumb. I needed to broach the subject of him wearing more traditional garb, especially to see the priests, without him getting angry. He enjoyed wearing his kilts, but anything beyond that would be seen as a dress and far too effeminate for his liking. A kimono may be out of the question. I sighed. That would be a battle for tomorrow or the next day.

Nyx (Ashley Gallaher-Pollard)
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