Chapter 32

“Really, I’m daijoubu,” Jin stated as she and Sena walked across the courtyard towards the mansion. The moisture from her heavy breathing condensed in midair, partially obscuring her vision.

“It was a meirei from Naomi-sama,” Sena reminded her, no visible breath emanating from her mouth.

As they approached the rear entrance, the door burst open and Mari stormed out, followed closely by Tsukasa.

“Even if you are Naomi-sama’s guest, you can’t just wander around,” Tsukasa shouted at Mari.

“If you would tell me where that neko is, I wouldn’t have to search for her,” Mari retorted.

Sokomade da!” Tsukasa ordered. It was one thing for an outside meido to be wandering the mansion, but if she was targeting a specific person, she had to be stopped.

Tsukasa reached for the broom fastened to Mari’s back, but Mari, sensing Tsukasa’s murderous intent, spun around to face her, drawing the blade sheathed in the broom’s handle. Tsukasa was quick to draw in response, and sparks flew as the two blades collided in midair.

Mari cursed herself silently. Drawing her blade in enemy territory was asking for trouble. If she didn’t quickly take control of the situation, she would be beset by the other meido. Luckily for her, Tsukasa was no match, and it was over almost as suddenly as it had begun. Tsukasa had tried to use her brute strength to force Mari’s blade aside, but as strong as Tsukasa was for her age, Mari had three years on her, and was able to match her strength. Mari’s technique, however, was vastly superior to Tsukasa’s, and after only three swings, she had knocked Tsukasa’s sword from her hand and was ready to deliver the killing blow.

“Matte!” Jin cried, racing towards them, picking up Tsukasa’s sword on the way. Mari simply disarmed Jin with a single stroke of her sword. Jin could see it coming, but she couldn’t move quickly enough to avoid it, and her strength was no match for Mari’s. The force of the blow was too much for Jin, and she fell backwards. Mari turned once again to face Tsukasa, who was rushing her from behind, and, quickly stepping out of the way, held out one leg to trip Tsukasa as she ran past, causing her to fall on top of Jin. 

She had no time to relax, however, as Sena had drawn her own sword and, grabbing Mari’s wrist with her free hand, held the sword to Mari’s throat. Mari responded by wrenching her hand free and delivering a strong kick to Sena’s abdomen. The gynoid flew backwards, unprepared for the girl’s strength. However, Sena had bought Tsukasa enough time to regain her footing, and she slashed at Mari with more strength than before, desperate to at least protect Jin. This time, it was Mari’s turn to be surprised by Tsukasa’s strength, but the initial shock wore off fast, and Mari’s superior technique again turned Tsukasa’s sword away.

“Tsukasa, abunai!” Jin warned her. She could see that, in mere moments, this was going to end with Tsukasa impaled through the chest, but she didn’t see any way she could stop it. She closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see her friend’s death, but the image of it flashed over and over in her mind. If only Tsukasa could see it, maybe she could avoid it…

Tsukasa gasped as the image invaded her mind. For a split second, she could see how Mari was going to move, and she could see that there was no way she would be able to block the thrust in time. In a last act of desperation, she jumped backwards, out of Mari’s range. Although she avoided a sure death, she had thrown herself wildly off balance, and she tripped backwards over Jin, who was now lying unconscious on the ground. In another second, Mari would close the distance, and it would be over for the both of them.

But Mari did not advance on them, and in truth, had no intention on following through with that sword thrust. As much trouble as she was in already, she knew she wouldn’t be forgiven for killing anyone on the Wright estate. Instead, she turned towards Sena, who was running towards her as fast as she could. Mari met the gynoid’s charge, and the next few movements played out exactly as she predicted. Mari had not failed to notice how Hiroko had fought against Sena without looking at her, and had inferred that all gynoids fought the same way. Though it had only been a few months since then, Mari had diligently trained with the gynoids at the prime minister’s mansion, learning how they moved. Their fighting style was safe but predictable. It would take a few minutes to break Sena’s defenses, but Mari felt safe against the gynoid.

“Jin! Jin! Shikkari shiro!” Tsukasa pleaded as she tried to shake Jin back to consciousness. In her desperation, Jin had been able to psychically communicate Mari’s impending attack to Tsukasa, but when she did so, her implant activated and rendered her unconscious, as it was designed to do if she began to reawaken her psychic powers. It would continue to filter the impulses flowing to and from her brain, allowing only those required to keep her alive, until the threat of reawakening passed.

“Take her to the infirmary,” Sena commanded as she continued to press her attack against Mari. Tsukasa scooped Jin up in her arms and prepared to sprint past Mari towards the entrance as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Unfortunately for her, Mari stepped backwards, placing herself between Tsukasa and the mansion. It wasn’t an intentional move to block Tsukasa off; it was necessary to draw Sena’s balance forward. As soon as she moved to close the gap with Mari, Mari would pivot behind her faster than she could react, leaving her defenseless against Mari’s next attack.

However, Mari was not the only one who had noticed how effortlessly Hiroko had held Sena at bay, nor was she the only one who could infer why. Over the last few months, the gynoids had been working together with Naomi to develop alternative fighting styles. It was impossible for them to improvise in the spur of the moment, to adapt themselves to their opponents. If you threw a punch at a gynoid’s face, they would always block it the same way, even though they knew many ways to handle that situation. The problem was that fighting requires responding to a sequence of situations in quick succession, and some responses preclude some follow-up responses. If a gynoid could adapt to an opponent’s fighting style, it would be easy for it to identify follow-ups which wouldn’t be necessary, and thus make more efficient selections. Because they cannot, they always select the response that maximizes their options. The alternate styles they developed with Naomi were not quite as versatile, but were still versatile enough to be safely used. They were not very compatible with each other, so it was not possible to quickly switch from one to the other, but when given a small break in the action, such as the break Mari gave Sena by stepping backwards, it was possible to smoothly transition.

Randomly selecting a fighting style, Sena reached into her pocket and quickly flipped a coaster towards Mari. Mari was surprised by the unexpected deviation, but she managed to deflect the coaster. A second later, two taser electrodes fired from beneath Sena’s wrist, but Mari barely sidestepped them, having noticed the odd way Sena twisted her hand when throwing the coaster. For the next few minutes they clashed, Mari treating Sena as she would any other opponent, taking advantage of her slower movement speed. She quickly advanced, delivering strong, wide blows, and just as quickly retreated before Sena could retaliate. She left Sena no time to change fighting styles and gave Tsukasa no chance to run past her into the mansion. Her attacks eventually overwhelmed Sena, who was forced to drop her sword to prevent it from slicing into her own neck as Mari redirected it back at its wielder. Mari caught the sword as it fell and gave Sena another kick, sending her to the ground. Having completely gained the upper-hand against her opponents, Mari relished her victory for a moment, sticking Sena’s sword into the grass as if she were spiking a football in the endzone, and prepared to sheathe her own blade. But before she could move, her wrist was grabbed from behind, and she felt her sword pulled out of her hand by an immense strength.

Dou iu koto ga?” Aina demanded, sticking Mari’s sword into the ground next to Sena’s.

“Aina-san,” Mari stammered. “I—I was just trying to help you, and—”

“Help me?” Aina asked incredulously. “By beating up my tomodachi? Look at her,” Aina gestured to Jin. “She’s scraped up and unconscious. You thought that would help me?” She nodded at Tsukasa, who sprinted towards the infirmary as quickly as she could while carrying Jin.

“She attacked me,” explained Mari. “I had to fight back. I was just defending myself.”

“You wouldn’t have needed to defend yourself if you had followed the rules,” Aina pressed.

“That’s true,” Mari sighed, looking away. “Demo, I have a right to keep myself safe!”

“You think that made you safe?” Aina chortled. “The only reason you’re alive after drawing your sword in this mansion is that they kept getting in the way.” Aina removed the entire broom from her back and pulled the blade out six inches, using it as a mirror to show Mari her own face. Two red dots wiggled slightly on her forehead.

“If I had not grabbed your wrist when I did,” Sena said, standing back up, “we would be picking bits of your brain out of the lawn. Such work doesn’t bother me, but I don’t have the time to spare right now. If you will excuse me.” She curtseyed to Aina and walked as quickly as she could into the mansion.

“Come on,” said Aina, placing sheathing her broom her back. “You’re leaving.”

“Not until I explain to that neko—”

Iie, I’ll thank you to stay out of it, and after what just happened, you can’t stay here.”

Wakatta,” Mari’s shoulders slumped, and she turned back towards the mansion with Aina. “I just wanted to fix things. She still isn’t talking to you, is she?”

“She isn’t, but that has nothing to do with you, and you’ll just make it worse.”

“Demo, you’re suffering! I read it in your emails. I can see it in your eyes. I don’t want you to suffer anymore.”

“The strong always suffer,” Aina replied, trying to sound cool. “Bearing it is what makes them strong.” She hadn’t forgotten what Mari said about admiring strength and was trying to see if she could use it to manipulate Mari.


The two of them walked in silence through the mansion and out through the front gate. When Mari had safely departed, Aina took out her phone and dialed Sena.

“How’s Jin-chan?” she asked, as soon as Sena picked up.

“She is responding well to the anti-psychic drugs. She should make a complete recovery by tomorrow. However, it might be advisable to—”

“Gomen,” interrupted Aina. “I’ll have to call you back.”

Waiting for Aina at the front entrance of the mansion were Momo and Mimi. They were holding hands tightly, both trying to reassure the other.

“Ainya,” Momo mewed weakly. It was the first time she had spoken to Aina in a month.

“Momo, Mimi, what’s wrong? What happened?”

“Ainya, I—I—,” but Momo couldn’t finish her sentence, and began to cry.

“Momo is leaving the mansion,” Mimi finished for her. “Next week.”

Nani?! Because of me? You don’t have to leave, Momo. It’s daijobou. We can still—” Aina was cut off as Momo gently put her hand over Aina’s mouth.

“Goshujin-sama’s orders,” Momo explained quietly. “Soshite, I agreed to it. I know it’s not your fault, Ainya, but it’s been really hard for me. You’ll never feel the same way about me as I feel about you, but being around you, I’ll never be able to get over you. I need to move on with my life.”

“Demo, where will you go?”

“One of goshujin-sama’s cousins has agreed to buy her,” Mimi explained. Momo looked down at the ground in shame at the mention of buying and selling sentient beings. “He has decided to respect Momo’s… preferences… and place her in a home run by an ojou-sama who is also a member of the yuri tribe.”

Aina imagined Akira thought this was a compassionate thing to do. After all, meido are supposed to love their masters.

“Is there anything I can do to change your mind?” Aina asked softly, but Momo shook her head. “Jya, I hope you’ll find happiness,” Aina sighed, tears beginning to form in her eyes. “I know this is a selfish thing to ask, but please keep in touch.” Tears were flowing down Aina’s cheeks now, and Momo, who nodded violently, was starting to cry too. “Gomen, Mimi. You must hate me even more for driving your onee-chan away.”

“I can’t hate you, Ainya,” Mimi croaked. “I don’t have the luxury anymore.”


“I’m pregnant,” Mimi declared, locking her yellow eyes on Aina’s. “It’s likely the first of many litters. Diaho-sama says he wants to help raise them, but I know his duties won’t permit it. With Momo leaving, you’re probably the only one I can turn to for help. You’re the only one who can keep up with the kittens, and you’re the only one here I trust. Will you help me?”

“Of course,” Aina sobbed. “Of course. Omedetou.”

And with that, the well of tears that Mimi had been holding back began to gush forth as well. At that moment, all transgressions between the three of them were forgiven, and they embraced each other in a group hug. For one last time, the three friends cried together.

March 1st, U.C. 0047

The following letter was addressed to:

Jeanne Dufort and Jacques Samson
c/o Yasuko-onee-sama

Dear Mama and Papa,

Do you remember Mari-san? She used to itsumo bully me at school, even though I did what you told me and ignored her. I met her again recently, and she’s been acting really friendly towards me. She claims that she only bullied me because that was the only way she was allowed to talk to me, and she didn’t want me to be sabishii. I know she’s just making excuses for her behavior. Demo, she’s been very kind to me since then, and I believe her when she says she wants to be my tomodachi. I used to daikirai her so much, but I don’t know how to feel about her anymore.

Iie, that’s chigau. I still daikirai her, and I can’t stop daikiraiing her. Demo, I feel bad about it. I know I should forgive her, but I can’t seem to find it within me. The other day she prostrated herself before me, begging for forgiveness, and when I saw the locks of her hair dragging through the dirt for my sake, I think I saw her as a hito for the first time. If I can’t forgive her after that, can I even call myself a ningen anymore?

I really don’t know what to do. How do I fix myself?



Chikako destroyed this letter and explained to Aina that if it was intercepted, her enemies would target Mari to track Aina down.