Chapter 18

“I was,” admitted Aina, “but it appears someone else beat me to it.”

Betsuni,” Mari shrugged. “I’m a nisemono.”

“Huh? Jya, dare created you?”

“The GINZUISHOU conjured me, but I didn’t know that until you asked the question. Ask me another.”

“OK, here’s the obvious one: Naze?

“To scare you away!” Mari burst out laughing. “Hontou, it thought you would fear watakushi.”

“Mari-san wouldn’t say ‘watakushi.’ She dropped the fauxjousama act years ago.”

Gomen, I’m an imperfect projection. I have some of Mari’s honmono no memories, but other details are filled in by the GINZUISHOU, sometimes using other people’s memories. I don’t remember her entire life, just certain details.”

“Which details?”

“Most of them don’t involve you, but I do remember the day you disappeared from gakkou, our unexpected reunion, stabbing Hiroko-sama, the first time we kissed, the second time we kissed, the third—Oh. You killed me.” Mari’s voice cracked, and tears began to form in her eyes. Aina reflexively reached up to wipe them away, but Mari jerked her head to the side, and Aina’s hand passed through Mari’s spectral cheek.

“Maybe the GINZUISHOU wasn’t too far off the mark,” Aina mumbled. “I would have come earlier, but I was scared of what you would say to me. Demo, you’re not the honmono no Mari. Her reaction might be different.” Aina turned back to the terminal and resumed poking at it.

“The honmono no Mari is shindeiru. The best you could do is create a clone with the same memories I have.”

“Mari-san’s soul should be trapped inside the GINZUISHOU…”

“Demo, you killed me outside the GINZUISHOU.”

“It shouldn’t matter. It was close enough that we were still within its influence, and I know that the GINZUISHOU can at least create incorporeal vessels.”

“It doesn’t work that way. The GINZUISHOU doesn’t trap souls because they don’t exist.”

“Spiritual energy proves—”

“Spiritual energy is just a name. It doesn’t actually mean that spirits exist. Besides, you don’t want a ghost, you want my flesh.”

Iie, I want to apologize. I want to fix things.”

“Fix things? Apologizing is fine, but nani would you do after that? Take me back to my parents? My Catholic parents? Or maybe you expect me to go back to being a meido, because that was so great.”

“Iie, you can do whatever you want, I just—”

“You just want me to redeem you, and then you can bring back all the other hito you killed and you can go back to pretending that you value others’ lives. And then, grateful that you resurrected me, I’ll throw myself into your arms. This isn’t about making amends. This is about making yourself feel good.”


“You’re wasting your time lying to me, and you’re wasting your time if you think you can make things right.”

“If this is just a waste of time, then I should leave.”

“Not so fast. There is one thing you want that the GINZUISHOU can provide.”


“My karada. That’s what you really came here for anyway. You can skip all the bullshit and just make yourself the perfect living waifu that looks just like me.”

“I don’t want that.”

“Of course you do. I noticed you leering at me on more than one occasion. It was obvious that you didn’t like me, but I knew you wanted my karada, and that’s why I never gave up on you.”

“That doesn’t mean I want a ningyou that looks like you.”

“I can’t imagine you didn’t consider it before you came here. If the GINZUISHOU could create entirely new youkai, it should be able to create entirely new ningen as well. You could make yourself a Mari with everything you liked and nothing you hated. She could be your sweet tenshi who gets you off every night, or she could be the meanest bully who you can beat to your heart’s content. You know you always wanted to hit me. Think of how cathartic it would be.”

“Chigau,” Aina repeated.

“You don’t need to choose one or the other. You can start with the innocent waifu, and when she accidentally does something to annoy you, you can turn her into the bully and punish her while she begs for mercy. Soshite, when that bores you, you can stick a sword through her stomach and reenact our last kiss.”

“Is that really what Mari-san thought I wanted to do to her?”

“Was I wrong? You always seemed to enjoy it when we kissed, and when you killed me, I could sense your excitement as the life drained from me. Even though we never got past first base, I wouldn’t be surprised if you associated my death with the most erotic kiss we ever shared. That would be so like you. After our first kiss, every time you saw me, you licked your lips like one of Pavlov’s dogs.”

“I did not, and Mari-san couldn’t have known about Pavlov,” Aina protested, but the false Mari ignored her.

“Look, I get it, you’re afraid. Not of me, but of yourself. Ever since you killed me, you’ve become colder and colder. You feel genuine affection for only a few people, and they’re mostly meido. They could all die and you’d be left with no one to care about, at which point, what’s to stop you from burning this sekai to ash?”

“I wouldn’t do that. I promised my parents.”

“Your parents are dead, and every few days you learn this sekai is more cruel than you thought. It’s just a matter of time before you witness something so horrific that you can no longer bear it. Besides, how many more years can Chikyuu support life? Ni-hyaku, maybe san-hyaku?”

“If our geoengineering efforts continue as they are, and things don’t get worse, it’s closer to go-hyaku. If the sensou ends before that, maybe—”

“My point is that jinrui has no mirai, and hito are suffering pointlessly. You’d be doing them a favor if you ended it all now.”

“Iie, there’s still a chance. Experiment yon showed promise for large-scale mahou geoengineering.”

“So what if you can save Chikyuu? It will only allow hito to continue to be cruel to each other. It’s all just empty motion anyway, so you might as well have some fun while you still can and then end it. Come on, Aina-san, you know you want to fuck me. Fuck me, and then kill me, and then kill this planet that only gave the ni of us bittersweet—”

Before she could finish her sentence, the false ghost of Mari vanished into thin air. What she had been preaching was probably not what the GINZUISHOU had in mind, Aina reasoned. Still, the abrupt end left Aina unsatisfied.

“Chigau,” Aina called out for the third time. “I’m not like that. I won’t do those things. I just wanted to make things right.”

Aina received no response. Maybe the GINZUISHOU couldn’t understand her, or maybe it didn’t want to risk trying to communicate indirectly with her again.

“I’m just going to turn this off, then I’ll leave,” Aina shouted, just in case the GINZUISHOU thought she might really do what Mari had bade her.

But as she turned back to the terminal, she hesitated. She wouldn’t destroy the world no matter what, and even if she did will a Mari-like human into existence, she wouldn’t have to kill it. As long as she didn’t do anything bad, what was the harm in getting a few kisses—and maybe something more—on the side? It wouldn’t be nearly as nice as doing those things with Fumiko, but it would be some much needed stress relief. It might also help reassure her that this world wasn’t so bad after all. Looking at it that way, it was a net good, even if she did end up killing Mari again.

Mari’s ghost had been right about that too. Emotionally, it had left Aina a wreck, but she had to admit that the visceral feeling of stabbing Mari, and the kiss that followed, had felt very satisfying. If she could do it again, she’d like to use a shorter blade, something with hooks in it so she could really tear up Mari’s insides and cause her body to jerk involuntarily as they kissed.

Aina caught herself licking her lips. Her tongue froze halfway through the motion and she pulled it back into her mouth.

Iie, I’m not like that. Aina told herself as her hand reached for the terminal. I’m not like that. I’m not like that!

“I’m not like that!” Aina yelled, jerking awake. She was breathing heavily, and it took her a second to realize that it had just been a dream. She relaxed, slowing her breathing as she recognized the ceiling above her. She was glad that her stint as captain of the Macedonian had ended a day earlier. If she had woken up to an unfamiliar ceiling, she might have panicked before she came to her senses.

“Not like what?” nine Gynoid voices asked in unison. Aina bolted up, her fight or flight instincts activated by the surprise. There shouldn’t be anyone else in her room.

Minna naze are you here?” she asked the gynoids.

“You called for us,” they replied as one.

Sou ka? Gomen, I didn’t mean to. I must have done it in my sleep. How did you get in?” Aina scanned her room. Thanks to the ambient glow of the GINZUISHOU coming in through her window, she could see that her door was still locked and her window still barred.

“We forgive you,” Kazue announced. “No harm done.”

Aina waited for someone to say something else, but she was met only with silence. “You’re not going to answer my shitsumon, are you?” Aina finally asked. More silence. “Am I still dreaming?” she wondered aloud.

“Iie,” all the gynoids answered her, and then, as if by some unspoken agreement, they all turned away from her and began to exit the room.

“Aina-chan,” Sena addressed her, “you do not look well. Please allow me to take you to the infirmary.”

Arigatou, but I’ll be OK. I just had a bad nightmare.”

“There is more to it than that,” Sena informed her. “You are exhibiting symptoms consistent with illness.”

“Now that you mention it, I do have a headache.”

“You were right,” Naomi told Sena as she removed her palm from Aina’s forehead. “There’s nothing wrong with her body. You did good to call me here.”

“Jya, nani’s wrong with me?” Aina asked.

“Put simply, your spiritual energy is discordant, and it’s threatening to rip your body apart.”


“You’re experiencing two intense emotions. Half of your spiritual energy is flowing in response to one of them, and half in response to the other.”

“You can’t tell which emotions, can you?”

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Mme Aina. You’re a healthy teenager.”

“You’re talking about hormones, not emotions,” Aina pointed out.

“True, but hormones can lead to some very interesting emotions, can’t they? What I don’t understand, Mme Aina, is why the guilt? Why now?”

“It’s a number of things. I’m still feeling bad about… what happened the night I ran away.” It was just the three of them in the room, but Aina didn’t know if Naomi knew that Sena knew that Aina had killed Mari. She didn’t want Naomi to do anything to the gynoids. “I also feel bad that I don’t feel remorse for those I’ve killed since this sensou started.”

“Ah, that’s a complicated one,” Naomi commiserated.

“Finally, I feel bad for being interested in onna other than Fumiko-chan.”

“So the one emotion is feeding the other. Complicating matters, there are bits of Mme Fumiko’s spiritual energy fused to yours. I can’t separate them. They’re both inflaming your desire and feeding your guilt. If you don’t do something soon, they’ll grow in intensity until your body can’t take it.”

“I have to do something? Can’t you subdue my spiritual energy?”

“If it were anyone else’s… No, Mme Aina, you’re going to have to break this feedback loop yourself.”


“Isn’t it obvious? Go get laid.”

“Nani?” both Aina and Sena said at once, as if they were both gynoids speaking in perfect sync. “How is that obvious?”

“It’s going to take too long to get over your regrets, so your only option is to sate your lust. You could try taking care of it yourself, but I don’t think that will have the same effect. You’re still a virgin, are you not?”

“I am,” Aina admitted.

“Part of your problem is that you’re making too big a deal of sex in your mind. You feel bad about wanting to have sex with other women because you’re afraid you’ll be doing something to hurt to Mme Fumiko, but if you experience it yourself, you’ll realize it’s not all you’re making it up to be.”

“And if I find that you’re wrong, and it’s everything I fear?”

“Then you will feel even more guilty, and that emotion will completely crush what’s left of your lust.”

“In other words, I’ll feel like shit.”

“Better than dying,” Naomi shrugged.

Sou kana,” Aina mused. “Iie, you’re right, but I’m not going to do it. I’ll take care of this on my own.”

“Admirable,” Naomi complimented her, “but I wonder how long you can hold out.”

December 13th, U.C. 0051, 5:52 AM

“You expect me to believe that?” Chikako asked incredulously. “I’ve heard some crazy things come from your mouth Naomi-sama, but this takes the cake.” She was standing just outside her bedroom, having been ambushed by Naomi and Aina on her way to morning exercises. Aina was prostrating herself in front of Chikako, her forehead touching the ground and her body shaking from the pressure her spiritual energy was exerting on it. “And you,” Chikako turned to kick Aina lightly in the side, “you only apologize when you want something from me. It’s not like you didn’t have a chance to apologize before this. How many weeks has it been?”

Moushiwake arimasen, Chikako-sama! I have no excuse.” Aina’s voice was muffled from speaking directly into the floor.

“That was shitty of her,” Naomi agreed with Chikako, “but her life is at stake here.”

“Naze should I care about the life of the gaki who tried to take mine, and who keeps scoring brownie points with Akira-sama? Were you doing that just to piss me off?”

“Iie, I swear,” Aina answered.

“You should care because it’s your job to care,” Naomi pointed out. “Our master wants both you and her in prime condition.”

Wakatta,” Chikako said coldly. “Nani do you want from me? I’m not giving you Fumiko-san’s location.”

“You used to stalk Mme Karin when she snuck out at night.”

“I was just following her to make sure she didn’t get into trouble. She and I never—”

“I’m not accusing you of that, but you did see her hook up with other women, right? All we’re asking is for you to tell us some places Mme Aina can go to meet women who might be amenable to… taking care of her.”

Chikako stared hard at Naomi for a good minute and a half before finally capitulating. “Paper and pen,” she demanded, taking a small notebook and a pencil from Naomi when offered. She scribbled on a page, tore it out, crumpled it, and threw it at Aina’s head. “Here’s the address of a bar she used to go to. Last I checked, it was still in business.” She scribbled on a second sheet, crumpled it up, and threw it, too, at Aina. “Here’s the denwa number of a health worker, in case you can’t find anyone to take pity on you. And before you start moralizing at me about prostitution, she doesn’t have a pimp and no one forced her into it.” With that, she shoved the notebook and pencil back at Naomi and walked off.

Domo arigatou gozaimasu, Chikako-sama!” Aina called after her.

Chikako didn’t reply.