Act 2 finally began.
Allison and Wil had run into a Sou Beil woman named Ladia. Wil received treatment for his thankfully minor injuries.
However, the woman, having lost her family in the war, treated Allison coldly.
Chako-sensei, in the role of Ladia, gave a standout performance that resonated with the audience. After finally coming to trust Allison and Wil, she assisted them as they set out to rescue the old man.
They headed to a small base nearby, dressed up as their own enemies. The old man was being held there, and--
[Nice to meet you. My name is Carr Benedict.]
A handsome enemy pilot named Benedict was also there for some secret training. He flirted with women from the enemy's military. He was a skirtchaser.
Shizu's presence was overwhelming.
Wearing a real sword at his side, he complimented the plywood lady with utmost seriousness.
[Why don't we go out for tea sometime?]
A collective sigh could be heard from the female students in their seats, with the occasional response of 'I'd go anywhere with you'.
And Chako-sensei's impossible greed was fuelled as she watched from offstage.
"Good going, Shizu. You're quite useful. Maybe I should sign him up for an idol audition…"
Kino was at the opposite end of the backstage area, watching Shizu in awe.
"Is he that admirable to you?"
Kino turned around, surprised by the voice. Inuyama was in the shadows, watching Kino, and Shizu, who was on the brightly lit stage.
He looked at Kino with sad eyes that spoke of repressed anger and hatred. It was quite indescribable. Inuyama had the look of an abandoned puppy.
Kino, while surprised by his unusual tone of voice, answered him cooly.
"W-well… yeah. Who wouldn't think so?"
It was a cold response.
Inuyama quietly nodded in half-agreement.
[The men of my country do not hit on other men. This goes doubly so for ugly ones.]
Shizu spoke, and the female students laughed. People cheered restlessly.
"But say… hypothetically speaking…" Inuyama continued quietly. "What if that man standing in the spotlight--that man who has the adoration of everyone--what if all that is just a mask? What would you think then?"
Kino cocked her head, taken by surprise at this strange question.
"What if he's just wearing a mask? Shamelessly using a mask of kindness and benevolence… If he's hiding his ignoble true self with a mask as pristine as snow… If he was actually a shameless animal in human form!" Inuyama continued, his voice rising steadily.
Kino had never seen him like this before. It sounded almost like a dog barking.
But Kino, who was at heart a nice person, still got angry over his question.
"Hey, you'd better stop badmouthing people like that. It's not like you know Shizu-senpai that well, anyway."
"Then can you claim to know him well?"
"…Uh. No, not really."
"Then how would you know?"
Kino was at a loss for words.
"Why do you still try to defend him? Is it because he's handsome? Because he's polite? Because he looks that way? Who can say that all of that is not a mask? That it's not a part he's playing on this stage of life? Is there some omnipotent goddess who vouches for his innocence?"
Kino decided to stop taking Inuyama seriously as he became more and more heated.
"Never mind! Right now we've gotta focus on finishing the play properly. Get your priorities straight!"
It was like a hard reset button.
Of course, Kino's mind was currently preoccupied with thoughts of pork dumplings.
Inuyama was silent for a few seconds, then broke out into a smile. It was a smile no different than usual. A smile that other female students considered cute and Kino considered relentlessly annoying.
"I see." Inuyama spoke, his tone the same as always. "That's right. 'finishing the play properly' is top priority."
It was time for them to take the stage.
The duo, played by Kino and Inuyama, were looking around the base when they were reunited with the old man in a prison cell.
Meanwhile, Shizu, in the role of Benedict, was eating alone at the base's cafeteria, ad-libbing nutritional information about military rations.
Upstage was the cell, and stage left was the cafeteria. The three actors were all standing in front of the audience.
The play had just reached the climax of the story. What will the (plywood) old man tell Allison and Wil?
One of the men in black prepared to play the old man's voice on the laptop. Chako-sensei, wearing her black wig with an eye covered, was standing beside him with her arms crossed.
There were two millimetres between the man in black's finger and the "enter" key.
They were the sounds "crack" "bang" and "crash" melded into one.
The screen behind the stage ripped and fell helplessly.
A cloud of dust rose up and debris from the broken wall scattered over them.
The debris rained down upon Kino, Inuyama, and Shizu. One particular concrete piece, about 40 centimetres in length, flew straight towards Shizu. He managed to parry it with his sheathed katana.
Thankfully, the debris had only scattered over the stage. There was no harm done to the audience. However, the playgoers were trembling in their seats, shocked by the sudden noise.
"What was that…?"
Chako-sensei frowned. The man in black was also completely still, stunned by the sound. He had not managed to hit the "enter" key.
The dust soon settled.
And "it" emerged, in full view of both the cast and the captive audience.
I suppose the best way to describe this creature is to call it "tortoise-like"? It was similar to a tortoise. It was a gigantic bipedal tortoise. In other words, a demon.
The demon appeared with a bang, crushing the thick reinforced concrete that was behind the stage.
"Oh! A demon!" said Kino.
"…" said Inuyama.
"Why now…" said Shizu.
The trio all switched from acting mode to battle mode.
However, they were still on stage, in full view of the entire audience! To say they were visible would be an understatement.
"Hermes! W-what do I do?" Kino asked quietly.
"I don't know. This is not good."
Hermes had no clear answer.
Meanwhile, Shizu had his right hand over the hilt of the katana, but he had yet to draw it.
"C-commander!" The man in black at the computer addressed Chako-sensei.
My god! Kuroshima Chako-sensei had been the commander of the Anti-Demon Corps from the previous episode! No reader could ever have guessed--what kind of author announces something this obvious? With exclamation marks, at that.
Chako-sensei steepled her fingers in front of her face, as if covering her own mouth.
And for some reason, she smiled.
"Don't worry. It's just as planned."
The moment the man in black cocked his head to ask why, Chako-sensei took the backup mic and turned it on.
[Suddenly, just as the old man was about to reveal the location of the treasure… a demon appears to prevent this massive secret from getting out! How could this be?! A demon has appeared! The poor old man is knocked unconscious when he is hit by debris!]
The narration was reminiscent of a live coverage of a wrestling match. Chako-sensei rambled on as if she'd been preparing for this beforehand. The plywood playing the role of the old man was on the floor, having been actually hit by debris.
There was a roar of laughter from the audience.
"Oh, so that's how it goes!"
"These special effects are amazing! It's totally surprising!"
"It's like it really broke through the gymnasium wall!" (note: the gymnasium wall was broken.)
"So demons existed in that world too… so now the characters are going to have to fight it."
"They're changing it into an action story? Sweet!"
"So that's how the beautiful love story between Shizu-senpai and Inuyama-senpai starts…" (note: this doesn't happen.)
Above were some of the audience reactions.
"W-what? What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" Kino yelled in stupefying shock, amidst the audience's cheering.
However, the audience thought that what Kino just said was one of Allison's lines. A lot of them thought, 'That fourth-year's suddenly gotten more expressive'.
The demon, growling pretty loudly for a tortoise, looked over at Kino and Inuyama on its left. It then looked over to Shizu on its right.
Shizu silently drew. The spotlight reflected off the shining blade, and Shizu took a deep breath in preparation for his long, upcoming line.
"Oh, what is this? I sense a demon in the cells! It seems it is now time for me to fight! For my identity as a Royal Air Force pilot is only a ruse! In reality, I am the demon-slaying Paladin of the Bezelese Royal Family, 'Carr Benedict of Zephyr'! I had been at this base at His Majesty's orders, but now the time has come to fight! Let's go! I shall fell this demon!"
The audience understood everything--what kind of a play this was, and why Benedict had a katana with him all this time.
"Go, Shizu-senpai!" The girls cheered.
"Whoa, the Prettyboy Swordsman is finally here!" Some of his male 6th-year peers joined in. The audience laughed comfortably.
"Whew…" Chako-sensei smiled.
"Damn, it can't be! The old man's fainted because of the demon! We have to treat him, but slaying this demon comes first! Dammit, looks like I'll have to reveal my true identity!" Inuyama yelled out of the blue.
Kino turned to him in surprise. Inuyama just kept going.
"I, Wilhelm Schultz, am actually a Student Combatant from the Roxcheanuk Confederation's Education Department--a human weapon who had been training in to defeat demons! I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier, Allison. But I have to go and fight now! To save both Roxche and Sou Beil--no, countries don't matter! To bring peace to all who live on this planet! Farewell, my student life… farewell, my beloved Allison. My name is 'Wilhelm of the Crimson Ammo'. Now I shall draw to shoot rounds full of spirit!"
Both Shizu and Inuyama were geniuses, being able to spout out lines like that on the spot.
"Kyaaaa! You're so cool, Inuyama!"
Another round of screaming ensued. Looks like Shizu and Inuyama held equal shares of popularity in this school.
Of course, the audience now looked towards Kino, who had yet to reveal her secret identity.
Who could Allison be? She can't be just an ordinary pilot with a crush on her childhood friend, right? Is what they all thought.
"Oh? Huh? Um…"
"Uh… could I just leave…?"
The silent crowd burst out into uncontrollable laughter.
The audience understood everything--this was a comedic scene in which the heroine was joking around.
As Kino looked at the applauding audience in confusion, Hermes began urging her quietly.
"Kino! That's a real demon! You have to transform now and seal it away!"
"B-but I can't shoot Big Cannon if I don't transform…" Kino mumbled.
"You have to do something. Do you have any smoke bombs?"
"Oh! I should have some in my pouch…"
"Set one off and transform! You can seal it away as soon as you transform and ad-lib the ending."
"Better than letting things get any bigger and getting students injured, right? It'll be easier to clean up afterwards, too."
"Here I go!"
As the audience watched in breathless anticipation, Kino raised her voice, opened her pouch, and took out an M79 grenade launcher. It was a folding type of firearm that shot .40mm grenades.
A member of the audience commented that he had a model of one of those. The author has one too.
Kino loaded the grenade launcher with a live smoke bomb and shot it towards the ceiling. The smoke bomb, having fallen back onto the ground, released a cloud of white smoke. Within three seconds, the stage was completely obscured.
Kino, Inuyama, the demon, and Shizu all disappeared from sight.
Chako-sensei smiled and snapped her fingers. One man in black nodded, turned around the large wind machine that was used for the flying sequences, and turned on the power.
The smoke that was travelling towards the audience was sucked away by the makeshift ventilator.
"Amazing! This is totally amazing!"
"This is pretty high-budget."
The audience grew more and more excited by this amazing display of special effects. It seemed that everything that occurred on stage was, in their minds, part of the play. At this rate, Kino could probably get away with murder.
The smokescreen didn't last more than a few seconds. It cleared very quickly.
And those who stood on the stage were unveiled at last.
"Transformation Complete! Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino! Fight mercilessly for your food!"
On stage right was Kino, in battle pose with Hermes.
On stage right was the perverted samurai, dressed in his usual white standing-collar uniform, white cape, white mask, and the apple. A dove flew past him in slow motion.
"Today, I will defeat you…"
Slightly to the right of centre stage was a young man in a black trenchcoat and sunglasses with his white hair tied back. He was positively dripping with an aura of rage.
The demon was frozen in place, observing the three mysterious newcomers in confusion.
The audience was going wild.
"WHOA! It's Mysterious rest omitted Kino!"
"Kino is here!"
Everyone's eyes were on Kino, whose name and face were well known to the audience.
"No, wait a second." One male student interrupted everyone else. He spoke confidently.
"Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino only ever appears when she's fighting real demons. That's just the student named Kino, dressing up as Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Kino."
This student's assertion spread amongst the audience like wildfire.
"Oh, that's it?"
"I guess that's probably right."
"Now that I look closely, it's just Kino."
"You don't even need to look closely to tell."
"Yeah. The real thing looks a lot stronger."
"The real Kino is prettier."
The audience understood everything.
"What?! It's me! I just transformed! Use those eyes in your heads!" Kino yelled, irritated. There was laughter from the audience, where people had thought that Kino had suddenly developed a talent for comedy. Putting that aside, what are you gonna do if you just spill your identity like that?
"Don't worry about them. Just pretend you're still acting like Allison dressed like Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Kino."
Hermes advised. It was kind of complicated.
"They think the demon's a part of the show, too. It might be better that way--even if the students are used to demon attacks, there might be a huge panic if they figure out it's real." Hermes continued. Kino swore quietly.
"Shizu-senpai's costume is kind of weird, but it's still cool!" one of the girls screamed. Kino replied in exasperation.
"WHAT?! What are you saying?! That's Samoyed Mask! How does that guy look anything like Shizu-senpai? That pervert must have sniffed out the demon and pushed Shizu-senpai aside when I set off the smoke bomb!" she yelled, outraged. It was a quiet scream this time, so the audience didn't laugh.
Kino was livid.
That pervert had used her smokescreen to his own ends, pushed Shizu-senpai off somewhere, and appeared in his stead!
"What a bastard! They don't even look a thing alike! Are those people blind?! They're all stupid! This is unforgivable!"
"No comment." Hermes muttered.
"Inuyama~!" some of the girls screamed, and the boy in sunglasses waved shyly. From his sleeves he had produced a pair of Beretta 90two 9mm semi-automatic pistols.
"WHAT?! What are you saying?! That's Detective Wanwan! It's definitely him! Don't insult the guy who kicked that useless Inuyama off the stage and came to help!"
Kino was, once again, outraged.
"They're treating the helpful Detective Wanwan the same as that stalker! They don't even look a thing alike! Are those people blind?! They're all stupid! This is unforgivable!"
"No comment." Hermes muttered.
The boy in sunglasses--Detective Wanwan--approached Kino and whispered.
"Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Kino. I understand you must be angry, but I believe it would be best for now to pretend you are the student called Kino and perform the role of Allison. You must keep the situation from getting out of hand. Let's destroy the demon quickly so the audience will be safe from stray bullets. I will give you my full cooperation."
"Thanks!" Kino replied happily. Her expression, however, soon darkened.
The demon was on centre stage, fighting the Swordfighter Man. It was a suspenseful fight sequence.
"What about that Pervert Mask…? Bullets and logic don't work on him…"
"About that… I'd like to discuss it with you."
Detective Wanwan and Kino's strategy time.
Upon hearing Detective Wanwan's plan, Kino's expression changed. She looked straight at his sunglasses-covered face and spoke.
"You… are a genius."
"Pitiful demon! I will not let you take this world!" Samoyed Mask yelled, and went in for a high slash.
As Samoyed Mask has not introduced himself this time, he doesn't get a cool suffix like α, R, β, θ, Δ, κ, or ε. For the first time since episode 1, he's just Samoyed Mask.
Samoyed Mask's powerful attack was deflected by the arched shell of the demon's back. It wasn't a tortoise for nothing.
The demon then countered at blinding speed with a triple kick!
"OH! Hah! Hyah!" Samoyed Mask blocked the strikes with his katana and flung himself backwards, getting some distance between himself and the demon.
"Oh? You're pretty good."
He got back into an attack stance.
There was a thunderous round of applause from the audience.
"This battle is great!"
"What a fight scene!"
"Just what I expected from Shizu-senpai!"
"That guy in the demon costume's pretty tough…"
"I guess the demon practises karate!"
"He's moving pretty fast for a guy in costume…"
GAAAAAOOOOOOH! The demon roared. Several of the girls screamed, but most people clapped at this show of valour. That was great! Show us more!
Kino and Detective Wanwan nodded at each other, having completed their strategy meeting. Kino's line came first.
"Uh… I, um… I am the Roxche Air Force's top demon-slaying pilot! My name is… uh… 'Bishoujo Pilot Magical Allison'! The world does not belong to you, demon! I will destroy you on behalf of our taxpayers!"
The line was an ad-lib, so this was the best Kino could do. She desperately put together lines from anime she used to watch years ago.
Allison has finally revealed her true identity! The audience cheered loudly.
"That's a really corny name. You have no naming sense, Kino." Hermes muttered. How is it any worse than Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Kino?
"I see! So Allison was also a demon-slaying warrior! All right! Time for a team-up!"
Detective Wanwan raised his right arm.
Kino linked her right arm with his.
"Huh? Was this how 'Allison' actually went…?" one audience member wondered, but his voice was swallowed by the applause.
"I will attack first!" Detective Wanwan declared, and fired his Beretta 90twos. The target: the demon at centre stage. He turned his back and moved to the side so as to avoid sending stray bullets into the audience.
Of course, the Berettas were real guns. They fired loudly, the shots echoing through the gymnasium, and shell casings fell to the ground like rain.
"It's not just the swordfight! The gun looks really realistic too!"
"Shell casings everywhere!"
"Is that a modded 92F?"
"Inuyama-senpai… he's so cool!"
All of the bullets reached their target. However, 9mm Parabellum rounds were only strong enough to give the demon a light shock.
It advanced step by step, towards Detective Wanwan. And as soon as he was out of ammo, the demon went for a stomp.
Detective Wanwan barely managed to evade the attack. He jumped back, put his feet together, and somersaulted into the air. It was incredible.
He landed softly in the centre aisle of the seats, near the fifth row.
"Pushing back the 6th place competitor of the Kaashi Festival Sharpshooting Competition this far… You're pretty good, demon!"
His acting was superb. The girl who was sitting beside him fainted out of sheer joy.
"Look out, Wil! Take this! 'Allison Desperado Fire'!" Kino yelled, and slid to face the demon standing at centre stage. On hand was a Minigun.
To be precise, she was actually holding it at her side. A Minigun is a six-barrelled 7.62mm Gatling gun. The barrels are motor-driven, and it is a monstrous gun that can fire over fifty rounds a second. It was used in the film 'Terminator 2' by the current governor(as of writing) when he fought the police on top of the building.
With her right hand Kino held the metre-long Minigun, and with her left she held a cylindrical magazine that looked rather like a drum canister. She opened fire. At this speed, the sounds of the individual gunshots would meld together and create one long series of noises. The spent shell casings fell to the floor in a golden cascade.
Not even the demon could survive this kind of an assault. Just one shot might have been like a single punch to it, but being hit with a hundred Atatatatatatatatatatats would send it flying backwards.
And the demon was sent flying backwards. It fell right through the hole in the gymnasium wall that it had made and disappeared.
Kino ceased fire.
The Minigun's six barrels spun out the rest of their momentum, emitting white smoke. They soon came to a stop. Kino slowly placed it back into her pouch.
As a side note, this firearm is usually mounted on helicopters or vehicles. The high rate of fire and the powerful recoil is not something that a human could withstand. People only shoot it barehanded in movies, and the scenes are shot with blanks, not live ammo.
So, dear readers--if you should come across one of these on the streets, please don't even think about trying to fire it barehanded.
When the demon had dynamically disappeared into the wall--
"It's practically a tokusatsu(1)!"
"Great job, Allison!"
"Allison's so strong!"
The audience unplugged their ears and applauded loudly.
"Did you finish it, Allison?"
The two fighters were on very good terms.
When Detective Wanwan heard the word "probably", he twisted his lips slightly and smiled.
A little earlier, during the strategy session, he had requested thus:
"If successful, please answer 'probably'. If not, please say 'not yet'."
"Probably" meant that it was a success.
The demon sealing.
No one but Kino (and Hermes) had noticed.
The moment the demon was flung back through the wall, Kino had shot it with Big Cannon~Shining Iron Demon Destroyer.
Kino had taken her hand off the Minigun for a moment and drawn Big Cannon from the holster to fire it instantly.
The sealing shot found its target the moment the demon fell through the wall. On the other side was likely the unconscious karate club student.
The sound of Big Cannon firing was definitely included in the previous sequence. I tip my hat to anyone who noticed. You earn the title of 'Gakuen Kino Meister'--whatdoyoumeanyoudontneeditokayokayallright.
In other words, the demon had already been sealed away and returned to his student form.
There was no need to keep up battle mode in this play now, but--
"Wait! I still sense something evil!"
"Yeah! Don't let your guard down, Wil!"
Huh? They were still keeping up the charade.
Chako-sensei smiled as she watched from backstage. And--
"Take care of the BGM." she ordered a man in black, and disappeared somewhere.
"Hm…! Mysterious Kino-I mean, Beautiful Foreign Warrior and Boy! What is going on here?" Samoyed Mask asked, half-acting-half-seriously.
"I no longer sense evil… could you have… defeated it? Just as you sent it flying backwards…?"
Samoyed Mask was as sharp as ever. He sheathed his sword and stalked over to the duo at centre stage.
However, that duo walked in the opposite direction and knelt before the fallen old man (plywood).
"Oh, please! Open your eyes!"
"No… these injuries are…"
It was a heartfelt performance.
They were completely ignoring Samoyed Mask, who cutely cocked his head.
"Sir… we're sorry we hid our true identities…"
"…Yes? What? You'll tell us where the treasure is?"
The two lent their ears to the piece of plywood.
"Unbelievable! But this is the hidden truth!"
"We understand! Please, leave the rest to us… oh, how could this happen…?!"
"Please, rest in peace…"
The man in black played an appropriate piece of music. The duo wailed mournfully for a few moments.
It seems the old man had imparted a shocking truth to them with his last breath. The audience fell silent in sombre sadness.
Kino got to her feet.
Detective Wanwan as well.
"Allison… now we know of the true enemy, who's hidden the treasure away… this will be our last battle."
"I know, Wil. Now is the moment of truth…"
From Detective Wanwan's sleeves emerged a pair of Kimber 45mm automatic handguns. It was a tuned and customized copy model of the Colt Government.
Kino took from her pouch a Mossberg Model 590. Click. She pulled back the pump and loaded the 12 gauge shotgun slugs. It was a type of projectile that scattered over an area from the shotgun's muzzle. It was quite a dangerous weapon.
"Finally, the last battle…"
"So the demon was only a mid-boss."
"What's gonna happen now?"
"This is exciting."
And as the audience watched in anticipation--
"What is the matter…?"
Samoyed Mask naively approached Kino and Detective Wanwan.
The duo simultaneously turned their faces and glared at Samoyed Mask.
"Paladin Benedict!" Kino yelled.
"So you were the enemy of this world who has hidden away the treasure!"
Huh? Samoyed Mask stopped in his tracks and cocked his head in the opposite direction from before.
"Don't play dumb! The old man told us right before he passed away! He had a treasure that could bring peace to the world, but you stole it away from him!"
What's going on? Samoyed Mask had no idea what was happening. Why were they taking the play in this direction?
The audience, however, was merciless.
"No way! So the final boss was Sh-Benedict!"
"How could this be…?! But Inuyama's so handsome!"
"The final boss. This is pretty awesome."
"So Sou Beil was an evil country all along? This ending's pretty black-and-white."
Tadadadada! A powerful BGM began playing to set up the climax of the play.
"For peace! Take this!"
Detective Wanwan spun in midair. At the same time, he continuously fired the Kimbers in his hands. After all, the audience can't get hurt if the bullets were coming at Samoyed Mask from above. Of course, unless Samoyed Mask were to throw himself into the audience.
"Hm?! This can't be!"
Samoyed Mask drew and began blocking the bullets. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't deflect them to his right, where the audience sat.
Unusually for him, Samoyed Mask was now deflecting the rounds with perfect precision and calculation.
His ever-present, laid-back smile had been wiped off his face.
"I will protect this world!" Kino joined Detective Wanwan. She held the Mossberg at waist-level and opened fire.
Samoyed Mask was put on the defensive. He deflected the bullets from above with his katana and blocked the slugs with tomatoes from his pocket.
This was Kino and Detective Wanwan's plan.
They would get rid of Samoyed Mask and all his nuisances by making Benedict the villain of the play and killing him.
Of course, they didn't mean to actually kill him. They planned to beat him to a pulp, make him surrender, and have him sign a contract saying that he would not get in their way when sealing demons.
The audience would be the witnesses. They were even going to end the play by saying, "We may have defeated Benedict, but the true battle is only just beginning!". This was all planned out by the brilliant Detective Wanwan.
Detective Wanwan reloaded and jumped into the air to shoot Samoyed Mask from above.
"I can't lose!"
Kino provided support fire from the side.
Not even Samoyed Mask could dodge all the bullets. His katana soon snapped. Looks like he was also out of tomatoes as well. All he could do now was shield himself with his cape. Don't ask me how he can block bullets with a piece of silk.
"That's enough, Wil!" Kino yelled, holding fire.
"Fallen Paladin Benedict! Surrender! We will forgive you if you tell us the location of the treasure and swear not to get in our way again! The specifics are here! Sign it!"
Kino yelled, as they had planned earlier. However--
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Detective Wanwan did not cease fire. He mercilessly shot at Samoyed Mask, who was desperately blocking the rounds with his cape.
"Wait, Detective Wanwan-I mean, Wil! Stop it!" Allison-I mean, Kino yelled, surprised. Detective Wanwan glanced at Kino and replied.
"No, Allison! This is all a part of the Dark Knight Benedict's plan! If we don't destroy him now, he'll destroy the lives of many more innocent people!"
He loaded the Kimbers with yet another pair of magazines from his sleeves and continued firing with both hands, constantly moving.
Kino was much too nice.
Detective Wanwan's true goal was to murder Shizu/Samoyed Mask during this endless rain of bullets.
Of course, if he managed to actually murder Shizu here, people would only think that the character of Benedict was killed in the play. The show would end with an impressively realistic show of special effects, and he could slip away before anyone ever noticed.
Detective Wanwan's deduction was that he could not win one-on-one. His genius plan in which Kino would provide support and Samoyed Mask would have to protect the audience was about to come to fruition.
"Wait, Wil! He can't fight anymore! We have to get some info from him, so stop it now!" Kino yelled again.
"Go to Hell, Dark Knight Benedict!"
Detective Wanwan wasn't even pretending to listen.
Samoyed Mask would not be able to keep this up much longer.
"Is there a weapons salesman in the audience from whom I could purchase a katana? What about a vegetable seller?" He cried out in desperation, but the audience was overcome with laughter at this unexpected joke.
Thud. Samoyed Mask finally fell to his knees. It seemed that shooting from above the cape was an effective strategy.
"It's over! I'll finish you!"
As Detective Wanwan yelled from above,
"Ugh… so this is the end…"
and Samoyed Mask prepared for death--
They were the sounds "crack" "bang" and "crash" melded into one.
The demolished stage wall fell apart even more with a thunderous noise.
A cloud of dust rose up and debris from the broken wall scattered over them.
The debris rained down upon Kino, Detective Wanwan, and Samoyed Mask. One particular concrete piece, about 40 centimetres in length, flew straight towards Detective Wanwan. He managed to parry it with the Kimber in his left hand, but the gun was now damaged beyond repair.
Thankfully, the debris had only scattered over the stage. There was no harm done to the audience. However, the playgoers were trembling in their seats, shocked by the sudden noise. They also complained about the overly realistic special effects.
"What is this? Another demon?" Kino asked.
"Don't get in my way!" Detective Wanwan yelled.
As Samoyed Mask (who go to his feet in the commotion) and the audience watched with bated breath, the dust began to settle.
And from the dust emerged--
something that made Samoyed Mask emit a terrible scream--
A lone girl who stood there in silence. She had white hair and emerald-green eyes. She wore grey shorts that showed off her stick-thin legs and a brown shirt with a round cut.
"Oh! That's Ti!" Kino yelled. It was Ti, the Grenade Girl who had entered battle with them once before.
Before Detective Wanwan, who had landed on the stage, could even brace himself, Ti flew straight through the air and climbed onto Detective Wanwan's back.
"Ack! No! Stop it! Stooooooop iiiiiitttt!"
She rubbed her chin and cheeks against his hair.
No amount of flailing from Detective Wanwan was enough to throw Ti off his back.
"Who… who is that girl?"
"A new character? This far into the story?"
"Never mind! Look at Shizu-senpai--I mean, Benedict! Why's he so scared?"
"That's some performance, Shizu."
Kino stood in shock, Mossberg still in hand.
She didn't know what to do.
"This is incredible!"
A loud voice suddenly echoed through the gymnasium. The voice belonged to the phone strap Hermes, who was still on Kino's belt.
"A mysterious girl appears just as the two heroes are about to finish off Benedict! Is she an enemy or an ally? The plot thickens! The mystery girl is played by Chako-sensei's niece. She doesn't have any lines because her Japanese isn't that great."
The audience understood everything--the narration was perfectly believable.
"You sure it's okay to do this, Hermes?" Kino asked tentatively.
"The play's a pretty big mess at this point, anyway. It's best to finish this."
Kino nodded. She wondered how she could end the play with the traumatized Samoyed Mask curled up in a corner and Detective Wanwan still flailing to try and throw off the little girl.
And after thinking it over, Kino spoke.
"Oh, that girl! It's Ti, the mysterious girl who granted me these powers! If she's come all the way here, it means she must have found a new threat!"
It was a somewhat-no, very forced turn of events.
"She's taken down Benedict, calmed down the rampaging Wil, and now she's here to reveal my next mission! Thank you! I'll strengthen my resolve to fight!"
Kino shone on the stage as she spouted out a series of blatant lies. It was an Oscar-grade performance.
Kino continued as the audience watched the climax of the story.
"I've been drawn into the never-ending spiral of battle… but I swear! I will never give up! After all, our fight is only just beginning!"
Tada! The final BGM began playing with serendipitous timing. It at least looked somewhat planned.
And just before the stage lights dimmed--
"GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!" Samoyed Mask yelled, but to the audience it was Shizu's stupid screaming echoing through the gymnasium.
"Stop it! No! Somebody help me!" Detective Wanwan pleaded as he comically attempted to detach the little girl from his back.
"Thanks for coming, everyone! Look out for the sequel!" Kino finished, having exactly zero plans to perform in a sequel.
The play was forcibly brought to an end.
The lights went down. The play was over. The audience applauded.
"Well. So it's over?"
"Oh. I guess I'll have to wait for the sequel."
"Wasn't it too long to have a sequel?"
"Shizu-senpai was so cute at the end!"
"It was pretty good."
"Those special effects were awesome."
"That's not how 'Allison' goes… did they even read the original…?"
The students filed out of the gymnasium, sharing their thoughts.
Kino, who had turned back to normal and walked off the stage as soon as the lights dimmed--
almost walked straight into Shizu, who was curled up with a dismal expression on his face.
"A-are you okay, senpai? Did you get hurt when Samoyed Mask shoved you off the stage…?"
"It's nothing… please leave me alone for now…" Shizu said, head down. Kino couldn't bring herself to ask anything else, so she went off to find Inuyama and Chako-sensei.
"Sensei! You're heavy!"
"Who cares? It's not like I'm breaking anything!"
Kino found Chako-sensei, still in her black dress and leaning over Inuyama.
"Oh, Kino! You're not hurt?" Chako-sensei asked with a smile.
"Huh? Oh… I'm fine."
"That so? Thank goodness. Inuyama's fine too." she was still smiling.
Kino laughed sheepishly, glad that she was able to fool everyone else.
"It was a bit crazy for a while there, but I'm glad we finished it properly! Your ad-libs were all superb! I was moved! This is a success--and that demon was something else! I never could have expected something like that. You little rascals, surprising your teacher like that! I loved it! You were all great!"
Chako-sensei said all this from Inuyama's back. Inuyama himself was wearing a forced face of stoicism. Shizu, still rattled, was curled up on the floor.
Kino thought for a moment.
"What is it?"
"About that demon… actually, it might have been the real thing…"
"Oh? Why is that?"
"Actually…" Kino fell into thought again. But she decided to tell Chako-sensei in order to prevent any misunderstandings.
"Actually… when the demon appeared, I set off the smoke bomb and… I ran off the stage!" Kino lied. Oh my! Chako-sensei was shocked. Inuyama glanced at her.
"I noticed it was a real demon and ran away because I was scared. Then Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino appeared from the back! She said, 'Leave the rest to me!'…"
"Oh my! Oh my!"
"So everything afterwards was all her… I didn't do anything. Shizu-senpai and Inuyama held on through it, even putting on costumes--but I was hiding because I was scared. I'm sorry."
'That's a pretty convincing lie.' Hermes thought.
"So you did nothing while all that was going on? While Inuyama and Shizu were doing all they could to hold down the fort!" Chako-sensei said, shocked.
"I… I'm sorry." Kino could do nothing but apologize. After all, she was the one who brought up the issue in the first place. Kino lowered her face.
Chako-sensei detached herself from Inuyama's back and put her hands on Kino's shoulder.
"Thanks for telling me the truth, Kino. Actually… I knew all along that you weren't up there, that it was Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino."
Kino raised her head. Chako-sensei narrowed her eyes and continued.
"I was worried you'd try to take credit for someone else's work, Kino. But I knew you wouldn't let me down. Thank you!"
"Uh… you're welcome." Kino smiled bashfully. All's well that ends well. Honest people always get what they deserve.
"Besides, it would've been terrible if that was you, Kino."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
Chako-sensei held out a tiny scrap of paper. It was shiny and gold. It was also two centimetres wide.
"That… that's… it can't be…!" Kino muttered frantically, and Chako-sensei nodded gravely.
"It is… it's the ticket to the Chinese restaurant. I put it in my bag, but it was hit by a stray bullet from Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino… she was avoiding the audience, but I guess she didn't see the black bag in the dark. My wallet's been turned to smithereens. This was all I could salvage."
"Then… then…" Kino's lip trembled. Her teeth clattered.
She covered her ears, as if rejecting Chako-sensei's words, but the information reached her eardrums anyway.
"Yeah. We can't use the ticket anymore." Chako-sensei said brightly.
Kino's scream echoed through the empty gymnasium.
It sounded like Chako-sensei was saying something, but Kino couldn't hear anything anymore.
"I was an orphan. Just like Hutch the Honeybee."
Chako-sensei began quietly.
They were on the school rooftop. The bright September moon shone in the sky.
Chako-sensei and Kino were sitting on a flower-print mat on the concrete floor.
Inuyama and Shizu sat on either side of them, looking up at the sky.
In each of their hands were hot, steaming pork dumplings. On the mat was a heated container containing many more.
They were from the Chinese restaurant.
The ticket had been ripped to shreds and rendered unusable, but the meal had been prepared anyway because Chako-sensei had made a reservation beforehand. She had asked for a huge delivery of dumplings to the school instead of a full-course meal at the restaurant. Of course, Kino didn't hear any of this for a while because she was screaming in despair.
Kino, who was in the middle of working on her third dumpling, stopped and looked at Chako-sensei in confusion when she began to talk seriously about her past.
The beautiful teacher continued, face lit by the moonlight.
"My parents abandoned me when I was a baby. I grew up in an institution overseas. I don't remember much, but the institution disappeared when the country crumbled. I had nowhere to go and was lost in despair."
"What happened then…?" Kino asked.
"A traveler saved me." Chako-sensei said with a soft smile.
"Yes. He was a tall man who was travelling with a big white dog. He happened to be in the country at the time and took me away, saying that there was nothing left for me there. And we travelled together. He was a kind man. He took care of me until I became an adult. Him, myself, and the dog travelled everywhere together. But he disappeared one day a few years ago, while we were travelling in this country. All he left was a letter saying 'You've grown up so well'."
Kino listened attentively to Chako-sensei's story, not yet reaching for her fourth dumpling.
And from beside them, Shizu--
and Inuyama both quietly listened to Chako-sensei.
The autumn moon shone beautifully in the night sky. The sound of crying insects surrounded their quiet world.
"That's why I decided to become a teacher. I wanted to help kids, the same way that man helped me."
"That sounds amazing." Kino responded honestly, and Chako-sensei grinned.
"Thank you. But all I did in college was make mistakes. I spent years doing nothing but work and study, and finally graduated. I came to this school, and…"
Chako-sensei quietly took a sip of Oolong tea from her mug. She continued.
"And I started this club. It's always been my dream, you see."
"Yes. I didn't make this club because I wanted to be a supervisor. I just wanted to try taking part in club activities. Sorry I was being so selfish. But I'd always wanted to do something fun with a group of people. I dreamt about it all the time."
Kino slowly reached for her fourth dumpling. She grasped it tightly and brought it to her mouth. And--
"Ever dream about eating delicious food with everyone else?"
"Of course! And looks like that one's come true today too! This is wonderful!"
Kino took a bite out of her dumpling as Chako-sensei laughed.
"One of my dreams came true today, too."
Of course, Kino's dream was to eat these dumplings. 'That's a pretty small dream.' Hermes thought, but he didn't voice his opinion.
"That's great! Life's all about dreaming big and working towards your goals!" Chako-sensei declared. She continued.
"And what about you two?"
She asked the male half of the club.
They said nothing and merely ate dumplings under the moonlight.
So Chako-sensei reached for Inuyama on her left and grabbed him by the back of the neck.
Chako-sensei pulled Inuyama towards her and reached her arm to her right, bypassing Kino.
She took hold of Shizu's uniform and pulled him towards her as well. Kino got to her feet and looked at the sitting trio. Inuyama, Chako-sensei, and Shizu were sitting side-by-side.
Chako-sensei grabbed the backs of their necks and pulled them to her chest.
Inuyama and Shizu's faces were almost touching as they were held in Chako-sensei's embrace. Inuyama looked to his left and Shizu to his right, averting each other's sights.
Still holding the two students, Chako-sensei smiled and put her chin on their heads.
"You're both so gloomy! I don't care if you don't have dreams, or if you have secrets! But--"
Inuyama and Shizu asked.
"But--try to get along! As your teacher, I hope you can be friendly to each other!" Chako-sensei said, putting pressure on her arms.
The duo said nothing. Shizu sighed heavily.
Kino watched the seemingly friendly trio from behind.
And she muttered, "First come, first served." as she reached for yet another dumpling.
"Just how many are you planning to eat?" Hermes was about to ask, but stopped himself.
The moon shone peacefully over the relaxed Take Action Now Club.
As a side note, the principal had determined that it would be dangerous to allow the Take Action Now Club to perform at the Culture Festival. It was only natural, as they had put a hole through the gymnasium wall with their special effects.
Kino was very relieved to hear this, but Chako-sensei didn't give up.
The very day that they were barred from the Culture Fest--
"In that case, we'll start a band! Culture Festivals these days are all about music! Doesn't matter if we're composing our own music or using the school song! Kino, you're on guitar. Inuyama's on drums, and Shizu's playing bass! And I'll be the vocalist!"
"Huh? Do we have to do something for the Culture Fest…?"
"Get your act together, Kino! Let's practice! We're going to take action now. Off to the music room to SING!"
"But they're still having class in there."
"Who cares about class? You have to listen to me sing! You're coming too, right, Inuyama?"
Inuyama had been tight-lipped under Chako-sensei's head, but--
"You're coming, right?"
He had no choice but to nod when Chako-sensei angrily elbowed his head.
So English class, the final period, had suddenly been turned into a self-study session.
Kino, Chako-sensei, and Inuyama headed for the music room. Chako-sensei began playing the piano like a master.
And her plan--
was ruined because she was tone-deaf.
To be continued…?
But Chapter 6 is a prequel...
But Chapter 6 is a prequel...
(1) Tokusatsu is a genre of Japanese film/television which involves the heavy use of special effects. It's usually for kaiju movies in the vein of Godzilla or sentai movies like Kamen Rider.