Sukeban : Magical Princess Dream Warrior [Short]
Kaneko, The Queen of Neo-Tokyo. She ruled every high school across the vast country with an iron grip; nobody could hope to stand up to her. She trained for 10 grueling years atop Mount Fuji, only to return with a vengeance. Taking what she wanted and crushing anyone who dared to oppose her will. She was a delinquent who stood above all others. Respected. Feared. An unbeatable goddess among high schoolers. Or so the legends would say.
The truth? Well, that’s all a load of crap. Kaneko didn’t rule over squat. She was a pretty normal girl. Sure, she knew how to win a fight, but she never wanted to deal with that. If she could have her way, Kaneko would hang out in front of some convenience store, drink coffee and kick rocks until she eventually went home. Very rarely did she ever get to do this though.
Despite her extremely vocal wishes, nearly every day, some big buff student from another prefecture would come up to Kaneko and ask for a fight. Kaneko had learned a long time ago that these types of kids only left you alone when you gave them what they wanted. Kaneko beat their butts, they limped back home and she got back to her coffee, wishing she was never interrupted in the first place.
Unfortunately, Kaneko’s legend brought a crowd. A bunch of wannabe gang members who tried to prove themselves by beating “the toughest delinquent in all of Japan”. As stated, these losers never actually won any fights against Kaneko, but that only made her legend grow. She was unbeatable and people knew it.
Obviously, the police caught wind of Kaneko. Unfortunately for them, she never actually started the fights and of course her “fan club” would never even imply that she did anything at all, so she kept clear from any jail time. Or juvenile hall, in her case. Regardless, the cops looked for any chance they could to get rid of her, which they eventually found.
A robbery took place at an apartment less than a block away from the parking lot that Kaneko spent all that time in, and she didn’t actually have an alibi. She had stayed after school to clean her classroom, a duty often given to students in Japan. This was the first time that Kaneko had had to do it in months, not that she really minded doing it. She knew kids were scared of her, so she wasn’t surprised when nobody showed up to help her out.
She left the school late, wandering back towards the store. A police officer noticed her and arrested her on the spot. She was shuffled through the system quickly, making it in front of a judge in a few days, where the crime was put on her permanent record. That meant that her current high-school was probably going to expel her and what’s more basically no school in Neo-Tokyo would ever allow her to attend. Kaneko didn’t have a chance to fight back as her whole world got flipped around.
Where was she gonna go? She didn’t have anywhere else that she could go. So Kaneko went home and sat on her bed. She knew she couldn’t go back to that convenience store and she had to go to bed soon anyways.
“My sister called, she said that you can stay with them until you’re allowed back.” A voice came from behind.
Kaneko didn’t respond. It wasn’t like she had any choice in the matter. It was Kaneko’s mother. Kaneko figured that she’d try to shove this problem onto someone else as quickly as she could.
“She lives in California. You might remember her, we used to all live together. Her and her husband and her daughter. Here’s a ticket.”
Kaneko’s mother spoke about this like she was informing her daughter about their insurance information. Yet again, Kaneko’s whole world got turned around. She couldn't stay in Tokyo, she wouldn’t stay in Japan. She didn’t have much, but the world had ripped everything she had out of her hands.
Grabbing her luggage from the spinning conveyor belt, Kaneko exhaled a breath. Finally there. California. Now all she had to do was find her ride.
Pulling out her phone, she turned off airplane mode and opened the email app. She searched for an email that her Uncle had sent her, right before she took off. They should be in the drop off/pick up area…
“A silver sedan, huh?” Kaneko thought, looking at a picture that was attached to the email.
Looking out over the long aisle of cars, about 95% of them looked exactly the same. At least to Kaneko’s untrained eyes. Thankfully for her, the one she needed happened to be right in front of her. It honked briefly, before the window rolled down.
“Hey! Kaneko? That’s you, right? I’m your Uncle Geoff. Here to pick you up.”
Inside was a larger white man with short but thick brown hair. He was wearing a pair of thin rimmed glasses and a white button up, which gave him an air of scientific wisdom, which Kaneko could believe. Apparently he worked at a lab that made computer parts. Kaneko recognized him from pictures. Pulling off the bag from her shoulders, she opened the passenger door.
“Is it okay if I sit here?” She asked.
Geoff didn’t skip a beat, responding, “Of course! Make yourself at home. We want you to be comfortable.” He gave a genuine smile that made Kaneko feel a bit better about her situation.
Kaneko sat and put on her seatbelt. As they worked their way out of the airport, Kaneko remained silent. She didn’t know what to say. Sure, apparently she had met this guy before, but that was so long ago that she barely remembers him, if at all.
They had been driving for about half an hour, thankfully without much of that famous Los Angles traffic, when Geoff finally broke the silence, “You know, your Aunt Airi was excited for you to come over. Regardless of the, uh, circumstances. She wanted to be able to come pick you up, but she had work to finish up. Hopefully she won’t be asleep when we get back.”
Geoff chuckled to himself as if he had made a joke that no one else understood. It was awkward, but Kaneko appreciated his attempt.
“Yeah, that’d be nice.” Kaneko replied, politely. She didn’t really have much to say.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. They got off the freeway about 30 minutes later and quickly after that, they arrived at the destination.
As Kaneko stepped out of the car, she took a deep breath. The sun had set as she landed and by now, the sky was a deep, dark blue. The night air felt like a glass of ice water on her throat, utterly refreshing. Sure, she was still in the city, but it wasn’t the urban air she was used to. This air was suburban, which made a difference in her eyes.
Kaneko looked at the house. It was a 1 story home, which was made in the 50’s. It looked small and cozy or at least what Kaneko assumed that meant for an American. It was painted tan and had a large bay window, which Kaneko noticed was very common for the houses in this immediate area. It looked very middle class, in basically every aspect.
Walking inside, while Kaneko slipped off her shoes, Geoff threw his keys in a bowl by the door and shouted down a hallway. “Honey? We’re back!”
Quickly, a figure emerged from the doorway. A woman who bore a passing resemblance to Kaneko’s own mother. She had light brown hair that was tied into a bun and was wearing what looked like pretty comfortable and conservative loungewear. Her brown eyes were glowing with excitement and she bore a smile that was almost oppressive. Despite dressing kind of plainly, her excitement seemed to fill the whole room. She distracted Kaneko from Geoff disappearing through the kitchen into some room beyond.
“Kaneko! You’re here!” She screamed, running up to Kaneko and smothering her in a hug. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! You’re so big!”
Yup. This was Kaneko’s Aunt Airi, no doubt about that. Kaneko’s mom always acted jealous when she came up, so Kaneko knew she had to be pretty nice.
Finally pulling away, Airi continued, “Oh my Gosh! I can’t believe you’re actually here. I can’t wait for you to meet Minny. You two are going to be thick as thieves when you get to meet.”
Sensing that her silence was about to congeal into an awkward pause, Kaneko responded. “So, uh, where is she?”
“Minny? I believe she’s sleeping. Actually, you two will be sharing a room, so maybe I should go wake her.”
“No, no. That’s fine. I actually didn’t sleep on the plane or anything, so I might try to go to sleep quickly, just to beat the jetlag.”
“Okay. That’s okay. You can settle more in the morning. If you want, I can wake you up early.”
“Sure, that’d be great. Thank you.” Kaneko bowed, politely.
Airi quickly grabbed Kaneko’s shoulders and pulled her back up to a standing position. Her tone suddenly became serious. “Now, listen here. You don’t need to thank me for anything. Any of us. We’re your family. If you need anything, ask.”
Kaneko was dumbfounded. She only meant the bow as a polite gesture, but her Aunt had somehow seen right through her. Those words were more powerful than Kaneko thought they should be.
“Um, could you just show me where the bathroom is? I can probably get ready for bed in there.”
Airi took a moment to respond, searching into Kaneko’s eyes. Once she apparently found what she was looking for, she smiled warmly. “Of course. It’s the door at the very end of the hall. Take all the time you need.”
Kaneko rushed off to the bathroom without another word. Once inside, she locked the door and set her duffle bag on the counter. She hadn’t brought much, a few sets of clothes and the essentials, her phone, wallet and cosmetics set that she bought in Shibuya.
Kaneko didn’t really like to think about what she wore or looked like, so her outfits were all pretty much the same. A long black pleated skirt, a black bomber jacket and a trusty pair of sneakers were the go-to’s. Obviously it changed slightly from day to day, but she looked like a variation on the same theme every time.
Looking at her meager belongings gave her pause. Was this really all she had? Was this everything she could have taken with her? For a moment, these thoughts nearly overwhelmed her. Kaneko could feel that she was about to cry and so she did her best to nip that in the bud.
Moving to the sink and the mirror behind it, Kaneko turned on the faucet and looked at herself. Letting out a breath, she slapped herself; not hard, as if to hurt herself, but only to psyche herself up.
After a few more, she decided she was fine and began to look for her pajamas that she packed at the bottom for some reason. She had to take everything out and then go back and put everything back in. Kaneko wanted to slap her past self, but figured that her past self had already been slapped enough today, so she decided against it.
After she hastily put on her pajamas, Kaneko looked in the mirror one more time. She was okay. There was no way she’d let this situation get to her. Kaneko was stronger than that. Then she opened the door. Airi was standing nonchalantly in the dimly lit hallway, right next to a door.
She whispered, “This is Minny’s room, where you’ll be staying. You can probably leave your bag anywhere. All you gotta do is tiptoe to the bed, you have the bottom.”
Airi smiled her same genuine smile that you could feel irradiate warmth. Kaneko gave a polite smile and bowed again. This time, Kaneko caught herself, knowing that Airi might take it as a sign of her feeling guilty for barging in. Kaneko cut the bow short and carefully turned the knob to Minny’s room. Sneakily, she walked to the edge of the bunk and collapsed on top of it, leaving her bag by the foot of the bed.
Getting under the covers, Kaneko laid, staring at the top bunk. As much as she really wanted to be, she wasn’t tired, so she waited for sleep. In the meantime, her mind wandered. She wondered about who her family really was and if she’d get to know them. She wondered about Minny in particular, who she was, what she was like. Apparently they lived together back when Kaneko lived with her Grandmother at the shrine. She barely remembered even brief flashes of that place though, so she doubted that she could glean any real insight from that.
As Kaneko lay motionless in bed, she suddenly became aware that her cousin wasn’t making any noise at all. Not a peep. Kaneko toyed with the idea of checking on her for a minute before deciding that she was probably just a quiet sleeper. Kaneko hadn’t slept in the same room as anyone else, at least not since middle school. She wasn’t exactly an expert in this kinda thing, so she gave up any notion of knowing what’s normal in this situation.
After settling that, some stray thoughts directed Kaneko’s mind towards what her school life was gonna be like from now on. Even though she was nearly done with her 3rd year back in Japan, Kaneko would be put into the fourth year of American high school. She hoped that it wouldn’t be too much more advanced than she was used to.
Watching American movies and TV growing up, Kaneko imagined that high school over there was so much more chaotic than in Japan. Most schools didn’t require uniforms or have clubs. They even got to have Saturdays off every week which seemed a bit too good to be true. Kaneko couldn’t imagine the pace that the schools would have to maintain with so much less time to cover material. In Japan, a student would spend a majority of their time at school, either during lessons or attending their clubs which were held after school. In America, it seemed like even during class, most people were partying or not studying at least. She hoped she could keep up, but she was prepared to study hard in order to keep pace with her classmates.
Kaneko turned onto her side, finally ready to try and sleep. She closed her eyes gently as her mind slowed to a crawl. But before the comforting blanket of rest descended upon her, Kaneko was forced awake by a crash in the backyard. It wasn’t even that loud. She probably wouldn’t have been able to hear it if the window wasn’t open. Still she knew what it sounded like when a person fell into a bush. She was personally responsible for many others knowing what that felt like.
Quietly, she got out of bed and glided towards the window to see what was going on. Sure, it was probably an animal or something, but she had to make sure. For a moment, as she opened the curtains a crack, she couldn’t see anything. The backyard was being backlit by the full moon, making everything in the dark completely imperceptible. For a moment, everything was still, but then a figure emerged from the darkness. Climbing back onto the cinderblock wall that separated the backyards was a thin, feminine figure.
Kaneko couldn’t make out anything but a silhouette, but from what she could tell, the figure was wearing wavy shorts and puffs of fabric on her shoulders. As the figure mounted the wall, another smaller one crawled out to oppose it. Raising its head toward the girl, the smaller creature revealed itself as a rabbit, although it was way bigger than anything Kaneko had ever seen, even on the internet. With the moon behind them, they almost looked like shadow puppets.
The deformed rabbit and the girl squared off, with the girl revealing a staff that Kaneko couldn’t see until then. The rabbit lowered its head, almost like a growling dog, while the girl extended the staff towards it.
In a flash of motion, the rabbit jumped towards the girl’s head, but at the same time, the girl swirled her staff in the air. It connected with the rabbit, knocking it backwards onto the wall.
This was the moment Kaneko decided that she had to do something. Climbing out of the window, Kaneko saw something that she didn’t know was possible. In a burst of light, the silhouetted girl, finally identifiable as wearing pink, transformed her clothing into something a lot more normal. At the same time, her hair, which was bright pink itself, also transitioned to a light brown. All the while, the rabbit remained motionless atop the wall.
“She’s a magical girl?” She thought, although she was confident that magical girls were only a thing in Japan.
Once the light from the transformation dissipated, Kaneko was already outside. She moved across the back lawn and managed a semi-quiet whisper-yell, “Hey! What the heck did you do to that poor rabbit! Did you kill it?”
Again completely backlit, the girl jumped. She was clearly surprised and slipped off of the wall, back into the bush that she had fallen into earlier. “Woah!”
The girl groaned before making her way out of the bush. “You really startled me… Wait, what?”
“What? You hit that rabbit. What the heck!”
“Oh, sorry. The rabbit’s going to be okay now. I only helped it go back to what it should be.”
“Are you saying that it should be dead? Because that’s what it looks like. Stop pretending that you’re a magical girl, everyone knows they don’t exist here. Maybe a sorceress now and then, a few witches around the place, but never magical girls! That goes against a law or something. You’re lying!”
The girl paused for a moment. She seemed to be thinking of how to respond. “Um, well, I’m half-Japanese, so maybe it’s because of that? Also, no the rabbit’s not dead. My staff is like, magical, see? It takes these possessed animals and it makes it so they’re not all big and violent and stuff.”
Kaneko couldn’t tell what was more surprising about this conversation, the fact that she’s talking to a cultural anatopism, or the fact that the magical girl seems perfectly nonchalant with the insanity of this conversation. Was she willingly ignorant of the circumstances or an airhead? Probably both.
“Anyways,” Kaneko said. “Could you get out of here? I just arrived and I haven’t seen the family I’m staying with since I was 3 or something. I’m not trying to cause any trouble for them.”
Again, the girl paused. This time with a look of confusion that quickly shifted into recognition. “Ohh, that’s why you’re in my backyard. You had me going for a second there. Ha!”
“Your yard…”Kaneko said incredulously. “What are you on about?”
“Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Minny. Your cousin.”
“No freakin’ way.”
Kaneko’s mouth was hanging open. She couldn’t believe it. Well, she actually could, but that fact was stranger in Kaneko’s eyes. A brief flurry of emotions made their way to her brain. There was frustration, worry, joy, disappointment and then there was the suffocating idea that her time in California was going to be a lot more chaotic than she hoped.
Kaneko, who wasn’t incredible at hiding surprise emotions like the ones that had just snuck up on her, displayed them on her face like she was wearing a list attached to her forehead.
Seeing this, Minny stepped back non-confrontationally.
“Well, nice to meet you.” She said, obviously trying to seem friendly. She looked over her shoulder and whisper-yelled at something unseen. “Cat? Could you make Kaneko here fall asleep or something? You have dream powers, right?”
After a beat, an impossibly black cat jumped onto the wall. Even cast in moonlight, like everything else, it was pure black. Sure, the shadows around Kaneko were black, but somehow this cat was a blacker black, silhouetted in the silhouettes.
As another surprise, the cat then spoke out loud. “Yes. If you think it's the correct course of action, I can put her to sleep.”
“I was thinking we make her think this is a dream? I can’t really have my new roommate tell my parents about this, right?”
“Indeed. That should work.”
As Kaneko stood in bewilderment, she suddenly felt herself start to crumble. The warm blanket of rest had been thrusted onto her shoulders. She completely collapsed soon after.
In the final moments before she blacked out, Kaneko could hear the two discussing how they would actually get her back in bed. She hoped they wouldn’t leave her with any bruises.
Psst... If you enjoyed this, consider giving it a like. It's the button on the top or side with a little emoji - Rabat