Urusei Yatsura Fan Fiction / Sister Princess Fan Fiction ❯ The Senior Year ... With Sisters ❯ Sisters, Guardians and Grandmistresses ( Chapter 1 )
Sakusei Station, not far from planet Uru...
This was bad.
The man sat alone in the dim, smoky cafe. The small datapadd in his hand flashed information downloaded from the local server of INN, the Intergalactic News Network. Staring at pictures of Yaminokuni mushrooms growing out of various buildings in a place his brother and sister-in-law these days called home, he shook his head. The implications of what just happened in Tomobiki were hitting him hard.
This was very bad.
Another image, this one of a badly burnt young woman dressed in a tiger-striped bikini and knee-high boots. She was shown lying on the ground in a foetal position, a stream of nonsensical words fluttering from her lips. "Lum-chan," the man whispered on recognizing the poor girl. Gods, who had done THAT to her? It couldn't have been THEM, of course; the burns on Lum's skin indicated some sort of high-intensity electrical attack. The Sunin crushed their foes by sheer physical force; energy attacks were beyond them, thank the Fates.
This was truly bad.
Yet another image, this one of a large, barrel-chested Oni man facing a sea of videocams from the front door of his residence outside Uru's capital city, Onishuto. Hearing Invader's words concerning the shocking aftermath of what was known in the mass media as "The Second Tag Race," the viewer sadly shook his head. Onis didn't like being forced to eat crow -- and no, that didn't mean the Karasutengu variety.
This was worse than bad.
And another image, one that could easily be mistaken for a portrait of the viewer himself -- were he without his moustache and stylish, nineteenth century sideburns, not to mention many years younger. "And more foolish," he verbally added as his eyes scanned the notes on the side of the screen. Went missing the instant Lum was injured? Who had taken him away? Much less, WHY had he been taken away?
His chief bodyguard perked, turning to gaze on her employer. "Goshujin-sama?"
"Contact the spaceport. Have the ship prepared for departure. We're going to Earth."
Hoshie marched out of the cafe. Sparing her a brief glance, the man known to his relatives on Earth as Moroboshi Komeru raised his hand to signal a waitress so he could pay for his drink. After almost a decade away, it was time to go home...
* * *
Oomure-jima (also known as Promised Island)...
"So we're agreed?"
The eleven others in the room, ranging age-wise from eight to seventeen, tensed on hearing Sakuya's question before they exchanged questioning looks. Seated to the elder sister's right, Haruka took a deep breath. "It seems harsh to do something like this, Sakuya-chan."
"I'm forced to agree," Rinrin mused. "Yeah, Lum's a lunkhead and all that, but to make Aniki do that to her..."
"You've heard Ane-kun's words on what might soon happen to Ani-kun, Rinrin-chan," Chikage then spoke up, she seated at the other side of the table from Sakuya. "And you know what the usual fate is for widows and widowers on Uru. Do you wish Lum to face that?"
The teen genius tensed as her mind interpreted the sorceress' words. She then exhaled. "No."
"Yotsuba thinks it's high time that Lum got a dose of humiliation for all the things she's done to Ani-chama," the London-raised sister declared. "Not to mention the rest of those dorks in Tomobiki. Honestly, to blame everything that happened in that place on Ani-chama..."
"Making Aniue-sama come to believe that it's actually his role in life to be Tomobiki's resident court jester," Marie added.
"Thank the gods that whoever it was that beat Lum up after the Second Tag Race doesn't believe that," Karen mused.
"Chikage-chan, do you know who those people are?" Mamoru wondered.
The purple-haired sorceress shook her head. "No. I was unable to do a detailed metaphysical examination of either of those people when they came to Tomobiki. They were on the ground for too brief of a time before they returned to their home world. If anyone does know about these people, I suspect it would be either the Men in Black in New York City or Ane-kun." A pause as Chikage considered something. "We could simply ask Ane-kun when she returns from her trip to Africa. She'll be proceeding directly to Tomobiki High School on Parents' Day to inform the staff of the change of legal guardianship concerning Ani-kun, not to mention his change of residency."
"Do you think they'll make Onii-tama go to school here on the Island, Chikage-chan?" Hinako, youngest of the sisters, asked.
"It's a possibility," Chikage replied with a sage nod.
Haruka placed a hand over her heart. "Oh, please, let it be so! Three years away from Anigimi-sama is three years too long!"
"We can all claim that, Haruka-chan," Sakuya declared as she squeezed her fists in determination. "Okay, then! Saturday will be Onii-sama no Hi for all of us, then! Let's get ourselves ready to rock the town!!"
The other sisters cheered, many bolting to their feet as they high-fived and embraced each other. Staring at her kin, the former Sukeyama Sakuya, at this time the newly-appointed Matriarch-in-Waiting of the Moroboshi Clan, could only smile.
Onii-sama no Hi. Day for Big Brother.
Yes, it had been too long...
* * *
Minutes later, Chikage stepped into the kitchen, pausing by the doorway to see Shirayuki back at work preparing a dozen bentou boxes. Watching the mauve-haired chef with the cat ear-shaped bowtie in her hair doing what she did best, the sorceress could barely hide her grin. "You have to admit this, Shirayuki-chan: you're the first Earth chef, professional or not, to win fans from other planets." She then moved to correct her statement with a raised index finger, her grin widening a bit. "Pardon me. I meant other dimensions."
Shirayuki blushed. "Hime doesn't care about that," she admitted as she finished inserting the fried shrimp into the boxes. Funny that for people who normally dressed up like rabbits, the residents of the Destiny Production Bureau were seafood lovers. "Chikage-chan?"
Chikage quickly noticed the frown crossing the younger sister's face. She didn't need her metasenses to detect what was bothering the young chef. "It has to be done, Shirayuki-chan. The cost of doing things this way is much less than what could potentially happen."
"Hime knows," Shirayuki noisily exhaled as she stopped, turning to gaze out the window at the front lawn of Welcome House. "Hime doesn't want anything to happen to Lum-san or her friends in Tomobiki. Hime certainly doesn't want anything to happen to Nii-sama. But..."
"I know," Chikage soothed as she turned to step out. "I'll be right back for the bentous."
"Hai desu no."
The sorceress stepped out. Shirayuki watched her go, and then she turned back to finish preparing the bentous for Inaba and his friends. Regardless if she might never actually meet the sentients whom Chikage had been dealing with over the last couple weeks, the practice in making take-out lunches was necessary. After all, in forty-eight hours time, Shirayuki -- regardless if Nii-sama would be attending school in Tomobiki or on Promised Island -- would be opening her special Ai no Bentou (Lunch Box of Love) delivery service for her one truly special customer. Her own darling Nii-sama. "Oh, Nii-sama..." the chef crooned romantically as his image flashed through her mind.
A minute later, Chikage stepped back into the kitchen. Seeing her in the Playboy bunny-like suit female residents of the Destiny Production Bureau normally wore, Shirayuki stifled back a laugh. The sorceress ignored the chef's look. "Are they ready?" she asked.
"Hai desu no!" Shirayuki announced...
* * *
The Senior Year ... With Sisters!
Sisters, Guardians and Grandmistresses
Okay, We've Met Lum's In-Laws! Now It's Time To Meet Ataru's!
by Fred Herriot
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Based on Urusei Yatsura, created by Takahashi Rumiko; and Sister Princess, created by Kimino Sakurako and Tenhiro Naoto. Daishi'cha mentioned here are named in honour of characters from Azumanga Daioh, created by Azuma Kiyohiko. Characters and situations from these and other movies, TV series or comics appearing here are owned and copyrighted by their respective creators/owners.
**** **** ****
Also based on characters and situations from the UY fanfic series The Senior Year, created by Mike Smith and Fred Herriot.
* * *
Tomobiki-cho, two days later...
"Oh, that boy! Where could he be...?"
A single woman walked down the street toward the main gate leading into the grounds of Tomobiki High School. Dressed in a flattering yet simple kimono and overcoat, she appeared to be in her early forties. As if she was a fighter pilot performing the ageless ritual of taking in all her surroundings, her dark eyes darted around, trying to ascertain if anyone was staring at her.
Then again, since she was the mother of the so-called "Cancer of Tomobiki," would you blame her?
Moroboshi Kinshou jolted on hearing that high-pitched cry before she spun around as a cute tyke on an air-scooter raced up to her. A flash of panic surged through her as her eyes again scanned her surroundings. Yes, she REALLY didn't want to be recognized as Ataru's mother in situations like this. Still, it was impossible to avoid some of the complications being Ataru's mother often forced on her. "Oh, Ten-chan," she hailed with an embarrassed chuckle. "What are you doing here? This is Parents' Day for Lum-chan, not you!"
"I know, I know," Ten assured her as he parked the scooter on the ground. He then drifted up to gaze into Kinshou's eyes. "I just came ta tell Lum-chan that a really, really, REALLY famous archaeologist is coming ta Earth today!!"
Kinshou blinked several times as she tried to interpret what the young Oni just said before her eyebrow arched. "An archaeologist?"
"Oh, my! You must be Moroboshi Ataru's mother!!"
Both jolted, and then they spun around as a slender woman appearing to be in her early fifties walked up. Dressed like Kinshou in a kimono with an overcoat since it was a blustery day, she looked like a very mature, silver-haired version of Tomoe Hotaru from Bishoojo Senshi Sailor Moon. Beside the newcomer was a teenage version of her, with dark brown hair and very expressive blue eyes, she dressed in the Tomobiki High winter seifuku. "I...!" Kinshou's voice stuttered to a stop as her mind tried to absorb the concept of this stranger greeting her so enthusiastically, especially when she had been identified right away as Ataru's mother. "Um...! Who...?"
"Oh, I'm sorry! I'm Seikou Manari." The newcomer waved to herself, and then to whom Kinshou and Ten both automatically assumed was her daughter. "This is my eldest daughter, Mie. She'll be attending school here this year. In your son's class, in fact."
Kinshou's mind was slowly slipping toward the deep valley marked Brain Crash. "I...! Oh, I see...!"
"You must be very proud of your son," Manari then declared.
Okay, make that quickly slipping toward said deep valley! "'PROUD?!!'" Kinshou cried out.
Confusion briefly flashed in Manari's eyes. "But of course! After all, standing up to that alien eco-terrorist like he did...!"
"'ECO-TERRORIST?!!'" Ten exclaimed.
The Seikous turned to gaze on the tiny Oni. "Oh, you must be Lum's cousin," Mie then spoke up, her voice icy.
"Yes, the misbehaving boy who should be back on his home planet with his parents," Manari added.
Ten jolted, his eyes wide with shock as the Seikous' words sank in. "Um...! Ah...!" he stuttered for a moment, and then he quickly collected himself. Time to put on the old charm. "You can call me 'Ten-chan,' Mie-oneechan..."
"I'll call you 'Jariten' since that is your real name and since it also fits you well," Mie cut him off.
Silence. Ten stared at Mie. No girl, NO GIRL ON EARTH, called him "Jariten." He knew what his proper given name meant in Japanese -- "Ten the brat" was one way of saying it -- so he went out of his way to ensure he was never addressed in that fashion by girls like Miyake Shinobu. The boys on Earth didn't count of course; if they annoyed him, he could blast him with his flame if he had to. But this...!
"Won't you call me 'Ten-chan'...?" he pleaded.
Mie turned her back on the Oni. "No."
"That's his name, you know," Kinshou asserted.
Mie gazed dispassionately at Ataru's mother. "Meaning no disrespect, Mrs. Moroboshi, but I'll call him 'Jariten.' Down where we come from, we've heard of all the trouble he's caused ever since he first came here. And if you so much as even THINK of causing me trouble..."
She turned on Ten, raising a warning finger. Realizing that THIS time, he wasn't going to get his way with this newcomer, Ten gulped. "Wh-what are you gonna d-do...?" he asked in a frightened stutter.
Mie shrugged. "Take your flame powers away." She turned her back once more on him. "And I can do it, too, Jariten. Remember that."
Ten stared at the newcomer in shocked disbelief, the look on his face matching the one on Kinshou's. "Mie-chan, dear, you will make sure that this boy won't be able to harm Ataru-kun, won't you?" Manari then asked.
"I'll take care of it, Mom," Mie assured her.
That vow was enough to prod Kinshou into action. "Wait a minute!! Who gives you the right to hurt Ten-chan just because he gets into fights with my idiot son all the time?!" she demanded, glaring at Mie. "It's not Ten-chan's fault that Ataru's such a moron...!"
"You would actually say that about your own son?"
Silence fell like a guillotine blade as Kinshou stared at Manari. The disapproving look on the older mother's face sent a lump firing up Kinshou's throat, her brain whirling about at hyperluminal speeds as she tried to make sense of what had just been said. A mother and daughter -- and both acted like they not only knew Ataru, but they liked him, too. That made no sense at all! What was going on here?!
Everyone turned as an ox-drawn cart lumbered through the front gates. Walking alongside it was a man who appeared to be in his fifties, dressed to the nines in a proper tuxedo. Also present were a quartet of the Mendou Clan's Kuromegane. Remembering the LAST time she had seen that, Kinshou's look darkened. Even though she later formed something of a rapport with Lum's mother when the Invaders and the Moroboshis came to an agreement concerning Lum's and Ataru's eventual marriage, Kinshou certainly hadn't forgotten what had happened in the wake of the last Parents' Day, when everyone in Tomobiki had met both Mrs. Invader and the matriarch of the Mendou Clan for the first time.
The cart comes to a halt several metres past the front gate. The attendant turned to open the drapes. "Madame, we have arrived."
"Who on Earth's that?" Manari asked.
"Oh, that's Mendou's mom," Ten explained. "She's weird."
"No, she is not weird," a new voice then spoke up from behind them. "Okaa-sama doesn't like traveling by more modern conveniences."
Manari and Mie turned to gaze on Mendou Shuutaro. "She doesn't?" the former asked.
"No, ma'am," the scion of Japan's richest family replied. "Her abhorrence of modern technology is most profound."
"She suffers from technophobia, then," Mie concluded.
Mendou considered that, and then he shook his head. "No, I don't believe it is that. Anyhow..." At this point, his trademark smile flashed across his face as he grasped the newcomer student's hand. "You must be Seikou Mie-san. I am Mendou Shuutaro, the representative for Class Three-Four on the student council. I saw your name on the student list for my class. May I welcome you to Tomobiki High School."
"Pleased to meet you," Mie replied with an icy smile. "And you have five seconds to get your hand off my butt."
Horrified gasps echoed through the crowd as eyes darted to Mie's backside, where, sure enough, one of Mendou's hands rested. Seeing that, Manari tensed, the heat of her outrage on seeing her daughter so visibly assaulted boiling from every point on her body. Spinning around, she marched over to the cart holding Mrs. Mendou. Seeing this woman approach his mistress, the attendant quickly leapt in Manari's path. "Now see here, commoner! You cannot approach the Mistress directly..." he automatically protested...
...before his voice was instantly cut off as what appeared to everyone else to be a calligraphy brush was wiped under his jaw, leaving behind a faint ink stain on his throat. Manari slipped the brush in her kimono sleeve as she glared at Mendou's mother. "Is THAT the way you've raised your son, young lady?!" the former growled, her Kyushu accent coming out in her voice. "Allowing him to get away with assaulting innocent girls just because you happen to be rich?! Let's see how your son likes facing a LAWSUIT for SEXUAL HARRASSMENT!!"
Thunder echoed in the distance as a panicked look crossed Mendou's face. "SHE WANTS TO SUE ME?!!"
Ten rolled over laughing as the scion of the Mendou fortune launched into a bout of hysterics. Kinshou was barely able to contain her own giggles at the sight. Mie shook her head before walking over to stand beside her mother. "Well, if Mrs. Snooty here doesn't want to do anything about Mr. Supersnob over yonder, Mom..." With that, she thumbed the screaming Mendou. "Why don't I give him a taste of..."
Dramatic pause. "A taste of what, dear?" Manari asked.
A cruel smile crossed Mie's face. "The Works!!!"
More thunder as a terrible laugh fluttered from Mie's lips. Mendou was instantly paralyzed with fear as Mie's cackle echoed in his ears. Seeing that, the hapless attendant leapt up, moving to shout down the newcomer for her dastardly plotting against the Young Master -- and the sheer audacity she showed in threatening the Young Master in the Mistress' presence! Unfortunately, nothing save air escaped him thanks to the enchanted magic ink plastered on his throat by Manari. The elder Seikou considered that for a moment before nodding. "Oh, alright, dear, go right ahead!" She made a dismissive wave with her hand. "No sense allowing such a pervert to run loose like that!"
Mie flashed a thumbs-up. "Okay, Mom!!"
* * *
"Is it possible...?"
"I can't believe it...!"
"There's a girl...?"
"That's immune to Mendou?!"
"THERE IS A GOD!!!"
The girls in Class 3-4 stared quizzically at the boys as they burst out in celebration...
* * *
"How can you possibly like my son?!"
Ignoring Mendou's ranting and raving as he ran in circles around his mother's ox cart, Manari and Mie turned to stare once more on Moroboshi Kinshou. The Seikous were quick to notice Ataru's mother quivering with what appeared to them to be a mixture of paranoid fear and righteous outrage. "Why?" Manari asked as she crossed her arms. "Don't you want your son to have friends?"
Kinshou exploded. "'Friends?!' FRIENDS?!!" she shrieked at the top of her lungs, causing everyone around her to take several fearful steps back. "That boy doesn't deserve friends!! He's an idiot!! He's a pervert!! He's lazy!! He's cursed everyone and everything he's touched!! And now he's run away from home!!" Dropping to her knees, she wailed at the heavens. "Oh, I wish I never...! Urk!!"
Actually, Kinshou was about to say "I wish I never had him" (as she normally did in situations like this), but the implanting of sandaled feet into the back of her head, thus sending Kinshou's face into the sand and dirt, changed things. Those feet were attached to an eight year-old girl with sandy brown hair tied into stubby ponytails with ribbons, and deep blue eyes. Dressed in a gold-and-white dress with a petticoat, she had a plain umbrella in hand, it open. "Hai, Hina's here!!" Hinako called out. She then blinked as her feet slipped off Kinshou's head and bounced off her shoulders, making the girl straddle the prostrate woman's neck. "A-ri-ri?" She looked down to stare at whom she landed on before stepping clear. "Oh! Hina's sorry...! A-ri-ri?!" she asked again as Kinshou's features became clearer to her. A scowl then turned her lips. "Oh, it's you!" Scorn dripped from her as she uttered that last word. "Hina's definitely not sorry!!"
Everyone blink-blinked as Hinako turned her back on Ataru's mother, the latter thickly covered in ice and dirt from the ugly look the former just gave her. "Mom, who's this?" Mie wondered as she stared on Manari, a hand waving towards the young girl.
"I'm not too sure...! HEY!!" Manari gasped as the four Kuromegane who had accompanied Mendou's mother surrounded her.
"RESTORE THE ATTENDANT'S VOICE, COMMONER!! NOW!!!" the bodyguards roared as one as they moved to force her toward the attendant, who was still flapping his gums in a failed attempt to upbraid Mie's mother for her appalling disrespect of Mrs. Mendou.
Hinako jolted on seeing four of those really, really, REALLY ugly creeps working for that dorkhead Mendou surrounding some poor lady. Raising her still-opened umbrella, she slipped through the small crowd of parents who had gathered around and close to Kinshou as she was shouting at Manari. Getting clear, she aimed the tip at the party from the Mendou mansion. "Hina'll save you!! Sic 'em, Kasa-tama!!!"
"Whoa!" Ten breathed out in awe.
Mutterings fluttered from the crowd as an unharmed Manari stepped clear from four piles of burnt flesh. Not only were the Kuromegane hit by the lightning-like attack from Mr. Umbrella; Mendou's mother, the now-speechless attendant and Mendou himself had been caught in the blast. Fortunately, the ox who had brought the matriarch of Japan's richest family to Tomobiki High School had survived unscathed, though the explosion of energy had spooked him. As his panicked moos echoed over the grounds, Hinako closed up Mr. Umbrella before walking over, reaching into her pocket to draw out some sweets. Opening one, she offered it to the ox. Sniffing the nice-smelling food, he stopped mooing before leaning down to take a nibble. "Hina's sorry!" the young girl apologized as she slipped Mr. Umbrella onto her arm to free her hand so she could pet the ox. "It's not Oushi-san's fault that Onii-tama's classmate and his family're a bunch of dorks!"
The ox mooed contently as he continued to nibble on Hinako's candy...
* * *
"Who the heck's that?!" Shitto "Paama" Koosuke demanded as the boys from Class 3-4 watched events from their homeroom.
"Some girl with a magic umbrella?" Aisuru "Megane" Satoshi mused, adjusting his glasses.
Daremo "Kakugari" Hiroyuki hummed. "What's she doin' he-...?"
"'GIRL WITH A MAGIC UMBRELLA?!!'"
Lum's Bodyguards were nearly blasted out the windows by Lum's and Shinobu's shouts. Before anyone could say anything, the two most powerful students in the class had left, racing as fast as they could for the front lawn.
"What the hairy heck was THAT all about?" Fujinami Ryuunosuke wondered...
* * *
"WHO DARES CALL THE MENDOU FAMILY 'DORKS?!!'"
Everyone cried out fearfully as Mendou bolted to his feet, katana in hand as he wildly looked around the front lawn. "Resilient bugger, isn't he?" Mie mused, crossing her arms after shifting herself closer to Hinako.
"He is that," Manari confirmed with a nod.
Mendou whipped around, leapt over his mother's shattered cart, and then he grasped Mie's hands. "Seikou-san, you must reject Moroboshi!!" he bellowed. "He's an idiot!! He's a freak of nature!! He's a monster that preys constantly on innocent girls like you...!!"
"Onii-tama's not like that!"
Silence. Mendou spun right to stare at Hinako. Then noting the sad look on the young girl's face, he quickly composed himself before reaching for her hands. "Miss, I don't understand why you...!"
"SHUUTARO, YOU LEAVE THAT GIRL ALONE!!!"
"MENDOU-SAN, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!!!"
After getting a nice dose of Lum's lightning, Mendou found himself buried under a handy boulder Shinobu just pitched on him. Blinking, Hinako stared quizzically at the dazed scion of Japan's richest family for a moment before looking up as the Oni dropped down in front of her. "Hinako-chan, are you alright?!" Lum asked as she did a quick visual inspection of the younger girl.
"Did that awful, mean boy hurt you, Hinako-chan?!" Shinobu added as she inspected Hinako from aft.
Hinako stared at Ataru's old girlfriend, and then at his current "wife," and then back again. "A-ri-ri...?"
* * *
"How the heck does Lum-chan know that girl?!" Urayamu "Chibi" Akira demanded.
"Much less Shinobu?" Kakugari added.
Megane straightened himself, the determination in his eyes flashing in his glasses. "Gentlemen, we have something to do!!"
The other Bodyguards tensed, and then they nodded. With that, they marched out of the room...
* * *
"How does Lum-chan and Shinobu-chan know about Hina? Hina doesn't understand!"
Lum and Shinobu tensed on hearing Hinako's question. Both then giggled. "Oh, it's nothing, really..." the former confessed.
"Nothing at all! Nothing at all!" the latter asserted, waving her hands in assurance.
Ten floated up to his cousin. "Lum-chan, you know this girl?!" he asked, pointing to Hinako.
"Of course I do, Ten-chan! This is Hinako, Darling's sister," Lum answered.
Still more silence.
That was everyone within hearing range, by the way.
This, in a place like Tomobiki, was quite a distance.
"Hai!" Lum replied with a proud nod. "Hinako-chan came by today to see Darling! After all, they've been separated for three whole years!! Oh, Hinako-chan, are the other sisters coming by today, too?!" she asked, staring quizzically at Hinako.
Hinako blinked several times before smiling. "Hai! They'll be here soon! Oh, Onii-tama and Onee-tama'll be here, too!!"
"Oh, that's wonderful!" Shinobu declared, clapping her hands delightedly.
Guess who spoke up again?
* * *
"Goshujin-sama, we've arrived over Japan."
Komeru opened his eyes, they immediately focusing on the forward viewscreen on his star-barque's pilotage. "Earth..." he whispered on seeing his homeworld for the first time in so long, and then he glanced at Hoshie. "Scan Tomobiki. Find out where everyone is."
"Already doing so, Goshujin-sama," Koi, the woman in charge of the ship's sensory suite, announced. "I've located Master Muchi, Mistress Kinshou, Mistress Lum and Young Master Ten. Save for Master Muchi, everyone I've indicated is at Tomobiki High School at this time. I can't seem to locate Master Ataru, though; he doesn't appear to be in Tomobiki at all. And..."
Komeru was quick to notice the scowl crossing the crimson-haired Cha'than's face. "What is it?"
"I've detected several curious bio-readings, Goshujin-sama," Koi announced before she stared at him to continue her report. "One is at Tomobiki High School now. Several others are approaching the school on what appears to be a horse-drawn carriage. All of them possess paternal DNA and RNA readings which match Master Muchi's DNA and RNA profile, yet the maternal patterns don't match Mistress Kinshou's."
The archaeologist blink-blinked several times as the meat of Koi's words sank in. He then sat up in his chair. "What the hell's going on down there, anyway?!" he demanded. "Get us in close to Tomobiki High School, Hoshie! Now!!"
"Hai!" the chief servant snapped...
* * *
"You must be so ashamed!"
Lum tensed on hearing that voice. She then began to shudder, lightning dancing over her body. "Megane..." she growled.
An exasperated sigh escaped Shinobu as she stared at the Bodyguards. "Don't you four idiots have something better to do than to crowd around Lum all the time?" Ataru's former girlfriend demanded, she crossing her arms.
Megane spun on Shinobu. "We're doing what we've long vowed to do!"
"And what's that?"
"Ensuring that whatever weirdness haunts Ataru doesn't endanger Lum-san's happiness, of course!" the Bodyguards' leader affirms.
Hinako stared at them. "Oh, so you guys think that it's okay for Lum-chan to be happy and Onii-tama to suffer, right?!"
"Of course!!" Megane, Paama, Chibi and Kakugari chanted as one.
Shinobu sighed. Lum rolled her eyes. Hinako snorted. "What a bunch of dorks!" she declared. "You're even worse than Mendou!"
"HEY!!!" the guards screamed.
"Hinako-oneechan, ignore them!" Ten declared as he floated up beside Hinako. "They can't help being stupid at times!"
"Don't worry, Ten-chan! Hina knows that!" Hinako asserted. She then blinked on hearing the clop-clop of horse hooves echo from the street beyond the front gates. "A-ri-ri?!" she asked as her eyes turned to the gate. "Ah! There're the others now!!"
Everyone turned to watch as a beautiful horse-drawn carriage pulled by two Andalusian steeds arrived. Gasps and awed whispers echoed from the growing crowd of parents and students as the carriage's driver, a raven-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian in her mid-twenties dressed in a maid's uniform and coat, expertly guided her vehicle around the burnt-out ox cart from the Mendou estate. The Bodyguards scrambled clear as the carriage came to a halt beside Hinako. As soon as the parking brake was applied, the driver stood up, stepping down to the ground. "Ah, Hinako-sama, there you are!" she declared, her Japanese echoed with a strong southern French accent. "Why did you fly off ahead of us?! Aria-sama and the others were worried about you!" she declared as she indicated the carriage's passengers, they moving to disembark.
Hinako looked contrite. "Hina wanted to fly here with Kasa-tama!" she explained, holding up her umbrella.
Giggles echoed from the other sisters. "It's alright, Hinako-chan," a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl in a white-and-pink dress -- Lum and Shinobu recognized her as Karen -- declared. "Mamoru-chan's coming here on Wipeout right now."
Hinako noted who had come with Karen. Aria, Shirayuki, Haruka, Yotsuba, Kaho and Marie. "Where're the others, Karen-chan?"
"Rinrin-chan's coming here with Mecha-Rinrin just in case that dorkhead Rei shows up trying to steal Shirayuki-chan's bentou for Ani-chama," Yotsuba reported. "Yotsuba doesn't know what Chikage-chan's doing, though. As for Sakuya-chan..."
"Sakuya-chan's going to make an entrance," the timid-voiced Marie reported.
"Like she normally does," Yotsuba confirmed.
The other sisters laughed before they perked on hearing someone call out, "Excuse me."
Everyone turned as the school's gardener/groundskeeper walked up. "Is there something the matter, sir?" the carriage's driver -- who was also Aria's personal maid, Jeanne-Marie Louise Guenevere Rochelles, Lum and Shinobu knew -- asked.
He sighed. "Look, miss, animals like this aren't allowed on school grounds."
He waved to the beautiful steeds tied to the carriage. Hearing that, Aria perked, a frown crossing her face. "Kusun..."
Everyone gurgled as that heart-wrenching sob thundered across the property. "Aria-sama!" Guenevere automatically snapped in an attempt to avert yet another crying fit from her charge. "The gentleman has every right to object to having animals on these grounds..."
No effect. "Kusun!"
"Aria-chan, stop that!" Karen pleaded. "Onii-chan'll be very upset if you caused trouble!"
"I agree, Karen-sama," Guenevere added. "Aria-sama, you don't wish to upset Niiya-sama, do you?!"
Aria jolted to a stop, her pretty eyes glittering with unshed tears as her mind wrapped around the possibility of her Nii-ya being angry at her. "Nii-ya...? Upset? At Aria...?" she whispered before spinning away from Guenevere. "Kusun!!"
She ducked behind Haruka. "Aria-sama!!" the exasperated maid from Lyon exclaimed.
Watching this, an arc of guilt raced up the gardener's back. "Um..." he stuttered before finding his voice. "L-look, it's not that I don't like animals, but they always make a mess when they're brought here! It's such a pain cleaning it up..."
"It's alright, sir," Karen assured him. She then hummed as she took a look around the school grounds. "My, it is pretty messy here."
"Be honest! It's a dump, Karen-chan," Yotsuba asserted.
"Given what's happened in this place since Lum-san first came here, that's not surprising," Haruka affirmed.
"Perhaps we should..."
Eyes focused on Marie. Noting the contemplative look on her face, the other sisters fell silent. Marie's slate-grey eyes then opened as she walked over to the carriage. Reaching into her purse to draw out what appeared to be a cell-phone -- it was actually a well-designed mini-computer with wireless Internet links and other interesting add-ons, Lum and Shinobu knew; Rinrin had built it for her sister -- Marie quickly linked up with the device's server. She then scanned several files before nodding. "Alright, then," she whispered as she slipped the PDA into her sweater pocket, reaching up to draw her round-frame spectacles away from her eyes so she could clean them.
Karen blinked. "Marie-chan?"
Replacing her glasses, Marie then walked up to the gardener. "Excuse me, um...!" She moved to read his cloth nametag. "Oh, Hamada-san. Would fifty million yen be enough for a total re-landscaping of the school grounds, including your work commission?"
"FIFTY MILLION YEN?!!" the shocked gardener exclaimed, his eyes nearly bulging from his skull.
"Hai," Marie answered. "Certainly with all the piecemeal work you've had to do here since Lum-san first came to Earth, you must've dreamt of the chance to do a proper re-landscaping of the whole property."
Mr. Hamada considered that for a moment before he nodded, a hand reaching up to scratch the side of his head. "Well, yeah..."
"Maybe along with the re-landscaping, we can put in a parking lot for the carriage when we visit Anigimi-sama," Haruka proposed.
"Not to mention a starship dock whenever UFOs come by this place," Yotsuba added.
"That might cost a lot more than fifty million, Yotsuba-chan," Karen warned. "And I really don't think the school authorities would really like the idea of putting a starship dock atop their school, much less anywhere else on the property."
"On the contrary, young lady. Perhaps it is time to do something like that," a voice then declared.
"Koochou-san!" Shinobu declared as the Principal of Tomobiki High walked up, he accompanied by his one true friend.
"Ah! It's Kotatsuneko-chan!!" Hinako declared.
Hearing his normal nickname called out, Kotatsuneko blinked confusedly before he jolted as camera flashes went off on all sides of him. "Big ghost-cat checky!!" Yotsuba chortled as she snapped off a roll of film in the proverbial blink of an eye.
The other sisters moved to gather around the Principal. "Koochou-sama, you really wouldn't mind?" Haruka wondered.
"Of course not, my dear!" the balding school administrator replied. "I just received a call from your guardian concerning Moroboshi-kun's legal status vis-à-vis his parents. A most interesting person, Negako-san is. Kota-chan here was quite taken aback by her..."
* * *
Nearby, a slowly recovering Moroboshi Kinshou jolted on hearing one ominous phrase in the Principal's words:
"...call from your guardian concerning Moroboshi-kun's legal status vis-à-vis his parents..."
"...a most interesting person, Negako-san is..."
"N-n-no..." she hoarsely whispered as she tried to shake off the throbbing pain in the back of her head...
* * *
"Um, Koochou-san, does that mean that Onii-chan will have to transfer out of the school?" Karen asked.
Given the shocking events of the last fifteen minutes or so, the spoken possibility of Moroboshi Ataru leaving Tomobiki High School once and for all time didn't prompt the students around the sisters from launching an immediate celebration. "Not at all, my dear," the Principal calmly assured her. "I'm quite aware of where your brother currently lives and how he would intend on coming to school every day. Your guardian was quite explicit on that matter. As far as I'm concerned, Moroboshi-kun can continue to attend Tomobiki High School for his final year. If he feels he must depart, of course, I'll happily allow him to leave at mid-year." He then adjusted his glasses as he gave the sisters a reassuring smile. "Of course, given how long you were all separated from Moroboshi-kun, it would only be simple humanity to allow you girls to spend your planned 'big brother days' here at Tomobiki High attending classes with him."
"Really?!!" Karen cried out.
"We can come here to be with Onii-chama?!" Kaho gasped.
The Principal nodded. "YAY!!!!" the sisters screamed out as one.
"Wait a minute!" Yotsuba cut in, her words silencing her siblings as eyes turned on her. "If we're gonna pay Hamada-san to get the place fixed up here, who's gonna pay for the starship dock?!"
"Can we spare any more cash?" Karen asked.
"No, fifty million would take a considerable bite out of our petty cash account for the next couple of months," Marie confessed before she glanced at Lum. "Perhaps Lum-san could prevail on someone she knows to install a starship dock at the school."
"Me?!" Lum exclaimed, pointing at herself.
"It would help," Mr. Hamada confessed.
"Actually, if you'll permit me, Lum-san..."
Everyone glances at the just-recovered scion of Japan's richest family. "Shuutaro?" Lum gasped.
"Please, Lum-san, I insist," Mendou assured her with his trademark grin before pointing up. "After all, your parents come here every time there's a Parents' Day or some other occasion. And your friends also come here with their ships, don't they?"
The Oni considered that for a moment before she nodded. "That's true..."
Karen stared at Kaho. "What is it, Kaho-chan?"
The young cheerleader pointed high in the sky toward the northeast. "Kaho doesn't think that's Mrs. Invader's ship."
Everyone's eyes snapped around to look. Descending from the heavens was a fifty-metre long craft sporting two single solar-sail masts. Shaped distantly like a barque from several centuries ago, it is tipped at the bow by an elongated dragon figurehead. Painted on the sails is the symbol of a curled Earth tiger, its jaw grasping a drawn katana, that over an exploding flower of stars. Lum's eyes widened in fear on recognizing the make of the oncoming ship before her face morphed into confusion on seeing the Terran symbols on the sails.
"Lum-chan, that's a Noukiite ship, isn't it?" Ten fearfully asked as he floated closer to his cousin's shoulder.
"Yes, it is, but I don't think a Noukiite owns that ship," Lum replied.
"Who are the Noukiites?" Shinobu asked.
"Long story," the Oni replied.
Sensing that the craft was moving to land on the front walkway of the school, parents and students backed clear. As retrothrusters fired just as the keel passed the tip of the clock tower, the sails furled into their masts and spars as stocky landing legs deployed. Guenevere moved to calm her carriage's horses as the new arrival made landfall, its stylish prow looming high over Mrs. Mendou's wrecked ox cart. As the retrothrusters fell silent, Mr. Hamada could only shake his head, mentally estimating how much the total damage would be this time when it came to repairing the lawn. "Man, we definitely need that starship dock in this place," he muttered under his breath.
"Who are these guys, anyway?!" Megane demanded.
Eyes locked on Lum. "I don't know!" the Oni affirmed with a shake of her head.
A side door on the barque opened. Before anyone could say anything, a set of stairs extended to the ground from the opened hatchway. A red carpet rolled out, executing a perfect ninety-degree turn to the right to extend toward the sisters' parked carriage. Another sharp turn to starboard ended the carpet under the keel, not far from where Kinshou was kneeling, she still trying to shake off the after-effects of Hinako's feet smacking the back of her head. As soon as the carpet stopped its rollout, a teleport beam sent in a tall, statuesque woman possessing elf-like tapered ears, feline gold eyes and hip-length raven hair. She appeared dressed in an alien version of a French maid uniform. The sight of her sent the hearts and libidos of every boy in visual range into overdrive. "Disgusting!" Guenevere exclaimed on seeing how scandalously clad the newcomer was, and then she shifted over to slip a hand over Aria's eyes. "Don't look at that, Aria-sama!"
"Jii-ya, did someone come in?" Aria asked.
"Who's the sexy babe?!!" Megane exclaimed, hearts in his eyes as he took in all her features.
"Hey, check that out!!" Paama declared, pointing.
Eyes snapped around as two files of scantily-clad alien flesh smartly marched out of the ship, forming lines of review on the edges of the carpet, each a metre from the next. The boys -- even the Principal, Mr. Hamada, Mrs. Mendou's attendant and the Kuromegane who had come with the matriarch of Japan's richest family! -- drooled unashamedly as the last of the maids fell into place. The girls fluttered between awe and jealously. "Who...?! Who ARE these visions of loveliness?!" Mendou hoarsely wondered for all the men present.
Footsteps. People watched as a heavily-cloaked figure, clearly humanoid and male, stepped down from the ship. The maids bowed deeply as the newcomer marched down the red carpet toward where the first maid stood. Before getting there, he was stopped in his tracks by Mrs. Mendou's still-silenced attendant, his jaws flapping wildly and unsuccessfully as he tried to upbraid the impudent alien commoner for landing his ship so close to the Mistress without paying her the proper respect. The newcomer stared at the gyrating attendant for a moment before snapping his fingers. One of the maids in the review lines stepped out behind the attendant and delivered a sharp blow to the back of the poor man's neck. He gasped, nearly driven face-first into the carpet. He then coughed several times before muttering, "That hurt..."
A shocked gasp escaped him then on realizing what just happened. "Is that better?" the newcomer asked.
The attendant straightened himself, and then he gave the other man a grateful bow. "Thank you, sir." His face then twisted into a mask of righteous fury. "Now, how DARE you park your ship here and not pay the Mistress the proper respect, you disrespectful alien...?!"
"Mistress?!!" the attendant cried out after spinning around to see that it had been Mrs. Mendou herself -- she then supported on an open-air palanquin by the just-recovered Kuromegane -- who had just struck him.
The newcomer looked up before a smile curled on a face partially framed by a moustache and sideburns. "Haruka-chan!" he called out before stepping up to grasp her hand. "You're as stunning as ever!! What on Earth brings you here today?!"
A fan snapped open as Mendou Haruka shielded her face to hide her embarrassment as the newcomer bestowed her with a courtly kiss on her knuckles. Staring at this unbelievable scene, the attendant tries to say something, anything, in an attempt to take control of the situation. The first of the alien maids stepped up to whisper something in his ear. The attendant froze in place for a moment, and then he immediately recovered, giving the newcomer a repentant bow. "Master Komeru, I profusely apologize for not recognizing you at once!!"
Komeru stared at him. "Don't apologize for doing your job, friend!" he affirmed.
The attendant stopped, blinking in surprise at that response. He then bowed again. "Thank you, sir."
"Okaa-sama, you know this person?!" Mendou Shuutaro demanded as he walked up to his mother's side.
Mrs. Mendou leaned down to whisper something into her son's ear. Mendou blinked as that information sank in. His eyes then bulged out of his head as he cried out, "THE OWNER OF TORANOSEISHIN FINANCES?!!" Immediately, he gave Komeru a deep bow. "Sir, it is an honour to meet you at last!! I am Mendou Shuutaro, son of Mendou Hajime and heir to the Mendou Conglomerate...!"
"Relax, son! I recognized you right off the bat!!" Komeru affirmed with an amused chuckle...
* * *
"Who is this man?!" Lum asked from nearby.
Ten jolted before slapping the side of his head. "Oh, I forgot!" he cried out before turning to Lum. "Lum-chan, I heard on INN that the famed archaeologist Komeru was coming to Earth to visit today!! That's gotta be his ship!"
He pointed to the landed Noukiite star-barque. "Komeru...?" Lum whispered as she tried to recall the name. She then gasped as it hit her. "Tcha!! You mean the man who discovered all the dark secrets of the Terrible Swamps on Uru?! That Komeru, Ten-chan?!"
Ten nodded. "Hai!"
"Hey, hey!! Hold the phone here!!" Megane cut in. As everyone stared at him, he pointed at the man currently chatting with Mendou and his mother. "If this guy's some alien archaeologist, how the HELL can he also be the owner of one of Japan's biggest banks?!"
Lum and Ten jolted on hearing that question. They then exchanged a confused look. "How, how can he be that?!" the latter asked.
"Oji-chan is a man of many talents."
Eyes locked on Karen.
"What did you just say?" Shinobu wondered, her eyes widening in shock.
"That's our uncle, Miyake-san," Karen declared, a knowing smile crossing her face. "Moroboshi Komeru. Owner and primary shareholder of the Inshin Group of companies, including Toranoseishin Finances. Not to mention galaxy-spanning archaeologist on his spare time."
"Which actually takes up almost all his time," Marie added.
After hearing that, the people close to the sisters looked as if they were overdosing on shock...
* * *
"Goshujin-sama, we have found Mistress Kinshou."
Komeru jolted on hearing Hoshie's words before turning to see two of his maids come up, they supporting a still dazed Moroboshi Kinshou. Seeing the ice, dirt and the nice lump on the back of her head, the archaeologist blinked several times before sighing. "Alright, Kin-chan, who on Earth did you piss off now?!" he demanded as he pulled off his hood to squeeze a pulsing vein on his forehead.
Seeing Kinshou's brother-in-law for the first time, almost everyone on the grounds cried out in shock on seeing the incredible physical similarity between Tomobiki's most infamous resident and his uncle. "Moroboshi...?" Mendou hoarsely gasped. As his hand snapped for his katana, he got a nice bop on the head thanks to his mother. "Okaa-sama!!" he exclaimed, staring wide-eyed at Mrs. Mendou.
"May I, Madame?" the attendant asked, instantly appearing at his mistress' side.
The Mendou matriarch whispered into his ear. "Young Master!" the attendant then bellowed. "Your honoured mother says, 'How dare you think of striking out at the man who founded the company that graciously loans the Conglomerate the funds necessary to maintain our private security forces, intelligence forces and Young Mistress Ryooko's retainers?! Treat Master Komeru with the respect he deserves!'" Another whisper in the ear before he added, "'Besides, you behave no differently than Master Komeru's nephew, so you have no reason to complain!!'"
"HEY!!!" Mendou screamed.
Snickers and giggles echoed from many people around them, including the Bodyguards, the Seikous and Ataru's sisters. Before anyone else could say anything, a wild scream of hair-raising delight echoed from above. "What the heck...?!" Komeru began as he looked up before he cried out in shock on seeing what appeared to be some young kid skydiving right for his face. "LOOK OUT!!!!" he screamed...
...before he sensed something racing at his face from the direction of the front gate. He ducked just as a white-and-gold blur zipped overhead, smacking Kinshou right in the face before soaring up. "It's Wipeout!!!" the sisters, Lum and Shinobu cried out together.
"Ah!! There's Mamoru-chan!!" Hinako added, pointing.
Wipeout, a white-and-gold snowboard which had been enchanted with flight powers and limited intelligence by Chikage before being given to Mamoru as a birthday present a year ago, raced up as its mistress plummeted toward the front lawn of the school. Turning around, it shot down like a cannonball to slip in under the young track star's belly, thus giving Mamoru the chance to grab it. Once contact was made, Wipeout began to break, slowing its mistress' descent so that she could come out of her dive at Komeru's neck level, finally coming to a stop in front of the other sisters. "Ya-ho, Anii!!" she automatically called out before looking around. "Ara?! Hey, where's Anii?!"
After seeing THAT, the crowd around them broke out into applause. Even Mrs. Mendou was suitably impressed, she whispering to her attendant to shout out, "Bravo!! Bravo!!" "Onii-chan hasn't come by yet, Mamoru-chan!" Karen replied over the cheers and whistles.
"Ah, bummer!" Mamoru spat out as she twirled around to sit on Wipeout's surface.
"Um, excuse me..."
"Oh, Oji-chan!" Karen called out as Komeru approached, the other sisters also greeting him with waves and smiles.
The archaeologist peered at the gathering of nine young women beside the carriage for a moment, and then he breathed out. "Hoshie," he called to his chief bodyguard, snapping his fingers. "Tricorder, please."
Hoshie walked up, drawing out a device the size of an iPod from her more-than-generous cleavage. "I see Lum-san's not the only one who likes storing things there," Megane whispered to the other Bodyguards as Hoshie handed the tricorder to her master.
Paama, Chibi and Kakugari snickered. Komeru tapped the device's scan function button before he passed it over the sisters. Calling up DNA/RNA comparison function, he checked the readouts for all of the girls. Humming, he handed the device back to Hoshie. "All of you are my brother's children?" he then asked the sisters.
"Hai," Karen answered.
"Yet none of you are related to my sister-in-law," he then noted.
"That is true, Oji-sama," Haruka calmly confirmed.
Komeru took that in, ignoring the whispers from some of the parents and students who had overheard his questions and the sisters' answers. Finally, he then said, "I assume Kaa-chan formally adopted all of you into the family."
"Hai, Obaa-chan did!" Kaho replied.
"I see," Komeru acknowledged that with a sage nod. "Is this all of you, by any chance?"
"Not all of us, Oji-sama," Marie answered. "Three more are coming."
Komeru quickly did a head count. "Twelve girls?!" he mused aloud before breathing out, "Oh, geez, Kaa-chan...!"
A polite cough. "Please excuse the Mistress, Master Komeru," Mrs. Mendou's attendant spoke up. Turning around, Komeru noted that the Mendou Clan matriarch had been brought closer to him by her Kuromegane retainers. "The Mistress wishes to know which one of these lovely nieces of yours is your clan's present Matriarch-in-Waiting, so the Mistress may greet her properly..."
Komeru chuckled. "I'm trying to figure that one out myself, Haruka! Could you please give me a moment...?!"
"Of course, Master Komeru," the attendant replied with a bow after receiving the words straight from Mrs. Mendou's lips.
"Sakuya-chan's the Matriarch-in-Waiting, Oji-chan," Karen reported. "She hasn't come in yet."
A car is heard. "That might be her now," Yotsuba declared as she drew out her handy spy-glass to take a look at the front gate.
Sure enough, a beautiful limousine came to a stop by the front gate. The driver, a smartly-dressed woman in a tuxedo, stepped out, and then she trotted around the front to open the back door, she respectfully bowing to the passengers as they disembarked. First out was a tall, raven-haired man with reading glasses over brown eyes, his features a mix of Occidental and Oriental indicative of part-American ancestry. As befitting one of the most powerful senior bankers in Japan (despite he being only in his late twenties), Yumoa Reigi was dressed in a stylish three-piece suit straight from London's Saville Row. Behind him, Lum and Shinobu quickly recognized, was Sakuya, she dressed in a white-and-blue blouse and thigh-high skirt which showed off a generous amount of leg. The boys whistled in awe as the woman with the caramel hair tied into twin knee-length ponytails from the base of her skull and royal blue eyes (a shade she shared with Hinako and Aria) walked up to join her sisters. "Sakuya-chan, where's Onii-tama?" Hinako asked on seeing the upset look on the elder sister's face.
Sakuya's only reply was an annoyed snort and crossed arms. "Uh-oh," Marie warned with a knowing smile. "Something tells me that Chikage-chan got to Aniue-sama first before Sakuya-chan could've used him to make her grand entrance."
The other sisters were barely able to contain their giggles on hearing that. The look on Sakuya's face became even more vile. "It's alright, Sakuya-chan! It's alright!" Reigi assured her, waving his hands in a gesture of assurance. "I'm sure when it comes time for your own Onii-sama no Hi, you'll be able to do whatever you wish with Ataru-kun! Have all the fun in the world...! Urk!!"
The venomous stare Sakuya sent Reigi quickly silenced him -- not to mention putting him in a block of dirty ice. "Oh, my! Young Mistress Sakuya seems in a most put-off mood this morning!" Mrs. Mendou's attendant muttered.
Sakuya swirled her head away from Reigi, and then she stopped on seeing Kinshou, Ataru's mother having pretty much recovered from her rude introduction to Hinako's feet. A churlish smile crossed the elder sister's face as she held out her hand. "Guenevere-san!"
Aria's maid tensed. "Must you do that in front of Aria-sama, Sakuya-sama?"
"It's Onii-sama's stupid mother," Sakuya asserted.
Guenevere noted that, and then she nodded. "Oh, of course!"
A very large mallet marked Ultimate Baka Basher was handed over.
Once more, Kinshou was sent into la-la land, express post.
Sakuya breathed out, she handing the Baka Basher back to Guenevere. "Thanks! That made me feel a lot better!!"
"I didn't realize that you girls hated Ataru-kun's mother so much," Shinobu observed to Karen.
"After what she did to Onii-chan three years ago, Shinobu-san, do you blame us?" Karen asked.
"Did what?" Komeru demanded.
A fully-recovered Reigi appears behind him. "Scorecard, sir," he declared, handing Komeru a clip-board full of notes.
Komeru quickly scanned the information there. He then gasped, his whole body going white as one particular detail came to him. "Oji-chan, are you okay?" Hinako asked as she came up to tug the archaeologist's shirt sleeve.
Quickly recovering, Komeru cleared his throat, and then he spun on Reigi. "WAS ATARU TOTALLY OUT OF HIS MIND?!!"
"Would you have preferred it to remain inside Ataru-kun's head, sir?" the young banker calmly asked.
Komeru stopped. After considering it for a moment, he breathed out, "Yes, that's true, isn't it?"
"What're you all talking about?!" Megane demanded.
"Too complicated to explain to you idiots," Sakuya replied.
The Bodyguards' leader exploded. "HEY!!! Whattayamean, it's 'too complicated?!!'"
"Why should I say anything to a jerk like you?" Sakuya icily asked.
Megane stammered at the cold look he just got from the elder of Ataru's sisters. "Megane, mind your own business for once!" Lum added. "Sakuya-chan's got more important things on her mind than to placate a nosy busy-body like you!!"
Megane looked horror-stricken, stunned by Lum's sharp rebuke. "Lum-san..."
Sakuya blinked before she gave the Oni a curious stare. "Hey, wait a minute! How is it you know about us in the first place?!"
"Something tells me Chikage-chan's in the middle of this, Sakuya-chan," Marie answered. "She must've constructed some sort of learning spell to indoctrinate both Lum-san and Shinobu-san about us all before we met them."
"Hai, Chikage-chan did do that," Shirayuki confirmed.
Everyone stared at the chef. "How'd you know that, Shirayuki-san?" Shinobu asked.
"Because Chikage-chan worked through the dimension your friend Inaba-san works in, Shinobu-san," the young chef explained. "Chikage-chan asked Hime to make some bentous for Inaba-san and his friends." She then hummed as something came to her. "Hime still doesn't understand why it is that Inaba-san and his friends like seafood so much when they dress up as rabbits."
"One of life's great mysteries, I suppose," Haruka mused after contemplating that for a moment...
* * *
"Why's this girl calling herself 'Princess' all the time?" Megane asked.
"It's her name, dummy," Ten replied.
"Oh, 'white snow!' I get it!" Paama confirmed with an embarrassed chuckle, and then he gaped. "WHAT'S THAT?!?!"
Everyone spun around as a giant shadow seemed to blot out the sun from the direction of the main gate. Said shadow, everyone then realized, was created by a semi-humanoid, three metre-tall robot which had wheeled itself onto the property thanks to in-line rollerblades fitted onto its square feet. Perched on its left shoulder was its pretty creator, she dressed in her normal green cheongsam, welding goggles perched on her forehead. Staring at the curious couple, the crowd was quick to see the remarkable similarity the latter possessed toward the former, especially in the paint job around the head. "Ah, it's Rinrin-chan and Mecha-Rinrin!" Lum declared.
"Hi, everyone!" Rinrin hailed with a wave of her hand as she slid off her creation's shoulder. She then stopped on seeing Mendou Shuutaro. "Oh, Shuutaro-san, ohayou!" she greeted him with a light smile and quickly reddening cheeks.
"Ah, R-r-Rinrin-san, ohayou gozaimasu!" Mendou replied with a nervous stammer.
The other sisters were quick to notice the embarrassment appearing on Rinrin's and Mendou's faces. "Oh?! Rinrin-chan, what's going on here, anyway?!" Sakuya coyly mused as she walked up to lean over the teen inventor's shoulder, her hand reaching over to give Rinrin's other shoulder a squeeze. "Confess, girl! Or do I ask Onii-sama to get it out of you?!"
Rinrin chuckled nervously. "There is no need for that, Sakuya-san," Mendou replied. "Rinrin-san was the one who constructed the robot I attempted to use to disable Lum-san's memory erasing machine during the Second Tag Race. Though at the time, I knew her as 'Hatoyama Rinrin,' not 'Moroboshi Rinrin.' I suspect that 'Hatoyama Rinrin' was the name you had before your brother's clan adopted you, Rinrin-san."
"Hai," Rinrin drawled before she gave Mendou an annoyed stare. "If you only waited a day or two, Shuutaro-san, I could've got hold of some carbonized neutronium armour and a special ECM jammer from Zephyrus that would've given it a real chance to put that thing down."
"Eh?!!" Ten cried out. "'ZEPHYRUS?!?!' Hey, how d'you know those people, anyway?!!"
A rumble began to shake the school. Everyone look wildly around before Seikou Mie screamed out, "What's with Ataru-kun's mom?!!"
Eyes immediately locked on Moroboshi Kinshou. Then people, taken aback right away by the fact that Ataru's mother had recovered so quickly from Sakuya's mallet strike, began to nervously step back on seeing the cauldron of total, mindless, out-of-control fury exploding from every square centimetre of her body. Shuddering violently, she moved to scream to the heavens...
...then gasped as the tip of a calligraphy brush tapped her forehead, knocking her out in the blink of an eye. As Kinshou collapsed to the ground, a loud snore escaping her lips, Seikou Manari slipped her brush back in her kimono sleeve. "This woman's psychotic!!" Mie's mother declared before staring at Komeru. "What type of person did your brother marry anyway, Komeru-san?!" She waved to the unconscious Kinshou as several of Komeru's maids moved to examine her. "Do you really want to have your nephew raised by such a woman?!"
Komeru shook his head. "This is not the Kinshou I remember!"
"It is far worse than that, Master Komeru," Mrs. Mendou's attendant then reported.
The archaeologist turned to look at Mendou's mother. "Oh? What do you mean, Haruka?"
She leaned down to whisper into Komeru's ear. The latter blinked as the message sank in before he cried out, "SHE DID WHAT?!!"
"Not just to Shuutaro-san's mother, Oji-san," Rinrin then spoke up. "She did it to Lum's mom, too!!"
"WHAT?!?!" Komeru bellowed before spinning on Lum. "Is this true?!"
The Oni was taken aback by the rage Komeru projected concerning Kinshou's actions a year ago. "I...! Ah...! Uh, h-hai!!"
Another vein began to pulse on Komeru's forehead. "For Buddha's sake!! You mean to tell me that she turns around and practically destroys the house I helped pay for all because she wanted to embezzle money from Haruka and Mrs. Invader?!!"
* * *
"So that explains how Ataru's house gets repaired so quickly!" Megane mused from nearby.
The other Bodyguards nodded. "It's alright, Oji-chan!!" Lum quickly moved to calm Komeru down. "Mom doesn't mind it now!"
"But I do, Lum-chan!" he cut her off with an objecting finger. "Be assured, young lady, I do happen to approve of your desire to marry my nephew! But there's no way in Hell that I'm going to stand by and watch your family pay the price for this type of greed, especially when it's coming from none other than my own sister-in-law!! Hoshie!" He snapped his fingers.
"Goshujin-sama?" the chief maid replied with a bow.
"Take Kin-chan aboard and have the nurses look her over! Full physical and psychological examination!"
Kinshou was carted off by two of the maids. Ignoring the whispers from some of the other mothers and students surrounding them, Komeru exhaled slowly before reaching up to rub his forehead. "Damn, I've been gone too long," he muttered under his breath before gazing once more on the sisters. "So where is Ataru anyway? Not to mention this other sister you supposedly have? When will they...?"
Suddenly, the sounds of bongo drums and other traditional African instruments echoed through the air as eyes turned once more to the front gate. Before people could interpret what was about to come to the school, a flash of blinding light exploded from a point between the gates. Everyone cried out in shock as hands snapped up to shield their eyes from the intensive glare. Then, as it swiftly faded, they turned to look again before a chorus of awed gasps and muttered whispers echoed from the ground. Standing at the gate was none other than Moroboshi Ataru, he clothed in his normal school uniform. Chikage was with him, dressed in her private academy's black-and-grey dress uniform and cape. Her arm was hooked around his. Behind the two was a third woman, though she remained somewhat obscure from the onlookers.
"Is that...?" Komeru began.
"Ah!! It's Onii-tama, Onee-tama and Chikage-chan!" Hinako declared.
In the blink of an eye, Ataru was instantly swarmed by his younger siblings, they giving him a storm of warm hugs and kisses. Seeing the content smile break across his face on being once more in the company of his whole family, Lum could only grin herself. Knowing how much the sisters loved their big brother, faults and all, witnessing this happy reunion could only be a good omen when it came to her own future plans vis-à-vis her beloved Darling. Unfortunately, given Ataru's many indiscretions in the past concerning other women, certain others in the crowd reacted in a far different way. "ATARU!!!" Megane screamed out. "HOW DARE YOU FLIRT WITH THESE WOMEN IN FRONT OF LUM-SAN...?!!"
"L-l-Lum-s-s-san..." a crispy-fried Megane moaned as he and the Bodyguards collapsed to the ground after receiving a hefty dose of Lum's lighting, her actions quickly dampening any further attempts by anyone else to upbraid Ataru for his show of "disloyalty."
"I see that your plan to win Lum to your side worked well, Chikage," a toneless yet still female voice said from behind Ataru.
"As expected, Ane-kun," Chikage replied.
The Principal then walked up, he accompanied by Kotatsuneko. "Welcome to Tomobiki High School, Negako-san," the former hailed as he gave the strange woman behind Ataru a graceful bow. "I trust your trip to Africa was fruitful."
"The matter was resolved," that same toneless voice replied as people strained to get a look at the woman known to authorities in Japan as Moroboshi Negako, legal guardian to Moroboshi Ataru and his twelve half-sisters native to Oomure-jima. "There are things that must be done first between Ataru and other people before I will speak to you."
The Principal bowed again. "Of course, Negako-san..."
* * *
Staring at his rival, Mendou Shuutaro was quick to notice several changes. Gone was the dopey, idiotic look that normally adorned Moroboshi Ataru's face, to say anything of the shifty look in his eyes which normally heralded the potential start of yet another "girl hunt." In their place was a look of serene contentment, as if Ataru had finally obtained something he had spent so long looking for.
Even more so, the uniform Ataru wore was composed of more refined cloth than what was normally worn by everyone else. Had his sisters gone out and used some of their uncle's considerable fortune to see their brother better clothed? What had happened to Ataru over the last six weeks, anyway? Even more so, what would all these changes spell for Lum-san's potential happiness?
Much less everyone else in Tomobiki?
* * *
"Onii-chan, look!" Karen declared, pointing at Komeru. "Oji-chan's come back to visit!"
"I'll deal with him in a moment, Karen-chan," Ataru assured her. "Chikage-chan, I need a little privacy with Lum."
The young sorceress nodded. "Hai."
Before anyone could react, Chikage drew out from hammerspace a white cape possessing two stylish red Gothic crosses where the cape would drape over its owner's shoulders. Waving it around Ataru once, Chikage made him disappear in the blink of an eye. Everyone gasped on seeing that awesome bout of magic, and then they jolted on hearing Ten cry out, "Hey!!! Where'd Lum-chan go?!!"
Screams of outrage (from most of the boys) erupted from the onlookers as they quickly noted that Lum had indeed vanished. Instantly, the Bodyguards surged to their feet to face Chikage down. "BRING LUM-SAN BACK, YOU WITCH!!! NOW!!!!" Megane screamed for them all.
"What -- did -- you -- say?!" Megane growled, the heat of his outrage at Chikage's defiance boiling from every point on his body.
Chikage didn't react. "Are you threatening me?" she frostily inquired, her eyes narrowing dangerously.
Seeing that look cross the sorceress' face, Paama, Chibi and Kakugari began to tremble, their outraged looks melting into confusion and fear as it dawned on them that trying to force Chikage to bend to their will would see them hurt much more than her. Blinded by his fury at this purple-haired tart's act of petty defiance, Megane doesn't note Chikage's glare. Before it could come to blows, however...
The Bodyguards' leader gulped fearfully on hearing that furious voice. He then screamed out as fingers reached up to grasp his earlobe, they twisting the flesh and cartilage around to make him nearly collapse to the ground. The person bringing him to heel was a woman in her mid-forties, about Moroboshi Kinshou's age, she dressed like most of the other mothers having come to attend Parents' Day in a kimono and overcoat. Like Megane, she possessed a pair of spectacles. That, along with other similarities, made the onlookers realize that this was Megane's own mother, Aisuru Rui. "WHO GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO THREATEN THIS GIRL, YOUNG MAN?!!" Rui bellowed into her son's ear, causing his whole face to distort painfully. "YOUR FATHER MUST BE TURNING OVER IN HIS GRAVE RIGHT NOW!!! HOW DARE YOU KEEP THREATENING PEOPLE, ALL TO SUPPOSEDLY MAKE THAT ONI BRAT YOU CARE FOR SO MUCH HAPPY?!! YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE THIS LUM-ITIS OF YOURS EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU!!!"
While most teenage boys would have wilted under such a public dressing-down, Aisuru Satoshi wasn't like most teenage boys. "HOW DARE YOU CALL LUM-SAN A DISEASE, MOM?!!" he screamed right back at her. "DON'T YOU REALIZE WHAT SHE'S DONE FOR ALL OF US?!!"
"WHAT SHE'S DONE FOR YOU?!!" Rui retorted. "OH, YES, I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT SHE'S DONE FOR YOU!!! SHE'S TURNED YOU INTO A BULLYING MONSTER!!! A MONSTER THAT WON'T SETTLE DOWN, FIND A NICE, NORMAL GIRL TO DATE AND MARRY, THEN GO LEAD A NICE, NORMAL LIFE!!! THAT'S WHAT THAT CREATURE'S DONE FOR YOU!!! AND I AM NOT, NOT, NOTGOING TO STAND BY AND SEE YOU RUIN YOUR LIFE BECAUSE OF LUM ANYMORE!!!"
"Then perhaps I can offer a solution for you, Mrs. Aisuru."
Rui spun on Sakuya. "What do you mean?!" she demanded, her grip on her son's earlobe intensifying enough to drive him to the ground.
"Well, much that one could possibly try to admire your son's so-called 'devotion' to Lum -- though my sisters and I certainly don't count ourselves amongst them -- it's pretty obvious to anyone with eyes that Lum doesn't really care for him," Sakuya explained.
"I know that part, young lady," Rui snapped back, she glancing down briefly at her son. "It's the reason I've been trying to stop this idiot son of mine from making a total jackass of himself when it comes to that alien brat!"
Sakuya looked sympathetic. "You haven't really got anywhere with that, have you?"
Rui's shoulders deflated. "Unfortunately not."
"Well, then, we can help you," Sakuya declared. "It turns out that one of my duties as Matriarch-in-Waiting to my clan is to vet out all potential outside suitors to anyone of my generation or the next generation inside the clan."
Megane's mother considered that for a moment. She then blinked as the hidden message in Sakuya's speech finally hit her. "You mean to say that there's someone in your family who's actually interested in dating my son?" she gasped, hope bursting deep in her eyes.
"Hai!" Sakuya confirmed that with a nod. "As a matter of fact, it turns out that your son has actually seen this girl! And this girl happens to be waiting for the chance to help you...! Ah, cure Satoshi-kun here of his Lum-itis!"
"REALLY?!!" Rui cried out. Then, as fireworks exploded behind her, she tossed her son aside as a fan appeared in her other hand. "HURRAY!!! MY SON'S FREE OF THAT ALIEN MONSTER ONCE AND FOR ALL!!! OH, HAPPY DAY!!! HE'S CURED!!! HE'S CURED!!! HE'S CURED!!!"
"LUM-SAN IS NOT A DISEASE!!!!" Megane's voice thundered over the grounds as he loomed over his mother like the Scornful Buddha.
Before Rui could scream at her son anew, a finger tapped the back of Megane's neck. He gasped in shock as unconsciousness overwhelmed him before he dropped to the ground. Standing over him was Moroboshi Negako, a distant look on her face as she lowered her hand. "That should keep him silent for the remainder of this incident," she flatly announced. "His shouting was hurting Hinako and Aria."
Eyes spun on the youngest of Ataru's sisters, both of whom were being comforted by Shinobu and Guenevere. Seeing Hinako's and Aria's damp cheeks, the Bodyguards gulped as they took a fearful step away from Negako. Before the three could make any sort of strategic withdrawal from the person who had put down their leader so easily, Negako's deep brown eyes seemed to lock right on them. "Before you three consider contemplating causing Ataru or his sisters more trouble, remember this," she flatly announced. Given Negako's behaviour, not to mention her pretty yet not really eye-catching looks, many of the onlookers were quickly reminded of a character from a recent anime series concerning two lethal women assassins based in Paris. "Thanks to your instigation of the so-called 'world oil-theft incident' which happened right after the First Tag Race, the governments of every major oil producing nation sent an immediate demand for your extradition to the Diet in Tokyo so you could face charges of crimes against humanity. And unlike the people in Tomobiki, people elsewhere do not fall into the pathetic habit of slandering Ataru for things he did not cause. So your usual defence of shifting blame onto Ataru's shoulders..."
Here, she dramatically paused before a mirthless smile crossed her face. "Will not save you."
A hollow, cold wind whipped through the school grounds as Paama, Chibi and Kakugari stared wide-eyed at Negako, they automatically shivering as her dire warning sank deeply into their souls. After an exchange of horrified looks between them, they bolted to attention before deeply bowing to Ataru's adopted older sister/legal guardian. "WE'RE VERY SORRY!!!" they chanted as one.
"Do they sound honest, girls?" Sakuya wondered.
"I'm not too sure," Karen reported.
"Their being close to Megane might make them relapse," Haruka warned.
"Maybe during our Aniki no Hi, we'll work on breaking them clean from that jerk," Rinrin proposed.
"Not to mention the other things we can do for them, ne?" Shirayuki mused.
"Like arranging for omiais between them and the girls who want them?" Marie asked.
"That's true," Sakuya replied with a nod.
Hearing that caused the three boys to look up at the sisters, shock and disbelief on their faces. "You mean...?" Kakugari began.
"There're girls...?" Chibi added.
"Who want US?!!" Paama finished.
"HAI!!!" the sisters chanted as one.
"YATTA!!!!" the Bodyguards screamed as one as fireworks exploded behind them.
In a trail of dust, they raced back into school, shouting, laughing and slapping the others' backs at the same time. Megane remained unconscious at Negako's feet, oblivious to his companions' celebrations. "Maybe we should ask Tanoshii-chan to come in right away to deal with Satoshi-kun here before introducing Kenmei-chan, Yasashii-chan and Aijooa-chan to the others," Chikage whispered to Sakuya.
"Good point," the elder sister replied with a sage nod.
The sorceress then perked. "Ah! Lum's mother just arrived."
Echoing her words was the thunder of retrojets. "Oh, no!" Mr. Hamada moaned from behind Guenevere as everyone watched Mrs. Invader's private starship move to land on the front lawn. "Where the hell's that ship gonna put down?!"
"We definitely require that starship dock," the Principal calmly mused.
"I'll have one built for you as quickly as I can make arrangements," Komeru offered.
"Thank you, Moroboshi-shachou."
After several attempts at moving to land on the open part of the front lawn failed, the just-arrived Oni ship assumed a parking orbit a couple hundred metres above Komeru's star-barque. A side hatch then opened, revealing a lovely woman in a tiger-striped, sleeveless cheongsam-like dress. She leapt into the air, and then floated down to land on the lawn close to the open hatchway of Komeru's ship. As soon as people were able to see Mrs. Invader up close, they quickly noted that Lum's mother was quite upset about something.
Marching through around the crowd of maids, she then stopped on seeing Komeru. Focusing more on his Noukiite clothing than his face, the Oni matriarch stormed up, launching into an incensed tirade in her Greek-like native tongue. Komeru remained in place, drawing his large cloak around him as he allowed Lum's mother to vent out her spleen. Watching this one-way shouting match from nearby, Mendou Haruka's attendant quivered before he screamed out, "You impudent alien commoner!! How dare you scream at Master Komeru like that...?!"
Komeru waved him down. "I'll handle this!" he declared before snapping his fingers. "Hoshie! Translator, please!!"
"I will deal with this, Komeru."
Before anyone could react, Negako's fingers pressed hard into the back of Mrs. Invader's head. Lum's mother screamed out as sharp jolts of pain seared through her mind before she dropped to her knees. "Mrs. Invader!!" Komeru cried out as he moved to support her.
"Onee-chan, what are you doing?!" Karen demanded as the other sisters shifted closer to Negako.
"Her sub-cranial translator was inserted into the incorrect lobe of her brain," Negako reported as Komeru and Hoshie helped the dazed Mrs. Invader back to her feet. "I merely shifted it to where it should have been inserted in the first place. It is a wonder to me that she was able to comprehend anything at all through it." She then reached over to tap several shiatsu points on Mrs. Invader's skull. "There. The pain should be far more tolerable, but she will require rest to allow her neurons a chance to repair themselves."
The sisters breathed out. "Onee-sama, we have to one day teach you a remarkable thing called 'tact,'" Sakuya stated.
"Such 'cosmetic' emotional training is not relevant to me at this time, Sakuya," Negako said.
The crowd around them shivered at Negako's flat declaration. "Rinrin-san, who is this woman?" Mendou demanded.
"Well, until three years ago, she was a sentient non-corporeal magically-created artificial intelligence that somehow got shoved into Aniki's sub-conscious mind when he was six," Rinrin reported. "When Aniki found out about Negako-aneki being in his mind, he got Obaba's friends on Zephyrus to create a bioroid body for her to use, then they transferred Aneki's consciousness out of Aniki. Unfortunately..."
"Onii-chan's mother dragged him off before the process was complete. And Onii-chan's memories, especially those concerning all of us, Obaa-chan and all of Onii-chan's other relatives weren't repaired thanks of the transference," Karen completed.
Everyone blinked. "Why would Ataru-kun's mother do something like that?!" Seikou Manari wondered.
"Greed, no doubt," Komeru replied. "If Kinshou was willing to embezzle from Haruka and Mrs. Invader here..."
"There are other factors," Negako cut in. "Though granted, Kinshou's feelings vis-à-vis Nagaiwakai are at the core of the matter."
The archaeologist sighed. "Right."
A moan escaped Mrs. Invader as she staggered clear of Komeru's arms. Shaking her head, she spun on Negako. "THAT HURT!!!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, fangs barred and lightning sparking over her. Despite the Kansai-like accent she possessed, which was really no different than Lum's, Mrs. Invader's speech was comprehensible to everyone around her. "What type of monster are you anyway?!"
"The type that can kill your daughter with but a touch," Negako tonelessly replied, the supposed ice in her voice causing Lum's mother to shiver. "And believe me, Chim, there are those on this planet who are more than willing to see Lum die because of her foolish and selfish behaviour. Or have you forgotten what happened to Lum six weeks ago in the immediate aftermath of the incident with the Yaminokuni?"
Mrs. Invader paled instantly on hearing Negako speak about that night before she quickly ducked behind Komeru, her whole body shivering as if she had been caught naked on Neptune. Komeru gazed on Lum's mother for a moment, and then he glanced at Negako. "Do you by any chance know anything about those people who attacked Lum and nearly put everyone else in town into the hospital?" he wondered.
Negako faintly shook her head. "No. I only know of their chosen names for themselves, Tomo and Ayumu. Tomo was the one who thrashed Lum into a coma while Ayumu used her probability-altering powers to prevent anyone else from interfering with Tomo's actions."
"Couldn't you stop them, Negako-oneechan?!" Ten asked as he floated up to her.
"I chose not to," Negako replied, she not bothering to look at the diminutive Oni. "Lum's fate did not concern me, Jariten. Repairing Ataru's memories and allowing him a chance to reunite with his half-sisters was my only concern that day. Besides, you need not have been concerned. Tomo's primary purpose was to humiliate Lum before the entire galaxy, which she did. If Lum had done anything to merit lethal force from Tomo or Ayumu..." Here, she paused for a moment before she fixed Ten with a knowing stare. "Then Lum would now be dead."
Another cold wind whipped through the school grounds as people just stared at Negako. For all the students there, their feelings for this strange being serving as Ataru's legal guardian were quite simple to understand: until this day, they had never met anyone, anyone, who seemed not to care a whit about Lum, either positively or negatively. Ten shuddered before quickly backing away to duck behind Hinako rather than spend another second in this strange being's presence. The youngest of Ataru's sisters turned to give Lum's cousin a reassuring smile. "It's okay, Ten-chan. Once you get to know her deep down, Onee-tama's really, really, really nice."
Ten looked at her. "How d'ya get used to something like that, Hinako-oneechan?!!"
Hinako considered that for a moment. "With a lotta practice."
Everyone stopped, blinking, as than hollow-sounding moan echoed over the grounds. "What's that?" Karen demanded.
Chikage looked up. "I highly recommend you hide Ani-kun's bentou, Shirayuki-chan."
Sakuya blinked as the sorceress' warning churned in her mind for a moment before she spun on Chikage. "EH?!! You mean that...?!"
A dark shadow fell over the crowd as a barely-humanoid voice bellowed out, "LUM!!!"
Before people might have been quashed by the descending Rei, a grey-and-green blur zipped through the crowd, it melting into Mecha-Rinrin. The giant robot's clawed hands snapped up to grab the transformed Oni pilot by his hind legs and neck. It then tilted itself to ram Rei's head into the boulder Shinobu had thrown on Mendou earlier. "You - will - not - steal - A.ni.ki's - ben.tou!" Mecha-Rinrin announced in a cold, syllable-clipped monotone as he continued to repeatedly smash the hapless Rei's head into the unyielding rock.
Seeing THAT, all the boys broke out into spontaneous applause. Rinrin appeared quite pleased with her prototype unit's performance against Rei for the first time. "Yatta!!!" she screamed out, pumping her fist. "My 'Number One Anti-Rei Program' works like a charm!!"
A few more blows later, a badly-bruised Rei was dropped to the ground, a pained moan escaping him as Mecha-Rinrin wheeled around on its rollers before bowing to its creator. "The - threat - a.gainst - A.ni.ki - has - been - e.lim.in.a.ted, Rin.rin," it announced.
"Three cheers for Rinrin-san!!" Shirai Kosuke, another of Ataru's classmates from the previous year's Class 2-4, cried out.
All the boys on the lawn, save for the still-unconscious Megane, quickly surrounded her. "BANZAI!!! BANZAI!!! BANZAI!!!"
Rinrin laughed, an embarrassed flush crossing her cheeks...
* * *
"Man, that poor guy just got totalled by that big palooka!" Ryuunosuke observed from the window of Class 3-4.
"Not that the big dork didn't have it coming!" Paama snorted, he and the other Bodyguards standing beside the class tomboy.
Kakugari and Chibi nodded in agreement. Everyone by the window then jolted on hearing tearful moans from behind them. Turning around, they watched as many of the girls wailed, dabbing their tearing eyes with handkerchiefs after witnessing what just happened to Lum's former fiancé. "Poor Rei-san!!" Marubeya Momoe, one of Mendou Shuutaro's more ardent fans, moaned. "To be nearly killed by that awful machine!"
"And she'll be coming here when she wants to be with Ataru-kun?!" Gekasawa Kumiko, Momoe's best friend, cried out. "It's unfair!!"
More sobs erupted from the mourning girls. "Weird," Ryuunosuke concluded with a shake of her head. She then stopped on seeing a crowd of small things march out the front doors of the school towards the crowd in front of Komeru's star-barque. "What the heck...?!"
The Bodyguards looked. "Hey, aren't those...?" Chibi began.
"Some of Ran-san's messenger dolls!" Kakugari declared.
"Oh, shit!!" Paama spat out. "They must've been sent after Rinrin-san!!"
The Bodyguards quickly exchanged knowing looks. Then -- after deciding that protecting a girl who had created that fantastic robot that just beat Rei so easily (not to mention said girl being part of a group that would gladly help them finally get girlfriends of their own!) was better than dealing with an irate Ran -- they screamed, "RINRIN-SAN, WATCH OUT!!! RAN-SAN'S SENT HER MESSENGER DOLLS AFTER YOU!!!"
"WHO BLABBED?!!" a familiar girl's voice bellowed from the Bodyguards' left, toward the centre of the school.
Innocent whistles responded. Ryuunosuke snickered...
* * *
"What was that?!!" Mendou demanded, he spinning around to look toward the windows of his homeroom.
"Ohmigosh!!" Shinobu gasped. "Ran must've seen what Mecha-Rinrin just did to Rei-san!!"
Rinrin perked. "Ran?!" A grin then crossed her face. "Oh, goody!! Now I get to try out my 'Anti-Ran Programs!'"
The other students stared at her as Rinrin drew her handy mini-computer from her pocket. "'Anti-Ran Programs?'" Kosuke wondered.
"Hai!! After all, we want to keep Aniki safe from all the dorks that like to pick on him!" Rinrin asserted. Flipping open her machine, she swirled the touch-mouse icon onto an icon of Ran's face with the classic red prohibition sign over it. Double-clicking that, she then tapped onto the icon marked Anti-Ran Program #3 - Messenger Doll Jammer. A mini-window popped up, it flashing the message Jamming In Effect. Seeing that, Mendou and Shinobu looked away from Rinrin's mini-computer to see the small squad of messenger dolls frozen in place on the red carpet a couple of metres from the brow leading into Komeru's ship. "Well?" Rinrin asked.
"You froze them in place, Rinrin-san," Mendou declared.
Another round of applause from the people around the teen genius, that echoed by a mindless scream from somewhere on the third floor in the school building. "Now, where exactly should I send those dolls now?" Rinrin wondered. She then hummed for a moment before snapping her fingers. "Ah, I know what to do!" she declared before sliding her index finger over the touch-mouse pad on her machine.
"What are you going to do?" Kosuke asked. He then blinked as Rinrin touched on one possible function. "'Return to Sender?!'"
"Yep!" Rinrin confirmed with a nod. "Let's see how Miss Psycho-Airhead likes the idea of having her doll-bombs sent right back to her! That should make sure she'd never think of getting her so-called 'revenge' on Lum through Aniki ever again!"
"Um, Rinrin-oneechan, you better think of something else!" Ten warned. "With all those bombs, you'll blow up half the school!!"
Rinrin blinked before visibly deflating. "Bummer."
"There is another possibility," Negako announced.
"What's that, Aneki?" Rinrin asked as everyone stared at the adopted sister of the Moroboshi Clan.
Negako stared at Mecha-Rinrin. "Mecha-Rinrin, Aneki Override Code Six, execute!" she ordered.
"Ack.now.ledged. A.wait.ing - or.ders, A.ne.ki."
"Number Two Anti-Rei Program, execute. Target the old willow tree in the north-west corner of the school grounds."
The Principal blinked before staring at Negako as Mecha-Rinrin wheeled over to grab the dazed Rei by his tail. It then proceeded to spin the latter around in mid-air like Sampson hammer-throwing a boulder. "The haunted willow tree, Negako-san?"
After a few dozen spins at a speed that made Rei a blur to all the onlookers, Mecha-Rinrin let go, sending the Oni pilot flying headfirst into the willow tree hidden behind a hedgerow originally placed there to keep students away from it (not that it would have stopped someone like Moroboshi Ataru, as he learned to his cost shortly after everyone met Mendou Ryooko for the first time). The impact of nearly a half-tonne of alien tiger-bull against the old wood is enough to transform most of the trunk into kindling. "Rinrin," Negako called out.
"Hai!" Rinrin replied, having just called up a map of the school grounds. She then tapped controls to send the dolls into action.
"Des.troy - Rei. Des.troy - Rei. Des.troy - Rei. Des.troy - Rei. Des.troy - Rei. Des.troy - Rei. Des.troy - Rei..." the dolls chanted in unison as they marched under Komeru's parked sail-barque, all homing in on the bush in the corner of the property.
"HEY!!!" Ran bellowed out as she stormed out the front doors, she having noted right away that the dolls she had targeted against Darling's really mean sister hadn't done their job. She then raced around Komeru's ship. "WHERE ARE YOU IDIOTS GOING...?!!"
Ran screamed out as the dolls detonated, incinerating the willow tree in a flash of plastique gone insane. Her scream then turned into a pained howl as something which might have been Rei in tiger-bull format staggered out of the inferno before collapsing on the ground.
"Mecha-Rinrin, Number Three Anti-Rei Program, execute. Target Ran's spaceship," Negako then ordered.
Ran watched, her eyes awash, as Mecha-Rinrin wheeled over to pick Rei up from the ground near the shattered willow tree. Balancing itself on one leg, the robot drew back the other. Then, with a perfect place kick, it sent Rei flying in the direction of Ran's UFO.
"GOAL KICK!!!" the boys around Rinrin screamed.
Ran howled at the sight of her beloved being so cruelled mistreated before bolting to her feet. Her handy bazooka filled her hands as she spun on Rinrin, her incensed look twisting her features into their proper Urusian shape as she locked on target. "DIE!!!"
Her trigger finger collapsed on nothing as Ran suddenly found herself weaponless. Before she could spin around to see who yanked her favourite bazooka away, a hand grabbed her by the throat. The hapless Ran was then effortlessly boosted into the air. "Are you attempting to bring harm unto Rinrin?" Negako asked as she turned the struggling Ran around so they could gaze into each other's eyes.
"You should apologize, Ran-san," Haruka warned. "Anegimi-sama will gladly end your life if you seek retribution against any of us."
"Especially after we defend Aniki from your failures in keeping that 'boyfriend' of yours outta Aniki's life!" Rinrin added.
"Onee-chan, put her down, please?"
Everyone turned to see Ataru and Lum standing near the front gate, both having been teleported back to the school grounds thanks to Chikage. A surprisingly neutral look was on Ataru's face, while a sad yet accepting look covered Lum's. "Moroboshi!" Mendou called out.
Ataru walked up, stopping beside his rival. "I'll be with you in a moment there, Shuutaro-san."
Mendou gasped as Ataru walked over to Negako, his eyes bulging out of his head as his rival's words sank in. M-Moroboshi...!! he mentally thundered as the strength in his legs vanished, sending him to his knees. J-just c-called me...!!
"Onee-chan, put her down!!" Ataru's sharp demand shocked Mendou back to normal, making the latter turn to watch the drama with his rival, Ataru's sisters and adopted sister/guardian. "Ran-chan's the victim of child abuse!! Put her down!!!"
Total silence fell as Negako stared at Ataru for a moment before she slowly lowered Ran to the ground. The latter seemed frozen stiff as she gazed wide-eyed at her hated rival's "husband." Seeing the sympathetic yet supportive look in his eyes, Ran blinked as her own eyes began to tear. Then, as sobs began to burst from her lungs, she deeply bowed to him. Ataru's arms quickly enveloped her as he allowed her to weep into his shoulder. Lum soon added her own embrace to Ataru's as both allowed Ran to cry. Everyone else around them remained respectfully silent, the sisters and Shinobu beaming with pride. An approving nod tilted Komeru's head while Ten was busy wiping his own eyes; regardless of the fighting that had occurred between his cousin and Ran, Ten had always liked the rose-haired Seishin-Urusian teenager.
Finally, Ran's sobs faded into sniffles as Ataru allowed her to pull away from him. Negako was there right away, she turning Ran around so that the former's fingers could gently probe the latter's various shiatsu spots. Examining Ran from behind was Seikou Manari. That continued for several minutes until Manari stared at Lum. "This girl's an empathic vampire, isn't she?"
"Uh...! H-hai!" the Oni teenager stammered, surprised that this elderly Terran woman seemed to understand things like that. She then added, "Ran-chan has the ability to suck out a person's youth through a kiss. But how did you...?"
"She is the victim of a biological warfare experiment, Lum. That was done when she was a baby," Negako's declaration cut her off. Around them, the crowd gasped as the words "biological warfare experiment" and "done when she was a baby" repeated again and again in their minds. "It is curable, but it will take time. There have been incidents when your powers have run out of control, have there not, Ran?"
Ran jolted, her face flushing as Negako's statement struck home. She then blinked before bowing her eyes. "H-hai..."
Komeru snapped his fingers. "Hoshie?"
The chief maid braced herself. "Full medical examination, Goshujin-sama?"
"Hai! This way, Ran-sama."
Hoshie and another maid escorted Ran into Komeru's ship. The Seishin teen glanced back at Ataru briefly before stepping inside. Watching her go in, Ataru took a deep breath, and then he noisily exhaled. "Most people don't like having a secret like that vented out in public," he stated in a voice only his sisters, Lum, Ten, Shinobu, Komeru and Mrs. Invader could hear.
"A secret like that needs to be aired out, son," Komeru warned.
"Especially given the possibility that Ran's father might return to continue his experimentation," Negako added.
The Urusians stared at Ataru's adopted sister. "Are you saying that Ran was hurt by her own father?!!" Lum exclaimed.
"Her chi pattern revealed that to me," Negako responded.
"How awful!" Marie gasped.
"Well, there's no real concern," Mrs. Invader assured them. "Mamoko died when Ran-chan was a baby."
Negako's dark eyes locked on the Oni matriarch. "Was there a body to bury, Chim?"
Lum's mother jolted, she blinking for a moment as she recalled what she knew of the fate of Count Aruka Mamoko. "Um...! No..."
"Then why are you assuming he is dead?" Negako asked. "And Ran is safe from him or those who might have assisted him?"
Yet another cold wind whipped through the crowd. "Onee-tama, don't say such awful things!!" Hinako pleaded.
"Hinako, I will not 'sugar-coat' the truth when it is more detrimental. In the meantime, Sakuya, you best have Ataru carry out his ceremony." Here, Negako briefly glanced at Komeru's star-barque. "Kinshou would gladly interrupt it if she obtains an opportunity."
Sakuya breathed out. "Right! Haruka-chan!"
"Hai!" Haruka replied as she reached into her hakama and drew out a beautiful burnt-red walking cane. "Anigimi-sama, your weapon."
"Hai!" Ataru called out as he took the cane in hand. Grasping it by the head, he then tugged at the upper end.
Everyone gaped on seeing that the "cane" was none other than a well-crafted -- and well-disguised, Mendou Shuutaro acknowledged with an approving nod -- katana of the type that might have been used by people centuries ago who wanted to best mask whatever swordsmanship skills they might have possessed. Knowing Ataru's profound disdain for weapons of any sort (as he readily demonstrated during the Tomobiki Pseudo-War), Mendou quickly guessed that the sword was merely a necessary prop for whatever "ceremony" his rival was about to perform.
Fully sheathing the katana, Ataru then looked at Sakuya. The latter was now seated in a plain chair, that provided by Guenevere. The other sisters formed two lines to either side of the Matriarch-in-Waiting. Once that was done, Ataru lowered himself to his knees, placing the katana before him before properly prostrating himself to Sakuya. "Ojou-sama," he solemnly greeted her.
"Onii-sama," Sakuya returned. "Have you reflected on what has been asked of you these last six weeks?"
"Hai, I have."
"Do you object to anything that has been asked of you?"
"No, I do not."
Sakuya sighed. "Very well, then. As Matriarch-in-Waiting of the Clan Moroboshi, de facto and de jure leader of the Clan concerning the fates of all those of my generation and the next, I hereby declare you, Moroboshi Ataru, last surviving grandson of Moroboshi Nagaiwakai, free of all obligations and other duties that were placed upon you by your birth-parents, Moroboshi Muchi and Yamaguchi Kinshou." A dramatic pause followed before Sakuya added, "In declaring this, I hereby decree that all contracts and agreements, especially marriage agreements, with other clans, regardless of planet or country of origin, concerning Moroboshi Ataru are, now and forever, null and void!!"
A shocked gasp rocked through the crowd around them as it suddenly dawned on everyone what Sakuya's decree might mean -- especially where it concerned a certain Oni princess standing some distance from her "husband." "As Second Matriarch-in-Waiting of the Clan Moroboshi, I declare that I have witnessed what has been said concerning Moroboshi Ataru and do acknowledge its validity," Chikage added.
Whispers and excited chatter began to fly between the onlookers. "As Grandmistress of the Moroboshi-Hana Saikoo Jinseijitsu Ninjitsu-ryuu, home art of the Clan, I also declare that I have witnessed what has been said concerning Moroboshi Ataru and do acknowledge its validity," Negako then declared. "And I also declare that if anyone attempts to override what has been said today, all means required and necessary will be employed to ensure that such attempts fail. And I also declare, as is my right as legal guardian of Moroboshi Ataru and his sisters, that I and I alone am responsible for whatever non-Clan associated issues might be demanded of them." A slight pause before Negako added, "All parental rights Muchi and Kinshou might have possessed concerning Ataru were stripped from them four weeks ago."
"Oh, so that's why Ataru doesn't live in his house anymore!" Ten declared. "His parents aren't his parents anymore."
Hinako stared at the young Oni. "Pin-pon!!"
"Lum-san!!" Mendou called out as he walked over to stand next to the Oni. "Do you realize what just happened?!" he demanded, a finger pointing at Ataru as the latter stood up. "As of now, your relationship with Moroboshi has no legal standing anywhere in Japan!"
A sad smile crossed Lum's face. "I know," she calmly confirmed with a slight nod before she stared at her mother. "Mother?"
Mrs. Invader looked at her child. She then shivered as the words she just heard echoed in her mind. "What is it, dear?"
Lum bowed. "I'm sorry, Mother. Darling has petitioned me for divorce."
"'DIVORCE?!!'" Mrs. Invader screamed out.
The chatter around them increased in intensity and excitement as this strange tableau played itself out. "Hai," Lum replied, her head bowed. "I've accepted his petition. To continue our relationship in the face of what's been done to his family -- his true family, I should add -- all supposedly to make me more comfortable here on Earth..." She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Mother. I can't go on with this."
Mrs. Invader blinked as she absorbed that. Her eyes then fell on the young women now surrounding the man whom she looked on as her son-in-law. "True family..." she whispered before focusing on Sakuya. "You mean to say that his parents...?"
"Ultimately had no right to negotiate with you or your husband concerning a marriage between our brother and your daughter, regardless of what happened on the final day of the First Tag Race," Sakuya finished. "That right, until the day I was declared Matriarch-in-Waiting, belonged solely to our grandmother and the head of the Clan, Moroboshi Nagaiwakai. However, thanks to the hatred Onii-sama's mother felt for Obaa-sama -- not to mention the actions of certain authorities here on Earth that your husband must've dealt with before the First Tag Race began -- there was no way that such information could've been relayed to you before now." She crossed her arms. "Put simply, your daughter was an innocent caught in the crossfire between feuding parts of our overall family. And we, along with Onii-sama, having now come to fully understand what tagging an Oni's horns means to you people, only wish to give your daughter her freedom of choice back."
Lum's mother blinked, and then she shuddered as her eyes turned to her daughter. "I see..." she whispered before asking, "Would you...?"
Sakuya shook her head. "No. Besides, look at it this way: do you want what happened to Lum six weeks ago to happen again?"
Mrs. Invader blanched as the horrid images of that night thundered past her mind's eye. Ten looked just as scared, as did most of the students surrounding them. Finally collecting herself, the Oni matriarch slowly nodded, her eyes tearing. Seeing that, Negako broke away from the other sisters to position herself behind Lum. Her hands then moved toward Lum's head. "Onee-chan," Ataru called out.
The grandmistress paused, gazing at him. "As painlessly as possible," Ataru implored.
Negako nodded. Her index fingers pressed into Lum's skull behind and under her horns. A soft pop was heard as the swirling bits of hard cartilage were forced out of their sockets. Lum winced as jolts of discomfort arced through her head as Negako caught the horns from falling. She then backed away from Lum. Ten gasped on seeing how easy it was for Negako to remove Lum's horns before quickly slipping himself behind Komeru. Negako walked over to hand the horns to Ataru. Staring at them for a moment, he took a deep breath. And then...
Ten and Mrs. Invader gasped as the ugly sound of shattered cartilage echoed across the school grounds. Lum's whole body locked up as that noise, the one thing Onis hated above all else to hear anytime in their lives, thundered in her ears, and then the strength in her body flowed out of her. As she sank to her knees, Shinobu surged past Ataru's sisters to catch her former rival and comfort her. Seeing that Lum was safe, Ataru brushed away the bits of horn-bud from his hands before he turned toward the carriage. "Let's go home, girls."
"Hai," the sisters chimed.
Mamoru stood up on Wipeout as Rinrin moved to slip onto Mecha-Rinrin's shoulder. Hinako drew out a candy for Ten as she held up Mr. Umbrella with her other hand. "You be a good boy and watch over Lum-chan! Okay, Ten-chan?" she said, handing the candy over.
The young Oni looked as if someone had just hacked off his horn and crushed it. "Wh-why'd he d-do th-that for, Hinako-oneechan...?" he wondered as Ataru and many of the other sisters boarded the carriage for the return trip to Promised Island.
A sad smile crossed Hinako's face. "Onii-tama had to do it, Ten-chan," she whispered as he took the candy from her. "Now, you make sure these baka-baka-baka creeps don't try to tag Lum-chan's horns 'cause she isn't married anymore, okay?"
Ten jolted. He then snapped to attention. "Hai!!"
"Okay! Kasa-tama, up, up and away for home!!"
The umbrella snapped open. Hinako soared off into the late morning sky, Mamoru following her on Wipeout. Komeru watched as Guenevere guided the carriage in a tight circle to take everyone off the school grounds, and then he glanced over at Yumoa Reigi. Sensing his own guardian looking at him, Toranoseishin Finances' chief of operations tensed before walking over. "You need something, Oji-chan?"
"Yes, two things." He waved to Mendou Haruka. "One, a new ox cart for Haruka so she could go back home." Then his face twisted into a mask of outrage. "And I want a full and detailed report on what the heck's going on here! And I want it YESTERDAY!!!"
"YESSIR!!!" Reigi replied before racing off the grounds in a cloud of smoke.
Komeru breathed out. He then blinked as he watched the carriage bearing his nephew and most of his nieces suddenly vanish in another blast of blinding light, they followed by Rinrin on Mecha-Rinrin. Once the light faded, he shook his head. "Wonderful..."
He turned to see Hoshie standing behind him. Realizing what she might be ready to do, he nodded toward Lum. "The nurses."
"Right away, sir."
Several maids moved to help the crippled Oni aboard Komeru's ship. Before they could carry her off, an outraged scream boomed from the star-barque's brow as Moroboshi Kinshou stormed out. "COME BACK HERE, YOU STUPID SON OF...!!!"
Seeing Ataru's mother, Lum's face twisted into a mask of outrage as she grabbed Ten by the back of his jumper. Then aiming her cousin right at Kinshou, she bopped him on the head. Everyone gasped as Ten's flame doused Kinshou from head to toe, sending her into a pile of ashes at her would-be daughter-in-law's feet. "Now that, she had coming to her!" Seikou Manari mused from nearby.
Many of the parents who had come today to Parents' Day sagely nodded in agreement. Kinshou sputtered painfully as she tried to recover from something her alien guests had never done to her before, she staring wide-eyed at Lum. "Wh-why...?"
"That's for not telling Daddy or Mommy about your own mother-in-law!!" Lum snarled.
Kinshou froze in place before bolting to her feet. "THAT...!!!"
"You realize this all started when you sent Nokoko-chan to me and made Ataru believe she was his cousin instead of his sister!!"
Lum, Mrs. Invader, Ten and Shinobu spun on Ataru's uncle. "ANOTHER SISTER?!!"
Moaned sobs turned their attention back to Kinshou. Everyone spun back to see her quaking with anguish as tears showered the ground around her. She then screamed at the heavens, "COME BACK, NOKOKO-CHAN!!! COME BACK!!! MOMMY'S SORRY!!! NOKOKO-CHAN, COME HOME!!!"
Everyone stared at Kinshou as she collapsed again into a heap of quivering tears. Hoshie then stared at Komeru. "Sir, should we...?"
"No!!" Komeru snapped. "I've only been back here one day and I've already got a wonderful reminder of why I left this planet in the damned first place!! Take Lum in to get her horns regenerated. Then have guest quarters set up for her mother and Ten!"
As two of the maids shoved Kinshou off the red carpet so it could be rolled up again, several others escorted Lum and her relatives aboard the star-barque. Shinobu remained with her classmate. Komeru watched them board before he blinked on sensing a presence close to him. He turned to stare at Negako. "Was this necessary?" the archaeologist demanded. "Was it really necessary?"
"Which do you prefer?" the grandmistress coolly replied. "Lum being a divorcee..." Here, she turned away. "Or a widow?"
Komeru stared at her as Negako walked away...
To Be Continued...