November 22nd, U.C. 0046, 1:04 PM
“Ii, just like that,” Aina praised as she paced up and down the doujou, observing the rows of meido, each practicing the same feather duster technique. “Let your wrist bend just a little more,” she instructed one of the meido. Chikako gritted her teeth as Aina passed. While it was true that dusting skills were her biggest weakness, Chikako did not appreciate being instructed by an upstart who had been a meido for barely three years. After all, it had taken her five years to become an assistant instructor.
That’s all Aina was supposed to be: an assistant instructor. However, Naomi never so much as lifted a finger to help or to correct Aina. At first, Chikako thought Naomi was trying to annoy her by making Aina an assistant instructor at such a young age, but the more she watched Aina, the more she had to admit that the kid was a genius when it came to the duster, and she was a good teacher. Naomi was right to recognize that, but what made it all the more strange was that Aina was less than proficient when it came to the larger weapons. In fact, it seemed that the larger the weapon, the more inept Aina was with it. This made Aina’s position in the doujou a strange one. On the one hand, she was an assistant instructor, but on the other, she lagged behind her peers in many areas.
“Iie, Tsukasa-san,” Aina said, placing her hand on Tsukasa’s shoulder to relax it. “Your movements aren’t flexible enough. You can’t rely on brute force alone.” She placed one hand on Tsukasa’s forearm, and the other on her wrist, and guided her arm in the proper motion for the technique. She went slowly and carefully, making sure not to injure Tsukasa. Aina had much more control over her strength than she used to, but she could tell that she was not so much guiding Tsukasa’s hand as she was forcing it.
When she let go, Tsukasa repeated the motion. It was still stiff, but better than it had been. She was keeping her shoulder relaxed, at least. Aina turned her attention to Jin, who was practicing the same motion next to Tsukasa. Her movements were good, but as soon as she noticed Aina watching her, she became self-conscious, and her movements became a little sloppy.
“Very ii, Jin-chan,” Aina praised her. “Here, strike this duster,” she held out her own duster. “Just repeat the same motion.” Jin sucked in her breath, but steeled herself, and, in a quick motion, struck Aina’s duster with her own. They made a solid knocking sound as they connected, and the force of the blow knocked the duster from Jin’s hand. She scrambled to pick it up. Tsukasa snickered, and Aina, without turning her attention from Jin, swung her duster behind her, knocking Tsukasa’s duster out of her hand.
“Gomen, Aina-senpai,” Jin apologized.
“Anshin shinaide. Your technique is excellent, Jin-chan. You just need to work on your strength. I want you to do grip exercises for the rest of the lesson. After that, maybe you could give Tsukasa-san some pointers, since she doesn’t seem to listen to a word I say.”
Tsukasa stuck her tongue out playfully.
“It will have to wait,” Naomi announced from the front of the doujou. “We have a special lesson this afternoon. Thank you, Mme Aina, that will be all.” Aina bowed to Naomi and lined up with the rest of the meido. A moment later, Kazue slid the doujou door open from the outside, flanked by two men carrying steel briefcases.
“Ojamashimasu,” one of the men called out.
“These two gentlemen are spellbreakers from the GSDF,” Naomi explained as she waved the two men in. “They are here as a special favor to our master, so I expect you to treat them with respect.” Once inside the doujou, the men unlocked their briefcases and began assembling what looked like Super Scopes from the parts they pulled out. No introductions were given, and everyone understood that no names would be said aloud while the outsiders were present.
“Today you will gain some first hand experience in defending yourself from magical attacks,” Naomi informed them. “You will not learn how to break spells. Spellbreaking is a skill which takes many years of intensive study to learn, but your Meidou training will prepare you to avoid magical attacks and to dispatch casters before they can complete their spells. Normally we wouldn’t even bother with this kind of training, but the number of witches has risen sharply in the last few years.”
“Witches?” asked one of the meido.
“Mahou shoujo,” Chikako translated.
“Gentlemen, if you please,” Naomi bowed to them.
“Your sensei is correct,” said one of the men. “In general, it is much better to avoid magical attacks than to allow yourself to be hit. There are, however, a large variety of magical attacks, some of which will automatically home in on your position. For those attacks, your best defense is to dissipate the attack before it hits. If that is not possible, you must try to get the attack to hit a non-vital area. That is what we will be practicing today. Can I get a volunteer to demonstrate?”
“You,” said Naomi, pointing at Jin, who stepped forward.
“Stand on the other side of the room and face me,” the man commanded, gesturing directly ahead of him. Jin walked to where he was pointing, never taking her eyes off him or his companion. “This gun will fire a slow-moving spell, which will track to either your head or your chest. Just try to block it with your non-dominant hand. It will sting a little bit, but the spell is otherwise harmless. Ready?” Jin readied her left hand and nodded. The man raised the rifle and pointed it at Jin, targeting her through the sight.
Without a word, he pulled the trigger and a sparkling purple light burst forth from the barrel. Roughly 16 inches long and mostly cylindrical, It shot directly at Jin’s face. It traveled quickly, but she was able to raise her hand in front of her face to block the shot. It crashed into her hand and exploded with a shimmering burst.
“Itai!” Jin cried in pain, cradling her hand.
“Arigatou,” the man said before turning to the rest of the meido. “The rest of you, split into two lines, one on this side of the doujou, and the other opposite. It looks like we have about san-jyuu people here, so minna will be able to do this twice.”
The meido obeyed, and Aina found herself at the end of the second line. Both lines moved quickly. A few of the younger meido struggled to block the shot on time, but the older meido had no problem with it.
“TORIYAAAA!” Tsukasa yelled as she punched the spell hurling towards her. She returned to the back of the line with a smug grin on her face. As she passed Jin, she exclaimed loudly, so the whole doujou could hear, “Was that all? I barely felt a thing. Don’t be such a wuss.” But once at the back of the line, she shook out her hand.
Tsukasa had lightened up considerably since she and Aina became friends, but she still teased Jin, which vexed Aina considerably. Jin was quickly becoming an excellent meido, but she had yet to find her own strength. Tsukasa, on the other hand, had been forced to find her strength long ago, which made it hard for her to relate to Jin. Perhaps she despised Jin’s weakness, or perhaps she was jealous that Jin could still get away with clinging to others for support, when she had never had anyone to cling to. In any case, she was obviously jealous that Jin was advancing through meidou training faster than she was. She clenched her fist every time Jin was praised for executing a technique that she could not yet perform, and it was even worse when the praise came from Aina.
Aina knew that she was part of the problem, driving a wedge between her two friends, but she didn’t know how to resolve the situation. More than anything, she wanted to protect Jin, to give her the space she needed to grow into her strength on her own, but every time she tried, it drove Tsukasa to greater heights of anger, so Aina had tried to back off and let the two of them work things out on their own. However, Aina also took her duty as an assistant instructor in the doujou very seriously, and that duty required her to praise Jin and admonish Tsukasa from time to time, which only made things worse.
At last, it was Aina’s turn to get shot at. Disengaging herself from her thoughts of interpersonal relationships, she strode forward from the front of the line and stood facing the barrel of the rifle. The man holding it looked at Aina through the scope for a few seconds before lowering the gun with a confused look on his face. He raised the rifle back up, but again didn’t fire.
“What’s wrong?” asked the other man.
“The auto-targeting isn’t working,” he replied. “I can’t get a read on any of her vitals.”
“You’ll just have to aim it manually,” his companion replied.
“What if she misses the block?” the man asked. “This may be a weak spell, but if it hits a vital area…”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” Naomi interjected from the front of the doujou. “She will block it without fail, right?”
“Hai,” Aina answered confidently.
The man brought the rifle up for a third time and aimed it squarely at Aina’s chest, hesitating only for a moment before pulling the trigger. Aina kept her hands down until the blast was within range. She quickly swiped her hand diagonally up and away from herself, passing it less than a centimeter away from the front of the projectile, and, moving it in a quick ark, cut the blast in half crosswise from above. Throughout the motion, she kept her palm facing inwards, and the back of her hand facing towards the man. The spell split where she cut it, and the front half continued forward under its own power, getting sucked into the air current created by her movement, where it curved upwards and back down, colliding into itself. The result was two small explosions, one on each side of Aina’s hand. Aina frowned upon seeing this. She had expected the front half to fizzle out as the magical particles came into contact and annihilated each other. Nevertheless, she bowed to the man and made way for the next meido in line.
She had been certain that she recognized the spell being shot from the guns. Akira’s library contained many books on magic, including training manuals from the GSDF. Considering her parents’ line of work, she had more than a passing interest in the topic, and had read quite a few of them. Many of the books had described a multipurpose training spell for beginners, which looked like the spell the two men were firing, but it was not supposed to burst upon impact like that. Still, the books were a few years old. Perhaps an improved spell had been invented. Only one way to find out.
“Come here, omae,” Aina called out, gesturing to Tsukasa. “Your senpai is going to teach you some manners.” Tsukasa scowled but followed Aina into the attached changing room.
“Look, if this is about calling Jin a wuss—” Tsukasa began, as soon as she closed the door.
“We can talk about that later,” Aina said, holding up a hand. “I figured out the spell they’re using. It’s just an illusion. It can’t hurt you unless you think it can hurt you. Naomi-sama’s in on it. That’s why she chose Jin-chan to demonstrate, because even if Jin was told it was safe, she’d still be scared of it. Once we all saw how it hurt Jin, we believed it would hurt us too. As long as you know it’s just an illusion, it can’t hurt you.”
“Naze are you telling me this?”
“Because you’re my tomodachi, baka.”
Aina pressed a finger to her lips and opened the door behind her, and the two walked back into the doujou.
“If I catch you doing that again, you’ll get more than just a slap,” Aina warned Tsukasa loudly, causing a few of the meido and one of the men to snicker.
It wasn’t long before it was Tsukasa’s turn again, and she confidently swatted the spell away with a grin on her face. Aina was watching her carefully, and noticed Tsukasa flinch as the spell collided with her hand.
“Not cool, senpai,” Tsukasa complained as she walked past Aina. That confirmed it. Aina knew this was not the normal training spell, and because Naomi somehow heard everything that was said in the doujou, no matter where she was, she knew as well.
“Gentlemen,” called out Naomi, “Would you mind explaining exactly what kind of spell you’re casting in my doujou?” Upon realizing that they were caught, the two men had completely opposite reactions. The one closest to Naomi dropped his weapon and raised this hands over his head to signal surrender, while the other pressed a button on the side of his rifle to erect a magical barrier around himself. Purple and translucent, it was not spherical like the barrier of an experienced magic caster, but rather a truncated icosahedron which was barely tall enough to permit the man inside to stand. He reached into his pocket and attached a canister to his rifle, but he would never get the chance to fire it.
“TORIYAAAA!” Aina yelled, imitating Tsukasa as she punched a hexagonal surface of his barrier. The hexagon buckled and then shattered, and the remaining hexagons and pentagons flashed out of existence. With a movement faster than any could track, Naomi appeared behind the man and pulled the rifle from his grasp before kicking him to the ground and pointing his own weapon down at him.
“Matte!” pleaded the other man, still keeping his hands in the air. “It’s just a simple surveillance spell that can’t hurt anyone. Demo, if you fire that gun…” Naomi whipped around to point the gun at the speaking man, and the meido closest to the man on the ground pounced on him, holding him down.
“Explain,” Naomi demanded.
“The order came directly from our CO,” the man said shakily. “We don’t know anything. Hontou.”
“Tie them up,” Naomi issued the order to nobody in particular. “And somebody call our master and let him know what happened. Tell him he’ll need to call for a priest, and that nobody else is to approach the doujou until the priest has finished their work.
“A priest?” Aina asked.
“Ee, goshujin-sama patronizes a local shinto shrine for situations like this,” Chikako explained. “The priests are powerful enough to eradicate all traces of mahou from the doujou.”
“But until they do so, we can’t use the doujou,” announced Naomi. “Classes are cancelled for the rest of the day. Everyone wait outside.”
Despite not having afternoon classes, Aina was extremely tired by the time she went to bed. Perhaps it was the lengthy purification process, or perhaps she was worn out from the Tsukasa-Jin situation, but whatever the reason, she fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
She was awoken some hours later, in the middle of the night, by a loud purring sound in her ear. Momo, not Mimi. She could tell from sound alone. Momo had been avoiding Aina for the last few weeks, and Aina had begun to worry that she had tired of her company, just as she had tired of Mimi’s company. But Momo had been avoiding everyone, spending most of her free time alone in her room. Now that she had once again come to sleep in Aina’s bed, Aina felt a twinge of relief.
“Ainya,” Momo whispered, “are you awake?”
“Un,” Aina confirmed, rolling over to face Momo. She couldn’t see anything in the dark except for Momo’s glowing green eyes.
“Ainya,” she said again, planting a lick on Aina’s cheek. “I think I’m in heat. It’s my first time. It won’t stop.” She licked Aina’s cheek again and moved down towards Aina’s neck.”
“Oh,” Aina replied, she had still been half asleep, but upon hearing those last words, her eyes shot open. “Aren’t you supposed to find Diaho-sama and… you know?”
“I don’t want him. Who would want him? I want you Ainya. Dame?”