RouteSaga Episode 46: An Aidoru is Born!
"This is it," said Rai in a hushed voice. In the changing room, Poffin carefully applied her makeup before the mirror. "Your aidoru
career starts tonight."
Poffin lauged softly, somewhere between a giggle and a chuckle. "Dunno if they'll like my singing, but damned if that'll stop me." Standing, she turned to face her sister. "How do I look?"
Rai grinned. "Spectacular. Go out there and dazle the audience, all right?"
A nervous look flickered on Poffin's face, but quickly vanished. "Of course," she said, grinning. "Hey, can you check the news?"
Rai blinked. "Yeah, sure." Picking up a remote, she switched on the nearby TV.
"Akward Broadcasting, nine o'clock news! Your daily news, brought to you, by your akward anchor Apsa! Sponsored by Hidden Vallley Ranch. 'My family is dying and i have zero control of my bowels.'"
The Akward Broadcasting logo vanished, replaced by Apsa in her news studio. "This just in! Magical girls are appearing across Route 50!" announced Apsa to the camera. A photo of Mega Cloud appeared on the wall behind her. "Three bank robberies have been stopped by the mysterious heroine, Mega Cloud, all within an hour of each other!"
The photo was replaced with a street map, red dots marking the locations of the robberies. Apsa looked intensely into the camera. "Just who is this mahou shoujo? Where did her powers come from? Will senpai ever notice her? More updates at ten."
It was a cool, summer afternoon (i.e. not in California). A teenage boy in a blue polo shirt and a conical hat was putting up a poster across the street from Chat Tower. In the lobby entrance, a guy in a Wooper t-shirt frowned. "Why's that guy putting up a poster?"
"Because he wants to, Kyle," replied his friend, who had burned through two thirds of his sketchpad and showed no signs of slowing. "It's like why people eat mapo tofu, or play mobile games, or hunt for--"
"--shinies?" Glancing up, Bovinlep stared as Toxikyle joined his table, struggling with an armful of Poke Balls, each containing a non-shiny Absol. "Why can't I, hold all these Absols--"
One table over, a guy with sleek brown hair and a purple long-sleeved shirt rummaged through his backpack. "Try this," said Aura-Flare, handing Toxikyle a Lucario energy drink. "One sip and you feel the power rushing through you!"
Outside the chat tower, a Skarmory swooped down toward the chat tower with a fox on its back. Before it could smash through the window, however, a second Skarmory sideswiped it, clipping the first one's wings and sending it spiraling to the pavement with a crash.
Moments later, a floor tile in the corner popped out, and Fex rolled out from the hole, causing Toxikyle to knock over his can. "Good boy, Simon," she said happily, patting the Skarmory in her Poke Ball.
Going pale, Metatyph fell out of his seat. "No! Stay back!" he gasped, scrambled back from Fex and her Skarmory.
Outside, Zephyzu finished securing the poster to the wall and walked away, not reacting in the slightest to the downed Skarmory and rider nearby. A few tables away from Aura-Flare, Sky glanced up from a holographic LoL board. "So what's that poster supposed to be, anyway?" she asked.
A girh with Vulpix ears pressed her eyes to the window, squinting at the words on the poster. "Poffin's debut, seven o'clock," read Kitsukara aloud. "Come see a rendition of your favorite LOVE LIVE! performances." She frowned. "Wha...?"
Thwack. Thwack. Thwack-thwack-thwack. Over and over, Twiggy's bo-staff pummeled the straw dummy. Head, shoulders, thighs. Again and again and again, each blow echoed across the grassy bluffs.
A few feet away stood a thoroughly dissatisfied Pokey in DP's body. She had done her best to style Peggy's pale-violet hair into rust-colored spikes, but somehow retained their neat, princely texture. "This stupid body!" she grumbled. "I swear to god, every time I touch my pockets, something magical explodes--"
She broke off as one of her fingers accidentally brushed a bulging jacket pocket, which immediately burst open with piles of bricks. "H-hey!" yelped Twiggy, dropping her bo-staff and diving forward to catch a brick before it landed on a blue-speckled flower. "Watch the bricks!"
Frantically, Pokey-as-DP tried to collect the fallen bricks. "Anyway, about these mahou shoujo
turning up all over the Route," she continued. "You think they'll get in our way? I know Akkie's doing her research on them, but..."
Picking up her staff again, Twiggy stared down the training dummy. "We'll just have to see them in action for ourselves," she said coolly. "Any progress in tracking down Neppers?"
Pokey shook her head. "Not a hint. Trail's gone cold. But we'll find her. Somehow."
Spinning her staff, Mega Cloud raced over the rooftops of Route 50, chasing a bank robber surrounded by rings of green numbers. "Fool! You cannot best me," shouted Olscarborotyrel. "For I am a math teacher! And I have infused my soul with math itself! Behold, my perfect flight tranjectory!"
But Mega Cloud still pursued him, undeterred. "Ha! The embodiment of math?" she laughed. "You underestimate the power of a student's apathy!"
Raising her staff high, she sprang at the bank robber. "Procrastination Beam!" she yelled. This would be the part where she swung her staff to fire the beam, but she was feeling kinda lazy, so maybe next time.
The beam blasted Olscarborotyrel directly, halting him in midair. "No! My calculations!" he cried as the green number rings began to roll down to zero.
Staff glowing, Clouded-Immortal dove toward the bank robber, the wind sweeping through her hair. "Now for my specialty!" she declared as a cloud of glowing mist gathered around her. "Cumulus... FINISH!"
The bank robber screamed as the silver cloud-wall flew forward and engulfed him whole, the wind bearing him down to the ground and trapping him flat on the pavement. "Ah, perfect timing!" said Cloudy, landing on a nearby roof as Audino police sirens approached in the distance. "Yes! For a future of blue skies and puffy clouds, I will fight on!"
Whistling, Maestra approached the roach coach on the street corner. "Hello! Welcome to Unlimited Bento Works," said the twin-tailed girl at the window plea. "May I take your order?"
"Grilled miso and shrimp," said Mae, pulling out her wallet. "To go, please!"
The window girl nodded. "Emiya-kun, customers are here, so get to work," she called sweetly, stepping away from the window.
A voice from inside answered. "Eh, already? I'll be up in just a minute. I didn't get much rest last night."
Immediately, Rin's smile darkened into a scowl. "H-hey! You can't nap right now," she snapped. Mae heard someone getting shaken vigorously by the shoulders. "We have a customer! A paying customer!"
The blond girl in the cab poked her head back into the tiny kitchen. "Shirou? Rin? What is all the commotion?"
"Ah, Saber! Come help me wake up Shirou. He needs to cook, but he won't get up."
The air shifted. Gulping, Maestra looked around as the wind on the street corner began to pick up. "Oh, is that so?" said Saber, her words becoming more threatening without changing in pitch or volume. "This is what happens when you sleep in the shed and wake early while not fully rested. Shirou. You must not deny the world the fruits of your your gift!"
With a shrill chirp, Mae sprang back as the food truck shook. "S-Saber! Please, wait!" begged the cook. A cot creaked as he rolled out out, feet landing on the floor with thumps. "I apologize, Saber! I was not thinking. I will go prepare the customer's order now."
Slowly, Mae exhaled as the wind in the interesection calmed down again. "Very good," said Saber, placated. "I am glad you understand."
The cook gave a nervous laugh. "Tohsaka-san, I apologize to you as well. You struggled to get me out of bed when I should be waking up on my own, and even needed Saber's assistance. I am sorry!"
The window girl's voice shook. "Wh-what does that mean?" she stammered. "I-it's not like I was worried about your health or anything! I just need to make sure my gemstone funds don't go dry, that's all. B-baka!"
After ten minutes or so, the girl at the window finally reappeared with Maestra's order. "We apologize for the long wait," said Rin sweetly, once again wearing the polite smile of an honors student. "That'll be 685 yen, please."
Sweating profusely, Mae handed the money up to the window. "Thank you." Taking her fresh boxed meal and receipt, she quickly left the intersection, feeling very uncomfortable.
As Poffin waited anxiously behind the curtains, Pirate ran down her checklist. "Let's get started, everyone. We've got a full audience tonight."
Up in the technician booth, Pope activated the row of sound switches, sliding each one up to max volume position. "Check," he said into his walkie-talkie.
Next to Pope, a Typhlosion hit a row of switches and pulled a lever, activating the spotlights. "Check," said Scarlett Flame, leaning back, grinning.
Behind Poffin, Zephyzu and PrincessReilin finished moving the backdrop into place. "Check," they said in unison.
Over by the rope, Darklite gave a thumbs up. Grinning, Pirate wnet to go check on Poffin. A few steps from the door, she hesitated. Huh? Did she see something out of the corner of the her eye? No, she must've been imagining things...
"Sparkssss, foxes and asphalt do not mix," chided Sky, dunking a yelping Sparkleaf into a water barrel repeatedly before setting him down. "There are better places to take a nap than under a crashed Skarmory, you know."
Kitsukara and Aura-Flare both cringed as Sparkleaf shook out his drenched fur, spraying them both. "Why was it so cold?!" spluttered the fox, pawing at his ears until the water drained out.
"The water's not cold, Cali is just hot," said Fex. The moderator and her Skarmory were sitting on Metatyph and his Mega Kangaskhan, both unconscious.
At that moment, MysteriousVaporeon entered the lobby, holding a Dio body pillow. "Psst Sky," he whispered loudly. "Tsop."
His mother ignored him. "Because you were on fire?" she said to Sparkleaf lightly. The fox bared his jaws at Sky, but she simply pushed his nose down with a hoof.
MV crossed his arms. "Sky, if you're wondering why 'Tsop' means, get a mirror and read what it says."
Taking a seat, Sky rolled her eyes. "Too much work," she grumbled.
Sparkleaf hopped over the counter, landing on his mod seat. "But 'p' in a mirror is a 'q'," he pointed out. "So it would say 'qosT.'"
Next to the fox, Fex was feeding her Skarmory a Poke Puff. "And 's' becomes a 'z'," she added. "So you get 'qozT.'"
MV glared at the two mods, then promptly deflated. "In my defense, late night MV does not function well at night," he grumbled, collapsing into a seat.
Outside, a truck rolled down the street, bearing a logo of a red rose ith black thorns. Apsa stared at the truck as it passed the chat tower, then shook her head.
The clock read 6:55. The audience was bristling with anticipation.
"Time to go," said Pirate, tapping Poffin's shoulder. Nodding, Poffin stood up proudly and headed for the stage.
But as she headed out the door, her dress snagged on a metal statue of a wolf's claws and ripped. Poffin froze. "Ah, crap!"
Pirate was furious. "The hell? Who left their stuff lying around" she barked into her walkie talkie. "I'll send 'em to the locker!"
Rai cringed. "There's no time to fix it," she said, dragging Poffin back to the wardrobe. "You'll just have to wear one of the plainer dresses."
"Are you crazy?" protested Poffin. "I can't wear that, I'll look like an old lady--"
Rai frowned at her. "You've only got five minutes to get on stage. Quickly!"
Out in the auditorium, the spotlights and speakers all simultaneously died. Confused mumblings rose from the audience, filling the dark hall. "I have a bad feeling about this," muttered Kitsukara from row three.
"What? No!" protested Scarlett from the tech booth, resetting the switches and pulling the lever again. Nothing happened.
"Maybe we activated the circuit breaker," said Pope, fiddling with his own controls. No good; the sound system was dead too.
Scarlett slapped the panels, but the lights refused to come on. "Nonsense, we never got anywhere near that point during rehearsals," said the Typhlosion, annoyed. "Hey, someone tell backstage, we're not ready!"
But backstage had its own share of problems. "Hey, Reilin," said Zephyzu shakily, pointing at the backdrop. "You waited for the paint to dry before standing it up, right?"
Reilin pulled out a flashlight as the lights died, illuminating the painted landscape. Drops of blue sky had rolled down over his buildings, leaving blurred lines of paint. "Impossible. I made sure your paint was dry before I did my part!"
Pulling away from Rai's grasp, Poffin stumbled onto the dark stage, a hand pressed to the rip in her dress. The smell of bird droppings reached her nose as she tripped on a trailing ribbon from her dress and fell. "Gah!"
Breathing hard, she stared at the curtain. She could hear the stagehands around her, moving quickly, the audience beyond the curtains growing discontent. How? How did everything unravel so quickly?
"Hey, Poofin," said a small voice by her feet. "This is awful, isn't it? But you musn't give up. You've practiced so much. Everyone's put in all their effort for this night to happen. You can't let that go to waste!"
Poffin's eyes widened as she saw a girl in a powder blue dress with long, white hair parted over her antlers, flowing down to her waist into pink tips. The voice was surely Nepeta's, but surely, this girl was too small.
"I know, I know I can't let everyone down," said Poffin, looking at the floor frustratedly. "But what can I do? Everything's turned into a disaster."
"Don't worry," said the mysterious girl. She took Poffin's hands, her eyes glowing with a soft, red light. "Just listen closely, and make a contract with me..."
Poffin's body flashed with brilliant white energy, a gemstone appearing in her hand. With just a minute to seven, the auditorium began to fill with light from some unknown source. "Poffin? Poffin!" called Pirate. "What're you doing? Get back here!"
Getting to her feet, Poffin shook her head, light glittering off her torn dress. "No, it's okay," she said, her eyes aglow. "I can do this. It'll be fine." She held up her hand, the gem on her palm. "Mega Ring, Poffinite! Keystone, activate! Mega... EVOLVE!"
Magic flowed from the gem and enveloped Poffin in a shell of pink energy, spinning and rippling. Gasps rose from the audience as they saw the glowing light behind the curtains. "Is it starting?" wondered Mae as she sat next to Kitsukara.
Glittering "Hey! The backdrop is cleaning itself," gasped Zephyzu. Reilin stared as the paint drip lines vanished.
Rai's eyes widened, staring at her sister through the sphere of flowing energy. "Is it just me, or is the rip in her dress conveniently vanishing...?"
Pirate's eyes widened. "Mahou shoujo power?" she muttered. "Yes! This... this just might work!" She signaled to Darklite. "Curtains up!"
As the clock hit seven, the curtains slowly began to rise. One by one, the spotlights on the edge of the stage and on the ceiling were replaced by magic, multicolored light crystals
The shell split open like a flower bud, presenting Poffin before the audience in dazzling glory. "Mega Poof, the idol of miracle and song!" she declared proudly.
She wore a short red and white dress with ruffled sleeves and hem, a ribbon in her hair. A violet bowtie adorned her shirt collar, matching the bows on her frilled gloves and stocking, Her makeup was restored to its intended appearance, carefully applied over the last few hours.
Stepping forward, Poffin smiled. "Thank you all for coming," she said to the audience, her voice loud and clear. "I'll be performing a cover of Nishikino Maki's 'Darling!!' for you tonight."
Cheers rose from the audience as Poffin began to sing, intertwined with her pre-recorded lines. Bento in her lap, Mae covered her nose and mouth as if trying to hide a nosebleed.Daring! You’ll be wild!!
Don’t worry, don’t worry!
Don’t worry, don’t worry!
(迷わず Go go!!)
Don’t worry, don’t worry!
Don’t worry, don’t worry!
(迷わず Go go!!)
Pope and Scarlett were both dumbfounded. They could both hear and see Poffin from the back of the auditorium perfectly. "But the sound console is dead," mumbled Pope.
"And I can't control the lights," said Scarlett, prodding the useless controls. "But we can see her perfectly!"Icchau kai? Ai nante hoshikunai to?
Itchatta! Nee sore wa tada no joudan!
Gouin ni goukai ni hikiyose rarete
Demodemo muda yo usouso ureshii
High above the auditorium, a cat-eared shadow crept along the ventilation pipes. All according to plan
, as humans would say.
It was like a Rube Goldberg machine. Set everything in place so that the most improbable of actions would trigger a series of events, resulting in the desired outcome.
A second cat-eared shadow joined the first. "How was that?" she asked, watching as Poffin sang with all her heart.
The first shadow showed no visible reaction. "A wonderful job, my apprentice."