Gun Princess Royale - En Paralelo - Ch1.

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Dear BigCloset readers of the "Gun Princess Royale" series.

I apologize for the lack of news and postings since we posted the last web chapter of Book Three's draft.
Back then, I had said the book would be out in June.
Well, it's now August and still no book.

There are a few reasons why.

Firstly, I have suffered some interruptions.
A member of my family was recently very ill, and these past few weeks have been very trying on myself and my family.
This has made it difficult for me to progress with the book.
Things are on the upswing so I've been getting back into the norm of writing again.

The second reason is that Book Three is currently being rewritten.
I completed the manuscript a few weeks ago, and I am now rewriting and editing it, in collaboration with my editor.
This is a slow, gruelling process and it has revealed many flaws with the first draft, aka, the web version.
So when you finally get Book Three as a published book, I promise you it will be much better.

That said, the question of when has been asked many times.
I can tell you that the rewrite is going well and will be completed by the end of August.
The finished, polished book should then be out by end of September. That's the plan, at least.

This is because Book Three is an enormous book.
It dwarfs Book One and Two, answering the complaint from many readers expressed that the first two books were too short.
Well, this time you're going to be getting a whale of book.
However, it won't be as long as Game of Thrones.
Nonetheless, it's long. Very, very long.

So, to assure people that Gun Princess Royale is not dead, I am releasing a series of short chapters
covering isolated events that take place before Book One, and during Book One and Two.
They also take place in parallel to the story.

This is important. If you have not read Gun Princess Royale, Books 1 and 2, then do not read this chapter or any chapter from
this new series, Gun Princess Royale - En Paralelo.

The events covered in En Paralelo are from the perspective of the other characters.
In other words, they are important side events.
So if you haven't read the books yet, these chapters will spoil the fun.

Therefore, if you are new to the series, please read the published versions of Book One and Two available from Amazon Kindle, available as eBooks.
I have the links to the two books below. By clicking on the links, I believe you also help out TG BigCloset.

With this, I now introduce a draft of Gun Princess Royale - En Paralelo.

Shirohime – I –
(Fast Food Rendezvous)
– # –

The maglev offered a smoother ride than the trains of old.

The jostling, bumping, and swaying of the carriages was a thing of the past.

The absence of metal wheels on a metal track made for a whisper quiet journey.

Unfortunately, there was one carry over from those ancient times.

Evening rush hour.

Crammed with commuters, the carriage was standing room only.

The crush of people made for a kaleidoscope of sounds, smells, and rustling of clothing.

If not for the climate control system filtering and cycling the air within the carriage, it would have made for a stifling, nauseating ride.

Standing sidelong to the permaglass doors, a girl with long platinum hair tilted her head askance as she stared vacantly at the scenery rushing by.

Speeding on a cushion of magnetic fields, the train travelled between the towering megascrapers of Ar Telica on its run from station to station.

The setting sun flittered in and out of view behind buildings the maglev was coursing between. They were enormous structures of permaglass, permacrete, and kronosteel. Each was hundreds of floors high, and home to hundreds of thousands in a city-state of over thirty million.

Each was an arcology in its own right, with residential floors and commercial floors.

When the city-states were designed, the intention had been for people to live and work within the same building, thus influencing their designs toward that of an arcology.

It was a pipedream, and before long the need to instigate a rapid transport system grew to desperate proportions.

The maglev network that traversed the entire city-state was one way of getting around Ar Telica.

The other was the noodle work of roadways that occupied the lower levels of the city.

Travelling by public transport was something relatively new to the girl.

Since birth she had been attended to by an army of maids.

It had been a privileged way of life, until she lost her place in her family.

Lost her place and her name.

Turning her head slightly, she gave the passing buildings an absent look, and kept her mind clear of thoughts.

However, it wasn’t long before her attention was drawn to the phone in her hand, and the news article it displayed.

The girl in the photograph bore a striking a resemblance to her, one that made her stomach churn almost as much as the title of the article.


Clenching her hand around the phone, the girl soon cleared away the screen, and slipped the slim device into a skirt pocket.

Shortly thereafter, the maglev pulled into a elevated station high above street level, and smoothly slowed to a stop.

Anri Shirohime stepped out of the carriage, and avoided the stampede of people alighting behind her.

Years of training had made her lithe and agile.

That came in handy as she moved quickly with a fluid, feline grace that allowed her to slip between and around commuters on the platform with considerable ease.

It also allowed her to compensate for a recent development that had compromised her carefully nurtured sense of balance.

In short, she was still growing accustomed to the extra weight on her chest.

Recently, her body had began to mature and fill out such that at a glance or two, it was difficult to believe she was still a middle schooler, though she had turned sixteen a month ago.

Yet while she was the envy of many of her female classmates, Shirohime longed for the days when she didn’t always have to sleep on her back.

A minute after disembarking from the maglev, Shirohime had pass through the tollgates and was walking down the length of the short concourse that connected the station to the megascraper beside it. Enclosed in a permaglass shroud, the concourse offered a view of the city, and peering down the side, she could see the people crowding the sidewalks, and the cars and buses clogging the streets.

As the saying goes, if you’ve seen one city-state then you’ve seen them all.

Because of this, Shirohime didn’t feel a longing for Pan Pacifica that had been her home since birth.

Walking through the building required circling the atrium – a huge gaping hole running vertically down the middle of the megascraper.

The apartment she shared with her mother was located in the next building over, so she had to travel down an elevated bridgeway dozens of floors above the street.

Once inside her home building, Shirohime waited in line at one of the many elevator banks to catch a ride up to the sixtieth floor.

When she eventually arrived at her apartment, she found it deserted.

Her mother frequently came home late, and sharing a meal together was a thing of the past.

Having to work for a living wasn’t something new to her mother, but after years of luxurious living it was taking time to adjust to their present circumstances.

Shirohime understood all this.

She also knew that she was responsible for the drastic change in their lifestyle.

Even though it was pointless, she made herself announce her arrival.

“I’m home.”

The apartment’s security monitor greeted her.

“Welcome back, Anri.”

She grimaced weakly, uncomfortable at being addressed familiarly by the Assisting Intelligence that watched over the apartment.

Placing her school bag on the living room sofa, she dropped her weary body beside it.

The material molded automatically beneath her, providing her with lumbar support.

Shirohime closed her eyes, and soon felt herself drifting off into sleep.

“Anri, you have one new message.”

The Home Monitor’s voice reached her as though from a dark distance.

Shirohime’s sleepy mind took longer than normal to respond.

“What message…?”

“Playing back message.”

A second later, a young woman’s voice spoke languidly into the apartment through the hidden speakers.

Anri Tenkawa. Congratulations. Your application into the Gun Princess Royale has been accepted. Please meet with a representative at this location.

Shirohime’s eyes shot wide open.

I’ve been accepted?

Then her stomach froze when she realized she’d been addressed as Anri Tenkawa.

No, that can’t be right?

Her phone rang in her skirt pocket, startling her.

She fumbled for a few moments to pull it out, and read the caller id.

It was unknown number, so she was hesitant to answer it. “Hello?”

Ah, is this Miss Tenkawa?

Shirohime swallowed hard. “May I ask who this is?”

Someone who would like to offer you a position on our team.

Shirohime sat up slowly on the sofa, her innards tight with anxiety. “I’m sorry. That doesn’t explain who you are.”

Quite true. That’s why I want you to meet me here. I’ll be waiting but don’t take too long.

Her phone chimed, indicating a message had arrived. She thumbed it open, then stared at the map that popped up on the screen.

With a frown, she raised the phone to her right ear. “Why did you call me Tenkawa?”

That is who are you, isn’t it? Anri Shirohime Tenkawa. Oh, do you only go by your mother’s maiden name now. I see. I see. Very understandable considering your family situation.

Shirohime stood up slowly, feeling her whole body suddenly tense up. “Who are you?”

Me? I told you. I’m someone who wants you on our team. Oh, this is no joke. We considered many, many girls but ultimately felt you were most suitable.

“But I’ve only gone through the first round. How could you know if I’m suitable or not?”

Trust me. I know you’re the one. So, without further adieu, come on over. We have much to discuss.

Sensing the call was about to end, Shirohime quickly asked, “Wait a moment. How will I find you?”

Don’t worry. I’ll find you.

The call ended abruptly, leaving her standing with the phone pressed to her ear.

Bewildered, she remained that way for a long while before remembering to end the connection from her end with a quiet tap to the phone’s screen.

Then she looked down at the map she’d been sent, and wondered if she was being scammed.

However, there was only one way to know for certain.

“Monitor, tell my mother I’m going out for dinner…with some school friends.”

– # –

Changing out of her San Serista Academy uniform – a white, chaste, sailor suit dress – into a pair of black Capri pants, dark sneakers, and long sleeved midnight blouse, Shirohime hurried out of the apartment after remembering to bring her phone with her.

Her hair was still wet after the quick shower she’d taken.

As for makeup, it was non-existent, but in all honesty she didn’t need it.

It was hard to improve on her natural beauty, one that garnered attention to her almost as much as her platinum blonde hair that was the color of pure snow.

The evening crush to get home was still in full swing. Catching a lift to go down took several minutes since most of them were busy ferrying tenants up the residential megascraper’s two hundred floors.

Eventually, she descended to street level some fifteen minutes after leaving the apartment.

The location for the rendezvous wasn’t far from the apartment building.

After a ten minute journey down the crowded sidewalks, Shirohime arrived at a family restaurant that was part of a franchise widespread throughout Ar Telica. The permaglass doors opened and closed automatically, cutting off the din of the bustling street once she’d stepped into the climate controlled foyer. All that remained, was the drone of conversation taking place within the establishment.

When one of the waitresses on duty at the entrance attended to her, Shirohime realized she didn’t know who or what to ask for.

She pressed her lips together and smiled politely at the blonde girl with pleasant features as she mentally floundered.

However, waitress studied Shirohime’s face and hair for a short while, before breaking into a smile of recognition. “Oh, you must be Anri.”

Unease pricked at Shirohime’s heart. “Yes, I am.”

The waitress turned sidelong and gestured she should be followed. “This way please. She’s waiting for you upstairs.”

Still uneasy, Shirohime trailed after the girl as the latter led her deeper into the restaurant.

She was guided to the second floor, to a table overlooking the first floor that was steadily filling up with diners. A young woman with light brown hair was seated there. She was dressed casually, though her light grey blouse, blazer, and black skirt looked expensive. That is to say, something about the cut and the design made her appear somewhat out of place at the family restaurant.

The young woman smiled in greeting at Shirohime who was doing her best to hide her anxious feelings. Without bothering to stand up, she gesticulated that Shirohime should take the seat opposite her.

“Anri, Anri. Please, sit down. Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Ice tea? Just tea? A soda?”

Shirohime thought it over as she seated herself on the comfortable chair. Her first instinct was to reject the offer, but she quickly decided that having something to drink might help her keep calm. “A soda. Lemon squash. Please….”

The young brunette addressed the waitress. “You heard the lady. Make it two Lemon squashes.” She frowned in thought. “That sounds funny. Squashes or squash. Which is it?”

“Ah, I don’t think it matters,” the waitress replied. “Two Squashes coming right up. Anything else?”

“Hmm?” The brunette pouted in thought. “Maybe that Boss Hog Hamburger combo with chips on the side.” She stared at Shirohime with a questioning look on her face. “How about you?”

Shirohime stared at the menu that appeared before her on a holovid projection that floated above the table, and used a fingertip to turn the pages over.

What should I order in this situation?

She wouldn’t deny that she wasn’t hungry, but everything on the menu was a girl’s worst enemy, something of a source of pride for the Boss Hog restaurant chain. Yet while it earned them some considerable scorn, it hadn’t affected how popular they were, and that included high school girls indulging in the guilty pleasure of a fattening meal.

That said, Shirohime wondered if she should answer her hunger pangs by pigging out.

But fighting the practices ingrained into her from a young age proved taxing so she was relieved when she noticed a familiar item on the menu.

“I’d like the spinach bacon chicken salad.”

Standing beside the table, the waitress nodded in agreement with her choice. However, before she could enter the order into the palm sized tablet she held, the young woman seated opposite Shirohime made an exaggerated gesture of shock. “Salad? You’re having a salad? Girl you need to live a little.” She turned to the waitress who was visibly gaping at her. “Make that two Boss Hogs. Two.”

The girl grew still then smiled questioningly. “Two…?”

“That’s right. Two. And don’t skimp on the fries. Oh, and bring some of that barbeque sauce—that mustard sauce.” She leaned a few inches toward Shirohime who was preoccupied containing her annoyance. Whether she noticed or not was uncertain as she insisted, “You have to try it. It’s the best. It’s southern Kentucky mustard sauce.”

The waitress interjected politely. “Actually, it’s Southern Carolina mustard sauce. It’s an enduring Earth recipe.”

“Is that so?” The young woman eyed the waitress with a grin. “Well, I stand corrected.” She waved away her mistake. “No matter what it’s called, it’s delicious. You have to try it at least once.”

Shirohime weighed the decision to choose the salad against the Boss Hog burger.

A multitude of pros and cons tumbled through her head, but in the end, she decided to humor the woman because Shirohime felt she was on uncertain ground.

Glancing up at the waitress, she gave the girl a shallow nod. “The Boss Hog is fine.”

“Okay….” The waitress dutifully recorded the order on the tablet.

She departed a few moments later after taking their order for drinks.

Shirohime chose a clear soda, while the young woman ordered a dark cola.

“Now then. Let’s get down to business,” the woman announced, but her tone was relaxed and vaguely playful.

From somewhere beside the foot of her chair, perhaps a purse resting against it, she retrieved a slender tablet about the size of an A5 page. Placing it on the table, she tapped away through various menu levels of an application Shirohime couldn’t recognize. But from where she sat, she could see that the app was some kind of dossier program. That was confirmed when the young woman turned the tablet around and slid it across the table toward Shirohime.

She stared at her photo on the open file.

“Anri Shirohime Tenkawa,” the young woman said. “You dropped your family name in your school records at San Serista Academy.”

Shirohime swallowed quietly and folded her hands on her lap beneath the table. “Who are you?”

“And now we get to the chase.” The young woman planted her elbows on the table, and dropped her chin onto her upturned palms. “My name is Clarisol, and I’m…a special consultant for the Telos Corporation’s Marketing and Sporting Divisions.”

“Telos Corp?”

Shirohime knew the name and recalled learning that the company had founded a school out on Ar Telica’s harbor a long time ago. It was regarded as prestigious, but not in the league of San Serista Academy for Girls. The latter’s reputation was the reason her mother had enrolled Shirohime into that school.

Clarisol continued after a subtle nod. “Specifically, I’m involved with their interests in the Gun Princess Royale.”

A faint chill trickled down Shirohime’s back, reminding her that part of the reason she’d accepted the unconventional invitation was because of the Gun Princess Royale.

Clarisol was watching her carefully behind a playful smile. “Why did you audition for the Gun Princess Royale?”

“That’s in my profile, isn’t it.”

“You told the judges that you wanted to win. Doesn’t everyone?”

“I know what I’m capable of,” Shirohime replied. “Other girls might say they want to win, but I know that I can win.”

Clarisol’s smile grew wider. “I like your confidence.”

Shirohime started to shake her head, but refrained from doing so. She believed it was best to be poised before this mysterious woman. “It’s not about being confident. To win, you must know yourself and your opponent.”

“Are you going quote something from an ancient Chinese text?”

“No. It’s simply an application of common sense. Understanding your strengths and weakness, and knowing your opponent’s abilities are the keys to success.”

“But you can’t win all the time,” Clarisol remarked.

She continued to smile playfully, but there was nothing playful about her penetrating gaze, and Shirohime felt as though cold water had been poured down her back.

She knows.

Shirohime believed Clarisol’s remark was not off the cuff, no matter how it sounded.

But after staring intently into Shirohime for a second longer, Clarisol sat back in her chair. “Would you like to know the results of your compatibility exam? Go to the biometrics page. You’ll find the link there.”

Shirohime did as suggested, and a short while later, she was looking at her test scores.

“I believe congratulations are in order,” Clarisol said. “Your test results are impressive. Reflexes, kinetic vision, amodal perception, depth perception—all quite remarkable. It all adds up to an S-rank compatibility with a Gun Princess avatar, in this case, the homogenous test avatar.” Clarisol clapped softly. “That makes you top of the pops.”

It was a phrase she wasn’t familiar with, yet by Clarisol’s behavior, Shirohime could guess at what the woman meant. However, she didn’t feel that she was being complimented, so she chose to hold her silence.

Clarisol stopped clapping, folded her arms on the table, then again leaned a short distance toward Shirohime. “As I said, quite remarkable.”

Clearing her throat discreetly, Shirohime kept her voice steady though her heart was beginning to beat a little quicker. “So I passed.”

“Passed? Girl, you’re going to be in high demand. I suspect you’ll be getting calls this evening from a number of sponsor and team managers. An S-class ranking is very, very rare. You are literally a rare gem that’s been unearthed. Just like your sister.”

At first she wasn’t sure if she’d heard right, but the silent scrutiny Clarisol was subjecting her to quickly convinced her otherwise.

Belated shock ran through her body, tightening her chest and stealing her voice.

As expected, Clarisol didn’t miss her reaction. “To be accurate, I should call her your half-sister.”

Wetting her lips, and swallowing a number of times, Shirohime found her voice after a while but it was weak. “Why…why are you bringing her up?”

Clarisol was making a habit out of studying Shirohime’s reactions closely. “Isn’t she the reason why you auditioned for the Gun Princess Royale?”

That was true, but Shirohime hadn’t wanted to admit it. Not to herself. Not to anyone else. Yet ever since the day she saw that poster on the gaming arcade advertising auditions for next year’s Gun Princess Royale, the ghostly voice of her subconscious had whispered incessantly into her ear, driving her forward to take part in the audition for a place in the Gun Princess Royale.


Because she needed a goal to focus upon.

Competing was in her blood. It was the way her ancestors had been engineered, and it was through competition that the Eight Families of the Kazuko ruled for dominance over each other.

But she had lost her place.

The child prodigy of the Tenkawas had suffered defeat at the hands of a half-sibling and was subsequently cast out, with her position assumed by the victor. Left aimless, she had wandered through an emotional limbo until that day when the poster caught her attention. Taking part in the audition was her own idea – one that she had kept a secret from her mother. But now that she had passed, how was she to keep it a secret? What she going to tell her mother, and how would her mother react?

Doubts began to swirl violently within her chest, whipping at her heart.

Clasping her hands on her lap, she held them tightly as her emotions began to wildly undulate.

How could I have been so short sighted and failed to think of the consequences?

While Shirohime was brooding, the waitress returned with their drinks order on a tray. Whether the girl noticed Shirohime’s distress, she chose not to mention it and left the table with a promise to bring their Boss Hog meals in a few minutes.

After the girl departed, Clarisol smiled enigmatically. “Did you want to make your mark again? To find something where you can shine brightly?”

Shirohime blinked slowly and focused her awareness on Clarisol. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because I’m offering you a position in the Telos Corporation’s Ar Telica team. A guaranteed position.”

“Because I’m an S-rank?”

“Yes and no.”

Shirohime broke into a slow frown. “What is it that you want from me?”

Hearing this, Clarisol looked genuinely surprised but she recovered quickly. “You’re a bright child, and direct to the point.”

“…so you do want something from me….”

“Yes, I do.” Clarisol reached out and retrieved the tablet lying on the table with Shirohime’s dossier open on it. She then tapped away and slid her way through various menus and screens. “I wasn’t lying when I said that you’d be getting offers from every major competitor in the Gun Princess Royale offering you positions in their Minor League teams.”

Shirohime tipped her head askance. “The Minor League?”

“Of course.” Clarisol paused and looked over at her. “Every Princess starts out in the Minor League. No matter who good their compatibility ranking, no one ever joins the Gun Princess Royale as a Major League princess.” She resumed tapping and sliding away on the tablet’s screen. “But that’s an aside. What’s important is that I had to pull a few strings and call in some favors to get in ahead of the line.”

Shirohime gradually raised her chin higher.

Doubts still assailed her, but a faint curiosity had sparked to life and it was starting to push those qualms aside.

Clarisol was openly saying that Shirohime would be in demand, and that puzzled her.

What was this woman planning to offer her?

A few seconds later, Clarisol stopped working on the tablet and smoothly looked over at Shirohime. “All of the Minor League teams in Ar Telica next year will be new. A case of out with old, in with new.”


“Because those Minor League princesses were getting nowhere. So it was time to clear the table and start with a fresh deck. End result”—Clarisol made a chopping motion—“adios muchachas.”

Clarisol’s way of talking was giving Shirohime a mild headache, but it was also unsettling her. “Their dead?”

“Huh? No, no. They were axed. Sacked. Fired.” The young woman palmed her forehead. “How could you think they were killed. This isn’t one of those horror comics or cartoon shows. Sheesh. Someone has a wild imagination.”

“If I’m going to be in demand, are you going to make me a special offer? One that I can’t refuse?”

“That’s right. I’m going to give you a chance at rematch with your sister.”

Shirohime jerked back. “What did you say?”

“Isn’t that the iron clad rule of the Kazuko? Once you lose, there is no second chance. No rematch. When a challenger wins, they win big. But when they lose, they hit rock bottom.”

“I didn’t challenge her.”

“Correct. But under the rules of the Kazuko, you don’t get the option for a rematch. Don’t get to make a comeback. It’s more or less the same as dying in battle. Samurai to samurai. Winner takes all and gets to live. The loser gets kicked out.” Clarisol curved her lips in disgust. “Frankly, I don’t find it fair. So I can help you with that.”


“Have you heard of the Sanreal Family.” Seeing Shirohime shake her slowly, Clarisol smile coyly. “Oh. That’s a shame. Well, let me put it this way. The Sanreal Family are an old family with lots of influence. And they own the Telos Corporation. In other words, they make all the combined families of the Kazuko look like little fish in a little pond.”

Shirohime’s eyes widened. “The Telos Corporation and the Gun Princess Royale.”

“Oh, you put two and two together? Very good. Except it’s not that simple.” Clarisol planted her chin on upturned palms while resting her elbows on the table. “What if I was tell you that I can have the Sanreal Family turn the screws on the Kazuko, and make them change their minds. What if I could get them to give you another chance. Would that mean something to you?”

“They would never agree to that.”

“Girl. I’ll say this again. The Kazuko are little fish. The Sanreal are a shark. Don’t even think of comparing the two.”

It sounded implausible, yet there was a irresolute light in Clarisol’s eyes that made Shirohime wonder if this woman could actually do it.

“Who are you?” she asked, surprised to hear her voice tremble faintly.

“Me? My name is Clarisol val Sanreal. I am the youngest daughter of the Sanreal Family.”

Watching her closely, Clarisol appeared to notice the moment Shirohime’s blood ran cold but there was nothing she could do to hide her reaction.

“If you accept a position on Team Novis, I will guarantee the Kazuko give you a second chance. Even if it’s only once, but nonetheless you will get a rematch.”

Shirohime sat in silence for a long while, growing uneasy by the moment as she considered Clarisol’s words.

She was still contemplating them when the waitress delivered their order of Boss Hog burger meals. Responding automatically, she waited for the girl to place the orders on the table, thanked her, and then picked up her utensils. However, that was as far as she got. With fork and knife in hand, she stared absently at the giant burger and mountain of fries on the plate.

The question of where to begin attacking the meal captioned across her mind.

But she was also thinking of the carrot Clarisol was baiting her with.

“Prove it.” She looked up at the young woman with light auburn hair seated opposite her, already making inroads into the Boss Hog meal. “Prove that you can do it.”

Clarisol munched on a mouthful of burger, then swallowed it down seconds later. “I don’t need to. If I’m telling you I can guarantee you a shot at your sister, then that’s all you need to know.”

Shirohime put the utensils down. “No, that won’t do. Give me proper assurance, or I go with another team.”

“Another team won’t make the same offer.”

“At least they won’t be trying to beguile me.”

“Beguile? Is that what you think I’m doing.” Clarisol took another large bite of her burger then averted her gaze as she munched away in thought. “How about I prove to you that I’m a daughter of the Sanreal Family. If you won’t take it from, then maybe you can take it from my older brother. He’s the boss of the Telos Corporation. The CEO. Would his assurance be enough?” Clarisol put her burger down on the plate, then wiped her hands on a serviette. “In fact, I’ll give him a call now and set up a time to meet him.”

Retrieving her slim phone, Clarisol tapped away on the screen. A few seconds later, she pressed the phone to her right ear, and spoke into it.

Shirohime had sharp hearing – sharper than most people – so she clearly heard a man’s voice gruffly reply, “What do you want, Clarisol? I’m a little busy here so make this short.

“I need your help, brother. I need you to convince the Shirohime girl that I am who I claim to be.”

…what are you talking about…what Shirohime girl?

Clarisol’s eyes narrowed. “The S-rank with the snow white hair and giant boobs. Ring any bells, brother?”

Shirohime wasn't distracted enough to fail to bristle at the image that painted of her. However, Clarisol ignored the glare thrown at her.

…what about her…?

“I need you to tell her that we can deliver on our promise.”

…are you referring to the Kazoku Families?

“Yes. I’m referring to what you said about twisting their arms and bringing them to their knees.”

…I see...and?

“Convince her that it’s all true.” Clarisol was beginning to sound testy. “Or can’t you back your own words.”

I don’t go back on what I say.

“Good. Then convince this girl that our offer is genuine.”

A long silence followed.

Shirohime watched Clarisol gradually growing more impatient.

“Simon. Simon? Simon!”

Clarisol. Do you understand what you’re asking?

“Absolutely. Besides, this girl has all the makings of a future Empress.”

Shirohime felt her heart stumble for several beats.

Clarisol didn’t appear to notice. She was staring off into the distance with an exasperated look on her face. “Simon, she’s an S-rank. She can finally put Team Novis on the map. And besides, we don’t know how the other one will work out. We need to have a strong team. This is important.”

Keeping her face calm was proving a little difficult, and that shamed Shirohime a little.

As someone who had spent years training, the notion of never giving anything away when facing an opponent had been ingrained into her. However this situation was different. She had faced many other girls in the past, and defeated almost all of them, but she had never encountered someone as odd as this Clarisol woman.

She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about Clarisol seemed…off.

It was an unsettling feeling, that made Shirohime wonder not who Clarisol was but rather what she was.

The man on phone replied tensely, “Very well. Bring her around to the building tonight. Use the private lift like always.

There was a soft simulated click and the call ended.

Clarisol lowered the phone and glared at it under raised eyebrows for a long while.

Perhaps noticing that she was being observed, she broke into a guilty laugh.

“Ah, having an older brother can be a chore. I feel like kicking him in the balls these days.”

The phone in her right hand creaked as Clarisol laughed.

Hearing the plastic cry out in agony made Shirohime’s innards tighten a little.

Just who or what is this woman?

Clarisol tossed the phone hard onto the table, then had to leap out of her chair to catch it before the phone bounced off and flew over the side of the railing.

Grabbing onto it in the nick of time, she chuckled as though embarrassed, sat back down.

This time she put the phone on the table with considerable care.

“Now, then, where were we?” she asked herself. “Oh, yes. Getting you that shot at revenge.”

Shirohime cleared her throat quietly. “The man you spoke to. He is your brother.”

“Yes. Simon val Sanreal. CEO of Telos Corporation. And before you ask, he earned the spot. Father didn’t hand him the reins of the company just because he played nice.”

Again, Shirohime cleared her throat and focused on remaining calm and collected. “If it’s true. If you can do what you claim. What do you want from me? Why go so far as to choose me? Surely there’s more to it than me being an S-rank.”

Clarisol picked up her burger from the plate. “Yes, there is.”

“So there are strings attached to the offer.”

“There are strings attached.” The young woman took another large bite out of the burger.

Shirohime looked down at her own plate, then back up at Clarisol was eating with lidded eyes as though relishing the rich taste of the meat and everything else between the oversized buns. The distant look on her face was one of rapture, but more like she was concentrating on breaking down the food in her mouth by concentration alone.

I was right. This woman is strange.

However, could she afford to pass up this opportunity.

She had lost on a technicality, nothing more, and she was certain she would never make the same mistake, so could she win the next time she faced her half-sister?

Realizing that she was doubting herself, Shirohime stopped her thoughts in their tracks. Using the techniques that had been pounded into her by her training masters, she quickly emptied her mind. Once it was clear, she began thinking anew, yet her heart still trembled.

“What strings?” she asked in a tightly controlled voice.

Clarisol swallowed the large bite she’d been feasting on. “Well, think of it as more of a side job.”

The sense that it wasn’t something legal began to gnaw away at Shirohime. “What kind of job?”

After taking a hefty swig of the dark cola she’d ordered, Clarisol reached out for her phone on the table. “I want your help with this boy.”

She showed Shirohime an image on the phone, then reconsidered and handed it over to her.

Expressing some concern, Shirohime took the slim device and then looked at the photo on its screen.

The photo was taken from a distance, and it showed two teenagers.

One was a fair haired boy who appeared to be of above average height, while the other was a rather cute girl with short black hair. They appeared to be either walking to or from school as there were many other students around them.

Shirohime didn’t recognize their uniforms but she wondered if they were middle schoolers.

She was also puzzled as to why the girl was wearing a male uniform.

However, her attention was drawn repeatedly to the boy, and truth be told she was captivated by him. She wouldn’t go as far as describing it as ‘love at first sight’ but she couldn’t deny that the teenage boy made her pulse quicken, and this was something of a first for her.

“Who…is he?” she whispered.

“His name is Ronin Kassius, and he’s become a person of interest. The boy beside him is his one and only friend—as far as I can tell. He’s something of a special case.”

A twinge of worry troubled her. “Does he have a girlfriend?”

“Not that I know of. Really, I doubt any girl would see him as boyfriend material.”

“Excuse me?” Something sounded off and Shirohime wondered if she and Clarisol were on the same page. “Then who is this girl beside him?”

Greeted by a sudden heavy silence, Shirohime peeled her gaze away from the photo of the fair haired boy, and looked across at Clarisol.

The woman was sitting motionless with a blank look on her face.

But seconds later she snorted loudly and began to chuckle. “Of course you would think that.”

Shirohime frowned. Had she made a mistake? No, that was unlikely.

Clarisol sat back, then waved the burger in her hand about. “That’s not a girl. That’s a boy. Trust me on that.”

Her features contorting in disbelief, Shirohime dragged her attention onto the image of the girl wearing a boy’s uniform.

That can’t be. That’s not…possible.

Clarisol smirked evilly. “He makes for a pretty girl, doesn’t he.” Then she clapped softly, though she refused to put the burger down. “Congratulations. You failed. Just like everyone else who’s seen Kassius for the first time. That’s what makes him such a fetching trap.”

“A trap?”

Disbelief swirled her thoughts like multicolored paint in a tin can. However, instead of a bright color, her thoughts grew murky. And yet through it all there was one feeble ray of hope that steadily brushed color back into her mind.

The brunette boy wasn’t a girl.

That meant there was hope for her so long as the fair haired boy liked girls and didn’t already have a girlfriend.

Relief and tension rushed through her body, making her tremble as she clutched the phone and stared intently at the two teenagers captured in a moment in time. Eventually the anxiety she felt overwhelmed her. Tapping the screen to enlarge the image of the fair haired teenage boy, she did her best to keep her voice steady as she held the phone up for Clarisol to see.

“Who is he?”

Clarisol grew still as she ate the last of her giant burger, and a dark shadow crossed her face.

The abrupt change in the woman’s mood made Shirohime’s heart stumbled in fright.

What she’d seen on Clarisol’s face was something she’d seen many times on the faces of girls caught in love triangles. For example, when one best friend confesses to the other that she likes a boy, and her best friend also happens to like the same guy. However, the latter decides to value their friendship and hides her feelings while supporting her best friend in her romantic endeavor.

That was what Shirohime believed after witnessing that fleeting flash of dark emotion on the young woman’s face.

She could be wrong, but she chose to rely on her woman’s intuition.

However, she’d already ventured forth.

Taking back the question wasn’t possible.

Clarisol’s cold gaze swept over Shirohime’s face, making her shiver faintly, but she refused retreat.

Eventually, Clarisol broke her silence. “That boy is of no concern.”

“Then you won’t tell me who he is?”

With deliberate slowness, Clarisol cocked her head at Shirohime. “Will knowing who he is make a difference to your decision?”

Blinking quickly, Shirohime asked, “I’m sorry. What decision?”

“To compete in the Gun Princess Royale as a member of Team Novis.”

Clarisol leaned forward and plucked the phone from Shirohime’s hands with such speed and strength that Shirohime was taken utterly by surprise.

Tapping the image of the boy-girl, Clarisol then said, “And your decision to assist me with this person of interest.”

Reeling from having had the phone snatched away in the blink of an eye, Shirohime cleared her throat quickly and blinked several times while recovering her faculties.

What the Hell was that?

However, she didn’t have time to mull it over.

Clarisol was staring at her with frightful intensity, and holding the phone up for her to see.

“Well?” the woman asked in a low, insistent voice.

Having to gather her thoughts again, Shirohime sat back in her chair to give herself some room and time to collect herself.

Then she gave Clarisol’s question some serious consideration.

The woman’s behavior strongly implied something was afoot.

She was both intrigued and drawn to the mystery behind the photo, Clarisol’s reaction, and everything else she had learnt this evening.

Yet as Clarisol continued to stare intently at her, Shirohime struggled to keep herself under control, remembering the old adage about curiosity killing the cat.

But it was more than curiosity that warred within her.

After regarding the girl boy on the phone’s screen for a long while, Shirohime met Clarisol’s eyes.

“Yes. It will.”

It wasn’t a complete lie.

The fair haired boy had captivated her and made her heart throb.

She would be a lying to herself and the world if she denied it.

Clarisol sat back in her chair, then tapped the phone to her lips thoughtfully as she scrutinized Shirohime from across the table.

When she stopped, a wicked smile settled upon her lips.

“Well, this was an unexpected turn of events.”

A cold wind of unease blew through Shirohime, brushing her heart, and triggering a shiver that made her shoulders tremble.

Throwing her arms into the air, Clarisol burst into laughter, startling the people seated at the neighboring tables.

“Oh, this is going to be so much fine,” the young woman announced, ignoring the looks she was garnering.

The merciless gleeful chuckle that erupted from Clarisol as she then folded her hands behind her head would stay with Shirohime for a long, long time.

However, for now Shirohime fearfully wondered if Clarisol was a woman or the Devil in disguise.

For those of you who are new to the series, and would like to know more about it, you can find the ebooks on Amazon Kindle.
Thank you for giving this series a chance.

Book One - Awakening the Princess

Book Two - The Measure of a Princess

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