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“That’s right, your eyes are working correctly.” grinned the new lady. “But, if I may if an’ ask of you two fine, hearty young ladies, while we’re out here on our business and on our mission to destroy the great evil a-brewing that you surely guessed was going about now, would you deign to call me but The Celestial Colonel, or just The Colonel while we’re makin’ friendly? I’m not fond of the name y’all know me by, but I figured you’d recognize me on the quick if I ‘scribed my moniker as that first before y’all. Just never sat right with me. I’m sure you understand, there, Miss Weapon, about one’s names and all. Does your cute, young pal here know that Atma ain’t your real name?”

“Ehe?” Katsuragi’s ears perked up. “That’s...Atma Weapon isn’t your real, full name? I thought you told me it was.”

Atma flushed red and hid her face in her hand, grumbling under her breath. “It’s complicated. The name change papers are in process, and even with us being the Kings, there’s no easy way to get around bureaucracy and all. I’m still waiting for my full official legal change to be done. Like The Colonel here, I was never really fond of my birth name for a variety of reasons.”

She paused before saying one more thing to her blonde friend. “Please don’t be mad at me.”

“I won’t be mad if you tell me what your name actually is, then. Now I’m REALLY curious. What, is it something embarrassing, like Gertrude or Bertha or, wait don’t tell me, your parents gave you a man’s name like Lawrence or something else broody and horrible sounding.”

“A-Amanda...” Atma sighed.

“Oh, that’s fucking rich. The almighty Atma Weapon’s real name is some common girly girl’s name, the kind you hear a cute femme dyke call herself. I don’t believe this!” Katsuragi burst out laughing. “But seriously, out with your full name, there, or am I going to have to call you Amanda Weapon, which is too ridiculous, even for me?”

“A-Amanda...” Atma pursed her lips and began to chew on a loose bit of skin on her lower one, her weirdly long and devilish tongue running its away across the edge of her teeth and chin as she lost eye contact with Katsuragi, eyes now meeting the dirt. “Amanda Marie Graham. But even that’s not my real legal name. Look, Katsuragi, I’m Scottish of all things and that’s my knight clan’s name. My real, full, legal birth name is nowhere near as badass. It’s Mantynen. Try spelling that in katakana. It means something to do with pine trees. All I know is I hate it since nobody can ever pronounce it, and the person who gave us that name disowned me as a newborn baby, saying I was doomed to failure, so I shall disown him back. Though now I wonder, that was the first time a man told me I’d never account to anything, and look where I am despite it all. It’s also a ridiculously rare last name and makes me too easy to identify. Atma Weapon, being a code name taken from a goddamn Final Fantasy game, brings up almost entirely nerd sites and game information, so I’m safe.”

“Uh...” Kat stuttered.

“If it makes you feel any better, I only never told you any of this because you never asked, though I’m seriously shocked you thought my real name was Atma Weapon. And also, the owner of my full legal name who disowned me? His fourth ex-wife divorced him because turns out she’s a lesbian like us. So at least that has a happy end.” Atma sat down, the metaphorical wind knocked out of her. “Sorry. I hope we can still be best friends.”

“Well...” Katsuragi began, chewing on her own lips now. “I can see why you changed your name. This one makes you sound like a way too cute young, confused, freshly open femme dyke and you? Cute? Yeah I’m sorry but that just doesn’t work. You were smart to go for something more brutish and resembling your true, filthy nature. And hey, I never said I fully believed your real name was Atma Weapon, just I don’t have time to question peoples nouns, proper or pro. That’s your business, just as it’s my business to accept women in any form. So chill. We’re friends.”

“...Are you saying I ain’t cute, Kat?” Atma walked up and pressed a finger into Kat’s chest. “Me? Well, I got news for you, I’m not cute, but I’m handsome as hell. It’s why your cute little junior over there with the heavy bags wants in my hakama now, too.”

“Gotta long road ahead of you for you to claim territory on Miyabi’s word and get a fanclub of her caliber. I’d like to see you try, oh miss handsome lady samurai...”

A shot was fired up into the air, startling the two back to reality and looking over at their new friend, who was sighing in disbelief, giving them both a disappointed glare, a tone of annoyance to her voice but briefly. “Now’s not the time for identity policing, you two lovebirds! You were lucky I found you when I did, yes, but now’s the time for talkin’, not prattlin’ on at each other like you was married. If an’ I didn’t know better, I’d have come down thinkin’ I was interrupting a married couples’ tizzy about where to go for lunch or some such.”

Katsuragi and Atma turned crimson. Ayame snorted, approving of this lady’s joke. “Like hell we’re married!” the two shouted in unison.

“Reckon I was anyone else you told that to, I’d not believe it for the penny it was printed on. Y’two got a lot of denial to work through. Like hell ya ain’t married.” The Colonel grinned and motioned to Ayame. “Hey you, Raven. I’mma call you that, that okay with you, Raven? Just ‘cuz I know judo, doesn’t mean I know a thing about using Japanese. So pardon my language. Nicknames will have to do for you and your moldune-wavin’ mentor over here. Hey, blondie, can I call you Goldie? You look like several miles of gold rush, y’know? Anyways, Raven, set up a blanket, we should have ourselves a good ol’ fashioned picnic.”

“Moldune...” Atma beamed up. “You know Boontling, Colonel?”

Boontling was the name of a weird, obscure jargon that existed only for a small period of time and only in a small area near where Atma was born and raised. A strange slang full of terms obsessing over phones, coffee, tits, fighting, hunting, and masturbating, it was something she grew up hearing bits of from her extended family and came to learn and speak as an adult as a way to preserve it. She rarely if ever got to use it outside of talking to Koshka in code, she was delighted to hear it again.

“A smidge here and there. The Heavens wanted me to be prepared to woo you to our side, so to speak, and they knew you was a discernin’ gal, and would easily listen to a woman who knew her cunning lingualisms.” she laughed her hearty laugh again and helped Ayame set the blanket, sitting down next to her.

“What’s a, uh, moldy-dune, hmm, Miss Amanda?” Kat grinned, arm around Atma’s neck, finger pointing at her face and squishing softly into one of her cheeks. “What’s a Boontling? You got more secrets you hiding from me? Come on, spit it out.”

“Just a local language up here, of sorts.” Atma reached her own hand around Kat’s neck and in return, began to squeeze and grope her left tit as if she had to cling to it to save her life. “This is a moldune, dear, and you got some rather sizable ones. Or mollies. Same thing, different term. Just like you keep shouting hooters and melons and tits and boobs, we call ‘em that.”

“Oh, is that so, Lady Amanda Marie of the Pine Forests? Ahh, what an elegant, wonderful, sweet, cute, womanly name that is...” Kat teased further, spurned on by Atma’s grabbing, knowing damn well that was their version of a slap of the glove, an invitation to a duel. Her hand lowered and squeezed at Atma’s chest, harder than she was doing to Kat herself.

“Drop the real name bullshit and I’ll teach you how to pick up prostitutes, fuck them on burlap sacks, and get to feast face first into any of these moldunes you see in my, ah, native tongue.” Atma squeezed back, full force, huffing as she hid the pain from the stinging in her own tits behind a toothy grin.

“Deal.” Kat dropped Atma’s tit.

“Deal.” Atma dropped Kat’s tit.

The two joined The Colonel and Ayame, who was setting out the meal they had packed from earlier, knowing they could be out here for days and that lunch was needed after all this excitement. She could portion it out to include their new friend, too, making tea by procuring enough sticks for a small campfire and boiling up some clear, clean river water. She seemed to like their new friend a lot, even if half of it was because she saved their lives, but the other half was just how amazing she looked.

The Colonel looked nothing like what history remembered her as. Of course, history also claimed she was a guy, and that’s what Atma was taught. Turns out that’s not quite what went on, and nobody ever tells history or mythology correctly, so she wasn’t surprised to see it get mangled so fast. She was a short, stocky character, that much remained the same. So did the hat and the general frontiersman look she had about her outfit, with leather top and pants, thick boots and gloves, a belt with plenty of supply pouches on it, a thick knife and a saber attached to it for easy drawing and riding access both, and across her shoulder to her hip lay a row of holy bullets. Her rifle stood tall with her, and a look of confidence set about her face. Her eyes were beaming and bright and full of wisdom, her muscles and body toned from hard work and exploring and exercise, as well as the boxing and judo she’d do to keep her personal defenses up. Whatever skin was exposed most was tan and dirty, the rest of her pale and clean. Matching brown hair went to her shoulders, and she had a rather disarming smile. If she needed them, a pair of small reading glasses hung from a clip around her neck.

Something told Katsuragi and Atma that she could handle anything, even if that anything was a combination of both of their best efforts to try to lure her into bed and then what to do with her once they got hold of her. Oh, don’t judge me, judge them if you must, but I merely report back what the story was like. And we’d be remiss to not acknowledge our former president, a woman now, and perhaps always had been one, was a total looker. She’d fit right in with the lumberjacks up north, and something about her was definitely giving Katsuragi and Atma wood to chop down. It was probably the fact she had a really huge, nice rack to go with her whole rest of her package, which delighted the two Kings immensely so. Ayame didn’t notice as much, instead choosing to get lost willingly in The Colonel’s deep, dark eyes. Poor Ayame; she just had a major case of having a crush on every girl. It happens in women her age who absolutely adore muscular women, and being surrounded by them gave her a great and genuine joy like nothing else could about now.

Before the end of this journey, or perhaps as a reward after, the Kings would be rewarded by seeing The Colonel in bed with them and exploring the far, far western frontiers of their bodies. What a sexy bitch. Unfair.

They all sat down and looked at each other, but mostly at Roosevelt expectantly.

“Hey.” Atma began. She was usually the one to negotiate, even if Katsuragi was as loud as she was, and just as crude, she was also slightly less experienced than this. “So what’s this stuff about Heaven sending you down? What exactly is going on down here? You mentioned we were on the right track, but for what? All the clues we had only lead us here, but other than that, we’ve been on a wild skirt chase, so to speak. Spit it out.”

“Well...” The Colonel began, peering over at a bush near the riverbank here. “Let me get my colleague whom I’m working with on this mission. Her and I can explain better together than we could separate.”

“There’s two of you out here?” Kat asked, wondering if the new lady would be as hot as she was expecting her to be. Hell, this was looking more and more like a foursome was going to be included in the package deal with this quest. Five, if Ayame wanted to be kinky and get herself involved in the folds between the pages of history. Girl’s got to release that sexual tension she builds up between herself and Atma and Katsuragi sometime, after all.

“Well, yes. Two makes for a duo, and it’s something you two do know how to do well! Which is why yer actin’ so married.” The Colonel did that laugh again, making the Kings wonder just what her deal was. “Well, that and the fact y’two ought to just properly play bedmate to the other for just one night, instead of a mere bedwarmer on nights your other women cannot make themselves available. If an’ y’know what I mean.”

“Just show me the tits.” Kat turned red, eyes shifting over to Atma a bit, her brain now screwed with and images of doing something more than a friends with benefits kind of lay with her best friend made her heart race and her stomach jump. Well, she WAS cute, and that name of hers was just driving her crazier for her. Her mind turned to her mentioning she was Scottish, and Katsuragi didn’t know much about them, but she knew the men wore kilts, and with how manly and tough Atma was, perhaps they’d let her wear one. You know, if only for ease of access to...Well, shit, what was she thinking? About her best friend, even? Focus, Katsuragi, focus.

“Yeah, if we’re in trouble as you say we are, then let me meet the lady.” Atma puffed her cheeks out, taking her turn to look up at her best friend, noticing for a rare time that she was more than just the sum of her curves and which curves of hers was her favorite, but just the idea of her as an ideal or whole and having that embrace her made her equally nervous. Fuck this newcomer for making her think such things about her best friend.

“Come on out, Captain Ambrose!” Roosevelt shouted, an immediate rustling from the bush coming forth.

Out came a lady in immense Victorian style finery, a dress that would be the envy of several of Kat and Atma’s friends, in laces and ribbons, with a cap on her head signifying her military rank and badges on her sleeves and chest that stood out midst her nicer stuff. She was barefoot and armed with a stick she carved to a spear, several fish standing on end on it. She had messy, messy blonde-red hair and looked a fair bit more relaxed than her friend but still strong. The first words out her mouth were priceless.

“Ohh, a fire. You got the fire going!” she grinned and ran over to Ayame’s cooking fire with the fish, setting them up to cook angled against the flames for maximum crispiness. She drooled a bit as she sat down between everyone and flopped on her back, looking up at the sun through the branches in the trees. “These big-tittied tramps the heroes, you say? Those are the Kings of California?”

“Yes those are, Ambrose. Though only one of them is noticeably rather well equipped for her journey to womanhood, and the other not so much but making up for it in spirit.” The Colonel responded, very blatantly and openly gawking at Atma’s chest. “They want to hear why we’re here and just exactly what’s going on with their neck of the woods, so to speak.”

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh former boy president turned to a lady now, because you always were.” the one called Ambrose laughed. “Hey, ladies. Name’s Ambrose. Ambrose Bierce. You can call me The Rose though, or Captain Rose.”

“Well, by Amaterasu’s tits.” Atma scoffed. “Another one of you. Kat, Ayame, this here’s one of America’s earlier satirists and journalists and the eventual rival of the man who invented what would become clickbait, you know, that stuff that says you will not believe what happens unless you click now. Or essentially, Buzzfeed. Can’t say that you teaming up with The Colonel of all people isn’t a disinteresting choice. Good to see the gods have a sense of humor.”

“Your nation’s kind of fucked up. Remind me to actually give a shit and learn a bit about it sometime after all this. I’m curious as to how you all keep electing and finding and nominating all these sorts of people term after term.” said Kat, trying her best not to stare at anyone right now and give herself at least a bit of decorum. “Like, no offense and all, but you are interestingly weird. Everyone back home in Japan is so stilted and passive we never get anything done and it’s all at slowest speeds and boring as hell.”

“Well, let us wait for the food to finish so we may feast on our lunch posthaste and linger over tea and coffee and small cakes that we brought with us, so that we may be energized for the grave task at hand.” Roosevelt gestured that everyone get comfortable as they could. It was going to be a while. At this point, the sun was well past above them and moving back towards the coast so as to set and rest for the day.

They all agreed and got comfortable, Kat and Atma leaning on either side on their elbows, faces resting in their hands. Atma undid Hoshigiri and set it to along her right hip area, which meant she had no intention on drawing it at this time. Sure, she still could from that angle if she had to, but to signify it would give her away, as most swordsmen, including her, kept her main weapon on her left hip as to use their dominant right hand easier.

“But there’s something important you should know now before we get to talking. None of this, not even the fact that we’ve come from the Heavens, even if you’ve seemingly already accepted that, will make sense at all, if an’ you don’t hear us out first, y’all.” The Colonel’s voice went from heart and resplendent with laughter to one of a much more dark and serious bent. That’s how Katsuragi and Atma knew without a doubt that they were indeed in the deep end is if even Roosevelt herself wasn’t able to find some kind of heroic levity to this all.

“Oh, this is the fun part. I can tell this is getting to the fun part because she’s getting quiet. Last time I see her do this, heads flew off from miles away using naught but her hunting rifle. Girl’s good when she wants to aim for something specific and then just take it! Kablam!” Ambrose picked up where the laughter had stopped at Roosevelt and tried her best to cut even a bit of the tension out of the air. Katsuragi and Atma, sadly, did not follow, and only say with bated breath as to what this first things first could possibly all be about.

Then it started.

Roosevelt began to hum and sing a familiar tune.

“So shine forth of blues and reds and of greatest golds...” She began, at a slow, quiet tempo.

“Come forth from the peasants to the kings in actions bold...” Ambrose picked up the next line.

The two continued like this a few times through, not singing the last two lines for a few cycles, picking up in pace and tune and volume each time until they were bellowing beyond the winds and hills and trees and life itself all around them. At long last, the last two familiar lines of the miner’s song came rolling in as they usually did.

“Take ye not from me the spirit of California so free… As gold shines true, and let freedom ring again unto thee!” The last bit sung together.

“The Miner’s Song...” Atma smiled. The song gave her an inner peace for some reason. It always had been comforting in a way she couldn’t quite place it.

“So, that’s a popular one in the Heavens too, I take it?” Kat asked, curious, somehow it was able to knock the mental image of Atma in naught by a kilt out of her head, if at least for now.

“You could say that it was written about some friends of mine. Friends you also know.” Roosevelt went on. “It’s more than just a song; surely you heard that it could be transcribed or taken as a prophecy of some kind, right?”

“Yeah, but isn’t that just an old Illuminati rumor?” Atma asked. “It...It is, right? Who or what could it be speaking of, then?”

“Oh, y’all are silly young ladies, ain’t ya? Do I have to spell it out t’ya? Well, lessee here, two girls lookin’ and itchin’ for a sharking match with some demons over at the Grove, a known place they gather, stopped heroically in time by envoys of Heaven who now regale them with this tale and song again for some reason. Ever wonder why it felt nice for y’two ta hear?” Roosevelt went on. “Care to do the honors, Captain Rose?”

“Aye, Colonel!” Ambrose snickered. “You see, you two, Illuminati rumors have more truth to them than you think they do, a unique power just to them. And this is real, it being a prophecy. It’s missing a part, but we can worry about that in a bit. What’s say it, oh peaked kings, from what our state must now be protected from devils from?”

“...Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Katsuragi turned darkly serious.

“Yeah, Kat. I think they are.” Atma leered at them. “Say it.”

The flames from the dinner flared up into the sky as the sun began to set and turn the sky from blue to orange and red and purple to dark, the embers sparking and crackling in the dark night sky as they came to a revelation long coming now, the one California was now silently beginning to scream for a sit began to slip into the clutches of demons and devils alike. Roosevelt turned to them and pointed at each of them in turn, her usual smile gone from her face for now.

“You’re the king-turned peasants these words sing of. The Heavens put this song here as a safeguard to guarantee your arrival, and now the state sings it all over, its cry for help.” Roosevelt then got on one knee and bowed to Katsuragi and Atma, head down, eyes closed, rifle held on the ground and pointed to the sky, hand on barrel as if holding a spear to protect the gates with. “And to the Kings of California, all hail, and from the devils we WILL be freed!”
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