Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Gakuen Kino Chapter Three Part One

The start of a new chapter! This time, we take a break from high school and get a taste of Kino's hometown.




Narration: Kino

"Are you ready, everyone? Gakuen Kino is about to begin! Before you start reading, make sure you're in a brightly lit place and your heart is steeled for what's about to come!

Do you guys have a 'hometown'? A place where your kindly grandparents welcome you with open arms, and you go back to enjoy your breaks, and you want to stay forever even if you can't?

This story started when I went back to my hometown for summer break. But these two weird people tagged along for some reason. I was so angry with them, but Grandma welcomed them both. Can you believe it? She said that she was going to have one of them marry me, and there was even a monster attack! What's going to happen to my summer break? Still, I'm my Grandma's granddaughter! When I'm in trouble, all I need to do is fire! (echo)

-----

<The School Arc--Previously on>

Kino, Hermes, and Shizu had been chasing down the Galactic Overlord through outer space, when the Goddess of a backwater planet they visited to restock asked them for help. The Galactic Overlord's minions had hatched an evil plot to taint the young people of this planet with evil! Da-dun! (sfx)

Kino and company refused instantly, but the outraged Goddess forcibly took hold over them and injected them with false memories. Now Kino, Hermes, and the extremely handsome and popular Shizu-senpai (6th year) find themselves going to school.

The main character Kino, an ordinary schoolgirl, transforms into the Warrior of Justice, "Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino"(abbv. Kino) to fight humans tainted by evil and turned into demons and turn them back to normal.

A mysterious masked pervert calling himself "Samoyed Mask" and his successor, "Samoyed Mask α" also make an appearance, and was most shockingly revealed in the previous story to have been Shizu-senpai. It was a truly unexpected surprise.

And is he an enemy or an ally? A white dog-turned prettyboy--the transfer student who showed up just before summer break, Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou. Also appearing is Detective Wanwan, a warrior who bears a striking resemblance to Inuyama. He is a formidable fighter who uses a dual-gun wielding style called the "Septuple-Gun Fist Style", which raises his attack power by 120%. Don't forget him, either.

This is a rough summary of all the events that have so far transpired.

This story takes place immediately after Chapter Two, as Kino returns to her hometown in Hokkaido for summer break. If this were an anime series, it would be episode seven, where it is just starting to lose viewership (since the previous chapter was quite long, it would be considered a two-episode arc). It's also about time for the opening song to be released in karaoke places. Raise your voices, everyone! Since it's summer, the ending song will start with Kino's rallying cries. A CD with a guide to the dance (Editorial Dept.: Get on with it!)

-----

Gakuen Kino Chapter 3: Last Man Standing Got Milk ~ Summer Break Smells Like Romance and Gunsmoke - The Blade and the Dog's Battle to be the Groom? ~
-----
Dear Grandma,

It's been really hot these past few days. How are you doing? I'm doing fine, myself.

First term is finally over. I wanted to come back as soon as summer break started, but I was so busy that I completely forgot to book tickets. I finally managed to get tickets for the night train and the ferry just now. I think I'll be able to get home by the __th.

I can't wait to taste your cooking.

Love, Kino.

-----

Dear Kino,

Raise alarm when enemy is discovered. Federation fleet will mobilize and sink enemy ship.

Ceiling unlimited. High waves.

From your healthy Grandma.

-----

"It's just like Grandma to write a letter like this!"

"Kino, I don't understand what she's talking about."

"Really? Which part, Hermes?"

"All of it."

-----

"Make sure you haven't forgotten anything, Kino." a dormitory caretaker lady reminded Kino as she walked through the doors to the dorms.

It was a midsummer evening, just after the end of the rainy season, so it was still very hot even after sunset.

The caretaker was talking to a teenaged girl. The girl's short black hair framed her pretty face. She was wearing thin jeans and a light green T-shirt. On the shirt was a small picture of a campfire, and the words "Don't toss around an open-bolt gun!". On the black baseball cap on her head were the words, "Si vis pacem, para bellum"(1).

Around her waist was a belt from which hung multiple pouches. In the holster on her right thigh was a revolver-type model gun.

At the girl's feet was a rather large leather suitcase. On closer examination, it seemed to be one of those convenient bags with wheels that could be rolled around with ease.

"Of course! Thanks for everything this term." the girl called Kino bowed to the lady in the apron. That's right. Today was the third day of summer break. Kino was the last of the dormitory students to clear out of the building. Once Kino had left, the caretaker ladies would be able to enjoy a brief holiday until the sports clubs' training camps started.

"The caretaker ladies would have been on vacation for two days now if you'd gotten your tickets earlier, Kino." a tiny voice lectured Kino, and the caretaker lady cocked her head in surprise. Kino reached into her pocket and crushed its contents in her iron grip.

"But Kino--grk!"

"Have a great summer, ma'am!" Kino smiled, waved, and left the dormitory. She dragged her suitcase behind her, beginning her long journey to her hometown in Hokkaido.

-----

"Why did you have to talk out loud, Hermes?!"

The train station was a good ways away, but Kino was fit enough to make the trip on foot. She was currently walking through a wide street in the nearby suburbs. Kino spoke quietly so she wouldn't be heard by passerbys.

"You made me look like a weirdo again!"

"You've always been a weirdo--grk!"

Kino mercilessly grasped the cell phone strap she took out of her pocket . It was a strap made of green leather and yellow metal, with a simple design. There was a key attached to it, but it wasn't for her room.

"If you talk during this trip while someone else is around, I'm gonna throw you aside and never look back!"

"Okay, I got it. I'll keep it down."

The boyish voice that had been talking all this time was Hermes, the talking cell phone strap.

"It's going to be a long trip, so watch it! You can't let anyone hear you."

"All right, all right. I'll go to sleep now, so wake me up when you get home."

Unbeknownst to Kino (and Hermes), someone was spying on her from behind a lamppost.

"…"

He had slightly long black hair and wore a white standing-collar uniform. He had a katana strapped to his side. A dove was perched on his head.

"…"

Unbeknownst to the young man, someone was spying on him from behind the bushes. A large white dog with a smiling face, whose eyes held a suspicious glint. A Chihuahua on a walk scared its master by barking suddenly at this large dog.

"All right! I finally get to go home! I can't wait!"

Kino, ignorant of her small entourage, stretched her arms into the air peacefully and blissfully.

-----

Kino's journey was to be a long one, with multiple modes of transport involved.

Kino's school was in Yokohama, in Kanagawa Prefecture. She arrived at the station just as the sun finally set.

Kino had a long time to wait before the train would arrive. She would have stayed at the dorms until later if not for the caretaker urging her to get to the station before dark. Kino went to a small theatre at the mall across from the station to watch a movie called "Air Force Dogfights from Around the World".

Kino finally began her journey proper at 8 in the evening. She first took the JR Keihin northeast line to the nearby Oofuna Station. Once she arrived, Kino ate noodles at a standing-counter restaurant alongside drunken salarymen. To be specific, her noodles were topped with fried burdock, raw egg, and seaweed. Kino made it a point to eat hot food during the summer. Her meal came out to a total of 520 yen.

From Oofuna, Kino took the JR Shonan Shinjuku line to Shinjuku Station. It was past 9 now and the subways were completely empty.

She took the night express train "Moon Light Echigo" at 11:09 P.M. from Shinjuku. It was a long-distance train that Kino could ride with the Seishun 18 ticket. As a side note, She was on the women-only car of the train. She wore a long-sleeve shirt because of the overly cold air conditioning.

Kino put her suitcase on the floor, rested her feet on it, leaned back her seat, covered her face with her cap, and--

"Good night."

She fell asleep even before the ticket check. The train passed through the dark, deserted station.

"…"

A suspicious set of eyes looked at the train from the roof of the platform, head upside-down. There was a katana at his side and a dove rested on his chin.

"…"

A creepy set of eyes looked at the suspicious man from within a clear, terrorism-prevention trash can(2). It had white fur.

Someone call the police already!
-----

It was early next morning--5 A.M. to be precise--when the train arrived at Niigata Station. The summer sun was just peeking over the eastern horizon. It was going to be another hot day.

Kino glanced at the other passengers as they hurried to transfer to a northbound train.

"Hwaaaahh… I'm still sleepy."

She yawned and wheeled her suitcase out of the deserted Niigata Station. Up next for Kino was the ferry. Kino was fit enough to walk all the way to the harbour. The Shinano River flowed as peacefully as usual. Less than an hour later, Kino arrived at the ferry terminal about four kilometres away.

The large Shin-Nippon Ferry "Yukari" (length 200 metres, weight 18000 tonnes) had just entered the port with passengers from Otaru.

Kino had a breakfast of rice balls from a nearby convenience store and boarded the ferry.

She was staying in a small S Bedroom which contained a single bed and was surrounded by curtains. It was a decent accommodation that gave her privacy and enough space to get changed. The only bad points would be that it got very hot when the curtains were shut and that the lamp at her bedside was a little too dim.

The ferry also carried cars. They lined up as they systematically loaded themselves into the ferry's gaping maw. One particular vehicle, a large four-wheel drive with a boat loaded on top, drove up the ramp. No one, not even its driver, other passengers, or even the ferry workers noticed the calm man with a katana clinging to the underside of the car.

"…"

There was a dog glaring at him from a distance. It was a white dog.

-----

The ship sounded the foghorn and departed at 10:30 A.M. sharp. Some people were enjoying the view from the deck, but Kino was in bed, off in dreamland. Looks like she didn't get enough sleep on the train. The ferry left the mouth of the Shinano River and made its way into the sea, headed north.

"…"

A white dog standing upright on its hind legs watched the ship, now a tiny speck on the horizon. He was on the beach of the Yamanoshita Navy Park, near Niigata Airport. A huge airplane flew overhead. In front of the dog was, of course, the ocean.

"Hm… Haah!"

The dog leapt into the water with a short cry. He soon began feverishly dog-paddling. The dog headed straight for the ferry like a homing mine, leaving white foam in his wake.

-----

The ferry sailed across the peaceful summer seas and pushed north.

Kino slept, ate, slept, and ate a snack. When she had time left over, she would listlessly look up at the sky on the deck or take a bath to pass the time.

"That hits the spot! Just what I need after a nice bath! I'm getting another cup!" Kino downed her Kirin Guarana (A carbonated drink exclusive to Hokkaido. Sigsawa claims it's really good, but keep in mind this guy's favourite drink is the infamous Root Beer).

The setting sun lit up the seas a bright orange. The ferry passed by another ship, leaving from Otaru. The announcement bell rang, and the ferry attendant lady's voice came over the speakers.

"Attention passengers. Our sister ship, 'Lilac', will shortly be passing to our left. Condition Red! All hands prepare for battle!" What, are they planning to sink it?

Kino slept early that night. She was quite good at falling asleep despite having taken long naps earlier in the day.

The next day, which was the morning of the third day of Kino's journey, Kino had no choice but to wake up early. It was actually before dawn.

The ship was set to arrive at Otaru at 4:10 A.M., so an announcement came over the speakers to wake up the passengers in time to sing--I mean, disembark. How merciless of them.

"This is the captain speaking. Do not call me 'Admiral'! This is a civilian ship! All hands rise and prepare for battle! How long you plan on sleeping, you maggots?! Get your asses off your beds! I don't need any lazy maggots on my ship! Anyone who slacks will be thrown overboard!"

"Ugh… I'm still sleepy."

Sleepy eyes and messy hair aside, Kino arrived at Otaru Port. It was a beautiful, clear morning, but it was quite chilly, as one might expect from Hokkaido. Kino might need a jacket.

"Welcome back, Kino."

"Grandma!"

An old woman greeted her by the port. Kino ran into her arms with a huge smile on her face.

The tall old woman was standing up straight. Her long white hair was tied and fastened with a hairnet. She wore elegant grey pants and a light purple jacket over a white shirt. At her waist was, of course, a holstered revolver. It was a real gun, but it was impossible to tie down this person with mere weapons laws.

She was Kino's grandmother. This frail woman had taken in and raised the orphaned Kino, instructing her in the way of firearms. After herself, Kino considered her grandmother to be the most important person in the world.

After brief, happy greetings, they discussed the goings-on in their daily lives.

"Well then, let's go."

Grandma led Kino to the parking lot. Kino followed, wheeling her suitcase behind her.

"Get in. You can put your suitcase in the trunk." said Grandma, as she stopped in front of one of the cars. It was a modestly-sized blue 4-door Sedan, a Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Yes, that is the car's name. It's very long. The car was very obviously brand-spanking new.

"Is this your car, Grandma?" Kino asked, pointing towards the car. Grandma nodded and opened the trunk (it almost looked like it had wings for flying). She lifted Kino's suitcase single-handedly and effortlessly put it into the trunk.

"My little old yellow car started acting up last week, so I took it to the village car repairs shop. They said it was a miracle it was still going. I didn't want it to break down while I was coming to get you, so I asked the repairman to recommend me a new car."

"Oh. I really liked the old one. It was cute."

"Don't worry. I'll fix it up later and keep it around."

"I'm good with that."

They opened the doors and got in the driver's seat and the passenger seat respectively.

"Wow! The door opens forward like a regular car! There's so much room inside! Oh! It's even got A/C! I can play CDs here, too!"

Grandma, satisfied with Kino's excitement over the car, put on her sunglasses and started the engine.

"Since we're in town, why don't we go out to eat? We should do some grocery shopping while we're at it."

"Yeah! Let's go!"

The car left, leaving the ferry docks behind.

"…"

A pair of eyes stared at the blue car from the slightly-open back door of the parking lot trailer. A katana rest omitted.

"…"

A pair of eyes stared at the trailer from the roof of the docks, soaking wet. A white rest omitted.

-----

After shopping in Sapporo and driving over hills and bridges, it was almost evening.

"Home sweet home! It hasn't changed one bit!"

The blue car leisurely drove through the quiet country roads at completely legal speeds, with an excited Kino in the passenger seat. Around them was a wide expanse of farmlands. Black and white cows mooed occasionally. Ahead of them was a forest. The car made a turn into a small gravel road that led into the forest.

Scattered at points along the gravel road were signs that read, "Private Property. Beware stray bullets." Kino's house was the only one up ahead. Grandma hit the gas. The blue car accelerated and hit terrifying speeds. Every time they made a turn, the tires skidded. The car jumped when they hit a bump in the road.

The car continued on without a scratch, however, leaving a trail of dust in its wake.

The scenery outside the window was passing at ridiculous speeds, but--

"So whenever the caretaker ladies see me, they always give me a huge helping without even asking--"

"Then I guess you need a custom double-sized rice bowl, right Kino?"

"Maybe. Haha!"

"Of course. Ufufu."

Their conversation was so relaxed that it was almost scary.

-----

Their house was in the middle of the woods.

On one side of the road was a farming field, a barn for livestock, and a shooting range. Beside them stood a large Japanese-style home. The roofs were tiled and there was a raised wooden platform--it was a dying breed of Japanese houses.

The blue car drove in at breakneck speed, braked with the skill of a Driving God and skidded to a stop parallel to the house.

"It's good to be home!" Kino shouted as she got out of the car. She opened the trunk and helped her grandmother unload the luggage. Because they had the foresight to tie them down, her suitcase and the groceries from Sapporo had retained their shapes despite the rough trip.

They brought everything inside.

"I'm home!"

"Welcome back, Kino."

Kino put everything down at the door, took off her shoes, and stepped inside. She took in the nostalgic smell of home on the floor. The old black phone was still on the floor, and a sticky fly-catcher hung from one of the walls.

"Let's bring in all the luggage, Kino."

"Oh, right." Kino answered and turned around. Her grandmother suddenly spoke again.

"And I hope our guests will make themselves at home."

'Guests?' Kino wondered, and looked over at the front doors. She was greeted by an unbelievable sight.

"Thank you for your hospitality." "Thank you." they said, as they entered the house.

One of them was an upperclassman who wore a white standing-collar uniform, carried a katana at his side, and had slightly long black hair. In fact, he was an acquaintance of Kino. The most popular guy in school, "The Katana Nobleman", "The Swordfighter Man", the "Prettyboy Samurai"--he was Shizu-senpai. Accompanied by a dove.

The other person was a prettyboy with white shoulder-length hair. Her wore black pants and a white shirt. He was a transfer student in Kino's class who had arrived from Beljium just before the end of first term. He was Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou, Kino's near-stalker who had been flirting with her non-stop, much to Kino's dismay.

"…"

Kino's jaw dropped.

"I'm sure you must have had a tiring journey. I hope you didn't have any trouble finding the place?" Grandma asked kindly.

"I had no trouble following your tire tracks."

"I had no trouble following your scent."

The two gave these almost perverted answers with smiling faces. Grandma laughed and said, "Oh my."

"W-what are you two doing here?!" Kino yelled.

"Yaaaawn…?"

Hermes finally woke up from his nap.

-----

It was a large room, about 30 metres squared. Smoke slowly rose from the mosquito coil in the pig pen.

In the centre of the room was a large table. It was fully laden with things like sashimi, salad, and steamed foods.

"Please, dig in. It's so nice to have young people over for dinner." said Grandma, wearing a tank missile-print apron, bringing over a huge dish of fried chicken. She then disappeared into the kitchen with an "Oh, the soup's boiling!".

"…"

Kino sat cross-legged at one end of the table and glared furiously at the two visitors. It looked like the chopsticks in her hand would snap any second now.

"What are you doing here?!" Each and every word was accented with rage. At the rate Kino was gritting her teeth, her chopsticks might not be the only things breaking tonight.

"Even if I realllllllly leniently excuse Shizu-senpai, I still can't excuse you, whitey!"

"My name is Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou." Inuyama bowed deeply, sitting cross-legged.

"I know that! I just didn't wanna hear or have to say that stupid name!"

Kino looked as if she was on the verge of throwing the bowl of spinach at him.

"What are they doing…?"

Hermes, who had been subject to watching the outraged Kino since he had woken up, was quietly watching from the belt that hung on a clothing rack. Kino looked ready to shred the visitors, stuff them into a box, and mail them off to Kanagawa Prefecture. However, she was stymied by her own grandmother's words--"Don't be rude to the guests, Kino. As they say, the more the merrier."

"Grrrr…"

The uninvited guests ignored the snarling Kino and started on their meal.

"Let's enjoy this dinner, senpai."

"Yes. Thank you for the meal."

The two politely dug into their meals. Kino reluctantly joined them.

"Why do I have to share Grandma's awesome cooking like this?" she blurted out her honest feelings and sighed.

"This is soooooo good. I can't even find the right adjectives to describe it."

Kino's first taste of home in a long time was indeed excellent. She was ready to drag out the guests and shoot them in the head if she heard even a single complaint, but--

"I-I've never eaten such a delightful home-cooked meal! Everything is exquisite perfection, and it's excellently nutritionally balanced! Specifically, (rest omitted)."

"This is delicious! I feel like I'm experiencing true unadulterated joy! It's as if Heaven itself has been laid out in a meal on this table! Tres bien!"

Tch. Looks like Kino's lost her chance.

There was no use crying over spilled milk, but Kino would have been much less irritated had it been only Shizu-senpai. She didn't voice her thoughts, however.

Grandma soon returned to the table. It was a cheery dinner for everyone involved (with the exception of Kino). Grandma and the visitors had a great time discussing school life.

-----

"You must be tired. Go get some rest."

Kino did as her grandmother instructed and went inside her room as soon as she had finished eating dinner. She didn't forget to lock the door tightly.

The men were given the guest room and yukata to wear. They thanked Grandma and ended up spending the night in this large room. Hey you. don't get any weird ideas. I said they're sleeping in the same room, but they obviously have their own futons and were keeping over two metres away from each other.

The moonlight shone through the screen windows. The men were looking up at the ceiling tiles and the hanging lamp.

Inuyama was the first to speak. He asked, "Are you still awake, senpai?", to which Shizu responded with a "Yeah".

"I never would have imagined that we'd be sleeping under the same roof like this."

"Yes. It was certainly unexpected."

"Say, Shizu-senpai. What do you consider to be your meaning in life?"

It was a sudden question, but Shizu answered calmly, eyes closed.

"To use the power I was given to defeat evil and save the oppressed… perhaps."

"That's quite the admirable purpose." Inuyama didn't sound at all sincere. He turned on his side and glared at Shizu. It was the kind of glare that could turn normal people to stone, but Shizu didn't even twitch.

"Why don't you get some sleep? Mornings come early in the countryside. You should at least consider helping out with the chores in exchange for being allowed to stay over." Shizu tried to end the conversation, but Inuyama was not listening.

"You know what my dream is?" he started, without even being asked by Shizu. "My dream is to find the one I used to trust and serve, and beat him to a pulp."

"Hm." Shizu gave out a small laugh. It was quite unusual. Inuyama hid his surprise and asked, "Is it that strange?"

"What are you planning to do afterwards?"

"I've already thought about it."

"And?"

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

"Hm. I pray for your success."

"Yes. But I know it won't come easy."

"Of course. Dreams wouldn't be dreams if they were so easy to accomplish. Good night."

"I see. Good night, senpai."

The conversation ended and the sound of gentle breathing filled the room.

"Fufufu…"

Grandma, wearing her PJs, quietly smiled in the hallway just outside the room.

-----

The next morning.

It was a beautiful, clear day. (Question 1: Write this sentence in Japanese.)(3)

The sky was blindingly blue and the recently risen sun shone brilliantly. However, it was also quite windy. This is foreshadowing.

"Oh!"

When Inuyama opened his eyes, the futon beside his had already been neatly folded.

"Dammit! He got me!"

It looked like Shizu had gotten a head start this morning. Inuyama, scolding himself, got up and folded his futon in two seconds, changed out of the yukata and into his shirt and pants in three seconds, and brushed his long white hair for fifteen minutes.

By the time he made his way out into the front yard and the chattering of birds, everyone else was already hard at work. Shizu, wearing a T-shirt, was chopping firewood, and Grandma was drawing water from the well.

"Good morning! I'm sorry I overslept!" Inuyama bowed in apology and asked if there was anything he could do. Grandma responded.

"In that case, please help Kino move all the empty cartridges to the storage shed over there."

Inuyama nodded and went "over there", as Grandma instructed. "Over there" was a shooting range behind the house--a shooting range of about 800 metres, in the middle of the woods. Nearby was a large wooden crate full of cartridges of all sizes.

"Are these all from this morning?"

"Yeah. It's from my morning exercises. I'll get rusty if I don't practice." Kino answered, lightly hefting a German MG3 machine gun. She was currently wearing a green combat suit, and wearing her belt with Hermes hanging from it. Around her neck was a pair of acoustic earmuffs that looked rather like headphones. In each hand she held a rifle case and a pistol case.

"Get moving, luggage boy." Kino ordered, and Inuyama began moving the crate. It was quite heavy.

"You must have slept pretty well for an uninvited guest. I've been shooting away all morning." Kino complained from behind Inuyama.

"Damn you, Shizu… One of these days, I'll slaughter you." Inuyama muttered quietly. (Question 2: Explain why Inuyama feels this way in 20 words or less.)

The men were worked halfway to death with chores like cleaning, working the fields, and taking care of livestock, until breakfast began. Shizu calmly and perfectly finished his work, and Inuyama earned scoldings from Kino for having a little difficulty.

"Put your back into it! At least work for your food, you idiot!"

"Damn you, Shizu… One of these days, I'll slaughter you."

-----

It was time for breakfast. Grandma finished preparations and called everyone in. The trio washed their faces with the cold well water and made their way inside. The winds got stronger and the skies became cloudier than before.

Just as they were about to enter the kitchen through the back door, a small truck drove in on the gravel road and made a stop in front of the house. The one who came out of the truck was a beautiful young woman about twenty years of age, wearing her hair in pigtails and wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and an apron.

"Sorry I'm late! Here's your milk delivery!" she apologized, and took out a plastic crate from the back. The crate contained eight large 1-litre bottles of milk. The woman stumbled because of the weight. Grandma, who had come out of the house, recalled that "come to think of it, the delivery was late today". Usually, the local dairy farmer would deliver the milk before the crack of dawn.

"I'm so sorry! I'm the farmer's niece. One of the cows is having difficulty giving birth, so he can't leave the farm. I'm running the deliveries in his place, but I got lost along the way…"

"You must be tired. Please don't worry about it. We haven't even had breakfast yet, after all."

The young woman apologized over and over again. She tried to carry the crate over, but  she looked like she was about to stumble. Just as Kino stepped forward to help, the two men decided to act on their senses of chivalry.

"Please, allow me."

"Let me carry that for you."

As they held out their hands and offered their help simultaneously, they had no choice but to carry the crate together to the back door.

The woman gaped as she watched those two retreat to the back. She came to her senses very soon and shut her mouth quickly, but as soon as they returned from the back, her jaw had fallen again. Her gaze was locked onto Shizu and Inuyama. In Soviet Russian terms, it was like she as about to fire missiles at them. It was only natural, seeing as Shizu was really handsome and Inuyama was a prettyboy among prettyboys.

The young woman trembled with joy.

Her resentment at her uncle for suckering her to come to the Hokkaido boonies with a "there's good food here, and the air's as clean as could be. Why don't you come over? I'm not going to make you do any work" and making her run heavy deliveries the very next day completely dissipated. She'd never seen guys like this in Tokyo. It was pure excitement. "Love Blooming in the Plains of the North. The Tearjerking Love Story of a Tired City Girl and a Handsome Country Boy". There was already a TV drama in production in her head, with herself as the lead heroine. She would sing the theme song as part of her debut single. She didn't care which one she ended up with, but they would both have to fall head over heels for her. "No! Don't make me choose. Please don't fight over me. One of you can marry me and the other person can be my lover." Her thoughts ran wilder and wilder. All of the above took 1.3 seconds.

"Here you go." Shizu handed the empty crate to the young woman.

"Oh!"

The young woman hid her embarrassment with all her might and placed the crate in the back of the truck.

'I don't need to rush. Haha! I'll come back to deliver again tomorrow. With a heavier crate this time. Whew!', she thought. She mentally gave herself a thumbs-up. It looks like she was already in love.

The words Grandma uttered immediately after plunged the young woman straight into the depths of hell.

"Since the milk's here, why don't we go inside for breakfast?"

The words are coming up right now.

"After that, I'll conduct a test to see which one of the two of you will be best suited to become my granddaughter's husband."

The winds became stronger.

-----

"Why? Why? Why?"

The breakfast table was unusually lively. The noise awakened Hermes, who was greeted by the sight of Kino loudly complaining with a bowl of mushroom miso soup in hand, and Grandma's calm retorts. For some reason, the men were on the sidelines, silently eating pickled radishes. Hermes, concluding that something big had happened, raised his hearing sensitivity. He could hear Kino's voice clearly.

"Why do I have to marry one of those two?!"

"You know what they say. 'Life is short. Let the young women love'." Grandma answered with a perfectly straight face.

"What? What? What's going on-grk!" Hermes asked loudly, without even thinking. Kino crushed him in her grip. At the rate Kino was going, Hermes would soon become a very dead phone strap.

-----

Meanwhile, the young woman had somehow made her way to a deserted crossroads in the village. There was a lone vending machine at the road. She parked the truck beside it and drank canned coffee in the driver's seat.

"…"

Her mind was blank. She couldn't even tell the taste of the coffee in her hands.

The Weather Report came on over the truck's radio.

"Typhoon #7, which formed rapidly over the Hachinobe Sea this morning, is gaining strength and speed. It is projected to make a landing on Hokkaido by this afternoon. 'The weeping violin in fall breaks my heart'. I repeat, ThegiganticTyphoon#7ismakingitswaytowardsHokkaidorightnowwatchoutTyphoonsareseriousbusinesspayyourradiofeesnowifyoupaytheTyphoonmightchangecourse--"

Click. The young woman turned off the radio.

Sniff. Sniffle. She drank her tear-filled coffee and sobbed quietly. A melancholy twilit morning moment.

Brrrr. Brrrrr. Oh! It looks like she's receiving a text message.

"…?" She reflexively took out her cell phone to check the text. Its contents were as follows:

"Title: Do you want a prettyboy all for yourself?"
From: The Up-and-Coming Prettyboy Hunters
Message: You too, can have a prettyboy of your own! Pick and choose! You can't lose to that little jailbait, right? No subscription fees. Click Here and enter."

"…"

Click.

The temptation of evil had entered the information age.

-----

Back home. It was just after breakfast.

Everyone was standing in a line, washing dishes and putting them back into the cabinets.

"With all due respect, I believe it may be much too early to speak of marriage."

"What are you talking about, Shizu-kun? My granddaughter's practically a grown woman now. Why, when I was her age-"

"Hm? You got married at that age?"

"I was fighting in France's Foreign Legion."

Seriously?

Inuyama switched dishcloths and made the first move.

"I don't mind. Even if marriage is still far into the future, it is a good idea to make a good impression on Kino's family. If Shizu-senpai refuses, I ask that you at least allow me. I will do whatever it takes to repent for sleeping in this morning. And I will succeed with grace."

The bugle in the old woman's hand suddenly blared.

"3 points for Inuyama-kun."

"What does that mean, Grandmother?"

"It means the battle has already begun."

"Hm… I dislike meaningless battle. However, I am a firm believer in constantly training to reach greater heights." said Shizu, as he put detergent on the sponge.

"2 points for Shizu-kun. Inuyama-kun is in the lead with 3 points."

"Kgh!"

"If you give up now, Shizu-senpai, it means that I will emerge victorious by a tiny margin."

"I will not relent in any matter I take part in."

"Is that so? You didn't seem so enthusiastic just now…"

Sparks began flying. By now Shizu and Inuyama were the only ones still furiously washing the dishes. Kino and Grandma had both quietly snuck away from the sink, but that wasn't much of a problem as the men were working hard enough for all of them.

"I accept your challenge."

"Hm. You were slow to get so fired up, senpai. It seems that mentally, I already have the high ground."

"We'll see if you can still talk that way once the challenge is complete."

"I believe that only those who look forward will emerge victorious."

Huh. The winds became even stronger.

-----

The backyard. Grandma began the proceedings.

"Everyone! Do you want to become my granddaughter's husband?"

"Yes!" "Yes!"

Shizu and Inuyama answered, pumping their fists into the air. Neither of them had brought a change of clothes, so they were wearing the same outfits as yesterday. They were also wearing unusual silk hats on their heads. Behind them was a star-studded red backdrop with cables running behind it,

In front each of them was a small table and a single buzzer.

"Then let's begin. The first round is a speed quiz. I will award five points to the first person to reach a score of 500. Each wrong answer will decrease your score by one." said Grandma, facing the two and holding a heavy pile of question cards.

The sky was getting darker. The grey clouds quickly blocked out the sun and the grass began dancing in the wind.

"What's this supposed to be?" "I have no clue." Kino answered Hermes' question honestly. She was currently wearing loose brown cargo pants and a grey shirt with long sleeves. Over the left breast were the letters "HK", and the text on the back read, "Oh my lovely roller locking". Around her waist was the gun belt with Hermes hanging form it.

"What is the world coming to?" Kino muttered, exasperated, sitting on a log a good distance away from the others.

"Here we go! Question one!" Grandma began. Shizu and Inuyama both put their hands over the buzzers.

"When Dengeki Bunko authors, including Sigsawa, go to a karaoke place in Ikebukuro-"

BEEP!

When Shizu pressed down on the button at lightspeed, a large question mark popped out of the top of his hat.

"Yes, Shizu-kun?"

"The answer is 'Call the Chef'!."

"Correct. The question was, 'When Dengeki Bunko authors, including Sigsawa, go to a karaoke place in Ikebukuro, what do they say after eating something particularly delicious?'. The answer is 'Call the chef!'." said Grandma. Shizu sat up cooly. Inuyama who had been slightly late to push the button, seemed to be quite angry.

"Next question! In Okayu Masaki's work, 'Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan', volume 1, page 39, what was-"

BEEP!

"Yes, Inuyama-kun?"

"The answer is 'male'."'

"Correct. The question was 'In Okayu Masaki's work, "Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan", volume 1, page 39, what gender did Dokuro claim the chick was?'. The answer is 'male'."

Shizu glanced at the proud Inuyama.

"Next question! The Dengeki Editorial Office is-"

BEEP!

"Yes, Shizu-kun."

"The answer is 'on the right-hand side'."

"Correct. The question was, 'The Dengeki Editorial Office is in Chiyoda-ku. The closest JR stop is Ochanomizu Station, and the company is housed in a building called the Tokyo YWCA Hall. Which way, then is the washroom, as soon as you're out of the elevator?'. The answer is 'on the right-hand side'."

"Oh, I knew this one!"

"It seems you were slightly late, Inuyama-kun. But you two are both doing wonderfully. I can't wait to see how this challenge turns out."

The trio seemed to be having a lot of fun.

"Say, Hermes…"

"Yeah?"

"What's wrong with those people?"

"Who knows?"

Kino and Hermes, watching from afar, made a tired face.

"Next question! The guitar-" BEEP! "The answer is 'darts'." "Correct! Next question. What is always-" BEEP! "'The fourteenth'." "Correct! Next. Serialization-" BEEP! "'The Tokyo 1-Day Exploration Team'!" "Correct! Next question. The Shinano-" BEEP! "The answer is 'The Bank of Japan Incident'!" "Correct! Next question. A-" BEEP! "'The moon over Mt. Mikasa'!" "Correct!"

It looked like it was about to start pouring. Kino watched until the 108th question and gave up watching.

"Grandma, I'm going for a walk."

"All right. Don't forget your umbrella. Next question!"

Kino got up and started walking, Hermes in tow.

-----

Kino walked through the narrow forest path, umbrella in hand, loudly chatting with Hermes thanks to the lack of bystanders.

"How long do you think do those two plan on staying here, Hermes?"

"Dunno. But what about that challenge? How long are they going to keep that up?"

"And I was just about to enjoy being back home too… Huh?"

Kino spotted something moving under a large tree ahead of her. If it was a bear, she would have fired warning shots to scare it away, but…

"A person."

Just as Hermes said, it was a person, crouched under the tree.

"No way!"

Kino ran towards the tree and was shocked to discover that the person was the same young woman who had come to deliver milk earlier that day.

"What's wrong?"

The young woman remained crouching and spoke in a pained voice.

"I was just out on a walk, but my stomach cramps suddenly started acting up… my cell phone's not working, either…"

"Oh no! What am I supposed to do?" Kino muttered in a slight panic. The young woman took out a small bottle of energy drink from her pocket and handed it to Kino.

"Please open this for me."

Kino nodded and opened the cap.

"And please drink it for yourself."

Kino nodded again and downed the energy drink, hands on her hips.

"And please go to sleep now."

Kino nodded and stumbled. Then she shut her eyes. The young woman got to her feet with surprising force and caught Kino before she could fall to the ground.

"Oh! Kino!" Hermes shouted without thinking, but the young woman didn't seem to care.

"Hmph! Foolish girl. To think you would fall so easily for my trap, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino. Mwahahahaha! Haaaahahahahaha!" The young woman's laughter was terrifyingly high-pitched. Not only her dialogue, but even her voice had some qualities more befitting an old man.

"Kino's in trouble." Hermes muttered to himself.

It began raining in the forest.

-----

It was daytime.

Powerful winds swept through the woods and rain poured down like a waterfall. However, in one particular backyard in the woods…

"Next question! Who-" BEEP! "The answer is, 'the clumsy editor lady'!" "Correct! The next question will be the 400th. Currently, Shizu-kun's score is at 200 and Inuyama-kun is at 199."

Two soaking-wet young men and an elderly lady in a white raincoat continued to go about a certain challenge.

Suddenly, the mailman arrived by motorcycle, trying his hardest not to be knocked over by the winds.

"Ma'am! I've brought your mail."

"Oh my. Just a moment. This way!" Grandma stopped reading questions and waved the mailman over. The middle-aged mailman walked over and handed grandma a plastic bag containing an envelope.

"Thank you very much. Take care."

The motorcycle disappeared into the woods, wobbling along the road.

"What's this? The envelope's not signed." Grandma cocked her head.

"Watch out. Its contents may be dangerous." Shizu warned.

"Don't worry. The post office always checks my mail for explosives." said Grandma. She ripped the envelope open and took out the letter inside. She carefully unfolded it so it wouldn't be blow away, and took a few moments to read through its contents. A look of surprise appeared on her face.

"Oh my."

"What might be the matter?"

"What's wrong?"

The men asked. Grandma answered.

"It's from someone calling themselves 'The Enemy'. Apparently they have my granddaughter Kino held hostage. They've put her fingerprint on this letter--it's definitely Kino's."

"What?!"

"What?!"

Shizu and Inuyama were understandably shocked. Grandma, however, ripped the letter apart without a care.

"I don't know about this so-called 'Enemy', but I'm sure Kino can make it back on her own. She'll have to learn that it's a tough world out there. She'll be back by dinnertime. After all, she's armed."

"Pardon?" "What?"

The two men's jaws dropped.

"In any case, let's continue. Next question--hm?"

By the time Grandma glanced back up from her question card, the two had already disappeared. Two silk hats sitting on the tables were being unceremoniously rained upon. Oh! Looks like they've just been blown away by the wind.

"Ufufu…"

Grandma smiled and looked up at the stormclouds.

"I wonder… which one will be victorious?"


(1) Latin phrase by Vegetius, meaning "If you wish for peace, prepare for war"
(2) These trash cans are like normal trash cans, but have been stripped of everything that is not essential framing. The garbage bag tends to be clear as well.
(3) Original text was "Write in English".

1 comment:

  1. The Magic Toaster8 July 2011 at 23:15

    O.M.G.

    Finally! After several years of interminently searching, I've found it!

    Ha ha!

    You, fine sir, must be rewarded for your outsanding contribution to mankind! I shall transmit beams of love and bliss directly into your brain!

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

    I'm doing it now! Can you feel it! FEEL MY LOVE!

    Great work! Please continue to translate this magnificent series, you God among men! ^^

    ReplyDelete