As a side note, there seems to be something amiss with the chapter numbers. Volume 2 ended off with a "Chapter 6" (more of a side story, to be frank), but this volume is also entirely comprised of a "Chapter 6". I blame someone other than myself for this mistake.
Before reading this volume, I suggest that you read this chapter of Kino's Journey. (There was a reason I translated that chapter! Just like with the Shizu story with Ti)
If you're ready to dive in, recite Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino's transformation catchphrase three times while standing on one leg and spoon-feeding curry to a duck, and click [Read More]!
As you already know, this novel is 100% a work of fiction. It doesn't have anything at all to do with the Prime Minister of Japan, the Government of Japan, the Self-Defense Forces, the city of Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture, or [Kino's Journey -The Beautiful World-].
Kino's Journey Act 4 - School Arc
Chapter 5.5 - Chako's Report -Prologue of Gakuen Kino 3-
A certain Mr. Taro Aso (Note: the 92nd Prime Minister of Japan. A term used to denote several classes of non-flying humans) was walking down a very long hallway.
He wore a grey suit with a shiny Diet Member badge on his lapel. Around his neck was a blue tie with white raindrop patterns.
Mr. Aso was walking this light green, windowless, sterile hallway alone with not even a single bodyguard.
Soon, Mr. Aso stopped in front of a certain door. There was nothing written on it, not even a name.
Mr. Aso slowly put his right hand onto a glass panel to the right of the door. The panel flashed faintly.
With a mechanical voice announcing his entrance, the door slid open. Mr. Aso stepped inside. The door closed shut.
The room was nearly pitch-black. Very close to the entrance was a large, wooden desk. The only source of light was a small, antique desk lamp perched atop it.
The faint light from the bulb of the lamp dimly illuminated the desk and the chairs. It wasn't enough to reveal anything about the size of the room or any furnishings that might have been hidden away.
It was very quiet. Not even the humming of an air conditioner could be heard in this place.
Mr. Aso stepped forward without hesitation and took a seat, his legs crossed.
At that very moment, another light slicked on.
A spotlight on the ceiling lit up a place about four metres ahead of Mr. Aso's seat at the desk. Standing under the light was a lone woman. She was young and very beautiful, dressed in a white suit jacket and skirt. She was perhaps in her early twenties. With her tall, slim figure, emerald-green eyes, and short white hair, the woman was most obviously not Japanese. She wasn't smiling, but she wasn't inexpressive. There was a look of confident calculation in her eye--a look of ambition.
Around her neck was an ID card.
On that card was, of course, a photograph of her, grinning and wearing a business suit. Under the picture was a name.
That was her name. There was nothing else on the card save for a barcode, leaving her identity and position a mystery.
"You may begin, Kuroshima." Said Mr. Aso.
"Sir. I will begin with a brief overview of the ones under our surveillance." Chako said in perfect Japanese, lightly bowing to Mr. Aso.
She snapped her fingers, and a screen popped up in midair, right beside her. Although the mechanics of the device were a mystery, Mr. Aso looked into the screen without even blinking.
On the HD screen was an image of a girl in a sailor uniform sitting at a table.
She had short black hair, large eyes, and a pretty face. In the holster at her waist was a model gun. Several green pouches hung from her belt.
"Ohh…" Mr. Aso vocalized quietly. It was most definitely not because he was looking at a beautiful girl. The reason for his moan was over two hundred pieces of deep-fried dumplings, which were neatly piled up on the table in front of the girl. In each of the girl's hands was a pair of chopsticks. Her eyes were deadly calm, but even through the screen he could feel the pure desire to devour everything.
"This is Subject #1. She is in the fourth year at her institution--a first year high school student. She is registered under the name [Kino]." Chako began to explain. "This photograph was taken inside a certain ramen restaurant in downtown Yokohama one week ago. What you're looking at now, sir, is the subject undertaking a challenge menu, in which anyone who finishes three hundred dumplings within an hour will get their meal free, as well as a five thousand yen cash prize. For your reference, there have only been four successful attempts on this menu in the past five years."
"If you'll turn your attention to the next image."
Chako waved her finger in the air, and the image on the screen changed.
"Ohh…" Mr. Aso said again.
It was almost like a spot-the-differences game.
The new image was identical to the previous one--the girl's position, her expression, the angle of her chopsticks.
But the dumplings on the table had been cleared out completely.
"This image was taken nineteen minutes later."
"You mean to say that… she finished it all."
"Yes, sir. On average, that means she had eaten one dumpling every 3.8 seconds. Of course, the actual speed was likely higher, as she spent the first few minutes cooling them off."
"Hm… Let me ask you something. This is a very important question…"
"Did she eat them with pepper oil and vinegar?"
"Yes, sir. But initially she ate them as they were. Reports say that around halfway through she began to add soy sauce, and around the end she accented the flavour with vinegar and pepper oil."
"I see… we have a professional on our hands."
"Yes, sir. The agent who took these photographs was one of my men, disguised as a tourist. He reported, and I quote, 'It was as though I was watching the birth of the universe unfolding before my very eyes. The sheer holiness of the act sent my soul shivering. I do not believe I will be eating dumplings again for some time.'. I've also been told that she has already conquered every single challenge menu in the area. Things have gotten to the point where restauranteurs in Yokohama, Kamakura, and Fujisawa are exchanging information about this so-called 'Green Demon'."
"I see. Now that I look at her, she's quite the beauty, don't you think?"
"Please take a look at the next image, sir. This is from a security camera. This was recovered from partially damaged data, so the quality is quite low."
Chako waved her hand again, changing the image.
It was a picture straight out of a war zone.
Most of the screen was obscured by a thick cloud of dust and flying pieces of debris. However, in the middle was the somewhat blurry form of a black-haired girl wearing a green sailor uniform--a girl who looked exactly like the one who had earlier been sitting in front of the table of dumplings. A faint smile graced her lips as she held an M60E4 machine gun towards the right side of the screen with her left arm alone, as though she were aiming a handgun. The flash of light at the end of the barrel and the countless shell casings sparkling in the air were testament to the sheer ferocity of her assault.
"This was the only image captured by the school's security camera, the moment before it was shattered by a demon's claws."
"So this girl… This girl is the transforming hero--heroine who restores humans who have fallen to temptation and become demons? 'Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino'?"
"Yes, sir. She can brush off an elephant attack like nothing, support a hundred people with her unusual strength, and possesses a mysterious weapon that can instantly return a demon to human form."
"Extraordinary. How can she hold a position like that while shooting?"
"We expected no less from you, sir, a former Olympic shooter. Although modified to reduce weight, that is a ten-kilogram machine gun she is wielding, not including the ammunition. Obviously, no normal human is capable of such a feat. We've had a doctor examine the photograph, but he reported no visibly abnormal swelling of the muscles or the like. I believe the most plausible hypothesis is that she is not from this earth."
"I would also like to add that, according to reports, 'Mysterious blah blah blah' is a self-proclaimed title. For convenience's sake, we have shortened it to 'Mysterious Kino'. This is the only extant photograph of her, as civilians are always busy escaping whenever demons--and Mysterious Kino, by extension--appear. Even security cameras tend to be destroyed in the commotion. It's a minor miracle that we even have this one photograph."
"So this girl…" Mr. Aso trailed off, grimacing. Chako, however, smiled satisfactorily.
"Yes. She bears an uncanny resemblance to the girl from the first photograph--Kino."
"Yes. They're almost identical."
"We're keeping a close watch on her, on the off-chance that there is a connection between the two. However, we have yet to find any conclusive evidence."
"Not one? Has no one witnessed a transformation sequence?"
"No one, sir. We don't even have security footage. Perhaps she takes care to transform in the cameras' blind spots, or perhaps she transforms where the cameras have already been destroyed. Or perhaps she intentionally destroys any cameras in the area after transforming. The only concrete evidence we have is that the girl named Kino was always present at the times and places of Mysterious Kino sightings. Of course, we cannot go by this as conclusive evidence. There is a chance that the two are unrelated individuals, and considering the magnitude of the situation, it would be best to exercise caution."
"That is the end of my report on Mysterious Kino. If you would look to the next slide."
Chako waved her hand, and a new image flickered onto the screen. Mr. Aso's eyes were greeted by a handsome male student in a white standing-collar uniform. This time, it was a video.
The melancholy young man had slightly long, shimmery hair. At his left side was a katana. He was on the sidewalk, presumably on his way to school. Captured on camera behind him were several other students, but their faces were hidden with cartoony blue-and-white smileys. In the background was the sound of passing cars and the chatter of students. The screen was rough, and it shook slightly, giving away the fact that it was likely shot on an old camcorder. Suddenly, a dove flew by across the screen.
"This young man is Shizu, a senior in the same institution as Kino. He is a model student with handsome good looks and excellent academic standing. Naturally, he is rather popular. Female students often refer to him by nicknames like 'The Katana Nobleman' or 'Prince Shizu'." Chako explained.
"I'm quite jealous."
"Select female students also draw manga starring this young man to sell at Ariake."
"I retract my previous statement."
"Even though the manga are a considerable source of the aforementioned popularity, sir?"
"I'm afraid so. I'm quite content with just playing mahjong in my manga appearances."
Perhaps the camera had run out of tape. The video suddenly stopped as Shizu walked right up to the screen.
"Please keep this student in mind as you view the next piece of footage, sir. It may be quite shocking." Chako said gravely. Mr. Aso shrugged.
"This next video features a man we call 'Samoyed Mask'."
"I've been told that the name came from a doodle in one of the classrooms. 'Samoyed Mask Descends!', was it? Something like a movie tagline."
"Yes sir. If you would look at this piece of footage…"
The screen went blank for a moment, and was soon replaced with the face of a smiling man wearing a white mask. This was also a video, but this time, it was of a frighteningly high quality. It was practically something straight out of a nature documentary. There was even excellent audio to match.
"I love lunchtime~ What could it be today~?"
He was singing. The man in the white school uniform with a katana at his side was singing calmly and joyously.
"Don't get your lunches and benches in bunches~ You might get a tummyache~"
He was an exceedingly accomplished singer.
The man was wearing a white cape over his uniform, and he was wearing a mask that covered his eyes. On his head were a pair of white dog ears, with an apple sitting in between them. The man was sitting at the side of a large river. It seemed that the recording was taken with a high-quality telescopic lens and a powerful microphone.
"Hm…" Mr. Aso said yet again.
"I've heard the rumours, but this man truly is… unusual, Kuroshima."
"Yes, sir. But the problem comes in a bit later. If you would watch carefully, Samoyed Mask will soon open the handkerchief that is wrapped around his boxed lunch."
"Oh? Is he planning a picnic?"
"Yes, sir. We've managed to find out that his boxed lunch was a mackerel pike rice set from a famous local eatery."
The man in the video put the lunchbox on his lap.
"Can't take it no more~ I'mma open it~ I'm really gonna open it~"
The man sang with a smile on his lips, slowly opening the lid. The moment he saw the food in the box, the man put on a look of shock, as though he would break out into a surprised cry.
He then shouted:
"Whoa! Mackerel! Piiiiiiiiike! Rice Seeeeeeet!"
The video cut off there.
The lamp on the desk quietly shed light on the Prime Minister.
About ten seconds later, Mr. Aso finally spoke up, albeit in a quiet voice.
"I see… I understand that this is no ordinary man we're dealing with. So he is our second target?"
"Yes, sir. We've found sword marks all over the institution, distinct from claw marks caused by demons. The institution's gymnasium, in fact, had already been demolished once. We believe it is all the work of Samoyed Mask. No ordinary human could cut 50-centimetre thick reinforced concrete in a single stroke."
"As for the reason of the sudden cutoff in this video footage, we initially suspected equipment malfunction. However, after sending it in to the manufacturer for repairs, we were told that the cause of the breakage was a toothpick that had been lodged in the camera. We've traced its source to the aforementioned local eatery's lunch sets. For your reference, the filming team was approximately two hundred metres away from Samoyed Mask."
"Just like Mysterious Kino, Samoyed Mask always appears when demons materialize. We initially suspected that, due to the property damage he causes--even more than the demons, in some cases--he might be the mastermind behind the demons. However, we eliminated the possibility after we found signs that he had worked in order to protect Mysterious Kino."
"I see. So that young man--Shizu--would be…?" Mr. Aso asked, circling his index finger in the air.
"Yes, sir." Chako nodded. "There is no one in Japan--no, in the entire world, who resembles Samoyed Mask more than he does. We've gotten an 89% positive match for build, and a 95% positive match for voice sampling. Of course, we still have no conclusive proof. Currently, he is merely a person of interest, just like Kino from earlier."
"Yes. We must be cautious. We cannot afford to make any mistakes."
Chako agreed, then waved her hand again.
"These are our final two subjects."
The screen changed again. This time it was a still photograph of a male student. It was a bust-up picture(Note: A picture of a person from the chest up. Has nothing to do with a subject's chest size), much like those found on identification cards.
The subject was a beautiful young man with shoulder-length white hair, wearing a white shirt. He was staring at Mr. Aso with a bored look that was often found on ID cards and the like.
"Hm? Is this boy a relative of yours, Kuroshima?" Mr. Aso asked.
"No, unfortunately." Chako answered flatly. "But he is a person of interest. His name is Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou."
"Oh! Since my name is Aso Taro, our names match! Although that middle name of his could frankly use a change."
"He is a classmate of Kino, who transferred to the institution this summer, having moved by himself from Europe."
"You mean the class you've gone undercover into as a teacher this fall?"
"Yes, sir. Other than the fact that he is extremely popular with the female students and that he stubbornly flirts with Kino, he is a normal student. However-"
"If you would take a look at this video, sir."
The screen flickered again. The quality of the recording was very messy, but they managed to make out the scene of a classroom interior. The profile of a young man facing the chalkboard was visible, but just barely. They could tell that he was wearing a black trenchcoat, his long white hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and that he was wearing sunglasses. The man quickly began to write words on the chalkboard with both hands. The quality made it difficult to tell, but it looked like the first word was "Kill".
His movements could not have been human. His two hands, both clutching pieces of chalk, were moving at unbelievable speeds. He repeated the same movements for about three more seconds, at which point the entire chalkboard was covered in words. The recording cut off there.
"We recovered this footage from a cell phone that a student happened to leave behind on his desk at the time of the demon attack. Of course, the footage was deleted from the owner's phone before we returned it to him."
"Is he another possibility, then?"
"Yes, sir. From the scribbles on the blackboard, which we presume has been written by the young man personally, his name is Detective Wanwan."
"So is this a similar case to that Shizu and Samoyed Mask from before? You believe that these two young men may be the same person?"
"Yes, sir. According to a literary supercomputer analysis, the possibility of Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou being Detective Wanwan is over 89%."
"But still not 100%. You keep repeating that."
Chako nodded quietly.
Mr. Aso slowly got off his seat. He stood up straight, stretching his muscles.
He then spoke, directing his voice into a dark corner of the room.
"I've learned many things upon becoming Prime Minister. But there was nothing more surprising than finding out that 'Multiple individuals from outer space are pretending to be high school students in Yokohama, fighting to protect humankind in secret. All in order to return tempted demons back to human form'. It was all predicted in the ancient document from the Kamakura era."
Mr. Aso was looking into the darkness. It stared back.
"To find that both demons, and extraterrestrials fighting for justice--or, I suppose, people that seem to be extraterrestrials--actually existed…"
"Yes. It has all been recorded in the prophecy."
"The Japanese Government cannot afford to acknowledge the existence of extraterrestrials. Although my mother always swore up and down that she had seen them in person…"
Mr. Aso trailed off, then finally looked back at Chako.
"How is the demon analysis going?"
Chako shook her head.
"To be frank, we are making absolutely no progress. We hospitalized students who had fallen to demonic temptation but were returned to human form by Mysterious Kino, but we found no abnormalities. In fact, the doctors were shocked to discover that the students had actually been cured of preexisting chronic illnesses or injuries. The monsters created by the demons also dissolve into ashes, making it impossible to investigate them."
"So all we can do at this point is capture those extraterrestrials who fight for us earthlings and question them ourselves… When really, all I'd like to do is reward them for their work. This is quite troubling."
"If we can at least prove that those three students are, indeed, those three persons of interest… If we can somehow make contact while those extraterrestrials, who should not have Japanese citizenship, while they are in their 'student forms', we might be able to find a way."
"How terrifying. We cannot risk instigating an intergalactic war. Try to refrain from using physical force. And before that, would it even be possible for us to defeat them, should they turn against us?"
"I can't say for sure, sir. But we have Kisarazu's 4th Helicopter Brigade on constant standby."
"We must ensure that we maintain good relations with these three. I am trying to say that we may even have to allow them to act uninterrupted. Continue keeping tabs on them and look for a way to contact them on positive terms."
"Yes, sir. That is all for my report." Chako said, bowing deeply.
"Good work. I'm counting on you." Aso said pleasantly. Chako stood up straight and saluted him.
"Yes, Your Excellency!"
"Please don't call me that."
"My apologies. If you'll excuse me."
The spotlight that was on Chako suddenly flickered out.
Left behind in the dark room was the chair, the desk, the desk lamp, and Mr. Aso. He took a seat again. The chair creaked as he looked into the space where Chako had been up until a few moments ago. Then…
He breathed out heavily.
"It really is nerve-wracking."
It was a rather strange thing for him to say.
Mr. Aso leaned forward and steepled his fingers, his elbows on the desk. He placed his chin on his hands, and quietly spoke to the space that had just been under the spotlight--where Chako had stood before.
"Kuroshima… The word 'multiple' implies something, you understand? There is another individual we are keeping an eye on." He said, taking out a photograph from his suit pocket. illuminated under the lamplight was a girl about twelve years of age. She wore a brown long-sleeved shirt with a round collar and grey shorts that exposed her stick-thin legs. She had short white hair and emotionless emerald-green eyes. In one hand she was holding a Mk 2 grenade.
"Just how many of you are in this country…?" Mr. Aso muttered, looking down at the photograph.
There was no one who could answer his question.
Continued in Chapter 6 (Prologue).
Continued in Chapter 6 (Prologue).