Project Kawaii: Scramble War!
(an original magical girl fic)
By Ammadeau

~amm/

Episode 1: Emi-chan, the queen of cute!

***

In an unremarkable city in Japan, a war was brewing, a war
that would decide the fate of the entire planet, a war fought mostly
by incredibly cute little girls...
This is their story.

The morning stalked silently into the room of Emi
Ishiyama, like a vampire following the scent of fresh prey.
Sunlight seeped in from under the curtains in the form of a honey
mist, slowly filling up the available space with its light.
It revealed a room which looked as if several artists had
been forced at gun-point to make career changes to interior
designers. There was a frilly elegance about it, with the careful
guidance of a master whose heart really wasn't in his work. It was
a girl's bedroom that Louis XIV would have approved of, though
he would have probably found the two mirrors, one on top of the
dresser and a full length one by the closet, to be inadequate.
He might have also found the large four-post bed too small,
but it was more than enough for the little girl who occupied it, at
least in the sense that she slept there. She certainly didn't take up
much space. Eight more of her could have comfortably occupied
the bed, with room to spare for their respective stuffed animals.
The girl was quite petite, as was previously implied, with
golden curls now all in disarray. Her bright blue eyes were shut
tight in sleep as she clutched a stuffed bunny close to her and
snored ever so softly. She was twelve years old, though she was
sometimes judged to be anywhere from eight to fourteen. The
reason for this will become all too clear after she finally awakens.
With the coming of the dawn also came five shadows. They
darted about the room so quickly that their forms couldn't be fully
made out. Everywhere they went, the relative disorder of the room
was straightened, fluffed, or otherwise brought back into a state of
neatness. Even the girl herself was attended to; her curls were
combed and the wrinkles straightened out of her pajamas. As
silently and mysteriously as they had come, the shadows departed,
leaving the room clean and tidy.
Roughly five minutes after this, a sound started to build in
the room. Indistinct at first, it became clearer as it grew in volume.
Only a moment before a listener could identify it, it suddenly burst
forth as a room-shaking trumpet fanfare.
This was how Emi awoke each morning.

With a big grin, Emi threw off the covers and sat up in bed.
She pulled up the window shade next to her and giggled to see the
clouds drift lazily by in a sky that was as bright and blue as her
eyes. "Wai! It's morning!"
Emi gracefully hopped out of bed, setting down her stuffed
bunny to watch over her room as she made herself ready for the
day. This was Usagi-kun the 8th. Seemingly identical in all
respects to 1-7, they were secretly replaced after their predecessor
became too worn. Though this was all done without her
knowledge, Emi could tell the difference somehow, but like with
many of her parents' games, she feigned ignorance.
With a spring in her step, little Emi marched over to her
already open closet and studied the cute dresses that neatly hung
there, all with matching shoes and accessories. It was a large
closet so it managed to hold the few dozen dresses without having
them squished up against each other, which would have caused
little Emi to wrinkle her nose in distaste.
"What do you want to wear today, Emi-chan?" asked a
sixteen year old girl in a maid's outfit who had suddenly appeared
at her side. This was Atsuko, a girl who Emi thought of as an older
sister, someone who liked her deep inside, but was often critical of
the little girl, bordering on dislike. Still, she always did her best to
remain polite and smile. It was also the reason Emi made her wear
a maid's costume, because it was cute on her and she wanted her
big sister to look good.
"The light blue dress with the white frills looks fun! I'll
wear that!" Emi enthused, pointed out the outfit in question.
The girl nodded once and lead Emi into an adjoining room.
This was Emi's furo; no one was allowed to use it but her, even
though the furo itself was large enough for several people. Emi
giggled in delight as the other girl stripped her down and gave her a
good washing, doing her best to squirm and make things more fun
for the pseudo-maid. That finished, with a cute leap, Emi dived
into her furo with a splash.
This was Emi's early morning think time, where she went
over her thoughts from last night in bed and planned out her
activities for the day ahead once Atsuko had left her alone. She
knew that she wasn't truly alone, as she was watched over day and
night, but that had never really bothered her, having been that way
her entire life.
"Think, think, think," she said to herself as she splashed
around in the warm water. "Got to think of a way to get more
cute!"
Emi's parents were rather important people and thus had
been in the press ever since their precious daughter had been born.
When Emi was only a few months old, her mother brought her
along to a press conference. This was due to the fact that her
parents would only let Emi be out of their sight for less than a few
moments until she was about eight years old.
This press conference was both Emi's first real memory and
a pivotal point in her life. For instead of listening to what her
parents had to say, most of the press spent their time gushing over
how cute the newborn was, with her every act bringing new
exclamations of joy to the audience. He parents didn't mind at all
as they would much rather coo and smile at their child than explain
their business plans.
Just as the press conference was starting to wind down,
Emi's tiny lips moved slowly and precisely to form a single word
which she had heard over and over that day, "Kawaii." It was her
first word and would dictate the course of her life.
Emi became obsessed with being cute. Every word and
deed became an experiment in adorableness. She realized quickly
that her own opinion was simply not enough, nor was her parents'
biased views sufficient. So she started cranking up the cute factor
for everyone she met, basing her success and failure on their
reactions, and then altering her technique accordingly.
Do not misunderstand. This is not an act, Emi simply
works to enhance the cuteness she already possesses. Nor does she
do this to gain attention. Due to the overwhelming amount of
attention her parents, and countless others, still paid her, she didn't
really value this highly. She was cute because of the warm feeling
it gave her inside, an overwhelming joy when she looked in the
mirror and could say with absolute certainty, "Kawaii!"
Things had not been going so well for Emi lately, however.
It had been several weeks since she had been able to make herself
even the slightest more cute, and was in fact worried that her
kawaii factor was starting to slip a bit. She had read about a
similar problem with professional athletes where they reach a
plateau and couldn't seem to get any better. Emi was determined to
overcome this somehow, if only should could think of a way to do
it.
Deciding that she had been soaking long enough, looking
like a prune would not be cute, Emi sprang out of the tub with
another splash, dried herself off, and went back into her bedroom.
The moment she stepped over the threshold, Atsuko
reappeared, finished drying her off, and dressed Emi in the outfit
she had selected earlier, though her feet were left bare.
"Thank you, oneechan!" Emi enthused to Atsuko, giving
her a small hug and a kiss on the cheek before grabbing her stuffed
bunny and skipping to the room across the hall, knowing that the
girl was now glaring at her behind her back. Emi didn't mind, she
thought sibling rivalry was fun even if Atsuko wasn't her real big
sister.
The next room looked much like a normal hair salon,
except that it was almost supernaturally clean and there was only
one chair. By this chair stood a woman about thirty five, wearing a
simple house dress with her dark green hair done up in a bun.
"Good morning, Emi-chan!"
"Good morning, Tamiko-san!" Emi echoed as she hopped
in the chair, making herself ready for her hair cut and manicure of
the day.
Tamiko was Emi's most favorite person in the world after
her parents, mainly because the woman was always genuinely
happy to see her and fussed over Emi almost as much as her
parents did. She was probably also the nicest person the little girl
had ever met, and she had met a lot of nice people. Emi considered
Tamiko to be her aunt, even though they weren't related. This
might be because she was Atsuko's mother.
The woman deftly worked the scissors, her hands a blur as
she fixed and shaped Emi's golden curls with mathematical
precision, all the time going on and on about how what a cute and
wonderful little girl Emi was. Emi would giggle occasionally,
being very ticklish, but otherwise did her best to sit still and smile
at hers and Tamiko's reflection in the mirror.
In the blink of an eye, her fingernails and toenails were
painted a shade of blue to match her dress. They shimmered wetly
one moment, dry the next, each one trimmed to exactly the length
she wanted. Tamiko was also a perfectionist, which was
something that Emi could respect as she was working hard to
perfect the art of being cute.
"You have such cute little toes, Emi-chan," Tamiko told her
with a smile as she slowly slipped on the girl's socks.
Emi bent down to kiss the older woman on the forehead. "I
love you, Tamiko-san!"
Tamiko looked ready to cry, as she did every morning when
Emi said this. "I love you too, Emi-chan. Now hurry along
downstairs, your parents are waiting."
Emi nodded and accepted Tamiko's warm hug, holding
onto her for a minute or so before letting go and continuing on her
morning's journey, still firmly clutching Usagi-kun for company.

At the end of the hall was a giant staircase, winding down
to the first floor below with an oaken banister that was nearly as
tall as Emi. The little girl carefully made her way down step by
step; her mother had told her no running the house. Before, her
parents had carried her down; first in her mother's arms, then on
her father's back, but she had recently decided that she had
outgrown such modes of transportation.
The challenge of the stairs accomplished for the first time
that day, Emi padded down a hallway that was larger than most
rooms, passing through open double doors and into the dining
room.
Her family's dining room was roughly the size of a small
house, illuminated by the early morning sunlight that entered
through the high bank of windows that took up most of the eastern
wall. Emi had always found it a strange place for their small
family to eat, but her mother had pointed out that it was what the
dining room was for, after all.
"Emi-chan!" her parents exclaimed simultaneously as they
jumped out of their seats and rushed over to their daughter,
overwhelming her with enthusiastic hugs and kisses. Emi knew
that it took anywhere from two to five minutes for her parents to
calm down long enough so they could have breakfast, depending
on their current plans for her. Emi knew this because she timed
them from the giant cuckoo clock that hung from the northern wall,
above the kitchen door.
Today it was four minutes before her parents were willing
to relinquish their hold on her. Then they all took their places at
the small table, which seemed even tinier in the mostly empty
room. Emi wondered a bit what their plans could be today, and
when she would actually find out about them. It was probably yet
another promotion for their company, which were always fun. She
set Usagi-kun down in her lap, so he could see over the table with
his ears, and waited for the next event in her morning to begin.
A non-descript man suddenly appeared at their table,
carrying glossy menus marked with elegant gold script which he
handed out to the three Ishiyamas with small nods. He wore a dark
suit like a waiter, but that failed to explain the dark glasses he
wore, or his build, which would make a professional football
player envious. Emi knew this was one of her father's many
security guards who watched them day and night, but it was hard to
tell how many of them there were exactly because they all looked
the same.
Idle chit-chat drifted around the table as the family studied
their menus, deciding what they would have for breakfast that day.
Emi eventually decided on a croissant, no butter, scrambled eggs,
no yolk, fresh orange juice, no pulp, and nothing for Usagi-kun as
usual. When she was younger, Emi had ordered the bunny a carrot
or some nice lettuce, but she had grown a bit too old for that game.
She knew that stuffed animals couldn't eat.
The man nodded to each of them as he listened to their
orders, accepted back the menus, and vanished without speaking a
single word.
Five minutes later, the food arrived, being carried by three
maids that were nearly as non-descript as the waiter had been.
They also sported dark sunglasses, though their builds were more
like Olympic gymnasts. These were the security guards of Emi's
mother, which for some reason Emi thought of as the wives to her
father's guards. The one time she had asked one about this,
however, had earned only a small blush as a response.
"Thank you!" Emi told the maid as she accepted the food.
The maid smiled in reply, saying nothing. The little girl then dug
into her breakfast, her parents doing the same. With the
consumption of edibles now their focus, time passed in relative
silence until breakfast had been finished.
Atsuko appeared with the three maids, the latter there to
claim the used dishes and utensils. The former cleaned up Emi and
straightened out the wrinkles in her dress from the affection of
Emi's parents. Their tasks accomplished, they left.
"I love you mommy and daddy!" Emi said as she hugged
and kissed her parents one more time. "Have fun at work!"
"We love you too, Emi-chan! Have fun at school!" her
parents replied, eagerly accepting her affection and reluctantly let
her go, as they did every morning.
Emi skipped her way down the cavernous hall to the
imposing front doors, stopping briefly to slip on her shoes.
Moments before the reached the doors themselves, they slowly
swung open to reveal the long driveway of her family's estate, and
waiting at the bottom of the front steps, her own personal limo.
This was how Emi started each day.

"Emi-chan's birthday party was just perfect, wasn't it?"
Michiko Ishiyama asked her husband with a smile. She was an
elegant, dark-haired woman in her mid-thirties, dressed in
conservative business attire. She looked like an older, more
mature version of Emi, only with the colors all wrong.
"Yes, the rental of Tokyo Disneyland was surprisingly
inexpensive, but I suppose the presents that the townspeople
brought made up for that. It was a great idea to invite the entire
city, dear," Ryuji Ishiyama remarked to his wife. He had the look
of a former idol or tennis star with his medium build, blue eyes,
and short wavy blonde hair. He wore a business suit casually,
making him seem open and relaxed.
They were currently having their mid-morning coffee. It
was a quiet time for just the two of them, right after Emi had gone
off to school and before they headed off to the office.
"Do you think our present was enough?" Michiko asked in
a slightly worried tone. "I really wish we could have gotten her
something more... unique."
"But dear, she's always wanted her own limo, and I think
the accessory package we had our automotive wing design more
than makes up for any lack of originality," Ryuji protested. "At
least she'll get some use out of it, unlike that stone idol we got her
last year."
Michiko frowned. "Yes, that had been a mistake, even if it
is the product of an unknown civilization."
A pause descended as they both took slow sips of their
coffee, a silence only disturbed by the ticking of the cuckoo clock
on the wall.
"I can't help thinking of what to get Emi-chan for her
sixteenth birthday," Emi's mother said suddenly.
Emi's father blinked. "That's still a ways off, isn't it? I
think it'd be better to consider what to get her for her thirteenth
first."
Michiko patted her husband affectionately on the cheek.
"Dear, you don't realize how important turning sixteen is to a girl.
It's the first time they'll be recognized by society as a woman and
all that entails. It's a critical time in a young woman's
development. Luckily, my mother understood this."
"Then we should start considering it now," Ryuji agreed.
Oddly enough, he got along very well with his mother-in-law and
held her opinions in the highest respect. His father-in-law on the
other hand... "Because something good enough for our little girl is
going to take some time to prepare... Do you have any ideas?"
Michiko grinned as she set down her coffee so she could
wrap both arms around her husband. She whispered in his ear,
"Oh, I was thinking that the world would make a suitable present."

Lately, Emi had been using her 'on the way to school' time
to practice her singing on the limo's karoke machine. This was
because she had been approached by a number of companies
wanting to make her into an idol, but she didn't want to embarrass
herself with her sub-par artistic skills. So she kept them dangling
while she conditioned herself for her debut. Singing was her focus,
but dancing, posing, and of course acting cute, were also
considerations.
Emi had her future all mapped out, at least in broad strokes.
Soon she would become an idol, solo or part of a group. Either
would help accomplish her goal of making a popular album. It
didn't have to be number one as long as it attracted the attention of
the television industry.
She'd start with a few cameos in various places, moving up
to a reoccurring character on a popular series. Emi wasn't sure if
she'd be able to swing her own series, but as long as she got a solid
fan base, it wouldn't matter.
Then it would be time for high school where Emi would
drop out of the limelight in order to prepare herself for college.
After she finally entered the university level of the academy, she'd
return as a mature idol, probably with a new solo album, and
follow that with some voice acting in anime. She didn't want to be
too devoted to her career with school still to think of.
After graduation, she'd take over Ishiyama Heavy Industries
from her now aging parents. She'd spend several years to work the
company up to the point where it basically ran itself, at the same
time using her established popularity to help promote it.
With that all done, she'd take a break, get married, and
decide what to do next. It seemed to Emi like a simple and easy to
follow plan for success.
Emi decided to skip singing practice for now. Instead, she
struggled mentally to discover the root of her problem, the one
thing keeping her from becoming more cute. She was sure it was
something simple, something that was so obvious that she took it
for granted. Something...
"What kind of food would you like for lunch today, Emi-
san?" the driver suddenly asked, breaking her concentration.
"Italian!" Emi replied gleefully; this was something she had
already decided on last night. "I want to have a big bowl of pasta!"
The driver chuckled in reply. Emi knew that he was
Tamiko's husband, and Atsuko's father. He was such an
unassuming man that Emi didn't know his name even though she
had known him her whole life. They were a family of ninja who
had been sworn since Emi's birth to protect her and fulfill her every
need and desire. They had been a gift from her grandfather, though
most of the ninja family seemed more than willing to carry out this
task.
They were five altogether; there was also a boy about her
age who she had classes with, and Tamiko's father, an old man who
had been Emi's tutor since she was a baby. They were always
waiting for her at the academy, which made Emi speculate to their
current whereabouts. Where they crouched in some hidden
compartment of the limo, or did they have to run ahead to beat it to
school?

"Aww, she's not singing this morning," Yoji whined. He
was a boy about Emi's age who was nearly identical to the driver of
the limo, only younger. "I hope she's okay."
"Good. Her normal voice is annoying enough, but her
singing..." Atsuko shuddered, at least as best she could cramped in
the trunk of the limo with her brother.
"You're just jealous, sis," the boy said smugly.
"Hmph! You're just blinded by love," she retorted.
Thankfully, Atsuko didn't have any classes with Emi at school,
only remaining on call in case she had some sort of emergency,
though she pitied anyone who managed to kidnap Emi.
"It's... it's not like that!" Yoji replied quickly, his blush
hidden by the darkness of the trunk. "It's just that as ninja we are
sworn to look out for her welfare... it's not personal at all!"
*Yeah, right,* Atsuko thought as she rolled her eyes.
Sometimes it seemed like she was the only one in the whole city
that wasn't charmed by that little brat.

Akajima Academy was an exclusive private school where
students were admitted by invitation only. It consequently
educated the offspring of the VIPs of Japan and a few from other
nations as well. Graduation from this esteemed establishment
guaranteed a fast track to success in whatever the person set had
their sights on, from business, to politics, to the arts.
The students, all in uniform, were playing, chatting, or even
studying out in the courtyard as the principal waited at the end of
the driveway, occasionally glancing at her watch. When a sleek
black limo pulled up with the low hum of its powerful engine,
most stopped what they were doing to watch. The principal stood
up straight, checking her appearance one last time.
"Good morning, minna!" Emi shouted with more volume
than she looked capable of, exiting the limo with a bounce in her
step, her golden curls bouncing in sympathetic vibration. Usagi-
kun even waggled his ears at the crowd in a friendly fashion.
"Good morning, Emi-chan!" most of the students shouted
back. Some immediately returned to whatever they had been
doing, while others continued to watch what had become a
morning ritual.
The principal bowed to the little girl, then said with a
friendly smile, "Good morning, Emi-chan. You're looking very
cute today."
"Thank you, principal-san!" Emi exclaimed, curtsying
cutely. In her quest for cute, Emi had come to realize that everyone
she had regular contact with either became so used to her cuteness
that they failed to appreciate any changes she made, or just
immunized themselves to its effects and ignored it. Either way,
they were no longer a accurate guide to her current level of kawaii,
which was why she needed to meet new people often. The
principal had been useful as a judge for some time, but after a
while even she had succumbed.
As the principal took Emi's hand in hers and lead her off to
school, Emi glanced around at the other students that filled the
courtyard. Some still watched her, a few even shouting praises,
which she thanked them for automatically. The others though were
reading, studying, or playing with their friends.
*Friends?* Emi rolled that thought around in her mind,
feeling she was getting close to something, but not sure what yet.

In a room a short distance from all this, where the shouts of
the crowd were no more than a muted unintelligible hiss, Junko
Kitaue impatiently waited for the vice-principal to finish her
registration. She was a rather plain girl with short brown hair and
brown eyes. Even her lightly tanned skin wasn't enough to make
her stand out much, especially since she was already wearing her
new school uniform. She slumped in the too-large chair before the
imposing desk of the vice-principal, her eyes narrowed as if to burn
a hole in the oak with the strength of her glare.
"There we are, all done," the vice-principal told her
cheerfully as he shuffled some papers and deposited them in a
filing cabinet. "Welcome to Akajima Academy."
Junko crossed her arms instead of accepting the offered
handshake. "Where's the principal? Wasn't she supposed to do all
this?"
The vice-principal attempted to hide his embarrassment by
adjusting his glasses. "The principal... I'm sure she feels terrible
about not being able to greet you herself, but she had something
important that she just had to attend to."
"Whatever," Junko said with a shrug. Her parents had
recently moved to America, just like her grandparents had when
Junko had only been a few years old. That wouldn't have bothered
her if they just had taken her with them, but for some reason they
wanted her to continue to have a normal life in Japan.
Junko sighed as she was lead off to her new class,
wondering where the nearest arcade was.

Emi's desk was in the exact center of the classroom, chosen
by her on the first day of school for maximum adoration potential.
It was also the focus of the teacher, which was useful when she
wanted to answer a question.
Right now she wasn't paying attention to the before class
chaos that was happening all around her. The thought of 'friends'
was like a barb in her mind that no amount of thought could shake.
Emi didn't have anyone she could really call her friend, even
though there were hordes of people she was friendly with.
Emi had never thought that true friendship was all that
important. In fact, since it would take time and effort to maintain,
it would take away time for cute practice. Besides, she had all the
companionship she needed in her parents, her family of ninja, and
her stuffed animal, which currently occupied her lap.
Perhaps her lack of a best friend was the very thing that
held her back and prevented her from becoming more cute. If she
had a best friend, she could use that person to sound off cute
theories on, getting a clearer idea of what step she needed to take
next. It would also help to have some to mold in her cute image,
enabling her to observe the effectiveness of her techniques from
the outside.

"Good morning, class," Shoko Matsuno, their homeroom
teacher, said to her students as she walked over to her desk. She
was a serious woman who was always stern yet fair to her students.
Emi liked her, even if she didn't praise the little girl for being so
cute. The older woman seemed immune to Emi's kawaiiness, but
the little girl hadn't had the opportunity to truly test her yet.
"Good morning, Matsuno-sensei!" the class answered in
unison, causing a small smile to flicker on the teacher's lips.
Shoko quickly checked attendance by glancing around the
room. Then she nodded to herself and told the class. "A new
student will be joining us today. I want all of you to do your best
to make her feel welcome."
The door to the class slid open once again and out stepped
Junko, who glanced over the class uninterested, until her eyes
stopped almost of their own will. Right in the middle of the class,
out among a sea of uniforms, sat a girl wearing a bright blue dress,
idly fluffing her blonde curly hair, and clutching a stuffed rabbit
close to her. Junko blinked and stared, only to have the girl smile
cutely back at her.
"Ms. Junko Kitaue, please introduce yourself," the teacher
instructed after writing the girl's name on the chalkboard.
Junko bowed to the class, and keeping her eyes averted
from the odd girl, said, "I transferred to this school because my
parents moved to America, but wanted me to stay in Japan. I know
this is a very difficult school, but I will do my best."
*She's not very cute, is she?* Emi thought as she sized the
new student up. Boyish haircut, plain appearance, walking like a
tomboy; she even had an un-cute name...
"Now where shall Junko-san sit?" the teacher asked herself
as she glanced around the room. There were several empty desks,
but she wanted a place where she could make sure that Junko was
adjusting well to her new school.
"Right here, sensei!" Emi declared enthusiastically as she
indicated the desk next to her, wobbling it around for emphasis.
The teacher smiled. Emi was so friendly, she was the just
the right person to make Junko feel welcome in her new school.
"Thank you, Emi-san. I believe that will be the perfect seat for
Junko-san."
*Is that girl insane?* Junko thought with a worried glance.
*I don't want to sit next to her!* She had a feeling that requesting
to sit someplace else would be a bad idea though. So with great
reluctance, she walked over and took the seat indicated, doing her
best to ignore the odd girl next to her.
Only the girl quickly proved to be unignorable. "Hello! I'm
Emi-chan! Pleased to meet you!" the girl shouted cheerfully as she
grabbed Junko's hand and shook it.
"I'm Junko," she replied as she managed to free her hand.
She felt weird introducing herself after having just done so before
the whole class, but couldn't think of what else to say. She
certainly wasn't pleased to meet Emi. Junko was beginning to
wonder if this girl was some kind of psycho that people left alone
out of fear of getting hurt. "Say, did you know there's a boy with a
camera filming you right now?"
"Of course, that's his job!" Emi answered with a smile,
turning around briefly to wave at Yoji, who managed to wave back
shyly while keeping the camcorder steady.
"Whatever," Junko said with a shrug as she focused her
attention on the teacher and away from the weird girl.
Emi giggled cutely in reply, and much to Junko's relief, also
turned her attention back to the teacher. The plain girl sighed, a
moment too soon as a folded note landed on the dead center of her
desk. It had her name written on it in stylized kanji, surrounded by
doodles of hearts, stars, and flowers.
With a feeling to dread in the pit of her stomach, Junko
carefully unfolded the note and scanned its contents. It read, 'I
think you're really neat! Want to be friends? Emi-chan.' The kanji
was surprisingly elegant for such a simple message. Adding in all
the doodles that surrounded it like a frame, Emi couldn't have had
much time to pen this.
Junko glanced over to the girl in question, only to find Emi
grinning back at her, her expression filled to the brim with
innocent joy. Junko wanted to write, 'no, you're crazy' or just
ignore the note entirely, but she feared what would happen if she
did. Even if the girl wasn't insane, her parents had to be kami with
all the things they let her get away with in this school. Junko still
couldn't figure out how her completely average parents had
managed to get her enrolled there, though suspected it had
something to do with her uncle.
'Sure,' she wrote quickly, folding up the note and tossing it
onto Emi's desk without looking. Then she shoved all thoughts of
psycho blonde girls out of her mind and concentrated on the lesson.
Roughly five minutes later, yet another note arrived. This
time her name was enclosed in a big heart and the contents read,
'Wai! We're going to be the best friends ever, Ju-chan! Let's have
lunch together!' Junko did find the drawing of an SD-Emi waving
victory fans to be amusing at least.
Junko had been a loner all of her life, making few friends as
girly stuff normally turned her stomach and boys tended to be
disgusting. The one thing she really hated was those girls that
pretend to be friendly to your face and just make fun of you behind
your back. Emi didn't seem bright enough for that at first, but now
she wasn't so sure.
'Okay,' she wrote in response, returning the note.
Thankfully, another failed to appear immediately afterwards and
she was able to return to the lesson, doing her best to ignore the
sight of Emi grinning at her.
Emi managed to keep up a steady stream of cute, and
usually substanceless, messages during the class, while Junko did
her best to stick with one-word answers. The plain girl couldn't
help noticing how the teachers all ignored this activity, something
that wouldn't have been tolerated in her older school, and Akajima
Academy was supposed to be very strict. For some reason, Emi
was exempt from the rules.
Emi also was obviously not the dimwit Junko had first
guessed her to be, at least when it came to scholastic matters. The
teachers praised her, but not without reason. Her homework was
letter-perfect and she seemed able to answer any question, no
matter how difficult, with only a moment of thought. Junko was
finding it hard to believe that this was the same person who kept
writing such silly messages.

Finally, the lunch bell rang. With a small sigh of relief,
Junko stood to go get her lunch from her locker. She was planning
to find a nice quiet place to eat, far away from overly-cute girls.
"Wai! It's time for lunch!" Emi exclaimed as she leapt out
of her seat, grabbed Junko's hand in an iron grip, and dragged her
outside, the plain girl's protests falling on deaf ears. The girl noted
that Emi's stuffed rabbit seemed a bit distressed to also be handed
in this manner. *At least I'm not the only one.*
Out in the center of the school's courtyard, a small table had
been placed, looking like something lifted from an Italian
restaurant. Two place settings and a chianti candle had been set
over a white and red checkered tablecloth. Emi set Junko down in
one chair and took the one opposite for herself.
Junko blushed in embarrassment to see all the other
students stopping their own meals to stare at her, not to mention
the boy who was still filming Emi for some bizarre purpose. Some
even cheered for the cute blonde girl, who accepted this adoration
with enthusiastic waves and giggles. Junko hid her face behind the
menu she was given.
*Menu?* she thought in surprise, blinking as she looked up
to see an elderly man standing by their table, who she was sure
hadn't been there a moment ago. He was a tall man with grey hair
and a long mustache, with an almost tangible aura of power about
him that didn't fit the role of a waiter.
"Take your time, Ju-chan," Emi told her from the other end
of the table, looking over her own menu.
Realizing there was nothing she could say that wouldn't
make her look like a fool, Junko just shook her head and glanced
over the menu, taking occasional sips from a glass of ice water that
had somehow appeared on the table.
With a smile, Emi placed her lunch order in only slightly
accented Italian, the waiter replying in kind as he accepted her
menu with a small bow.
Junko had been puzzling out the menu for some minutes,
only to realize that the entire thing, the names of the dishes and
their descriptions, was in Italian. Foreign languages had never
been her strong suit, and she had never even seen Italian before,
but she wasn't the sort of person to admit a failing like that. Emi
had probably set this whole thing up just to embarrass her anyway,
now waiting for the chance to strike. Junko wasn't about to give
her the satisfaction.
"That sounds good, I'll have the same," Junko told the
waiter with a confident smile, that only wavered when he vanished
right before her eyes.
"It must be fun to move to a new place!" Emi said to her
suddenly, distracting the plain girl from the strange occurrences
that seemed to be happening all around this equally strange girl.
"Where were you from before, Ju-chan?"
Junko flinched at being called 'Ju-chan' yet again; not even
her own parents had called her something silly like that. "Osaka,"
she admitted hesitantly, unsure if it was a good idea to tell this girl
anything about herself.
Emi nodded enthusiastically to this. "Wai! I guessed right!
I thought you were from Osaka with the funny way you talk! I like
it though, I think it makes you cute!"
Junko was starting to believe that the hardest thing about
her new school would not be the homework. She did not talk
funny and she was most definitely not cute. Her parents had
moved to Osaka only just before her birth, so she had actually
grown up to the sounds of overly formal Japanese. School life had
made her language skills a little rough around the edges, but she
didn't think she had the distinctive Osaka dialect.
As far back as Junko could remember, people had been
forcing the idea that girls had to be cute down her throat. For a
while she tried and tried to live up to their expectations, but the
simple fact was she just wasn't cute; not in any way, shape, or
form. She accepted it and was much happier when she had
dropped the whole cute act, but it still annoyed her when people
thought being female and cute had to go together.
Junko opened her mouth to say some very non-cute things,
only to be silenced when a bowl filled with pasta suddenly
appeared before her, along with a small plate of garlic bread and a
glass of milk. She blinked to see that the waiter had returned and
was now serving Emi.
"Thank you, Ichiro-sensei!" Emi exclaimed in glee as she
eyed the mountain of pasta with wide eyes.
"You're welcome, Emi," the man replied with a smile and a
short bow before vanishing once again.
"Sensei?" Junko thought out loud, wondering if Emi's
parents had so much pull that they could force some of the best
educators in Japan to become combination waiters / stage
magicians.
"He was my tutor when I was little. He taught me a whole
bunch of stuff!" Emi explained with a giggle of amusement. "Now
let's eat!"
Junko had to admit that the scent wafting up to her nose
had jump-started saliva production. She wasn't even sure how to
pronounce the dish before her, but it sure smelled good. So she
tentatively brought some of the noodles up to her mouth and took a
small bite. Her stomach grumbled its approval while adding a
demand for more. Junko complied eagerly, never having much in
the way of table manners.
"Do you like it?" Emi asked suddenly, halting Junko's
vacuum cleaner impersonation. Junko nodded enthusiastically,
having just enough manners not to speak when her mouth was
stuffed full of noodles.
"Wai! I'm so happy my new best friend likes the same food
I do! I knew we had a lot in common!" Emi enthused, doing a little
dance in her seat.
Junko thought that anyone who didn't like this dish had to
suffer from malfunctioning tastebuds, but decided to take a big bite
out of the garlic bread than comment. If she got to eat food like
this every day, it might not be so bad to be Emi's friend. The girl
was plain bizarre, but harmless, and there did seem to be a brain
hiding behind all that fluff. If Emi honestly wanted to be her
friend, the least Junko could do was give her that chance.

Emi was practically beaming as the praise from students
and teachers rained down upon her. The plateau where she had
been stranded for weeks was no longer in sight; she was already far
beyond, into the land of kawaii that she only had faint glimpses of
before. She was cuter now; she didn't need others to tell her, she
could feel it deep down inside. Still, the opinions of others were
certainly nice.
Something had happened at lunch, something she had only
realized now while getting ready for gym. Eating by herself had
made her conscious of those watching her, forcing her to think up
opportunities to be cute. With Junko, however, those opportunities
had come naturally, and after a while Emi had completely forgotten
about the crowd as she focused her attention on her new friend.
She would have to study the footage from today with special care.
Emi had liked Junko almost right from the start. There was
something so different about that girl that interested her. Emi had
never felt the need to be accepted by anyone before, since everyone
she wanted to accept her had done so immediately. She could feel
Junko's reluctance, and the desire to overcome that had given Emi
a goal greater than being cute for cute's sake. Before she thought
that friendship would be a waste of effort, but she now saw that it
was just the opposite.
One of the advantages of being a complete tomboy, and not
caring at all what people thought about it, was that Junko tended to
be more athletic than most girls and could really show off at gym.
Of course there were some girls who called her an unfeminine
gorilla-girl, but she knew they were just jealous. Most girls said
they wished that they could perform feats like her.
Today was the dreaded hobby horse, which some girls
couldn't even manage to clear. Making sure that her new self-
declared best friend was watching, Junko started with a handstand
on the top of the horse, springing into a back flip that landed her on
her feet without so much as a stumble.
The crowd cheered over her little demonstration, but none
were quite as vocal or enthusiastic as Emi. "Sugoi! Sugoi! You're
great Ju-chan! Hooray, Hooray for Ju-chan!" the blonde girl
exclaimed as she bounced all over the place, waving pompoms in
the air, probably given to her by that vanishing guy from lunch.
Junko felt a bit disappointed that people were now paying
more attention to Emi's antics than her for her little stunt; not that
that mattered much to her, especially the attention of the boys.
One boy especially, the one who was constantly recording
Emi's antics, and she suspected even tried to film them in the girl's
locker room. Suddenly, her eyes met his and she was shocked by
the intensity of his glare, directed quite firmly at her.
"It's your turn now, Emi-chan," the gym teacher said
suddenly, putting a halt to Emi's cheerleading routine and
distracting Junko away from the boy who obviously hated her for
reasons she couldn't begin to imagine.
Emi nodded cutely and raced up to Junko, shoving the
pompoms into the other girl's hands. "Now you can cheer for me,
okay?"
"Do your best," Junko told her with a slight smirk as she
accepted the pompoms. She'd be surprised if this pampered girl
could even clear the horse. Junko nearly fell over in surprise when
the smaller girl impulsively embraced her.
"I will!" Emi replied enthusiastically as she spun away and
got ready for her attempt.
"Go, Emi, go," Junko cheered half-heartedly, only to be
drowned out by the other students all shouting 'Emi-chan' over and
over, a chant that quickly filled the room.
Emi looked cutely serious as she eyed the horse before her
and took a deep breath, bending down like a track star. The chant
faded away to nothing until the only sound seemed to be Emi's
breathing. Then her body seemed to blur as it shot into motion,
flipping once, twice, three times, with the last having three
complete rotations before she finally hit the ground, lightly on her
feet with cat-like grace. Somehow her hair was still perfect.
Junko was barely aware of the deafening cheer that filled
the gym as she stared stunned at the grinning face of Emi. The
blonde girl's parents had to be former gymnasts turned Diet
members, forcing their daughter to train every day until she
collapsed from exhaustion; because it just wasn't fair if that was the
product of natural talent.

Junko breathed a huge sigh of relief as she slipped on her
shoes and made ready to head for what was likely to be her home
for years to come. She didn't mind living with her uncle, even if he
was a little strange, but at least there wouldn't be any overly-cute,
pushy, spoiled, super-athletic girls there.
"Guess who!" said an all too familiar voice as dainty hands
covered Junko's eyes.
"A talking monkey," Junko guessed, irritated because she
knew all too well who it was. There was no way in the world she'd
ever forget that voice.
The response was a string of giggles followed by the
'mysterious person' saying, "Nope! Guess again! I'll give you a
little hint: she's your best friend in the whole world!"
Junko managed to suppress the urge to groan. "Mom, have
you been sucking on helium again?"
Another chorus of giggles came as a prelude to enthusiastic
hug and a blonde head of hair rubbing against her shoulder. "No,
silly! It's me, Emi-chan!"
"That was my next guess," Junko replied flatly as she did
her best to dislodge the affectionate girl from her, noting out of the
corner of her eye that the boy from before was still using her for
glare practice while keeping his camera training on Emi. "School's
over, time to go home," Junko added, hoping this insane blonde
girl would get the hint.
"Right, let's go!" Emi enthused as she grabbed Junko's hand
and dragged her in the direction of the entrance, dragging her
stuffed bunny along with the other.
"I meant each of us go to our own, _separate_ homes,"
Junko clarified as she vainly tried to shake her hand free.
Emi giggled, which seemed her initial response to
everything. "You're so silly, Ju-chan. Of course we have separate
homes, but what kind of best friend would I be if I didn't give my
best friend a ride home?"
"I'll walk, it's not far. Don't go through the trouble," Junko
told her, though she wanted to explore the neighborhood a bit first,
in search of arcades and other dens of amusement.
"It's no trouble at all for my new best friend!" Emi declared
with finger upraised in a what Junko assumed was supposed to be a
dramatic pose. She thought that it just looked silly. "Besides, I
haven't shown you the neat limo my parents got me for my birthday
yet!"
*She has her own limo. Why am I not surprised?* Junko
thought with a sigh of resignation as she let Emi drag her to the
front of the school and into the limo which waited there.

Kozo Kitaue waited impatiently for his niece to arrive
home from her first day at a new school. Why had his younger
brother trusted him with her? He should have known well that his
older sibling wasn't the most reliable person in the world. If he had
been, Kozo would have been the one to leave Japan; as the elder
brother it normally would have been his duty. The addendum
made by his mother, Junko's grandmother, only intensified his
worry.
He went over his collection as he waited, but could find no
comfort in it today. He only noted the empty spaces, the few
pieces he needed to make it complete. It might as well have been a
million with the chance he ever had of obtaining the rarest of the
rare, hoarded by his fellow collectors.
Carefully putting his collection away yet again, Kozo
happened to glance out the window, blinking in surprise to see a
black limo pull up to the front of the house. He had thought that
everything had been settled with the Japanese government for the
foreseeable future, but then again it didn't look like a government
car.

This time Junko made sure that Emi had safely driven far
away before finally sighing in relief. Freed from the restraints
placed upon her by school, Emi had been chattering non-stop in the
limo, bouncing around from topic to topic even more than she
bounced herself. Junko was thankful that some higher power had
decided she had suffered enough, her uncle's house coming into
view by the time Emi mentioned karoke.
Junko tried her key on the lock, surprised when the door
was opened for her by her uncle. "Hi, Uncle Kozo. Don't you
usually work at this time?"
"I took the day off so I could make sure you were settled,"
he said distractedly as he looked up the street. "Junko, why did
you come home in a limo?"
"Because of my new best friend," Junko answered
sarcastically as she slipped off her shoes and entered the living
room. She smiled a bit as she saw her uncle's wide-screen TV.
There were a few compensations for her life being suddenly thrown
into chaos.
"Some pushy little blonde brat who decided I was her best
friend," Junko added as she plunked down on the nice soft couch.
Her uncle had a really nice place. He had to be doing well to
afford it. "She really got on my nerves, but I couldn't do anything
about it since everyone at school seems to worship her. I think her
name was Emi Ishiyama."
"Emi-chan?" Kozo asked in surprise as he turned around
after shutting the door.
"Yeah, she always calls herself that, like she's still five
years old or something. You've heard of her?"
Instead of replying, Kozo lead Junko off to a small interior
room, unlocked the door, and turned on the light.
Junko felt like throwing up. Everywhere she looked, Emi
was grinning back at her. Some were younger versions, some were
even super-deformed, made into plushies or stickers, but all had
the same blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and carefree smile. A lot of
it seemed to be promotional material for various products,
combined with photo ops and press materials. There were also a
number of items that looked handmade, like the plushies or the
pillow.
"Eww, lolita," Junko said, making a face of disgust as she
looked back at Kozo. Her mother had warned her about dirty old
men who go after sweet young girls, but she would have never
suspected her own uncle.
"No, no, no, I swear it's not like that!" Kozo protested
vehemently. "It's just that Emi-chan is so cute that I can't help
collecting things connected to her. It's all perfectly innocent!"
"Does my father know about this...?" Junko asked, unable
to bring herself to finish her question.
Kozo hung his head. "Yes, he does."
"Well, okay," Junko said reluctantly. "Just don't try
anything. I'm a very light sleeper and I keep a baseball bat handy!"
Kozo flinched, at either the lack of trust or the idea of
getting bashed with a baseball bat. "You don't quite understand.
You see that Emi-chan's parents own the company which I work
for, Ishiyama Heavy Industries, a very powerful company..."

"I'm sorry, but neither president can be reached at this
time," the head secretary of Ishiyama Heavy Industries explained
with only slight impatience. "Yes, I'm well aware of who you are
Mr. Gates, but they are in a very important meeting at the moment
and left strict orders not to be disturbed. Good-bye."
The secretary hung up the phone with a smirk, looking
down at 'nookie?' written into the her scheduler in the hand of one
president, with 'yes!' in the writing of the other. They were terribly
effective business people, but sometimes they acted just like
children.

At the same moment, one of the presidents of IHI was
giggling. This was because the other president, who also happened
to be her husband, was tickling her. She retaliated with a tickle
attack of her own that somehow ended up as a lingering kiss.
"I love you, madam president," Ryuji told her with a smile.
"I love you, mister president," Michiko echoed with a small
laugh.
The dual heads of IMI continued to act like newlyweds
even though, and their daughter was proof, they had been married
for quite some time. They did their best to not let it interfere with
business, however, making full use of time management.
It had all started during the proposed merger of Ishi
Electronics, which built everything from microwaves to satellites,
with Yama Automotive, who constructed everything from bicycles
to tanks. For a long time such a merger between the two
companies would have been mutually beneficial, but the old
presidents of those companies had both been reluctant to risk
giving even an ounce of their power to the other. It didn't help that
they had met socially on a number of occasions and hadn't liked
each other much.
This all changed when both retired to place their respective
companies in the hands of their offspring, Michiko Ishi and Ryuji
Yama, the two having already proven themselves successful in the
business world. The new presidents agreed that a merger was not
just a benefit, but a necessity and had to be done as soon as
possible. A face to face meeting was quickly arranged to discuss
the preliminaries.
That was when something unexpected happened. The two
young yet already hardened business people met for the first time
and fell deeply in love with one another. Discussions over a
merger quickly spilled over into wedding plans.
Their parents had no objections to the merger, but the
marriage was something else entirely. It took all of the combined
savvy of the two young lovers to convince their parents, but even
then it still wasn't enough. Both fathers took a stand which family
name the new couple would be married under.
So Ryuji and Michiko took the name they had decided for
their new company, Ishiyama, and used it for themselves as well,
stunning their fathers just long enough to get their reluctant
approval. Mr. and Mrs. Ishiyama became the joint owners of
Ishiyama Heavy Industries, sharing their power, their office, and
even sometimes the same chair, equally.
They only had one daughter for the same reason they only
wanted one company. They wanted to focus all of their love and
attention without having to worry about varying wants or needs.
Of course they knew that a company was complex, but then so was
their daughter.

"But how will we do it?" Michiko said suddenly, resting
quite comfortably in her husband's lap.
"Do what, dear?" Ryuji asked as he ran his fingers through
her silken hair, holding the dark purple strands up to shimmer in
the light.
"Take over the world, of course. It's not something that's
going to be easy to accomplish, and four years doesn't give us a
great deal of time. Others have tried before and failed miserably."
"But none were ever as beautiful as you, dear," he told her,
holding her close to him.
"Flatterer," she accused, kissing him on the cheek. "Please
try and be serious. This is for Emi-chan, after all."
"Well, we do have the most powerful company in Japan,
that should be somewhat helpful," Ryuji told her, only slightly
serious.
Michiko nodded. "Yes, we could build all the vehicles
needed for war and finance our own army, but someone is bound to
notice and put a stop to us. Like any good corporation, the UN
frowns at takeover attempts."
"We'll just have to set up another company then," he
husband told her. "Something small so that it won't be noticed, at
least right away, and with no obvious connections back to us."
"It wouldn't be easy," his wife countered. "We'd need to
store all those tanks and planes. We couldn't just hide them away
behind a waterfall or in a underground lair like they do in those
giant robot anime..."
Ryuji couldn't help noticing the far-away look in her wife's
eyes now; it was a look that she always got when an idea was
almost ready to bubble to the surface. "What is it, dear?"
"An army of tanks, planes, and such would be nearly
impossible to hide, but if we could build something else, just a few
somethings that had the same firepower as an army each... They
wouldn't be so difficult to hide, now would they?"
"I suppose so," he replied slowly, wondering what his wife
was getting at. "But what could we possibly make that could equal
the firepower of an entire army?"
"Giant robots," she replied, and then noting her husband's
look, added, "I know it sounds crazy, but I've looked into it for
manufacturing purposes before and found out that while not
economically sound, it was possible. We can just take one scientist
and a small crew, ship them off to a remote plant and just have
them build the things for three years or so. By that time we should
have more than enough firepower to take over the world, and we
wouldn't even need a large amount of personnel to do it."
Ryuji thought about this in silence for a few moments as he
continued to snuggle with his wife. "Hmm, there was that woman
we fired only a few days ago from R&D for conducting those odd
experiments. She might be a good test subject to see if this is
indeed possible, without risking any of our more valuable
scientists. I think the majority of them would balk at such a
request."
"You mean that... disgusting woman who came on to you?"
Michiko asked with uncharacteristic tone of anger in her voice.
She would never forget the way that blonde... witch had latched
onto her husband like a leech. It had taken three security personnel
to pry her off too.
"I admit that she did seem... somewhat unreliable, but her
designs prove her genius. I think if we want to go ahead with your
plan, we don't really have any other option."
Michiko sighed and nodded. "Anyone else we have that's
capable of this would refuse unless we put the screws on them, and
that would guarantee the secret would get out."
"And I better talk to her about this alone," his wife added
after a moment of silence. "I don't want to see her rubbing up
against my husband like a cat in heat for the second time."
Ryuji smiled as he rubbed against his wife. Michiko
grinned in return, and conversation was put on hold as they tended
to other... important matters.

Junko went to her new room and began to unpack her
things, finding the furniture a bit too girly for her tastes but
otherwise fine. It was nearly twice the size of her old room, which
meant plenty of space for her models, manga, and assorted anime
tapes. There was also enough space of the clothes that she had, but
she really didn't care about them. Finishing off with a baseball bat
went under the bed, just in case.
She brought one small box downstairs where her uncle was
idly watching his big screen TV. She had decided that he wasn't
really ecchi, only a little weird, but would keep her guard up
anyway. "Is it okay I hook up my game system here?"
"Sure, no problem. Go ahead and play now if you want; I
wasn't really watching anything," Kozo told her with a smile,
expecting a cute girl game like a date sim or something with
talking animals. He was also glad to see she was no longer angry
at him for his little hobby.
With the subconscious skill of someone who had done the
same thing countless times before, Junko quickly hooked up the
game system to the TV, inserting her current favorite game and
starting it up.
The IMI company logo appeared and faded to be replaced
by the title 'Super Blood Fist 2', which was smashed by a fist when
Junko pressed start, sending blood and vague organic matter flying
all over the place before clearing and coming to a character
selection screen. Junko choose Ken, there was always a character
named 'Ken' in these games for some reason, and unleashed her
character's mad martial arts skills on the faceless minions
belonging to her first opponent.
Her favorite move was the head exploder, at least that's
what she called it. Her character would make a big 'Oooh' sound
and start rapidly poking the minion in the skull until it burst with a
shower of blood and brains. Junko laughed every time this
happened because it was just too silly, even for these sort of games.
For a while, Kozo simply sat their stunned, unwilling to
believe that his niece was gleefully beating electronic bad guys to
bloody pulps. What snapped him out of it was the thought of the
gift that his mother had told him to give her, a thought that chilled
him to the bone, but she hadn't left him with much choice. Then
again, once his niece had it, he wouldn't have to worry about her so
much anymore, though he'd have to be a lot more cautious.
"Junko?" he asked her tentatively.
"Yeah?" Junko asked back, completely focused on beating
a guy senseless with his own leg as he tried to hop away.
"I have... something your grandmother wanted to you to
have, and I think that now is a good time to give it to you. We can
go up to the attic and get it after you've finished your game."
"Okay," Junko replied, then added, "But I'll kick your ass if
you try any of that sick lolita stuff on me."
*I've got a feeling that this is a really bad idea,* Kozo
thought, but said nothing.

*Is this really the right address?* Michiko thought as she
checked the records on her laptop one more time. Her limo had
stopped before a derelict building that looked half torn down
already. It was something that should have been part of the
Hiroshima ruins than actually inhabited. She could swear she even
smelled smoke.
There wasn't anything Michiko wouldn't do for her
daughter, however, so she cautiously stepped out of her limo and
approached the front door. The bell was no more than a mass of
wires so she tried knocking, only for the blackened, slashed, and
partially chewed on door to fall off its hinges. She listened to the
echo of its loud slamming fade off to nothing.
"Hello? Anybody home?" Michiko called out, getting no
response. She wasn't about to give up so easily, she wouldn't have
been the businesswoman she was if she did, so being careful to
avoid staining her clothes on the crusted and soot-stained walls,
she stepped inside.
The smell of smoke was significantly stronger now, enough
that Michiko was able to follow it to its source. It lead her to
kitchen whose smell alone was enough to make her stomach turn.
The sight of it nearly made her heave her guts right on the floor,
which was unlikely to change the condition of the room any.
Half-eaten food lay all about, mostly a feast for insects.
Thankfully, there wasn't many of those, probably because the rats
were feeding on them. Trash had been thrown in the general
direction of the waste bin. The refrigerator, surprisingly still in
operation, hung open revealing things that looked more like fungal
experiments than food.
In the middle of it all lay a human form covered in a
tattered lab coat, slumped face down on a table, a small thread of
smoke rising from the general vicinity of the head.
*Is she... dead?* Michiko thought with growing horror.
She had given the woman every chance to change her ways before
sacking her, but now witnessing the appalling conditions under
which she lived, Michiko wished that she had just sent the woman
away to one of their subsidiaries overseas. She knew that a suicide
she had been the indirect cause of would prey on her conscious for
years to come.
Michiko had to check to make sure though, so she very
tentatively reached out and poked the vague form hidden away
under the stained lab coat. She jumped back in surprise when the
figure squealed like a stuck pig and began to race around the room
on all fours, scattering its filth all over the place.
"Stop this instant!" Michiko commanded, doing her best to
avoid getting struck by stray garbage. She had never felt more
revolted in her whole life.
To her surprise, the figure stopped. She could now make
out the form of a very disheveled blonde woman smoking on a bent
cigarette as she squatted on the ground. This was the scientist that
had been fired only a few days ago, but she had clearly gone insane
in the meantime, if she hadn't been already.
"Hey, don't I know you?" Nayoko asked as she stood and
dusted herself off, revealing that the only thing she was wearing
under her lab coat was frilly pink underwear and knee high black
leather boots.
It was some moments before Michiko was able to speak.
"Yes, I was the one who fired you from Ishiyama Heavy Industries
only a few days ago."
"No wonder I keep forgetting to set my alarm," Nayoko
said with a nod as she hopped up on the table to sit cross-legged.
She tossed the lit cigarette in the direction of the trash as she
scratched herself. "So what are you doing here?"
*I should just make up some excuse and leave,* Michiko
thought, positive that Nayoko was the most disgusting woman she
had ever met, and someone she wouldn't trust with a tea spoon
much less the means to build major military hardware. But then
again this was for her daughter and her husband was right that
using someone else was likely to cause serious problems.
"I came here... to offer you a new line of employment, but I
can see that you wouldn't be interested," Michiko said slowly,
doing her best to avoid looking at the woman, but was finding the
room an even worse sight.
"Hmm, what kind of a job?" Nayoko asked around an unlit
cigarette as she dug around in her refrigerator. "Hey, you want
something to eat? I found some tofu that still looks good."
"I ate just before I came here," Michiko lied quickly; it was
a good thing her stomach was mostly empty or it would have soon
been completely so. "It's a bit of an odd request. My husband and
I were wondering if you would like to head a small project for the
purpose of... building giant robots."
"For what?" Nayoko asked in confusion as she plunked a
half-empty beer down next to a container of tofu, sitting herself
before her 'breakfast.'
"Umm, giant robots. I know it may sound absurd, but it is
mechanically possible. My husband and I decided to look into it as
sort of a test..." Michiko stopped talking when she realized she
was now the only one in the room. "Nayoko-san?"
A few moments later, Nayoko ran back into the room on all
fours, holding a large spooled up piece of paper in her mouth. This
she quickly unfolded on the table, not seeming to notice or care
that she knocked her beer and tofu on the floor as a result.
Very slowly, but unable to contain her curiosity, Michiko
approached the table to see what the mad woman had brought. She
jumped about a foot in the air when Nayoko's arm wrapped around
her, bringing her body close to hers. The woman reeked of stale
sweat, smoke, and cheap perfume.
"This is one of my more recent plans," Nayoko chattered
animatedly as she pointed out things of interest, unaware of the
other woman's discomfort. "I get most of my ideas from anime.
You see, this one can ever change into a low obit spacecraft, but
it's much cooler as a robot, especially with the huge sword..."
Michiko had taken a dual major of business and
engineering at the academy so she knew enough to read schematics
and blueprints. Despite the disheveled state of Nayoko's
appearance and mind, the plans were neatly made, very detailed
and specific, but most of all, looked like they could actually work.
"How quickly do you think you could build this?" Michiko
asked, feeling a growing excitement.
Nayoko scratched her head and replied, "Don't know, a
week maybe, if I had everything I needed. The hard part is
planning it all out. Building them is pretty easy, actually. Just like
putting a model together, only a lot more parts."
"Good. We have a small factory already set up for this
purpose," Michiko told her with a smile. "It's completely
automated so you shouldn't need any outside help. Make up a list
and we'll get you the parts you need. You'll also have a fund for
any other expenses. Here's a cell phone to contact us with. You
must understand that this experiment might tarnish the reputation
of Ishiyama so must be conducted with absolute secrecy."
Nayoko nodded seriously as she accepted the cell phone.
"Don't worry, I don't know anyone to tell this to anyway. I should
have a complete list of parts for the first model by sometime
tonight so I can start early in the morning. Can even make regular
status reports if you like."
"Excellent. I shall leave you to your planning then. I will
look forward to your results in a week," Michiko said as she
mentally gathered herself up and made to leave.
"There's just one more thing," Nayoko said suddenly,
halting the other woman's progress.
"And that is?" Michiko asked with a brittle smile, currently
feeling the need for at least a dozen baths.
Nayoko eyes roamed all over the other woman's supple
figure. "You're really cute. Could you spank me when I'm bad?
It'll really encourage me. I've even got my own paddle."
Michiko had never run that fast in her life before, and
prayed she would never have a reason to again.

Junko and Kozo were currently sitting around the latter's
musty attic as he dug around in various boxes until he had pulled
out a old wooden box with a odd-looking carving of the sun on top.
He sat with this in his lap as he explained to his niece,
"First of all, I know this is going to be hard for you to accept, but
your parents haven't actually gone to America. Like your
grandparents before them..."
He trailed off in shock when Junko began to cry. He hadn't
expected her to take the news this hard, especially when he hadn't
gotten to the hard to accept bit yet. "Why are you crying?"
"I know what a euphemism is!" Junko shouted at him as
she continued to bawl. "You're saying my parents are dead!"
"No, they're not dead!" Kozo quickly reassured her.
"They're just space aliens. Well, your father is, your mother just
went along with him. He had to go back to our home planet..."
Kozo stopped this time because Junko was currently glaring
at him, a glare that was much too effective for a twelve year old
girl. "That's not funny," she told him in a flat tone.
"I know is sounds impossible, but it really is the truth.
Your grandparents came to Earth as tourists and decided to stay for
a while. Your father and I grew up here as a result and came to
love the Earth, each for our own reasons."
*This is almost as bad as when she thought I was a
pervert,* Kozo thought with a frown to see that his words were
having no effect on softening her gaze.
"Look, I can prove it!" Kozo shouted in near desperation,
shaking the box a bit for emphasis. "Your grandparents were
special even amongst our own people. One of the benefits of this
was a great power that has been passed down through the females
of our line for generations. That is why your grandmother wanted
you to have this."
Junko continued to glare at the uncle who she had once
thought of as her friend, but was turning out to have bad taste and a
sick sense of humor. The glare faded to surprise when she finally
looked down to see what rested in the box that he had just opened.
It was an elegant gold armband covered in intricate carvings,
mostly abstract though some seemed to resemble fire. She reached
out to touch it, but managed to stop herself.
"Go ahead, take it," her uncle encouraged her. "It belongs
to you now."
With a small nod, Junko reached out and slowly picked up
the armband, watching its designs shine brightly even in the feeble
light. It felt warm to the touch, like something alive, but it was
more than that. She felt something stirring inside, as if beginning
to awaken. Her hands were shaking as she slipped it onto her right
arm, sliding it to her upper arm, surprised that it was a perfect fit.
She released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding.
There was a mirror up in the attic. Junko now stood before
it, twirling around to see how the armband looked from every
angle. She hated all cute things, but this was more than that, this
was elegant, refined, and certainly one of a kind, making it one
thing that Emi would never have. Wondering how it would look
on her other arm, Junko tugged at it, but it refused to budge even a
fraction of a centimeter.
"It's stuck," Junko told her uncle as she continued to pull at
the armband, but having as much success as before.
"It has acclimated itself to you now," Kozo informed her.
"You won't be able to take it off until after the birth of your first
child, like your grandmother before you."
"What?!" Junko bellowed, her voice amplified by ten as she
stomped over to her uncle and reared back her fist. Something
unexpected happened before she could throw that punch, however.
Golden strands of fire leapt from the armband to wrap around her,
forming a shimmering cocoon. A moment later, the cocoon burst
with a small explosion, the strands fading to reveal Junko now
completely transformed.
Her new pointed red boots floated about a foot off the
ground. These came with matching long red gloves, which were
offset by her now golden skin, and her hair shimmered with the
colors of an open flame. Her clothes had been replaced by a set of
stylish armor of red, yellow, orange, and white, ending with an
embarrassingly short skirt. Even her face was changed; softer,
more rounded, with red lips and yellow, almond-shaped eyes.
"Kawaii!" Kozo shouted at the sight before him, crying
tears of joy. He had never been so close to such a paragon of cute
before. It was like seeing Emi-chan for the first time all over
again. This was the one of the greatest moments in his life.
With a growl, the newly transformed Junko completed her
earlier punch and sent her uncle right through a wall. She blinked,
looking at her hands in disbelief. *Did I do that?*
Junko looked over her new appearance in the mirror. She
wasn't sure how or why it happened, but she hated the sight of her
new 'cute' self, which resembled her old self in only the vaguest
way. It was everything she have been striving against her entire
life. On the other hand, if it made her that strong, it might not be so
bad after all.