It is the year 2040.
Many things have happened in the past, and many things are still happening around the world. Medical technology has reached the point where it can even slow down the process of aging drastically, with some scientists even claiming that they are on the verge of achieving immortality, which of course sparked countless internet debates on scientific ethics and the meaning of life, bringing chaos to certain parts of the internet (not that that’s unusual).
But for a certain group of women, the world is peaceful.
Nono Hana, now Kurai Hana, is living peacefully with her husband and her daughter, Hagumi.
Yakushiji Saaya is working as a doctor. One of the best in the city.
Kagayaki Homare is an olympic-level figure skater.
Aisaki Emiru is still an award-winning rockstar.
Which of course, brings us to Ruru Amour.
About a week prior to this was the tenth birthday of both Ruru Amour and Kurai Hagumi. Ruru, of course, having started her life at a physical age of approximately twelve, was more like twenty-two than ten.
This had resulted in Hagumi complaining about her growing up too fast, but Ruru did not understand her logic.
When she brought this up with Emiru, she said it was likely due to the fact that she went from child to adult in just ten years, whereas Hagumi is still a child.
“Well, Hagumi-chan will be an adult in ten years herself, and you were born with more maturity than a human baby,” Emiru had noted at the time. “So if we say you had the maturity of a twelve-year-old at the time you were born, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to call you a twenty-two-year-old now, I say.”
Ruru thought about it, and supposed that made sense.
This brings us to now, a bit over a week later.
Ruru had decided to try her hand at writing a song on her own, rather than just singing the ones Emiru wrote, and was currently seeking out her best friend for advice, guitar in hand.
Emiru...she had done so much for Ruru. She had financed the research that had lead to her creation, did work with the government to make sure she and other androids that might or might not come after her would be treated fairly, and taught her much about music and emotions. She was, without a doubt, Ruru’s best friend.
The purple-haired android was brought out of her musing when she noticed she had arrived at Emiru’s house. Emiru had given her permission to enter whenever she pleased, so she simply pulled out a key and unlocked the door, and-
“Emiru, are you serious!?” A voice called out from deeper inside the house. A quick check of her memory banks determined it was Kagayaki Homare, another of Ruru’s dear friends. Based on the volume and where it was coming from, they were likely in the living room, just down the hallway Ruru had entered.
“I am,” Emiru’s voice responded, quietly. Vocal inflections indicated she was likely feeling nervous or distraught. Ruru didn’t know what was going on, but if her best friend was worried, then she needed to go over there- “I like her, I say.”
Ruru stopped in her tracks.
“‘Like?’” She repeated, quietly. It took her very little time to figure out the context - Emiru had a crush on someone. She didn’t know why, but the idea of that made...unidentifiable emotions well up within her. It felt...like she was both angry and sad at the same time. But love was a happy thing, wasn’t it? She...she should be happy for Emiru, right? Perhaps there was a glitch in her emotional system. She’d have to discuss it with father later.
But for now, she was gripped with curiosity. She wanted to know who Emiru was attracted to. She boosted her audio sensors beyond normal human hearing so as to make sure she didn’t miss anything.
“Emiru...well, if that’s the case, then go for it!” Another voice, this one recognizable as Kurai Hana, spoke up. “Hooray, hooray, Emiru!”
“Hana!” Homare spoke up, a scolding tone to her voice. “She only just turned ten. Emiru is twenty-two years older than her.”
‘Based on the data from that statement...is Emiru crushing on Hagumi!?’ That called up very identifiable rage in Ruru. Since they both had the same birthday, they had practically grown up as sisters. And if anyone, even Emiru, tried to lay a hand on her-
“It’s not that much larger than the age difference between myself and George,” Hana said dismissively. “Besides, Ruru’s an android. For all intents and purposes, she’s effectively in her twenties, right?”
‘What does that...oh. Oh.’ Ruru’s brain came to whirring to a halt as she came to another realization, one that caused all the anger/sadness she had been feeling to vanish. ‘Emiru has a crush...on me?’ That...that was something she had never expected. But...the idea of it...it made her feel...happy. Emiru...she enjoyed spending time with Emiru. She enjoyed singing with her, playing guitar with her, eating with her, walking with her, talking with her, even just being with her made Ruru incredibly happy. It might be a bit awkward to deal with, but...she was willing to try it. No, now that the thought had occurred to her, she dearly wanted to try it. She took a few steps forward, again aiming to talk to Emiru about this, when another voice spoke up.
“Well, I personally have no objections, not that I’d have any right to them. It’s Emiru’s life, she can make her own decisions.” This voice was Yakushiji Saaya. “That being said, I would like to confirm something...Emiru, you do really like this Ruru, don’t you?”
“‘This Ruru?’” The android repeated. ‘What does she mean? Is there another...me?’
“What do you mean?” Emiru asked, unknowingly echoing Ruru’s thought.
“I mean...we all know how attached you were to the other Ruru. To Cure Amour,” Saaya explained, “And we all know how sad you felt when she left. I don’t want either of you to get hurt because you’re confusing your feelings for the other Ruru for this Ruru.”
“‘Other Ruru?’” The android quietly repeated someone else’s statement again. Cure Amour...that was a name she had heard before. She knew that Hana, Saaya, and Homare were Precure. Specifically, Cure Yell, Cure Ange, and Cure Etoile, members of the ‘Hugtto’ team that was mostly active in the year 2018 and in early 2019. She also knew that Emiru had once been a part of that team, as Cure Ma Cherie, but apparently could not transform anymore. According to Hana, it was because she had a partner named Cure Amour, who needed to be present for Emiru to transform, but had left a long time ago. She had apparently been a time traveler from a different future, who had returned to her alternate future when the battle was over. The Precure had told her that the future Cure Amour had come from couldn’t happen in this timeline, meaning it’d likely be a long, long time before they could meet again.
She had internet connection in her own systems, so she quickly accessed the internet and ran a search on Cure Amour.
There weren’t many pictures of her - there weren’t many pictures of Precure in general - but the ones she did find...
She looked a lot like Ruru had as a teenager, but with a different hair color.
She ran another search. Cure Amour had also been part of an idol unit together with Emiru, or so Emiru had said. It was called ‘Twin Love.’ So she searched for that, and found pictures of both girls in their civilian forms.
The girl who performed together with Emiru...she had longer hair than Ruru did as a teenager, but...the face, the eyes, the hair color...
She read through the article until she found names. The name of the girl who performed with Emiru was... Ruru Amour. Just like her. She was...she was...
Ruru’s hands went slack from the shock, as she dropped her guitar.
“What was that?” Homare asked, having evidently heard the sound.
“It sounded like it came from the entrance,” Saaya added.
“I’ll go check, I say,” Emiru volunteered, as a familiar face with red eyes and auburn twintails stepped into Ruru’s line of sight...and froze like a deer in the headlights when she saw Ruru standing there. “Ruru!? How...how long have you been listening?”
The other three woman that had been in the room all made varying noises of shock, but Ruru wasn’t paying attention to them.
“When...when were you planning on telling me this?” Ruru asked harshly, frustration welling up within her. She felt tears welling up in her eyes.
“Ruru, I-“ the rockstar started, but Ruru didn’t let her finish.
“Was that why you financed father’s project? Did you make father design me like her? So you could have a...a...a copy of your real best friend? Am I just a...a...” Ruru wracked both her brain and the internet for a word for what she was thinking. She found one in less than a second. “...a replacement goldfish , to you?
“No! Ruru, I-“ Ruru still didn’t let her finish.
“I look exactly like her!” She pointed out. “You...did you just see father asking for funding and decide that if you couldn’t see her again, you’d just make a fake?”
“Ruru, please, listen to me, I-“
“I’m not some toy for you to play with!” Ruru shouted, before turning around and bolting out of the house, leaving behind Emiru, her face pale and her eyes wide with shock.
“Wait! Ruru!” She called, but Ruru had already slammed the door behind her and run off in a random direction, tears falling from her eyes.
She ran for exactly six minutes and forty-two seconds, before deciding it was time to stop and at least make sure she knew where she was going. She looked around, realizing she’d made her way to a large park, with trees, a few vending machines, and some benches here and there. Not having much better to do, and realizing her fuel level was getting low, she purchased a drink and sat down on the bench.
‘I...I can’t believe Emiru was...this whole time she...’
In retrospect, the very first thing Emiru had said to Ruru was ‘I’m your best friend.’ How would she already know if they’re best friends if Ruru had only just been activated that same day? But still...looking back on all the time she’d spent with Emiru, when she taught her to sing and to play guitar and to express herself...and knowing that the whole time, she hadn’t been looking at her, but at some long-gone best friend she just wanted to replace...
“Oh? Ru-nee? What are you doing here?”
Ruru blinked, recognizing that voice. Looking up, she saw the familiar face of Kurai Hagumi, blond hair up in a ponytail. Along with her was her father, George Kurai, who had short, black hair.
To this day, Ruru still wasn’t sure how a pink-haired woman and a black-haired man gave birth to a blond-haired girl, but then again, she didn’t know George’s full family tree, so it’s possible there was blond in his genetics somewhere.
“Good afternoon, Ruru-san,” he greeted.
“Good afternoon, Kurai-san. Hagumi-chan,” she returned, somewhat stiffly. “I was just...thinking, is all.”
Hagumi’s face immediately became worried.
“Are you alright, Ru-nee?” She asked, walking over to the much taller woman and sitting down. “You sound...stiff. And there’s tears in your eyes. And you’re not carrying your guitar. Did you have a fight with Auntie Emiru?”
“I...you could say that,” Ruru said noncommittally, involuntarily crushing the can she was holding. “She was having a discussion with Hana-san, Homare-san, and Saaya-san, and I overheard...something distressing.”
“What was it?” Hagumi asked, concern clear on her features.
“I...I don’t want to talk about it.”
George had taken out his phone while Ruru wasn’t paying attention, and just put it back in his pocket, then turned to his daughter.
“Hagumi, why don’t you go play with some of the other kids while I talk to Ruru-san?” He suggested.
“Leave this to me, okay?” He asked gently.
Hagumi paused for a moment, then nodded, wordlessly running off towards an area where several other kids were playing. George made sure she remained in his line of sight, then sat down next to Ruru.
“Hana told me about what it was you overheard,” he explained.
“...I see. So you know that...” the android started, choking back a sob. “...you know that..that I’m a f-f-fake?”
“I’ve known that you’re an android since you were born, and that another version of you was Cure Amour, but I don’t see how that makes you ‘fake,’” the man stated.
“I...I was made in the image of that Cure, wasn’t I? Emiru...Emiru probably financed father’s research and had him design me the way he did so that I could replace her real friend.”
At that, George burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” The android demanded to know.
“Sorry, it’s just...I’ve known Traum for a long time, and I can personally guarantee you that no one, not me, not Emiru, not anyone else, ever got to see his designs, let alone have any input on them before they’re finished, except himself. And possibly his lab assistants. That includes naming, by the way.”
“Then...you expect me to believe that the resemblance I have to Cure Amour and the fact that I share a name with her are just coincidences?” Ruru asked incredulously.
“No,” George said with a shake of his head, “I suppose you haven’t heard the full story then...do you know why Hana, Saya-san, Homare-san, Emiru-san, and the other version of you were Precure?”
“Some organization in an alternate timeline had stopped time...so some people came back in time to stop it, and recruited them to help,” Ruru recalled.
“And do you know the name of the man who lead the organization that caused time to freeze?”
Ruru wracked her memory banks, but found no answer, and so shook her head.
“His name was George Kurai.” At Ruru’s stunned look, the man continued, “He was not the me who is sitting here right now. But, he was me. You remember that there was time travel involved in this, right? Apparently in a different version of the time we live in, something happened to Hana - I don’t know what it was, as Hana never found out what and so couldn’t tell me - that caused the me that lived in that timeline to go mad with grief, attempting to stop time in an attempt to preserve all the happiness in the world for eternity.”
Ruru blinked, wondering where he was going with this, before her brain again whirred to a halt.
“Are you saying, that Cure Amour was-“
“Yes. The Ruru Amour who became Cure Amour was that timeline’s version of you, who had traveled through time to the year 2018. So of course you look similar to her - after all, Traum’s design sense is apparently universal.”
Ruru’s eyes widened, as she attempted to process that.
“But...even so, this timeline is different from that one, right? I’m not, and never will be the Ruru Amour that Emiru met in 2018.”
“True. And the possibility that she is only friends with you because of the ‘you’ she met so many years ago isn’t fun to consider, is it? In fact, it’s probably quite frightening, right?” The black-haired man asked rhetorically. “When I first found out about the ‘me’ Hana met in 2018...I admit, I was scared too. I was scared she had only agreed to date me and then marry me because of the ‘me’ she met back then, or because she wanted to make sure Hagumi existed - she was apparently among the people who had traveled back and met Hana in 2018. Sometimes, I still get scared and think of that.”
“Then, why...?” Ruru trailed off, not sure what she wanted to ask.
“Because Hana isn’t the type of person to date someone just because someone said she would in the future,” George stated. “And whenever I think otherwise, I just need to talk to her, and by the end of our conversation, I always know it to be so.”
“I...I think the circumstances with Emiru and the other ‘me’ are bit different...” Ruru protested weakly.
“You’re probably right,” George conceded. “After all, ‘you’ and Emiru-san were allies, whereas ‘me’ and Hana met as enemies. But...have you spoken to Emiru-san about it?”
“Not...not really. When I overheard it, I just...yelled at her and left.”
“And you didn’t at least hear what she had to say!?” Hagumi suddenly butted into the conversation, popping out from the bushes behind the bench, causing Ruru to jump up, double checking the area where the other kids were playing. “I am absolutely ashamed of you, Ru-nee! Ashamed!”
“Ha-Hagumi-chan?” Ruru stuttered. “Weren’t you playing with the other kids?” She then turned to George, who was suspiciously unsurprised. “And weren’t you watching her?”
“I was,” the girl’s father confirmed. “But she got so mad the last time I ruined her surprise entrance, so I don’t comment when she’s sneaking up on someone anymore.”
Ruru shot a look of betrayal at the man, before his daughter continued her tirade.
“Do you know how many anime I’ve seen in just this week where someone overhears something out of context and then stupid misunderstandings happen because they don’t listen to the other side of the story? Do you?” Hagumi didn’t wait for Ruru to answer before continuing with “Five! Five anime this week! And today’s Tuesday! Not to mention, I’ve been watching anime since I was three! It is one of the biggest clichés ever! You were supposed to be better than that, Ru-nee! You were supposed to be better than that!”
“Silence! Ru-nee, you are not a cliché from a terrible anime! So you are going to march back to Auntie Emiru, and you are going to say, ‘I am sorry for being a terrible anime cliché. Please tell me your side of the story.’ And then you are going to listen to that side of the story, got it!?”
Ruru could only blink at the sudden shift in direction the conversation had taken.
“Since I am an android who still has trouble with some emotions, would I not already be a cliché such as ‘emotionless robot gir-‘“
“Silence! We’re not talking about the terrible cliché you were ten years ago, we’re talking about the terrible cliché you are now! Now start marching!”
“Perhaps it’d be better to call Emiru-san here?” George suggested. “It’ll give you more time to figure out what you’re going to say.”
“She’s going to say, ‘I am sorry for being a terri-‘“
“Let her choose her own words, Hagumi,” the girl’s father chided gently. The little girl pouted, but quieted down.
“I...you’re right,” Ruru agreed. She opened her internal messenger, but found herself hesitating when selecting Emiru from her contacts list. “But what if..what if she really is...just trying to replace her?”
“Then I, and several others, will be incredibly disappointed in her,” George declared solemnly.
“Including me! I’ll become a magical girl like alternate-timeline me and beat her up if she makes you cry from anything other than happiness ever again!” Ruru’s surrogate sister chimed in. “But she probably isn’t. It wouldn’t be a cliché misunderstanding if it wasn’t a misunderstanding.”
“Life is not an anime, Hagumi.”
“Says my dad who was an evil overlord in another timeline who is married to the magical girl who fought him in that timeline, while talking to my robotic older sister who was apparently also a magical girl in that timeline.”
George sighed in resignation, indicating that this was a conversation they had had before.
“The alternate me was not evil, Hagumi. He was really, really misguided. And also possibly a bit insane. There’s a difference.”
‘That’s the part that he argues with?’ Ruru thought to herself. She again found herself looking to her contacts list, and again hesitated. “I...I can’t do it. I’m too scared.”
“Would you rather I ask Hana to send her here?” George asked, pulling out his phone.
“Y-Yes. Thank you,” the android nodded. As an afterthought, she added, “And...make sure she comes alone.”
George nodded, and sent a message to his wife. The device let out a chime a moment later, before the man put it away and turned back to Ruru.
“She’s coming here,” he informed her.
“Thank you,” the android girl stated, despite still being hesitant.
“Hagumi and I will be nearby if you need something from us,” George assured her, walking off.
“Good luck! And I call dibs on first punch if Emiru turns out to actually be as much of a jerk as you thought!” Hagumi called, following after he father.
Ruru just sat on the bench, still trying to work out what she would say.
Five minutes later...
“Ruru!” A familiar voice called out, as Emiru ran up to her. Her hair was in disarray, her clothes were covered in dirt, and she appeared to have been crying. Before Ruru could say anything, the woman gripped the android in a hug that likely would have broken the bones of an ordinary human. “I’m so s-sorry, I say! I know I sh-should have told you sooner, but I just- I- I didn’t know how to say it and...”
Ruru still hadn’t worked out quite what to say, but it seems her speech system decided to function on it’s own.
“I’m...I’m sorry too. I’m...sorry for being a terrible anime cliché. Please tell me your side of the story.”
“Pardon?” Emiru asked, blinking in surprise.
‘Error. Error. Does not compute. I can not believe I actually just said that,’ Ruru internally moaned, before trying again. “I mean...I didn’t give you a chance to explain, before. I’m pretty sure Kurai-san told me most of the story, but what I really want to hear at this point is ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ and...do you really think of me as your friend, or am I just a...a...replacemen-“
“Stop!” Emiru declared. “You’re not just a replacement. I swear.” Emiru paused for a moment, before sitting down on the bench next to Ruru. She took a deep breath. “I...I admit that when I first saw Doctor Traum requesting funding for his research, I thought maybe it’d be a chance to see...to see the other Ruru again, I say. And...maybe the first few days, I was just seeing the other Ruru. But...I very quickly realized...you’re not her, I say. The other Ruru was born on September 23rd, twenty-forty-something, but thanks to the increased financial and government support Traum-san had in this timeline, you were born earlier on October 21st, 2030. The other Ruru started her life as a teenager and as far as I know was eternally in the same body, but you were born as a child, grew up, and are now an adult, I say. The other Ruru had longer hair, but you’ve kept yours short. You’re a bit more expressive than the other Ruru, and you’re not as much of a big eater as she was. You are, without a doubt, a different person, I say. And I’ve known that for a while, I say. But...even so, without a doubt, you are my best friend. Because I’ve spent time with you, sang with you, ate with you, and talked with you, I know this.” Emiru again gripped Ruru in a hug, tears welling up in her eyes. “If you decide to hate me, I understand, I say. But please...at least believe that I never meant to hurt you, and that I truly do consider you one of my best friends.”
“So then...why didn’t you tell me? About the other ‘me?’”
“Because I didn’t want you to think that you had to be my friend just because another ‘you’ was,” the auburn-haired rockstar admitted, “or that you were just a replacement, I say...but it looks like I failed that one...”
“...Okay. I understand. Just one more question, then,” Ruru declared, taking a deep breath. “If...if somehow, you could somehow meet the other ‘me’ again...would...would you go back to her and stop being friends with me?”
“No!” Emiru declared loudly. “Of course, that Ruru is one of my best friends. But so are you, the Ruru sitting right here next to me. Once we can all be together, both of you will be my best friends, I say.”
Ruru looked into Emiru’s eyes. Based on her experience, they seemed to be full of sadness, pleading, and sincerity. So...
“Alright. I believe you, Emiru,” Ruru decided. “And...about the other thing...I overheard?”
“Ah. Um,” Emiru’s face turned red, as she struggled to find the words to describe it. “I know...I know it’s extremely...odd, and awkward, but well...I can’t say exactly when I started feeling like this, but...I like you. A lot, I say. I know I’m a lot older than you are, so it’s really fine if you don’t feel the same-“
“I...” Ruru cut in, trailing off. “I enjoy spending time with you. And...looking up the sorts of things...couples do, I...I find that the idea of doing them with you feels particularly enjoyable. But...the biggest question is...are your feelings towards me...actually for this ‘me?’”
“I considered that possibility too, I say...” Emiru admitted, “I can’t say with absolute certainty what I felt for the other ‘you.’ I was very young at the time. If we’d had the chance to grow up together, I might have fallen for her. It’s possible that I will once we meet again, or even that I already had, before she left. But...I definitely have feelings for you, I say.”
“Okay,” Ruru nodded, accepting that. “So that makes us...” she did a brief search for the correct word, then took a deep breath, before hesitantly saying it, “...’girlfriends,’ then?”
Emiru had a cheerful smile on her face, and nodded.
“If you’re okay with that, I say.”
“Then...is it okay if...” Ruru hesitantly grabbed Emiru’s hand. “If we just stay here like this, for a while?”
And so they did.