Chapter 28

January 1st, U.C. 0047, 5:00 PM

The dining room furniture had been removed, and in its place, a long row of kotatsu stretched across the room atop fresh tatami mats. Akira and the staff sat around them as if they were the dining room table, with plates piled high with food and mandarin oranges scattered about.

Akira and Diaho sat next to each other, at what would have been the head of the table. To their right sat Chikako and Naomi, and to their left, Aina and Momo. It was quite a coup for the two of them to be seated so near to Akira, and it was a clear show of support for the two of them.

The gesture was nigh-incomprehensible to most of the staff, who could only reconcile it by reducing it to sheer favoritism on Akira’s part. Even those from the staunchest French families were well-enough versed in Weeaboo culture to know that meido were supposed to reserve their hearts for their master. Although Momo had a duty to reproduce with Diaho, she was still supposed to profess that she did so only because it was Akira’s wish. And Aina, when she was confessed to, was supposed to have responded, “I only have feelings for goshujin-sama,” even if she didn’t mean it, even if everyone knew she didn’t mean it, because none of them really had feelings for him.

But none of that mattered to Akira, who not only understood how foolish and untenable such an arrangement was, but also knew how cruel it would be to force them into that kind of a relationship. That isn’t to say he was a very progressive man. If he desired them, he wouldn’t hesitate to be cruel. To Akira, doing horrible things to others for your own pleasure was the whole point of having power. But he showed not the slightest interest in romance with anyone, even the eligible ladies who had occasionally come courting. This was the cause of the unpleasant rumors about him, both within and without the mansion. He was happy as long as his staff would lay down their lives for him. He didn’t need their love.

Minna, arigatou for your hard work last year,” Akira toasted. “Please work hard this year too.” He took a sip of champagne, after which the staff all took a sip of their own drinks. “In case any of you haven’t heard yet, Jin-chan has recovered from this morning’s operation without any serious complications. Demo, it does appear that it may take some time for her to adjust to her neural inhibitor, so I hope you’ll all be patient with her.” There were silent nods from all around the table, and then they all began to dig into their dinner. After they had a chance to fill their stomachs, Mimi stood up from her place further down the table and walked up to where Aina and Momo were sitting.

“Momo, Ainya, gomen,” she made a big show of bowing to the two of them. “I wrote to the council about, you know, the thing.” She couldn’t bring herself to say “birth control” in public. “Demo, I was just looking for advice. I wasn’t trying to get you in trouble, hontou!” She bowed again and held it. Aina didn’t quite buy that explanation, and she figured that Mimi was only apologizing because Akira had sided with them, but she also figured it wouldn’t hurt to be magnanimous, so she reached out and began petting the top of Mimi’s head.

Yoshi yoshi,” Aina reassured her, continuing to pet her head, “it will all be daijobu. I’m not scared of the council.” Mimi was purring by this point, and before she realized it, she had curled up on the floor next to Aina, and was resting her head on Aina’s leg. Momo, obviously jealous, thrust her head in Aina’s face, and soon there were two nekomimi resting their heads on Aina’s lap, purring contentedly as she pet them. Diaho looked like he was both disgusted by and jealous of them, and Akira, noticing this, placed his hand on top of Diaho’s head and ruffled his hair. He opened his mouth as if to protest, but closed it again, and half a minute later he was resting his head on Akira’s lap and purring just like the other two.

“That’s some big talk, Aina-chan,” Akira observed. “Can you back it up?”

Hai. Sena-chan is helping with our defense. They won’t know what hit them.”

“Sena-chan?” Akira asked.

“The gynoid co-defendant,” Chikako informed him.

“Speaking of which,” Naomi interrupted. “I believe she has prepared some entertainment for this evening, if that is to your pleasure, master.”

“How could I pass up such an intriguing offer?” Akira responded. Naomi clapped her hands twice and Sena and Kazue entered the room, standing at the other end of the row of kotatsu.

“Domo, I’m R. Kazue,” Sena said.

Soshite, I’m R. Sena,” Kazue said. “Chotto matte, I’m R. Kazue, and you’re R. Sena.” She bopped Sena gently on the back of the head, as if such an admonishment could have any effect on something that couldn’t feel pain. “Don’t confuse the audience.”

This joke was greeted with silence. Most of the audience didn’t know or care about the difference between the two of them to begin with.

“And together we are…” they recited in unison.

“Kazuena,” Kazue announced.

“Senaue,” Sena proclaimed at the same time.

“Haa? Senaue?” Kazue pantomimed shock, but her voice remained expressionless. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not above anybody here.”

“It sounds much better than Kazuena,” Sena retorted. “That just sounds like you want people to admire you. Like, ‘Ah, Kazue na~’. Dakara, I changed it.”

“Don’t try to change things without me,” Kazue said, without a hint of anger in her voice, as she bopped Sena on the back of the head again.

January 4th, U.C. 0047, 10:10 AM

Aina knew that Sena didn’t feel emotions, so she knew that Sena wasn’t actually upset that Akira had put an end to her comedy routine after a few short minutes. She also knew that, because Sena looked so human, she often subconsciously ascribed human emotions to Sena’s actions, and that was why she was consciously referring to Sena’s behavior over the last few days as “preoccupied” rather than “upset.” But it had often been difficult to tell the difference. During their meetings to discuss legal strategy, Sena had spent most of the time peppering Aina with questions about comedy and humor, leaving barely any time to discuss the real topic at hand. It was only because Aina had finally been able to provide a satisfactory answer that Sena had allowed them to talk about anything else.

“Sena-chan,” an exasperated Aina had sighed during their last meeting, “your jokes weren’t terrible, but they weren’t particularly funny. You couldn’t read the room at all, and your timing was awful.”

“Our timing was perfect,” Sena had insisted for the dozenth time. “We analyzed the performances of the top hyaku most successful comedy duos of all time, and averaged the length of time they paused between delivering lines.”

“How many of those top hyaku performers paused for the average length of time?”

“Zero,” Sena had immediately answered. The word left her mouth without passing through her electronic brain first. Her speech processing system had parsed Aina’s words, queried her electronic brain for context, and passed the results to her storage system, which fetched the data from her memory and passed it directly to her speech synthesizer. She normally would have routed the results to the electronic brain to determine whether or not to answer, but she trusted Aina implicitly, and so she learned the answer at the same time Aina did. “Sou ka,” She had mused. “Demo, I am unsure if two gynoids can execute any other strategy.”

Regardless, she had dropped the subject, and they had been able to prepare for the hearing.

Aina, Sena and Momo now sat in a small room in the Neo Tokyo District Court, waiting for the hearing to begin. It was supposed to have started at 10, but the council had yet to make an appearance. They needed only wait a few minutes longer however. Without any pomp or circumstance, three men, two nekomimi and a human, opened the door and took their seats upon the dais.

“Gomen for the delay,” one of the nekomimi apologized. He had long white hair and rectangular spectacles, making him appear older than he really was. “We have just been informed that there is insufficient precedent as to whether or not a gynoid can be held legally responsible for its actions or whether its owner bears the legal responsibility, and have been advised that this council is not the appropriate forum to address this issue. Therefore, we have decided to table the charge against the gynoid until the issue is resolved.” Meaning, of course, that the council was hoping to use this incident to bring charges against Akira should precedent be established that the owner was responsible for the gynoid’s actions.

“That hito is the second son of the defense minister,” Sena whispered in Aina’s ear, referring to the human councilmember.

“Excuse me,” Aina said, raising her hand, “what is the statute of limitations on that charge?”

The nekomimi man, surprised at being interrupted with a question from such a young girl, glanced nervously at the human sitting next to him.

“There is no statute of limitations,” the human man said, a small smirk upon his face.

“Would that be because there is no basis in statute for these charges?” Aina pressed.

Sonotouri,” the human replied, “these charges have their basis in regulation.”

“None of this council’s regulations are exempt from the statute of limitations requirement,” Sena pointed out. “In that absence of an explicit statute of limitation at the time the charges were filed, there is a statute of limitations of six years.”

“That is correct,” the third man, a nekomimi with black hair on the right side of his head, and orange hair on the left, confirmed.

“Regardless,” the white-haired nekomimi reasserted himself, “there will be no charges against the gynoid filed today. Soshite, I will not tolerate further interruptions. You are not to speak unless given permission. Wakatta?” Momo, Sena and Aina all remained silent. “Wakatta?” The man pressed again. “Gynoid, do you understand me?” Sena still remained silent.

“You have permission to speak,” the human man told her.

“We wakatta,” Sena confirmed.

Ii,” the nekomimi continued. “For reference, you have permission to speak when you are asked a question. Now, we shall begin with the charges against the ningen defendant. Are you the Aina-san referred to in this tegami?” He held up the letter with one hand, and adjusted his glasses with the other, peering over the rims at Aina.

“I am the hito accused in that tegami,” Aina confirmed.

“And your namae, for the record?” The human man asked.

“I do not wish to lie to this council, so I will withhold my namae.”

“Your namae’s right here in this tegami,” the human scoffed. “There’s nothing to hide.”

“There is a namae in that tegami,” Aina allowed. “Whether that is my true namae or not, I have no comment.”

“Then what do you suppose we call you?” The bespeckled nekomimi asked.

“Seeing as she is a minor,” the other nekomimi offered diplomatically, “I believe Jane Doe will suffice for these proceedings.”

“No objection,” the first nekomimi agreed. “De, Jane Doe-san, you have been provided with a list of the charges against you. How do you plead?”

“I refuse to recognize the authority of this council over non-nekomimi,” asserted Aina. The two nekomimi councilmembers frowned, but the human smiled.

“Jane Doe-san,” replied the calico nekomimi, “where is your counsel?”

“I am representing myself,” Aina said with confidence.

“Iie, you are not,” he replied. “Minors must be represented by competent legal counsel.”

“I’ve been doing fine so far,” complained Aina, but then she thought better of going down that path. “In the interest of time, I nominate Sena-chan to act as my counsel,” she said, gesturing to Sena.

“No objection,” the white-haired nekomimi noted. “Counsel, same question.”

“Your honor,” began Sena, “neither my client nor I recognize the authority of this council over non-nekomimi.” Despite herself, Momo giggled.

“Is this a joke?” the white-haired nekomimi asked incredulously.

“Do I look like a clown?” Sena retorted.

“Iie, gomen, I—”

Sena reached into her pocket and pulled out a foam clown nose, affixing it to her face.

“Do I look like a clown now?” Both Momo and Aina burst into laughter.

“Order!” roared the nekomimi. Aina and Momo took a few moments to collect themselves, but did obey the command.

“Council repeats its question,” said Sena. “Do I now look like a clown?”

“Iie, you—” the nekomimi started.

“What a great audience,” interrupted Sena. “Nobody has ever fallen for that one, let alone twice.” She pulled out a clown makeup kit from her pocket and quickly applied it to her face in front of a stunned council. “Now do I look like a clown?”

The nekomimi opened his mouth to answer, but the human cut him off.

“If you say iie, she’ll pull out a clown suit from her other pocket,” he cautioned. “Hai, you look like a clown.”

Sou ka?” answered Sena. “From my perspective, you look like the clowns.” This time, all three councilmembers frowned. “This council’s mandate clearly states that it has limited authority over nekomimi, and only over issues related to the preservation of the species. Your attempt to use these proceedings to wield political power are both transparent and clumsy. And that is the true farce being acted out here today.”

“I—I call for a recess,” the calico nekomimi sputtered. “I believe it was a mistake to allow this gynoid to represent minors without proof that she is functioning properly.”

“Objection!” five voices yelled back at him in unison.

“The gynoid, however disrespectfully, is making a valid legal argument,” the human elaborated. “Demo, I do not believe it is one that will sway this council. Although it is true that the legislation authorizing this council only explicitly grants it authority to regulate nekomimi, such regulations would be toothless if they could not be applied to their ningen accomplices.”

Iin ja nai ka?” Sena asked. “After all, this council is, if you will forgive the pun, a pet project dreamed up by the Minister of Agriculture, who is fond of nekomimi. That is why the legislation authorizing this council explicitly stated that this council was to work with nekomimi, and only sanction those who actively harmed the species’ chances of survival. Soshite, I have a tegami here from the Minister of Agriculture expressing his disappointment that you clowns are attempting to bring charges against these onna.” She handed the letter to the human, and the two nekomimi leaned in to read it over his shoulders.

“This tegami is non-binding,” the human announced, “and a clear attempt to improperly influence these proceedings. This council will not allow politics to alter its rulings. Soshite, I would like to point out that, regardless of how good your arguments are, you are unlikely to convince anyone of anything while insulting them.”

“Are you implying that this council is incapable of maintaining its impartiality?” Sena questioned.

“Iie, not at all,” the human responded. “It’s just that it’s ningen nature—that is to say, nekomimi also—to be less receptive to arguments when attacked.”

Jya, it sounds like you are making the case that this council should be run by more impartial beings. As a being capable of perfect impartiality, I nominate myself to take over these proceedings.”

“Denied,” all three men said at once.

“In that case, I have said my peace. This council may ignore politics all it wishes, but in doing so, it will find that neither the legislative, the judicial, nor any other office of the executive branch will be willing to enforce its rulings, and I highly doubt this council has the means to enforce the rulings itself. So you may feel free to rule against my client, and we shall simply ignore the ruling.”

“We shall,” the human snarled. “You will be informed of the ruling at a later date. In the meantime, I trust you have no argument that we have the authority to bring charges against Momo here?”

Aina had hoped that the letter from the agriculture minister would have settled things, and the council would have dropped the charges against Momo. She wasn’t looking forward to what was coming next, but she was glad it was Sena, and not herself, who would do what had to be done.