A Hell of a Time

The arrow sunk into the center of the target with a thunk. I'd only just started training with my secondary weapon, but I was already hitting bullseyes more often than not. Was this a demon thing, or... I guess it doesn't matter.

"Akuma Maou-sama," came Lisa's voice. I turned towards the entrance of the target practice room of my lair to find Tattletale in full costume. I wasn't sure how I should feel about her ditching her domino mask for thick, black and white clown makeup. "There's a hero here to see you, she's waiting in the throne room."

I put my super fancy demon bow away and started walking to the room I'dstashed Lung's Lay-Z-Boy in. Tattletale had decided at some point that if I was going to be an "overlord" that I needed a "head-vassal" to manage my day to day things and appointed herself. Sicily had agreed, and Head-Vassal had added itself to Lisa's list of titles.

I had somehow managed to memorize every inch of Coil's former lair, so it wasn't until I'd flopped into my throne and raised the footrest that I came out of autopilot and saw that my guest was, rather than someone from the Protectorate or Wards, a woman in armor, holding a sword and shield, with a Mouse-Eared helmet.

"Mouse Protector?" I asked, and then immediately felt stupid. She was one of the first wards and, while not on the same level as the Triumvirate, she was still quite well known on the national stage for her sense of humor and love of humiliating villains and, in general, not taking being a Cape that serious. I reflexively checked her stat screen and noted that her Class was Hammy-Heroine and Defender of Earth was among her titles.

"Ha-ha!" she said, actually saying out the onomatopoeia of her laughter, "it seems that my reputation precedes me, Lady-Akuma."

"...Yes," I said with a forced grin, "now, what do you need?"

"Nothing major, just a matter of personal curiosity." She stuck her hand down the front of her tunic and pulled out a piece of paper that she must have been keeping between her boobs or something. "By any chance, M'lady, are you familiar with a pair of heroes who called themselves The Ratman and She-Demon?"

"I can't say that I a-" I was cut off by Mouse Protector shoving a photograph in my face and... what the?

The photo was old, warn, and low depth-it was clearly cut out of a tabloid or something, and the subjects were far from the camera, but that was clearly a college-age woman who looked and was dressed an awful lot like me next to someone in armor like Prinnirider's, but with a mouse-themed helmet rather than a prinny themed one and a tan color scheme to match.

"...That's my mom, I think," I admitted after a minute, "but I don't-"

"I knew it!" Mouse Protector declared with all the emotion of a fanboy who just found out that Alexandria was secretly dating Miss Militia. "I knew they were real!" And then she started jumping and dancing around my throne room while repeating "yes yes yes yes" over and over and over again.

Ten minutes later, after her fifteenth cartwheel, I cleared my throat and called out to her "Could you explain what's got you so excited, please?"

"The Ratman and She-Demon were a pair of heroes that operated for a brief time in the nineteen-eighties," Mouse Protector explained, "but, here's the catch, they predated Scion and only seemed to get reported on by tabloids and small time local newspapers in the region that happened to be in that week. And so, even after other heroes happened to show up, no one believed that the two of them really existed. Except me!" she declared, "when I learned about them, I tracked down every last scrap of information there was on them! They were such an inspiration that when I got powers of my own, I tried to model myself on Ratman. And now, I have proof that they're real!" It was impressive how she managed to say all of that so coherently without once stopping to breath or ceasing in her jumping cartwheel dance.

Then she pulled me out of my seat and trapped me in a crushing bear hug.

And that was what my team walked in on.

Regent immediately turned around, "we'll come back when you're done." he started to walk off, but Grue grabbed him by the back of his costume.

"Prinnirider has been spotted deep in Empire territory," Lisa explained, "and I figure that you'd want to do something before she gets herself killed."

"Okay," I replied. "Uh, Mouse. Could you let go of me? I have to go save a young heroine to be with a flair for theatrics before she gets in over her head and gets hurt."

Mouse Protector was silent for a moment. Then she let me go and said: "I'm in."

"Wait," I said in a haste, "that wasn't an invi-"

Mouse Protector Temporarily Joined Your Party Without Your Permission.

"Damn it."