Chapter 0:


Neo Akihabara Meipouchou

March 24th, U.C. 0005, 1:47 AM

To the combatants, the battle was meaningless. Nevertheless, their lives depended on the outcome.

Atop a slanted mansion roof on the outskirts of the city, two groups of maids faced off. Seven attackers against three defenders, it should have been a one-sided affair, but the defenders were more skilled. At the opening of the battle, the attackers drew their swords—long, straight blades hidden in broom handles—and in that moment, two were impaled by knives thrown by their opponents.

The remaining five were able to deflect the upcoming projectiles with their swords, and charged forward. Their leader was engulfed by poison mist, shot from a spray bottle, and fell, rolling down the rooftop and off the side. In her attempt to dodge the poison, one of the others slipped and followed her leader down. She managed to toss a clothesline with a grappling hook up, but instead of saving her, it wrapped around the poisoner, and they fell to their deaths together.

Now three on two, one of the defenders swung a rug beater like a club. So forceful was her blow that it sent one attacker sailing into another, but it also caused her to lose her footing, and all three tumbled over the edge.

From high above them, the crystal dome that encased the city glowed as if suffused with pale moonlight. It reflected off the attacker’s sword, illuminating the two remaining maids. As the attacker advanced, she recognized the defender.

“Francine, is that you?” She stopped in her tracks, but kept her blade pointed forward, conscious that her opponent’s mop had a longer range.

“Giselle?” Likewise, the defender kept her mop at the ready, and her face remained stern. “What a cruel fate, to be reunited in these circumstances.”

“It doesn’t have to be. Join me. Even if I fall here, more will follow in my footsteps, but you’re the last on your side. There’s no more reason to fight.”

Francine’s stern expression melted into a sad smile. “Thank you for trying to save me, but you know I would be executed as a traitor if I defected.”

“That’s… My master is in need of replacements for my fallen comrades. Surely, he would overlook your actions if it benefitted him.” Giselle’s voice was now desperate, pleading.

“And then what? Spend the rest of my life fighting and killing for him?”

“Why not? They’re all the same, these ‘Muricans. Or do you actually care about ancient cartoons like they do?”

“Hardly.” A sarcastic chuckle escaped Francine’s throat. “But I care about peace.”

“All the more reason to switch sides then. Peace is so close. Once your master is killed, there will be no more dub holdouts, no more reason to fight.”

“You’re mistaken. If this is how its nobles nouveaux resolve their petty differences, the city will never again see peace. It was subs vs. dubs this time, but who knows what it will be next time? Probably some nonsense about which fictional character is more attractive. Our only hope for peace is to force them into a stalemate, so they learn that they can’t get what they want through violence.”

Steeling her resolve, Giselle tightened her grip on her hilt. “That’s no longer an option. You’re vastly outnumbered. There’s no way you can fight them all off.”

“But I must try. If you’re so concerned with peace—real peace—then why don’t you join me? With two of us, the odds are greater, no?”

“No. We wouldn’t stand a chance. I’ll bet my life that you’re wrong, that finishing this battle will finally put an end to war in this city. Even if… Even if my own sister stands in my way, I will not back down.”

“So be it.” Hoping to gain the advantage of surprise, Francine thrust her mop forward, attempting to impale Giselle with the spearhead hidden amongst the mop’s yarns. Retreating beyond the mop’s reach, Giselle batted the mop away with her sword, forcing Francine to pull it back, lest she lose control of it. She then threw a knife at Francine’s face, causing her to raise her spear to deflect it.

That was the opening Giselle needed. Faster than the human eye could track, she bolted forward and impaled Francine in the side. The wounded maid staggered, and would have fallen had Giselle not caught her.

“Forgive me, Francine. I promise you, I will do everything in my power to make this peace a lasting one. Your death will not be in vain.”

Coughing up blood, Francine looked upon her sister for the last time. Her voice gurgled as she spoke. “You are too kind for this world.” Pulling a knife from her apron, she stabbed it into Giselle’s side. “I won’t let you suffer alone.”

In his panic room, Milton the Stampede, the last dub holdout in the war, paced back and forth. With no family to speak of, if he fell here, it would mark an inglorious end for the short-lived the Stampede bloodline. Worse, it would mean that anime dubs would be forever relegated to academic archives, never to be enjoyed by the public again.

A knock on the door caused Milton’s heart to skip a beat. “Who is it?”

“It’s me. We drove them off, but I’m the only survivor. We need to find somewhere to hide you, quick.”

Recognizing Francine’s voice, Milton rushed to open the door, only to find a maid he didn’t recognize on the other side. Giselle was holding a bloody sword in one hand and clutching a gash in her side with the other.

“N—No, please.” Milton fell backwards and tried to crawl away from her on all fours. “I’m not an extremist like the others. I always said there was a place for subs and dubs. If you kill me, this world will lose something beautiful. Watanabe even said that there were aspects of the Cowboy Bebop dub that—”

“I just killed my sister. You think I give a damn about Cowboy Bebop?!” Still imitating Francine’s voice, Giselle vented her frustration at the cowering ‘Murican.

Milton had no response to that. There was nothing he could say, nothing he could do but die as she plunged her sword into his heart.

“It’s over.” Breathing a sigh of relief, Giselle limped towards the exit. In front of her lay an expensive rug woven in the pattern of a transmutation circle. A trail of red droplets chronicled her path to the panic room. Though she didn’t look down to confirm it, she had no doubt she was creating a parallel trail as she retreated. “Are you watching, Francine? No matter what, I’ll always cling to hope. It’s all I—”

Finally succumbing to her injury, Giselle collapsed, falling to the floor at the center of the transmutation circle.