Later that night, Naomi knocked on the door to Akira’s study with a textbook under her arm.
“Enter,” Akira commanded as Naomi opened the door. “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?” Akira was standing halfway between his desk and the door, obviously about to leave the room. Chikako was cleaning his desk.
“Good evening to you too, master.” Naomi answered. “Gokurosama,” she greeted Chikako, who nodded in response. Her pronunciation was poor and her voice unsteady, as if she were trying to remember the word. Forty-three years was more than enough time to learn to speak like a weeaboo, but unless her master was present, Naomi never spoke using Japanese words, and since neither she nor her masters cared much for each other’s company, she didn’t have many opportunities to practice.
“Konbanwa, Naomi-san,” Akira uttered flawlessly. “What brings you to my study?”
“Master, I know I’m forbidden from involving myself with politics,” Naomi started.
“Are you?” Akira asked. “I don’t remember issuing any such order.”
“Ah, no, your grandfather did, after he almost lost his first election.”
“Sou ka? I never heard anything about him almost losing an election. What happened, did you run against him?”
“Quite the opposite. I campaigned for him, and he almost lost the French vote because of it.”
“I thought you were something of a hero in the eyes of the French populace in those days.”
“Hai,” Naomi remembered to answer in Japanese, “and that is why he had me campaign for him. He sought to use my celebrity to influence the voters, but it backfired terribly. Everyone knew I hated the man, and they thought he was trying to humiliate me by forcing me to say good things about him in public. They actually organized a protest write-in campaign on my behalf. He only won because the election committee ruled that all votes for ‘Hidoi Wright’ be counted as a vote for him.
“’Hidoi Wright!’ That’s hilarious!” Akira laughed.
“He didn’t think so at the time. The pre-election polls were so bad that he traded in some political favors to get listed as a block candidate as a backup strategy. He claimed it cost him dearly.”
“I can imagine,” Akira said, still smiling. “Arigatou for that piece of family history. Sore yori, you were saying?”
“I apologize for disobeying your grandfather’s order, but I happened to come across this textbook, and since you are the Minister of Education, and I am your servant, I am duty bound to bring this to your attention.” She handed him a tablet.
“This is the state-mandated fourth grade history textbook,” Akira observed, his lingering smile disappearing from his face. “Where did you get this?”
“Aina-chan asked if I could acquire a copy for her,” Naomi lied. However, I wasn’t sure that I should give it to her, since it contains quite a few inaccuracies. For example, about the Vietnam War, the author writes that the French government cowardly abandoned the Vietnamese to their enemies, ‘Murica and the Soviet Expedition.”
“I know the contents of this hon very well,” Akira said evenly.
“Then why—naze is it being taught in schools? You’re an educated man. You must know how wrong it is.”
“Believe me, I’m as angry about it as you are, but this was commissioned by the Prime Minister, and I was not given a choice in the matter.”
“You don’t sound angry to me.”
“I’ve had a couple years to come to terms with it,” Akira sighed, “so you’ll forgive me if I don’t have the energy to waste brooding over battles long lost.”
“I don’t get it,” Naomi said. “What does the Prime Minister gain by spreading this kind of blatant misinformation? How does he benefit if children think that ‘Murica and Soviet Expedition are the same as the historical America and the Soviet Union?”
“’Murica and the Soviet Expedition are our teki,” Akira explained. “It’s just propaganda designed to make them seem evil.”
“And to make the French government complicit in that evil,” Naomi realized. “But this is stupid. Anyone searching for ‘Vietnam War’ on Guugaru would find that this book is full of lies.”
“Fewer people are interested in ancient history than you think. By the time any of these kids learn the truth, they will have already internalized the propaganda.” Akira sighed again and handed the book back to Naomi. “I could have delayed the distribution of this hon if I had made a big enough fuss, but I couldn’t have stopped it. I was able to trade my cooperation for greater academic freedom in higher education, so at least the students who make it to university will get the chance to learn the truth.”
“That doesn’t make it right,” Naomi snapped.
“No, it doesn’t,” Akira snapped back, “but it’s better than nothing. It’s better than a civil sensou.”
“How could lying to children about Vietnam possibly prevent a civil sensou?”
“It’s not just Vietnam, and it’s not just this hon. This is just one of thousands of lessons designed to reinforce the idea that the world is full of evil, and that only the Federation can stand up to it. That’s why it’s harder than you realize to spot the lies: They’re so pervasive that they smother the truth.”
“But not surprising,” Akira agreed. “After all, history is written by the victors.”
“And those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Naomi shot back. “You’re destroying your own nation. Tomorrow’s leaders won’t have the benefit of history’s lessons.”
“Tomorrow’s leaders aren’t learning this trash. This is just for the French schools.”
“And what if some of tomorrow’s leaders come from those schools?”
“Masaka,” Akira scoffed, enunciating each syllable. “The political power of this country is firmly entrenched in the goshujin caste, despite our pretenses of democracy. Old ‘Hidoi Wright’ didn’t almost lose his election to a French candidate.”
“Countries with no social mobility are plagued with unrest,” Naomi asserted. “You seem to be willing to take extreme measures to prevent a French uprising, going so far as to turn the education system into a propaganda machine, and yet you continue to pursue social policies which are likely to breed dissatisfaction.”
“Absolutely,” Akira agreed. “Though it’s not as if there’s no social mobility. We allow the French to acquire wealth, just not power. It gives them the illusion of social progress, and that, combined with constant propaganda and some occasional fear and intimidation, allows us to keep the masses in line. ‘Murica has been executing that strategy for hundreds of years without much problem. There’s no reason we can’t do the same.”
“I thought you said the French people would never turn against the goshujin caste,” Chikako interjected, recalling the previous evening’s conversation.
“Not if they’re thinking logically they won’t,” Akira answered. “But mobs seldom think logically.”
“You could just hold fair and free elections,” Naomi offered. “It would probably be a lot easier.”
“Muri”, Akira said, waving his hand in front of his face. “We’d get creamed at the ballot box, and besides, this is how things worked in Japan.”
“No it wasn’t,” Naomi pointed out. “It’s how you believe things worked in Japan, based on your precious cartoons.” The use of the word “cartoons” was a slip of the tongue, and a bad one at that. It instantly shifted the topic of conversation to a matter of fanatic belief, against which logical arguments had no weight.
“They’re not cartoons!” Akira shouted.
“Yes they are! They’re cartoons for children!” Naomi shouted back, attempting to shock Akira into silence long enough for her to steer the conversation back on track. It didn’t work.
“Damare!” Akira roared. “You think you can just come into my study, obliquely criticize my job performance, and tell me that anime is cartoons without any consequences? I’ve been nothing but polite, but apparently you mistook it for weakness. Well, let me remind you who’s the goshujin and who’s the meido.”
Naomi felt a sudden pain in the back of her head, caused by a device implanted at the base of her skull. Akira had a similar device implanted in himself, which allowed him to inflict pain upon Naomi just by thinking about it. In truth, the pain was unpleasant but bearable, but Naomi wanted Akira to believe it was an effective punishment, so like always, she clutched her head dramatically and fell to her knees.
“Please…” she gasped. “I’m sorry…”
“Say it in Japanese,” Akira sneered.
“Should a meido be so informal with her goshujin?” Akira asked Chikako nonchalantly.
“Iie, she should not, goshujin-sama,” Chikako reluctantly admitted.
“I don’t know the words… Please!” Naomi wailed.
“That’s a shame. I’m about to go to bed, and I won’t be available to hear your apology until after breakfast. So unless you want to stay like that all night, I suggest you figure it out quickly.” He turned away from Naomi, caught Chikako silently mouthing the words to Naomi, and held up a hand. “Don’t help her,” he commanded.
“Moushiwa… Moushiwa… Moushiwake arimasen, goshujin-sama!” Naomi finally managed, touching her forehead to the ground.
“I suppose that will suffice. Now, what’s your name?”
“Naomi! It’s Naomi, goshujin-sama,” she exclaimed, using the name given to her by Akira’s grandfather. She detested the name, but she was forbidden from using any other. Akira would occasionally make her recite it to remind her of his power to compel her to do things she didn’t want to. “So… please…”
“Shoganai,” Akira said dismissively, releasing her from the pain.
“Thank you—Arigatou gozaimasu,” Naomi said as she got to her feet.
“Take this trash and get out,” Akira said, handing Naomi the tablet. “I don’t want to see it ever again, and I don’t want to see you for at least a week.”
“Hai, goshujin-sama,” Naomi said weakly, “but if I may suggest—”
“You may have to teach this in the schools, but there’s no reason you have to teach this to your house staff. Aina-chan—”
“OK, I get it,” Akira cut her off. “Luckily for you, it’s a good point. If it weren’t, you’d be in for more punishment. Tell Aina-chan that she’s to spend an hour each day organizing and maintaining my toshokan, and that if she sees anything that interests her, she can take it to read on her own time. They may actually provide her with a better education than she was getting in that dump.”
“Hai, arigatou, master,” Naomi said as she turned to leave.
“You can’t do that, goshujin-sama,” Chikako protested.
“Now you’re going to tell me how to do my job?” Akira asked incredulously. “In case you both forgot, I’m the goshujin. I can do whatever I want.”
“Of course, you’re right, goshujin-sama”, Chikako said. “It’s just that she’s the most junior member of the house staff, and a child. For you to loan your precious, valuable hon to her would be a display of overt favoritism.”
“It might be,” Akira admitted, “but as the goshujin, it’s my right to play favorites.”
“Demo, it makes my job more difficult,” Chikako said, “and it undermines the hierarchy of this household. If you do this, I must insist that you extend the offer to the rest of the staff as well.”
“Kotowaru. I’m extending this offer to Aina-chan because I trust her to take care of the hon. I’ll extend it to whomever else I see fit, but I will not issue a blanket invitation to the entire staff. I don’t want to hear anything else from either of you tonight. You may go.”
Without saying a word, the two meido left the study, closing the door behind them.
“That man is worse than his grandfather,” Naomi griped when they were out of earshot. “He’s worse than his father.”
“Don’t judge him too harshly,” Chikako cautioned. “He was absolutely livid when the Prime Minister sent him that text. He was ready to destroy his career over it.”
“You knew about it,” Naomi accused.
“I was the one who suggested the higher education compromise,” Chikako boasted. “He’s right: It’s not much, but it is something. It also helped cement my position as housekeeper-in-all-but-name.”
“You lied to me this afternoon. You knew exactly what Aina was referring to when she made that Vietnam joke. You never told me anything about this.”
“I wanted to avoid a fight like the one you just had. It’s not like you could have done anything about it, so why make the situation any worse than it had to be?”
“You sold our people out to gain favor with that man,” Naomi continued her string of accusations.
“They’re not my people,” Chikako decried. “They sold me into this hellish slavery first, Naomi-sama, and if I have to harm them to get out of it, all the better.”
“There’s no getting out of it. All you’re doing is taking out your anger on innocent bystanders.”
“It’s not unheard of for especially influential and beautiful meido to marry into the goshujin class,” Chikako said.
“Chikako, you’re exceptionally talented in a number of areas, but beauty and charm are not your strong suits. You’re not going to hook yourself a goshujin.”
“I won’t have to, if goshujin-sama orders his nephew to marry me. That’s why I need all the influence I can get.”
“Look, it doesn’t matter how much influence you hold over him, you just don’t have what it takes to marry into nobility, and he knows it.”
“You’re just jealous that I have a way out and you don’t.”
“No, but I am disturbed at how far you would go to further your ambitions. I suppose I am partly to blame for encouraging them, but I never thought you would turn your back on our people.”
“They’re not my people.” Chikako repeated.
“Yes, I can see that now,” Naomi said. And that means you’re not one of my people, she thought to herself. All that effort I put into raising you has gone to waste, and all the other promising candidates are dead. I’ll need to start over, but this time, I’ll be careful to choose candidates with stronger ties to the French community. Only, I need to act quickly, because in a few years, there may no longer be a culturally-distinct French community to recruit from.