July 5th, U.C. 0043, 3:30 AM
Sena pulled back the covers from Aina’s bed, rousing Mimi, Aina, and Momo from their slumber.
“You have been here for a single day, and you are already taking in strays,” Sena joked. “I hope you got goshujin-sama’s permission.”
“That was a good one, Sena-chan,” Aina said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“Then why aren’t you laughing?” Sena asked.
“Because it’s 3:30 in the morning,” Aina answered.
“Wakatta. There is an old gynoid expression, ‘No one is ever happy to hear an alarm bell.’”
“Mimi-chan, Momo-chan, arigatou,” Aina thanked the catgirls.
“Donmai,” Mimi yawned, slipping out of bed. Momo just gave Aina a quick lick on the cheek before following her sister’s lead. The two walked to the door, pausing briefly to stretch their limbs, before making their way back to their own room for two more hours of sleep.
The rest of the morning went smoothly. Aina had less trouble with her chores, and she even managed to stay with the group during morning exercises. During her hour in the library, Aina was surprised to find books by Western authors mixed among the Japanese books, but as curious as she was about them, she knew it was illegal to read them, so she instead borrowed a copy of Night on the Galactic Railroad and an old 3rd grade social studies textbook. The library contained no textbooks published after U.C. 0039.
Shortly before 2 PM, Sena led Aina to the courtyard track for her first afternoon exercise session. They arrived ahead of schedule to find the butler stretching next to the starting line. Aina had only ever caught glimpses of him during morning exercise, when he had always been surrounded by others. She had already learned that, despite his lofty position in the household, he was only fourteen years old, but she was surprised to find two cat ears peeking out from the shaggy orange hair atop his head.
“Gokigenyou, Diaho-sama,” Sena greeted him. Aina repeated the greeting with a curtsey.
“Konnichiwa… Aina-san, wasn’t it?” Diaho responded.
“Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” he said, flashing a disarming smile and holding out his hand.
“Yoroshiku onegaishimasu,” Aina said perfunctorily as she shook his hand.
“Seems that my charm isn’t coming through today,” Diaho said with a small frown.
“Don’t give yourself too much credit,” came Naomi’s voice from behind Aina. Aina was starting to become accustomed to the other meido appearing out of nowhere. “It’s not hard to be charming when you’re the only young man in a mansion filled with young girls.”
“Konnichiwa, Nyaomi-sama,” Diaho said as if he hadn’t heard her comment. The “nya” in “Nyaomi” was very slight but still noticeable. “Arigatou for inviting me out this afternoon. It’s nice to get out and play every so often, especially when you provide such cute playthings.” He yanked on Aina’s arm, pulling her close to him, and placed his arms on her shoulders. He looked down at her, expecting to be met with a flustered and blushing face, but was surprised to find the girl glaring at him.
“Oi, kimi! What are you doing to Aina-chan?” Momo bellowed, running towards them at full speed.
“Is that any way to greet your superior?” Diaho retorted, releasing Aina from his grasp.
“Dare is superior? I don’t see anyone like that,” Momo answered. “Except for you, of course, Nyaomi-sama,” she quickly corrected herself. “Gokigenyou.”
“Good afternoon, Momo,” Naomi said. “I do hope you’ll behave yourself today. Diaho-sama is my guest.”
“Hai, Nyaomi-sama,” Momo said, looking at the ground.
“But it was a very good question,” Naomi said. “What were you doing, putting your moves on a seven-year-old girl?”
“Nana-sai? Masaka! Surely she’s jyuu-ni-sai, at least,” Diaho scoffed. “Or else she’s the most beautiful nana-sai kanojo I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
“I’m not your kanojo,” Aina defended herself. “And I am nana-sai. You’re not some kind of lolicon, are you, Diaho-sama?”
“Your words wound me, fair musume,” Diaho lamented. “I am a lover of all onna, and if you want to label me a lolicon because of it, so be it. I will accept that label.”
“Don’t worry,” Naomi reassured Aina. “He’s harmless. A few of the girls are enamored of him, but he knows better than to lay hands on his master’s property.”
“You mean some hito actually fall for that?” Aina asked incredulously.
“Gokigenyou, Diaho-sama.” Mimi brushed past Aina to greet Diaho. “Ii tenki for some exercise, ne?”
“All the better now that you’re here, Mimi-san,” Diaho responded, taking her hand and kissing it. Mimi let out a contented sigh; Momo just rolled her eyes.
“Now that everyone is here,” Naomi said, “shall we begin? I thought we’d start by running laps, followed by a game of reverse tag.” Aina turned to bid Sena farewell, but the gynoid had already slipped away and was walking back to the mansion. Reluctantly, Aina joined the rest of the group at the starting line.
“Youi…” Diaho called out. “Don!” The five of them sprang from their starting positions and began racing around the track. Aina ran in long, leisurely strides that carried her faster than they looked like they ought to, but Mimi, Momo and Diaho began to break away from Aina, and it wasn’t long before they were half a lap ahead of her. As they sped away, Aina noticed that Diaho didn’t seem to have a tail.
“This isn’t a warm-up, Mme Aina,” Naomi explained. She was running alongside Aina without any difficulty. “You can go faster.”
“I’d be going faster if I could,” Aina replied, frustration in her voice.
“No, you’re not. If you were, you’d be so out of breath that you wouldn’t be able to talk back.” Aina forced a bit more strength into her legs, managing to go slightly faster, but the nekomimi were still outpacing her. “Your strides are too long. Lean forward and focus on making shorter, faster strides,” Naomi instructed. Aina did as she was told and immediately felt the results. She was now keeping pace with the nekomimi, although she was not gaining on them. On the eighth lap, the nekomimi began to tire, and Aina was able to make up some lost ground, coming to within 50 meters of them before they finished.
“Good hustle, Aina-san,” Diaho congratulated her as she finished her lap. Mimi and Momo were still catching their breaths, but Diaho looked completely recovered. Naomi had kept pace with Aina throughout her run, and neither of them appeared winded in the slightest.
“Where did you learn to run like that?” Naomi asked. “You looked like a ballet dancer jetéing along the track. It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in years.”
“I didn’t learn it anywhere. That’s how I’ve always run,” Aina answered defensively. “It always worked well before.”
“You’re still talking back,” Naomi observed. “And you don’t seem the least bit fatigued.”
“I went as fast as I could!” Aina protested.
“I believe you,” Naomi assured her. “Here,” she said, holding her arm out, palm towards Aina, fingers pointing to the sky. “I want you to press against my hand as hard as you can.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m pretty strong,” Aina bragged, flexing her feeble biceps.
“I promise you I’m stronger,” Naomi smiled.
“Well, alright.” Aina placed her palm against Naomi’s and began to push, lightly at first, for fear of injuring the older woman. She expected Naomi’s arm to crumple immediately, just like everything else she had ever pushed, but when that did not happen, Aina cautiously began to increase the force of her push. As she neared full strength, Naomi’s arm began to wobble a bit, but it quickly steadied itself.
“Enough,” Naomi declared, and Aina pulled back quickly, worried that she had hurt Naomi. “You are strong,” Naomi agreed, “But almost all of your strength is coming from your spiritual energy, not your muscles.”
“Is that bad?” Aina asked.
“It’s both good and bad,” Naomi said. “It’s good in that spiritual energy is more difficult to develop than physical strength, and you already have more than most people.”
“Including you, Naomi-sama?”
“Of course not. Don’t forget that I’ve had more than a century to build up my spiritual strength.”
“So what’s the bad part?”
“Because your spiritual energy is so strong, you’ve been using it for everything, and your muscles aren’t getting any use at all. As a result, they’re necrotizing.”
“That does sound bad,” Aina said, frowning.
“It’s not too late to fix things,” Naomi reassured her. “You just have to start using your muscles more often. It will be hard at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly.”
“And how do I do that?”
“What do you mean? You just stop using your spiritual energy.”
“But how do I do that?”
“You just—” Naomi started, but then quickly snapped her mouth shut. She remembered reading in the reports from Aina’s school that Aina occasionally injured her classmates without intending to. Aina was using her spiritual energy instinctively, Naomi realized, supplementing her physical strength for even the smallest of tasks. “You’ll have to learn to hold back your strength,” Naomi finished.
“Last time I did that, I fainted,” Aina informed Naomi. “Papa said I shouldn’t do that anymore, because I might blow up. He said I could also blow up if I tried to use too much strength.”
“Is that so?” Naomi mused. “Then our only choice is to use up all that energy and tire you out. Are you ready for some tag?”
“Sounds ii,” Aina said with a smile.
Aina was laying in her bed, reading the textbook she had borrowed earlier in the day, when she heard a soft knock at the door.
“Dare is it?”
“Momo desu,” came a slightly-muffled reply.
“Hairu,” Aina offered. Momo cracked open the door and stuck her head into the room. Her cat ears lay flat atop her head, and her eyes peeked out over the top of a large white pillow, which blended in with her frilly white pajamas as she hugged it to her chest. Aina suspected that Momo was trying to deliberately make herself appear pitiable, but even so, it was working.
“Can I sleep with you tonyaight?”
“Arigatou, but I’m feeling better. I won’t cry tonight. Hontou.”
Momo’s cat ears sunk even lower. “Mimi’s angry at me,” Momo mumbled. “I don’t want to go back to our room tonight.”
“Kite,” Aina waved her over. Momo’s ears immediately perked up, and she ran into the room with a large grin on her face.
“Wai!” she shouted, diving under the covers and resurfacing next to Aina a moment later.
“Naze is Mimi angry at you?” Aina asked after Momo had settled in.
“We had a stupid fight. Donmai, we’re shimai, so we fight a lot. This kind of thing happens all the time. I just wanted an excuse to sleep with Ainya-chan again tonight. Sleeping with Mimi all the time is tsumannyai.” Aina thought about getting angry at Momo for her deception, but decided to let it slide, considering how she had helped Aina the previous night. Instead she pat Momo gently on the head, eliciting contented purrs from the catgirl.
“Ne, ne, nyani’re you reading?” Momo asked a moment later, poking at the book still in Aina’s hand.
“It’s a school book,” Aina explained. “I’m reading about the constitution and—”
“Majide?” Momo exclaimed. “I never would have thought sleeping with Aina would be tsumannyai too.”
“It’s not tsumannai, it’s—”
“Ne, ne, are there any stories in there? Read me a story,” Momo demanded.
“Alright,” Aina sighed, closing the book and replacing it with Night on the Galactic Railroad, from which she began to read.
“‘So you see, boys and girls, that is why some have called it a river, while others see a giant trace left by a stream of milk. But does anyone know what really makes up this hazy-white region in the sky?’ The teacher pointed up and down the smoky white zone of the Milky Way that ran across a huge black starmap suspended from the top of the blackboard. He was asking—”
“Tsumannyai!” Momo complained, attempting to bat the book out of Aina’s hand. “Nyani is it with you and school? When you’re not reading books for school, you’re reading books about school.”
“You’re very genki tonight,” Aina changed the subject, “aren’t you the least bit tired after today?”
“Good point. We should get some sleep,” Momo replied, kneading at Aina’s side with her hands before closing her eyes and quickly falling asleep. Aina, relieved to be free of Momo’s erratic behavior, switched off her bedside lamp and settled down to get some sleep.
“Ainya-chan,” Momo’s voice came a few minutes later. Aima opened her eyes to see that Momo’s green eyes, glowing in the darkness, were watching her intently. “Nyani’s the Milky Way?”
“It’s the galaxy we live in,” Aina explained. “Many of its hoshi can be seen in the night sky.”
“Sou ka? I’ve never seen a hoshi. Nyani do they look like?”
“Shiranai. In anime, they just look like shiro dots, but minna says they’re kirei.”
“I want to see them,” Momo yawned, falling back to sleep. “Someday, let’s see them together.”
“I would like that,” Aina whispered.
August 1st, U.C. 0043
The following letter was addressed to:
Dear Mama and Papa,
Gomen for not writing you sooner! Yasuko-onee-sama says it is too dangerous to deliver messages to you more than once a month. I don’t want you to think that I’m having so much fun that I forgot about you. I think about you every day and I miss you a lot.
That said, I am having fun. The work here is more difficult than it was at school, but I’ve made actual tomodachi, and I’m ganbaruing every day. Yasuko-onee-sama says I can’t write down anything that might identify where I am, in case this letter falls into Soviet hands, so I can’t tell you anything about them. Demo, my tomodachi are real, I promise!
How about you? Are you genki? Are you safe? I worry about you all the time. Please write back soon!
August 3rd, U.C. 0043
The reply was simply addressed to:
No apologies needed, sweetie. As your parents, it was our job to write to you first. Demo, just like you, we were unable to send a letter until now.
We miss you dearly, and we’re sorry we weren’t able to say goodbye in person. The attack on the laboratory convinced us that not even the guntai can keep us safe from the Soviets, so we have had to go into hiding to complete our work. Only Yasuko-san knows where we are. Demo, you must not try to visit us. You are safest where you are.
Be a good girl, don’t cause problems, and listen to Yasuko-san. Though it may not be for many years, we look forward to being with you again.
Mama and Papa