Raised by loving parents, Kiriko grows up with a strong sense of self-esteem, and she is a leader from the time she is small. When she’s in the first grade, she finds a black kitten in a storage shed behind the school gym. She takes him home and names him Ramses II after the handsome and resourceful Egyptian king she’d learned about on a TV quiz show. Ramses II proves to be highly intelligent, and begins to pick up a remarkable understanding of language.
Kiriko has had a blissfully happy early childhood, but she faces one major challenge. In spite of having very good-looking parents, she is decidedly unattractive. Thanks to her doting parents, she remains oblivious to her handicap at home, but ultimately gets a rude awakening at school: when she passes a love letter to a boy in the fifth grade, the boy spurns her by declaring for all to hear that he has no interest in such an ugly troll. Kiriko is devastated, and begins asking herself what it means to be pretty. After two more years of studying herself in the mirror, she finally concedes that she is indeed ugly by all prevailing standards. She begins struggling with anorexia, stays home in bed most of the day, and goes out only after dark to visit the neighborhood cats. No longer able to go to school, she does not even take the exams for high school.
Kiriko has reached the age of 18 when a young woman in her neighborhood named Chise is raped by someone she met on a dating site. Chise has always been precocious and is fond of sex. When word gets out that she has slept with any number of partners, the sentiment among many is that she got what she asked for, but Chise is not about to back down. Hearing of Chise’s situation, Kiriko wants to help. Besides her natural leadership instincts, she has by this time acquired the ability to feel others’ pain. She decides to end her stay-at-home ways, and accompanies Chise to a rape victims’ support group, but even there Chise is asked if what happened to her wasn’t her own fault. Kiriko defends Chise, saying that just because she happens to like sex doesn’t mean that what happened to her was justified, and she shouldn’t feel ashamed for it.
“The only person who can fulfill my desires is myself.” This is something Kiriko has told herself many times before. As Kiriko and Chise become friends, they pledge to each other that they will always live according to their own desires regardless of what other people may think.
Chise goes on to become a legendary adult-video actress, and after retiring from acting, launches her own AV production company, with Kiriko as vice president. The films they produce become known for always emphasizing mutual love. A growing circle of people, including former classmates, now gathers around Kiriko, drawn by the quality of her character. Through their often-checkered life stories, Kiriko realizes just how much people let themselves be swayed by external appearances instead of by what’s inside. She finds herself questioning the importance of superficial beauty and social standing.
And so the story comes to a close, but there is a final secret to be revealed. The somewhat idiosyncratic narrative voice that has been recounting Kiriko’s story is that of Ramses II, the cat who has been her constant companion since childhood. After revealing this secret, Ramses II also informs the reader that his allotted time will come to an end the following day, and says his farewells.