Chapter 30

“Ai-” Mari started to speak, but Karin slapped her hand over Mari’s mouth to prevent her from revealing Aina’s name to Fumiko.

Anata,” Fumiko beamed, rising from her seat. “O—Okaeri nasai.” She hadn’t intended it to sound so intimate, but without knowing Aina’s name, there wasn’t much she could do about it. Still, she, Aina, and Mari all blushed slightly. Karin just let out a boisterous chuckle.

“I’ll take my leave now,” Karin said as Aina entered the room. “Have fun, kids.” She closed the door behind her as she left.

De, how’d it go?” Mari asked excitedly.

“How’d what go?” responded Aina.

“The tribunal,” Mari clarified.

“You knew about that?”

“Naomi-sama told me.”

As they had been talking, Aina sat in the armchair previously occupied by Karin, which was situated between Mari’s and Fumiko’s. Although she kept her eyes on Mari, she extended her spiritual energy to Fumiko, enveloping her in a reassuring manner.

“It was messy,” Aina admitted, “but we got all the charges dropped.”

Yatta, omedetou!” Mari congratulated her, clapping her hands a few times.

Sore yori, what brings you here?” Aina asked.

“I’m here on a hostage exchange. I volunteered,” Mari announced proudly. “Your goshujin and mine are involved in high-stakes negotiations with other ministers, so to help ensure that they don’t betray each other, they’ve exchanged hostages. If one were to side with the other ministers against the other… Demo, I’m sure that won’t happen, otherwise they never would have agreed to it in the first place.”

Great, Aina thought, just what I needed right now: a reminder that we’re property to be disposed of as our goshujin wish. Ma, ii ka. If negotiations go south, maybe they’ll let me be the one to kill her.

Matte,” Aina held up a hand. “Dare’s the hostage from our side?”

She felt Fumiko’s gaze drop, perhaps because she was feeling left out of the conversation. Now on her home turf, it was Aina’s turn to nudge Fumiko’s chin upwards with her spiritual energy, which gently caressed Fumiko’s cheek in the process.

“The otenba. I didn’t catch her name,” Mari answered coyly.

Karin had just been in the room, so that only left Tsukasa, which must have taken some doing. She had been nearly inseparable from Jin over the last three days, helping as much as she could with Jin’s recovery. Aina didn’t actually know what was going on in Jin’s room, having kept as far away from Jin as possible, lest the force of her spiritual energy dispel the healing spells which were holding Jin’s nervous system together. However, she had noticed some changes in Tsukasa’s demeanor, and she wasn’t sure she liked them. Tsukasa was a bit softer and nicer, but she was also a lot less sure of herself.

“What about you, Fumiko-chan, what brings you to see me today?” asked Aina, turning her attention to the miko.

“Akira-sama needed someone to purify some industrial equipment and supplies.” 

“I’m glad you came,” Aina smiled. It was odd that Akira-sama would need something like that done, but she filed that detail in the back of her mind for later. “How did it go?” she asked, sensing that Fumiko’s spiritual energy was not as strong as the last time they met.

“I’ve never had to purify anything to such exacting standards. Please, promise me you won’t go near them. I’d hate to have to do it all over again.”

Naze can’t she go near them?” Mari interrupted. “Are you saying she’s not pure enough? If you’re so worried about it, naze not just purify her?”

“Purify her?” Fumiko giggled. “No fewer than san of our priests have tried. Our head priest even complained that it was like trying to purify the ocean through a straw. Iie, she’s completely, wonderfully impure, like no one I’ve ever met.” she leaned forward and placed her hand on top of Aina’s. “That’s what I like about her.”

Again, the three of them blushed, and Mari stood up from where she was sitting.

“You ni seem awfully close,” Mari blurted out. “Just how long have you known each other?”

“We met a few days ago, during hatsumode,” Aina dismissed Mari and turned back to Fumiko. “You do seem exhausted. Can you stay for lunch? Dinner? The night? We could have a sleepover. I’m sure Akira-sama wouldn’t mind.”

There was no lust in Aina’s words, just the innocent excitement of a young girl who wanted to spend more time with her friend, but that was not how Mari interpreted it.

“How scandalous! Meido do not do that kind of thing,” admonished Mari. “Furthermore, aren’t you too young? I think this—this seductress is deceiving you An—an—desu wa.” Mari just couldn’t bring herself to call Aina “anata.”

Ki wo tsukete,” Aina warned Mari.

“I wish I could stay,” Fumiko attempted to defuse the situation. “Demo, I’m needed back at the temple soon. I’m just glad I could see you again, and I wanted to tell you you’re always welcome to visit me at the temple.” She leaned further forward, and placing her weight on top of Aina’s hand, planted a friendly kiss on her cheek, lingering there, not wanting to pull away.

Zurui!” Mari protested. “Watashi mo.” She bent down and gave Aina a peck on the cheek. This caught Aina by surprise, mostly because she had been doing her best to ignore Mari, but also because Mari had moved more quickly, more quietly, and with much better coordination than Aina had expected.

It was at that moment that the door opened and Momo bounded into the room, narrowly dodging Diaho as he made a grab for the of her dress.

“Ainya, gomen, I didn’t mean—” Momo bawled, but she stopped short when she saw Aina being kissed by the two other girls. For a split second, Aina could see a look of utter betrayal on Momo’s face, which was quickly replaced by the loudest, nastiest hiss she had ever heard from a nekomimi. 

“It’s not—” Aina tried to explain, but Momo turned away and, tears forming in her eyes, bounded out of the room, falling to all fours in order to duck past a stunned Diaho.

7:05 PM

Osu,” Karin greeted Akira and Chikako as she opened the front door for them.

“Karin-san, where are your manners?” chided Chikako.

Karin pinched her fingers over her nose and in a sarcastic, exaggerated nasal voice recited, “Okaeri nasaimase, goshujin-sama.”

Tadaima,” Akira chuckled.

“Don’t encourage her, goshujin-sama,” Chikako teased.

“Did Tsukasa-kun make it back yet?” Akira asked. Loosening his tie in the doorway.

“About half an hour ago,” answered Karin. “She’s visiting with Jin-chan right now. In the future, we might want to pick someone else to play the hostage.

“Naze?” Chikako asked. “Did she do something?”

“Iie, apparently the prime minister’s staff had a lovely afternoon treating her as a reluctant dress-up doll. She returned plastered with eye shadow, blush and lip gloss.”

“She must have hated that,” Akira commented.

“And Momo?” Chikako followed up.

“Diaho-sama brought her back here not long after Aina and the robot returned, but she’s been holed up in your room ever since.”

“My room?” Chikako raised an eyebrow.

“She ran off originally because Aina-chan rejected her again,” Karin explained. “When she was brought back, Aina-chan was, shall we say, engaged with the rest of her harem, and it set Momo off again.”

“Harem?” Akira asked. “Does Aina-chan have a harem?” Karin covered her mouth, embarrassed that she had made that joke in front of Akira, and Chikako just facepalmed.

“Iie, she doesn’t,” Chikako assured him. “It’s just one of Naomi-san’s hidoi hazing jokes. Shortly after Momo confessed to her, Aina met one of the prime minister’s meido—today’s hostage in fact—who had been her senpai in school. This senpai was a little clingy towards Aina-chan, so we started joking that Aina-chan was ni-timing, even though she’s still too young for that.”

Sou ka?” Akira mused. “Dare’s in this supposed harem?”

“Pretty much minna at this point. It’s become something of a game to make up fake rumors about Aina-chan’s harem,” Karin answered. “Watashi, Chikako-sama, Jin-chan, the gynoids, the prime minister’s staff, his wife, your nieces… Even Naomi-sama’s not immune.”

“Personally, I think it’s gone a bit too far,” Chikako interjected. “De, what happened?”

“Aina-chan was entertaining our hostage and the miko who came to purify goshujin-sama’s crates. Momo walked in on them and, well, I guess she took the harem jokes seriously.” Karin didn’t feel like telling them about the kisses. After all, what Aina did with her harem was no one else’s business.

“That’s it? She locked herself in my room for that?” Chikako scoffed.

“Hey, lay off,” Karin pushed back. “She’s having a hard time, and Aina-chan’s only making it worse by being completely inconsiderate of her feelings.”

“Aina-chan has been plenty considerate,” Chikako sighed. “It’s not her fault that she can’t return those feelings. Mattaku, you never miss a chance to side against a member of the parlor staff.”

“That’s because the parlor staff never miss a chance to shit all over the rest of us,” Karin sneered.

“Granted, there is a bit of that,” Chikako admitted. “Demo, have you ever witnessed Aina-chan doing anything like that?” Karin remained silent. “If you really feel bad for Momo, why don’t you go try to talk her out of my room?”

“Nani do you think I spent all afternoon doing?”

“At any rate,” Chikako said, “goshujin-sama and I still have some business to take care of, so off with you.”

“Hai, ojou-sama,” Karin replied sarcastically, turning away from them and walking down the hall as they entered the study.

“Gomen for that, goshujin-sama,” Chikako apologized. “That must have seemed trivial compared to today’s negotiations.”

“It’s ii,” Akira assured her, as he plopped down on a sofa. “It’s the trivialities that make everything else worth it. Are we secure?”

Chikako was already waving a device around the room to detect bugs, both electronic and magical. After waving it around a few more times, she nodded her head, pocketed it, and pulled out her mobile phone.

“Just one report,” she informed him. “Despite today’s agreement, the defense minister plans to continue construction of the wave motion gun.”

“Let him,” Akira shrugged. “For all the good it will do.”

“I thought you wanted the defense department to invest in more conventional defensive weaponry, not weapons of mutually assured destruction.”

“It’s what I would focus on if I were the defense minister. Our black ships still boast unrivaled offensive capabilities, even go-jyuu years after they were built, but they would have difficulty defending the city if the GINZUISHOU fell.”

“And yet, you just agreed to use the Department of Education’s budget and resources to construct your own weapon of mass destruction.”

“It’s something that can only be built by the most brilliant minds our country has, and I want to keep them in academia. It’s not like we could disguise mass conventional weapon production as an academic endeavor.”

“Still, I’m surprised you agreed to it all, given how sanctimonious you get on Penance Day.”

“You’re right. I don’t like it. Demo, at the end of the day, I’m a realist, not an idealist. At least, unlike the atomic bombs, this weapon will defend the only remaining Japanese people on Chikyuu.” He paused and reached up to rub his eyes. “Fuck, I’m rationalizing it again. Get me some shouchuu.”

“Hai, goshujin-sama,” Chikako obeyed, walking over to the liquor cabinet.

“Did the miko finish purifying the equipment?” asked Akira.

“Ee,” Chikako confirmed, handing him a glass.

“I want it out of here as soon as possible. In the meantime, no one is to go near it. I don’t want anyone to know what it’s for, especially Naomi-san.”

“She probably wouldn’t understand what it was even if she saw it,” Chikako reassured him.

“The gynoids might be able to figure it out. After the equipment is moved out, order them to erase any memories they have of it.”

“As you wish. Demo, you’re worrying too much. It looks like normal industrial equipment. Nobody who lives here would recognize it.”

“Jin-chan might be able to instinctively understand the inhumanity of it.”

“She’s still bedridden, and she won’t be up for a few more days.”

“There’s a slight possibility that Aina-chan could recognize it. She’s been borrowing more than books from my library lately. She’s been reading manga, and even watching some anime. Truthfully, I’m not sure that some of what she’s been getting into is really age-appropriate. I caught her with an Utena BD the other day, and I tried to convince her she was too young for it, but she explained the symbolism really well, though she didn’t quite understand the relationship between Utena and Anthy, and… You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

“Only that you would make a terrible parent,” Chikako told him, pouring him another glass. “I’ll make sure Aina-chan doesn’t go near the equipment. Is that all for tonight? There are still some matters I need to take care of, including removing a heartbroken nekomimi from my bedroom.”

“You may go,” Akira waved her away. “Leave the bottle.”

Oyasumi nasai, goshujin-sama,” Chikako bade him. “I’ll send Diaho-sama to you in an hour to make sure you don’t sleep on that sofa all night.”

“Don’t do that. I don’t want him to see me shitfaced.”

“Then don’t get shitfaced.”

“Matte, that’s it! Momo… Utena… The harem. It all makes sense.”

“Or perhaps it’s too late for that.”

“I’m not drunk. Just tell Naomi-san I want to see her.”

“You wanted to see me, goshujin-sama?” Naomi called through the door a few minutes later.


As soon as Naomi entered the study, she pantomimed a sway, bracing herself against the wall with one hand to stop herself from falling over. Akira had activated his implant, causing Naomi what he thought to be tremendous pain for a few seconds.

“Forgive me goshujin-sama,” she gasped. “What have I done to anger you?”

“It is not appropriate to spread rumors about ten year-olds engaging in sexual behavior. Do you have any idea what Aina-chan is going through?” For the moment, Akira ignored the fact that she wasn’t using Japanese words where appropriate.

“It’s just a bit of hazing. All the girls go—” Naomi fell to the ground clutching her head.

“She doesn’t understand koi or sexuality, and she’s trying to fill in the gaps with books and anime because she thinks she can’t trust any of you to give her straight answers. She’s trying to figure out if she’s gay or straight when she doesn’t even know what those two words mean.”

“Then why don’t you teach her, goshujin-sama?” Naomi screamed. “You’re the closest thing she has to a parent around here.”

“I don’t know what to say to her,” Akira admitted, letting up on Naomi. “I’ve never had kids, nor have I ever been an onna. The other meido who grow up here seem to be able to figure things out on their own, but when it comes to this one topic, Aina-chan is a little thick headed.”

“Regardless, I can’t give her special treatment. That would be favoritism.”

“Find some other way to haze her. This harem nonsense stops immediately. Make sure everyone knows it. Wakatta?

“As you wish, goshujin-sama.”