Story: Soft Power (chapter 4)

Authors: moegrrl

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Chapter 4

Title: Chapter 3

[Author's notes: flashback]

Little Chikaru wandered curiously through a sea of expensively clad legs. For a while she was fascinated by the adults that twirled elegantly on a humungous gazebo that served as the dance floor for the wedding reception of one of her older cousins. Then, she had stared in awe of a towering masterpiece of white confection that had a tiny ceramic couple perched atop. After stealing away a few sweets in her pocket from a table laden with pastries, she continued to explore the sprawling garden strewn with paper lanterns, and gaily decorated with ribbons and clusters of white roses. Adults in their finery were everywhere. Western formal was the norm as her cousin had married a foreigner of some repute who had pioneered something in an obscure field of medicine that would bolster the Minamoto Pharmaceutical Division of the Minamotos' vast conglomerate.

This celebration was also, in a way, serving as a business function hosted by the Minamoto clan for their partners and prospects. Happily the union, though not entirely spontaneous nor romantic, was a genial one, between two people who were comfortable with each other, in their place in society, and their intellectual compatibility. All in all the Minamoto clan was ecstatic that their eldest bachelorette had finally settled down when they had begun to despair that she might become a spinster.

There weren't a lot of children present, and most of Chikaru's other cousins were teenagers who held no interest in babysitting their mischievous little cousin when they could engage in whatever tomfoolery that teenagers got into. So Chikaru was pretty much left alone to explore to her heart's content despite the occasional pat and coo that she received from elderly relatives. Having just escaped an uncle who thought peek-a-boo was still appropriate entertainment for her age, Chikaru turned and caught sight of a porcelain doll dressed in a tiny lacy dress with flounces.

It was sitting primly on one of the seats around a table occupied by the groom's party. It was dressed in immaculate stockings, adorably tiny white shoes, pearly gloves, and white ribbons to hold up platinum blond curls framing a cherubic face tinged with pink.

Then it yawned. Chikaru gasped in surprise at it's tiny crinkled nose and the little "o" that it's mouth formed before it snapped shut. Entranced by the perfect little girl, she slowly approached. As Chikaru came nearer, pretty cornflower blue eyes turned to her and watched owlishly.

"Are you alive?" was the first thing Chikaru said when she had sidled up to the doll-like girl.

The little blond girl tilted its head slightly, not at all understanding what Chikaru had said. A young woman in a nanny uniform, who was watching over her little ward's bewilderment, kindly leaned in to Chikaru and explained in perfect Nihongo that the young miss could not understand the query as her family just moved in from Germany. Fascinated, Chikaru grinned at the doll-like girl and offered her sweets from her pocket. A love for sugar, after all, is the greatest common denominator of every kid in the world.

Chikaru's diplomatic talents manifested early.

The blue eyed girl smiled sweetly at Chikaru, as she took the proffered marzipan ball and unceremoniously gobbled it whole.

Chikaru was smitten and began chattering away to her uncomprehending new friend.

Shion felt a strange feeling blooming in her. If she had been years older, and in command of an eloquence she would be famous for, she may have said that “as if color was seeping into her dull life”. But she could not express her joy, for that was what she was feeling, and even if she knew that she was feeling happiness for the first time and had words for it, it would have been useless, as the one she wanted to say it to would not have understood.

What Shion didn’t know was that her shy smile was enough. The way her eyes shone was enough. The way she had gobbled the marzipan ball without hesitation was enough. For Chikaru saw more than what her eyes could see.

And what Chikaru saw was…a cohort.

For her schemes.

Small scale childish schemes that, in an adult scale, are relatively harmless yet could still evoke trepidation in the hearts of any Minamoto within the vicinity of the little terror.

What harm was there in switching Oka-sama’s lipstick with Onee-san’s shocking neon green one? Not that any one of the board members had dared to say anything to Oka-sama during their meeting. In a way it had complimented the conservative dark green pantsuit that her mom wore.

And that time that she was brought on a social call to the young family of a daughter of a powerful politician, how could Chikaru have known that their toddler would pick up his first word from her? All she did was amuse the child with dirty limericks she overheard from her older cousins while her parents had tea with their hosts. Didn’t they find it darling that when the young mother tried to coax her son to say “Mama” for the guests the apple-cheeked cutie with a wide toothless grin roared “Bakero!”?

And wasn’t it her that saved her cousin (the same one whose wedding reception there were celebrating now) from a horrible match? If she hadn’t been present at the omiai making faces behind the back of the pompous ass that was the potential groom, her cousin wouldn’t have bust out laughing, the longwinded bore wouldn’t have left in a huff, and the Minamotos would have wed into what would turn out to be a disgraced family on the verge of bankruptcy who were eager to get their grubby hands on some Minamoto wealth!

But those exploits are peanuts to what Chikaru had in mind for the future. Now, with this treasure she discovered she had the perfect foil. Why, world domination was well nigh into her grasp!

Chikaru regaled the oblivious Shion with her spin on the classic bait and switch. Shion, apparently, was the bait. She was blond after all. If Chikaru had learned anything from Charlie’s Angels old and new (from another cousin’s peculiar obsession with American culture) it’s that decoys were always blond. Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd, and Cameron Diaz. Blond, blond, and blond. And leggy. Leggy would come later, Chikaru mused. Shion could make do with utter cuteness.

Chikaru was still gauging the potential legginess of Shion's dimpled knees when said legs sprang upright. Shion was squealing "Frosch! Frosch!" in nervous excitement.

Chikaru looked down to her feet where Shion was riveted and found a pudgy toad squatted in regal indifference to Shion's excitement, as if being fawned over was a regular occurrence. Precocious as she was, fearless, with a generous amount of cheek, slimy things are to Chikaru what kryptonite is to Superman.

Now there were two girls jumping on a chair.

Whereas one anxiously vibrated between wanting to leap into the arms of her frog prince versus keeping her flounces pristine, the other one was bawling for her mama.

Heads turned towards the racket. Shion's nanny was futilely shooing the impassive frog. The Minamotos at hand gathered, and one slim lady in a frothy dress picked up the agitated Chikaru. "Yosh...Yosh Chibi-chan," she murmured soothingly while rocking the girl, "You're not frightened are you?"

Chikaru and the lady looked down in unison. The lady gave a startled "Eep!" while reflexively hopping back from the beastly blob that had turned around to waddle away, clearly contemptuous of its 15 minutes of fame.

That is one BIG mofo! The lady thought with a shudder. Her years abroad made her vocabulary expansive and colorful.

Chikaru's eyes gleamed as she patted her shaken cousin's head, "Yosh...yosh YOU'RE not frightened are YOU?"

"Now there's the little o-Bakemono that we all love!", the lady said without malice grinning fondly at Chikaru. The collected aunts, uncles, and cousins that bore witness hooted with laughter.

"Who's your friend Chibi-chan?"

Chikaru's eyes lit up and she twisted to reach for her new friend, until she was put down on the chair. Reaching for Shion's hand Chikaru began, "Megumi-sama I'd like you to meet uhhh..." Chikaru turned to Shion who was looking forlornly towards the bushes where her frog prince's butt had disappeared. Before the nanny could supply her ward's name Chikaru brilliantly finished with "...Kerokero-chan!"

On cue, with one last sigh over her lost love, Shion looked up to the crowd and smiled sweetly, as if she thoroughly approved of the introduction.

Charmed by the gorgeous little blond (in a superb display of decoy aptitude), the Minamotos completely glazed over the unusual name as if they suffered collective amnesia, or they were becoming immune to Chikaru's weirdness.


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