Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gakuen Kino Chapter Four Part One

In this chapter: Pretty Teachers, Elite Military Forces, Mysterious Girls from Another World, and much more! Welcome back to Gakuen Kino.

(Hint: Read this story and the continuation if you don't want to be too lost on the references.)

-----

Gakuen Kino Chapter 4: Chako's Explosive Story
-Tea Breaks!-
The next day. It was a Monday morning.

Kino energetically walked to school under the cherry trees.

Like the other female students, she wore a sailor-style summer uniform. She carried over her shoulder a light beige bag, and wore a belt from which hung several pouches and a holster. Hermes as well.

Around Kino were other students from this academy that housed both a junior high and a high school division. For reference, Kino is a fourth year--a first-year high school student.

Girls' uniforms were green sailor uniforms with red ties. For boys, they had a choice of either a white standing-collar uniform or grey pants and white dress shirt with a tie emblazoned with the school crest.

The road to school was a steep uphill climb, but Kino was smiling ear to ear.

"You look happy today, Kino. Did something happen?" Hermes asked quietly.

Kino's answer was practically dripping with delight.

"Of course I'm happy! We haven't had a single demon attack since the beginning of term. Oh~ I never thought normal student life could be so great."

"Don't let your guard down."

"I wish I could just have a normal school life like this… I think Hermes' voice is getting more and more distant. Oh? Now he's just a normal cell phone strap-"

"You're cruel, Kino. Anyway, the battles are only going to get more difficult this term, so don't get too lazy about training and try to be resolute."

"Peace is the best!"

"Peace and freedom don't come cheap, you know. You need drive and resolve to-"

"Lalala! I can't hear you!"

"Not this again."

Kino and Hermes walked past the gates and into the school grounds.

The school was completely repaired over the summer break.

Places damaged by stray bullets and katanas had been restored to their former glory, and all windows had been replaced with bulletproof ones to prevent further damage.

The emergency shutters had also been replaced to a sturdier model, one that was for protection against explosions rather than fires. Dotted along the hallways were emergency buttons labelled "Press in case of Demon Attack!".

Public Service Announcements had also been posted on the walls of classrooms and hallways.

"Friends don't let friends fall to demonic temptation."

"Only you can prevent demonic rampages."

"When you study ALONE, you study with evil!"

"It's lunchtime. Do you know where your classmates are?"

"You can make a difference. Take a bite out of evil!"

"This is your brain on evil. Any questions?"

The school calendar had been altered this term so as to account for classes missed because of demon attacks, and exam marking guidelines were updated with detailed rules on demon-interrupted exams.

Looks like this school's gotten completely used to these demons.

-----

Morning classes began.

Everyone had to switch seats because it was a new term. Kino found herself sitting in the back row, near the aisle.

This was a popular seat during the summer because the window seats, for all their wonderful views, were much too hot. Kino was located right next to the door, a perfect place for her to run out from as soon as lunchtime began.

Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou, the prettyboy with long white hair who had annoyingly followed Kino around everywhere, was seated at the centre in the front row. Students considered this the worst seat in the classroom due to the proximity to the teacher making it a prime spot to have spit raining over your face.

Of course, this was one of the reasons Kino had been so cheerful recently--she could escape before he had a chance to talk to her after class.

And it was upon this peaceful classroom--

During second period--

That 'She' descended upon them.

-----

"Let's see here… Your English teacher, Yamada-sensei, had to return to his hometown and take over the family business because his father has suddenly collapsed."

It was time for English class. The elderly homeroom teacher arrived a little after class started to drop this bomb of an announcement upon the unsuspecting students.

The English teacher, Mr. Yamada Tarou (Age 43, married, 1 daughter in elementary school), had wandered the world as a young man and picked up the language. He would often amuse the class by going on tangents that had nothing to do with the lesson. He had been teaching until just last Friday. It was very sudden.

Understandably, everyone peppered the teacher with questions like "what family business?" and "isn't this a bit sudden?".

"I don't know any specifics. We'd only just been contacted after the morning exercises…"

It seemed that the homeroom teacher was clueless.

After the students held a short period of mourning for Yamada-sensei, the homeroom teacher continued.

"As for today's lesson-"

"Do we have a study period?" Someone asked hopefully. The homeroom teacher, however, shook his head.

"Let me introduce your new teacher."

"What?!"

The students fell into confusion. How could they get a replacement so quickly?

The homeroom teacher ignored this confusion.

"Well then, please come in."

The door slid open.

And a woman entered the classroom.

The boys' attention was focused instantly.

The girls (except Kino) looked slightly upset.

The new arrival to the classroom was a woman in her early twenties, dressed in a blue business suit with a miniskirt.

She was a woman of extraordinary beauty.

With her long, slender frame, attractive features, emerald-green eyes, and short white hair, the woman gave off an unusual vibe, like she was from another world entirely.

She slowly made her way to the front of the class and stood beside the homeroom teacher.

"If you could please introduce yourself."

The woman nodded and began writing her name on the blackboard.

Once she finished, she turned around and introduced herself in a clear, beautiful, and somewhat delicate voice. In Japanese, obviously.

"Nice to meet you, class. My name is Kuroshima Chako."(1)

Kuroshima Chako.

Kuroshima Chako.

Kuroshima Chako.

Chako-sensei, the woman with the strangely imposing name, smiled at the class.

"I'll be your English teacher from today on. I hope we all get along." she said, and bowed deeply.

The students also bowed, and the moment they raised their heads--

"OH!" Chako-sensei shouted, almost loud enough to shatter the bulletproof windows, and surprising the entire class. The homeroom teacher's eyes were the size of dinner plates and he looked like he was about to die of a heart attack.

"How cute! You're so adorable!"

Chako-sensei ran over behind the white-haired Inuyama.

"I'm going to give you a big hug!"

She then embraced Inuyama's head from behind.

"Ack!"

The appalled Inuyama struggled as hard as he could to release himself form the teacher's arms.

"Ohhh! You're just too cute!"

Chako-sensei's grip, however, was just too powerful for Inuyama to escape from. She rubbed her chin against the top of his head.

"So soft! And fluffy!"

And as the entire class (sans Kino) watched in shock, Chako-sensei lovingly shook Inuyama.

"Please stop it!" Inuyama yelled. He then asked, "why are you doing this?"

Chako-sensei stopped shaking Inuyama and placed her chin on his head. She then answered his question.

"Well… I just got an urge. You're so adorable, I couldn't help myself. But I get a really nostalgic feeling when I'm standing like this. I wonder why?"

She sounded happy.

"Who cares?" Inuyama retorted, and Chako-sensei returned to mercilessly shaking Inuyama and rubbing his face.

"Ohhh! So adorable! So warm!"

"Ack! Please, stop! Kuroshima-sensei! Your chest is about to-"

"It's not touching you, so it's fine."

"Eeeeek! Someone! Help me!" Inuyama screamed.

"Looks like you're getting along just fine. If you'll excuse me, then…" the homeroom teacher left, muttering something about being jealous.

-----

"Let's start today's lesson. Which page should we start with? 43? Sounds good! Let's get started!" Chako-sensei said with a clear voice, and read the English phrases on the textbook with perfect pronunciation.

"'I'm from Moq Moq Village'."

She then explained in Japanese.

"This phrase means, 'I'm from Moq Moq Village'. Adding 'from' to the verb 'be' means that the subject is from that location. I have no idea where Moq Moq Village might be, but I guess it exists somewhere. Hm… maybe around Ehime Prefecture?"

I apologize to anyone from Ehime Prefecture. There's no particular meaning behind the choice of location.

Chako-sensei spoke again in English.

"Okay, everyone. Repeat after me! 'I'm from Moq Moq Village'."

All the students repeated after her, expect for Inuyama.

"Kuroshima-sensei! Why are you teaching class on top of my head?!" Inuyama asked Chako-sensei, who was teaching with her chin resting on top of Inuyama's head.

The teacher's podium had been pushed aside, and Inuyama's desk had done a 180. He was taking class while facing the other students, with a teacher resting on his head.

Chako-sensei ignored Inuyama's protests and asked the students for the English word for "Myna bird". Inuyama was on the verge of exploding with rage.

"Kuroshima-sensei! Please answer me!"

"Be quiet. Take a seat."

"I'm already sitting down!"

"Okay, everyone. Turn to the next page."

"Kuroshima-sensei! Listen-"

"Be quiet! Take this!"

Chako-sensei mercilessly attacked Inuyama's temples with her right fist.

"Eek!"

Inuyama screamed pitifully. Chako-sensei continued the lesson, still hugging his head.

Inuyama was only released when the bell rang to signal the end of second period.

"That was wonderful! I'll see you all again later!"

And as soon as Chako-sensei disappeared with these words--

"…"

Inuyama was sprawled out over his desk, out of energy and completely unmoving.

Kino took in this sight and muttered, "What a wonderful teacher.". Chako-sensei had earned Kino's respect. She could now enjoy a relaxing moment in the classroom without being bothered by Inuyama.

And during this short break--

Rumours of the beautiful, fun, and talkative new teacher spread throughout the school, along with her new chin-rest, Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou.

-----

Some time later, fourth period began.

One male student was sitting in his seat in the second-year junior high class on the first floor.

This nondescript boy sitting at the back only half-listened to the middle-aged teacher's tedious lecture on Japanese history.

"…"

With elbows rested on his desk and his chin sitting on his knuckles--

'Oh… the Soviet Air Force would suddenly arrive at the school, kill all the teachers and the adults, and try to take over Japan… it'd be so cool if me and my classmates escaped into the mountains together and banded together to form a resistance group…'

He was daydreaming.

The teacher was talking about the Onin War, but the boy's head was lost in thoughts like, 'Or maybe, I wake up one day and find myself summoned to a future world inhabited only by cats. Then I'd teach stuff to the talking cats, but stuff happens and I end up adventuring…'

Other thoughts included--

'The icy and beautiful Student Council President who is secretly working at a maid cafe suddenly makes an announcement over the PA, guerrilla-style, and denounces evil textbook companies in front of the entire school… but that's never gonna happen… our Student Council President is a guy, and he looks like a thug so everyone calls him "Captain" instead of "President"…'

He was lost in his own little world.

Being quite the daydreamer, this particularly imaginative boy could warp into his own fantasies within three seconds, whether he was in class or elsewhere. There he could become a heroic protagonist, or bring in his friends into a wonderful made-up world.

His eyelids became heavier as he fell into these thoughts.

Actually, he hadn't slept very well last night. Late-night anime are not good for your health, after all. But he watched them anyway. He had wanted to discuss the episode on the internet as soon as it ended.

He reminded himself that he would probably get in rouble if he slept in class, and looked up. He saw a PSA posted high up on the blackboard--"Say no to evil! -a message from Student Council President Ishihara".

'That's right… I can't fall for temptation and turn into a demon… I want to be a hero, anyway… come to think of it, wouldn't it be awesome is a half-alien half-human girl would transfer into class…?' he thought, and he felt sleepy again.

The teacher was talking about Akutagawa Ryuunosuke's Rashomon. His voice, however, became more and more distant.

"Whoa!"

When he came to, the boy was in an empty classroom.

"Huh? What's going on?"

He turned his head to look around, but there was nothing but empty desks and chairs. He sat alone in this silent classroom.

"No way…"

Worrying that he'd been sleeping until school ended, he quickly looked up at the clock above the blackboard. The clock, he noticed, had seven hands. They were all spinning at different speeds.

"W-what's happening?" He mumbled, and staggered to his feet. Suddenly--

"I've found you… my hero…" 

A girl's disembodied voice echoed through the classroom. It was a delicate voice, like the sound of a small songbird.

At that very moment, the blackboard turned blue. The ocean-blue board reflected the boy and the empty classroom.

"What… is this...?"

The blue surface ahead of the confused boy was broken by ripples. And a small shadow rose from the depths of this ocean.

What could this be? A beautiful girl with blue hair, dressed in colourful clothing and wearing hair decorations, who couldn't possibly be human, rose from the blue blackboard.

He upper body rose above the surface. She opened her eyes. The right eye was light yellow, and the left was deep purple.

The boy stood up. There was a 90 degree difference between them.

"Who… are you?" He asked.

The girl smiled serenely and answered.

"I have no name. But you may call me 'Bell'. I am the bell who will toll to awaken and summon the hero from another world-"

"'Bell'? I'm… a hero?"

"Yes. The fact that you can hear my voice--that is proof that you are the hero. Please save us--please save our world."

"But… how…"

"Take my hand and answer 'yes'. Then the contract will be complete. Let us depart on a journey together…"

He slowly approached the girl and reached for her outstretched hand.

Their hands touched. Her hand was warm in his.

"You would… come with me…?" The girl asked, tears welling up in her eyes.

'Oh, I get it! This is a dream!' the boy realized. He had fallen asleep in class and this was all a dream. He was correct.

They say that only about one in ten people can recognize when they are in a dream. They call this state 'lucid dreaming'.

Lucid dreamers have a certain level of freedom in their dreams. They can do things that would normally be impossible in real life--like flying into the air.

The boy nodded vigorously.

"Yeah! Let's go!"

He was a bit of a coward in real life, but anything was possible in dreams.

The next moment, he had kicked off the floor and was standing on the same surface as Bell. The ceiling was straight ahead of him.

His feet began sinking into the blackboard. The lockers at the back of the classroom disappeared above him.

"Thank you… my hero. Please order me to do as you wish."

"…!"

As she spoke, she suddenly placed her lips on his with a smile.

'What a wonderful dream…'

He slowly sank into the blackboard, into the endlessly blue seas.

To protect another world in his dreams.

-----

Crash!

The boy stood up suddenly, pushing his chair off balance and onto the floor. The teacher was shocked out of his lecture on the end of the Muromachi Period.

The boy staggered towards the door, exiting into the hallway.

"W-what are you doing?"

The teacher asked, and the boy slowly turned his dead fish-like eyes, and answered in a deep voice straight out of the depths of hell--his stomach hurt and he was going to the washroom.

"I see… you may leave." The teacher answered, and the boy disappeared into the halls.

The door shut, and his silhouette through the bulletproof glass was all that was visible of him. His form then began morphing monstrously.

The girl sitting beside the hall screamed.

It was 40 seconds later that the demon alarm rang throughout the school.

This doesn't have much to do with the story, but it was four days later that a PSA saying, "Evil lurks around every corner... even in your dreams!" was posted on the halls.

-----

"Warning. A demon has been sighted on school grounds. All students and staff must exit the building in a calm and orderly fashion. The demon is rampaging on the third floor staircase in the west wing. Please exit through the east wing staircases or the new school building. This is not a drill. I repeat, a demon has been sighted. All students-"

The calm announcement came over the PA after the loud alarm had gone off. Looks like the announcement team's gotten completely used to these demons.

Kino and Inuyama were in the music room at the time for music class.

"Oh!"

Kino, who had been listening to the quintessential Baroque piece, Canon in D, looked up and frowned.

"It's been a while. Looks like this is the first one this term." Hermes muttered quietly.

Kino nodded with a scowl and reached for the model gun at her waist.

Meanwhile, Inuyama, having finally recovered from the shock of Chako-sensei, smiled in a way that made it look like he was baring his fangs.

"Dammit, this is all that bastard's fault… Defeat Shizu… Hahaha… Today I will crush you…"

"Everyone evacuate! Make two lines and exit calmly!"

The teacher expertly herded the calm students out of the class.

"Oh no! This is terrible. We have to get away." said Kino, pretending to be extremely panicked and confusingly wandering the music room.

She then took the opportunity to hide away in one of the practice rooms.

Everyone left the classroom, including Inuyama.

-----

When the alarm went off, Chako-sensei was in a third-year high school class.

She had discovered a particularly excellent student and took the opportunity to have him explain everything to the class.

This student had handsome features and slightly long black hair. He wore a white school uniform and had a katana beside him. As a side note, there is only one student in this school who carries around a katana. One student is enough.

When the alarm went off--

This student who had been unhesitatingly explaining the subjunctive mood as he stood at his seat--

"It's here."

This student named Shizu scowled and raised his head.

"Hm? What's this? A false alarm?"

Chako-sensei, who had been standing at the podium naively looked up at the speakers above the blackboard.

However, for a single moment when her face was turned away from the students, she narrowed her green eyes and smiled belligerently.

"It seems a demon had appeared. Everyone should calmly escape according to procedure." Shizu instructed his classmates. The students, too used to this by now, quietly made their way out.

"You should escape as well, Kuroshima-sensei."

The moment Shizu said this, the school shook with a sudden explosive sound. It seemed the demon was rampaging somewhere, perhaps even breathing fire.

Of course, this school was completely used to this. There was no need to panic. However--

"Kyaaaa! Somebody help me!"

Chako-sensei emitted a high-frequency scream and ran for her life, abandoning the students she was supposed to guide. She opened the door, ran into the halls, and fled animatedly with a trail of dust in her wake. She disappeared through the emergency staircase. Her legs must be extra-powerful.

The confused students concluded that her unusual behaviour was due to having just arrived at this school, and cooly continued evacuating.

Shizu quietly snuck away from the line of escaping students. He walked through the deserted halls, suddenly carrying a boston bag emblazoned with the logo of an athletics company.

He walked in the direction of the rampaging demon.

"Now I shall show you the radiance of justice." he muttered. Maybe he had actually meant to say 'Now I shall show you the pinnacle of perversion'. That's right, that must be it.

With his left hand, Shizu drew the katana, sheath and all, and tossed the boston bag into the air.

He then began taking off his clothes. Instant stripping. Nude. Bare. Naked. Birthday suit. Butt. Elephant.

The walking diagram of perfect musculature, the Exposure Man Shizu, took two steps in the hall, barefoot.

And the next moment, he was fully clothed. He had instantly put on the clothes that had been falling from the bag that he had tossed into the air.

The white standing-collar uniform had been switched out for the battle-use white standing-collar uniform. He wore a white cape and a white mask, and an apple was balanced on the top of his head. Once he slowly placed the katana back at his side, the transformation would be complete.

His pearly whites sparkled and a dove flew past him. In slow motion, at that.

"Another day of action!" said Samoyed Mask, smiling. However--

He had yet to know of the terror that would soon be upon him.

-----

Staff and students gathered on the school grounds, a good distance away from the school building. The grounds were the designated evacuation area because of its proximity to the rear entrance. Thanks to the two drills that had been conducted earlier this term, the evacuations went very smoothly.

The centre of the school grounds was now populated by evacuated students celebrating interrupted classes. 

Suddenly, the sound of heavy engines assaulted them.

The students turned their attention to the source of the noise at the school gates.

They were moving trucks.

A trio of moving trucks, stamped with the logo of a moving company, loudly made their way into the middle of the school grounds, leaving tire tracks in their wake. A cloud of dust rose up as they came to a stop.

"What the…?"

"What is that?"

"Movers?"

The people that exited these trucks amidst the gazes of the shocked students were, surprisingly enough, soldiers.

It was still very hot out, but the soldiers were wearing black overall combat suits. They wore military boots and bulletproof vests loaded with ammunition, grenades, and other equipment. They also wore helmets with tinted guards that concealed their faces.

They had holsters on their thighs that sheathed coastguard-use Smith & Wesson Model 5906 9mm semi-automatic pistols. On the other thigh was an ammunitions pouch.

They also had slung over their shoulders Howa Type 89 5.56mm rifles, equipped with dot sights manufactured by Tasco Japan. Of course, they weren't air guns (It's particularly complicated these days because the Self-Defense Force uses air guns in drills and exercises). The bipod had been removed in order to minimize weight.

These masked soldiers quickly disembarked from the trucks and lined up in the middle of the school grounds. There were twelve of them altogether.

"Who are those people…? They can't be police, could they?"

"I don't know… Do you know anything about this, sensei?"

"No, not a thing, I'm afraid."

The students murmured among themselves. These mysterious men that not even the teachers knew anything about merely stood in line, as if waiting for something.

A strong wind suddenly swept through the field.

The students grimaced as dust flew into their faces. Just as they were beginning to spit out the dirt from their mouths, however--

"Look! Someone's coming out of the school!" someone shouted. Everyone turned to look at the entrance, wondering if it was the demon.

They could make out a humanoid figure in the duststorm.

All of a sudden, the soldiers saluted the figure in unison.

The emerging figure was that of a woman.

Like the other soldiers, she wore a black combat suit. Her face was covered by sunglasses, but it was easy to tell that she was quite the beauty. The short hair sticking out from under her black beret was white as snow.

She seems kind of familiar, but who…? This is a mystery.

The woman saluted sharply and stood in front of the soldiers.

And--

"Good day, Chosen Warriors! Now we shall destroy the demon and restore peace to the school! How can we leave this job to some unknown Warrior of Justice? Prove to the country that we are not a waste of taxpayer money!"

She began a speech with her clear, beautiful, and somewhat delicate voice.

She continued.

"Men! We like but only one hero!"

And--

"On the plains! On the highways! In the trenches! In the fields! Why?!"

Her lecture continued. And finally,

"We cannot leave them to fire endlessly." she finished her speech.

"Men! Prepare to charge!" She ordered.

The soldiers loaded their rifles in unison. The sound of clicking metal rang across the grounds.

As the students looked on in a daze--

"Oh! Those people are--!" one young man spoke up.

"You know who they are?!" The students turned their attention towards him. The young man nodded.

"Yeah. I read about them in a military magazine not too long ago! Those people are the Anti-Demon Corps, recently mobilized by the Japanese Government!"

"N-no way!" x3

"The government recruited talented people from the Self-Defense Force and the police to create a special division to combat the demonic menace. It's them!"

This particular student was unusually knowledgeable.

Isn't there one in every class? Someone who's surprisingly well-read on firearms and military knowledge. It's the kind of person who is normally quiet, but can go on at length, usually to a creepy degree, when the teacher starts talking about anything military-related. For example, a student who could instantly answer the question "Which weapons were first deployed in the First World War?" with "Poison gas, tanks, airplanes!". There was always one in my class. It was me.

The military otaku's explanations continued.

"This organization's official name is "Kill, Attack, Enemy, React, Element!"

This was the name of the organization, whether or not you liked the astoundingly bad English.

"You put these words together to get the initials 'KAERE'!"

Excitement began sweeping through the crowd of students.

If such an elite organization was now in charge of defending the school, there would be no more need to fear demons. They wouldn't be left having to wait for the food-loving, trigger-happy, always-tardy Warrior of Justice every time a demon showed up.

"All right!" "Get 'em!" "We've been waiting for you!" The students shouted, renewed with hope. Their words eventually developed into a rallying cry, complete with rhythmic clapping.

"'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'! 'KAERE'!"

It sounded like the students were protesting against something, but the soldiers paid it no mind. (2)

"Charge! Follow my lead!"

The soldiers followed the beautiful, gun-toting commander into the school building.

Marvel at their perfect synchronization! Their textbook coverage that eliminates each and every blind spot!

The twelve soldiers disappeared into the school building.

Gulp.

As soon as the staff and the students swallowed--

"Aaahhh!" "Whoa!" "Gahhhhh!" "Ack!" "Nooo!" "Uaaaaghhh!" "Ungahhh!"

Everyone but the commander was tossed through the windows by the demon, landing on the grounds and leaving a cloud of dust.

"Owww!" "Mommy!" "Help!" "I'm going home!" "MEDIC!"

As they watched the weeping soldiers, the students sighed and realized that these people were definitely not the heroes of this story.

-----

Kino had been quietly watching the one-sided demolishing of KAERE from the music room window.

"Darn. And here I was, hoping they'd be able to do something." Kino sighed.

"It's a lonely job, being a hero." Hermes said, as if none of this was his business.

"Anyway, let's finish this off before Pervert Mask gets here."

Kino drew the model gun from the holster on her right. She raised it into the air and released the hammer with her thumb. She stood with her feet apart, twisted her hips, leaned back slightly, and elegantly bent her left arm. She was the spitting image of the infamous villain Hans Gruber from Die Hard, played by Alan Rickman! Of course, he's better known now as Professor Snape.

It was now time for the transformation phrase.

"From my cold! Dead! Hands!" Kino shouted confidently.

If you don't understand what this phrase means, please rent and watch the documentary Bowling for Columbine. It's in the second half, where Charlton Heston appears.

Kino pulled the trigger as she spoke the transformation phrase. The hammer struck the firing pin and the sound of the igniting primer rang out.

Kino's body was then wrapped in a brilliant light. The background suddenly changed from the music room to a suspicious neon-coloured space, accompanied by upbeat music. This is all pre-recorded.

Then, Kino's body spun around several times, her naked figure appeared in silhouette, and tendrils of light wrapped around her from head to toe to turn into clothing. I'll leave this part up to your imagination.

Once the brilliant light had faded--

"Transformation complete! 'Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino'! You can eat after you've fought!" Hermes yelled.

Her appearance hadn't changed radically, but Kino was now "Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino", a Warrior of Justice with superhuman strength and fighting skills. This Kino would be able to easily finish off five of yesterday's "Mount Fuji" dishes.

"Seriously? Maybe I'll head over there once I'm finish-AAHHHHHHH!"

Kino screamed and fell to her knees. She bowed her head, hands on the ground.

"What's wrong?" Hermes asked from his spot on her belt.

"I should have gone to take the challenge menu yesterday after transforming! Then I could have had all of that deliciousness for free! Oh, I'm such an idiot… Why?! Why must Fate be so cruel?! If only! If only I could go back in time…! Time! Come back! The scent of lavender! Numbers on your arms! Let the storm come! Come on a DeLorean! Doesn't matter if it's a fridge or a washing machine! Open the drawers!"

Kino punched the ground in a state of confusion. Cracks appeared in the floor. She could end up destroying the school if she wasn't careful.

"Don't waste time thinking like that. You have to hurry and seal away that demon. Get up."

"Ohhh… All right." Kino replied, and stood up. She holstered the demon-slaying gun she held--the Big Cannon~Shining Iron Demon Destroyer, which could only be fired once per transformation.

She then took out one of countless firearms from the pouch on her belt. It was a Sturm Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum 4-inch revolver.

As a side note, the "Ruger" of Sturm Ruger is different from the German Luger. It's just a shortened name for this American manufacturer. This won't be on the final exam.

"Hmph. I guess I'll be using this one today. Doesn't really matter as long as I have something to shoot with."

Kino, saying something that would either enrage or make jealous a gun maniac, took out a lotus root-shaped magazine and checked to see if it was loaded. She then opened the music room door.

The portraits of Bach and Beethoven watched from behind as Kino left to do battle.

-----

Meanwhile, what could have happened to the lady commander and the sole remaining member of the Anti-Demon Corps? Was she still bravely fighting off the demon?

"AAAAHHHH!"

Was she firing away on automatic with a Type 89 machine gun in each hand? Was she acting as a shining example of valour?

Actually, absolutely not.

"Kyaaa!"

She was being chased down the hall by the demon, screaming shrilly.

She occasionally turned and fired, but the 9mm rounds all missed their mark.

It seems like this so-called commander's gun mastery was in the negative range. She fired again, and a lightbulb shattered.

This demon was about tall enough for its head to reach the ceiling. It looked like a bipedal lion with strangely good posture. The demon mercilessly continued chasing.

The demon itself, or more specifically, the person within the demon, had no inkling of the fact that he was currently chasing a young woman around the school building.

An exciting adventure unfolded in his fantasy world.

-----

After being transported to a land of sword and sorcery with eight moons by a beautiful mage named Bell, he met the Queen who ruled this world and easily drew the legendary sword in the stone and was hailed as a hero, and found out that for some reason, he was able to use magic in this world. He quarrelled on occasion with his party members, but these arguments only served to strengthen their bonds as they left on a journey to defeat the mysterious Overlord who plotted to take over this world (party members include: Himself, Bell, a Knight, a Nun, an Ex-Thief, and a Cleric). They matured as they saved countless villages and defeated countless villains. Everything was going well until they boarded a ship that would take them to another continent, but they were shipwrecked and scattered by a storm conjured up by the Overlord. Stranded alone with Bell, who had been rendered unable to use magic by an extremely high fever, he had been nursing her back to health and was debating if he should take off some of her clothing to ease her pain. I'm sorry for the long paragraph.

-----

Meanwhile, the commander was still being pursued by the demon, sweating profusely.

"Oh…!"

Unfortunately, she found herself at a dead end.

The staircase she had arrived at was closed off by an explosion-proofed emergency shutter. It was over. Even if she put her back to the wall and fired away at the charging demon, she was out of ammo. She had no extra ammunition, either.

"…"

The commander didn't even have the strength to fight back.

Suddenly, the demon turned right around.

In the mind of the young man within the demon, he had finally decided that he should remove Bell's clothing and had just reached for her chest when a lady from their party (Class: Nun. But everything she did was so outrageous that her holiness was in question) purposely walked in on the scene, asking "Oh my. I hope I'm not interrupting anything?"

Don't let your guard down, commander.

The demon ripped out a handful of its own mane and tossed it into the air. Each strand turned into a monster that looked like an orangutan drawn by a child.

The demon had left, but the commander was surrounded by dozens of newly-formed monsters. They roared as they surrounded her, claws unsheathing from their hands.

"No… no…" The commander sobbed as she backed into the wall. No hope left. It was all over.

ROAAAAR! With a single cry, the demons charged at her simultaneously. They were now at 3 metres. 2 metres. 1 metre. 50 centimetres.

Moments before she would be torn to pieces, she let out a sharp scream out of sheer terror.

"NOOOOO!"

Suddenly--

BOOM!

A huge explosion ripped through the hallway. Grey smoke immediately filled the area.

And the monsters--

And the commander--

Both disappeared from sight.

-----

The school-shaking explosion was felt by--

"Huh? What was that?"

Kino, who was running through the halls,

"Lalala~ Hm?"

and Samoyed Mask, who had been humming as he cut down the shutters in the halls because they were in his way.

However, neither of them currently had any way of knowing what was going on.

"I'd better hurry before the pervy samurai appears."

"I must hurry so that I may show off my awesomeness to Mysterious Kino."

They mumbled, as they followed Hermes' directions and sense of smell respectively towards the demon.

-----

The fans and the school ventilation systems kicked into effect. The smoke began to clear.

ROAR! The demons, blinded by the smoke, could be seen confusingly groping their way around this dead-end hallway.

When the grey smoke finally cleared completely, the dozens of monsters came back into view, unchanged from before, and--

The poor, shredded commander was not there.

Neither was the sobbing and cowering commander.

"…"

But there was a small girl, quietly standing with her gaze to the floor.

The demons cocked their heads. Understandable, as just moments ago it was a grown woman standing before them, but now there was only a small girl of perhaps ten or twelve years standing before them in this blocked-off hallway.

The girl wore grey shorts that showed off her stick-thin legs and a brown sweater with a round neck.

There was a large pouch on the back of the shirt, and there were protective pads on her elbows. Her knees were similarly cushioned, and her bare feet were tucked away in rubber shoes.

"…"

The girl slowly raised her head.

She had short white hair and emerald-green eyes.

It was difficult to tell from her face if she had any emotions. She glared at the demons with eyes of quintessential stoicism.

The monsters, having hesitated at the girl's still appearance, reminded themselves that they were facing a little brat and raised their claws.

Oh, the poor girl.

"…"

The girl moved without a sound. She reached for the pouch on her back with both hands, and took out--

A dozen grenades. They were Mk 2 models, used by the American military until the Vietnam War.

The safety pins had already been pulled. The girl tossed the grenades as if tossing feed to a flock of birds. The safety pins bounced of the ground with a high-pitched ting.

The demons stood dumbly in confusion. And three seconds later--

Every grenade exploded. The noise of the twelve explosions merged into one, and smoke and shrapnel flew everywhere.

Grenades for use against people don't burst into flames in large amounts when they go off. The heat from the explosion creates fragments that go flying everywhere to murder anything unlucky enough to be hit by them.

The bulletproof glass and the shutters shook, and small pieces of debris fell from the ceiling.

When the smoke cleared again--

"…"

The girl was standing there unscathed.

She silently walked away, over the ashes--all that remained of the monsters.

-----

At the same time, the demon was rampaging through the Home Economics classroom. They were baking cookies in here until just a little while ago, with one of the girls excitedly baking for a boy she liked, but those cookies had been turned to dust.

The demon destroyed the ovens with its gigantic claws. However, an adventure was still ongoing in the mind of the person within.

-----

It was a dramatic sequence in which the party had worked together to defeat a mid-boss at the castle at the top of a great valley.

The plot was thickening. Everyone had vowed there to head for the Overlord's Castle, but at that very moment--

The spear of the not-quite-dead mid-boss pierced Bell's frail form.

"Ah…"

The bloodied spear made its way right through Bell.

And she fell into the abyss, in front of everyone's eyes.

"Bell!"

He desperately reached out to her, but his hands grasped nothing but thin air. The magic he cast with all his strength also failed him. He called Bell's name over and over, but Bell disappeared into the depths of the dark valley. It was so deep that they couldn't even hear her landing.

Losing his cool, he asserted that they should go and rescue Bell.

"It's unfortunate, but it is highly unlikely that she is still alive. We must hurry on to the Overlord's Castle." the Knight retorted calmly. There was a fight. An internal struggle. Exchanging of fists.

The knight's opinion was extremely rational. If the rumours that "The Overlord is grooming a successor, a terrible man who could truly destroy the world", were true, they had no time to waste.

However, he refused outright. The nun finally stepped in and suggested that they search for Bell and give up if she was dead. So the party went down into the valley depths. His heart was heavy as he led the others into the abyss, having completely forgotten that this was all just a dream.

-----

In reality, he was crushing pots with his thick legs and breaking tables in two with his hands.

"…"

A young man wearing sunglasses watched this demon from the classroom entrance.

He was dressed in black. He wore black boots, black pants, black gloves, and a black trenchcoat that came down to his knees. He was covered from head to toe in black. Even his sunglasses, which concealed his expression, were black.

His hair, however, was white. It was pristine white, the colour of snow. He had pulled back this long white hair into a clean ponytail.

In each hand he held an MP5K submachine gun. It was a compact submachine gun 33 centimetres in length, using 9mm shells.

He had already loaded, removed the safety, and set the gun to automatic. All he had to do now was pull the trigger. However--

"He's late…" He muttered bitterly. The guns were aimed at the ground, and his thumbs were pointed straight. It didn't look like he was going to open fire.

"He's late… he's still not here…"

It seemed that the demon was not his target. The demon stalked out of the Home Economics room, but the young man in black did nothing but watch.

And--

"You're late, Samoyed Mask!" he spat.

Yup. He's still not here. Please pass the time with these two flashback sequences.

Flashback 1.

A young man wearing a green sweater and a white dog were at a sunset beach.

The young man stood at the water's edge, under the fiery skies. The dog sat at his feet.

The young man, who had a sword at his waist, opened his right hand with a melancholy look. In his hand was a dented old screw.

The white dog asked quietly, "Master Shizu? What is it that you are looking at?"

The young man called Shizu answered, looking at the screw in his hand.

"A piece of Buggy-kun…"(3)

The young man clenched his fist, held it over his heart, and looked up at the sky.

"I'll never forget you…"

So his trusted servant also nodded.

"Nor will I."

The person and the dog watched as the red sun silently slipped past the horizon.

End Flashback 1.
Flashback 2.

A young man lay collapsed in a snowing cathedral. He wore a green sweater and had a katana strapped to his belt.

Lying still and limp beside the young man was a large white dog.

Looking down at them was a great painting by a great Baroque period artist.

The young man, embracing the dog, looked up at the painting with his deathly ashen face, his breath visible in the cold.

"Look, Buchi… A Rubens painting…"

The white dog corrected his master.

"My name is Riku, Master Shizu."

"I'm so happy…"

"I'm glad for you, Master Shizu. But-"

"Rikurasche… I'm so tired… I'm feeling sleepy…"

"Quite obviously, since you slept very late last night… Anyway, you're very heavy, Master Shizu-"

"I'm sorry, grandpa… I'm going to rest now…"

"You may rest, Master Shizu, but please get off of me. You're very heavy."

"Rikurasche… Let's rest… together."

"I'll have to decline."

"Oh, Rikurasche… I can see time…"

"That's from another series, Master Shizu."(4)

End Flashback 2.

The target of the young man wearing sunglasses did not appear, even after the strangely familiar flashback sequences.

"Dammit!"

The young man, having finally lost his patience--

"Defeat Shizu"

Began writing this phrase over and over on the blackboard in tiny writing.

-----

"Found it!"

Kino, having followed Hermes' directions through the school building, finally discovered the demon.

It was stalking through the third floor hallway. Kino could see the demon walking with its back turned.

Her right hand tightly grasped the GP-100. The demon merely kept walking away, not even looking back. On its right was a window overlooking the grounds. On its left was a deserted classroom.

"Huh…? I guess this demon's not targeting me?"

"Seems that way. Looks like this one's just going around without any particular purpose. I guess this student doesn't really have problems or worries?"

Kino and Hermes spoke.

But they were incorrect. The student was currently searching for Bell in a deep, dark valley. He was on the verge of tears, worried that she might have died.

-----

They found a trail of blood leading behind several boulders. He followed them behind the rocks, despite worrying that he would be greeted by a sight he may not have wanted to see. And he found her.

"Bell…"

Bell lay collapsed on the ground.

The beautiful girl in outlandish clothing lay almost eerily still in a pool of blood. The moment he hurried over and reached out to touch her, Bell's eyes snapped open. Her yellow and purple eyes reflected his tearful face.

"Bell… you're alive…"

She was alive. Bell was alive. There was blood everywhere, but she was uninjured. We've found a survivor! Bring a stretcher!

He embraced Bell awkwardly and with a great deal of embarrassment, shedding tears of joy. The party members following behind him, however, became suspicious.

"How could she have survived those injuries and the fall?"

The knight, who had been ordered on this journey by the Queen, became suspicious of Bell from this moment on.

Actually, he had been ordered earlier by the corrupt Prime Minister to get rid of the hero should he be proven a fake. This is foreshadowing.

A thin stream of tears flowed from Bell's eyes. She kissed him on the cheek, thanking him through her actions. And--

"I… won't die…. as long as you're alive… I'll be by your side. And… I'll never betray 'you'."

She smiled delicately. This is also foreshadowing.
-----

(1) Chako-sensei is based on Ti from Kino's Journey, who begins travelling with Shizu after volume 8. Her last name, Kuroshima, meaning "black island", refers to the fact that she was originally from what was described as one such structure. The way she treats Inuyama is basically what she does all the time to Riku the dog in Kino's Journey. More on her in part two.
(2) The word kaere means "go back" or "leave". So it sounds like the students are telling KAERE to get out of their school.
(3) "Buggy-kun" refers to Shizu's mode of transport in Kino's Journey, a buggy.
(4) This scene is a parody of "A Dog of Flanders", but Shizu's last line in the scene is from Mobile Suit Gundam.

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