An Annoying Paradise - Daria - A Faustian Bargain
Author's note: This story includes many characters not from the Daria universe, many of which are based on real people. No names of real people or real companies are used, however, many will be able to figure out who the characters are based on.
"Are you even listening to me?"
Startled, Asamura Daria (1) looks up from her book and looks at her sister, Asamura Quinn (2), through large glasses. "Who are you again?" The sparsely filled bus they are riding in hits a bump and jostles the two of them.
Quinn groans. "Aren't you supposed to be watching out for me?"
"You're still here."
"Well, even though I don't mean it, I guess I should thank you for that."
"Mom paid me five thousand yen (3) to do it, so you don't have to thank me if you don't want to."
"Whatever! Daria, you wouldn't understand what this audition is, but to me it means everything. You could at least pretend to support me."
"Do your best, rah rah." Daria dead pans.
"Sometimes I wish you weren't an alien. Then you would understand what a big deal an idol audition is for a young girl."
"Is that what we're going to?" Daria makes a disgusted face.
Quinn rolls her eyes. "Here!" Quinn shoves a flier in Daria's face.
Daria reads it. "But, this isn't an idol audition, this is an idol trainee audition."
"When the see me, they will instantly debut me."
Daria keeps reading. "Well, Mom might like that. It says that there is a ten thousand yen a month training fee for trainees."
"She told me I should follow my dreams."
"She was probably surprised that you had dreams beyond correctly coordinating your outfit for the day."
"Yet another thing that you wouldn't understand. Oh, here's our stop."
Daria and Quinn catch a commuter train taking them to the heart of Shibuya. The train is crowded and they can barely talk to each other. Terrified, Quinn holds on to Daria the whole way.
After getting off the train, Daria follows the directions on the flier to get Quinn to the audition. "I am surprised at one thing though."
"At how pretty I am today?"
"Well, aren't your three friends from school also auditioning?"
"Yes, but they're riding with Sandi's Mom."
"Why aren't you with them?"
"Daria, being an idol is a constant struggle. Since they are going to accept all of us, soon I will be rivals of Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy instead of being fashion club friends."
"Oh, here we are."
Quinn shakes in fear and freezes.
"If you want to give up I won't care. I've already been paid."
Quinn shakes it off. "No, I will do it."
Quinn and Daria walk into the lobby of the Harmony Project building. Quinn gets in line to sign up while Daria excuses herself to sit in the cafeteria to read.
"Excuse me, miss?"
Daria looks up. A well dressed man is sitting across the table from her. "Who are you?"
"My professional name is the English letter 'T'. I am the head producer for Harmony Project."
"Asamura Daria. Can I help you?"
"Asamura, Asamura, are you Quinn's sister?"
"You look just like her."
"I do not!" Daria turns red.
"Will you be auditioning today?"
"No. It is not my ambition to dedicate my youth to smiling and acting cutesy all the time."
"So why did you come?"
"To watch over Quinn."
"She left thirty minutes ago."
"She left with three friends."
Daria takes out her cell phone to call her sister. She confirms that she is riding home with Sandi's mother. "I guess she's okay."
"I noticed the book you are reading. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa Youko. That was one of my favorites when I was young."
Daria blushes. "Forgive me for asking, but are you ... (4)"
"Gay?" T laughs. "I am married and have two kids. However, reading novels and manga written for and by women helps me get inspirations for songs."
"Would you like to be a writer when you grow up?"
Daria blushes even redder. "I guess so, but I probably would not be very good."
T laughs. "Do you think you would have better chances if you had a mentor?"
"No, I am way too busy. But, have you heard of Enchi Murasaki?"
"The authoress of 'A Tale of Masks'? She's one of my favorites."
"Did you know that she teaches at Tokyo Fine Arts School?"
"Wow! But, isn't that school really expensive?"
"One hundred thousand yen per month tuition."
"My mom would never spring for that."
"Would she spring for ten thousand a month?"
"The idol trainee fee? Well, she apparently would have for Quinn. But, why?"
"Well, if you became an idol trainee, one of the perks that come with the trainee fee is free tuition at TFAS."
Daria chuckles. "That's really nice, but me? I am untalented and nonathletic. I would never be able to pass your audition. You're just teasing me."
T laughs hard. "Miss Daria, I think you have a misconception about the nature of this audition. We didn't want to eliminate anyone. The more people we signed, the more money we take in."
Daria turns white. "So, Quinn and her friends passed?"
"No, those four were among the one hundred and ninety seven of the two hundred girls who showed up who walked away by their own choice."
Daria smiles a sly smile. "So what did you tell them to crush their dreams?"
"Well, I told them they couldn't date boys as an idol. One of your sister's friends laughed and said that I was just saying that as lip service and I told her that I was deadly serious and the rule was enforced for all idols all the time. That's when they bolted."
"And, the others?"
"Many more left when I mentioned how many hours a day they were expected to practice, and then all but three left when I mentioned that at some point they would eventually have to do handshake events where they would shake the hands of thousands of creepy looking middle aged men."
"So three passed?"
"Three didn't quit."
"Now, wait a second, are you seriously saying that I can be a trainee?"
"I think you are a good candidate. You have a burning ambition to be a writer and you would be willing to fake being a trainee and waste your parents money so that you could have a famous authoress as a mentor."
"You don't care that I will never be any good?"
"I don't care at all, after all your parents' money will be appreciated. But, there are three people that you would have to keep happy."
"Why don't I introduce them to you?"
Daria follows T while making a face as if she was being forced to eat unpleasant food. They enter a large room.
"I found a straggler. She's already heard the speech. She wants to be an author one day and feels she can use Harmony Project to get into TFAS. Daria, this is our head singing coach Sachiko."
Daria bows. "Please take care of me."
The middle aged blonde lady bows and smiles. "Please take care of me as well."
"This is Ai, she will be you dance instructor."
Daria bows. "Please take care of me."
A thirty something short brunette bows and smiles. "Please take care of me as well."
"And, this is Risa, our fitness trainer."
Daria bows. "Please take care of me."
A thirty something short red head with short hair bows and smiles. "Please take care of me as well."
"These are the three people you will have to keep happy. If they are not happy with you, you will be kicked out of Harmony Project and your parents will have to pay the TFAS tuition."
"Honestly, they do not care if you are untalented and nonathletic. But, they do care if you try or not. If you follow their instructions, I am sure you will surprise yourself. If you don't follow their instructions, they will notice."
Daria gulps again.
"So, will you go for it and chase your dream?"
Daria thinks for about a minute, looking at Sachiko, Ai and Risa with fear. "Yes. Even though I will fail at being an idol, I cannot pass up being mentored by Enchi-sensei."
Sachiko gives Daria a funny look. "Daria, are you saying that my teaching is too weak to help you succeed?"
"I'm saying that I am too hopeless."
Sachiko laughs. "You should have heard many of our most famous idols when they first started out."
"I'm probably worse."
Sachiko walks over to a keyboard. "Just say 'ba' and try to mimic the notes. When I get back to the beginning of the arpeggio you can say 'ka'."
Daria giggles over Sachiko allowing her to call call Sachiko a dummy (5). "Okay. Ba ba ba ba ba ba ka."
Sachiko laughs. "Daria, you have no idea how many idols we have who couldn't even do that when they started. But, they all worked hard, as you will, and they got better."
"Oops. I should have pretended that I was worse."
T smiles. "Don't worry, they will all start you at remedial level."
"There are three levels: remedial, intermediate, and official. Remedial trainees learn the basics in an individual setting. Intermediate trainees apply the basics in a group setting, and official trainees are the ones considered good enough to be back dancers at Harmony Project concerts. An official trainee will get an blog and a website profile, lower than that they will be anonymous. An official trainee will also be under consideration to join existing groups if there is an opening or be placed in a new group. Once they debut we pay them as opposed to them paying us."
"Well, I won't have to worry about that."
T raises an eyebrow. "Who knows? Besides, a blog would be good writing practice."
"If you say so."
"Now, there are three girls I want you to meet."
T leads Daria to another room. "Girls! I found a straggler. Please treat her well." T exits the room.
One girl glares at Daria with the scariest face Daria has ever seen. Another girl, taller than Daria and having short hair, runs over and snatches her glasses.
"Minamo, take my picture!"
The third girl takes the taller girl's picture with her cell phone. "Rikoko, you're scaring her. You should give them back."
Rikoko complies. "Sorry, but I love glasses shots."
The girl with the cell phone bows. She has a prominent chin and long hair. "Please forgive her. My name is Minamo. What is your name?"
"Daria-san, I should explain. Rikoko is a junior model. She's super in demand. She loves shoots where she can wear glasses because it makes her look smarter."
"Okay, I forgive you Rikoko."
"Thanks! But, I will want to borrow them again. Your glasses make me look really smart!"
"And, the girl over there who is glaring at you is Natsuko. She doesn't hate you, it's just that her resting face looks angry."
"How are you, Natsuko?"
Natsuko breaks into a radiant smile. "Good!"
Minamo looks relieved. "What level are you, Daria-san?"
"You can call me Daria."
"Thanks!" Minako beams.
"I am remedial."
"Natsuko and I are intermediate. Both of us have had three years of private training."
Daria's eye's become wide. "Wow!"
"And, Rikoko is official."
"Her dad is the lead singer of a metal band so she is a second generation musician."
Rikoko bangs her head and flashes the metal hand sign.
"How old are you guys?"
Rikoko holds up six fingers. "Sixth grade."
Natsuko and Minamo hold up seven fingers.
"Eight grade here."
Minamo grabs Daria's arm. "You can be our cool senpai."
"But, I am remedial."
"Thanks for meeting me here."
Ame Nichijo and Daria put down the ramen bowls and squeeze into a table at the local ramen shop. "No problem. After hearing your story on the phone I had to hear more."
"Well, after I got home, Mom said that of course she would pay for my idol training. Quinn was throwing a tantrum saying that it was unfair that I was going to stand out more than her and then spent her time scheming on the phone with her friends."
"Sounds like the evil empire is planning a counter attack." Nichijo slurps her noodles.
"Maybe TFAS has a program in coordinating outfits?" Daria giggles.
"You seem to know a lot about TFAS."
Nichijo dons a superior look. "My mom wanted me to go there so I had to look through all of their stuff. But, in the end, I thought it would be more fun to stay with the awful school that I was used to."
"You could go there any time you want?"
"Yes, I can. When do you start?"
"That's when I will start, then."
"What? You don't have to do this for me."
"I'm doing it for myself. It wouldn't be fun to be the school outcast by myself. And, since you as Miss kira-kira (6) idol are going to be popular, I think it would be fun being one of the popular students in the new school."
"Are you jealous that I sold my soul to the devil?"
"Of course! I paint all sorts of pictures of Makai (7) and the devil never takes notice. Men, who can understand them?"
"Well, at least you'll get to date."
Nichijo smirks. "Well, there is that. However, I suspect that the art teachers will run me ragged with assignments."
"Speaking of assignments," Daria pulls out a piece of paper, "here's what I have to do everyday."
"Is this all? I could do this stuff in five minutes."
"If you need a coach, just ask."
Daria frowns. "You're not going to be the type of character who can effortlessly do everything the main character wants to do but can't? Maybe instead of Nichijo I should call you Mary Sue (8)?"
"I was thinking of a different name for myself for the new school, but I'll keep that quiet for now."
Daria sticks out her tongue.
"Heeey, guys." An older teenage boy walks up to their table.
Nichijo smiles. "I asked my brother to congratulate you as well."
"Daria, I think you should know that my band, Mystik Spiral Kakko Kari (9) is debuting in a couple of weeks at the club Cyberia. However, I don't think that Ame Totoro is a good name for a band lead singer."
"Oh, you have a new name now?"
"Yeah. My new last name is a translation of my last name into English. My new last name is Lane (10)."
Daria nods. "Sounds cool."
"And, Totoro is the name of some anime character, so I will go with Trent."
Daria gives a thumbs up.
"So, you're going to be a sell out idol who sort of sings, sort of dances, and sort of looks cute?"
Daria crawls out from under the hundred pound anvil of Totoro's words. "Yes, I am selling my soul to the devil so I can be a writer."
"It wasn't my idea. The producer, T, talked me into it."
Totoro's eyes double in size. "Wait, T is going to be your producer? T from Shazam Q?"
Daria gets a blank look on her face.
Nichijo pulls out her smartphone and looks it up. "They are one in the same."
"Woooah. Shazam Q is my favorite band of all time. Their song 'Go Forth as Squids' (11) inspired me to be a song writer. Maybe I will have to check out the stuff he produces."
Nichijo nods. "Sounds like a good idea."
"Gotta go now. I have a band practice scheduled two hours ago. They should just be getting there now." Totoro leaves.
"So, will you go with me to his gig?"
Daria blushes. "Sure."
To Be Continued
(1) Asamura Daria's name is written 朝村 ダリア.
(2) Asamura Quinn's name is written 朝村 クイン.
(3) Author's note: 100 yen is approximately 1 US dollar.
(4) Daria is not homophobic, it's just shocking to her that a guy would read a girls novel.
(5) "baka" means dummy in Japanese.
(6) "kira-kira" means sparkling in Japanese.
(7) "Makai" is the netherworld in Japanese.
(8) "Mary Sue" is a fan fiction term meaning a super overpowered character with no flaws.
(9) Kakko Kari means "kari in parenthesis" (仮) and translates as "temporary". It is a similar meaning as if Totoro was saying "our name is Mystik Spiral but we are thinking of changing the name".
(10) The translation of Ame (雨) is rain, but Lane is pronounced the same as rain in Japanese.
(11) Really bad pun time here. 'Go Forth as Squids' would be Ika-masshoi, as opposed to Ikimasshoi which means Let's Go!.