Junjō Bomber!!
The Profound Musings and Astonishing Insights of Jun Suzuki

Xinqisi, Wuyue 13, 291 ASC

Class 1-2 got a new student today. I know, it's a weird time for it, but there you go.

Her name's Rin and I guess she's from someplace up north - she's got that dark-brown thing they've got going on up there. No blue eyes, though! Kind of disappointing, they're just brown. She's got grey hair, though. Never seen that on somebody our age before.

She sits behind Ui, so naturally she's already fully plugged into the Class 1-2 social scene - Ambassador Hirasawa spent all morning making sure she was fully briefed about everything that was going on. By itself, that doesn't really say anything about the new girl's personality, since Ui could make friends with an ice wraith if you gave her a whole morning to work on it, but she sat with us at lunch and she seems nice.

I think she might be kind of weird, though. She asked about the Light Music Club, said she'd heard their demo somewhere (I didn't know they had one!) and was hoping to hear them play live. Well, you can imagine Ui was off to the races at that, her sister's #1 fangirl and all. Even Azusa isn't as enthusiastic about the Light Music Club as Ui is, and she's in it.

Anyway, being interested in the Light Music Club doesn't automatically make you a weirdo, but it's a pretty good start! :D I'm interested to see if she's still as impressed when she sees whatever bizarre outfits Ms. Yamanaka puts them in for their next concert. I should show her my pictures of them all handing out flyers in those animal costumes last month, see what she makes of that. Ui would probably never forgive me if I did that, though.

They are a really good band, I have to admit that. But... I dunno. I kinda doubt anything in Rin-chan's life has prepared her for how strange that bunch is. I guess we'll find out. It should be interesting, either way!

I have a message from another time...

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera

The Federation Lives Forever!

by Benjamin D. Hutchins

© 2014 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Chapter One
"Once in a Lifetime"

Xinqiyi, Wuyue 31, 291 ASC
Monday, May 31, SY 2410
Asami Sato Girls' Academy
Sakuragaoka, United Republic

Two months into her time with the Light Music Club, Azusa Nakano was finally getting used to a few of the things she'd found most unexpected about the organization when she joined it. She was, for instance, more or less resigned to the fact that she had to beat the upperclassmen with a stick (metaphorically speaking, though now that she thought about it, it might be both worthwhile and fulfilling to try it literally) to get any work out of them. She was also no longer surprised when Yui-senpai appeared out of nowhere and molested her. Irritated, yes, particularly when she was trying to get something else done when it happened, but no longer surprised. And, perhaps most troubling, she didn't worry any more that they'd all get in trouble for hanging around in the music prep room not preparing any music.

(It hadn't occurred to her yet that they were preparing music by having their daily tea-and-cake parties; that was an advanced insight that would take a few more weeks to arrive.)

Her regular lunch dates, Ui Hirasawa and Jun Suzuki, had noticed her slowly relaxing as the term went on, and though they hadn't been gauche enough to call her on it, that didn't stop them from exchanging private little smiles whenever the club came up in conversation and Azusa didn't launch into a new rant about what slackers Ui's sister and the others were. Jun, for one, agreed with her about that, but she was still pleased to see it bothering her tightly-wound friend a bit less. For her part, she had long since concluded that the Light Music Club was what it was, and you tampered with it at your peril; which was why she was content to remain in the Jazz Club, even though she was more of a rock 'n roll girl at heart herself. There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between is Hōkago Tea Time...

At lunch on that particular Monday, though, it struck both Ui and Jun that Azusa seemed inordinately preoccupied. As the three of them sat around Azusa's desk and ate their bentō, she was deep in thought about something, contributing only the occasional absent grunt or nod to the conversation.

"So I was thinking that after school today we should try out that new restaurant that just opened downtown," said Jun.

"Mm," said Azusa.

"And then maybe go back to the music store and pick up that amp I was looking at the other day," Jun went on.

"OK," said Azusa.

"I can't afford it, though, so we'll have to rob a bank on the way there," added Jun matter-of-factly.

Azusa nodded without looking up from her lunch. "Sure, that sounds good," she agreed.

"... Uh-huh, that's what I thought," said Jun. "Ui, do you..." She trailed off as she saw that Ui wasn't really listening either. She was looking out the window, in a mildly spacey fashion Jun would more readily have associated with Ui's scatterbrained elder sister. Jun watched her for a few moments, then said,

"OK, ladies. What's going on?"

Ui blinked, coming back from wherever she'd gone, and turned to Jun, her cheeks reddening slightly. "Uh!"

"Seriously, what's with you two today?" Jun wondered. Then she looked around, her expression taking on a new layer of puzzlement, and added, "And where's Rin?"

Ui and Azusa glanced across the desk at each other, both of them looking slightly uneasy. "Well, uh... " said Ui.

"She's kind of... " Azusa added.

"Right behind you," a low voice purred, and then arms encircled Azusa from behind, hugging her tight as a cheek pressed warmly against hers.

"Nya!" she yelped involuntarily, her fingers stiffening into claws, as her normally-dormant feline ears (a legacy of her cat-spirit grandmother) sprang up out of her hair.

"Wow, Yui's right," the coppery-skinned, grey-haired girl Jun still knew as Rin Miura observed as she snuggled her classmate. "This is completely awesome, even with the back of your chair in the way."

"Oh, for the love of - not you too!" Azusa complained, though both Jun and Ui couldn't help but notice that she'd relaxed almost immediately into a posture that implied considerably more contentment than her words.

"Aw, don't be like that, Azu-nyan," said Rin, but she relented after a moment more, turning her loose after one last squeeze. While Azusa grumpily reassembled her dignity, Rin rounded the desk to its unoccupied side and pulled up a chair. "Sorry I'm late, I had to deal with some stuff in the office."

Jun eyed her narrowly, one eyebrow rising. "You're awfully chipper today. And what happened to your glasses?"

Rin gave her a cheery grin. "I don't need 'em any more."

Jun's skeptical look could've cut glass. "That was fast," she said dryly.

"Well, they were only for disguise purposes anyway," said Rin casually. "Anybody want one of these tako-san sausages? They're awful good."

"Disguise... what?" Jun shook her head. "Seriously, what is going on?"

"Well, y'see," said Rin.

In the staff room, Sawako Yamanaka was wondering more or less the same thing. Sitting at her desk with her laptop open in front of her, she munched thoughtfully on a sandwich while paging through her email.

Her inbox was stuffed with messages from all her old friends from her own Light Music Club days. They'd all come in since nine o'clock that morning, and they all said basically the same thing.

At first she thought they were some kind of joke, but as she worked her way through the sandwich and the inbox together, she realized that the messages were for real. It wouldn't be entirely out of character for her old bandmates to get together and pull a prank on her, of course, but... not like this. They'd never joke about this, particularly Christina.

Finishing her lunch, she sat thinking for a few silent minutes; then, her face grim, she set to composing a reply. It didn't take her long; just a few concisely written sentences, making her position as plain as possible without quite straying into offensive bluntness. Once she'd finished, she hesitated for a long moment, her cursor hovering over the "send" button.

Sighing, Sawako clicked the button, then shut her laptop, rose from her chair, and turned to leave the staff room. Afternoon classes would be starting soon, and she had work to do.

Ui and Azalynn left the school together at day's end without ever really discussing it, simply because they'd walked most of the way home together almost every day since "Rin" had appeared. Most of the time it took them to walk to the place where their courses diverged passed in a pensive silence.

Finally, just before she wouldn't turned off the main street toward her lodgings, Azalynn broke it, saying tentatively,

"Ui... you have every right to be mad at me, but... "

Ui stopped, blinking, and turned to give her a puzzled look. "Mad? Why would I be mad at you?" she asked.

"Well... I did kind of... lie to you a bunch," said Azalynn awkwardly. "And you've been pretty distant since you found out. Which is perfectly understandable. But I want you to know, I wasn't just using you to get to your sister," she added, hurrying to get the point made. "It was a complete coincidence that I ended up sitting by you, and everything else just sort of... happened. But I know how it looks and I can't blame you for being upset."

Ui stood looking at her in visibly baffled silence for a moment; then, to Azalynn's surprise, she laughed and hugged her.

"I'm not upset," she said. "Are you kidding? It's such an honor for someone like you to be so interested in Big Sis and her band! I'm just... still working on taking it on board, I guess." Then, releasing her, Ui fixed her with a mock-stern expression and added, "It was mean of you to lie to me, though. You should've just told me what you were doing. I could've helped!"

"I wasn't sure you'd be able to keep it from Yui," Azalynn admitted. "And I certainly didn't want to put you in a position where you'd have to lie to her."

Ui smiled again. "Well, I guess I can appreciate that," she said. "There's an art to managing what Big Sis does and doesn't know, though, and over the years, I've gotten pretty good at it," she added with a wink.

Azalynn laughed and made a faux airbender's salute to her. "Your kung fu is best, Master Ui," she said. "I won't make that mistake again."

"See that you don't!" said Ui importantly, and then they both broke up giggling.

"Do you want to come over for dinner?" Ui asked when they'd finished. "We're having okonomiyaki."

"Oooh, tempting," said Azalynn. "But I think I'd better get home. Ein's probably feeling a little neglected as it is."

Ui raised an eyebrow. "Who's Ein?"

Azalynn grinned. "My technical support," she said. "You want to meet him?"

Ui's eyes widened, a hint of a blush coming into her face. "Uh... 'him' as in... ?"

Azalynn's grin widened and became a bit sly. "It's not what you're thinkiiing," she sang, waggling a chiding finger. "Who knew sweet little Ui had such a scandalous mind?"

"I do not!" Ui protested, her slightly raised color becoming a full-on flush.

Afternoon tea was starting to wind down in the Light Music clubroom when the door opened and Sawako entered, half an hour late and without any of her usual bounce or bluster. Without a word - just a disconsolate little groan - she slumped into the empty seat at the end of the table opposite Azusa, put her face in one hand, and held out the other for a cup of tea.

"What's wrong, Sawa-chan?" Yui asked her as Mugi provided the silently requested item.

Sawako didn't answer until after she'd had her first sip of tea; then, sitting back with a sigh, she put the cup and saucer down on the table, raised her eyes to the ceiling, and asked in a slightly weary voice,

"Yui-chan, have you ever done something you were absolutely convinced was the right thing, only to feel as if you'd betrayed some vital part of yourself in the process?"

Yui looked completely stumped. "Uh... no?" she replied.

Sawako sighed deeply and turned jaded eyes to her young student. "Good. I can't recommend it as a life experience," she said.

"Sounds serious," said Ritsu, all jest absent from her voice for once.

"Is there any way we can help?" Mugi inquired, sliding her a plate with a slice of Baumkuchen on it.

"Not unless you can alter the flow of time so that things happen in a different order," said Sawako dryly.

Mugi gave every appearance of serious consideration. "Hmm," she said.

"What happened?" asked Mio.

"I don't want to talk about it," Sawako replied, a hint of that daunting edge it sometimes had creeping into her voice.

Mio seemed prepared to take the hint, but Ritsu wasn't; leaning forward in her seat, she put her elbows on the table and declared, "Of course you do. Why else would you have come in here and started?" Then, leaning her chair back on its hind legs with her hands behind her head, she put her feet up on the table and declared grandly, "Dr. Tainaka is here to listen to your problems. Tell me about your mother."

"... What does my mother have to do with it?" asked Sawako skeptically.

Ritsu shrugged her shoulders. "You tell me, she's your mother," she replied equably.

"Don't make me get up and come over there just to smack you, Ritsu," said Mio. Then, addressing the teacher, she added, "She does have a point, though. Something's obviously bothering you, and if we knew what it was, we might be able to help."

"Confidentially, of course," Mugi assured her.

"Absolutely," Azusa agreed. "Your secrets are our secrets, Yamanaka-sensei."

"That's right!" Ritsu cried, dropping her chair back into a normal sitting position and striking the table with a flattened hand. "What happens in the Light Music Club stays in the Light Music Club!"

Sawako wavered, torn between the special bond she had with these five students and her Academic Dignity; but the latter was completely swamped by the former as Yui, tears in her eyes, reached and took her hand, declaring in an emotion-choked squeak, "You don't have to face this alone, Squad Member Sawa-chan!"

The teacher gave her a dubious look that couldn't quite hide a smile, then sighed again and said, "All right, all right. I've been getting swamped all day with emails from my old bandmates."

"The other girls from Death Devil?" asked Mio.

"That's right. It seems Future Industries wants to use one of our old songs in an advertising campaign."

"Really, which one?" Azusa asked.

"'Hikari'," Sawako told her.

"Oh, I know that one," said Yui, nodding. She hummed a bit of the verse, the fingers of her left hand miming the fingering.

"That's the one," said Sawako, another hint of a smile stealing onto her face. "It seems the company's coming out with a new sports Satomobile by that name, and they want to use the song to promote it."

"Why is that depressing news?" Mio wondered. "I'd think you would be excited."

"Yeah, 'specially since there's probably some money in it," Ritsu agreed.

"Well... I would be if that was all there was to it," Sawako allowed. "But they don't just want to license the old recording. The others are telling me they actually want to put the band back together and use it as part of the campaign. An all-new recording for a single release, a proper B-side, live events... maybe even a whole album and a tour."

The five girls stared at her for several seconds, then all broke into congratulations and applause at once, briefly filling the clubroom with a happy noise before their teacher could wave them to silence.

"I told them no," she said.

Another pause.

"Whaaaaat?" Ritsu burst out. "Are you nuts, Sawa-chan?! This is your break! After five years in hibernation, Death Devil is about to hit the big time!"

Azusa surprised them all slightly by jumping right in, declaring flatly, "Ritsu-senpai's right, Yamanaka-sensei. This is an amazing opportunity. Once in a lifetime."

"Less than once," Mio agreed, nodding. "A lot of bands never get that call."

"Believe me, I know," Sawako told her. "That's why we broke up, after all... because it never came, and some of us couldn't afford to wait around for it."

"But now that it's here, you're just going to walk away from it?" Yui asked. "Why?"

"Because it's too late!" Sawako said plaintively. "Don't you understand? I'm an adult now. I could no more go running off to rejoin my old band now than I could go back to high school."

Ritsu gave a dismissive snort. "What, because Old Man Horigome laughed at you when you put 'musician' on your life plans questionnaire? This is the perfect chance to make him eat his words," she said with a sharkish grin. "In fact, I would say it's a moral imperative."

"It's not that simple, Ricchan," said Sawako. "I have a job, I have... responsibilities. To the school, to my students - not least you five." She shook her head. "I want to do it. You have no idea how much I want to. But I can't. It wouldn't be right."

The six of them sat in downcast silence for a few seconds, absorbed in gloomy contemplation...

... and then, out of the blue, Mugi said:

"What if you could?"

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera

The Federation Lives Forever!
Chapter One:
"Once in a Lifetime"

Written by
Benjamin D. Hutchins

The EPU Team

Based on K-On! created by

Next: Chapter Two: "Departure"

E P U (colour) 2014