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Dihydrogen Oxide, the Unicorn, and I

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The silver gleam of her signet ring on the nightstand is calming for a moment. But only a moment because Nanami starts yelping as she realizes her legs are trapped. Of course it’s a tangle of sheets and blankets holding her captive, but it’s enough to evoke the nightmare coffin. With all her strength she kicks off the covers. Something squeaks.



“What is it, Miss Nana-?”

“Why are you naked?!!”

Twenty minutes later two young women and a monkey-mouse are sitting around Nanami’s breakfast table sipping tea and eating toast. Nanami and Chuchu wearing twin expressions of indignation.



One of these days Himemiya is going to give her an ulcer. She just knows it.

“You still have the monkey I see.”

“Chuchu has been a very faithful friend to me.” 

“Next time he can be faithful in someone else’s bedroom!”

 “A-hem, well, I’m sure now that Chuchu has seen that you’re doing well and given his kind regards to you it won’t be a problem, Miss Nanami.”

“Chu!” squeaks the unrepentant familiar. Nanami wants to swat him away from her stash of custard puddings that he somehow got from the fridge. She doesn’t only because anything that didn’t involve nudity and Chuchu and also nude Himemiya is a step up from what just happened in her bedroom. Besides he’s eating the cheap puddings she bought at the convenience store when she needed emotional validation via food.

 Like how hard would it have been for the other girl just to borrow a nightgown or a t-shirt from her closet? Not to look a gift-witch in the mouth or anything because she’s grateful her drunk ass got home in one piece, but still.

“Right, whatever. Moving along. There were duelists at that restaurant. Duelists. But no Rose Bride and no swords and no rings.”

“They did have the air of duelists, but…”

“So this is the part where you go running off to yell at your brother and tell him to knock it off right?” Nanami has to admit there is something liberating about being an adult and having the right to speak to your older brother as something like equals.

“But Miss Nanami, there is no Rose Bride and no Prince. There’s just…nothing.”

The only sound in the room is Chuchu stirring a spoon in his tea, soft china clinks.

“He couldn’t have replaced those somehow?”

“When Utena vanished those roles were destroyed. The castle is gone. My brother couldn’t replicate it if he tried.”

Nanami flicks some sugar at Chuchu distractedly. “Maybe they’re trying to summon Tenjou’s ghost without realizing it? Like if she’s all mixed up with the remains of the Rose Bride role magic and the Prince magic and they’re tugging on the spiritual cord that’d make them like duelists. ‘Specially if they were competing in some way for the power.”

Nibbling at her toast Himemiya nods slowly, “That would explain a great deal. Yet how do they know how to go about grasping the power? And why Utena’s spirit? If my brother is not involved someone from Ohtori must be.”

“Even thought the original duelists can barely remember what went on? The minute I’m away from you or the original group the details get blurry.”

“It’s possible my brother my have had some protégée that I don’t know about. Or someone may have found the original Nemuro files. I wouldn’t know until I’ve spoken with him.”

“Right so when do we descend upon the devil? Wednesday good for you? I’ve got this optional seminar my department head keeps whining about but I can totally skip it.” That totally gives her time to buy a fabulous new outfit to visit her old school in.

“We?” Himemiya’s puzzled tone is like a surprise gift because catching a witch unawares is mega hard. Nanami should know.

“Yeah. You, me, and the furry trash compactor here.”

Chuchu salutes with a second spoon that he seems to have stolen from his owner.

“Why would you involve yourself, Miss Nanami? I can take care of this quite on my own.”  

“No you totally can’t! It’s been ten years and you haven’t found Tenjou. With me on your side it’ll be wrapped up in a few weeks and then you’ll totally be thanking me with witchy wish rewards! I’ve got smarts, savvy, money, and sooooo much better sense of style than you. These upstart duelists don’t stand a chance!”


“ ‘V’ is for ‘Victory,’ right monkey-chu? Besides, I kind of owe Tenjou. A tiny bit. Like practically not at all. But Nanami Kiryuu is going to pay in full.”

“Oh my, you’re so determined.”

“Operation Save Tenjou Because Himemiya is a Weirdo Who Can’t Do It Without Nanami Kiryuu is officially on!”



Nanami ends up seeing Himemiya before Wednesday after all. 

Monday morning dawns chilly and bright. She wears her newest spring coat and is checking that her applied eyelashes are in place when she sees it. Across the platform on the opposite wall two workers finish putting up huge poster.

“The Shadow of the Eternal Castle”

The latest novel by Yuriko Mukogawa has arrived!!

Signing event at JR Kyoto Isetan release day!

Monstrous upside down castle in the sky? Check.

Illustration of a forlorn looking female figure with orangey-pink hair? Check.

Frightening resemblance to Ohtori’s Duel Arena and ultimate champion? Check and double check.

Nanami does what any sane person would do. That is to say she shrieks and points at the poster as if it has the power to literally bowl her over with symbolism instead of just figuratively. Then she snaps a picture of it and texts it to Himemiya, her brother, and Kyouichi. The other passengers waiting on platform eight give her a wide berth.

School? Totally could wait. Freaky-deaky coincidences could not.

“Himemiya, where are you? Get to Kyoto Station now!”

“I saw your message,” Himemiya sounds both completely tranquil and absolutely rattled simultaneously. “What should we do?”

“We’re going to that author signing at noon and we’re going to find out who Mukogawa knows to write something like this. So get over here and we’ll like eat waffles until then.” Mysteries make her hungry and it doesn’t help she skipped breakfast.

She hangs up with Himemiya and texts her professor that she won’t be in for her lab work that morning. The one great thing about being a grad student in her small department  is that she can rearrange her seminars as needed. Nanami manages to pack away one and half plates of waffles before Himemiya shows up – hair in a tousled flip ponytail, floral skirt, and a cardigan that manages not to suck.

“Strawberry brownie berry is the seasonal special, I just had the pear banana maple waffles and I got us a custard blueberry one to split,” Nanami is like so over the shock of the novel poster. Really she is. A full stomach does wonders for relieving surreal tension.

“That does sound rather delicious,” Himemiya goes along with the whole ‘let’s pretend the universe isn’t super creepy’ vibe like she got a memo or something before arriving. “Oh and they have custom blended fruit juices too! I never knew this place was here in the station.”

Small talk saves the day until Himemiya’s order comes to the table and mercifully they can both concentrate on eating. By then it’s only ten thirty.

“Okay, so we need a game plan,” Nanami pulls out a pen to scribble on one of the napkins. “Because if we do this wrong Mukogawa will totally put a restraining order on our asses and I do not need my name dragged through court or worse tabloids.” Ew, just the word feels dirty in her mouth.

There’s an origami crane made out of an extra napkin in front of her. Himemiya beams at her like she’s made some kind of meaningful contribution. “Go on!”

“Riiiiiiight, okay so the signing starts at noon. The agent and the staff will probably set up the room at least fifteen minutes prior to that, possibly a full half hour. We’ve got two options there: we either try to get there early and make a good impression on Mukogawa’s agent or Mukogawa herself to secure a later interview or we make sure we’re the last people to get our books signed and try to talk to her then.”

On the napkin are two stick figures seeming to stare down a third stick figure with a book.

”The first way is more strategic but we’re more likely to fail because of the time crunch or Mukogawa and her agent showing up late. The second could work better but we don’t know if she has another appointment straight away—are you even listening?”

On the other side of the table there’s a neat little row of five cranes.

“You’re such a talented schemer,” the witch says as she starts to fold another crane.

“Will you stop that? The girls behind the counter are staring. And by the way I’m choosing to take that remark as a compliment.”

Himemiya glances at Nanami’s napkin, then her cranes, then the inky napkin again. “I think, Miss Nanami,” her tone drops to a tone that can only be described as husky, “that you are over thinking and over planning.”

“Puh-lease! As if you never schemed in your Rose Bridey deception life. Ohtori was like one big puppet show for you and Chairman Casanova.” Schemes and plans are what Nanami is good at. It’s what makes her so damned good at genetics because she can line everything up and see the big picture and keep track of all those details.

“My brother was more the one for plans compared to myself,” the other girl chews her straw. “I prefer to set things in motion. An object won’t change its status until acted upon by some unbalanced force.”

“And each action results in an equal and opposite reaction,” a blonde lock is twirled around Nanami’s finger.  “Blah blah blah Newton’s laws. Blah blah the castle is the unmovable object and you’re the unstoppable force. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not thirteen and dumb anymore.”

“It’s not that,” Himemiya is almost impossible to hear over the chatter of other customers and the station noises outside. “What you said about the castle…”

The gears in her head are loud and she’s not certain if they’re slowing to an eventual halt or speeding up. There’s a flat clang of truth to her throwaway words, but when Nanami tries to poke at it the thread of her thoughts skitter away.

“Never mind,” Himemiya shakes her head as if to cast off some mystical cobweb. “I think we should just meet Mukogawa without any plan.”

“That’s a stupid plan.”  

“Which is precisely why it’s not a plan.”

Eight cranes are arranged in what Nanami reckons is some kind of battle configuration.

“So the plan is to have no plan? Just show up and go ‘Hi, Miss Mukogawa, you don’t know us but we think your mind has a telepathic link to some dead girl who used to go to our middle school how about we go out for coffee?’” she goes into a falsetto to show how ridiculous that is, but witch girl keeps smiling like it’s a genius plan.

“I have an idea,” Himemiya says suddenly. “Let’s go buy the book and start reading before the signing.”

That’s … actually a reasonable thing to do. So ordinary and reasonable that Nanami has trouble parsing that it came out of Himemiya’s brain and wasn’t a crossed signal from an alien broadcast.

“I was just going to say that, so let’s get over there and grab ‘em.”

Of course something so simple turned into a misadventure. The pretty perky girls setting up the tables tell them that the books can’t be sold until noon and no they couldn’t flip through them. Down several escalators, staircases, and gently sloping halls the two companions find themselves in the station’s attached shopping mall’s basement levels searching for the bookstore.

“I’m sorry ladies but we sold out this morning just before ten. We should have an afternoon shipment coming in soon,” is the answer they finally get from the proprietor of the tucked away little shop. “It’s marvelous really. I hear the author has been on talk shows for the last week promoting it and to think that she’ll be upstairs in the cultural rooms today-!”

“Yeah yeah, thanks for nothing – Himemiya! Put that down! We don’t have time to look through novelty magazines. We’re gonna have to try the department store upstairs.”

 Isetan department store’s stationery and book corner is modest, but adequate for their needs. Nanami grabs two copies and charges them on her credit card before Himemiya has time to make a remark or offer to pay.  Which wait a sec, does Himemiya even have money? Or a job? Or does she like brainwash people into letting her have stuff for free? She would have to ask Himemiya later, for now they had a bestseller to skim through for clues.

Splashing and flailing about Hanako attempts to swim towards the nearer bank. The river’s edges are no longer fenced in by large concrete blocks as before. Perhaps this isn’t the same river I fell into, Hanako thinks. Perhaps I fell into one river and came out another. But that’s a strange notion. More likely she was carried downstream far away, right?

When she reaches the shore it’s twilight and eerie twin moons are hanging in the sky. One is a delectable crescent, the other a perfect half moon. The stars are brighter and closer, more like near planets than distant suns, and are colored most queerly. Their light makes the dark forest ahead seem even mysterious. Hanako doesn’t remember seeing a forest when she as swimming before. She thought she saw mountains and hills, not tall silver barked trees.

“Do you think Hanako is supposed to be Utena?” Anthy bites her lip as if she doesn’t want to know the answer.

“It’s too soon to say, keep reading!” Nanami shifts her legs from where she’s sitting in the hallway in front of the cultural rooms.

The only sound in the forest for a long while is the sound of Hanako’s soft footfalls and labored breathing. No birds sing, no insects chirp, no animals skitter about. It’s the most unnatural natural place. A parody of nature, an idea of a forest, the illusion of what a forest might dream – that’s all it is. Still Hanako walks further and further into the darkness, wet and shivering, when the sweet tinkling of bells begins.

She picks up speed, breaking into a run. Faster and faster until the music is louder and louder. It’s unclear how far and how long she runs, suddenly there is a clearing. Little lights bob up and down – maybe they are fireflies, maybe they are fairies – all around a crystal dais. Under the light of the moons Hanako mistakes the reclining figure for a perfectly carved statue of a goddess in repose.

The sleeping young woman is perfectly still except for the very slight rise and fall of her bosom. Her dark locks are arrayed on the pillow to perfection, her dress is embroidered in metallic threads, and in her hands are three flowers. Hanako instantly understands – this is a princess, no The Princess, The First Princess.

Hanako kneels because that’s what one does before royalty. She rises and gets closer. There is a story sewn into the Princess’ dress. As she looks at it everything is clear and knowable – who the Princess is, why she is there, and all about the Forest. As she looks away she forgets it all. There are three flowers in the Princess’ folded hands, a white lily, a red rose, and a pink lotus. Hanako gets the feeling that the flowers themselves are also asleep and dreaming.

Of princes and white horses there appears to be a pronounced lack. It is difficult to know the right thing to do, Hanako thinks. Should I keep going through the forest until I find a prince? Will she be fine sleeping here? In a forest of no seen beasts, not a soul to speak of, there could be no harm in leaving her.

But what if she never sees her again?

The thought strikes Hanako with almost violent intensity. Everything around her keeps changing. If she keeps walking the Princess will vanish like she never existed and Hanako would probably forget all about her once she leaves the queer Forest.

The First Princess does not respond to Hanako’s urgent voice or gentle hands shaking her. Breathing just as slowly and deeply as ever the Princess keeps dreaming. Of course there is the traditional way to wake princesses. Everyone everywhere knows that way even if they never heard a fairytale in their life. Hanako takes a deep breath to steady her nerves and kisses the Princess with all due tenderness and respect.

Her lashes flutter revealing jewel colored eyes, the Princess looks up mournfully at Hanako, “Why did you wake me?”

The sky shifts from night to day, the twin moons replaced by big red sun. Noises erupt all around them, if the forest was empty before now it is abuzz with life and chaos and –  


Hanako can see their hulking shadows and figures just beyond the clearing. Already they are fighting one another, screaming and shrieking, roaring and rumbling. The dais crystal crumbles into dirt. The Princess’ dress turns patchy and bloodstained.

“Why did you wake me?”

Nanami releases a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. It’s just a stupid book, a stupid modern fairytale that has no connection to anything. It’s totally a red herring on their journey into the Fucked Up Unknown. So why are goose bumps rising all over her arms and legs?  Why does Himemiya turn each page nearly trembling? And more importantly why is there a forest of legs around her?

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” A quick flip of her cell phone reveals that they’ve been sitting on the hall floor reading for over three hours and the signing started without them noticing. “Himemiya, get up!”

Getting up from sitting on the floor in a skirt and high heels is tricky enough. Doing that while in a crowd of women standing over you without knocking anyone over, twisting an ankle, or accidentally flipping a skirt is way harder. But Nanami isn’t here to make friends, especially not with people who wear cheap Christian Louboutin knock-offs, ugh. Wake her up when people with taste arrive. So a little grasping at skirts and shoving to get vertical isn’t beneath her.

“I was here first!”

“You’re not getting in front of me!”

“Back off, blondie!”

Neither is stepping on some toes, literally.  “Yeah, well I’ve been here all morning before you tramps showed up so shove it.” Once she’s upright Nanami can take in the scope of the event. Even in her highest stilettos she can’t see over the sea of heads. There’s less a line as there is a mass of chatting excited female fans. The author in the next room isn’t even visible from her vantage point.

“I think we’re at the wrong side of the hallway, Miss Nanami,” Himemiya is at her elbows, not nearly as bedraggled looking as Nanami is. “I do believe we’re at the end of the line, not the beginning.”

“Thank you, Captain of the SS Obvious. How did this even happen?”

“We were terribly engrossed reading Miss Mukogawa’s enthralling novel,” her companion holds up the offending paperback with far too much cheer. “It’s even more interesting that I assumed.”

“Oh my god, Himemiya, that was rhetorical!” Seriously she is going to burst a gasket if the continues to be this annoying. Suddenly she misses her lab and its solitude. On the other hand lab days are mostly inhaling coffee and could be pretty monotonous when she’s trying to duplicate the professor’s results.

“Isn’t my name Hanako?” the young woman smoothes the blankets on her lap. They’re scratchy affairs, but also the blue of a summer sky.

“Not at all,” the nurse replies as she adjusts the girl’s IV bag. “The name on your chart is Kaori. Perhaps you used to know a persona named Hanako. You were in a coma a very long time.”

“Kaori, kaori, kaori,” she turns over the words in her mouth. “From a flower to a mere fragrance. I seemed to have become invisible, an intangible fancy.”

“What a poetic turn of phrase you have. Maybe you can be a writer when you’re released.”

“Released? Am I a butterfly or a prisoner?”

“Don’t be silly, you’re a patient. Or is this one of your poems?”

The girl falls silent. She realizes she doesn’t know the name of her hometown. Or for that matter the names of her family members. Or if she has a family at all.

“Does anyone visit me nurse? I can’t seem to recall.”

“You’ve only been awake for two weeks and sleep most of that time from what the other nurses tell me.”

“Don’t you know?”

“No, I only started in this wing yesterday,” the nurse smoothes her dark hair.

It’s only after the nurse leaves that the girl realizes that the nurse’s nametag read ‘Himeko.’

Thirty minutes pass and the line barely inches forward. Nanami is about to start reading again when the crowd starts making noises of disappointment and the staff comes around to lead them out.

“Hey, what is this? I came to meet Ms. Mukogawa and get this crazy, er brilliant novel signed by her!” she gives her most imperious sneer to the staff member closest to her and Anthy.

“The signing is finished and Ms. Mukogawa has left,” the woman has the gall to smile. “We’re very sorry for any disappointed fans who were unable to get their books signed. If you check the publisher’s website there should be a schedule of Ms. Mukogawa’s other appearances.”

“Great, so I’m behind on lab work for absolutely nothing. Hello Bad Luck? It’s me, Nanami. Leave me alone I have enough troubles.” She wants to stomp down the escalator, but that would just be asking to ruin these stilettos.

“It wasn’t a total loss,” Himemiya observes once they’re on the ground floor. “After all you brought our attention to the novel and it seems to have a strong connection to Ohtori and Utena. I’m sure we’ll be able to contact the author somehow.”

“Five million ignored emails later,” Nanami huffs. “With a side of ‘never visit our office again’ warnings. Why can’t these things just once fall into place?”

In hindsight fall is a poor choice of words. She doesn’t see the dip in the cobbles, it happens so fast she’s only registering the pain in her hands and knees that she realizes what happened.  Scraped skin is a raw inelegant condition. It burns with hypersensitivity and seemingly takes an eternity to heal. So thank the gods she doesn’t have a single scratch on her face because forgoing foundation for a week is a deal-breaker.

“Oh dear, oh dear.” For once having Himemiya around is a real blessing because she helps her up and doesn’t fuss too much. “Let’s find a place with a first aid kit. Shall I go back inside and fetch the station master?”

She can see it now: a dingy cramped office with an out of date first aid kit and too many employees hovering around.  Yeah, no fucking way. It would probably also smell like bad warmed over boxed lunch and cleaning supplies. And not a hundred yards away was the entrance to the hotel attached to the station. Decisions, decisions.

“Just help me to the hotel lobby, it’s closer,” Nanami slumps against Himemiya without remorse. “I’d rather relax in four-star comfort than plastic chair discomfort. What’s the point of having a hotel attached to a station if not for situations like this?”

“For travelers and persons on business who prefer accommodations near their primary mode of transportation?”

“See we need to have a talk about rhetorical questions. Like super soon. Once there are some bandages and antibacterial wipes to be had.”

The concierge of the hotel watches them come in with a judgmental sneer that Nanami cannot wait to displace. “Is there something we can do for you…ladies?”

“King suite, if you please, and I want someone sent up with first aid supplies,” the flat ennui of the upper class feeling out of sorts colors her tone.

“We are going to need you to register and pay for the room first, miss. Did you want to look at the availability and price list first?” he’s almost daring her to back down, to behave like one of the masses. She’s not having any of it.

“Excuse me? Perhaps you don’t recognize me.”

“I do not, miss.”

Now this was the fun part of being rich. The parties are boring, the materialism monotonous, but pulling status and rank on jerks is always a joy.  She pulls out her mobile phone and dials the number she needs all while smiling a sugary smile at the jerk at the counter.

“Daddy, it’s me. I fell outside Kyoto station and the concierge at your hotel doesn’t recognize me. Uh huh. Yes, mmhmm. Yeah, no, you shouldn’t fire him. This time. I mean I’m sure he’ll put everything on your account once he sees my ID and I give him our account number. Uh huh, no I won’t be able to make it to dinner this Saturday, but I’ll come by Sunday to see you and Mommy. Bye bye!”

The concierge is still dumb enough to think Nanami is a silly girl pretending to be famous. “Anthy, darling, can you give him my card? It’s a bit hard to get up again with these banged up knees that no one sees to be attending to.”

Okay she has to admit that it’s times like these that she likes having Himemiya as her new partner in crime. Because Himemiya knows where this game is going and is grinning with anticipatory glee. Probably comes from a lifetime of men snubbing her, using her, and lording over her for their own gain. Even secondhand satisfaction can hit the spot. “Here you are, sir.”

All the color drains from his face as he checks the ID. “Mistress Kiryuu, a thousand apologies, we had no idea you would be stopping by this afternoon. Sato! Prepare a suite for Mistress Kiryuu and her friend immediately.”

Once motivated by fear for their jobs the employees have Nanami and Himemiya comfily situated in a suite and enjoying a late luncheon delivered via room service.  The complimentary champagne is also smoothing over any bad feelings Nanami had earlier. Even if it is a little hard to drink elegantly with her hands wrapped in gauze.

“On the bright side, we can finish reading Mukogawa’s novel in comfort,” Himemiya chirps once the bellhop leaves the room.

“Yeah, anything’s better than that linoleum floor and being surrounded by giggling fangirls.”

Another fortnight goes by for the girl who is not Hanako and is Kaori. The nurse named Himeko does not visit her again. She has many more doctors than before. They ask a lot of questions about her dreams. Their faces blur in her vision and her head aches. She sleeps by day to avoid them. By night she looks out the window and thinks about the First Princess.

One night she falls asleep during her quiet revelry and when she opens her eyes two moons are casting light enough for two shadows on her bed. She expects the forest to materialize around her, she expects to see the First Princess.

There is only her hospital bed and herself, the girl who is not Hanako. The door will not open. The window opens. In pours sand and bones of strange beasts. The room is filling and she cannot get out.

If this is an hourglass, she thinks, then turn me over and let’s start again. The room tilts and pitches. The sand empties with sibilant hisses and Hanako-who-is-not-Hanako falls out the window with the sand.

“Ooooooh, yes! Harder! Please, please please, ohhhhh just like that!”

Nanami jolts out of her reading and back to reality. “Oh for the love of-! Someone has to get laid in the middle of the afternoon in the room next to ours. Because waiting until night time is just too much to ask for.”

“Ahhhhhh! More, more, more! Slow down, no speed up!”

“My what indecisiveness,” Himemiya chuckles and pours them both another glass of champagne.

“Maybe she’s a princess of Mars,” says her regular nurse. “I read that Mars has two moons.”

“I saw a movie that had the world of fairies having two moons,” says the night nurse. “Maybe she’s a fairy princess.”

“She’s the First Princess,” Hanako-Kaori always answers. “And I miss her very much.”

“The whole world misses princesses like that,” says her regular nurse. “That’s why they’re in so many stories.”

“All the magic’s gone out of the world these days,” says the night nurse. “That’s why there’s no fairy princesses anymore.”

Squelch, squish, slap, thump. The undignified noises of intercourse in the next room are even louder than before.

“I think their bed is right up against this wall,” Himemiya touches the wall behind where she’s sitting on the couch.

“Ohhhhhh myyyyy god, your tongue is amaaaaziiiiiing!”

“Okay, this girl is starting to royally piss me off.” She kicks on the adjoining wall with hard, “Just finish already! God!”

There’s a sweet moment of golden silence. Then comes the high pitched wailing of pleasure starting up all over again. Nanami hates herself a little for being simultaneously turned on and pissed off.

Like the stupid part of her south of the equator says, hey let’s ask Himemiya for another great hand job and be even louder than the other girl just so fair is fair. But that’s a splendidly terrible idea. Because while orgasms are great they’re kind of in the middle of a budding friendship and Nanami cannot handle relationship drama. Any drama that doesn’t revolve around her own needs is superfluous.

“Okay, that’s it! I’m going to knock on their door and give them a piece of my mind!”

“Maybe I should knock for you since your hand is still bandaged.”

“Good idea.” It’s almost as good as having a hench girl again, but a witch is so much better Nanami decides.

Himemiya knocks with all the righteous force that Nanami would totally use if her hands weren’t in such a delicate state.

“Open up, girlie!” Wait that sounds kind of obscene given the circumstances. “I mean open up the door! We’re not gonna listen to your ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘pretty please screw my brains out’ anymore!”

Shuffling and other noises can be heard from the opposite side of the door. Nanami taps her foot impatiently. “Himemiya, knock once more!”

Before her friend’s – were they friend’s? – knuckles could meet the firm surface of the door it flies open and a young woman with nothing but a crumpled sheet says, “What do you want?”

“For you to be quieter about your enjoyment of cock, duh.”

The girl laughs as if a naked girl has a right to laugh at a fashionably fully dressed Nanami Kiryuu.

“You’re just jealous,” the strange girl leers. “With that sour puss of yours you’re probably still a virgin. I mean you did grope me before.” She lets the sheet drop to display a fine collection of love bites and her wet thighs.

“Ohhh,” Nanami rolls her eyes. “You’re one of those bitches from the book signing. Yeah, don’t flatter yourself. You’re not that hot. Any groping that was done was purely accidental. I mean -” she jerks her thumb at Himemiya. “International super model who’s a succubus between the sheets –“ finger now pointing to the girl – “or a slutty OL or freeter. No competition.”

Himemiya, blessed partner in crime Himemiya, possessively puts an arm around Nanami and nips at her ear suggestively. Fake girlfriends are much more convenient than real ones, she decides.

“I took home more than a signed book,” the girl tries to salvage her pride.   

“What do you have Mukogawa in there?” Nanami cackles. “Or did you pick up a security guard?”

“The former.”

Nanami pushes past the nude girl and manages to barrel her way into the suite that’s a twin to her own. “Ms. Mukogawa, I need to ask you a question about your book-!”

The figure reclining on the bed is nude, beautiful, and calmer than anyone interrupted in coitus ought to be. Nanami could probably write poems about the woman’s figure, her air of grace, her stately features. But none of that matters because there’s one thing about the author that stands out from everything else.

It’s the fact that she’s Juri Arisugawa.