Alternate Universe-Miki Hoshii

Miki yawned and began to hum softly to herself. "Miki is tired," she murmured groggily. "Miki wants to sleep. But she can't. Poor Miki."

The blonde idol wandered the streets, looking for a store open this late that sold the rainbow paint Producer had requested. But exhaustion weighed down her feet and Miki had to drag them along like rocks if she wanted to get anywhere. She moved closer to the guardrail by the ocean she was strolling by and laid her hand on it. Suddenly, a bout of total exhaustion swept over her like one of the waves lapping at the shore below her, and Miki gasped in alarm as she felt herself slip out of consciousness. Her head hit the cold pavement, and then Miki blacked out.

When Miki awoke, the first thing she noticed was the lack of color. The sky was not blue, the grass was not green, and the cardinals building a nest in one of the bland trees were not red. Confused, Miki realized that everything around her was some shade of black or white.

And that included the people.

Many of them, Miki recognized. She could spot her friends from Project Fairy, Hibiki and Takane, and the Jupiter boys Hokuto, Touma, and Shouta. She also spotted Producer, Chihaya, and the boyish idol Makoto. Miki stood, slowly.

"Who's the chick?"

Miki was surprised when she heard the rude comment come from usually-cheerful Shouta Mitarai. She blinked. "Um...Miki's name is Miki. She fell. And now Miki is here."

Hokuto sniffed indignantly. "We don't need you here," he muttered.

Miki stiffened. Now Hokuto-kun is acting strange too? Usually he's all over girls.

"Now, don't be rude to her. She's just a little chick who's lost her way."

Miki almost burst out laughing. Since when was Touma-kun a gentleman? This is weird...

Producer frowned. "She's colorful. Eh, but she doesn't seem too special to me."

"Honey!" Miki wailed. "How could you say that to Miki? Miki is sparkly, isn't she? You said so yourself!"

"Sparkly? Doesn't mean you're special. Although, you might be the rainbow girl who is supposed to come return our color," Producer responded.

"She should go home I guess," Hibiki muttered.

"Who cares if she stays or not?! I'M A BIRD! YOU GUYS SEE THIS, RIGHT?! I'M FLYING! I'M A BIRD!" Chihaya cried, flapping her arms and running in circles.

Everyone is acting weird! Miki realized. It seems like everyone is opposite as the way they usually are...then, since Hokuto's usually a flirt...is he gay now? Miki giggled to herself at the idea.

"I suggest we let thy female stay."

"Yeah, Producer, she's totally rainbow! She'll get the color!"

Miki noticed that Takane and Makoto had spoken. Producer looked Miki up and down.

"Red shirt," he announced. "Orange socks. Yellow hair and green eyes. Blue pants and maroon shoes. Yeah, she's rainbow."

Miki looked down at her clothes. Miki forgot to match today. Oh, well. It's helping Miki. But now she looks like a clown...

"Miki is rainbow, alright," she said. "So can Miki stay?"

"I think you shall," Takane replied. In a flash, Miki realized that while everyone else was opposite, Takane and Makoto were immune to the effects, it seemed. Since Takane had a usually calm disposition, but a strange obsession with ramen and other odd qualities, she had no opposite. Makoto, also, who was tough and boyish, yet had some girlish qualities as well. Miki made a mental note to hang out with them the most.

"Fine. But you two have to take care of her," Producer declared.

"All right! You can stay, Rainbow Girl," Makoto laughed. "I guess you're staying with Takane or me. Take your pick."

"Welcome to Iro," Takane added. "A land once full of the most vibrant colors, but we were attacked long ago and thy beautiful colors were stolen. It was prophesized that a girl would arrive clothed in rainbow colors and return Iro to normal. Thou art that girl, Miki. I think."

"Miki is honored," Miki said in awe. "And...Miki would like to try staying with you, Takane. And if Miki doesn't like it, she will move in with Makoto-kun. Is that OK?"

"Fine by me," Makoto said, shrugging. "Takane...don't forget to feed her, alright? And be sure to let her go to the bathroom."

"I figured I would just keep her in my room," Takane admitted. "Like a little kitten. But I guess you are right. I shall allow the Miki complete freedom in my home. Did you hear, Miki?"

"Yes! Miki is happy. Thank you for reminding her, Makoto-kun."

"No problem."

"Well then, I shall now direct you to my house. Right this way, Miki," Takane directed. Miki nodded and followed her.

"Takane, why is everyone acting weird?" Miki asked, sitting on an ornate black couch in Takane's elegant but bland home.

"I did not realize they were," Takane admitted. "But I think it happened when the color went away."

So then, the color is linked to the opposites thing... Miki assumed. Miki will return color to Iro!

"Hey hey, Takane...where will Miki sleep?" Miki whined, suddenly tired.

"Do not worry, Miki. I shall mold a bed for you in my room. Do you prefer stuffed beds or newspaper?"

"Miki would like a real bed."

"I am not sure how to make a real bed..."

"Then, Miki will have to share your bed."

"You may lie on the foot of my bed, if you must. I heard cats like to sleep curled on the foot of one's bed."

"That's true, but Miki isn't a cat."

"Oh. Then, you may choose where you wish to sleep."

Miki giggled. "Will you show Miki where your room is so she can sleep? Miki is tired."

"Of course, Miki. Come with me," Takane ordered, ascending the steps in her home. "My room is the one at the end of the hall. Would you like some newspaper?"

"Takane, Miki has to pee!" Miki cried. "Why can't Miki leave your room? Miki isn't a cat and she doesn't eat cat food! Miki needs onigiri...onigiri~, Takane~!"

"But, I thought you were my new pet, and I am afraid that if I let you out my of my room, you will run away, and I would miss you," Takane pouted.

"Miki is no one's pet. Miki is a person." Miki stood. "That's it, Miki can't take it...Miki is going to move in with Makoto-kun!"

"Please do not go," Takane pleaded. "Is my bed not comfortable enough?"

"Your bed is very comfy," Miki insisted. "But you don't feed Miki or let her go to the bathroom so she can't stay here." She opened the door to Takane's room and trotted out.

"Farewell, Miki. Take care. Oh, do you know where Makoto's house is?"

Miki froze. "Miki will ask for directions," she said at last, bounding out the door. "Thanks for taking Miki in, but Miki has to go now!"

She had been wandering for at least 20 minutes when she finally decided to actually ask for directions. She paused by a large black house and sat on the steps. Touma walked around the corner and spotted her.

"Are you lost?" he asked, in the gentlemanly tone he'd been using since Miki first saw him.

"Miki is looking for Makoto-kun's house," Miki answered. Touma stared at her for a moment, and then started to laugh.

"Sorry, I shouldn't laugh. I will show you." Pausing, he lifted a finger and pointed to the black house directly behind Miki. Miki turned. "That would be it."

Miki blushed. "Oh. Thank you, Touma-kun," she muttered, standing.

Touma bowed. "Anytime, Miki-sama. Anything else?"

Miki-sama? This Touma-kun sure is weird...

"No, Miki doesn't need anything. Bye."

Touma nodded and walked away. Miki knocked on the door to the black house. There was silence.

"Makoto-kun? Miki wants to move in. Please open the door."

More silence.

Miki knocked and rang the doorbell a couple times. "Makoto-kun?"

Still silence.

Miki banged on the door and rang the doorbell furiously. "MAKOTO-KUN! OPEN THE DOOR! MIKI IS HERE!"

There was a loud moan. The door opened slowly. The frazzled-looking boy in front of Miki was not who she had been expecting. Every hair seemed out of place, and there were slight bags under his half-closed eyes. "What do you want?" he muttered.

Miki thinks Touma-kun showed her the wrong house...Miki will ask this guy for directions. "Miki is looking for Makoto-kun," Miki said.

The boy blinked. "This is she."

Miki blinked back. M-Miki thought...it was a boy...now Miki is kind of embarrassed... she thought. "Oh...Miki didn't recognize you. You look exhausted..." And stressed, and messy, and exactly like a boy...

"I AM exhausted," Makoto said under her breath. "I was just upstairs working out and I've been up for nights in a row since you got here trying to find a way to get the color back."

Miki smiled sympathetically. "You've been up for nights in a row just to find a way to bring back the color?" she repeated.

"Yep. Did Takane lock you in her room?"

"She didn't give Miki any onigiri..."

"Well, I don't have onigiri, but...there's lots of fruit and vegetables...and a giant slab of meat."

"Can Miki have the meat?"

"But..." Makoto trailed off. "But that's my reward meat..."

"Can Miki have it?" Miki asked again.

Makoto opened her mouth to protest, then closed it and sighed. "Save me half."

"Yay! Thank you, Makoto-kun. Miki will go eat meat now."

"Only half!"

"Yes sir!"

"I'm a—you know what, never mind," Makoto moaned. "I'm going to bed."

"Can Miki have all the meat now?" Miki called after her.

"No!"

Miki sighed and hustled to Makoto's fridge, swinging open the door. She quickly managed to find the meat and moved it aside. Behind it was a small notebook. Curious, Miki pulled the book out of the fridge (along with the meat) and closed the door. She placed the meat on a plate and popped it in Makoto's microwave, then sat at the table to flip through the notebook while she waited for her meal to cook. Miki could recognize Makoto's handwriting and could tell her findings had been hastily scrawled into the pages, with notes scribbled in the margins. One phrase came up more than any other.

Opposite Day...

The second most repeated phrase was the Empire. Miki found a page entitled Legend of Iro that had both phrases scattered throughout the pages. She started to read.

Long ago, Iro was a land of vibrant, exciting colors and lovely, dedicated people. It was ruled by the Rainbow Queen, a woman clothed in every color of the rainbow and sometimes even more. The only colors never seen were blacks, whites, and grays. The people of Iro were, however, at constant war with their neighbors, the bland and bleak Empire.

The Empire, ruled by the cruel and boring Empress, believed that everything should have a strict color pattern. They thought that bright colors like red, yellow, or green should be replaced with blacks, whites, and grays, and they were determined to finish off the colors of Iro once and for all.

The Empress led a huge army into Iro and took the nation by surprise. A wave of bleak and bland colors followed them wherever they went, staining Iro's bright, emerald green fields a dark, dull gray. The Rainbow Queen decided to lead her own army into battle to combat the Opposite forces against them. She brought with her only three people—her most trusted warrior and his squire, and the nation's prophetess. Iro fought hard, but in the end, The Empress struck down the Rainbow Queen and her best warrior. Desperate to save Iro, the prophetess took the young squire and fled to a tower as far from the Empress and the Opposites as she could get.

Miki gasped. How will the prophetess save Iro alone? she wondered. Takane mentioned something about a prophecy when Miki first met her. She kept reading.

While hiding away, the prophetess had a vision. For months she worked to decipher its meaning. By the time she finally realized the true nature of her vision, it was too late. The Opposites of the Empire and the Empress had already found the prophetess and the squire, bringing their wave of bleak colors with them. Just after the prophetess was thrust into the curse of Opposite Day, she uttered the words of the prophecy:

"There shall one day very far away, arise a rainbow girl who shall single-handedly lose to the Empire and bring chaos on Iro."

The squire, thinking fast, wrote the words on a parchment as they were spoken, changing a few words to say that the rainbow girl would save Iro instead of destroy it to leave some tiny fragment of hope for the people, before he was thrust into the effects of Opposite Day.

Opposite Day affected the colors and personalities of the people of Iro even years into the future. A man found the parchment the squire had left one day and, as he had been changed to a gentle, hopeful lad due to Opposite Day, cradled it in his arms and brought it before the people. He read the prophecy aloud, and ever since then, the people have waited for the rainbow girl destined to redeem Iro.

At the bottom of the tale was a small note: Taken from Legends of Iro*

Miki reread the legend over and over. She could almost feel the clue inside it, but no matter how hard she searched, she couldn't find any leads.

"Hey Miki, pay attention to your food~! That microwave has been beeping for ten minutes now, and it woke me up...AH! Wh-where'd you find that?!"

Miki looked up, startled, as Makoto came running down the stairs and snatched the notebook from under Miki's eyes. Instinctually, Makoto stuffed the notebook in her shirt and covered it with her arms.

"Miki was reading the Legend of Iro," Miki announced. "Miki knows there's a clue in there somewhere, so she was looking for it."

Makoto sighed. "I thought no one would find it if I hid in my refrigerator behind the meat no one ever eats. And I hoped it would look uninteresting enough that even if someone did find it, they wouldn't be all curious and nosy. But I guess some people have no manners," she concluded, squinting her eyes at Miki in annoyance.

"But you can't look for clues on your own!" Miki protested. "You'll exhaust yourself to no end. So Miki has to help you!"

Makoto shook her head. "It's dangerous. The Empire is still out there and they don't want us getting any leads. It'd be too dangerous for you to get involved. Heck, it was dangerous for you the second you got here!"

"Then how will it be any less dangerous for you?"

"It won't."

"Well, Miki won't let you be in danger alone!"

"You're already IN danger. Didn't we just go over this?" Makoto shook her head. "Forget it. I shouldn't even have this, never mind giving it to you. You're the rainbow girl from the prophecy, Miki. And if the Empire finds out you're here, they'll send Opposites in the thousands. It'd be better for you if you didn't get involved any deeper."

Miki frowned. "But Miki doesn't know how to restore the color. So Miki has to figure it out."

"But if you know anything at all when the Empire arrives, they'll use that knowledge against you. They'll figure out how to bring back the color and then prevent that from happening any way they can. Don't forget, they don't know about the prophecy. They probably think the prophetess from the legend was just babbling nonsense.

"Miki wants to know," Miki said stubbornly. "...Miki also wants her meat."

"I'll get the meat. And I'm not letting you get involved any deeper, OK? I'm just trying to protect you." Makoto crossed the room to the microwave, removed the meat, and placed it on the table. She sat across from Miki. "OK? Can you drop the subject now?" She dropped her head in her hand and closed her eyes, clearly tired.

"Thank you," Miki muttered. "Miki appreciates your concern, Makoto-kun, but Miki is still going to find a way to restore color. Miki doesn't want Makoto-kun to exhaust herself looking for solutions to Miki's problem."

Makoto raised her eyes to look at Miki, but she didn't move. "It's not your problem," she said at last, barely above a whisper. "It's Iro's."

Miki sighed. "Miki wants to help..."

"You want to help? Fine. Don't die," Makoto ordered, standing. "I'm going back upstairs to look for clues. You, eat your half of the meat. And no more arguing, I won't hear it."

Miki stood as well. "Miki will not stop arguing! Miki will not die, and she wants Makoto-kun to get more rest. Miki wants to help look. So give Miki the notebook, and you go upstairs and sleep."

Makoto paused. "No," she said simply.

"Yes," Miki retorted.

"My house, my rules. No."

"Guests come first. Yes."

"You're a roommate, not a guest. No...!"

"Roommates are guests. Yes!"

"It's my notebook. I decide what to do with it. No!"

"Didn't your dad ever tell you to share your things? Yes!"

"Miki..." Makoto trailed off and turned around. Suddenly, she started to giggle. "You're not letting this go, are you? OK, you win." She pulled the notebook out from under her shirt and tossed it to Miki, who caught it deftly in two hands. "But if the Empire tortures you for information, don't come crying to me. And no matter what, don't die."

"Yes! Thank you so much, Makoto-kun! Now go get some rest and let Miki handle the color problem," Miki demanded. Makoto smiled gratefully.

"Yeah...I think I will," she murmured groggily, trudging up the steps and yawning loudly. Miki sat back down at the table, opened up to the page with the Legend of Iro on it, and reread the passage yet again.

"Makoto-kun? Hey...Makoto-kun? Miki doesn't know where to sleep," Miki whispered in Makoto's ear.

Makoto moaned. "What...?"

"Miki is tired," Miki announced. "And she doesn't know where to sleep."

"Aw, crud...I didn't think of that..."

"W-will Miki have to sleep on newspaper?!"

"What? No...I guess you'll just have to share the bed with me. I don't have any other rooms for you. Sorry."

Miki let out a breath of relief. "Oh, that's OK." Slowly, she crawled into the bed and laid her head on Makoto's chest.

"Um, that kinda hurts...I'm a girl, you know..."

Miki was silent. "Makoto-kun?" she whispered at last.

"Hm...? Yeah, Miki?"

"You need bigger breasts."

"What?!" Makoto cried. "Wh-what makes you say that?"

"Miki used to sleep on Takane's chest. Takane is busty, so she was comfy and soft. But you're flat and kinda hard. So you aren't as comfy."

"Geez, then just use the pillow..."

"No thanks."

Makoto sighed. "I feel like I got way more then I bargained for when you moved in here..." she admitted, giggling slightly.

"You probably did," Miki agreed. "Goodnight, Makoto-kun."

"Well, it was until you made me feel like a dude..."

"...you aren't a dude?"

"OF COURSE NOT! Miki!"

"Miki knew. Miki wanted to tease you because you're handsome. Goodnight."

Makoto moaned again. "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Goodnight I guess."

When Miki woke up, she was alone in the bed. "Makoto-kun?" She sat up. "Hey, Makoto-kun?" Worried, Miki glanced to her right, then to her left—and she started to laugh. It seemed Makoto had fallen out of the bed during the night. Miki lifted the extra pillow Makoto had gotten for her and took the notebook from under it. She reread the Legend of Iro and then read the prophecy again after that.

"There shall one day very far away, arise a rainbow girl who shall single-handedly lose to the Empire and bring chaos on Iro."

Her eyes narrowed. Something about this prophecy... She paused and read the words right before the prophecy.

Just after the prophetess was thrust into the curse of Opposite Day, she uttered the words of the prophecy:

After...just after... Miki thought about the words. Does that mean...? Just then, someone knocked at the door. Makoto stirred and let out a moan.

"Don't get up, Makoto-kun," Miki ordered. "Miki will get it."

Makoto curled back into her original position, muttered something, and was still. Miki climbed out of the bed and ran down the stairs. She opened the door. Producer was in the doorframe.

"Hi, Honey!" Miki squealed. "Are you here for Makoto-kun? Because she's asleep right now."

"Too bad," Producer muttered. "I have to talk to her about the Empire. Has she shown you the notebook?"

"Yeah, and Miki is using it now. Makoto-kun is exhausting herself, so Miki is looking for clues on her own."

Producer sighed. "I need to see if she's found any leads. I think the Empire is going to attack soon, so we have to hurry and fix things. That's why I need Makoto, not you. So wake her."

Miki frowned. "No. Makoto-kun needs rest," she pouted. "Miki will help." For the first time, she noticed something; Producer's clothes and skin were darker and bleaker than anyone else's. Honey is the blandest person in Iro...

"Get her for me. I don't have time for this!" Producer snapped.

After...just after...

Miki's mind flashed. "Stay here!" she ordered, running into the house. She snatched the notebook from the bed.

Makoto twitched. "Miki...?"

"Miki knows how to get the color!"

Makoto sat up. "What?!"

Miki started running back down the stairs. "No time to explain!"

Makoto followed behind her. Producer had walked inside and closed the door, making sure it was firmly locked. He sat at the table as Miki barreled down the stairs, followed closely by Makoto. They sat and Miki took a pencil. On a blank page in the notebook, she copied the prophecy.

Producer looked at it. "Single-handedly destroy Iro...?! That's not what the prophecy said the way we learned it!"

"That's because the squire changed the words to give hope to Iro," Miki explained quickly. She started to write again. This time, she wrote the opposite of what the prophecy had originally been:

"There shall one day soon arise a bleak and bland boy who shall, together with others, defeat the Empire and return color to Iro."

"That's the real prophecy!" Miki cried. "The prophetess announced the prophecy after she underwent the effects of Opposite Day, so her speech was opposite!"

"I never saw that!" Makoto gasped. "Wow, great job, Rainbow Girl! So then...what do we do?"

Miki reread the Legend of Iro. "We'll assemble an army to take down the Empire. The prophecy says that help will be required. And Miki knows just who to put in the army."

She wrote down four titles.

Rainbow Queen

Trusted Warrior

Prophetess

Squire

She looked at the first title. "Miki is the Rainbow Queen, since she's rainbow." She scribbled her own name next to "Rainbow Queen". She looked at the next slot.

Miki's most trusted warrior... Miki thought. For a moment, an image of Touma floated into her head. She was prepared to write his name next to the title of "Trusted Warrior" when she remembered her argument with Makoto the day before.

"I'm just trying to protect you."

Miki glanced at Makoto beside her. The tomboyish girl had one eye on Miki, and seemed to be simultaneously watching the world outside for signs of danger. Miki smiled and wrote her name beside the "Trusted Warrior" title. That's better. She moved on.

Prophetess

Miki barely had to think. With her mysterious manor, kind ways, and wisdom, Takane seemed the only logical choice. And obviously, since he was the bleak and bland boy from the prophecy, Producer was the squire.

"There. That's our army. Now when the Empire gets here, Miki will lead her army into battle!" Miki announced. "Now, Honey, will you go get Takane? No, wait...Miki will go."

"I'll get her," Makoto suggested.

"Nah, Miki is going to fetch our prophetess. Bye-bye!" She stood and ran to the door, stepping outside. She stopped and narrowly avoided bumping into Takane herself.

"I was out for a walk," Takane began, "and I decided to check on you. You are doing well, Miki, are you not?"

"Miki is doing wonderful!" Miki cheered. "Miki knows how to bring color back!"

"You do? How marvelous!" Takane exclaimed. "Tell me, dear child, how did you do it?"

"Miki deciphered the legend!" Miki explained. "You'll learn more inside. Come on!"

Takane followed the exuberant girl inside and sat at a reserved spot at the table. "Now what shall we do?"

"Read this," Miki ordered, gesturing to her page in the notebook. Takane looked at it and read the hastily-scribbled writing.

"Opposite...but of course, that makes such sense! I am surprised I had never noticed it, or Makoto either. Not even you, Producer," Takane announced.

"Yeah, Miki is smart!" Miki cheered.

"So then...now what?" Takane asked.

Producer shrugged. "We wait, I guess?"

Miki nodded. "Miki isn't sure what to do exactly..."

Producer moaned.

"I hear something," Makoto muttered to the near-sleeping inhabitants of her home. "Guys...get up! They're coming!"

Miki yawned. "Makoto-kun, you're loud..."

"The Empire is here!" Makoto hissed. "You expect me to let you sleep?"

Producer nodded slowly. "She's right. We need to figure out how I'm supposed to restore color to Iro."

"I believe it has something to do with defeating the Empress. Perhaps if you kill her, then the color shall return," Takane suggested.

Makoto nodded. "It's worth a try."

"Then, Honey will kill the Empress, and Miki and you other two who aren't Miki will defend him. OK?"

"Sounds good, but can we have a better group name?"

"Might I suggest the Autumn Moon Shrine Maidens?"

"But Makoto-kun isn't really a maiden..."

"HEY!"

"Miki's just stating facts."

"YOU DON'T HAVE TO—I know..."

Producer sighed. "Um, yeah. Why don't you just call yourselves the Rainbow-"

"AVENGERS!" Makoto interrupted.

"I was going to say crusaders or something, but that can work," Producer said.

"Yay!"

"Then, we shall be known as Miki and You Other Two Who Aren't Miki Autumn Moon Shrine Maidens Rainbow Avengers Crusaders Plus Producer-san?" Takane asked.

Miki giggled and nodded. "Miki likes that one. Now let's find the Empress!"

Out of the corner of her eye, Miki spotted someone running and flailing their arms wildly. For a moment, she grew tense, thinking it was one of the Opposites, but when the person drew closer, Miki could see it was just Chihaya.

"I'M A BIRD! DO YOU SEE THIS?! I'M A STINKIN' BLUE BIRD!"

"There aren't any Opposites around for miles," Miki sighed. "Why are we still waiting? Miki thinks we should go storm their city."

"But why rush into battle like that? There's no guarantee we'll win even if we wait for them," Producer reminded her.

Miki groaned. "But Miki is bored!" she whined. "Honey, let's go on a date while we wait~."

"There isn't any time," Producer chastised. "And...don't say stuff like that. It makes me uncomfortable."

"Then, will you go on a date with me, Makoto-kun?"

"Gee, Miki, you know I would, but Producer's right," Makoto said sarcastically. "Look, I think I see something now. Be ready."

Miki nodded and stared out the window. A large creature coated in a shade of grey, the same bleak levels as Producer, was staggering around Iro, gripping a giant paintbrush in its hand. Makoto silently moved under the table to stay more hidden. Miki followed her, and Takane and Producer slid beneath the table as well. The creature glanced inside the house, but when it didn't see anything, it walked on.

"That was an Opposite," Takane pointed out. "They are men clothed in the bleakest of colors. Their suits make them looks like marshmallows, but they are significantly less innocent, I promise you."

Marching feet, walking in time, sounded from somewhere rather far from the group. Producer flinched. Makoto froze. Miki curled into a tight ball and moved closer to Takane.

"Let's go. Grab a weapon," Producer ordered, emerging from under the table. He grabbed a butcher knife from one of Makoto's drawers. Takane took a large stick form behind Makoto's couch.

"When did that get there?" Makoto asked.

"I hid it there when you were sleeping last night," Takane announced. "I shall use it as my weapon."

"I've got a body, and I keep it in shape for a reason," Makoto said proudly. "I'm my own secret weapon!"

"Miki will use her charms!" Miki squeaked.

The others stared at her. "Just in case," Producer said at last, "take this rolling pin." He tossed the object to Miki and Miki managed to catch it in her fingers.

"There are some in here," came a bland voice from outside. Two of the men/creatures known as Opposites had found the group and were currently rushing into Makoto's house.

Miki clutched the rolling pin. Takane raised her "staff". Makoto got into a ready stance. Producer lifted the knife. Then, everyone was thrust into complete chaos.

The Opposites quickly called for backup. The three new Opposites who appeared brandished not a paintbrush, but a huge scythe each for weapons. Racing inside, the back-up ran straight for Miki. Miki flinched and raised her rolling pin in front of her face.

Makoto slid in the way and managed to intercept one of the Opposites. Producer threw a fork at one of the others and hit it in the shoulder. The Opposite turned on Producer, leaving only the one left to fight Miki. Miki dodged instinctually before the Opposite could rake his scythe down her side and slammed the rolling pin into his side. Suddenly, the Opposite whirled on her. "You'll pay for that," it muttered. Its scythe was raised. Sensing an opportunity, Miki let out a determined cry and whacked the Opposite in the stomach with her rolling pin.

Producer had already badly damaged his two Opposites, and they fled out the door. The sound of marching feet rose louder and louder, causing Producer to pause as Takane's Opposite ran to him. Takane herself had punished her Opposite badly, which had made it run from her. Makoto's Opposite had already had enough, and she had done nothing but dodge from it. Out of the corner of her eye, Miki saw Makoto slam her foot into the Opposite's right side and the Opposite stumbled away and headed for Takane.

The marching was deafening. Miki's Opposite brought his scythe down on her shoulder and managed to tear a cut in it. Miki wailed in pain and dropped the rolling pin. Her Opposite raised his scythe again and as he swung, Miki squeezed her eyes shut. She opened them in time to see Takane blocking the Opposite's scythe with her "staff", pushing it away from Miki until the Opposite couldn't keep pushing against Takane and released his pressure just enough for Takane to force him back. In minutes, all the Opposites had fled. There were moments of only the marching feet.

"We did it!" Miki cheered.

"Huzzah!" Takane chimed.

Producer and Makoto warily watched the outside. Then, the cheering voices fell silent. The world seemed to stop. Miki glanced down at the colorless blood dripping from her shoulder and was suddenly worried about the coming battle. All at once, a huge horde of Opposite rounded the corner and stopped in front of Makoto's house. In the middle of the horde was a group of Opposites carrying a cart holding the Empress. The bleak but beautiful woman descended from her throne and crossed into the house.

"I hate dirty work," she announced, in a boring voice. "But my Opposites have failed. You are bothering me. And I wish to kill you myself. So I shall present you with an offer; we'll go one on one. If your warrior can defeat me, then my Opposites will leave you alone and color will be restored to Iro. If I win, then you must surrender all of your color to us forever—and that means all the color. Even the grays and blacks. You will be left in nothing but whiteness. Understood?"

Frightened but determined, Miki nodded. "Miki sends Honey!" she declared. "Honey will defeat you for Miki!"

Producer nodded and took Takane's staff in one hand. In his right hand he still held the butcher knife. "Let's go."

The Empress nodded. "Let us."

Suddenly, she lunged at Producer, her long, sharp nails poised to dig into his skin. Nimbly Producer leaped aside and placed Takane's staff leaning against Makoto's refrigerator. Focusing only on using the knife, Producer leapt at the Empress, who ducked beneath him. She rolled aside and raked her "claws" across Producer's abdomen in the meantime.

"Honey!" Miki cried. "Honey, are you OK?"

"I'm fine!" Producer hissed, whirling on the Empress. He swiped at her with the sword, but the agile woman slipped silently away and thrust her claw-like, 8-inch long nails into his side. Producer groaned in pain and spun towards her, but the Empress had already twisted away and was jabbing at other important organs.

"Honey, you're hurt!" Miki wailed. Miki has to help Honey! But what can Miki do? This is Honey's battle. And Miki needs to stay out of it. But...

Again and again the Empress' agility kept her out of reach from Producer. Producer, in turn, couldn't see Empress in time to make an escape, so he remained a victim. Tears welled in Miki's eyes. She was only slightly aware of Takane's shouted "boos" to the Empress and Makoto's encouragements and coaching to Producer, and realized that they were doing something she wasn't—supporting.

"You can do it, Honey! Miki knows it! Go!" Miki called.

Producer moaned in agony and dropped to his knees, just in time to avoid on of the Empress' hits, aimed straight at his head. Quickly Producer rolled out of her reach and snatched Takane's staff, throwing the knife at the still recovering Empress. She was struck in the chest with the projectile, but the sharp object barely hindered her progress. She leapt at Producer, who in turn, held out the staff and caught her in the gut. The Empress leapt back and slid under Producer's initial reach. She managed to trip him up, causing him to stumbled and fall. Wasting no time, the Empress rolled on top of him and raked down his exposed spine with her nails.

Miki frowned. "No! Get up, Squire!" she ordered, her voice raising in authority. Miki is the Rainbow queen. She will not let her subjects be beaten. Miki will restore the color! "Miki told you to get up! Why are you sitting there? You aren't fighting alone, remember?"

"That's right, Producer!" Makoto suddenly shouted from her place beside Miki. "You might be the only one fighting physically, but we're a team! A team with a very long, annoying, stupid name! But we're still a team!"

"Miki and You Other Two Who Aren't Miki Autumn Moon Shrine Maidens Rainbow Avengers Crusaders Plus Producer-san will not lose!" Takane insisted. "Makoto-san, we do indeed require a more fitting group name..."

Producer chuckled. "Geez, girls, I'd like some manpower help instead of word power, but I guess it can't be helped. I'll do it!" he demanded, thrusting himself upwards. The Empress was shaken off of his spine and, with great effort, Producer got onto his knees and swung the staff around in time to catch her in the jaw. Tiny black droplets flew from her mouth, and she stood shakily to her feet. Her grey eyes narrowed to slits.

"You have moral support, I see," she droned. "But that isn't enough."

"Oh, I think it is," Producer countered. "I'm not a single fighter. I have an army behind me. Granted, it is a very small army of only three other people, but that's OK. It's the best I've got. And..." He trailed off, turning to flash the girls a single, pained smile. "And I'm starting to think it's pretty good."

Miki grinned. "Oh, Honey, that's such a sweet thing to say to Miki and the rest!"

Producer nodded. "Hey Prophetess, what's your prediction?"

Takane seemed to smirk. "Well, I say it is a win for our side all the way. But, what use are predictions, Producer-san? You are indeed the one fighting. So, I must insist that you prove me right, dear squire."

Producer gave her a quick nod. "How about that, warrior? Think it can be done?"

"I say that I, for one, would've killed her ten times over by now!" Makoto snapped. "Why are you slacking? You have all the strength, so just finish it! We're counting on you!"

Producer chuckled. "And, my queen," he began, "your orders?"

Miki lifted her chin. "Return the color," she responded. "By any means possible, Miki orders you to return color to Iro."

Producer looked back at the Empress. "And there you have it," he stated simply. "So you see, I just can't lose. You understand, right?"

The Empress stared at him blankly. "Words are useless in battle," she muttered.

"We'll see about that!" Producer announced, snatching another knife from Makoto's countertop. The Empress lunged at him, claws out, and Producer lifted the knife blade out in front of him. He let out a battle cry. Everything seemed to fall into slow motion. Miki closed her eyes.

Please, please let Honey win. Please. Please...

There was a single, piercing shriek and a collective gasp. The earth itself seemed to shudder. Miki forced her eyes open.

There was Producer, huffing, lying on his back on the ground, the handle of the knife resting just below his chest. There was the Empress, slumped messily on top of him, her head on his chest, her arms spread out beside her. There were the Opposites, giving great sighs and simply vanishing into the earth. Producer stood and moved the Empress' body off of him, shaking her off of the knife. She fell to the ground, a new wound opened in her throat. Producer crossed to Makoto's couch and collapsed. And then, slowly, Producer's skin began to gain color. All at once objects all around them re-gained their color, including Makoto, Takane, and the wound on Miki's shoulder.

"You did it, Honey!" Miki cheered, laughing. She turned to Makoto and Takane. "You two have color! Makoto-kun, your eyes changed...and Takane! Yours too! And your clothes...and Miki's shoulder..."

Producer laughed lightly. "Guess you were right, Miki. Good job!"

"Honey, you're back!" Miki squeaked, jumping onto the couch beside Producer.

"Yeah...I am back, aren't I?" Producer smiled. "I guess I ought to thank you. I'm proud of you, Miki. If it weren't for you, the color would be all but gone forever."

"Actually, without her, it WOULD be gone forever," Makoto pointed out. "You're alright, you know that, Rainbow Girl?"

Miki giggled. "Miki knows."

"Miki, you were clever enough to decipher the message. I am indeed impressed. You were wonderful," Takane said fondly.

Miki nodded. "Miki knows."

"You should stick around, in case we ever need you again," Producer suggested.

"Miki knows. She wants to..." Miki trailed off. "Miki's head...really hurts..." Her mind began to go blank. She could barely pick up Makoto frantically searching for something, and Producer shaking her gently, saying something, and Takane staring at her quizzically. Then everything descended into blackness.

Epilogue

Miki sat up, slowly, rubbing her head. "Ow...what happened?" she whispered to herself.

"Miki, there you are!" someone shouted. Miki squinted against the light of the sun and saw Producer running towards her. He paused when he reached her and put his hands on his knees, breathing heavily. "I was looking...all over for you. I was worried. Are you...are you OK?"

"Miki is fine," Miki said warily. "Honey, why aren't you bleeding? Where are all your wounds from your fight with the Empress?"

"What empress?" Producer asked. "I never fought an empress."

"But you did! Miki saw it with her own eyes. It must have been yesterday-"

"Yesterday? Miki, I'd know if something like that happened to me yesterday. You must have fallen asleep and dreamt all this."

"Miki has been here for days! How could Miki have been sleeping all that time?"

"Days?" Producer straightened up. "You've only been missing for a couple hours."

Hours? "Was...was Miki dreaming?"

Producer shrugged. "That's what I said. You must have dreamt it."

Miki stood. "Miki was the Rainbow queen...and Honey, you were the squire! and Iro was lacking color, so you had to restore it.." She trailed off. "Miki dreamed all that?"

"You must have. Now, Miki, let's go back to the agency..."

"In Iro Miki was very sparkly," Miki said quickly. Producer blinked. "But, Honey...you wee the most sparkly, even though you were the most bland." Miki paused. "Miki was the heroine. That's what everyone said. Honey, you saved the day, though. Miki thinks...she thinks that she can sparkle even more with someone else by her side. Miki wants to have others by her side. She wants..."

"To be in a unit?" Producer finished. "I hope so, because starting today you're in a new unit."

"Really?"

"Yeah, it's a project I was working on," Producer explained. He started to walk back to the agency. Miki followed.

All a dream... "Honey, who's in the unit with Miki?"

"Takane and Makoto."

Miki stopped walking. "The prophetess and the warrior?!" she gasped. "And...and Miki is the Rainbow Queen! And Honey, you're producing us, right? And you're the squire! That makes all four of us!" Miki flung her arms around Producer's neck. "Thank you, Honey! You're so smart to have known to put us in a unit!" Even if it was a dream, Miki will still sparkle, alongside her friends. Miki is the most sparkly with the others.

"I figured you'd like that. So, you like it?" Producer questioned, starting to walk again. Miki clung to his arm and walked alongside him.

"Miki loves it!"

"Good."

"Just one question," Miki said. Producer looked down at her.

"Yes?"

"Can our unit name be Miki and You Other Two Who Aren't Miki Autumn Moon Shrine Maidens Rainbow Avengers Crusaders Plus Producer-san?"