By the time Aina awoke, she was laying in a bed in the Wright mansion. Yasuko sat in a chair a meter away, hemming a small black dress.
“Doko am I?” Aina asked after a few seconds.
“Gokigenyou, Aina-chan”, Yasuko greeted her.
“Gokigenyou, Yasuko-onee-san,” Aina haltingly returned the greeting.
“I’m glad that you remember me,” Yasuko smiled. “My real namae isn’t Yasuko though, it’s Chikako. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”
“Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, Chikako-onee-san,” Aina replied.
“You’re at the Wright estate”, Chikako explained. “The Soviets attacked your parents’ laboratory, and your parents had to go into hiding, so they left you with us.”
Aina was still a little groggy, so it took her a few moments to process the words.
“Are they daijobou?” she asked listlessly.
“Hai,” Chikako answered, “but it may be some time before you see them again.” After a few more moments, Aina’s eyes began to well up with tears. “There, there. Rest now. You’ll have plenty of time to cry later.” Chikako gently wiped away the tears with a handkerchief. “For now, you need to regain your strength. I’ll be back in a few hours to take you to meet your new goshujin-sama, so do your best to be ready by then.”
Akira Wright was idly reviewing some reports in his study when he heard a soft knock at the door. “Come,” he commanded, setting down his tablet. The door opened and Chikako entered the room, leading Aina by the hand. “Ah, Chikako. Konbanwa. Is this the one you told me about?”
“Konbanwa, goshujin-sama,” Chikako greeted with a curtsey. Aina mimicked the curtsey as best she could. “Hai, this is Aina Dufort-chan. If you approve, she’ll be joining us starting today.”
“Come here and let me have a look at you,” Akira instructed. As Aina took her first steps towards the man, he swiveled in his chair to face her and his arm brushed a teacup sitting near the edge of his desk, causing it to wobble precariously. Aina rushed forward and steadied the cup before it could topple off the desk. As she slid it back into place, she got her first good look at her new master. He was a well-dressed man in his late thirties with slicked-back black hair.
“She’s as fast as you claimed. Not many manage to catch the cup before it leaves the table. Good work, Aina-chan, and good find, Chikako,” he praised, patting Aina approvingly on the shoulder. “She’ll do fine. I approve.”
“Arigatou gozaimasu, goshujin-sama”, the two meido replied in unison.
“Go on, introduce yourself,” Chikako prodded Aina.
“Hajimemashite. I’m Aina Dufort. I’m nana-sai. I am a—was a—second grader at Daiichi elementary school. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”
“Very good,” Akira said. “Any hobbies?”
“Etou… does reading count?”
“A girl after my own kokoro, I see,” Akira smiled. “Hai, reading most definitely counts, Aina-chan. Have you read any good hon recently?”
“I just finished reading the second Beast Player Erin hon,” Aina answered.
“Aren’t you a bit young for those novels?” Akira asked.
“I didn’t know some of the words,” Aina answered truthfully, “but I know how to use a dictionary.”
“Very good!” Akira was pleased. “And what did you think about them?”
“I was a little disappointed with the second hon,” Aina admitted. “Erin’s world has a lot of problems, and Erin has the power to fix some of those problems, but she never does! She just keeps doing what warui hito tell her to do, even when she gets hurt because of it.”
“But those warui hito get hurt too,” Akira admonished, “and in the end, Erin saves them. It was only because the three sides were able to compromise with each other that they all were able to survive.”
Aina hesitated before responding. Akira was now acting more like a teacher and less like an employer, and she wasn’t sure what was expected of her. Chikako had advised her to do her best to please her new goshujin-sama, but she did not know whether it would please him more to act like a student or to act like a servant. After a moment of thought, she concluded that his position as education minister might make him some kind of teacher, so she should answer him as if she were in school.
Her instinct was not far off the mark. To prepare himself to inherit the ministership, Akira had taught at many different schools throughout the city. It was one of the reasons he was chosen over his brothers to inherit the title of goshujin. Even after ascending to his position, teaching was second nature to him, and he unconsciously treated those around him, both adults and children, as his students. Most people found this behavior extremely patronizing, but due to the gap in their social positions, were completely unable to confront him about it.
“She should have let them kill each other,” Aina said. “They were behaving like unreasonable kodomo.”
“Perhaps you are a bit too young for those hon after all,” Akira diplomatically ended the discussion. Aina managed to pick up on the cue and bowed her head.
“It is as you say, goshujin-sama.”
“It always is,” Akira sighed, slightly disappointed that she had backed down so quickly. He turned back to his reports and was about to wave them out, but paused, recalling a report he had read a few minutes prior. “Dufort is a French surname. Are your parents French, Aina-chan?”
“My grandparents are French, goshujin-sama.”
“Good enough. Tell me, have you read The Rose of Versailles?”
“Hai, goshujin-sama. Hasn’t minna?”
“Tell me, Aina-chan, what do the French think of Oscar?”
“Most hito think that Oscar is passionate and brave, but her violent nature leads her to betray Marie Antoinette, and she pays for that betrayal with her life.” Akira was happy with that response. It was, more or less, the interpretation the government wanted to promote among the French populace, and he was glad they seemed to be adopting it.
Even 43 years after the founding of the Weeaboo Federation, The Rose of Versailles remained a political and cultural burden to the Weeaboo ruling class. It was, inarguably, a classic and highly influential cornerstone of Japanese culture, and thus, not even the prime minister would dare to revise or censor it. But at the same time, the conquered French populace embraced The Rose of Versailles more readily than the other Japanese cultural artifacts introduced by the Weeaboo invaders, who worried that it might inspire the French to stage a second revolution.
“And what do you think?” Akira asked automatically. It was a question he had asked thousands of times as a teacher.
“I don’t think that Oscar is a violent person,” Aina said quietly. “Actually, I think she is very yasashii. She doesn’t want to see Marie Antoinette get hurt, but she doesn’t want to see the hito of France hurting either. She fights for republicanism only to protect the hito—”
“She fights for democracy, not republicanism,” Akira interrupted. “It’s a subtle point, but covered during the conflict over the Estates-General. What the French hito wanted was democracy, not republicanism. They wanted a system of government very similar to the one we have today.”
“But,” Aina asked tentatively, “then naze did they call their country the French Republic, and not the French Democracy?”
“That’s a good question, but I’m afraid the answer is very complicated, and I don’t have time to explain it fully right now. Do you know the difference between republicanism and democracy?” Aina shook her head. “Let’s just say that, unlike democracy, republicanism isn’t a very well-defined concept. The French ended up with a democratic government anyway, so we say that Oscar fought for democracy. OK, Aina-chan?”
As a teacher, Akira despised the words coming out of his mouth. He especially hated lying to a student so clearly capable of independent thought, but a little misinformation was preferable to a violent uprising.
“I shall do so from now on, goshujin-sama.”
“Very good. You’re dismissed.” With that, Akira returned to his work and Chikako ushered Aina out of the room.
“You did good,” Chikako informed Aina, as they walked back to the servants’ wing. “He seems to like you very much.”
“I was so worried that I would upset him,” Aina blurted out. “But your coaching really helped. Arigatou gozaimasu.” The two walked in silence until they reached the room that would be Aina’s.
“Oyasumi, Aina-chan. Get to sleep soon,” Chikako commanded. “You will begin work early tomorrow. I will send someone to wake you. You are to follow their instructions. Wakaru?”
“Hai, wakarimashita. Oyasumi, Chikako-onee-san,” Aina said as she retreated into the room. A pair of pajamas had been laid out for her. She changed into them and crawled into the bed. As she drifted off to sleep, images of the gallant Oscar raced through her imagination.
Sou, Oscar is yasashii… too yasashii. That’s what gets her killed. I’ll never make that mistake.