An Annoying Paradise - Daria 9 - It's Never Too Late to Make the Worst Impression

Daria reaches into her locker to get a book.

"Dar-Dar!"

"What is it, Manako?"

"Which song would you like to do?"

"In Super Star Singing?"

"No-o. Wait, you haven't heard?"

"Heard what?"

"This school waives tuition for Harmony Project girls. Now, the girls who have debuted already have a Christmas concert, but the trainees will have to perform for the school."

"You have got to be joking."

"Nope. The coaches think that it should be the eight of us with the remedial trainees as back dancers."

"In other words, feeding into your crazy theory that we're going to debut together?"

Manako chuckles. "Well, there is that. I did make up a name for ourselves: Senbei School." (1)

"But, senbei aren't even filled." (2)

"Don't worry about the small details. Anyway, we need to come up with a song, and since you are our leader, you should decide."

"The leader of a group that exists only in your head?"

"You are the oldest of the eight."

"Well," Daria ponders, "You're second oldest, right?"

Manako nods.

"Why don't you pick three songs that we could do and then I'll pick the one that seems easiest."

Manako pouts. "Don't be a wimp. We'll want a song that will allow everyone to have a solo line that they can do well."

"Why don't you pick it for me?"

I can't do that."

"How about you pick three songs and then if I pick the wrong one you will talk me out of it?"

"You're a natural born leader Dar-Dar."

"If I was I would beat you up for that nickname."

...

Daria puts her ramen bowl down on the table. "I'm glad you could meet me on such short notice."

Jane nods. "Well, things have been kind of depressing recently, so why not?"

Daria's eyes get larger. "Wait, you're depressed?"

"Well, Brittany successfully stole my 'cool alter ego' gimmick from me. The manga club even put her alter ego in Tsundere Princess. Lane from the Wired was never asked."

"I guess that is bad."

"Hey, you're in the manga now as well, as a kabedon character."

"Don't remind me."

"So, what did you want to talk about?"

"The Christmas concert."

Jane nods. "Oh, yeah. Tomu has been freaking out over it."

"Wait, Tomu has to perform as well?"

"Well, he's not freaking out over performing. He's actually quite looking forward to that. But, he's freaking out over Keibin."

"I thought they 'broke up'."

Jane raises an eyebrow. "Not professionally. Tomu has to do a duet with him and Keibin's skills have gone way downhill since he started hanging out with Haruko."

"Maybe they will get rid of him?"

"Josephine wants to debut them together. He's put pressure on Tomu to straighten Keibin out."

"That stinks."

"So, let me guess, you're freaked out over performing?"

"Of course."

Jane chuckles. "Hey, I think there is nothing to worry about. Just think of the worst possible performance that you can give."

"I do that all the time. Are you going to say that I will get even more fans if I stink the joint out?"

Jane shrugs. "There is that. But, I wasn't going in that direction. Now, even with your worst performance possible, remember that Haruko is also going to perform with Yuuki."

"You're really plugged in."

"Yuuki is in my gym class and she was freaked out over it."

"What are they going to do?"

"The opening song from Love Idol War. Yuuki is afraid that Haruko's singing is going to make her a laughing stock."

"Wait, didn't Haruko record that song?"

"Yes, and no. You don't know how many takes it took and how badly they had to use software to fix her singing. Singing in the studio and singing live are two different things."

"Sounds like a nightmare for Yuuki."

"Yeah, it makes me feel sorry for her and her B-cups."

"I guess I have it easier then. I only have to worry about eleven other people."

"Oh, are you actually saying that you are concerned about the quality of the performance?"

"Yes, even though I hate myself for it. It's just that the other eleven take this really seriously and I would hate it if I screwed things up for them."

"Nonsense. Trent once told me that sometimes it is a good thing to have someone in your group who stinks since it forces you to be on your toes to compensate. If they are serious, they should feel the same."

"That still doesn't make me feel better."

"You're playing with fire Missy with this idol thing. Sooner or later you knew you were going to get singed."

"Well, at least only the people from the school will see it."

"And, anyone who can view stuff on the Wired, like Trent."

"How can he do that?"

"He used to go there before deciding it was a poser scene."

"Strange, it doesn't seem that way to me."

"It isn't. 'Poser scene' is a euphemism for 'place that wanted me to do work'."

Daria half smiles.

...

"So, what do you think?"

Enchi-sensei looks up from Daria's latest writing exercise. "Excellent, as expected. However, ..."

Daria looks anxious. "Yes?"

"I had another one of my students mention you recently."

"In class?"

"No, this is one of the people who I am mentoring. Her name is Andrea. She said that she spoke to you in the Cyberia club."

Daria looks worried. "Wait, is Andrea taller than me, and does she wear goth make up?"

"Yes, and she is heavier than you. Writers cannot sugarcoat descriptions."

"She's trying to be a writer?"

"She's only in seventh grade and she is already president of the erotic fan fiction club, which I am the faculty adviser for."

Daria looks disgusted. "Has she been writing stories about me and Minamo doing perverted things?"

Enchi-sensei makes the "O" sign. "Pin, pon. However, I have admonished her not to use real names so she is using made up names: Dar-dar and Minami."

"I feel sad for Minamo."

"Well, so far in her stories the two characters don't really get perverted. They just have a Catholic girls school sister type relationship."

"Great, not only am I in the manga, I am now in fan fiction?"

"You haven't even debuted yet as an idol, don't you consider that auspicious?"

"Well, supposedly, I have to perform for the Christmas festival."

"Are you going to give them what they want, some fan service with you and Minamo?"

"Gross!"

Enchi-sensei laughs. "You know those girl school cliches. Would it kill you to slip one or two of them in?"

"Like straightening her tie?"

"Would it kill you?"

Daria looks flustered.

...

Daria enters the practice room for voice training but Sachiko isn't there.

"Glad you could make it! We been waiting for you."

"Miss Megumi, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be managing Daifuku School?"

"I have an assistant who is doing that. Today, and for our next two sessions I will be helping you guys get ready for the Christmas Concert."

"Rats. I thought if I ignored it long enough it would go away."

Miss Megumi laughs. "So, what song have you chosen for the group to sing?"

"Well, Manako made it as clear as she could that we should do 'Always Do Your Best!' by Taiyaki School." (3)

Miss Megumi smiles. "What a wonderful song! I remember the recording sessions for that. Everyone was trying their hardest to get it down correctly."

Daria raises an eyebrow. "I thought you managed Daifuku School."

"I managed Taiyaki School until Daifuku School started to get formed. My assistant at the time took over managing Taiyaki School since all the hard parts had been worked out."

Daria cringes. "Is this your way of telling us something?"

"Like you guys are going to debut? I have no control over that. A lot will depend on how you guys do in the Christmas Concert. I'm sure that T and the other producers will look at the concert footage very carefully."

"You're not a producer?"

"I am a manager. I don't compose and arrange music. I get people from point A to point B and convince them that they can do it."

"I'm sorry that you have to deal with me."

"You'll do just fine. Did you listen to the song?"

Daria smiles. "It had a catchy arrangement which kind of hid the banal and cliched nature of the lyrics."

Minamo, who had been listening carefully while sitting on the floor sits up. "That's my favorite Harmony Project song!"

Daria face plants. "But, every line is a cliche from a shoujo manga."

Minamo turns up her nose. "That doesn't stop me from liking it."

Daria notices that Manako has snuck in, bringing everyone, including the remedial trainees, into attendance. "Let me conduct a quick poll. Who here thinks that 'Always Do You Best!' isn't a stupid song?"

All of the other trainees raise their hands.

"Whose favorite song is 'Always Do Your Best!'"?

All of the other trainees raise their hands.

Daria puffs out her cheeks and pouts for a few seconds, then tilts her head and smiles a fake smile. "Well, that's why I chose it."

The rest of the trainees cheer even though they know Daria is lying.

Miss Megumi nods. "Now comes the hard part, the part that usually results in fist fights. I am assuming that the chorus will be sung by the top eight, and then the verses will be divided up one line per girl. I am not a producer so I can't assign people to each line. You girls will have to fight it out among yourselves."

Minamo sits up. "What about the bridges?"

"Up to you guys. Now, let the battle begin!"

Jiro jiro. (4)

Daria is shocked to see everyone looking at her for direction. "Well, um, since Manako is the most stable singer, I think she should do the first solo line since she'll be the least nervous."

Everyone nods in approval.

"I think I should do the second line!" Minamo jumps up, shocking the rest of the group.

Daria composes herself. "Any reason?"

"Well, I was thinking that would be a good character for me to play. A girl who trips and gets peeped on by a bully, but her senpai saves the day by straightening the bully out."

"We're acting out the lyrics?"

"Of course! And, obviously you'll be the cool senpai."

Daria winces. "So who will be the bully?"

"I can do that." Risu says smugly.

Daria nods. "Well, if Risu and I are playing characters in the first verse then our lines should come in the second verse."

Everyone voices support for this.

Daria thinks for a minute. "So, who should be the transfer student in the second verse?"

The group points at Akira.

Daria snickers. "Akira, can you sparkle when you smile and pout cutely?"

Akari does so with ease.

"Works for me. So Akira, you should do the third line so that in the second verse you can concentrate on your character."

"Yea!" Akira makes the double peace sign.

"And, since the fourth line is angry, I think Natsuko should do it."

Natsuko gives Daria an angry look.

"Perfect."

Natsuko pouts but realizes that she's been type-cast.

"So, what about the bridge?"

The group looks at Daria with puzzled expressions.

Daria thinks. "Well, I disagree with the idea that the remedial trainees should only be back dancers. I think that they should suffer the same anxiety that I am suffering over having to do a line."

The remedial trainees cheer, ignoring Daria's gloom and doom.

Manako smiles. "Maybe instead of solo lines, they could have lines with the official trainees? That would make it easier."

Daria nods. "Okay, since Akari and Manako will have already done a line, they should pair up with a remedial trainee on the bridge lines."

Manako gets a sneaky look. "Since the first line in the bridge is about you, Daria, I think that your senpai and your kouhai should deliver it."

Utako cheers and makes a peace sign.

"Okay." Daria makes sure that Miss Megumi is writing things down and then nods. "Akira, any preference?"

Akira blushes. "Well, um, Nanamo has confessed to me, so I think it is only fair that I pick her."

Daria raises an eyebrow. "Confessed?"

"That she liked my blog and thought I was a cool senpai."

Daria relaxes a little. "Okay."

"That's why we're sleeping together."

"What?" Both Daria and Miss Megumi face plant.

"It was just a joke!"

Daria pouts as the rest of the group laughs at her overreaction. "Okay, so Akira and Nanamo for the second line of the chorus."

Miss Megumi clears her throat. "There's only eight microphones. The duos will have to share."

Daria nods. "Okay, now for the second verse. Risu, you're the most experienced of the ones remaining so you should do the first line."

Risu gives a thumbs up.

"Chisako, do you think that you can do the second line?"

"Sure! Since all the girls already envy me, it should be a breeze."

Daria cringes. "I don't."

"Well, maybe some of the girls."

"As for the third line, I think I should do it. That way when Rikoko does the fourth line people will forget how bad I was."

Rikoko laughs. "You'll do great, senpai."

"And, since Rikoko just did a line, Risu should do the first bridge line."

"I'll do it with Bana-chan. I think I can lead her through it."

Daria nods. "Okay, so Musuba and Rikoko will do the last bridge line."

Musuba and Rikoko slap high fives.

"And, since Manako is the sneakiest, she should be the scheming best friend."

Manako makes a peace sign.

Daria turns to Megumi. "How does that sound?"

Megumi looks at Daria in shock. She pulls out her phone and makes a call. "Sachiko? They're ready to start rehearsing." Megumi pulls the phone away from her ear as if Sachiko had yelled. "I'm serious. No one fought over the lines."

Megumi puts down the phone. "She was expecting it to take over an hour. Daria, I have never seen a girl before so cut out to be a leader."

Daria blushes. "When I screw up my line I will take comfort in your praise."

...

"So, Dar Dar, ready to knock them dead?"

Daria looks at Manako with a look of slight annoyance. The other trainees lounge about the dressing room, checking their make up and stretching. "Of course not."

"What are you worried about?"

"Everything."

Manako gives Daria a sneaky look. "What about our outfits?"

"The outfits are fine. We can move around in them easily and we don't have to worry about giving the audience a free show if we make the wrong move."

"Your make up?"

"I don't wear make up."

"Your glasses?"

"The holder strap seems to be working."

"The dance?"

"The dance is fine. I was surprised. After all that hard work doing all those crazy dances in practice we get a dance where we are posing motionless most of the time."

"It's so we don't upstage the person singing. What about your lines?"

"I think I can do them."

"So, what are you worried about?"

"Me. I'm pretty self-destructive. I am sure I will find a way to screw things up."

"Don't you remember the Taiyaki School concert?"

"Yes."

"How many times did I screw up my back dancing?"

"None."

"Twenty. But, I have done it before so I can recover gracefully. We're all going to screw up, and it's always painful when you screw up the first time, but we all get over it and laugh about it later."

"If you say so."

Miss Megumi opens the door. "Five minutes! Get ready!"

Daria suddenly realizes that everyone is crowding around her and staring at her. "Is there something you all need?"

Manako pushes Daria's shoulder. "Baka! You're the leader. You're supposed to say something inspirational and then we put our hands in for a cheer."

"Um, I hope that you guys will be able to compensate for me stinking out the joint. You all are pros so you shouldn't have any problems. OWWWW!" Daria holds her butt.

Risu, with her index fingers still together winks at Daria. "Daria, your butt is in good hands with us."

Daria starts laughing. "Thanks Risu, I needed that. Hands in!"

The trainees chant together "Singing, dancing, exciting, Yeah!"

Miss Megumi opens the door. "It's time."

...

"It was the annual dogs versus cats competition. Next on Hen Tanoshii Sekai: the dogs win one to none." (5)

Daria turns off the television and answers her phone. "Hello Jane. What's up?"

"What's up? How are you feeling now that you are a star?"

"Like I don't want to see another human being for a month."

"Well, that's too bad. We still have school on Monday."

"So, how badly did I stink?"

"Not at all. Your line went over well, your group looked in sync on the dancing, and your skit with you adjusting Minamo's tie got fan girl screams."

"Don't remind me."

"Well, in sync except for that one girl who kept turning the wrong way on the choruses."

"You mean Bana? She was screwing up in practice, but we thought it looked funny, so we changed the choreography so that Bana was now supposed to do that."

"Smart move. It got laughs. Oh, check your email, I think you will have two messages."

Daria turns on her computer and checks. "One from Trent and one from Tomu."

"Um, could you do me a favor?"

"What?"

"Delete Tomu's message."

"Why? Is it embarrassing?"

"Why? You know why Miss Missy."

"Um, no I don't."

"Well, it's kind of obvious, especially when you chose that line to sing. It's obvious you're planning on making a play for Tomu."

Daria makes a face. "How do you know that I picked it?"

"Minamo bragged about it within earshot of me."

"Did she say why I chose it?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

Daria winces. "I chose the second verse because I was doing a skit in the first verse. I chose the third line because Rikoko would follow me and everyone would forget how bad my line was."

"A likely excuse. Especially since you wrote the song."

"What? If I did write the song in third grade then Harmony Project owes me five years of royalties. It was Taiyaki School's first single. You even saw them perform it at Alana's graduation concert. What's this really about? Are you jealous that Tomu sent me an email?"

"Jealous that he went into great detail on how you could improve."

"Well, I am glad you don't have big brother complex or else you would ask me to delete both emails."

"Not really. That would mean that Trent actually put effort into writing the message."

"Should also I look at Tomu's performance?"

"You little ..." Jane calms down. "I guess so. Sorry, I am acting stupid."

"Actually, I think Tomu is lucky he has someone who is stupidly jealous over him."

Jane chuckles. "Thanks, I think. Anyway, Tomu's performance was really good. You can barely tell how terrible Keibin was."

"What and Yuuki's performance?"

"She did fine on her singing. And, Haruko sounds exactly like she sounds on the recording."

"Exactly?"

"As in lip syncing. Which is another thing that she is terrible at."

"Do you still want me to delete the message?"

"No."

"Okay, time to catch up. Later."

Daria opens Trent's message first.

Daria, your group was really good.

Daria smirks over Trent's lack of effort. Daria opens Tomu's email. Ten paragraphs? Wow, maybe Jane was right to be mad.

...

Daria calls up Jane. "I just want to apologize."

"Why, for me being an idiot?"

"No, you weren't. That was a really long message from Tomu. It was all tiny performance detail tips that the coaches will probably miss, but it was still really long."

"That's okay. Just don't start baking him cookies."

"I did notice one thing though."

"Oh?"

"Of the dozen small things that I was doing wrong, Keibin also did all of them, only much worse than I did."

"You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

"Also, Tomu and Yuuki did none of those dozen things."

Jane laughs. "You should tell Yuuki to announce on the Wired that you are her rival. You could then answer her announcement that you accept her as a rival, unlike some other person."

Daria half smiles.

To Be Continued

(1) Senbei are rice crackers.

(2) Two of the groups in Harmony Project are "Taiyaki School" and "Daifuku School". Both Taiyaki and Daifuku are filled snacks.

(3) A completely made up song. Here are the "lyrics" they are brainstorming over:

Always Do Your Best! (Taiyaki School)

(Chorus)

When your life's not going right

When the sun's not burning bright

You could throw it all away

And crawl back in between the sheets

Or you could try, harder still

No need to cry, use your will

Even if you can't find the way

You must always do your best.

(Verse 1)

You're late (late!) for school again

Running with some toast in your mouth - (Manako)

You trip (trip!) on a sidewalk crack

Causing your skirt to hike up - (Minamo)

Why did that boy have to be there?

The one who teases all the time - (Akira) (Risu is the bully)

Now he knows what panties that I wear

Peeping should be made a major crime. - (Natsuko)

(Bridge)

But there's a senpai I like

Who is perfect in every way - (Manako/Utako) (Daria is the senpai who fixes Minamo's tie)

He corrected that jerk by

telling him to pretend he didn't see - (Akira/Nanamo) (Risu extra line - I didn't see, it was a lucky guess!)

(chorus)

The transfer student is a bishounen

I bumped into him first so he is mine - (Risu) (Akari is the transfer student)

He sparkles when he smiles and is cute when he pouts

All the girls will envy me - (Chisako)

But my best friend is trying to ruin everything

And I known her all of my life - (Daria) (Manako is the best friend)

I thought we promised long ago to not do that

I wonder if she just forgot? - (Rikoko)

(Bridge 2)

But I found out the boy's secret

The thing he hides from all the world (Risu/Bana)

With the purity of my heart

I'm sure I can help him work it out (Rikoko/Musuba) (Akari's extra line - I'm actual really into shoujo manga)

(chorus)

Dance break

(chorus acapella)

(4) Jiro jiro is the "sound effect" in Japanese for people staring.

(5) "One" sounds like "Wan" which is the sound the Japanese assign to a dog barking (like English speaking people assign "woof"). "None" sounds like "Nyan" is the sound the Japanese assign to the noise a cat makes (like English speaking people assign "meow"). So, the dogs won wan to nyan.