~A Midnight Deadline~
Summer Homework: Write about your summer break!
Kino, High School Division First-year:
I spent my summer break at my Grandma's house back in my hometown.
I did a lot of things over the summer.
First, I got my motorcycle license as I turned 16. There was a driving school nearby, so I practiced on Grandma's motorcycle before I took the exam. Hermes is an unfair bastard.
I thought I did really well, but I failed the exam because I did a wheelie for about 50 metres.
I didn't understand why they would fail me, but I passed when I tried again more slowly. But I don't like my license picture because I look like I'm trying to ignore an itchy butt.
Otherwise, the rest of my short time was well spent training for all kinds of things with Grandma.
We took two weeks to practice making beef and potatoes marinated in soy sauce. My final product turned out great, but Grandma fell ill for three days after tasting it.
With the assistance of the Army's Self-Defense Force, I learned to fight against tanks. Grandma was looked down at by one of the men, and she immediately destroyed his T-90 tank. The news reported it as an accident.
My amazing summer break went by so quickly.
When the new term starts, I'll have to go back to fighting demons… well, I guess the demons aren't too bad, but--
I'm going to have to face that pervert _______ Mask again. Every single time a demon appears. I get depressed even thinking about it.
These days I wonder if that guy's the real demon I'm fighting against. It doesn't sound too far off the mark.
I'll take care of him next time, no question about it.
Shizu, High School Division Third-year:
Summer. A season of training.
I started off my summer by composing a new theme song for Samoyed Mask.
Of course, I already have three fantastic songs, but there's no shame in having too many. One of these days, I'll compile them all and release them in a special album. I'm sure they'll sell like hotcakes.
It will only take me three seconds to compose the music and write the lyrics, but that does not satisfy me in the least. I must always continue to practice my singing and playing.
I practiced swordfighting while practicing guitar. I soon realized that it was incredibly difficult to play the guitar while dancing.
My singing skills are already quite renowned, so I decided to focus on the shouting style this time around. Powerful, stage-rending shouts are what I pursue.
"Come on! One, two! Singing! Thank you!"
I shouted many, many times by myself. Day and night I shouted. I felt myself becoming one with the audience. It was glorious.
Even the local police came to watch my amazing recital. After seeing my katana-swinging performance, they even brought in their friends, the riot police.
I wasn't particularly performing for profit or anything, so I continued to show the audience a once-in-a-lifetime show. By the time I had finished, there was no one left, only finely diced pieces of duralumin on the ground.
I see. So they scattered this because they didn't have any confetti.
My summer vacation is about to come to a peaceful close. However, there is no rest for justice. Justice gets no breaks.
I will slice and dice from tomorrow on--my first step in bringing justice to the world.
Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou, High School Division First-year:
Summer? Who cares?
I will defeat him. I will turn him to scrap. Once the new term starts, I will throw that stupid samurai into the depths of hell.
I will make this term his very last.
But in order to achieve that, I have to train. I have to refine myself even more.
I must maintain discipline! Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline. Clean my desk with discipline. Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline. Damn that buffoonish samurai!
I'll murder him!
No, no. I have to maintain discipline. Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline. Defeat Shizu! I'll turn him into a beehive! Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline.
Maintain discipline. Defeat Shizu. Disciplinedisciplinedisciplinediscipline. Dammit!
No, no. Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline. Maintain Discipling. Oh, I made a mistake.
I'm going to start working on a charm. I'll use this purple pen to write 'Defeat Shizu' a thousand times. I'll then burn the note and bury it in the east side of my yard, at which point my wish will come true. I'm sure it will.
Done! Maintain discipline. Maintain discipline.
"Finally! I'm finally finished!"
"Hmm… I'm sure this will suffice. Yeah!"
"Defeat Shizu-I mean, it seems I've finished my homework."
The three shouted at once, at different locations. Immediately afterwards, they shouted in unison:
"I can't hand in this thing!"
"I can't hand in something like this…"
"I don't think I can hand in something like this…"
September 1st, 12:00AM. Once the sun rose, a new, excruciating term would begin.
A lone girl sat at a curry restaurant.
She was a pretty girl in her mid-teens with short black hair. She was wearing slightly loose beige cargo pants and a black T-shirt.
Printed on the shirt were the words "Permission to Fire" written in white Gothic font. Printed on the back were the words "But don't shoot us - From the Officers <3" written in tiny red Mincho font.
Around the girl's waist was a belt with a holster. The leather holster housed a revolver-type model gun. From the belt hung several small green pouches.
Also hanging from the belt was a small cell phone strap. It had a simple design of green leather and yellow metal.
The store was a small, cozy place that had only recently opened for business. There were five seats at the counter and four 4-person tables. The tidy and sparkling state of the tables were testament to the restaurant's recent opening.
This restaurant, called Surugaya, had only opened on the first of August. A part-time worker had been handing out flyers labelled "Grand Opening! Raw Eggs are Free all Month!" at the station every morning to promote the store.
The girl was sitting alone at a table, her back to the window. The white lace curtains softened the September sunlight.
It was 2:00PM. It was still hot outside. The sound of cicadas echoed into the air-conditioned restaurant.
"Miss… Kino, was it…? Are you absolutely sure? I hope you know what you're doing."
Standing in front of the girl was the apron-clad store owner. He was the one questioning her.
The owner was a rotund man in his forties who had quit his job to open this restaurant. His name was Mr. Suzuki. He was from Shizuoka. He always had a good-natured smile on his face, but right now he looked a little tense.
The girl named Kino answered tersely as she looked up. From her grip she released three Japanese bills, upon which were printed a portrait of Noguchi Hideyo, and placed them on the table.
"Here you go."
She added 150 yen's worth of coins on top of the bills to hold them down.
"I understand. I will say no more. Which flavour would you like?"
"… Understood. Please wait a moment."
The owner was momentarily dumbstruck. However, he soon nodded and yelled out clearly to the kitchen, audible to the other patrons--
"One challenge menu! 'Mount Fuji' in Pork!"
There was a stir among the other patrons.
The three men who were eating curry in their seats suddenly stopped moving their spoons. A pair of college students still waiting for their meals at a table began whispering to each other.
"Looks like someone's going for it."
"No way… a kid like her?"
Their eyes, wide with shock, wandered onto the menu beside the table. They then scanned the first words written at the very top.
An Extra-Extra-Extra Large Special Curry, Mount Fuji!
3 Kilograms of Specialty Fried Rice Curry! 2 Kilograms of Roux! (Available in Chicken, Beef, Seafood, and Vegetable flavours)."
Underneath the words was a photograph of the curry dish named "Mount Fuji".
Curry-flavoured fried rice containing diced meat and egg was heaped upon a platter-sized dish. A huge helping of curry roux lined the edges, and melted cheese topped the rice in a way that made it look like the snow that capped Mount Fuji.
It cost 3150 yen with tax. And--
"Limited to one try per customer. Finish it in 20 minutes and it's on the house! You'll receive 3000 yen as prize money. You must not leave even a single grain of rice or spill anything off the plate in order to qualify."
Following the warning were the words,
"When you'd like to take the challenge, please say your name and place 3150 yen on the table. Only those who are ready to pay are worthy to eat!"
"Apparently they've had about 30 challengers so far, but only two people managed to finish it…"
"Yeah. They say the oily fried rice, the meat and the egg, and the huge serving of cheese makes it really tough to finish. And the pork flavour's probably the toughest of them all, considering how much meat goes into the dish… I don't think anyone's managed that one."
"Does that girl know what she's getting herself into?"
The college students whispered to each other as they drew a nervous breath.
Kino herself was calmly looking at the Fukujinzuke(1) with her hands on her lap.
From the kitchen echoed the owner's voice, saying things like, "What are you doing? You need to add more rice to the skillet on the left!", and "Put the roux on standby!".
The men eating curry were also on edge. They compared their own plates with the photograph on the menu and frowned at the overwhelming difference.
"Thanks for waiting! Here's your 'Mount Fuji'!"
The owner personally carried over the terrifying object with both hands. The plate was as wide as the owner's shoulders. The fried rice was stacked higher than the plate was wide, and it was all topped with a thick layer of cheese. The roux splashed, threatening to spill out of the plate, and square pieces of pork lined the flat surfaces.
"What the hell is that…?"
"A-a wedding cake…?!"
The other customers looked at the dish like it was a UFO.
When the owner put the plate onto the table, the table legs squeaked. He then took out a stopwatch from his pocket.
"Are you ready?"
Kino answered calmly.
"I'd like to ask one thing before I begin. May I have a cup of water, without ice?"
There was already a glass of water on the table, but it was full of ice. The owner cocked his head, but brought over a cup of water. He put it on Kino's right, beside the gigantic plate.
"Thank you very much."
Kino thanked the owner and quietly reached for the spoon. She took hold of it.
The owner raised an eyebrow.
Normally, people would hold a spoon the same way they held a pen. However, Kino held it with a reverse grip--almost as if she was holding an ice pick. Not only that, the back of the spoon was pointed towards her.
Kino slowly took the spoon and dipped the end in the glass of water she just received.
Sitting in front of the dish, spoon still held in the water, Kino answered.
It was a strange pose, one that the owner had never seen before. It was a completely new speed-eating stance.
The owner, holding the stopwatch, was captivated by the strange sight that unfolded before him.
'This girl's no ordinary human . She's fought her way through countless bloody dishes in her lifetime', his intuition told him. His palms began sweating. He had never encountered such a formidable foe before. 'She's a monster!' His brain cried out.
The five customers also looked at Kino, the curry, and the owner. They didn't want to miss this battle, even if their own dishes were to go as cold as ice.
The owner drew a deep breath.
For a single moment, the sound cicadas went silent.
The restaurant was enveloped in stillness.
"Begin!" The owner cried.
Kino let out a sharp breath as she drew the spoon from the glass of water.
A single drop of water fell from the spoon, and left ripples on the surface of the water.
And before the first wave had reached the edge of the cup--
Kino began eating.
And she finished it all. Quick as always.
Having filled her belly and found herself some extra spending money, Kino was taking a carefree walk through the park.
"That was delicious! I'm 100% satisfied!"
The holster at her side shook.
It was a large park that was between the curry restaurant and the school, surrounded by newly-built apartment buildings. Despite the heat, children laughed energetically as they ran around playing.
Kino was wearing a hat to avoid the searing sunlight.
It was a blue baseball cap. Over the front were the words "Panjandrum out of control! Explosion at the waterside!" written in red italics. Where do they sell hats like this? I don't know. If you want one, you should make it yourself.
Kino looked up at the fluffy white clouds in the sky and spoke.
"It's not fair that I only get to try once. Right, Hermes?"
"They'll go out of business if they let you do that, Kino." said a young boy's voice from just beside Kino. However, all of the children were at a distance from her. Kino was definitely walking alone.
Kino, completely unsurprised by the disembodied voice, answered Hermes.
"Then maybe that's just their destiny."
"You're so cruel." Hermes answered, dumbfounded. Shockingly enough, this voice was coming from the cell phone strap hanging from Kino's belt. Hermes was the cell phone strap.
"They're serving dumplings for dinner today. The dorm's dumpling are the best, and there's unlimited refills." said Kino.
"Only you could think about food after eating all that curry, Kino." Hermes was dumfounded.
Kino, who lived at the school dorms, normally ate all three meals at the school cafeteria. However, meals on weekends had to be ordered beforehand, to accommodate students who were going out for the day. So Kino would not get any lunch if she did not sign up by the morning of the day. Of course, she didn't sign up today because of the Challenge Menu.
Kino normally had dinner at the cafeteria between 6:00PM and 7:30PM. As a side note, she could get unlimited refills of, rice, miso soup, and salted vegetables.
"That's a completely different matter. Besides, I already paid for my meal, so it'd be a waste not to eat it, right? The word 'waste' is famous around the world, you know, just like 'Tsunami'."
A camera was looking at the food-loving Kino (and Hermes) from afar.
It was an apartment near the park, in a room that Kino couldn't see very well because of the sunlight. A suspicious lens was sticking out from between the dark curtains and was pointed at Kino.
The room was devoid of furniture. In the room was an expensive-looking (1000000 yen+) telescopic lens resembling a bazooka, mounted on a tripod. Beside it was attached a popular single lens reflex digital camera.
A person was looking into the camera's viewfinder in this dark room. From the curvy figure they showed in their dark clothing, she was most likely a woman.
"Hm… so that's her, huh? The lone Warrior of Justice…"
The mumbling voice was definitely that of a young woman.
She looked at Kino through the viewfinder with her right eye and pressed the switch with the remote she was holding.
"Kino, stop moving for a second. Turn 72 degrees to your left, look up 14 degrees, smile, and hold up a 'V'." Hermes said suddenly.
"Just do it."
Kino did as she was told, smiled, and held up a 'V'.
The camera snapped a photo.
The preview screen showed a great photo of a smiling Kino looking directly at the camera. Charm practically oozed out of the picture.
"She's pretty good…"
The mystery woman muttered, and smiled.
The curtains closed silently.
"You can stop now, Kino."
Kino put her hand down and continued walking. She then asked Hermes the obvious question.
"What was that all about, Hermes?"
"It's a secret. Looks like things are going to get lively around here."
"What are you talking about?"
"It's a secret."
The model gun-toting, food-loving high school student Kino, who transforms into a mysterious Warrior of Justice, and the talking cell phone strap-slash-mascot, Hermes. This is their gunsmoke-filled tale.
Continued in Chapter 4.
Continued in Chapter 4.
(1) A mix of pickled vegetables commonly served with curry.