An Annoying Paradise - Daria 10 - The Stupidity of an Early Bloomer

Daria and nine of the other trainees sit as a group in the audience at the fashion show for guild week.

"And next, walking a dress for Stacy, Kaguchi Natsuko!"

Natsuko walks down the cat walk.

Minamo nudges Daria. "She's so cool!"

"I would say that she's better than some people I know, but that would be damning her with faint praise."

...

The ten trainees sit around a large table at the ramen place along with Jane and Haruno who is trying to get the video from the show to download from The Wired.

Natsuko and Rikoko make their entrance.

The trainees cheer them.

Natsuko smiles. "Thanks, guys. I was really, really scared but, I guess I pulled it off?"

Haruno nods. "You did great. Okay, here's the video."

They all watch the show again.

"What do you think?"

Haruno smiles. "Unlike some people, you actually listened to my advice and tried to implement it."

"Did I succeed?"

"Mostly."

Natsuko looks happy but then suddenly looks somber. "Now that you all are here, I have an announcement that I want you all to hear first: I am quitting Harmony Project."

Dead silence.

Manako starts laughing. "Wow, you really had me going for a minute."

"I'm serious. I am joining a modeling agency and want to devote myself full time to modeling."

Rikoko looks confused. "But, I do both."

"You're way better than me."

Jane nudges Daria. "Excuse me, but Daria and I have a prior engagement we have to get to." Jane grabs Daria's hand and leads her out of the ramen place.

Daria looks cross. "Why did you do that? I wasn't even finished with my ramen."

"Did you want to spend the next couple hours consoling everyone?"

"Oh yeah. You're right."

...

"They had to extend the bus schedule. Next on Hen Tanoshii Sekai: There was no bus!" (1)

Daria turns off the TV and sighs. Well, might as well face the music. Daria turns her cell phone back on and notes that she has five text messages. This one should be easiest. Daria calls Minamo.

"Daria-senpai!"

"What do you need?"

"What kind of question is that? How am I going to carry on in Harmony Project now?"

"Are you sick?"

"No! Since Natsuko quit."

"What difference does that make?"

"For the past three years we have been taking singing and dance lessons together. I always assumed that we would debut together. This is horrible!"

"Aren't you being selfish? Didn't you see how Natsuko shined on the catwalk?"

"No. She was cool, and she was okay for a beginner, but she was way behind Rikoko."

"Rats. You called me on it. I was trying to be inspirational, but I stink at things like that."

"Try harder!"

"Okay. Minamo, I think you have what it takes to be successful idol. So did Natsuko for that matter. The difference is that Natusko no longer wants it as much as you do. But, you have what it takes to succeed without her."

"But, I wanted Generation Seven to succeed as a team."

"Well, this isn't inspirational in any way, but you won't be succeeding with me either."

"What? Are you quitting as well?"

"No. Not immediately. But, honestly, you were there on day one. Have you forgotten that I have no interest in being an idol?"

"Then why haven't you quit?"

"Enchi-sensei has told me that if I quit Harmony Project then she will stop mentoring me. However, if it comes down to me debuting, I will accept defeat and move back to my old school."

"I can't believe that Daria. You've already succeeded on stage."

"I felt horrible for over a week after the Christmas festival, and it wasn't because of Risu's index fingers. It was a terrible shock to the system to perform."

Minamo laughs. "I've done recitals before so I know that feeling. It gets better over time. In fact, if you didn't feel anxiety the first time that would have been a bad sign. Anxiety is something you can use to fuel a better performance."

"Honestly, I hope I never have to find out."

"Look, promise me that you'll at least stay until the next school year? I don't think they will debut us before they promote us to official."

"Well, if you promise to protect me."

"Sure. ... Hey, wait a minute! You're supposed to be cheering me up!"

"Yeah, but I stink at stuff like that. Anyway, I have a list of people who need cheering up."

"Okay, Daria-senpai. Do your best!"

"Thanks." Daria hangs up and calls Manako.

"Daria! Thank god you called. I've been totally freaking out."

"Over what?"

"Over what? Over all of my plans being ruined. Now I don't even know if I will debut."

Daria rolls her eyes. "I think that you are right. I think that T is going to be so upset that you caused Natusko to quit that he is going to fire you from the promotion staff of Harmony Project."

"I'm not on the promotion staff."

"Pin pon! You're not. I'm sure that T and his producers have a back up plan. Also, haven't you noticed that the remedial trainees are making rapid progress during all ages night at Cyberia? I'm sure that if your plan was that the four officials would debut with the four intermediates, then we're probably going to have seven intermediates soon to pick from."

Manako groans. "Baka! Baka! Baka! How could I be so dumb? There was a huge hole in my plan."

"Like, I'm likely to quit before I debut?"

"No, no, no. It is essential that Bana debut with us!"

"Wait a second. Now I am totally confused. Bana has risen above the Haruko level, but she's still a couple of levels under the other three. Why does she have to debut?"

"Daria, Daria, Daria. No successful idol group has ever been without a member from Osaka."

Daria face plants. "Well, I'll take your word for it. Hopefully a poison-tongued idol isn't necessary."

"Not necessary, but highly desirable."

...

Daria brings her bowl of ramen to Jane's booth. "This is rare. Usually it's me asking you to meet me for ramen. What's up?"

"Well, I was curious on how the consoling went."

"I stunk at it but somehow I got by."

"How did it go with Minamo?"

"Okay, I guess. We talked on the phone and she wound up consoling me."

"That's not what I heard."

"What did you hear?"

"That you two met under your favorite oak tree with rose bushes all around. Minamo cried over the leaving of her friend and you wiped away her tears with your dainty gloved hand." Jane acts as melodramatic as she can.

"What are you talking about?"

"That's in the latest fanfic by Andrea. You should keep up more."

Daria looks half amused, half disgusted. "This is getting out of hand."

"By the way, what was Minamo consoling you over?"

"Over the inevitability of my leaving the school."

"Oh yeah, the 'I don't want to be a teen pop idol thing'."

"That hasn't changed. I'm only here because Enchi-sensei is mentoring me."

"Now, if she dropped you, you would quit, right?"

"Absolutely."

Jane frowns. "You know, young Daria, I might no longer have your back on that idea."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's because if you moved back to our old school, I would probably follow."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"Well, I would be giving up fine arts teachers who knew what they were talking about, I would be giving up fellow students who have enough talent that I have to challenge myself on assignments, oh, and then there's that hot boyfriend thing."

"Couldn't Tomu visit you?"

"He does now, but, out of sight, out of mind."

"Well, that does make sense."

"So, did you know that there are other people in the faculty that mentor people in writing?"

Daria frowns.

"Maybe if Enchi-sensei dumps you you can find another mentor?"

"Would they be any good?"

"Tomu is happy with his."

"What? Why would Tomu have a writing mentor?"

Jane looks down. "Oops, I guess I let that slip out. Yeah, Tomu doesn't want to stop at being a teen idol. He also wants to write songs, write books, and be a producer."

"And, the reason that you were keeping this a secret?"

"I didn't want to encourage you to steal him from me."

Daria smiles. "That's stupid, but I can respect that."

"After all, you have a crush on my brother, but it shouldn't take you too long to see through him."

"I do?"

Jane gives Daria a condescending look.

"O-kay, I do. But, what do you mean by seeing through him?"

"Daria, Trent is a young man with lots of dreams and aspirations. And, he is willing to sit on the coach and do absolutely nothing about them for as long as it takes for his dreams and aspirations to come true without any help from his part."

Daria half smiles. "I kind of guessed that."

"Also, he has a new girl friend every week. All of them his own age."

"So, if you're worried about me stealing Tomu, why are you poisoning my feelings for Trent?"

Jane looks sheepish. "Oops, I guess that's the stupidity of an early bloomer."

"Isn't that the genius of a late bloomer?" (2)

"That too. Anyway, now the air is clear and we know that we are rivals."

"Like I am a rival to Haruko? I don't have time to be rivals over things that I don't care about."

"We'll see."

...

Daria catches up to Andrea in the hall. Daria thinks of doing kabedon to Andrea, but then realizes that kabedon on someone taller and wider than her wouldn't be intimidating at all. "Andrea!"

"Daria-senpai! What's up?"

"Um, I have been reading some of your Dar-Dar and Minami fanfics."

"Is it too creepy? I can stop."

"It is creepy, but I wouldn't tell a fellow writer to stop something. However, I did have a suggestion."

"What? What? What?"

"Well, it's about Dar-Dar. She's a Mary Sue."

"Well, duh!"

"Look, I have read girl school stories before, and I do know the conventions. It's okay for you to make Dar-Dar this dazzling goddess, but if she doesn't have a dark past or a fatal flaw that she hides from the world then how is Minami going to develop? Normally, the ordinary girl grows by finding out the tragic past of the school idol and helping her to heal with the purity of her heart. If the story is all Dar-Dar helping Minami then the story doesn't go anywhere."

Andrea looks lost in thought. "A dark past ..." Andrea smiles. "Thanks! I will add that to the story, maybe even rewriting a few of the earlier chapters to retcon (3) some hints."

"Do your best."

...

"So, Stacy, I have been thinking."

Stacy, using her time on the bus to read fashion industry magazines, looks up to see that Quinn is still looking at her fashion industry magazine. "Did you say something?"

Quinn puts the magazine down. "Sorry, I just saw this wild idea for a dress. But, I had an idea. I was thinking we might restart the fashion club."

Stacy panics. "Are you know who coming back to our school?"

"Sandi and Tiffany are currently back at our old school telling whatever lie they can think of to disguise their shame. Pathetic. Even if they came back, I wouldn't want them in the new fashion club."

Stacy calms down. "So, who are you thinking of?"

"That girl who walked your dress."

"Natsuko? Well, she's skinny. And, now that she's no longer a trainee, she can date boys so I guess she would work."

Quinn sighs. "We used to date boys."

Stacy blushes. "Well, I only had a couple, and they were second cousins."

"Stacy, Stacy, Stacy. Now that you're a famous dress designer, it's time for you to break out of your rut."

"Well, maybe. But, are we going to get a fourth member?"

"I don't know. Do you know any girls who seem really popular?"

"Andrea seems to have a lot of girls who look up to her."

Quinn face plants. "Puuu-leeeese! We do have standards. Also, Andrea wouldn't be interested in cute clothing."

"Maybe we should all go goth?"

"That's only for girls with dark hair."

"Wasn't your hair originally dark?"

"I'm a half, remember? My dad is German."

"Half of Germany is goth."

"Not my half! Who else?"

"I don't know. There were four girls who transferred a couple of months ago but they're all Harmony Project girls."

"Maybe Natsuko will know?"

...

Daria practices in her room a dance step that has been giving her problems when there is a knock on the door.

"Coming." Daria opens the door. "Quinn, this is a surprise."

"Sis, I need your help."

"Acknowledging me as a sister? Do you need help against a zombie apocalypse?"

"Much worse. Well, you see, Stacy and I restarted the fashion club."

"And now, the organization has spun out of control and is posed to take over the world?"

"No. We added Natsuko and she seems to be a good fit except for one thing."

"She's not shallow and materialistic?"

"That will come with time. But, there is an app that Stacy and I play to get ideas for the fashion design club called Good Afternoon Mizuki. Stacy and I have been doing great on it, but when Natsuko played it she totally smoked our scores."

Daria goes to her computer and looks up Good Afternoon Mizuki. "So, she's beating all of your high scores?"

"Yes! And, with outfits that are hideous!"

Daria laughs. "Can I try this app?"

"Sure." Quinn brings up the app on her smart phone. "You see, you have to design an outfit around a theme."

Daria starts poking around. "And, you say that Natsuko's outfits were bad?"

"The worst!"

"Can I try designing one?"

"Sure."

After a few minutes Daria is done. Daria takes out a pencil and paper. "So, I hit this for the outfit to be judged?"

"Yes."

Daria's outfit is rated as a "B". However, Daria takes careful notes on the scoring.

"Don't feel bad. The game is hard and you're not very fashion conscious."

"Can I try again?"

"Sure."

This time Daria takes a little longer. "Okay, all done."

"Let's see how it gets rated."

Daria hits the button.

Quinn's jaw drops. "Top one percent of the scores? What did you do? Hack the app? That outfit was ugly. No way was that top one percent!"

"Quinn, Quinn, Quinn, I think you misunderstand how the app works. Every piece of clothing in your wardrobe has attributes and a star rating. The key to the game is to pile on whatever you can so long as they have the attributes that you will be judged on. That's what I was copying down during the scoring. This game has nothing to do with taste, but is a normal RPG with a predictable combat engine."

"No-oooo! This app has the hopes and dreams of all young Japanese women who want to be fashionable."

"It's a bitter pill to take, but it is best if you are disillusioned with this world now, than to be crushed later on."

Quinn turns up her nose. "Humph! I would rather play the game my way even if I don't score well."

"That's up to you."

"But, you won't tell Stacy how to beat the game will you?"

"That's my sister."

...

Daria puts her books in her locker.

"Senpai!"

"What is it Minamo?"

"Well, first off, I was thinking of giving myself an idol nickname."

Daria cringes. "Other people give you nicknames."

"Oh, well, why don't you give me one?"

"Inoki?" (4)

Minamo pouts. "Be serious!"

"Ask Manako. I'm sure she can fix you up."

"Okay. And, now for the other thing, I didn't know you had a brother."

"I don't. I have one sister only. Jane has a brother."

"Right, but your brother committed suicide."

"What?"

"It's in the new chapter of Andrea's fanfic."

"Oh. Okay. I told Andrea that Dar-Dar needed a dark past so the Minami could heal Dar-Dar with the purity of her heart. This must have been the dark past she thought of."

"And, Dar-Dar's brother kills himself because he could never marry his beloved younger sister."

"Kimoi!" (5)

"Well, I agree with that."

"But, wait. There's one detail that missing. Was Dar-Dar at fault for the suicide?"

"By being to perfect?"

"No, that would be a dark family past. It's only a dark past for Dar-Dar if Dar-Dar blames herself for the suicide, and points to some specific action that she took that triggered the suicide."

"What? Teasing her brother in a sexy way?"

"That would work."

"You'd better tell Andrea."

Daria nods.

...

Manako enters T's office. "Yes, boss?"

"I understand you have a birthday event coming up in two weeks."

"Yes. It's my second as an official trainee. Me and Risu will do it jointly again."

"Manako, there's going to be some changes with birthday event. However, what I am about to tell you must not be spread outside this office, except perhaps with Miss Megumi."

Manako looks both terrified, but also somewhat happy.

To Be Continued

(1) Nobasu (no bus) means "to extend".

(2) "Taiki Bansei" is a four kanji Japanese idiom that means "the genius of a late bloomer".

(3) Retcon means "retroactive continuity".

(4) Antonio Inoki is a very famous professional wrestler in Japan who is known for his jutting chin.

(5) Kimoi is about the same here as ewwww.