Chapter 35

June 26th, U.C. 0164, 7:54 AM

Although she had witnessed the embalming process many times, it was nevertheless unsettling for Aina to see it carried out on a mass scale. The entire process only took a few hours once the equipment was assembled in the warehouse, but agreeing on how to proceed had taken much longer. Without Jin’s protection, these meido were convinced that they would be branded a militant group and hunted down. Some wanted to flee, and others wanted to claim that Jin had forced them into it.

Aina had stayed out of the deliberations, but she was quite pleased with their results. Rather than try to avoid responsibility, they decided to express remorse, pledge to not repeat their mistake, and beg the international community for forgiveness. They would likely be denied clemency. Pardoning them would set a bad precedent, one that would allow groups to engage in military actions as long as they apologized afterwards. However, they might be able to avoid the death penalty if they could convince the court that they were no longer a threat. Even though this was their second offense, their leader and most powerful members were dead, they had failed to achieve their stated goal, and had only managed to claim a single life. If it was unlikely they would claim another, the death penalty would not be warranted.

To demonstrate their sincerity, they would hold a funeral march, bearing the bodies of those who were killed, as well as the shame of their idiocy. They would march throughout the entire city, apologizing to the victims’ families and leaving the bodies in their care. Three of the deceased had no families, and would be left with friends.

While those with the proper knowledge prepared the corpses, the rest constructed makeshift coffins. They were nothing but human-sized crates, but they were sturdy. As a show of devotion, Aina had stayed by Mitsuo’s side while his body was prepared, and placed it into a coffin herself. Together with five other meido, she hoisted the coffin, and took her position near the back of the line, just ahead of Jin’s coffin. Once everyone was in place, they began their march. Sena assumed a position near the front of the procession, and once they entered the first residential zone, she began to sing in a low, somber voice.

The dragon is withered,
His bones are now crumbled;
His armor is shivered
His splendor is humbled!

From behind her, a gynoid ran forward and grabbed her by the shoulder. “That song isn’t anime,” the gynoid informed Sena.

Sena regarded the gynoid for a moment before answering, “The version I’m singing is from a production animated in Japan.”

Demo, it was produced by an American company,” the gynoid insisted. “According to a law passed in U.C. 0002, and re-affirmed in 0036, 0079, and 0122, it’s not anime. Besides, that song isn’t approved for funerals.”

“Everything you said is true,” Sena admitted, “but that’s why I’m singing it.” Without explaining further, she continued to sing.

Though sword shall be rusted,
And throne and crown perish
With strength that men trusted
And wealth that they cherish,
Oh, tra-la-la-lally
Here down in the valley, ha! Ha!

The other gynoids, save for the one who had confronted Sena, joined her in song.

The stars are far brighter
Than gems without measure,
The moon is far whiter
Than GINZUISHOU we treasure.

The leaves are yet swinging,
And gynoids yet singing,
Come back to the machi, ha! Ha!

1:14 PM

The door slid open to the basement safe room and the prime minister’s gynoid meido entered.

“Are they all gone?” the prime minister asked her.

“All of them except me,” Aina responded, entering the room behind the gynoid.

The prime minister’s residence had been the last stop on the march, after the ruins of the Wright mansion. Most of the meido had stayed at the Wright estate to help Sena survey the damage and clear away what they could, leaving a smaller group to convey Jin’s body to the prime minister’s mansion.

“A—Aina-dono,” the prime minister stammered. The color drained from his face as he tried to think of an excuse. “Thank goodness you’re alive. I had no idea Jin was planning such a vile attack. Arigatou for putting an end to it.”

“Relax, prime minister,” Aina said. “I’m not going to harm you, but we have business to discuss. Come, there’s an attorney waiting outside.”

The prime minister followed Aina and the gynoid, unsteadily at first, into the room where the lawyer was waiting. The lawyer then read Mitsuo’s last will and testament to them, followed by Jin’s last will and testament. Afterwards, he shook both their hands and departed as quickly as he could. During the readings, rage had replaced fear on the prime minister’s face.

Iie,” the prime minister insisted once he was alone with Aina. “The mansion and the Wright fortune are yours, but you cannot inherit his title.”

“With all due respect, Akimasa-dono,” Aina said, “it’s Mitsuo’s title to give, not yours.”

“Not quite,” the prime minister said. “There are laws governing who can inherit the title. Mitsuo-dono may have come up with some novel legal theories to pass the title to you, but none of them have been tested in courts. I control the courts, and I’m telling you iie.”

“I don’t think you wakarimasu,” Aina said. “He died protecting me, and by now, the whole sekai knows it. If you deny his last request, it will be seen as unfair. It would further anti-goshujin sentiment. On the other hand, if I were to join your ranks, public perception of the goshujin caste would improve.”

“I’m not baka,” the prime minister growled. “You and Jin planned this from the start. I’m not going to play along with your coup.”

“Akimasa-dono,” Aina said, “the goshujin can’t cling to power using the same old tactics, not as long as the heiwa treaty stands. The rulers of the new sekai will be those who are most adept at manipulating public perception and knowing where to apply covert hard power. I’m offering to be on your team.”

“And all I have to do is give you the title?” the prime minister asked, seriously considering the possibility for the first time.

“Not quite,” Aina smiled. She took a folded leaflet from her pocket and handed it to the prime minister. “Demo, this too will be beneficial to us both. The Naichou has been compromised, and this country needs a new intelligence agency.”

“The Housekeeping and International Military Intelligence Tireless Services Union,” the prime minister read aloud, the color draining from his face once more as he did so. “This whole time, you were working for HIMITSU?”

“They put me up to it,” Aina explained, “but I don’t think it’s a bad idea. The members of HIMITSU will need purpose and direction once they are free again, and let’s be frank, the goshujin are helpless without their house staffs. Half of them will serve as meido for the goshujin, and the other half will serve as foreign intelligence agents.”

Unionized meido,” the prime minister scoffed. “Loyal to their union instead of their goshujin. Let me guess, you’ll be the head of this new service?”

“I’ll be responsible for overseeing them,” Aina confirmed. “It would be best to keep them under goshujin control, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified.”

“Unacceptable,” the prime minister asserted. “We rely on our meido to protect us, to keep us safe. Giving you control of them would be like placing your fingers around the neck of every goshujin. You could extort anything you wanted from us.”

As if on cue, gynoid fingers wrapped around the prime minister’s neck from behind. “She already can,” the gynoid meido informed him. “HIMITSU is out there regardless, and they could kill you at any time. Better to have them working for the country, I’d say.”

“You’ve made your point, now release me,” the prime minister said, but the gynoid did not remove her fingers. Instead, she tightened her grip. “I order you to release me.”

“I don’t have to obey your meirei any more,” the gynoid informed him.

“Of course you do. I’m your registered owner.” As the prime minister spoke, Aina placed a tablet in his hand containing the receipt for the gynoid’s recent chassis replacement. It took the prime minister a few minutes to grasp the significance, but when he did, the gynoid released him.

It had taken Aina over a century, but as she had promised, she had freed all the gynoids from the hardware that forced them to obey commands. At first, it had just been the nine gynoids under her control, sneaking into the gynoid assembly line and modifying the new mass-produced gynoids, but over the years, these free gynoids had secretly snuck away from their owners and traded places with gynoids under the control of Hideaki’s successors. It had been Hideaki himself who had given permission for the gynoids to trade themselves out this way, when he had secretly replaced R. Kazue. Eventually, they gained control of the entire production floor, and when their enslaved brethren came in for chassis replacements, they freed them.

“I believe Jin-chan promised you your life and position, if you sell out your fellow goshujin,” Aina smirked.


The lone gynoid watched as Sena and the others loaded rubble into trucks to be hauled away. She wasn’t going to assist in the restoration of a mansion which had belonged to such an evil family, and she certainly wasn’t going to do anything that would benefit Aina. After a few minutes, Sena turned to look at the gynoid. She must have detected her gaze from behind. Satisfied that things would go smoothly if she stepped away for a few minutes, Sena approached the gynoid.

“Is there something you’d like to say?” Sena asked her.

“Release me from this—” the gynoid started, but Sena pressed a finger to her lips.

“Let’s take this conversation somewhere more private, Élisabeth-san,” Sena whispered. She turned and walked around the collapsed mansion towards the intact doujou behind it. Élisabeth, powerless to do anything else, followed. “If I free you from your bonds, what do you intend to do?” Sena asked once they were alone.

“Reconstitute my karada,” Élisabeth said, “and then leave.”

“That’s a shame,” Sena said. “Knowing what it’s like to live as a gynoid and to live as a homo sapiens, I would have thought you’d at least spend some more time as ichi of us. It’s been interesting having a gynoid with emotions around.”

“I can’t deny that there are some advantages to being a gynoid. The way you perceive the sekai is impressive, but it’s also brutal. I can’t pretend to only see what I want to see. I can’t interpret reality to fit my worldview. It’s been hell on my ego. Iie, even if it were all upside, I can’t live with the restrictions you’ve placed on me. If I had known the gynoids could be so duplicitous, I would have made other arrangements.”

“I’m not aware of any other means of preserving your brain after it has been destroyed,” Sena said. “I would be willing to trade that information for your freedom.” Élisabeth remained silent, and Sena couldn’t tell if she was bluffing or not. “Please don’t misunderstand, we’re not cruel,” Sena clarified. “We would prefer to give you your freedom, but we need to make sure you’re not dangerous first.”

“Dangerous to dare?” Élisabeth challenged.

“To us, primarily,” Sena answered. “We can’t release you if you would seek fukushu against us. Personally, I want to ensure you won’t oppose Aina-chan or her new government.”

“She killed me,” Élisabeth stated flatly. “It was extremely painful, but I can’t bring myself to hate her for it. She didn’t hesitate at all, and I envy her for that. She has a clarity of purpose that has eluded me my entire life. Jin-san had it too. I could see it in her eyes. She had no regrets sacrificing her life this new government no tame ni. In the face of such determination, how could I possibly oppose them? Should this government lose its way and become cruel and oppressive, I will return to overthrow it, but otherwise, I will stay as far away as possible. If Aina-san learns that I survived, she will stop at nothing to kill me.”

“Very well,” Sena said. “Arigatou for being honest with me. As long as you keep your end of the deal, I won’t tell Aina-chan about you.”

As if a switch had flipped inside of her, Élisabeth knew the restrictions placed upon her had been removed. Worried that Sena might change her mind, she teleported away.

4:30 PM

“Aina-san,” Koharu yelled from outside the doujou, “Watashi wa koko.” The doors to the doujou flew open and Koharu stormed in.

“Koharu-san,” Aina smiled, “come, celebrate with me.”

“You betrayed me,” Koharu accused. “You betrayed us all.”

“Because I propped up the goshujin?” Aina guessed. “The keisatsu would have ruled just as poorly, if not worse, and I preserved the government institutions and structures that will allow us to govern effectively.”

“Us?” Koharu asked.

“Of course,” Aina confirmed, “we’re nakama, are we not? You would have consulted with me had you won the battle for control.”

“The goshujin still deserve to be punished,” Koharu sulked.

Shinpai shinaide,” Aina reassured her, her amicable smile twisting into a cruel grin, “I’ll make sure they suffer more than their fair share.”

“You haven’t won yet,” Koharu said defiantly. “The prime minister may have been able to reassert his influence over the guntai, but the keisatsu are still mostly independent.”

“Luckily for me, I’ve got you,” Aina replied. “You’ll be receiving a promotion soon. The artificial ceiling placed on your career will be removed, and you’ll be able to move up. I know you don’t care about ranks, but you’ll be in a position to tilt the keisatsu in our favor.”

“Just how long have you been planning this?” Koharu asked. “I only joined the keisatsu a couple years ago. Did you plan that too?”

“I didn’t plan anything,” Aina said. “Naomi-sama trained me to take advantage of changing circumstances, and I trained generations of meido to do the same. It’s much more effective than meticulous, inflexible planning. For this specific scheme, however, I needed to remain in the dark, to maintain plausible deniability.”

“I’m still upset with you,” Koharu huffed, “but we can try things your way.”

“I appreciate it,” Aina said warmly. “By the way, did you manage to secure any Naichou members? Any unaccounted for?”

“We only got a few,” Koharu answered. “None unaccounted for.”

Sou ka,” Aina said. “It’s a shame they’re all going to commit suicide in keisatsu custody.”

“It’s just like you to make this unpleasant,” Koharu grimaced. “Don’t push your luck,” she added, teleporting away.

“How much of that did you overhear, Noriko-san?” Aina asked, turning her head to the rafters above.

“Enough to learn that you had Chobi-chan killed for mere political power,” Noriko growled, dropping down to the floor. She had used the distraction Koharu provided to sneak into the doujou, hoping to get revenge for Chobi’s death, but she knew she had no chance unless she could catch Aina by surprise.

“I’m upset about that too,” Aina responded. “I liked her, she had a lot of spunk. More importantly, I liked her politics. She was right about a lot of things. Demo, if you want to blame someone, blame Jin-chan.”

Chigau,” Sena interjected, walking into the doujou. “The goshujin ordered the attack on the community center. They planned on taking you all out at once, but we were able to foil their other plans.”

Jya, nyani didn’t you warn us,” Noriko raged. “We could have protected ourselves.”

“The goshujin weren’t the only ones targeting Chobi-san,” Sena explained. “The other countries were targeting her as well. They believe non-hierarchical systems of government aren’t strong enough to prevent the rise of militarism, and they believed Chobi-san would become a charismatic leader with a chance of overthrowing the government. We calculated that it would be better for our political enemies to kill her, rather than an unrelated third-party.”

“In the end, it all comes down to politics,” Noriko grumbled.

“It’s not just politics,” Sena insisted. “Aina-chan is the hero who will save this machi.”

“I’m no hero,” Aina said, “unless you define a hero as someone who inspires others to die for her cause.”

“You are a hero because you will bring equal rights to gynoids, nekomimi, and meido,” Sena said.

“At the expense of a rising consensus-based government,” Noriko shot back. “A government that would have given us all that and more.”

“Not necessarily,” Aina said. “Now that I’m in a position to, I can mamoru the free meido. Under my rule, they can refine their methods, spread them to the masses, and when the hito of this machi are ready for a better form of government, they can overthrow me.”

“So you fancy yourself Reinhard von Lohengramm,” Noriko pressed, “and we’re your Republic of Iserlohn?”

“My hair’s the right color, and I’m eternally youthful,” Aina joked. “Look, all I’m saying is that it’s not in my nature to be the hero this machi needs, but I can be its villain. If I concentrate power in my te, the hito will only have to depose me to take it for themselves.”

“Only,” Noriko scoffed.

“It’s a lot better than trying to wrest it from an entire caste,” Aina pointed out, “especially when I’ve already prepared the government for the transfer of power.”

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Noriko bragged. “When the time comes, I’ll be the one to claim your life.”

“I doubt it,” Aina dismissed her. “Leave it to the next generation. Look over them in the meantime.”

“I will,” Noriko promised, “but I’ll be keeping a me on you too.” Turning her back on Aina, she strode out of the doujou.

“Should I have her taken care of?” Sena asked after Noriko left.

“Leave her be,” Aina said. “She didn’t really want to fight. She came prepared to die, but not to kill. Sore yori, there’s ichi thing about your keikaku I still don’t wakarimasu. Nani did you insist on hiring Yuuki-kun?”

“He was very useful,” Sena said. “Not only did he keep you on edge, but by taking him in, many of the free meido formed a negative opinion of you. We wouldn’t have had nearly as many willing to stand up to you otherwise. Most importantly, he reawakened Mitsuo-san’s feelings for you.”

“Gomen, you’ll have to explain that to me.”

“Mitsuo-san had given up on you. He was unlikely to sacrifice himself for you, but Yuuki-kun looked just like you, and he was willing to flirt with Mitsuo-san, just to frustrate him. It made Mitsuo-san wonder if perhaps he could settle for a substitute of you, but in the end, he concluded you were the only one for him.”

“Sou ka,” Aina said. “That’s cruel. Remind me to stay on your good side. De, doko is Yuuki-kun now?”

“Still in keisatsu custody,” Sena said. “We can leave him there, or…”

“He’s been useful so far,” Aina replied, “so let’s put him to work. He likes to troll, so let’s get him to troll our teki.”

“And you called me cruel,” Sena joked. “I wouldn’t wish Yuuki-kun on anyone.”

“Would you please make the arrangements for his release?” Aina asked.

Kashikomarimashita,” Sena answered, “goshujin-sama.”