[FFML] [Mai Hime, Future] A Dream of Flight

Bert Miller hkmiller at theeddy.com
Sun Mar 1 16:15:28 PST 2009

Again, I love these stories!

John Biles wrote:
> civilizations dwell.  Some love me, some fear me, but everyone knows who I
> am, for I am the Dragon-Rider, the Princess of Fire.
A Mai first-person.  Great!  I wondered if you were going to do one.

>     It's just so intoxicating, to ride Kagatsuchi into battle, to unleash my
> fire.  Too intoxicating.  I can't trust it.
Nice characterization bit.

>     Shun twirls, skirts fluttering.  You'd think he was a woman...
While I think you picked Shun's name partly to convince us readers that 
Shun really is a boy,
Akira's one comment in "Under a Barrel" only makes sense to me if Shun 
is just
like Akira was:  really a girl, posing as a boy who sometimes dresses as 
a girl.

>     "I only did it when I had to f...," I caught myself just in time.  For a
> moment, his eyes flicker and they are more his mother's in triumph than his
> father's gentle ones.  And I wonder which of them he really got more from.
> logo of various colors.  I guess someone just really liked roses.
Even if Nagi isn't around, then, perhaps Akio Ohtori is.  Or Touga.  
(Given that you've already
twice implied that Utena happened in this universe.)

>     They're older now.  I'm thirty nine,
Wow, an actual pinpointed age!  (As opposed to "in my thirties".)

>     I haven't seen them in a year, not since our twentieth high school
> reunion, and really, I haven't seen a lot of them since college.  You know
> how it is, once you go out into the world, it's easy to drift away and lose
> contact. 
No trace of irony here in Mai's thought; it doesn't even occur to Mai 
compare this with
how the Hime and associates have kept touch.

>     And it's hard for those of us in the family to really...people know when
> you're hiding something.  When you have to keep a secret...though really,
> they're both pretty trustworthy.
Exactly.  Chie and Aoi have to have known, for twenty-two years plus, 
that Mai has a
secret she's not sharing with them.  You don't really show us any of 
this; we never find
out what they suspected (unlike quickie boyfriends, Chie and Aoi have a 
context of
surrounding events in which to place the secret, and the list of those 
in the know
means something [probably several somethings] to them); whether they 
resented the
exclusion or concluded that they were better off not knowing.  You never 
show us
Chie trying to pump the children for info.

>     I'm not sure how much they know...they might know everything or almost
> nothing; you couldn't attend our high school without knowing of some of the
> weird things which happened.
Exactly.  Chie and Aoi knew how Mai arrived at the school; they knew Mai 
was absent
from class the afternoon the hillside in back of the school caught fire; 
etc, etc.  Chie knew
who was NOT present in the gym when the soldiers started conducing 
"medical tests"
on the girls, and could have should have correlated that list with Mai's 
later sudden
intimates and co-secret-holders.

>     "Does everyone still think they're a gay couple?" Aoi asked.
>     "What?" Crystal asked, confused.
>     "Haven't you ever seen the pictures?" Aoi asked.
>     "Pictures?  What?" she asked.
>     "I could have...well, I suppose it never came up," I told Crystal.
> "Akira-chan was posing as a boy when she came to Fuka Academy."
That's a pretty big thing to have "never came up", given that it's not 
related to the
big secret.

>     We eventually got to the restaurant; Tiger Claw is a pretty good Chinese
> restaurant; I have to say that one thing I appreciate about being an adult
> is being able to afford good-quality food.  Even if I would make their
> orange sauce differently.
Heh.  Nice bit of characterization, though I think you could sharpen it 
by telling us HOW:
"Even if I would use more ginger and less sugar in the orange sauce."

>     "He's a lot higher class," Crystal said.  "His name is Roger Smith and
> he's a negotiator."
>     "Wait, she's dating Roger Smith?" Chie asked, surprised.
>     "You know him?" I asked curiously, then began working on another
> eggroll.
>     "He's so handsome," Aoi said, putting a hand to her cheek.
>     "He is handsome," Chie said, sounding slightly rueful.
>     "I thought he had a thing with his creepy secretary, though," Aoi said.
Roger Smith seems to be very well known in your world, better known 
generally than
he is in his original series.

>     "Senoh-sensei, you're smearing barbeque sauce on your cheek," Crystal
> said to her right as I held out a napkin to her.
They're married, but Aoi still uses her maiden family name?

>     "We had to adopt," Chie said.  "And I suppose you could, but..."  It was
> clear she wished they'd been able to have one who would be the natural child
> of both of them.
Given that this is twenty-odd years in the future, one might have 
thought it would be
technically feasible by this time.  Just for verisimilitude, you might 
consider adding
a bit of conversation where the current state of that technology is 
given to us:
"We'd really wished we'd been able to have a natural child of both of 
us," Chie
said, "but they're still having trouble with that.  It'll probably be 
another five

>     "How is Erica doing?" I asked her.
>     "She's at Rosewood this year, same grade as Crystal," Chie said.
Ergo they adopted a daughter the same year they got married?  You might 
want to push
the wedding back from sixteen years previous to eighteen or so.  But I 
suppose Erica
might have been a few years old when adopted.

>     Crystal cocked her head.  "Wait...Harada Erica is your daughter?"  She
> poked the side of her head.  "Of course.  I should have realized."
So the five now have an honorary sixth.  In your next story, having 
Crystal and co
try to figure out how to relate to Erica, when to include her, etc, 
ought to be
interesting.  For that matter, Erica suddenly has two mothers with a big 
they won't tell her, and five new cousins she previously barely knew.  Her
reaction ought to be even more interesting.

>     "I'm just glad you came out of all that okay.  I was very worried about
> you," Aoi said, shivering a little.
>     I noticed Crystal was now watching us very, very intently, the way
> Mikoto watches something she's stalking and is about to pounce on.
Exactly.  How interesting it would have been at this point if Chie had 
decided that Crystal
just HAD to hear the story of how Mai arrived at school...

>     "What exactly happened?" I asked Mikoto, who is now hugging Chie.
>     "We had to decide who would do the dishes," Mikoto said.
Heh.  Great line.

>     "I need to talk to you in private," she said softly.
>     Without Chie...what was wrong?
> "I'm worried about this story Chie's working on," she said to me finally as
> she scrubbed her stomach.
>     "The Tallin Instititute was engaged in really dangerous experiments, but
> it had really big money behind it," Aoi said.  "I'm just afraid Chie's going
> to get herself in over her head."  She sighed.  "I hate to burden you with
> this, but I just need to talk about it to someone who cares.  Without having
> another fight with Chie about it."  She sighed deeply.
Huh.  Now, is this Aoi's real reason for bringing it up?  Or does she 
suspect Mai can actually
do something about it?

>     "Crystal, Shun, and a classmate of theirs are here, having gotten it
> into their heads to sneak around the place and investigate.  Can you bring
> Yuiichi-san or Mikoto-chan and haul them off?"
Heh.  Trust the kids to do something like this.

>     Crystal mumbled, "Dan gets to go on adventures with his mom, sometimes."
>     I rubbed my forehead.  "I'm not Midori and I don't take my children near
> hails of bullets."
Dan MUST know more than the other kids, unless Midori has never, ever 
accidentally taken
Dan near a power zone.  Maybe Dan hasn't seen Gakuten-O, but surely he's 
seen a long-
handled axe suddenly appear in his Mom's hands?  Or maybe seen his Mom 
make an
impossible leap?

>     "Hey, I didn't expect to see you stay, Mai," Chie said.
Yes she did.  Or maybe she didn't, but now she's worried?

> trespassing."  His voice echoed like something else, something staticky and
> electrified was speaking in unison with him.
I think that last sentence needs a second comma, after "electrified".
>     "Battle Princesses!", Wang suddenly hissed.  "The daughters of the
> Crystal Princess!"
>     "What?" Chie said.  "You two have just gone crazy, haven't you."
No raised eyebrow and appraising look at Mai?

>     "You can't have Natsuki!" Mikoto shouted at the giant...well, it looked
> like a huge mostly blue mechanical robot that looked vaguely like a giant
> pharoah.  Wearing a big red bib under his chin.  Okay, he's hard to
> describe.
>     Several tiger-things jumped up and got hosed down with huge bullets by
> the giant robot; the tiger-things caught fire and burned to death; Chie
> looked rather frustrated by this and grumbled about guns.
>     It was pretty clear to me it was on our side and trying to protect
> Natsuki.  "It's okay, Mikoto, it's on our side!"
First time through, it took me until this point to realize that this is 
Big O.  The description
didn't do it (but probably should have).

>     The Robot turned and fled, flickering more as it left the shrinking
> bubble.
Nice decision about how to handle Big O.  I'd been wondering, ever since 
you introduced
Roger Smith.

>     "Whoever was piloting that mech knows too," I said.
True.  Most of Roger's questions about Natsuki's secret have been answered.

>     "Maybe her love for Mr. Smith created a new Child!" Mikoto said,
> suddenly perking up.
"Maybe Mr. Smith is really a Hime, disguised as a man, just like Akira!" 
Mikoto said.

"Right", I snorted.  "Maybe he's the first male Hime, too.  Fat chance."

>     "Kasumi would never try to sneak into a place like that," I said.  "And
> Dan...unless he's a better cross-dresser even than Shun, it's only women,
> right?"  But we couldn't be sure of that either.
Bingo!  Chase that line of thought, Mai!  Who do you know who'd protect 

>     "Well, there's an easy way to tell if it's Chie's Child," Akira said.
> "We'll have to ask Sister Yukariko, but I know her order tracks those places
> where magic works.  Check for the Hime mark.  Or possibly something else.
> Certainly we know there are other things and people who sometimes weild
> power besides us."
Utena?  Haruhi?  (That Haruhi-Mai Hime crossover on your web page is 
hilarious, by the way; you should
really continue that.)
>     "Mom, you're not off being a spy instead of a consultant when you're at
> work, are you?" Crystal asked, sounding slightly hysterical.
Heh.  That would make Crystal a Spy Kid.

> "Also, have you seen Natasha?  She's not answering her phone."
>     There was a brief silence.  "Wait, does that mean Natasha has the
> mech???  How did Natasha get a mech?  Where is she keeping it????"
That's quite a leap of logic for Crystal.  But Mai's reaction just 
confirms Crystal's guess.

>     "I'm sure it's just one of Natasha's stupid plans," Shun said.  "Unless
> that was her mech the people saw at the burning research facility I note you
> carefully haven't mentioned."
Shun makes the same leap of logic.  But he has more reason at this point.

>     Gin went down in about two seconds.  "C'mon man, bros before hos!"
>     I could hear the wind move and distantly crickets chirped.
Another good line.

> "It sounded totally cool.  And Kasumi agreed to stand watch in return for me
> giving her some help with self-defense stuff.  Since Aunt Miyu apparently
> thinks the mafia will come for us at 18 or something."
Miyu actually said 30.

>     "Not the mafia," I said.
>     The kids all looked at me.
>     Aaargh!  Me and my mouth.

>     "So if the giant robot doesn't belong to Natasha...," Shun began.
>     "Wait, you came looking for me because you thought I had a combat
> mech???" Natasha asked in confusion.
>     "What???" Kasumi asked.
Heh.  The parents are totally blowing this.  All five kids are now 
convinced that the parents
thought this preposterous proposition fairly likely.

>     "We didn't...I mean...we didn't go there to blow it up, just to collect
> evidence for Chie's book," I mumbled.
>     "The kicking ass was just a bonus!  Mai-chan....," Mikoto began
> excitedly,
Heh.  And now Mikoto confirms that there was fighting.  The kids 
certainly have a lot
to speculate about now.

>     "You can call me Aunt Aoi-chan," Aoi said smiling now, and I felt a
> little better.  I'd kept Chie safe, but I knew she had to be worrying about
> the future.
>     For a moment all the kids, and especially Crystal, gave Aoi a weird
> look. Then Shun said, "And you too, Harada-san?"
>     "I'm your Aunt Chie now," Chie said softly.
>     Crystal's eyes narrowed a moment, she glanced at me, and then she sighed
> and relaxed.  "Okay, Aunt Chie-san."
So their parents are willing to tell the big secret to their old college 
friends whom they don't see
very often, and not to their own children.  That's the message the 
children take away.

>     "They weren't having sex, just painting each other," I mumbled, now
> scrubbing a plate vigorously and wondering what exactly Chie had done to it
> that made the food stick so much.
More nice characterization of Mai.

>     She grumbled in French again.  "Maybe someone has duplicated the Sears
> Foundation's research," she said hesitantly.  "After all, science is
> something where you can repeat the results, right?"
>     "Yes," I told her.  "So you think this may be another artifical Hime?
> Why would it protect Natsuki?"
Heh.  They're dancing all around the truth without hitting it.  Of 
course, the answer is
pretty obvious once you seriously entertain the possibility of a male Hime.

>     I was surprised to see Roger Smith in the living room; he was talking
> quietly to Natsuki on the couch.  "Hello, Mr. Smith."
Heh.  But we're not surprised, except that it took him this long.

>     "I don't think it would be very good if it did succeed," Natsuki said.
>     "I don't know enough about physics to pass judgement on what they were
> doing or how safe it was," he said.  "Or have you heard something from the
> grapevine, Natsuki?"
"Grapevine".  Right.  But at least this tells us what Roger came here to 
find out.

>     "I heard they were trying to covertly restart the experiments and it set
> off the equipment," Natsuki said.  "But that's just a rumor of course."

>     He nodded solemnly.  "I can't pretend I understand the physics of it,
> but I do know finance.  With two disasters in a row, I fear they don't have
> a prayer, though of course, I'll do my best to help as that is what I am
> being paid to do."
SUURE you will ;)

>     A few seconds of silence ensued.  "No, we're both fine; they just
> decided they needed a little rest."
>     "Crystal worried about us?" Aoi asked, sounding a little surprised.
No, just prying.  This absence must have been very suspicious to the 
kids.  And then finding
out that, yes, your mothers are with Chie and Aoi, and are also skipping 
work?  Who knows
what additional research facilities will be highlighted on tonight's 
news as having unexpectedly
blown up?

> me.  That wasn't a pink cadillac, was it?  "Chie, can you call Sister
> Yukariko or someone and see if they know what's going on?"
Wrong thing to say in Crystal's hearing.

> survive this; I can fly, after all, I just have to remember the trick for
> it....
I'd have thought it was like riding a bicycle, but I guess not.

>   But I could see she was
> about to be attacked from behind by the same creature which had knocked her
> down and now had circled behind her.
>     Please, if there's anything listening, I thought, give me the power to
> save her and protect Aoi.  I'll do anything, anything at all.  PLEASE.
> Please let me protect those I care about.
>     I felt a sudden burning over my left breast and instinctively, I held
> out my camera phone and triggered the flash at the creature.
"Naru Osaka Syndrome":  the inability of a fanfic writer to refrain from 
powering up the
main character's non-powered close friends.

>     "The Crimson Huntsman, red in tooth and claw, is not very happy with the
> Hime and has declared vendetta on you."
Nice name, very much in the Mai Hime style.

>     She hesitated again, then continued.  "I just know that every form of
> magic has its price.  It may be that you all have paid that price in full.
> But Aoi and Chie haven't.  But they will.  That, even more than destiny, is
> inescapable."
I guess Erica is dead meat?

>     "No," Fumi said.  "Crystal hasn't tried breaking into the records room
> since the last time I caught her."
Heh.  We keep getting these little tidbits from other people about what 
Crystal is like,
which we never get from her own thoughts.

>     "This Crimson Lord, do you know anything of him?" I asked.
It was "Huntsman", not "Lord", above.

Great work, as always!

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