This is also the last regular update of Gakuen Kino. It's been a long journey since I first started the weekly updates in May, but I had a lot of fun along the way.
I might start working on volume three during the school year, but don't count on it too much.
Regular updates may resume in May of 2012! Until then, stay sharp and remember that Samoyed Mask is always there... watching your every move.
Side Story: A Certain Day in a Certain Summer of a Certain Shizu and a Certain Samoyed Mask
~a Day of a Dog in Dog Days~
This is the story of a day in September that was, strangely enough, as hot as a midsummer day.
A certain Shizu was walking through the shopping district.
It was a school day. As usual, Shizu was wearing a white standing-collar uniform. At his side was a katana in a black sheath. As usual, he was boldly violating weapon possession laws. In his right hand was a large boston bag emblazoned with the logo of an athletics company.
It was just past 3 in the afternoon. The weather was boiling hot despite the fact that it was September.
The sun shone brightly from the clear blue skies, and the temperatures just kept soaring. There was a haze over the hot asphalt.
The stores on either side of him were open, but devoid of customers. The store owners were also cooped up inside. It was almost like a ghost town. There weren't any doves, either. In a little while, customers might make their way here to buy evening snacks, but the streets were quiet at the moment.
Shizu walked through the shopping district, cool as a cucumber. He wasn't sweating at all, despite the weather. Blocking sweat glands was easy for someone like Shizu.
Shizu arrived at a lamppost upon which was posted a warning: "Beware of perverts!". He walked by it.
And as he arrived at the boundary between the shopping district and the residential area--
"Damn it! Damn it all to Hell!"
He encountered a middle-aged man who was drunk at this time of day.
He was a rather large man who looked to be in his early fifties. The man was quite unsightly, wearing nothing but an undershirt and screaming in front of the stationery store.
"Idiot! You bastard!"
In his hand was a half-empty bottle of liquor.
Normally this would be considered a bother to the store's operations, but this man was actually the owner of the stationery store. He had been holding down the shop for thirty years now, but the large bookstore that popped up recently had driven down sales. He was a somewhat pitiful man, who was just barely managing to make a living. Of course, this doesn't give him a free pass to get drunk in midday to harass people passing by.
Normally his wife would keep him in check, but she happened to be out today. The locals, too used to his actions, didn't try to stop him or call the police. The man was completely drunk as he made a spectacle of himself on the road.
"Hm… this is a difficult situation." Shizu mumbled cooly as he slowly approached the drunken man. He spoke to him in a calm voice.
"Sir, making a scene like this may cause problems for others. You may also be in danger of heatstroke in this kind of weather."
"Whaddaya care, you greenhorn?! It ain't none of your business!" the drunkard retorted, spit flying from his mouth. He then began pestering Shizu, calling him a cheeky kid and threatening to call the school.
"Hm. If words are insufficient, punishment must follow…" Shizu mumbled, and the man roared, "What? You wanna fight?!".
"Get over here!" The man yelled and tried to drag Shizu into the alleyway beside his store. Shizu let himself be dragged in.
And once they were in the alley--
"Bring it, punk!"
The drunken man yelled, glaring at Shizu.
Shizu silently and solemnly looked at the drunkard.
Seeing that Shizu was unfazed by his threats, the man began shouting even more loudly, this time in gibberish. However--
"Sir… I cannot let you continue like this. I have no choice but to punish you."
The man got even angrier at Shizu's words, and began trying to provoke him.
"Then I shall show you true justice!"
Thud. The boston bag fell from Shizu's hand. The drunkard put up his guard.
Shizu clapped his hands and shouted, "Transform!"
And with that cry, Shizu quickly began to take off his clothes. His uniform jacket, his pants, his socks, his shirt.
As the drunken man watched in stunned silence, Shizu stripped off his underwear and stood naked. The back-alley strip. Amazing musculature.
The drunken man's face paled as he watched this sight. The alcohol began to wear off. The moment the naked man took out an apple from the boston bag, placed it on his head, and put on a suspicious mask, the drunkard was overwhelmed by an indescribable fear.
"AAAAHHHHHH!!! IT"S A PERVERT!"
The man screamed as he tossed away his bottle and ran from the apple- and mask-clad naked man. The sound of his running from the alleyway and into his store echoed through the street, along with the sound of the shutters closing.
The naked pervert, now alone, muttered to himself.
"Hm… Justice is very often misunderstood…"
Currently, he was a slightly melancholy-looking man in a mask. A naked man in a mask.
"Well, I suppose it's a good thing since this incident was solved without bloodshed." he mumbled as he continued his transformation. Of course, he was just putting on clothes.
Once he had finished changing, putting on a suspicious white uniform, a white mask, and a white cape, he had finally transformed into Samoyed Mask, a warrior of justice! (Note: There are multiple versions of him, such as 'α' or 'R', but he will just be known as Samoyed Mask. To be frank, they're all the same guy anyway.)
Having completed his transformation, Samoyed Mask smiled, his pearly-white teeth glinting. He then folded up his tossed uniform, put it in the boston bag, and hid the bag in his cape. Isn't it amazing how he can hide something so large in such a thin cape?
Samoyed Mask checked his katana with his left hand as he walked out into the street. He glanced at the stationery store, the shutters of which were closed.
Some time later.
The temperatures had gone down some and people began to venture out into the shopping district. And among the middle-aged ladies, grandmas, young housewives, and other such normal people was--
"He is a swordsman~!"
Samoyed Mask, walking and singing his theme song. He was still in his transformed state. Because of his outlandish appearance, other shoppers were doing their best to not make eye contact.
"He is a true swordsman~! Defending justice--hm?"
Samoyed Mask caught sight of something.
It was in the middle of the now-crowded shopping district, in front of the lamppost with the warning, "Beware of perverts!".
There was a little girl crying in front of the lamppost.
She was wearing a blue one-piece dress. He long hair went down all the way to her back, and she had stick-thin arms and legs. Perhaps she was about eight years old? The girl was sniffling, leaning against the lamppost with her head bowed. Her tears glistened in the sunlight.
Samoyed Mask stopped singing. He looked to his right. He then looked to his left. There were many people passing by, but none of them would reach out a hand to this crying girl. It was as if they were treating the girl just like Samoyed Mask--walking away briskly, ignoring her presence.
"The world's turning into a cold place." Samoyed Mask mumbled like an old man, and walked up to the her. He then crouched down in front of the girl, who was wiping away tears with the back of her hand.
"Hello there, little miss. Why the long face?"
Hearing these gentlemanly words, the girl froze. She slowly lifted her head. She was a pretty girl with a very cute face.
Samoyed Mask spoke to her softly.
"Don't worry. I'm a warrior of justice. I'm most definitely not a construction mogul."
Really? The girl cocked her head, face covered in tears and snot.
"You're crying… What is it? I'll do whatever I can to help, so don't worry."
Samoyed Mask was very kind. The girl stopped crying and hesitantly spoke to Samoyed Mask in a very cute voice.
"Are you… talking to me…?"
Samoyed Mask nodded, smiling.
"Of course. My name is Samoyed Mask. I am a true warrior of justice who loves justice above all else. I am a knight among knights who looks better than anyone in pristine white. And what about you, young miss? What's your name?"
A little girl and a pervert in a mask. This was the kind of combination that would have most people calling the police, but the passersby did nothing but glance at Samoyed Mask and walk away quickly.
The girl smiled beautifully at Samoyed Mask's question.
"Chika! My name's Chika!"
"Chika? 'Knowledge of flowers', huh? What a lovely name(1)." Samoyed Mask said gently, like a nice guy. Is it just me, or does it sound really creepy coming from this guy? Justmehuh?OkayIgetit
"In any case, why are you crying, Chika? If you're lost, I will do my best as a warrior of justice to get you back to your mom and dad. I could take you to the police station."
When Samoyed Mask, who looked like he'd be arrested on the spot at a police station, said this, the girl shook her head.
"No! I'm not the one who's lost!"
"It's my dog!" The girl said. Her tears had stopped, and her face was completely clean. She wasn't even sweating, either.
The girl resolutely explained that her pet dog had disappeared without a trace while she had left the house for a bit.
"I see… it is true that one gets terribly lonely when a beloved dog disappears somewhere. But--" Samoyed Mask put emphasis on his next words. "That doesn't mean that your dog's abandoned you, Chika. What's the doggy's name?"
"'Reagan'. He's a brown daschund. He's got a red collar and a metal tag with his name and our address."
"Reagan, is it? What a strong name. He probably lost his way while he went outside. I'm sure he's doing his best to find you right now."
"Then will you help me find him? Will you help me find Reagan?"
Samoyed Mask looked at the girl who was staring straight into his eyes behind the mask.
And he slowly nodded.
"All right. Let's look for him together! But remember, I am not a computer."
The girl cocked her head again.
"First, let's ask the people in this area!"
Samoyed Mask stood up and held out his right hand to the girl.
"But… no one ever answers me when I ask them…"
"Don't worry. I'll ask them for you."
The girl tentatively reached out to Samoyed Mask. Her hand made contact with Samoyed Mask's outstretched hand.
The girl smiled happily and took his large hand in her small hand.
"Let's be off! I'm not wet concrete, either."
Samoyed Mask and the little girl then began grabbing people off the street to ask about Reagan.
The girl was very shy, so it was up to Samoyed Mask to ask, "Excuse me", and ask if someone had seen Reagan.
While people were surprised by Samoyed Mask's appearance, they would tell him that they didn't know or apologize for being unable to help.
He had asked about a hundred people in the shopping district, but no one knew anything about Reagan's whereabouts. As time passed, the sun began to disappear into the west. It would almost be time for the girl to go home.
"This is problematic…"
Not even the great Samoyed Mask could do something about this. Even still--
He could not bring himself to just leave this girl, who was holding his hand and on the verge of tears.
Samoyed Mask asked a passing young man, a university student, despite not having much hope. "Have you seen a dog that looks like this?"
"Oh! Oh…! I did! I've seen that dog!" The student answered.
"I saw him at the hill behind the park over there. I saw the collar and thought it might belong to someone, so I tried to catch him. But he ran away. The colour of the collar and the breed are all the same. He must be the one you're talking about."
"Thank you! The hill behind the park, right? Let's go!"
Samoyed Mask thanked the student and ran, holding the little girl's hand. The park was a little ways away. The hill was a forested area.
As he watched Samoyed Mask run off with his cape aflutter, the student mumbled, "What a weird outfit."
He then added,
"But it's already been three years since I saw that dog…"
The girl's cries echoed through the forest.
The skies were reddening, and the light that filtered in through the leaves was growing dim. Samoyed Mask continued to search for Reagan, holding the girl's hand.
"Reagan! Where are you?"
The girl's anguished cries ran out through the woods. Samoyed Mask had just begun to think that he should suggest to her that they search tomorrow.
It was the sound of a dog barking.
"Reagan!" The girl yelled.
Shocked, Samoyed Mask looked down. In front of the girl was a dog wearing a bright red collar with a metal tag, wagging his tail. He was identical to Chika's description.
Chika let go of Samoyed Mask's hand. She kneeled on the tall grass and took Reagan in her arms.
"Reagan! Reagan! I'm so glad you're all right!"
The dog licked the girl's face as she held him in a hug.
"Don't leave like that ever again, okay!"
Reagan barked quickly as he energetically wagged his tail.
"I'm glad for you, Chika. Reagan."
Samoyed Mask kneeled in front of Chika and held out his right hand, still warm with the pressure of her grip. Reagan sniffed his hand and licked his fingertips.
"Haha, that tickles." Samoyed Mask laughed. The girl looked at him, crying tears of joy.
"Thank you! Thank you so much!"
"Not a problem. All in a day's work for a warrior of justice."
A single tear ran down the girl's face as she stood up, holding the dog in her arms.
"What a relief. Let's go home with Reagan now. I'm sure your mom and dad are worried about you, just like you were worried about Reagan." Samoyed Mask suggested.
The girl smiled.
"Thanks so much, big brother in the weird outfit."
"You're very welcome. By the way, I'm not a lotus root."
"I have to go now."
"Yes. Now, let me take you home. It's dangerous in the dark. These days, there are some terrible criminals that go after children."
"Thanks, but it's okay. This is goodbye."
Woof! Reagan barked.
Samoyed Mask cocked his head in confusion. Just as he was about to tell her, "I can't leave you here in the forest. Let me at least take you to the shopping district, where there are a lot of people"--
Chika and Reagan disappeared.
It was in an instant. The girl holding the dog disappeared into blue particles of light, leaving not even an afterimage.
Samoyed Mask was alone in this dark forest.
He slowly got up and looked to his right. He looked to his left. He looked behind him. He looked above him.
The girl and the dog were nowhere to be found.
No matter how many times he called out, there was no answer.
As Samoyed Mask took a light half-step forward--
He heard a very, very small metallic sound. He could only hear this noise because his powers had been heightened when he transformed into Samoyed Mask.
Samoyed Mask moved his foot and kneeled over the spot where the girl had been standing with the dog. He crouched down and looked into the darkness.
And he found something.
A red collar, faded and worn with age.
A dirt-covered metal tag.
The bones of an animal.
A yellowed set of animal bones were scattered around, half-buried in the ground.
Samoyed Mask slowly brought the collar to eye-level. Several tiny bones scattered over the ground.
Engraved on the metal tag were the words "Reagan - Chika's Lovely Dog.".
And a nearby address.
Samoyed Mask tightly grasped the cold name tag.
A strange visitor made his way to a certain house.
A handsome student in a white standing-collar uniform, with a katana strapped to his side, had visited out of the blue.
The student spoke to the couple who owned this place.
"I'm very sorry for the sudden intrusion. I'm a friend of Chika. May I say see her?"
They might not have let him in at all if he hadn't handed them an old dog collar.
Shizu, having been invited into the house, sat on his knees, placed his katana on the floor beside him, and--
"We meet again."
He bowed deeply towards Chika.
The girl in the black picture frame was smiling brightly, wearing a blue one-piece dress.
After burning the incense, Shizu told the couple that he had spoken to Chika before when she was out walking the dog. He then added:
"This evening, I happened to come by Reagan's collar and remains. I gave him a proper burial, and came to visit because I thought it only right to at least return his collar."
The couple nodded sadly, and bowed in thanks many times over. They placed the collar beside her photo.
Shizu was told by the parents that Chika had died of an illness three years earlier.
He was also told that Reagan ran away from home to find the hospitalized Chika and never returned.
And that Chika worried for Reagan until her death.
As Shizu walked through the dark, deserted shopping district, he stopped in front of a certain lamppost.
There was no one there anymore.
Shizu smiled and mumbled,
"Justice is often very misunderstood."
He then disappeared into the street.
The lamppost with the warning, "Beware of perverts!" watched him as he walked away.
Continued in Volume 3.
Continued in Volume 3.
(1) "Chika" is written with the kanji 知花.