Chapter 19

8:20 PM

Other than the speakeasy grille and the small sign next to the door which read “The Wisteria Garden,” it was a nondescript door set just inside a dimly-lit alley. While pretending to loiter, Aina had been staking it out from across the street and had witnessed three women approach, knock on the door, and enter. When it appeared that no one else was around, she crossed the street, making her way towards the door.

Even as she approached, she still wasn’t sure she wanted to go through with it. Under normal circumstances, she had no interest in visiting a bar with the intent of bedding any woman who would take her, and she had no idea how she was going to achieve it. It had only been a few months since she had become interested in sex at all, and for the first few weeks, she hadn’t seriously considered any partner besides Fumiko. She still wanted to believe Fumiko would keep her promise to come back, but it made sense to have a backup plan, in case Fumiko broke that promise. To that end, Aina had made an effort to meet new people and to practice flirting whenever she got the chance. It had been embarrassing that Chikako had caught her flirting with that nurse, but it was a chance she wasn’t going to pass up.

Unfortunately, she had no way of judging how successful her practice flirtations had been at conveying romantic interest. She suspected that, to the women she had practiced on, she had just come off as an overly-friendly teenage girl. She had been fine with that, because her goal wasn’t to find a sexual partner immediately, but to build up the skills and confidence to nurture a friendly relationship into a romantic one if the opportunity presented itself. The thought of doing it with a woman with whom she had no emotional connection wasn’t very appealing to her. Karin had seemed to enjoy it, at least outwardly, but the thought just didn’t excite Aina. On a physical level, she knew it would probably feel good, but she just had no interest in it. It was just one of the many preferences Aina had discovered she had over the last few months. There was no logical reason for them, but nonetheless, she couldn’t deny them.

Having made it across the street, she hesitated in front of the door. If she were being rational, she reasoned, she should probably just skip the bar and email the prostitute. That’s where she would probably end up anyway, and it would save her the embarrassment of making a fool of herself in the bar. She even suspected that Chikako had told her about the bar knowing she would likely suffer the embarrassment of defeat, but that only made her want to prove Chikako wrong. Besides, it wasn’t impossible that she’d succeed. Without trying, she had managed to make herself attractive to Momo, Fumiko, Mari, and Ruri. As long as there was a chance of success, it was worth trying. Despite her recent failings, Aina still conceptualized herself as a moral person, her definition of which did not permit visits to prostitutes, and she wanted to protect that self-image.

Steeling herself as if for battle, she knocked softly on the door. The speakeasy grille swung open and quickly snapped shut.

“Absolutely not. Go away.” came a voice from the other side of the door.

“I can’t do that,” Aina informed the bouncer. “It’s a matter of life and death.”

“You here to kill someone? Dare?”

Iie, the opposite. I’m here to save a life.”


Watashi no.”

“Go save yourself somewhere else.”

“If you can recommend another bar I can meet women like me…”

“There aren’t many gay-friendly bars left in this machi, and none of them would risk letting you in to break their tables.”

“You know about that?” Aina’s voice deflated.

“Every bar owner in the machi knows about it.”

“If you know I can smash tables, just imagine what I could do to this door if I put my mind to it.”

Without warning, the door opened outward, the bouncer on the other side hoping to slam it into Aina, who barely had time to catch it.

“This door’s plenty sturdy,” the bouncer said, stepping out into the alley and closing the door behind her. Not quite as tall as Naomi, she had a wider frame with broad shoulders, giving her an imposing presence. “I’m not letting you in. If you promise to keep it quiet, I’ll sell you a bottle of something, but you’ll have to drink it elsewhere.”

Aina, however, was not intimidated. “I’m not here for drinks, and I won’t break any of your tables,” she told the bouncer. “I just want to meet some women.”

“Fuck,” the bouncer swore under her breath. “Look, I sympathize. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about… that kind of thing when I was your age. Demo we don’t need any more trouble around here. There’s lots of Web sites you can—”

“Any more trouble?” Aina perked up. “If you’re having trouble, I’m a meido. I can—”

“Forget it. I’m not an NPC giving you a side quest, and I’m not going to let you in. I sympathize, but I don’t want to be next on Akira-sama’s chopping block. You’re just going to have to figure some things out on your own.”

Aina was about to argue, but she was interrupted by a loud grunt from the entrance to the alley. “Oi! I thought we told you frogettes to close this place down.” Two young men with pompadours advanced on Aina and the bouncer with wood swords in their hands.

“Trouble?” Aina asked the bouncer.

“Nah,” the bouncer replied, “Just a couple of local kids who have gotten some funny ideas stuck in their heads.” She turned to address the delinquents. “Sup, boya? You come for another asskicking? You know, after the last time, your mama was so grateful that I beat some manners into you that she went down on me. Even paid me for it. So bring it. I wouldn’t mind getting some more of that MILF pussy.” She cracked her knuckles menacingly.

“Not this time, bitch!” one of the boys shouted back. “This time—” He was cut off as his companion elbowed him in the side.

“Hey man,” the other boy said, “don’t be so crude. There’s a lady present.” He gestured at Aina, and lowering his sword, strolled over. “Gomen for my tomodachi’s rudeness,” he said with a smile. “You into cosplay? You look good, like a honmono no meido.”

Meanwhile, the first boy was continuing to hurl insults at the bouncer. “You think you’re hot shit because you got the drop on us last time, but we brought backup tonight. What do you think about that, you fuckin’ dyke?”

“Am I supposed to be scared?” The bouncer chuckled. “I can handle any number of punks like you. Doko is this supposed backup of yours?”

Nani’s a cutie like you doing here anyway?” the second boy continued to try to impress Aina. “Don’t tell me this baba was trying to recruit you? You know what I mean, right?”

“They’ll be here any second now,” the first boy threatened, “then we’re going to bust into your little gin joint and teach you lesbos what real sex is.”

“With your tiny pencil dick?” The bouncer taunted. “You can’t pleasure a woman with that useless thing.”

“Things are gonna get ugly here soon,” the second boy told Aina. “Why don’t you come have some fun with me? I know where we can get some good booze without having to beg some old lesbos for it.” He tried to put his hand on Aina’s shoulder, but she smacked it away.

“Don’t touch me,” Aina warned him.

“Laugh now,” the first boy yelled at the bouncer, oblivious to what was going on with Aina and his friend, “but we’ll see who’s laughing when the night is over. The keisatsu are all gone. No one’s going to rescue you.”

“Shit,” the second boy said, cradling his hand. “You are a honmono no meido, aren’t you?” His eyes wide with fear, he backed up and ran out of the alley.

“You ever heard of Kristallnacht?” the first boy continued, flecks of spit flying from his mouth. “We’re going to make it look like a fuckin’ tea party.”

“Never heard of it,” the bouncer shrugged. “Soshite I’ve had enough of your nonsense. One more word and—” At that moment, the second delinquent returned, appearing at the entranceway with a group of half a dozen men brandishing rifles, their faces covered with oni masks. “Hey meido-san,” the bouncer nervously addressed Aina. “I take back what I said about sidequests. Help me out, huh?”

Touzen,” Aina replied, sending coasters flying towards the group. The coasters sliced through the throats of three of the gunmen, who dropped to the ground, struggling to breathe. The remaining three leveled their rifles at Aina, but a gust of her spiritual energy blew them out of the alley and onto their backs. Before they could even sit up, Aina was upon them, slashing their throats with her sword. With one hand, she helped herself to one of their rifles, and with the other, she grabbed the second delinquent by his pompadour and dragged him back into the alley. She threw him to the bouncer, who managed to overcome her shock in time to catch him, then pointed the gun at the first delinquent. “Nani were you saying earlier?” she demanded. “Another Kristallnacht?”

“B—Bigger,” the boy stammered.

“Do you even know what you’re saying?” Aina asked incredulously.

“Of course I do,” the boy managed to sound offended despite his shaking voice. “We’re going to clear all the Frenchies out of this ward, and turn the buildings over to American families.”

“Nani do you mean ‘clear out?’” Aina pressed.

“We’re gonna kill ‘em. It’ll take days for all the French blood to drain from the streets.”

“That’s crazy,” the bouncer gasped. “You’re French,” she reminded the boy.

“My ‘tousan’s American,” he said proudly.

Aina shoved the butt of the rifle into his stomach, causing him to double over. She kicked the second boy in the gut, knocking the wind out of him. “Take them inside and tie them up,” she ordered the bouncer. “Tell everyone inside to shelter here. I’m going to investigate.”

Aina had never met anyone spewing Anti-French sentiment, but she knew they existed. Neo Crystal Tokyo for Weebs, she recalled, was the name of a movement that advocated the removal of the non-weeaboo French populace from the city, which had been the plan favored by most of the confederate militaries that originally annexed the city. Those militaries saw it as a more noble alternative than ruling over the conquered French populace, but their plan evaporated when it became clear that no other country was prepared or willing to absorb the displaced population of Paris. They had assumed the surrounding Futarchy would accept the refugees. After all, the city-state of Paris had enjoyed a symbiotic economic relationship with the Futarchy, and the populations of both nations were mostly of Western European and Middle Eastern descent. What they had failed to understand, however, was that Paris and the Futarchy had centuries of history between them, most of it unpleasant, and each despised the culture of the other. Their economic relationship was a shotgun marriage, and, since it had been destroyed by the annexation of Paris, the Futarchy literally could not afford to shelter the ex-Parisians.

Reluctantly, the confederate militaries agreed to a plan, favored by Akira’s grandfather, to separate the city into French and Weeaboo wards. It wasn’t a strict apartheid, but rather an initial arrangement following the founding of Neo Crystal Tokyo. A few edge-case French citizens who were unable to relocate were allowed to keep their residences within the Weeaboo wards, and there would be no legal restriction against buying or renting property in any ward after the resettlement. The plan worked at the time because the weeaboo population moving into the city was small compared to the number of Parisian civilians who had died during the annexation. Even with the resettlement, there was a noticeable housing surplus in every ward.

But that had been fifty years ago, and since then, both populations had increased and consumed that surplus. Some new housing was being built within the city, but the GINZUISHOU imposed physical boundaries which limited new development. Not only was there limited space to build outward, but limited space to build upward, especially around the periphery of the city, where the GINZUISHOU was shorter. The goshujin, most of whom had opted for mansions in the countryside beyond the city, but still within the GINZUISHOU, pushed back against most attempts to expand the urban boundary.

And so, with competition for resources tightening, some of American descent had started advocating for a Weeaboo-first policy, guaranteeing housing and employment to those of American descent, and leaving the French population to take what was left over. It was not currently a popular sentiment. Most felt that it was possible to solve the current problems and live together as citizens, regardless of ancestry. However, if the current trends continued, it was easy to see how Weeaboo-firstism could take a wider hold. What remained to be seen, however, was whether that would bolster militant groups, like Neo Crystal Tokyo for Weebs.

Aina wasn’t sure how large that group was. For all she knew, she had just slaughtered the entire organization, but the way that delinquent talked, it sounded like they were larger and more organized than she would have expected. The delinquent might have been talking big, but she couldn’t ignore the possibility that there were more of them out in the streets tonight. The delinquent had been right that the police were absent from this ward. After the SDF infighting had broken out, the police had been reassigned to protect American wards and areas of commercial interest. They were also pulling extra shifts to assist the SDF in securing the remaining black ships. Aina was responsible, at least in part, for both of these developments, and if Neo Crystal Tokyo for Weebs was going to take advantage of them to commit an atrocity, she had a duty to stop them, even if her body felt like it might split apart at any moment.

First, she had to assess what was really happening. Leaping up a series of balconies and windowsills, Aina made her way to the roof of the tallest nearby building. There was definitely some activity a few blocks away, and small groups of people were fleeing from it. Aina jumped from rooftop to rooftop, making her way towards the center of the activity. As she travelled, she noticed a young man and a woman, fleeing together, get tackled to the ground by a masked man. Without thinking, Aina dropped to the ground and kicked the masked assailant in the head, causing his body to go limp. She picked him off the fleeing couple, threw him to the side, and, pressing the barrel of her rifle to his chest, made sure he wouldn’t attack anyone else.

“Arigat—” the woman who had been tackled began to thank Aina, but Aina cut her off.

Nigete!” Aina interrupted.

She still wasn’t sure how many assailants there were, but it was obvious to Aina that she couldn’t protect everyone. She was going to need backup. Running at street level in the opposite direction that people were fleeing, she pulled out her phone with her free hand and speed-dialed the first number within reach. It rang once, twice, three times. Pick up, pick up, Aina silently urged. The phone rang a fourth time as she turned a corner and a horrifying scene came into view.

There were hundreds of oni-masked individuals in the street. Some obviously civilians with sticks and clubs, others SDF officers with military weaponry. They were pulling people out of the nearby buildings and forcing them to gather in the street, where they were being separated into two groups, presumably French and American.

Moshi moshi,” a voice sounded from the speaker of Aina’s phone, but Aina had already shoved it back into her pocket and was racing full-speed into the middle of the crowd. A French man had started shouting at one of the oni-masked thugs, and a scuffle broke out between the two of them. The French man’s wife tried to restrain her husband, and the two of them were knocked to the ground by a club aimed at the man’s chest. Their young daughter, who had been holding on to her mother’s leg, jumped out of the way as they fell, and lost sight of her parents as those nearby pulled them into the middle of the crowd to shield them from the oni masks. Scared and suddenly alone, the girl panicked and ran away from the crowd, crying for help. Aina couldn’t take her eyes off that little girl. To her, it appeared as though the girl’s golden hair shone bright like a miniature sun.

It was Mari’s little sister.

Two oni masks chased after her, but as they reached out to grab her, Aina separated their hands from their arms with a single swing of her sword. She dared not fire the gun with so many innocents around, but neither could she drop it and allow the enemy to retrieve it. With her hands full, she was unable to grab Mari’s sister, who continued to flee, unaware that she had been saved. Aina turned towards the girl just in time to see her scooped up by a man flanked by two oni-masked guards. She leveled her rifle at the man, but froze completely when she recognized him.

He was a goshujin, one of those who had sided with Akira at the prime minister’s residence. Someone whom Aina could not risk harming without grave repercussions. And he was holding the barrel of an ornate pistol to Mari’s sister’s head.