“While this council has jurisdiction over nekomimi,” Sena began, “that jurisdiction does not grant this council permission to interfere with the private life of a goshujin. Goshujin enjoy many extralegal privileges, including privacy protections which prevent this council from bringing charges against Momo.”
“We did not seek to invade Akira-dono’s privacy,” said the son of the defense minister.
“Akira-sama’s privacy,” the calico corrected. Titles were hereditary. As long as his father and older brother still lived, the second son of the defense minister was not a goshujin.
“Akira-sama’s privacy,” the human repeated. “Demo, we did not solicit this tegami, and having received it, how could this council not act on it?”
“This council had ni options,” Sena explained. “First, it could have treated the tegami in the spirit in which it was written, as a request for advice, and responded in kind. Second, it could have ignored the matter entirely. This tegami was written without the knowledge or permission of Akira-sama, and its author has been punished for it. This council should have realized that an unauthorized letter from within the Wright estate contained privileged information and should have been destroyed.”
“That may have been prudent,” the calico agreed, “but since matters have already reached this stage, a claim of goshujin privilege would need to be made by Akira-sama himself. In the absence of such a claim, this council would conclude that Akira-sama is not bothered by these charges. Your claim that he punished the author of this tegami lacks proof.”
“In that case, I would like to submit to this council a tegami from Akira-sama himself,” Sena said, pulling another letter from her pocket and handing it to the calico. “It instructs this council to drop all charges, seal these proceedings, and destroy all evidence that they ever occurred.”
The calico took the letter and examined the seal. He opened it, examined the contents, and announced that the letter was authentic and did contain the orders Sena had described.
“In light of this tegami,” he finished, “I move to close these proceedings.”
“Matte,” the human objected. “When this council was formed, over two-thirds of the nekomimi population was employed by the goshujin caste. In establishing this council, they implicitly gave it jurisdiction over the goshujin who employed these nekomimi. Otherwise they would have been establishing a near-powerless council, and there’s no reason for them to do that.”
“Are you of all people questioning the primacy of the goshujin?” Sena questioned. “It sounds to me like you are attempting to grab power in an astonishingly foolish manner.”
“My background has nothing to do with this,” he huffed. “I have a duty to this council and this nation. In fact, it is despite my background that I must take this action.”
“So you maintain that there are legal limits on the goshujin caste?” Sena pressed.
“Even the goshujin have to obey some laws,” he said hesitantly, “otherwise shakai would collapse.”
“Having heard that,” Aina announced, standing from her chair, “I am now obligated to place you under citizen’s arrest for violating the Subversive Activities Prevention Act.” She pulled her duster from its holster. “Would either of you care to join him, or shall we adjourn this meeting?”
“Nice try,” the son of the defense minister scoffed, “but a minor can’t make a citizen’s arrest.”
“Ain’t no rule says a minor can’t perform a citizen’s arrest,” Sena spoke flatly.
“The gynoid is correct… in so many words,” the calico confirmed.
“I’d still like to see her try,” the human said, plunging his hand into his breast pocket to retrieve a blaster.
At the same time, the white-haired nekomimi jumped over the dais and towards Sena. Sena was the closest to the defense minister’s son, and thus the most likely threat. He discounted the threat of Momo. She was smaller, lighter, and weaker than he was, so he had no doubt he could keep her at bay. However, Momo had years of meidou training, and she pounced on the man in midair, sending them both crashing to the ground, where she held him at swordpoint.
In the commotion, Aina had herself jumped up onto the dais and pulled the blaster from the human’s grasp, turning it on him and the calico. The calico raised his hands in surrender, so Aina focused the gun on the defense minister’s son. As she did so, a ceiling tile split in two above her, and a meido dropped from the hole in the ceiling, sword pointed downward to skewer Aina, who rolled out of the way, keeping her pistol trained on its target at all times. As the meido landed, she twisted to slash at Aina, but Sena grabbed her hair from behind and pulled her off the dais. As she lost her balance, she attempted to backflip over Sena, but Sena yanked her downwards, sending her to the ground. Before she could recover from the impact, Sena was holding a blade at her throat.
“If you don’t believe in goshujin privilege, what are you doing with an illegal weapon?” Aina asked rhetorically. The man didn’t answer, but nor did he stop Aina when she collected the three letters from the table in front of him.
She was about to order him to his feet when the door opened with a bang and a large imposing man stepped into the room. He walked with a composed, authoritative gait, though his heavy breathing and sweaty brow betrayed the fact that he had run from the National Diet Building in a hurry.
It was the Minister of Defense.
“Hibiki, what is the meaning of this?” the defense minister demanded of his son.
“Chichiue, I—I was just trying—,” Hibiki stammered.
“Ryuuji-sama, youkoso,” Sena greeted him, curtsying with one hand while keeping her sword trained on the meido with the other. “You arrived nearly a minute earlier than I anticipated. You must be in extraordinarily good health.”
If the defense minister was taken aback by being greeted in such a way by a clown-faced gynoid, he didn’t show it.
“Are you responsible for this?” he demanded, tapping his cell phone to play back part of the earlier conversation.
“My background has nothing to do with this. I have a duty to this council and this nation. In fact, it is despite my background that I must take this action.”
“So you maintain that there are legal limits on the goshujin caste?”
“Even the goshujin have to obey some laws, otherwise shakai would collapse.”
“Your son said those words of his own volition,” Sena informed him. “There was no trickery involved. I simply did you the courtesy of informing you.”
“Is this true?” he asked his son.
“Chichiue, you wakarimasen. If we play this right, then the education minister will be forced to—”
“Forced to what?” the defense minister almost yelled. “Forced to feign sympathy every time we meet for my jailbird son who was locked up for sedition? Bakayarou! I don’t care if you have dirt on the prime minister himself. There’s no way you could make it stick in this kangaroo court of yours.”
“And if he could,” interjected Sena, “you could be subject to the same kinds of charges.”
“Release my meido,” the defense minister replied, glaring at Sena, who sheathed her sword. The meido scrambled to her knees and prostrated herself before the defense minister. “Release them too,” he waved his hand as if the welfare of his son was an afterthought. Momo withdrew her sword and Aina handed the blaster back to Hibiki.
“Forgive my rudeness, Ryuuji-sama,” said Sena, “Demo, my goshujin-sama has ordered me to propose that these proceedings be sealed. That way, no one will have to face charges.”
“Agreed,” Ryuuji grunted.
“There is one more message my goshujin wishes to convey. He would appreciate it if he didn’t have to waste any more of his time dealing with the clumsy plotting of your second son. At least your oldest son makes it interesting sometimes.”
“Well, you can tell Akira-kun that he can… do things that I won’t mention in front of children,” Ryuuji caught himself.
“Pull his head out of his ass long enough to shove his smug sense of superiority up there?” Aina helpfully suggested.
“Something like that,” Ryuuji grinned.
“Jya, Ryuuji-sama,” Sena said, curtsying one last time, “if you will excuse us, we shall be on our way.” She walked up to the unhappy-looking Hibiki and, plucking the clown nose off her face, placed it on his. “Keep your nose clean, kid.”
“You know, he’s older than you are,” Aina reminded Sena as soon as they were safely out of the building.
“We won because I’m property?” Momo interrupted. “Nyani about my rights?”
“We are all property,” Sena pointed out, tapping Momo’s headdress. “None of us have rights, not even Aina-chan.”
“Gomen, Momo,” Aina apologized, grabbing onto one of Momo’s hands with both of her own. “I wanted to argue for your rights, but there was a good chance we would have lost. We would have had to appeal the council’s decision to the District Court, and even if we had won, it probably wouldn’t have been because a judge recognized your rights. In order to recognize your legal rights, a judge would have to recognize legal rights for all nekomimi, and judges have this concept called ‘judicial restraint,’ which means if they can find an argument for you to win which has less impact on shakai, they have to decide on that argument, and leave the more important matter unsettled.”
“Sonnya!” blurted Momo. “That’s so hidoi! What happens to the next nekomimi in my position if she doesn’t have a goshujin to protect her?”
“She might lose, but if she doesn’t, it could be because her accuser lacked evidence, or they didn’t go through the proper channels,” Aina confirmed. “And then the next time she asserted her rights, she could wind up right back in front of the council. Iie, it’s worse than that. Even if she could convince the District Court that nekomimi have rights, she would then have to convince the High Court, and then the Supreme Court. At any step of the way, these courts could hand her a loss, or let her win a less important argument. They could even send her back to the District Court to reconsider the case, possibly with a different judge.”
“Nyani?! Are they trying to make it difficult for hito to assert their rights?”
That was, almost word-for-word, the same thought that had gone through Aina’s head when she first read about judicial restraint. Although she could see its benefits, and realized it was a well-intentioned rule, there was no denying its cruelty.
“That is not the intention,” Sena explained. “The intention is to prevent the judiciary from becoming an unelected group of rulers, imposing their tyranny on shakai. On paper, the Diet is a more democratic body, so they should be enacting laws protecting your rights.”
“Demo, the Diet is filled with hito who have no interest in nekomimi rights,” Momo protested. “Soshite, this sounds like it could take decades for nekomimi to win their rights. In the meantime, others will suffer worse than watashi. Doko’s the justice in that?”
“Ee,” Aina agreed. Or centuries, she thought. Soshite, even if the Supreme Court ruled that nekomimi have rights, they might not have the power to enforce it if shakai doesn’t accept it.
“Jya, that’s all the more reason we should have started ima,” exclaimed Momo.
“Gomen,” Aina apologized again. “I wanted to, but it would have been embarrassing to goshujin-sama.”
“Nyaze? He let us sit next to him at dinner. He supported us!”
“He supported us over an outside group meddling in his affairs. He didn’t support our actions,” Aina said.
“That’s not very romantic, Ainya,” Momo shot back. “Dare’s more important to you, watashi or him?”
“I’m not trying to be romantic, Momo, I—”
“I don’t want to hear it right now,” Momo yelled, running off with her hands covering the ears on the top of her head.
“Matte,” Sena cautioned, placing her hand on Aina’s shoulder. She knew Aina wanted to run after Momo before Aina did. “You wouldn’t be able to catch her anyway.”
“She tabun wants me to go after her,” Aina told the gynoid.
“Do you want to catch her?”
“Iie,” Aina realized aloud. “I can’t give her what she wants. It would only make things worse.”
“Someone else will take care of it then,” advised Sena, without divulging any details. “Let’s go home.”
“Welcome back you two,” Naomi welcomed them at the door. “I heard you gave that whippersnapper Ryuuji quite the fright. I would have loved to see the look on his face.”
“He has a good poker face,” Sena informed her. She had washed the clown makeup off her face before returning. “Demo, his kokoro palpitations gave away his fear. Also, I must apologize for only returning with one of my charges.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Naomi assured her. “You did the right thing given the circumstances. Mme Aina, you have visitors.”
“Visitors? Dare?” Aina asked.
“I am unfamiliar with the first one, but Mme Karin said she was a member of your harem, so I let her in.”
As she was speaking, Aina perceived a trace of a powerful spiritual energy emanating from the drawing room. Without waiting for Naomi to finish, she began walking down the hall as quickly as politeness would allow.
“Arigatou, Naomi-sama,” she called back as she strolled away. Reaching the drawing room, she eagerly opened the door to find Karin entertaining her two guests. Aina stopped in the doorway. With Karin in the room was the person she wanted to see the most, Fumiko, and the person she wanted to see the least, Mari.