Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Gakuen Kino Chapter Five Part One

We're already halfway through volume 2! Enjoy part 1 of chapter five.

-----

[I want you to come with me…]

Kino declared.

They were on the centre of the school gymnasium's stage.

The same old sailor uniform, the same old model gun, and the same old belt with pouches.

The clock on the wall pointed to some hour in the evening. Outside the window, the skies were dyed a beautiful red. It was after school, on a quiet September day.

[…]

Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou adoringly looked straight into Kino's eyes and smiled softly.

He and Kino were standing a single metre apart from each other.

The same old white shirt and grey pants, the same old shiny white hair.

Inuyama slowly raised his hands to tightly grasp Kino's arm.

"Yes! I would go anywhere with you!"

"STOOOOOP!" Chako-sensei yelled at the top of her lungs.

She was in front of the stage, standing on the gymnasium floor.

This beautiful woman in her early twenties with white hair and emerald-green eyes was wearing a completely unappealing set of sweats.

As this school had no set gym uniform, it meant that the sweatshirt and sweatpants belonged the the teacher herself. Large letters in kanji on the back of the sweatshirt read 'National Air Force'. Who knows where she could have bought such a thing? Even the author wants to know.

For some reason, Chako-sensei was holding a bamboo sword.

She slammed the floor with it.

Upon closer inspection, the words 'Property of the Kendo Club' were written on the hilt. In other words, this was stolen property.

"Inuyama! Don't change around the dialogue like that! Your line is supposed to be an anxious 'You mean I'm going to have to chase you around everywhere, right?'! He doesn't want to do anything bad, but he's too nice to refuse--that's the kind of characterization you're supposed to be conveying to the audience!" Chako-sensei yelled ferociously.

"Oh… I'm sorry. That was my mistake." Inuyama apologized, as if having just figured this out. His hands were still tightly clasped around Kino's.

"Let go!"

Kino shook him off angrily. She then created some distance between herself and Inuyama.

"My goodness." Shizu muttered quietly from the side. There were few in this world who were more suited than him to be described as 'calm'.

As usual, Shizu wore a white standing-collar uniform and had a sheathed katana strapped to his belt. A lone dove flew by behind him. In slow motion, at that.

Shizu was holding the script for a play.

The photocopied play's title was 'Allison'(1).

"There's not much time left until the Culture Festival! I'm gonna go extra hard on you from now on! I'll make this play a success even if it kills you!" Chako-sensei yelled again.

Twelve days left until the Culture Festival.

-----

Narration: Kino

"The big eater fights another day.

Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino, the Warrior of Justice, the Professional Demon Slayer.

She sees right through evil schemes!

She escapes perilous traps!

She bravely duels hideous demons!

What will our death-defying Tough Girl eat today?"

-----

<Dramatis Personae>

Kino
A female student in her fourth year (first year of high school). The main character of this story.

An extremely normal girl who had learned marksmanship from her grandmother and now attends school wearing a holstered model gun and a belt with pouches containing countless live firearms.

She transforms into the warrior of justice, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino, and along with her talking cell phone strap Hermes, she fights day and night turning demons who have fallen to temptation back to their human selves.

-Skills: 
Marksmanship, eating a lot (before transformation)
Marksmanship, eating a lot (after transformation)


Hermes
A mysterious talking cell phone strap. A guide of sorts for Kino, having given her the power to transform and fight the demons.

The only sane man(only sane cell phone strap) in this work. As this story is filled with crazies, the author is having a lot of trouble giving him something to do. Somebody help me.

Sometimes he transforms into a motorcycle to give Kino a ride. Limited to battle situations.

-Skills:
Going to sleep and waking up early


Shizu
A male student in his sixth year (third year of high school).

Possessed of extremely handsome looks, he is the school's most brilliant and popular student who always carries around a katana.

He is an unflappable and aloof existence, but for some reason, when he is with his underclassman Kino, with whom he has little in common, the background starts getting sparkly?

Shizu's secret identity, however, is the (self-proclaimed) Warrior of Justice, Samoyed Mask.

His ceaseless interruptions during times of demonic invasion have earned him the only spot on Kino's hit list. His greatest fear is Ti, the very sight of whom is enough to shock him into immobility.

-Skills:
Playing innocent (Shizu)
Perversion (Samoyed Mask)


Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou

A male student who transferred from Belgium into Kino's class just before summer break. A prettyboy with long white hair. While not quite at Shizu's level, he's still very popular.

Kino hates him because he sticks around her and follows her all the time. He is also terrifyingly obsessed with Shizu, but it's a mystery as to why. If I say it's a mystery, it is a mystery.

-Skills:
Stalking Kino, transforming into a dog


Detective Wanwan

A mysterious young man with white hair who dresses in black and wears sunglasses. He has mastered the dangerous technique known as the Septuple-Gun Fist Style, which involves dual-wielding guns and even dodging bullets.

He assists Kino and is targeting Samoyed Mask. Is he an enemy or ally? However, he is still a reliable friend to Kino. The background starts getting sparkly when they're together?


Kuroshima Chako

An English teacher in her early twenties who suddenly started teaching at this school at the beginning of volume 2.

A beautiful, mature woman with white hair and emerald-green eyes who is quite popular with the students.

For some reason, she likes Inuyama so much that she leans against his back and puts her chin on his head.

-Skills:
Chattering, getting next to Inuyama and rubbing her cheeks against his hair


Ti

A mysterious girl who appeared on the battlefield without warning. She is a stoic girl who speaks very little. Appears to be about twelve years old, and has white hair and emerald-green eyes. Doesn't even look at monsters twice, as she plays with grenades like they were marbles.

It seems she might have a past with Samoyed Mask. He is terrified of her. For some reason she always climbs over Detective Wanwan and rubs her cheeks on his hair.

-Skills:
Almost complete silence, grenades, climbing onto Detective Wanwan's back and rubbing her cheeks against his hair

-----

Gakuen Kino Chapter 5: The Girl with a Thousand Guns
-Role Playing Game-
-----

"There's not much time left until the Culture Festival! I'm gonna go extra hard on you from now on! I'll make this play a success even if it kills you!"

It was about one week before the sweatshirt-clad Chako-sensei shouted thus in the gymnasium.

-----

"Ms. Principal! I ask that you make a decision!"

Chako-sensei yelled, wearing a green suit jacket and miniskirt.

Sitting across the luxurious mahogany desk was the 65-year old principal.

She was a woman just beginning her senior years, dressed in grey business wear, wearing round glasses, and having dyed purple hair.

"But you see, Chako-sensei…" the principal trailed off, glancing at the desk.

On the mahogany surface was a single piece of paper.

'Take Action Now Club Proposal Form'

The form, boldly titled thus, listed the name of the club and the proposals regarding its activities, as per school policy.

Extracurricular Club Name: Take Action Now Club
Activities to be Undertaken: A bunch of things that don't overlap with existing club activities. Or a bunch of things that overlap with existing club activities. Decided on a day-by-day basis.
Proposal Submitted by: Kuroshima Chako
Members (min. 3): Kuroshima will take responsibility for recruitment, so this is not an issue.
Supervising Teacher: Kuroshima Chako

"The contents of this form are, well…"

It wasn't strange for the principal to be so uncertain. Only a certain kind of principal would unquestioningly put a stamp of approval on a form like this.

"But why? It doesn't break any existing rules! No problems whatsoever!"

"Well, you see…" the principal began, but she went silent.

"…"

Chako-sensei did not speak a word as she took out another set of papers from her pocket.

"What is this?" the principal received the files, confused.

And once she had finished reading--

"Hm? Whaaat?!"

She changed her tune pretty quickly.

It was four minutes later that the principal put her stamp of approval on the application form.

The 'Take Action Now Club' was born.

-----

The next day…

"…And that's how I started an extracurricular club.  I'll explain more about it now."

"Kuroshima-sensei… aren't we in the middle of English class?"

The bespectacled president of Kino's class and the teacher exchanged words.

"Don't worry about it."

"Oh… okay."

The president, who seemed to have given up, did not object any further.

Written on the blackboard in gigantic lettering were the words 'Celebrate the birth of the Take Action Now Club! Join the first wave of new members! Congratulations! Don't forget to add an 's' to pluralize!'.

Meanwhile, Inuyama, sitting right in front of the teacher's podium--

"…"

Was silently reading a completely unrelated book.

For reference, the title of this book was 'Get Started Today! Simple Vengeance that even You can Enact! - Application Version'. It was a very thick volume. From the look of the sheer number of post-its sticking out of the pages, it was also very well-read.

Chako-sensei was balancing her chin on top of Inuyama's head.

It was now routine in this English class for Inuyama to sit facing the class, acting as chin-rest for Chako-sensei.

Inuyama himself didn't try to resist anymore, either. All he did was turn his desk around before class and work on something else as Chako-sensei taught from the top of his head. After all, being fluent in English, German, French, and Dutch, Inuyama didn't need to learn anything from this class.

"So that's why, according to school regulations, I need at least three members for this club. But the problem is, I don't have three people yet!" said Chako-sensei.

Normally, it would be the students that register for a school club and struggle to find a supervisor. In this case, however, it was the total opposite--a supervisor and a club with zero students.

"That's why I decided that all I need to do is gather members myself! A Super Ultra C-Class Solution! Isn't it brilliant?"

You call this brilliant?

Several of the students sighed, but the person chatting up front was entirely unfazed.

"I'm recruiting club members in this class, too! Does anyone want to join? I don't mind if you're already in another club!"

Silence.

Of course, no one answered.

They didn't particularly dislike the bright and energetic Chako-sensei, but it was too much to just join a club they knew nothing about.

"Hm… that was a surprisingly disappointing reaction… you're all so cruel…" Chako-sensei pouted, still resting her chin on Inuyama's head.

They weren't cruel, just composed and level-headed.

That's what the students all wanted to say, but they backed out.

Kino, being her usual self, sat glassy-eyed at the aisle seat at the very back of the classroom, as if none of this had anything to do with her. Her head was occupied with thoughts of delicious-looking dumplings from a restaurant called Utsunomiya, a shop recently featured on TV. And the dumpling statue that was apparently in front of the station.

"Well, that's unfortunate. I have no choice but to abuse my right as a teacher and pick a couple of you to join!" Chako-sensei smiled broadly. She raised her right hand, spun it around a few times, and--

"Ta-da! I choose you!"

Her pointer finger was aimed directly at--

"Huh? Me? Wha-?"

the sleepy-eyed Kino.

"Kino! from now on, you are Member #2 of the honourable Take Action Now Club!"

"Wha-?!"

Of course, Kino rightly got up off her seat and defended her freedom.

"Wait a second! I don't have time for extracurricular activities!"

Although Kino was not enrolled in any other clubs, it would be difficult for her to juggle her unpredictable responsibilities as a warrior of justice and go to extracurricular activities. Of course, Kino was not particularly partial to the idea of joining such a suspicious club to begin with, but she refrained from saying this so as to keep the atmosphere from descending even further.

"Don't worry about that! You won't have a rigorous schedule like the athletic clubs! Attendance won't always be mandatory."

"…"

Kino now had no choice but to tell the truth.

"Let me be honest, sensei. I don't want to join some club that keeps its activities a secret. I'm sorry, but I'll have to decline."

"Oh… why couldn't you just join since I picked you out? It's an extracurricular club in name, but we're just going to be doing this and that and have a fun time together. Well, Member #2?"

"Who are you calling #2?" Kino asked, and suddenly thought of something.

"Wait… if I'm #2, then does that mean someone else has already joined?"

"Yep!"

"Who?" Kino asked out of curiosity. What kind of weirdo could have joined such a suspicious club?

"Who? Well, he's a sixth-year student. I ran into him in the hallway yesterday as soon as I created the club, and asked him, 'Lookin' good, bro. Wanna join the Take Action Now Club?'. He said yes immediately."

"Oh… I see…"

Kino was now even more vehemently opposed to joining a club with a weirdo like this student, and was about to voice her thoughts--

"His name is Shizu, and he carries around a katana."

A small commotion swept over the classroom. The most popular guy in school, the Prettyboy Samurai! Shizu, the Katana Nobleman, was in a suspicious club like this? Everyone had thought that Shizu would remain a cold lone wolf who refrained from join any clubs.

"Member #1 is Shizu, and #2 is Kino."

"…"

Kino hesitated for a moment.

The other students continued to chatter.

"Extracurricular activities with Shizu-senpai… sounds nice, but the club name's a little suspicious…"

"I'm kinda jealous… but a club led by Chako-sensei?"

The students gossiped.

"…"

Kino silently fell into doubt.

Shizu-senpai, after all, was a kind gentleman who defended her from Inuyama, and was most definitely not a bad person.

"Then it's decided! Kino will be Member #2. You may only voice your objections in the next five seconds. 54321-!" she began counting down and finished in an instant.

In the end, Kino could not escape. She was now Member #2.

"You okay, Kino?" Hermes asked, quietly enough so that only Kino could hear.

"Oh. Well, yeah! I guess it couldn't hurt to have fun, right? Even a warrior of justice needs to take a breather every now and then. Yeah, that's right."

"That so? Don't say I didn't warn you." Hermes said cooly.

Chako-sensei raised her voice in excitement.

"Looks like I have two members now. As for the third one…"

"I would like to join!"

The sudden declaration had come from the teacher's chin-rest, Inuyama. There had been a glint in his eye the moment he had heard the name 'Shizu', and Inuyama set his book aside as he made known his desire to join the club.

"Great! Good for you! Inuyama is now officially Member #3! All right! I've finally collected my students!"

Chako-sensei looked really happy, judging from the way she was rubbing her chin on Inuyama's head.

"Ack! Wait! If Inuyama's joining, I don't-" Kino began to argue, and at the same time--

"Sensei! I (we) want to join too!" the other female students simultaneously offered themselves for membership despite the unusual nature of the club, all for Shizu and Inuyama.

"Sorry, everyone! I want to start things off with as small a group as possible. This is the end of the first recruitment session!" Chako-sensei's energetic voice dashed the hopes of many students.

The girls sighed.

"…"

Kino sat in the back, dazed and lost for words.

"Don't say I didn't warn you." Hermes repeated cooly.

-----

That day, after school.

The Take Action Now Club held its first official meeting.

The location was the library, today's designated meeting place.

It's quite shocking that a place that should be reserved for students who wish to study could be forcefully re-appropriated by a tiny club that had just been founded. What could have Chako-sensei shown the principal to gain such influence?

If someone who didn't know about the current situation were to open the library doors, they would be greeted by a surprising sight. Through the library doors was a Host Club--I mean, the Take Action Now Club.

Of course, a note saying, 'Take Action Now Club Meeting in Progress. Do Not Disturb.' was posted on the library door.

They had taken the table in the centre of the library, in front of the counter. Kino sat in the middle, with the calm Shizu on her left and the bloodthirsty Inuyama on her right.

Standing in front of the counter was the supervisor and founder of this strange and suspicious club, Chako-sensei.

"I hereby announce the first official meeting of our honourable club!" Chako-sensei began. Kino immediately raised her hand.

"Yes, #2?"

"…Am I stuck with that name…? Anyway, I have a question. What does this club do, exactly?"

"What do we do? That's easy. We all have a fun, wonderful time together and create precious, heart-racing memories of our fleeting youth. Who's the one being all wishy-washy here?"

"Wait. So… specifically…?

"Oh! I bet you're anxious, Kino! I understand completely. The only girl surrounded by a couple of handsome boys! But don't worry. I won't keep you too late after school. Even if you have to stay until later, I'll lie for you and tell the dormitory caretakers that I'm staying with you!"

Kino could not bring herself to say 'No, wait a second'.

Chako-sensei continued nonchalantly, sparing no thought for Kino's feelings.

"I've already picked out a project for us! There's no need to panic."

"What kind of project?"

"Well… that's…" Chako-sensei trailed off.

"What is it? Hurry up and tell us, please." Kino asked. She questioned mercilessly.

A droplet of sweat ran down Chako-sensei's face.

"If you haven't decided on something, I'd like to leave this club-" just as Kino was getting up to leave, however--

"Wait! This! This is our project!"

Chako-sensei had grabbed one of the books that had been stacked in the returns bin beside the counter. It was Dengeki Bunko #644, ISBN 4-8402-2060-3.

Shizu glanced, Kino cocked her head, and Inuyama narrowed his eyes at the book Chako-sensei was holding.

The cover featured a girl with blond hair and blue eyes, wearing a leather pilot's jacket. The tile was--

'Allison'

Chako-sensei raised the book into the air.

"So what about this book?" Kino asked coldly.

"Huh? Oh… well…" Chako-sensei began panicking.

"Um… you see…"

And about four seconds of awkward mumbling later--

"A play! That's right, we'll put on a play together! At the upcoming Culture Festival!"

"Sensei… I have a question…"

"What is it, Kino?"

"Why a play…?"

"That's a good question. It's because this school doesn't have a performing arts club. If our elite, brand-spanking new club were to do something that overlapped with another club, we'd end up discouraging the other clubs, right? We can't do something so mean."

"Sensei… I have a question…"

"What is it, Kino?"

"Do you have any experience in theatre or directing plays…?"

"Nope! But that's only a detail as minuscule as a paramecium. Our Take Action Now Club has three mottos! First, don't be afraid to try new things! Second, take action as soon as you think of something! Third, believe in our own possibilities! Fourth, nothing is impossible when you trust your teammates. Fifth, don't let other people's opinions sway you. Oh! Sorry, there's actually five mottos. Five!"

"Sensei… I have a question…"

"What is it, Kino?"

"Can I leave now?"

"No. Now, let me pick out your roles. Kino will be playing the role of our heroine, Allison! Inuyama will play her childhood friend and crush, a boy named Wil! And Shizu will be Benedict, Wil's rival in love--a pilot from an enemy country who flirts with Allison. I want you to finish reading this novel by tomorrow. Dismissed!"

-----

The story finally returns to the gymnasium.

[Yeah… let's go together…] Kino recited in monotone with a stony face, completely removed from the emotion of the scene. As a side note, everything inside [ ]s are lines from the script.

Kino unwillingly reached out towards Inuyama's face.

[Yeah…]

Inuyama took her hand and smiled brightly.

"I would follow you into the depths of Hell!"

"NO--!"

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

Chako-sensei's bamboo sword smacked the ground.

"Wil's line is supposed to be 'But don't do anything rash'! How many times do I have to tell you, Inuyama? Stop changing around your lines!"

"Please excuse me. I just had difficulty suppressing my love for Kino…" Inuyama replied with a straight face.

"Arghhh…" Kino frowned, turning away.

But the criticism hit Kino next.

"And as for you, Kino, try to be a little more bittersweet!  Do you understand? The character of Allison is Wil's childhood friend, but they're living far apart now and she's desperate to make her feelings known to him! Because she's a pilot, she could die at any time in battle or an accident. That's why she's trying so hard to tell Wil her feelings, but she can't bring herself to be honest! Everything she does goes over his head! You have to convey this girl's feelings to the audience!" Chako-sensei lectured. Kino, however, was not convinced.

"I don't think it's possible. Three reasons. Number one, I've never acted before. Number two, I'm supposed to act like this towards Inuyama. Sorry, I only had two reasons. But the second reason is good enough for two." Kino said stoically, and Inuyama grasped his head with a "That's so mean, Kino".

"I conveyed my feelings to you, right? Could you sign now?"

"The customer you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time. Please try again later."

"No way…"

As Kino and Chako-sensei make up situational gags--

"Sensei. May I try my hand at a scene as well?" Shizu asked.

"Well…"

Chako-sensei fell into thought. She had planned for an intensive practice session for the scenes with Benedict, but she shrugged it off and agreed to Shizu's proposal.

"Inuyama, switch out with Shizu."

"But sensei! I can do it! I can play the part of Wil!"

"Never mind, just switch!"

Inuyama reluctantly walked off the stage. Shizu lightly made his way atop the platform and placed his script on the floor.

"Let's do our best, Kino."

He encouraged her with a cool, gentle smile.

"Oh, yes. Right."

Kino quickly bowed to him. Inuyama looked at them with an openly sour expression.

"Okay! Scene 12, a flashback to their first meeting! Begin!"

Chako-sensei ordered. Kino rushed to pick up her script off the floor and turned to scene 12.

Shizu took a step towards Kino with an ever-calm expression. He then said dandily:

[Excuse me, would you happen to be the daughter of Colonel Rosemeitz?]

Shizu's acting skills were undeniably top-notch.  He had become the handsome, flirtatious, and slightly wily enemy pilot, Benedict. He was perfect. There could be no better actor to play this role.

"Um…" Kino mumbled quietly, and hurriedly read her line from the script.

[No, I'm a pilot.]

She really did read her line. Textbook recitation. A textbook recitation of a textbook reading.

[My apologies! Your Bezelese is as perfect as you are beautiful. Perhaps I could apologize for this mistake by treating you to a cup of tea. I'm sure it will warm you up immensely.]

Shizu, meanwhile, was on a roll. His perfectly balanced and emotional acting was Oscar-grade.

"…"

Hearing this from the extremely handsome Shizu, Kino's heart was slightly--actually, it was all-out racing.

"Um… [Just a cup, then]." she managed to read her line, despite being flustered.

"Stop! Shizu, that was excellent!"

Chako-sensei praised him.

"…"

Inuyama was quietly glaring at Shizu with a sour expression, from under Chako-sensei's chin. Looks like Chako-sensei hasn't forgotten to hug him from behind. She then began to criticize Kino.

"Kino! You can't act so smitten! Allison's not interested in Benedict at all!"

"W-who are you calling s-smitten?!" Kino denied the accusation. But she was stuttering a bit too much for it to have any effect.

Shizu was as calm and composed as always, flicking his hair.

"Not good… how are we going to finish practicing for next week's Culture Festival with our heroine Allison looking like this…?"

"That's why I said from the start, this is impossible!" Kino raised her voice. "It's not too late! Can't we try something else? Oh yeah! How about a yakisoba booth? I can make really good yakisoba, you know? My grandma taught me herself! I can do everything but the seasoning! So please? Please?" Kino argued on the stage. There was more emotion in this small argument than the entirety of her acting today.

"I really need a Super Ultra C-Class Solution this time… What should I do?"

Chako-sensei, however, was not listening at all. She was lost deep in thought with her chin resting on Inuyama's head.

"I got it!" She looked up suddenly, shouting happily.

Inuyama looked up at her from under her head, and Shizu and Kino gave her their full attention from atop the stage.

Chako-sensei's solution was--

"We'll have a Genepro!"

"What's a Genepro?" Kino asked.

"Genepro

 The original word is Generalprobe. It is a loanword from German that has been shortened into Genepro in the Japanese language. It is a rehearsal that goes through the entirety of the work, from beginning to end. Also known as a Dress Rehearsal." Shizu replied with his seemingly infinite supply of trivial knowledge.

"Yeah, that's what it is!" Chako-sensei agreed. "We'll run through the entire play as a dress rehearsal next Monday after school! We'll show it to an audience of students and get some feedback from them."

"Wait a second!"

"Kino! I can't just leave things the way they are now! As a lioness drops her cubs from a cliff, I'll give you a difficult assignment to challenge you and spur growth! For a new future! For Meteorology! Uh… in any case, let's give it a go!"

Chako-sensei was as unpersuasive as usual. Kino sighed.

"That sounds like a good idea." Shizu agreed suddenly. 'What?' Kino stared at Shizu, jaw on the floor.

"I believe it will be a good way to gain more hands-on experience. Rehearsing on our own, we are cut off from the anxiety and stress that will be upon us in a live performance. A dress rehearsal will give us ample training for the final performance." Shizu spoke like a true honour student, almost disgustingly calm.

Inuyama, still under Chako-sensei's chin, added to this.

"That's a good idea. I'm also in agreement. If we can finish this without any interruptions, I'm sure we will be able to improve for the real performance."  there was a great deal of bloodlust radiating from the words 'without any interruptions'. Shizu was as stoic as ever, perhaps not even noticing.

"Then it's decided!" Chako-sensei concluded quickly. Kino, taken aback, complained.

"W-wait a second! What about my opinion? I'm against this--it's impossible! We haven't even memorized the script yet!"

"You just have to memorize it by Monday. You have Saturday and Sunday--two whole days!"

"That's not possible!" Kino replied, holding up the relatively thick script. The play was two hours long, and the heroine Allison had many, many lines.

"Oh, is it? What about you two? Shizu?" Chako-sensei asked condescendingly.

"I've already finished memorizing." Shizu answered firmly. 

Inuyama followed up with his own answer.

"I'm almost finished. Two days are more than enough time."

Kino, who hated to lose, was slightly aggravated.

"It's still not possible! --I'm quitting this play, sensei! And I'm quitting this club, too! A lot of people want to join now, so there shouldn't be a problem with membership!"

Kino flat-out declared her feelings on the matter. After all, Chako-sensei seemed ready to drag her around if she didn't draw the line somewhere. Kino had raised the flag of rebellion.

Kino expected that Chako-sensei would resort to another stupid and illogical explanation to reject her cause. However--

"Is that so? That's too bad."

Surprisingly, Chako-sensei seemed to be taking it quite well. However, just as Kino saw her glint of hope--

"I was going to offer this as a reward after the performance…"

Chako-sensei produced from her pocket a single ticket. Chinese characters were written on the shiny golden piece of paper.

The three students looked at this scrap.

"Oh! Th-that's aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

The one who reacted like sodium in water was, of course, Kino.

Chako-sensei smiled.

"What about that piece of paper?" Hermes asked Kino quietly. Kino's followed up with something that was more of an excited rant than a reply.

"Th-that's… a free full-course meal ticket to the ridiculously popular five-star Chinese restaurant that just opened shop in front of the station! They gave out ten of those awesome tickets through a lottery when the shop opened! Free food and infinite refills at this restaurant that's been booked completely for the next year! The legendary Platinum Ticket that lets you eat at the VIP room without making a reservation!"

Kino worked herself into a frenzy.

"More food?" Hermes was dumbstruck.

"It certainly is delicious! I knew you'd appreciate it, Kino! As I expected from the girl who's conquered every single restaurant in the station area!"

"Huh?! How'd you know about that, sensei-"

"That doesn't matter. Also, I obtained this ticket through individual means. It's definitely authentic, and only valid until next Monday. One ticket will admit up to four guests."

Gulp. Kino swallowed. The sound echoed throughout the gym like a gunshot.

"S-sensei… I-I'm actually n-not doing anything M-Monday night…" Kino spoke, voice trembling.

Chako-sensei's reply was nonchalant.

"What a coincidence. Neither am I…"

"Th-then-"

"Well… it'd be a waste to just let it expire, so I'm planning to go on Monday. This place has top-notch food in general, but their pork dumplings are supposed to be the cream of the crop. Anyone who's taken a bite is enchanted by its taste! It was on that TV special the other day, too."

"Th-th-th-th-th-then…"

"I don't have a boyfriend to go with or anything… so why don't we all go as a club after the dress rehearsal? Sound good?"

Da-dun! (sfx) Had Kino ever been this shocked in her entire life? No. Not once.

"Oh? Would that be all right with you, Kuroshima-sensei?" Shizu asked.

"Of course! You deserve it for practicing so hard. We'll go together."

"Am I included as well?"

"You bet! You're an important member too, Inuyama. Let's go together. I'll feed you myself."

Kino ground her teeth as she listened to Chako-sensei overtly provoking her. Her teeth would give away any second now. Oh! They've begun cracking.

"Sensei…" Kino began reluctantly.

"I won't abandon my duty in the middle of practice! I'll finish my job perfectly until the end! Dress rehearsal? Memorization? That's all a piece of cake! There's no way I couldn't do that!" she spat quickly, steam escaping her nostrils.

"Really? That's wonderful! I don't think we'll be able to find anyone as talented as you, Kino. Then Monday after school it is!"

"Yeah! And after that?"

"The four of us go out for dinner together with the ticket. Well then, today's practice is over!" Chako-sensei announced the end of the session, waving the ticket in the air.

-----

Kino walked down the hill towards the dormitory, the streets illuminated by the setting sun.

Shizu had returned home on his own and Inuyama was still being held hostage by Chako-sensei.

"Are you sure you can memorize it all by Monday, Kino?" Hermes asked quietly, so as to not be heard by the occasional passing student. Kino's answer was immediate.

"No way! Who'd be able to do that? Who do you think I am, Hermes?"

"Don't say something so weak with such a confident voice! What are you thinking?"

"I have you, Hermes! Everything will be fine as long as you memorize it and tell me the lines quietly!"

"So… you're cheating? Isn't that kind of underhanded?"

"If I get it done, I'll get to eat at a five-star Chinese restaurant! I can eat pork dumplings! I'm sure that's a completely valid excuse!"

"Riiight…"

Two days passed by in a flash. It was Monday.

The Take Action Now Club's first dress rehearsal would begin.

-----

"That's quite the turnout."

Chako-sensei was looking at the audience from the curtained side area beside the stage.

Chairs had been set up in the gymnasium, and while it was not nearly the entirety of the student body, a fair number of students had gathered to watch. There were students even on the second floor, which was usually reserved for watching sporting events.

They had all come to watch the dress rehearsal of the Take Action Now Club's performance of Allison. However, the crowd was overwhelmingly female in composition. The rest were male students and several teachers, including the principal.

Actually, posters had been put up in the halls this morning, guerrilla-style.

At the bottom of the poster were the words 'Celebrating the founding of the Take Action Now Club! An open dress rehearsal of the club's first activity! Come to the gym after school.'

Added in excited font were the words, 'Free entry!'.

'Title: Allison. Original Story by: A Gun Otaku. Producer, Director and et cetera: Kuroshima Chako. Sponsored by the Government of Japan.'

Above the text were pictures of the three actors.

In the bottom right corner was a small photo of Kino. Her head was cast down to her right and she had a serious expression on her face. Under the picture was a caption labelling the actress Kino as the character of Allison, and one of her quotes from the play: 'That's one heck of a cannon.'.

On the left side of the poster was Inuyama's pretty face, looking up towards the right side of the poster with a bittersweet smile. It was much larger than Kino's picture. Beside him was the caption identifying Inuyama as Wil, and his quote: 'I can't let it go… I won't let things change…'.

On the right was the cool and handsome Shizu, looking down with a melancholy expression at the left side of the poster--in other words, towards Inuyama. The caption beside him identified him as Benedict, and the quote was 'Let's get married. May the Heavens give their blessings for all eternity…'.

What an incredible poster.

Anyone who knew nothing about the original work would likely mistake this for a story of forbidden love between Inuyama and Shizu. Allison's quote almost read like a piece of sexual harassment.

Of course, Chako-sensei was behind the creation of this poster. The pictures were, just to add, all taken secretly and photoshopped. She knew a lot about advertising, this woman--move over Goebbels! Kuroshima is in town!

The poster was the reason for the overwhelming female audience. None of them really cared about the play's contents or quality--they just wanted to watch Shizu-senpai and Inuyama. But the large turnout was enough for an attempt to justify the club's existence to the principal.

As a side note, many of these posters were stolen. Students had been taking them when no one was watching. Chako-sensei merely smiled and put up more posters when they had disappeared. Several times she caught female students stealing posters, and each time she had said, "I can't give you the poster… but what can I do but put up more when they get stolen?", covertly encouraging such behaviour.

"This is wonderful, everyone! So many people are here to watch the fruits of our efforts!" Chako-sensei exclaimed as she turned back to look at Kino, Inuyama, and Shizu preparing to go on stage.

Chako-sensei was dressed very strangely today.

Normally she would be wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants or a business suit with a miniskirt, but right now she was clad in a black dress. She was also wearing a long, curly black wig that covered her left eye.

"Have you steeled yourselves?"

She was talking a little weirdly, too, but the trio was too used to the teacher's unusual ways to feel a need to point this out.

"Kino… you're a pretty terrifying person." said Chako-sensei.

"I haven't even done anything yet." Kino responded.

As a side note, all three of the actors were still in their uniforms. (plus model gun and katana). Maybe they couldn't afford costumes.

Atop the stage and beside it were a sidecar made with a desk and some plywood, and a picture of a biplane cockpit.

The setting would all be taken care of with these props, the multicoloured stage lights, the screens set up behind the stage, and Chako-sensei's narration. They would be projecting images of skies, a school in the forest, and a cavern.

The ones that had been preparing these amazing stage setups since yesterday and were now working with the lights and the sound systems were a group of people in black.

Not only were they dressed in black, they also covered their faces with black pieces of cloth. They were working hard as Chako-sensei belted out orders.

Kino and the other students were very curious as to who these quiet, mysterious labourers in black could be, but Chako sensei merely replied, "It's a secret.", and winked. Their identities would remain a mysterious mystery.

Of course, no one noticed the fact that these people in black were actually wearing combat suits underneath and carrying black Smith & Wesson Model 5906s, loaded with live ammo, at their sides.

'Sponsored by the Government of Japan' was not a lie. This is, dear readers, where your tax money is being spent.

The time had finally come.

It was the moment of truth--the performance was about to begin.

"Let's get started! For the Take Action Now Club's first official activity!" said Chako-sensei, flapping her dress. She then punched the air with her fist.

"Now repeat after me! All for One and One for the Take Action Now Club!"

Three fists punched the air! Oh, our glorious trio!

"For the Take Action Now Club!"

"For the Take Action Now Club!"

"For the pork dumplings!"

Someone was off by a few words. I'm sure you all know who it was.

-----

A bell rang to signal the start of the play.

The curtains closed over the windows, and the gymnasium was reduced to half its original brightness.

The spotlights then turned on.

A classical piano piece played as background music. Chako-sensei had asked the middle-aged lady who taught music to compose a piece ahead of time, and recorded it. In return, she had handed over a collection of photos of Shizu taken in secret. Of course, this is top secret.

[This is a story of another planet… On this planet was a single, potato-shaped continent. On each side of the landmass was a country. Both nations claimed that they were the origin of the human race, and had been waging countless wars over this argument from time immemorial. It had been thirty-five years since another such war had taken many lives, and the two countries had been in a cold war ever since.] Chako-sensei narrated clearly.

The narration, of course, was all pre-recorded and being played from a computer. The helpers in black would simply play the right file at the right time.

[On the east was the Roxcheanuk Confederation, shortened to Roxche. On the west was the Allied Kingdoms of Bezel-Iltoa, also known as Sou Beil.]

The stage lights dimmed slightly and a very detailed map was projected onto the screen. It identified the mountain range and the Lutoni river that bisected the continent.

It was now time for the players. Inuyama stepped onto the stage.

The audience squealed restlessly as the prettyboy stepped up, long hair fluttering. Inuyama didn't even react as he opened up a prop book and took a seat on a chair.

[My name is Wil. Wilhelm Schultz. I'm a sixteen-year old student at a school near the Roxche border. The summer break of the year 3287 had just begun, and I was reading alone on the school grounds. The early summer skies were a beautiful blue, the breeze was refreshingly cool, and the sun shone warmly through the trees.]

Inuyama, monologued magnificently in a clear voice. The lights gave off the appearance of warm summer sunlight.

The female students watched all of this in sheer euphoria.

"Inuyama! You're so C-O-O-L!" some of them screamed.

[I could never have imagined back then… that over the next three days, I would go on an amazing adventure closely intertwined with the history of the world and discover something unbelievable.]

Kino was watching Inuyama's emotional face from the side.

"What can that bastard not do…?"

She was quite angry. Actually, Kino was rather furious because Inuyama's acting was very good, even to her biased eyes.

Standing behind her, Shizu gave Kino a pat on the shoulder.

"Don't worry, Kino. I'm sure you'll do just fine."

"Y-you think so? I left my lines to Hermes--I mean, I only just managed to memorize my lines."

"That doesn't matter. You have the greatest concentration of the three of us, Kino. I promise you, the skills you honed while training under that grandmother of yours will not fail you. I've been watching you all this time, after all." Shizu said calmly.

"…"

Kino blushed in the dimly-lit backstage area. 'Go somewhere else if you're going to act sickeningly sweet.' Hermes thought. Of course, he didn't voice this idea.

"I have faith in your abilities. Let's do our best to make this play a success."

"Well, that's…"

Kino had to make the play a success, all for the sake of her pork dumplings. Shizu continued with a melancholy look, oblivious to Kino's hungry motivations.

"Until now, I've been enjoying my life of solitude. But ever since I met you, Inuyama, and Chako-sensei, and joined this club, I've been learning how wonderful it is to work together as a team. I'm very thankful."

The handsome Shizu was saying this in the dark, face-to-face with Kino. Think about it. How would that feel?

"…um…"

Kino's heart was racing. It was about equal to the speed of an Ingram MAC-11 submachine gun. Anyone who actually understood this metaphor has the same problems as Sigsawa.

The sound of a biplane's engines filled the stage. Inuyama turned around in surprise and looked into the sky, putting down his book.

Projected onto the screen was a piece of footage showing a biplane flying in the air. It was stolen from a movie, but altered so it would be impossible to recognize the source. Please don't try this at home.

[The biplane that flew over to the school… a crest with the Spear of Sellon, the symbol of the Roxche military, was emblazoned on it.]

There was a close-up of the spear, and Chako-sensei's narration exposited.

[Wait… that can't be… can it?…] Inuyama asked as he look into the sky. WHOOSH! Something zoomed from right to left, and Inuyama's eyes followed the sound. He performed as if he was really looking up at a plane in the air.

"You're up. Do your best. I believe in you."

"Thank you. I will!" Kino replied energetically. And three seconds after the engine sound effect was replaced by the sound of a plane landing--

[The air force pilot who disembarked the biplane that descended upon the school without warning was a young girl.]

Kino stepped onto the stage in line with Chako-sensei's narration.

[It's been a while, Wil. How've you been?]

Kino's acting was slightly awkward in comparison to a professional, but it was quite a performance for a complete beginner like her.

"Excellent. Looks like I'll have to work hard as well."

Shizu muttered with a smile as he watched Kino.

-----

The play continued on smoothly, thanks to the club's most focused member Kino(who was cheating off Hermes) and the talented Inuyama.

To summarize:

Allison, on leave from duty, visited Wil, who was also off on summer vacation, for the first time in a long time. They went to the city outskirts together, where they encountered a strange old man.

The old man told them that he knew of a treasure that could end the war between the two nations. Of course, the old man was a famed teller of extremely tall tales, and it was difficult for either Allison or Wil to believe them.

However, the old man was suddenly kidnapped by a mysterious group of men right in front of their eyes. What could they do?

As a side note, the old man was a piece of plywood. His lines were recorded beforehand by Chako-sensei and pitched down. The kidnapping sequence was orchestrated by having a man in black pick up the piece of plywood and leave, carrying it under his arm. It was overwhelmingly low-budget. There was laughter from the audience.

Allison and Wil followed the kidnappers to an airfield and watched them take off on a plane. They gave chase by stealing a biplane that happened to be there. This kind of action is normally known as 'theft'.

Allison sat in the front and Wil behind her as they flew through the night. However, as they gave chase, they ended up crossing the border at the Lutoni river. This was not good. They were shot down by a fighter plane piloted by Benedict, played by Shizu, and crashed on enemy territory.

Not only did they lose the old man, Wil was also injured and knocked unconscious by the impact of the landing.

So Allison opted to carry Wil on her back as she walked alone through the field.

[Hyah!]

Kino recited Allison's line as she hoisted Wil onto her back, intending to walk it alone.

[There. Enjoy your piggyback.]

Actually, she didn't hoist him onto his back. Kino dragged him away by the feet like a corpse, all the way offstage.

The female students who were not so keen on seeing Kino get too close to Inuyama applauded. The reactions so far have been quite positive.

"That was an ad-lib, too… Kino, you're a pretty terrifying person…"

Looks like Chako-sensei really liked this line.

It was now time for her to take the stage.

Allison had found a house on the field. It was inhabited by an elderly woman who had lost her family in the war.

Chako-sensei, in the role of the old woman, appeared in her black dress and wig.

[Who are you…?]

It was a bold performance.

Allison, taken by surprise at the old woman's appearance, drew her handgun (note: a prop gun. It would be very dangerous for Kino to do this with a real firearm) and aimed at the old woman.

And the lights dimmed in the middle of this climactic scene.

[Allison and Wil have been discovered by an enemy civilian! Oh, what will they do next? Act 2 will begin after a fifteen-minute intermission! Shizu, playing the role of Benedict, will get a lot of stage time, too! Don't miss it!]

Chako-sensei's pre-recorded voice announced the intermission.

It had been about an hour since the beginning of the play. Most of the audience members remained where they were, and seemed to have enjoyed the play so far. There was a huge round of applause.

The gymnasium lights came back on. The students excitedly chatted about the play or took the time for a bathroom break. Even the principal and the other teachers were talking about the play.

"I was hesitant to see how this would turn out… but it's quite good. It was excellent, considering the number of members."

"I agree. Maybe we could consider giving them a spot at the Culture Festival."

-----

"Whew! Halfway there!"

"That was great! But that was mean of you to drag me by the feet, Kino."

"You two were excellent. Let's keep this up for Act 2. Together, we can do it."

Backstage, Kino, Inuyama, and Shizu were chatting and taking a well-deserved breather.

"Yeah, you guys did really well." Chako-sensei nodded. And immediately afterwards, she suddenly began coughing and squeezed out a dramatic line.

"Why now… must my life be extinguished so…?"

But the trio wasn't listening at all. In fact, they were looking in another direction altogether.

"Oh, fine!" Chako-sensei straightened her back. She was as healthy as ever.

Meanwhile--

"Fufu… It's halfway finished."

Hermes was still hanging from Kino's belt, silently in thought.

'I was worried there would be another demon attack… maybe at this rate, the play'll end properly without getting interrupted.'

And so let me remind you--

This novel is called Gakuen Kino.

-----

A student sat in the boys' bathroom, a little ways away from the gymnasium.

Of course, he was male. He was in fifth year--his second year of high school.

While embarrassed, he sat in the front row among the girls who had come to ogle Shizu and Inuyama and gave his full attention to Act 1.

That's right, in reality, he had been smitten with Shizu-I mean, Inuyama-I mean--

"Oh… Chako-sensei…"

He held completely wholesome affections for Chako-sensei. It was all-out love.

"What an amazing woman…"

He had a blissful expression, sitting on the toilet with his pants and boxers down. He looked like an idiot.

As a side note, he had already finished his business. All he had to do now was put on his boxers and his pants and flush the toilet.

"Chako-sensei, oh, Chako-sensei. Chako-sensei."

It was a poetry recital from the depths of his heart.

He loved Chako-sensei. He loved her very much.

A charming lady with white hair and green eyes who appeared out of nowhere his term. She was the explosively popular talk of the school.

She did, on occasion, display strange behaviours such as attacking and hugging Inuyama, but she was a good person who treated all students equally and fairly. She was a respectable lady.

"I wish I had a girlfriend like her…"

Age wasn't a factor. Love is everything.

As a side note, while he wasn't as popular as Shizu, this student was also quite handsome and popular with girls. He was also a talented karate club member and a dashing athlete who received the adoration of many younger female students.

However--

"Oh, Chako-sensei… my love…"

None of those female students could possibly know that this young man was hugging himself, writhing in ecstasy, and mumbling like an idiot, all in a deserted washroom.

"Oh…"

It was almost time for Act 2 to begin. He had just raised his head to set out to engrave Chako-sensei's lovely form into his thoughts and sighed at his love that was not meant to be.

Then he saw it.

"There's a way to make Chako-sensei your girlfriend! Look to your right."

Dozens of centimetres in front of his eyes--in other words, written on the stall door--were written these words. Of course, these letters were definitely not there when he first sat on the toilet, or even until just after that.

"Whoa…"

Reading Chako-sensei's name, he wavered for a single moment. He desperately calmed himself and looked to his right.

"You just have to become the same age as her! Isn't it simple? Next, look to your left."

This was written on the partition to his right. He frowned and turned left.

"You think it's impossible? Not so! Anything is possible if you try hard enough! The next hint is up here."

He slowly raised his head.

"A simple contract will do the trick! You just have to express your 'agreement'! A magical power will turn you into a big, strong man! I bet Chako-sensei won't be able to resist your charms! What do you say?"

"… I see… so this is it…"

The young man did not lose his cool, even after reading these strange scribbles.

"So this is the so-called 'Demonic Temptation'!"

Correct!

This was the temptation of evil. In Japanese, kore wa Demonic Temptation.

Many were the students in this school who had fallen for these wily, ever-changing temptations. This was why the school had taken every precaution to instil a sense of vigilance among the student body. Of course, the sheer number of students falling for it regardless is probably a hallmark of their youth.

"You think I'd fall for something so simple?!" he answered, getting indignant.

He then got off the toilet, pulled up his boxers and pants, zipped up, and put on his belt.

"You've picked the wrong guy to mess with." he grinned, and pushed down the lever to flush the toilet.

And as he usually did, he closed the toilet cover with his left hand. This action was carved into his mind by his two younger sisters, who would always complain to him that 'it's only courteous to close the lid once you finish'.

And as he heard the sound of the toilet flushing--

he caught sight of a series of letters.

Written in clear font on the back of the toilet cover were the following words.

"If you agree, please operate the toilet lever. Thank you for your patronage, and we hope you enjoy your time as a demon."

"That was a cheap shot!" He screamed, but it was too late.

Looks like we have our demon of the day.

-----

Gakuen Kino is taking suggestions for methods of demonic temptation.

If you're thinking, "What about something like this? Maybe I'd fall for a temptation like this one? I bet no one could resist this one!".

If you have a great idea for a method of temptation, rub a balloon against your clothes and put it to your head.

-----

[Act 2 is about to begin. Please return to your seats.]

Chako-sensei's narration began. Students began filling the gymnasium again.

Most people who had watched Act 1 had remained behind. There were some new faces in the audience, as well. It seemed that some positive word-of-mouth had spread to students who were in the middle of club activities. Some students were still in athletic wear. It was a full house.

-----

Backstage.

"Just until I get my pork dumplings…" Kino told herself as she sat on a chair.

"Half the play left to find an opening to kill him…" Inuyama, a little ways away, mumbled as he sat rest omitted.

And a slight distance away,

"…" Shizu was in quiet meditation.

"Shall we begin?" Asked the teacher in the black dress.

"Yeah."

"Yes."

Kino and Inuyama got off their seats.


(1) Allison is another work by Sigsawa Keiichi. Along with the sequel, Lillia and Treize, it was adapted into an anime series. The storyline of the play so far is an accurate retelling of the first major story arc of Allison.

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