Chapter 182: Kailani
Now maybe
Well some will say your life was sad
But you lived it anyway
And so maybe
Your friends can stand around and watch you crumble
As you fall into the ground

Second Thursday in April, 2000

Family trees and genetic charts were still swirling in Kai's head a week later. Regine had made even more of her notes available to her this week, and the results were fascinating. She wondered if Shiva and Magnolia knew they were half-sisters, or if the Thorne Girls knew they were. "Feline traits appear to be dominant," Regine had mentioned, "although we will need another generation or two to be certain. It will be interesting to see how Conrad's genes express themselves. I was not expecting the tail, considering his parentage."

It was uncomfortable to think about the breeding project when it directly touched her, although Regine seemed to have no difficulty in discussing her own blood lines. What was more, she discussed what Kai would consider incest with no qualms at all, as if, it seemed, she was discussing horse-breeding. Ofir is my daughter's son, although I can't say the Grigori genes bred true at all in him. It will be intriguing to see if, with the bloodline reinforced, his child by Agatha takes after my side of the family, or one of the other lines.

Kai was of the very private opinion that said child was mostly likely to turn out as an evil creepy rabbit-bat thing, although she didn't have, yet, any proof that evil was genetic. If it was, would I be evil? Was my father as cold as Regine is?

She put the thoughts aside as she got ready for her weekly training. She had to keep her mind focused for these sessions; when she didn't, she ended up taking more damage than was comfortable. They were really pushing her hard, but she was learning quite a bit from them.

"Tch, training still?" Mabina shook her head. "And about to burst. Kai, why don't you ask them for a break?"
"It's not in the deal I made." The thought of a break, however, sounded wonderful. Her center of balance was dropping lower, and her equilibrium was getting a little uncertain. "I agreed to train every week for the rest of the year."

"Well, that wasn't very well thought out, then, was it? What with your babies and all."

"I wasn't planning on getting pregnant with twins at the time," she retorted. Tying her shoes was getting complicated. "Conrad…"

"She's right, you know," he murmured. He was good at tying her shoes. He was good at pretty much everything. "It's not that safe for the babies… or for you." He set his free hand on the curve of her stomach.

"But it's the deal I made," she countered, "and I have to do it. Thank you." She levered herself into a standing position, taking the arm he held out for support.

"Let me come with you, at least? If anything happens…"

"I am not a fragile flower and I'm going to the gym," she answered, but at the set of his tail and ears, she sighed, relenting. "Stay out of the way."

"And that's a fine way to talk to your lover, isn't it?" Mabina muttered. Kai ignored her. She didn't have a retort for that.

Conrad stuck to her side as they walked to the training room, but, once there, settled into a corner of the room with a textbook which he was clearly only pretending to read.

Massima noticed first. "An escort?"

"He's worried about the babies," she explained. At least, she was pretty sure that was what was going on.

"Perfect," Acacia smiled. It was then that it occurred to Kailani that the three of them were not wearing work-out gear. Cay tossed her a pile of cloth and leather. "Suit up, Girl Scout."

"Suit…?" She shook out the pieces, noting a hip-length leather jacket that felt as if it had metal plates sewn in, maternity jeans with an extra gusset for high kicks, thick-soled boots and thick leather gloves. She noted, too, that Doug wasn't here yet. "Oh." She kicked off her shoes and shimmied out of her sweat pants. "We're doing a field exercise?"

"Mission." Sima was showing an awful lot of teeth.

"Mission," she repeated. That was right. She'd - well, she hadn't forgotten, so much as assumed they would hold off until she had given birth. "Today?"

"No, Girl Scout, in June. Yes, today. We've got word of a young Nedetakaei Hunter who's holed up in a fertilizer plant about an hour away. He's hunting young half-breed kids. Kidnapping, at least. We don't know what he does with them once he's gotten them." Acacia tossed a gas mask to Allyse. "You'll need that."

"Kaia…" Conrad began. Allyse cut him off.

"That's the deal she made. You're not questioning your Keeper's judgment, are you? Or suggesting she go back on her word?"

Conrad shut his mouth with a snap. Kai was grateful; it gave her time to think. "Fertilizer factory," she repeated. Allyse had a gas mask… because Allyse was pregnant.

"Could be very dangerous to your babies," Sima agreed, sounding far too cheerful to Kai's ears. "But you promised to come on the hunt we choose, so you're coming. Unless you want to renegotiate the deal."

"What kind of deal?" Kai asked suspiciously. "What do you want?" She could manipulate the air so that nothing tainted got into her lungs, that part was easy. But a Nedetakaei Hunter would not be a gentle combat.

"Give me Conrad, and we'll release you from your promise. It's only a few months until the end of the year anyway."

"Kaia…" Conrad started again.

"Shut up." She could work through this. It was a logic puzzle, just a particularly tricky one. She wasn't going to get caught again, not like she had with Agatha.

There. There, she could do it that way. If she pulled that working, and that one…. Yes, that would work. She looked up at Massima, and found she was too angry to say anything to her. Acacia. Cay had set this up. She turned to her, talking quickly before she could start shouting.

"You planned this. You had this in mind all along."

"Of course I was. You look after your own crew first, Girl Scout. Everyone else comes second."

"All of this, the training, standing up for me to Ardell, all of it, just so Massima could have Conrad?"

"Like I said, you look after your own." Acacia shrugged eloquently. "I mean, you're kinda fun to train, and there was that vision Allyse had. I figure you're going to be useful to us at some point either way."

"Is that all people are to you, useful?" She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. She wanted to hit someone.

"People who aren't my crew, yeah. You'll get there, Girl Scout. You'll find the crew that works with you." It almost sounded as if the older girl was being sympathetic. "But for now - do we have a deal?"

"A deal?" She turned back to Massima. She couldn't take them in a fight, not yet. "Why would you want someone who doesn't even want you?"

"How do you know he doesn't want me?" The three of them were closing in on her. Were they going to turn this into an attack? Kai backed slowly towards the wall, towards Conrad.

"Conrad doesn't strike me as the sort to shy away from anything. He goes after what he wants." If she got the wall at her back, she'd have more cover. Was Conrad any good in a fight? How had she gotten this far, dating him, Owning him, here in Addergoole, without finding that out?

What else don't you know about him?

Now was not the time for that kind of doubt. She reached one hand for him, shifted her body into guard position, and kept talking. "If he wanted you in that manner, he would have taken you up on your repeated offers. So I repeat, why do you want a man who doesn't want you?"

Massima hissed. "All your talking isn't going to get you out of this, Girl Scout. I want the man. I want his strength. I want his children. I don't want some pussy Kept, some toy-boy."

"So you'd bully a man into being your Kept by threatening his child." Kai didn't understand people, especially not Addergoole people.

"He should have been mine." Massima was showing all her teeth in an entirely inhuman expression that Kai had no trouble at all reading. "If you hadn't tripped up there, if you hadn't accidentally gotten him, he would have been mine and we wouldn't have had to go through this stupid charade."

"And he'd be miserable, and I wouldn't have fallen in love, and I wouldn't have learned how to fight." She squeezed Conrad's hand. "He doesn't want to be with you, Massima."

"Then you're going to have to come fight the Hunter with us, aren't you? I hope you're better at dodging him than you are at getting away from my hits, 'cause a Nedetakaei isn't going to pull his punches."



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