Chapter 2:

Prologue

Maid of Hearts


Akihabara, the city of anime, manga, and electronics stores. It is a place where youthful teenagers try to chase their dreams in hopes of doing something grand with their lives. Starting a band, opening a restaurant, becoming a professional cosplayer, no matter the goal all of the youth of Akihabara had goals and dreams. They all had this belief they could make something of their lives in Akihabara and continued to cling to these ideas in their hearts.
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Niko Kanazuki held this same idea and believed that if she moved away from her parents restrictive mindset she would go on to become something more than a simple innkeeper for her family's inn. When she turned eighteen she left home without much thought and jumped on the first train bound for the capital city of Tokyo.Bookmark here

It was a quiet train ride as Niko looked at her cell phone. She was ready to get out and explore the world around her. Even though she did not have much in the way of luggage she still had her dreams, desires, and goals. That was all she needed — at least, that is what she believed.
Niko couldn't help but smile as the train stopped at Akihabara Station. She was excited to finally be on her own, away from her parents. No longer would she have to listen to them about their religious beliefs nor be controlled on what clothes she was allowed to wear in public. Her new life began the second she stepped off the train. She was free to be herself; free to live her dream.
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The sounds of Akihabara echoed throughout her ears as people in suits and ties disembarked the train. It was amazing to Niko just how loud and compact Akihabara was compared to the rural area she was from. Wow, hard to believe I will be waking up to a place like this everyday, Niko thought as she made her way down the crowded streets. While she had finished high‑school she had yet to enter university due to the lack of financial aid available. Still, she was determined to make something of her life; she believed Akihabara was the stepping stone to get her across the water.
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With a bounce in her step Niko continued to remain positive as she came to large building which was no more then six‑stories high. As she entered the building Niko noticed a young woman sitting behind a counter. While her face was flawless and showed no signs of aging, her eyes had dark circles around them like that of a tanuki. The woman shifted papers from one tall stack on her left to a thin stack on her right as Niko approached the counter. She looks a bit scary, Niko thought as she woman continued to focus on the papers in front of her.
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"Excuse me, my name is Niko Kanazuki. I called a few weeks ago about the apartments here and was told I could move in today."
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The landlady — Tanukiko Futomomo — looked up at Niko with tsurime eyes. She doesn't look like she has much money. Why the hell did I agree to rent her the apartment again? Whatever, so long as she pays I don't care, Tanukiko thought as she looked on the rack of keys on rings that littered the wall behind her. After finding the key she placed it on the desk.
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"Right, here's the key. Second floor, room twenty‑five. Rent is due on the first of every month, no exceptions."
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With anything left to say Tanukiko went back to looking oever the papers in front of her. Niko grabbed the key from the counter and headed up the stairs until she reached the second floor. Moving down the hallway she looked at each of the numbers on the doors until she found room twenty‑five. Upon entering Niko slipped off her shoes at the entrance and looked around her new living quarters. Inside, the room was an empty void — like the cosmos. Aside from the bedroom and bathroom — which were made of a soft white carpet and white tiles — hardwood pine flooring greeted her throughout the rest of the apartment. There was no furniture in the apartment to speak of, not counting the bare essentials that were fixed in place: refrigerator, sinks, toilet, shower. Well, I know it isn't much to look at but at least I have my own place, she thought. Placing her bag against the wall she pulled out her phone and looked at how much money she had left after paying an early deposit on the apartment.
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The stinging cold heart of reality hit her as she opened the banking application to see the total sum of five‑hundred yen. There is no way this will last me for the whole month, plus I will need to save up for rent. I need a job, and fast, Niko thought as she looked up to the ceiling. Niko had managed to save up a bit of money before moving to Tokyo, however, she kept that money in her on‑line bank account — called Haraikimi. She would have about two months of living worry‑free before she would have to save up for rent, once her savings ran out. Jumping to her feet she decided she would look for a job close to her place, if she was lucky enough to find one. Exiting the apartments she wandered the streets of Akihabara in hopes of finding meaningful employment.
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Niko spent the better part of her day looking for a job, hoping anyone would be willing to simply give her a chance. However, with each rejection she grew saddened to the point she felt disheartened to continue — at least for today. She continued to walk up and down the streets until her feet were in pain. I'm so glad I didn't wear high‑heels, she thought as she rounded a corner. Before she could take another step she felt something hit her, bumping her with enough force to knock her off her feet.
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Rubbing her forehead to get rid of the throbbing pain Niko stood stood to her feet. Who did I just hit, Niko thought as she started to apologize.
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"I'm sorry. I didn't—"
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Words failed to form as Niko stared at what she had ran into or rather who. Laying on the ground before her was a beautiful girl, her long hair the color of a rose and sparkling purple eyes that made her gaze appear timid. She was dressed in a white top, a pair of blue jean shorts with black over‑the‑knee socks, and a simple pair of black heels. Maki was the only name people knew her by as that was the only name she would introduce herself by. While Niko was the average height of the Japanese female at one‑hundred fifty‑three centimeters, Maki stood eight centimeters taller and six kilograms more than the forty‑three kilograms of Niko's body mass.
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Niko stood up as Maki's eyes stared at her. She is beautiful, Maki thought as she felt her heart skip a beat.
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"Are you all right?" Niko asked.
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Maki didn't speak as she stood to her feet and dusted off the bit of dirt that had stuck to her skirt. Without saying a word she simply nodded and walked past Niko trying to avoid eye contact. She was so enthralling, Niko thought as she continued to watch Maki. Once she was out of sight Niko continued down the street as she looked for any place to work but none of the places were hiring. After looking around for another few hours Niko noticed a sign on the window of a maid café called Maid of Hearts stating that they were hiring. The building was in between two large stores, both of which were popular. Even though the café was small in comparison to the other buildings it was in a prime location for afternoon and evening business.
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Niko continued to stand outside the building as she debated if she wanted to go inside. While she had helped around the family inn she had never worked as an actual maid. Well, working as a maid would be better than no job at all, she thought as she entered the café. The place was modest in size with small tables scattered around the main serving area and booths adjacent to the walls. Soft linoleum wood covered the floors with off‑white colored walls giving the café a calming sense of peace.
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"Welcome home, princess. How may I serve you?"
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Niko couldn't help but be a bit surprised by the girl greeting her with a soft warming smile. She looked far to young to be of working age. With her blond hair in two perfect pigtails and jade green eyes she was a lilliputian of adorable cuteness. While Kogara Suashi looked the part of nymphette she was in fact thirty years of age. Wow, that girl is so tiny, Niko thought as she stared intensely at Kogara.
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"I noticed the sign out front and was wondering what it would take to be hired here."
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Damn, I hope Sai‑chan hires this girl. I would love to see her in one of the maid uniforms, Kogara thought as she smiled gently.
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"You would have to talk to the manager. One second."
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As Kogara left Niko noticed another girl standing off to the side. She looked to be about as old as Niko herself but had long blue hair with crimson red eyes. Her half‑moon stare made her look like she was a lifeless doll along with her deadpan expression. After a few minutes had passed Niko noticed another girl dressed in a maid outfit heading towards her. Unlike the other two girls she had a single red rose in her hair that fell just off the left side — near her ear.
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"So, Kogara tells me you're asking about that sign out front."
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"Y‑Yes ma'am. I am looking for a job."
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"Please don't call me ma'am. Just call me Sai‑chan."
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"Sorry ma'am..."
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Sai‑chan glared as she looked into Niko's eyes. Even though she was older than Niko she hated being called ma'am by anyone. To her being twenty‑six years of age was still young.
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"So, why do you want this job?"
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"Honestly, I love to help and serve others but I need a job to make income so I can keep paying rent."
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"You know, telling someone that you need money is a poor way to sell yourself."
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"I know but..."
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"Well, do you have any experience as a maid?"
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"No, I only ever worked at my parents inn."
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"How old are you?"
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"Eighteen ma'am... Miss."
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If I hear her say that one more time I will kill her, Sai‑chan thought as she continued to look into Niko's eyes.
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"So, you moved out on your own."
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Niko nodded. So, this girl is most likely struggling to get by or if not she soon will be without any kind of employment. I suppose I could hire her, Sai‑chan thought as she continued to look over Niko from head to toe. Please hire her Sai‑chan. She is too cute to pass up, Kogara thought as she tried to read the expression on Sai‑chan's face.
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"All right then. I could use another maid. It will be a lot of work but if you can work at an inn then you can work at a maid café. Show up early tomorrow by zero eight‑hundred hours and I will introduce you to the life of a maid."
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"Thank you so much ma'am."
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"If you call me ma'am one more time I will fire you. Call me Sai‑chan. Ready, say it with me, SA‑I‑CHAN."
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"Sorry... Sai‑chan."
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"Good girl. I'm sure you will get along fine with everyone."
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With a polite bow Niko left the café and made her way back home. As she turned the corner she couldn't help but grin. She was happy to have found a job. The only thing she had to do now was prove her worth to the manager. She seems pretty nice. Hopefully, I can do well enough to please her, she thought.
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Making her way up to her apartment Niko entered and removed her shoes. I am tired after all of that, she thought as she sat down on the floor of her bedroom. Before long a loud growling sound echoed throughout the room. It had been hours since Niko had gotten anything to eat and it was starting to reveal itself. I hope they have a snack machine here, she thought as she stood to her feet.
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After finding a vending machine and spending the last of her money on a simple chocolate candy bar she returned to her room hoping to fall asleep quickly before the hunger returned. Tomorrow, I will be a maid, she thought as her eyes started to close.
Niko's eyes suddenly opened after a few minutes. Wait! When is zero eight‑hundred hours, she thought as she cried.Bookmark here

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