Monday, 14 May 2012

Gakuen Kino - Chapter 6 (Part 1)

More Gakuen Kino. Enjoy!

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Chapter 6 - Part 1: She Comes to School
~Escaper~



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It was a certain Monday in October.

The day after Kino rolled around her bed with nothing to do.

Yesterday's rain was still here, but even stronger than before. It sounds like the autumn rain front is trying its hardest today.

As a side note, I don't understand why military terminology like "Front" is acceptable for terms like "warm front", but words like "Guerilla" in "Guerilla rains" aren't allowed because of their military connection. Is it because I'm a military otaku? Is it because I'm a Pisces? Or is it because I'm no good at English?

Setting that aside, the students seemed to be tired of the rain that had lasted all weekend. They sat in their seats, faces darker than the cloudy sky, annoyed by their wet socks and sleeves.

Sitting in her new seat for this term, at the back of the classroom beside the hallway, Kino absently waited for homeroom with her chin on her desk.

"I'm bored…" Kino complained quietly. Just like the other students, Kino was wearing a winter version of her sailor uniform. Around her waist was a belt from which hung several pouches and a holster. Hermes hung from the other side.

At the worst seat in the classroom, the middle seat at the front row, sat a certain male student.

He was a young man with white hair.

Who is this boy? Please don't tell me you've forgotten!

This is Kino's oblivious stalker-material classmate of Kino, Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou!

But for some reason, ever since last month's [Allison] rehearsal, Inuyama had gone quiet. Even when he met Kino he just greeted her quietly, not following her anywhere.

That was one of the reasons why Kino was so bored, but because of a bunch of complicated teenager-y stubborn psychological blah blah blah, Kino did not even understand this about herself.

The class bell rang.

Normllay, their 70-plus homeroom teacher would hobble into the classroom on the dot, say "Good morning, everyone", and start the period, but today was different. He did come on time, but two other people followed him inside.

"Good morning, everyone. There's someone I'd like to introduce to you today."

His opening sentence was a little longer than usual, too. The students began murmuring.

One of the two people who had stepped into the class was a very familiar face--their English teacher, Kuroshima Chako-sensei. She was a woman with short white hair and emerald-green eyes. Stylish as always, she sported a black business suit and skirt. The picture of sexiness.

Surprisingly enough, the second person was a blonde girl.

She had long hair, pale skin, and green eyes. Obviously the students had no idea that she was the very girl who had the anime conversation with the immigrations officer in Narita Airport yesterday.

She was dressed in a uniform from a different school. She wore a black and red checkered skirt that covered her knees and wore a neatly-tied red necktie. On her navy jacket was an inhumanly complicated school crest, embroidered in gold thread. On her feet she wore white socks and red indoor shoes. It was a look straight out of some trendy foreign film.

'She's cute!' The boys thought.

'Wow! She looks like a doll!' The girls thought.

Kino, being Kino, thought, 'What's a foreigner doing in our class?'. But then she glanced over at Chako-sensei.

"I'll not intercede in this matter." Kino muttered, as though she was someone from a historical drama.

"Now, everyone. Let me introduce our new classmate."

The students's eyes at once moved from the girl to the teacher.

The teacher, wishing that his students would give him this much attention in class, began.

"This is Miss Smith, who's just arrived from the U.S. yesterday. She will be studying with our class for about two weeks. Since she can't speak Japanese, Kuroshima-sensei will be interpreting for her."

'Oh, I see.' The students understood at once. Chako-sensei interpreted the homeroom teacher's introduction to the girl.

"I'll let Kuroshima-sensei take over now. If you will, Kuroshima-sensei."

The homeroom teacher handed the reins to Kuroshima-sensei. She took charge.

"My name is Kuroshima Chako."

'We all know that!' The students thought in unison, looking up at Chako-sensei.

"Miss Smith here will be studying here in our class for the next two weeks."

'This isn't your class.' The students thought, astonished.

"Short-term study periods like this aren't so common these days."

'Right. Don't most people stay for at least a year?' The students wondered.

"I can't divulge the details, but Miss Smith's father is the CEO of a huge corporation. Don't tell anyone that he donated a huge sum of money to this institution in exchange for allowing his only daughter this stay."

'Adults.' The students thought dryly.

"Anyway, we might not have too much time together, but get along, everyone!" Chako-sensei concluded with a smile. She looked over at Kino, sitting at the back of the class.

"Kino! I'm going to assign you to be Miss Smith's guide while she's here!"

"Whaaaaaat?!" Kino screamed, getting off her seat. Chako-sensei took advantage of the situation and spoke to the newcomer in English.

[See that girl over there? The one who just got up with all that enthusiasm? Her name's Kino, and she'll be your guide around class! She's a bit of a big eater, but she's a kind and gentle girl, I promise!]

[Thank you so much, Miss Kuroshima. I'm very grateful.]

Though Kino couldn't understand a word of their English, that was all the more reason for Kino to complain.

"W-wait a second! I can't speak English!"

"I know, Kino. If I remember correctly, you translated the phrase 'Pay per view' as 'a paper airplane (going vieeewwwwwww)' on your last quiz."

"Then leave it to someone-"

"That's why I had a wonderful idea!"

It seemed like Chako-sensei had no intention of listening to Kino. This time, she looked down at Inuyama, sitting right in front of the podium.

"That's why Inuyama here will follow you two and take care of interpreting! As long as you're together, [No Problem]!"

"Whaaaaaat?!" Kino cried again.

"If you say so, Kuroshima-sensei." Inuyama, on the other hand, accepted her orders with grace.

"Wh-why is everything-"
'Why is everything going so fast?' It's amazing how Chako-sensei never gives Kino a chance to finish her sentences. She quickly turned to the new student.

[There we go. Kino says she's happy to be your guide. This boy here is Inuyama. He'll be interpreting for you and Kino. Come over here, Inuyama! Say hello!]

Inuyama got off his seat and spoke to the newcomer in fluent English.

[My name is Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarou. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Welcome to Japan, and welcome to our class.]

As the other students broke out into cries of astonished admiration, Kino stood there in shock.

The girl smiled at Inuyama.

[The pleasure's all mine. Thank you in advance for all your help.]

[It's no trouble.]

After the conversation:

"That's enough now." Chako-sensei made to leave the classroom, leaving the slack-jawed Kino standing at her desk. She suddenly stopped.

"Oh, right! I forgot to tell you her name!" Chako-sensei exclaimed, and instructed the new student to introduce herself.

[Of course! Hello, everyone!]

She was obviously speaking English, but anyone can understand words like "Hello" and "Everyone". Hmph! The other students greeted her with [Hello]s and [Hi]s and [Konnichiwa]s.

Although it wasn't a very eloquent exchange, even minuscule amounts of comprehension is generally enough to raise people's cheer. The girl smiled. The satisfaction was infectious--the rest of the class seemed content as well. Kino was still standing.

And so the girl--

[My name is--]

Introduced herself to the class.

[Inid. My name is Inid Smith. It's nice to meet you.]

"Inid?"

"Inid."

"Inid, huh?"

The students whispered. Energetic answers like "Nice to meet you!" and "Hi there!" and "Welcome!" were returned to Inid.

"Say, can you speak any Japanese?" One girl asked, in Japanese. Inuyama instantly interpreted for her.

Hearing Inuyama's translation, Inid excitedly clasped her hands together in front of her chest.

[Yes! I've learned a few Japanese phrases from some of my favourite anime series!]

Inuyama interpreted for her again. From this point on, please assume that any communication between Inid and the class takes place through Inuyama.

"Really? Which one?" The girl from earlier asked, thrilled. Inid responded with a radiant smile of her own. This was only natural, as she finally got a chance to use the Japanese she worked so hard to learn.

The class looked at her, enraptured.

Suddenly, Inid balled up her hands into fists and pointed to the sky, scaring the students.

She took a deep breath, then stated in confident Japanese:

"I'm going to become King of the Pirates!"



This is how Inid came to study in Kino's class.

The beautiful blonde from across the sea instantly became the hottest topic in school. During break time, the classroom was filled with curious students from elsewhere, here to get a glimpse of Inid.

Inid took classes normally, with Inuyama interpreting for her on the spot. But she could not help but be curious about something during Chako-sensei's English class.

[Kuroshima-sensei, may I ask a question?]

[What is it?]

[Why do you have Inuyama's seat turned around? Why are you resting your chin on his head?]

[That's a very good question! It's because this is the rule in Japan when it comes to foreign language classes.]

[A rule?]

[That's right. Students take turns being the teacher's chin-rest for a month each. Inuyama is stationed here all October.]

[But Inuyama doesn't look so happy about it…]

[Maybe, but rules are rules. This is a very strict law, you see, descended from the era of samurai. Anyone who goes against it has to slit his own belly. It's called seppuku.]

[What strange traditions Japan has…]

[You got that right. But remember that saying, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'.] Chako-sensei said casually. Inuyama remained silent. This is a pretty well-known English saying, but this is foreshadowing.

[Of course. I'll remember that.] Inid nodded. Ignorance can sometimes be terrifying.

Kino and her fellow classmates had no idea what they were saying, but they knew very well that Chako-sensei must have been talking nonsense again.

About ten minutes before the end of class, Chako-sensei put down her chalk.

Without a care in the world, she returned to her perch atop Inuyama's head, as he continued to silently read a depressing-looking book called [The Era of Reven(ge)]. Chako-sensei looked over at Inid.

[Have you spoken with Kino yet?]

[I'm afraid not. Everyone else was just being so nice to me, so…]

[I see. Then I'll end the lesson here. Why don't you take Kino and Inuyama over to the school cafeteria? No offence to America, but all Japanese food is delicious! And they're low in calories, too! Especially the ones at our school.]

That was how the lesson came to an end. With the formalities dispensed ("Try not to disturb the other classes"), the students were let off to enjoy some free time.

Inid heeded Chako-sensei's advice. Gently turning down the other students, she crossed the classroom and approached Kino.

"If I leave now I can have my pick of today's menu…" Kino mumbled, as she made to leave the classroom.

[Could you please show me around the cafeteria, Kino?] A smiling Inid asked her through Inuyama.

Kino thought for a moment, and answered with a groan.

"I guess so."

Although she wasn't too happy to be with Inuyama, Kino could not complain because she couldn't speak English.

"Let's go."

[Thank you, Kino!]

With this, the two girls and their interpreter walked through the hallway, switched out of their indoor shoes, and stepped outside the building. They headed for the dormitory cafeteria, which was not too far away.

Kino held a black umbrella, Inuyama a green one, and Inid an orange one. A trio of umbrellas, all of different sizes and colours, trod forth.

[Kuroshima-sensei seems to trust you a lot, Kino.] Inid said.

"Huh. You think so? I thought she picked on me because I'm in the Take Action Now Club." Kino answered. It was irritating to have to hear Inuyama's voice each time she said anything, but there was nothing she could do about it.

[Oh? What is the Take Action Now Club?]

"Kinda hard to explain, but… I guess it's a club Chako-sensei made so we can all have fun together."

[That's amazing! Could I join, too?]

"Huh? What?"

[Chako-sensei told me, "If you like being around Kino and Inuyama, you should join their club"!]

"Huh. Seriously?"

Kino was taken aback. Things were getting more annoying than she had expected.

'Looks like she won't be saying "I'm bored" again anytime soon.' Hermes thought as he hung from her belt, but he did not voice this thought.

The cafeteria soon came into sight.

"Our cafeteria has some really good food. If we go there now we could probably pick whatever we want off the menu."

[That's amazing! You know, I learned the phrase Japanese people say before a meal by watching anime.]

"Really? What is it?" Kino asked. Hearing Inuyama's translation, Inid spoke confidently.

"Who's the bastard who made this sashimi?!"



Inside the cafeteria.

In front of Kino was a shogayaki(1) rice set (Of course, she had an extra-extra-extra supersized serving of rice. She also had a small plate overflowing with kyurizuke(2), topped with a generous helping of sesame seeds for an accentuated zing). In front of Inid was a tempura udon with egg (udon with crisp, freshly fried tempura containing bright orange shrimp), a dish she had always wanted to try in Japan. Inuyama had a bowl of curry rice (a staple of school cafeterias, with a liberal serving of potatoes and carrots). They sat side-by-side at one table.

"Let's eat, everyone! Thanks for the meal!"

With Kino's declaration, their lunch began.

Let's show off everyone's characters: Kino ate enthusiastically, but retained a cool composure throughout her meal. Inid carefully manoeuvred her chopsticks around her udon noodles. Inuyama ate in silence, not mixing the curry into the rice very much.

Other than the mysterious Japanese phrases she tossed around confidently once in a while, Inid was rather easy for Kino to talk to.

"So you're staying at a hotel while you're in Japan, huh?"

[That's right. I actually wanted to try a homestay in a Japanese home, but this study trip was so sudden that we couldn't manage that.]

Hearing that Inid was staying at a hotel in Yokohama Landmark Tower (Note: As of 2009, the tallest building in Japan. Located on the Yokohama beach area), Kino was not very impressed.

"There's a hotel in that building?"

Kino would go crazy over something like a lunch buffet in Yokohama's Chinatown, but she didn't seem to have any interest in tall buildings.

Inid was staying in a Royal Suite that costs over five hundred thousand yen per night. The suite, which included two bedrooms, a living room, and a dining room, was about three hundred metres square. If the classroom was eight metres by ten, then it was about a third of the size of Inid's suite.

She had checked in to the hotel yesterday, along with her personal maid (who used the smaller bedroom in the suite), her retainer-cum-butler (in a different suite), and a group of sharp-eyed macho bodyguards keeping a watchful eye all around the floor. But since she didn't really have any need to say anything about this, Inid refrained from mentioning it.

And though it was a rather poor idea of a substitution, she smiled radiantly and said, [This tempura udon is delicious.]



As they drank tea after finishing their meals, Inid suddenly asked Kino and Inuyama a question.

[Come to think of it, I've seen a lot of posters with slogans around the school. What's that all about?]

She was talking about the PSAs warning students about demonic temptation.

Kino decided that, if nothing else, Inid had to know about the facts regarding the matter of demons. She explained everything from the start.

Kino explained that, sometimes, students succumbed to the follies of their youth and become rampaging demons. She explained that, in case of such an occurrence, students should follow instructions and leave the area in an orderly fashion.

Kino also explained that Inid should never fall for any suspicious temptations--in other words, she should refrain from answering "yes" to just anything.

And finally, she explained that, in the worst-case scenario, where a demon materializes (or where Inid herself becomes a demon), she should not worry, as a warrior of justice will appear out of nowhere and solve the problem by shooting a mysterious gun.

Of course, the fact that Kino was the aforementioned warrior of justice, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino, was a secret among secrets.

Inid's eyes widened as she listened to Kino's explanation.

[My goodness… demons that take advantage of weak human hearts, a transforming hero of justice, and a mysterious gun that turns the demons back to humans… Japan is really something!]

Although it was difficult to tell from her words if Inid was impressed or disbelieving, the sparkle in her green eyes probably meant the former.



It was after school. The rain had gotten lighter.

Although it wasn't such a bad thing for Kino and Inid,

"Yaaaay! We have a new member! I'm sorry, everyone. I was just so busy for the past little while that I just couldn't find the time to recommence club activities! But that's all in the past now! For the next two weeks, we are going to do stuff like no tomorrow! Who do you want to do club stuff with? Me? Or me? Looks like I have no choice. Oh my! I'm much too popular for my own good!"

It was a surprise to see an overexcited Chako-sensei hopping in place, restarting the Take Action Now Club's activities.

Today, they were using the biology room. Last time they were in the library, but it was nothing new for the Take Action Now Club for their clubroom to change every meeting.

Chako-sensei stood at the podium. Kino, Inid, and Inuyama sat in a row at the desk at the very front.

"Sorry about the long break! I was really busy, you know? To be specific, I was called in by someone really high up in the government! I got to talk with Prime Minister Aso about Japan's future!" Chako-sensei said embarrassedly. At least no one who was listening to her took her seriously. Even though she was telling nothing but the truth.

Suddenly,

"I'm sorry I'm late. I was held up at a career counselling meeting."

The door slid open and an upperclassman stepped into the classroom.

He was a male student in his sixth year, wearing a flattering white standing-collar uniform. We finally get to see Shizu.

He had slightly long black hair and handsome features. He was tall and carried himself with exquisite posture, and carried a katana at his side. Look! A dove is flying across [Rest omitted]. As a side note, there is only one student in this school who carries around a sword. One student is more than enough.

"Oh! Right on time, Shizu. Come on in!" Chako-sensei called, beckoning Shizu to her side. She then introduced him to Inid, and Inid to him. In English, of course.

Shizu spoke up.

[It's very nice to meet you, Miss Smith. My name is Shizu. I humbly welcome you to Japan, our school, and the Take Action Now Club. It may be a short time, but I hope you enjoy your stay.]

[Thank you. Please, call me Inid. You know, I'm surprised that everyone can speak English so well.] Inid replied.

And as she listened to the gibberish that went on between them, Kino began complaining under her breath.

"What… so am I the only one here who doesn't speak English?"

And so Kino made a vow. From tomorrow on, she would work hard in studying English. She would go above and beyond the calling of school-issued English lessons and learn conversational English, so that she could at least carry on a conversation with little trouble in the future.

"Hey. I'm not making a vow like that. Okay? It's not like I'll be going abroad by myself, anyway. Guided tours all the way!"

I see.

But you know, knowing a foreign language is very useful for eating delicious foreign cuisine. You might be introduced to a cheap but delicious restaurant, the likes of which would never be introduced in guided tours.

"M-maybe… Maybe I could study… a little."

Right?

"I-it's not like I'm doing this for food, okay?"

Right, right.

"Look over this way, Kino! Who are you talking to? Now, about our triumphant return to club activities next week…"

Chako-sensei led the proceedings in Japanese so that Kino could understand. Inuyama continued to act as a fluent interpreter. If you think he looks even more stoic than he did before Shizu arrived, it must be your imagination.

"Since Inid came all this way to Japan, how about we introduce her to some wonderful things about our country? We'll go on a tour of famous Japanese places nearby, time permitting."

'What's going on, Chako-sensei? You're talking like a normal person. Did you eat something funny?' Kino thought, but she remained quiet.

"We only have two weeks, so there's no time to lose."

'Our midterms are in two weeks. Is this really all right?' Kino thought, but she remained quiet. After all, it wasn't as though she studied very much before a test.

[Is there anywhere you'd like to go, Inid? Don't be shy, just name it!]

[Yes!] Inid replied enthusiastically. [I'm really interested in Japanese history. Kyoto might be too far for us, but I'd like to look around Kamakura.]

[That's a wonderful idea! Kamakura is just one big boat ride away. It gets crowded, so we could even go by car. We'll leave tomorrow straight after class. Where else?]

[I'd like to visit Tokyo, if that's possible.]

[Then that's where we'll go this weekend. Is there anywhere in Tokyo you'd really like to go? Somewhere you want to visit first?]

[Yes, I do!] Inid replied energetically.

[Really? Where? The Imperial Palace? Ginza? Shinjuku? Harajuku? Shibuya? Ikebukuro? Asakusa? Tsukishima? Chichijima?]

Chako-sensei rattled off a list of locations. Some of these places would be difficult to visit in one day, even if they were in Tokyo, but Inid shook her head.

[I'd like to go to Akihabara!]



Kino was listening to Chako-sensei and Inid's conversation through Inuyama.

[Then everyone will go to the places you want to see, Inid! No objections allowed!]

Kino finally reacted.

"Chako-sensei, I have a question. Does 'everyone' include me?"

"Of course, Kino. You're one of our members. End of story."

"But I can't speak English like the rest of you, and I don't know much about Kamakura since I'm not from there. Could I just not go this time? I feel like I'm just going to be in the way."

"Really? Well, that's too bad. I guess I can't drag you by force, seeing as midterms are coming up."

'Huh? She's backing off pretty easily. Maybe I'll actually get a break this time.' Kino thought, swelling with hope.

"It's a shame, really. I was going to take us to all kinds of amazing restaurants. I'm paying with club funds, so you could eat as much as you wanted. But if you can't come this time, then-"

"I'll go! I'm a member, Chako-sensei! Don't leave me behind!" Kino yelled and raised her hand before Chako-sensei could even finish. Inid, sitting beside her, looked a little spooked.

"All right! It's decided, then!"



Hermes could not believe this was happening, but he kept his mouth shut. Then…

'No! It can't be! …Is this why all the local challenge menus have suddenly died off? Could it be a trap to lure Kino onto their turf?' He thought for a moment. But…

'Maybe I'm just thinking too hard.' Hermes thought to himself. 'I must be paranoid. Who would go so far for Kino?'

You still lack in training, Hermes.



They ended off the day's club activities once they had decided on a course of action. It was still raining outside.

Kino asked Inid how she was going to get back.

[My ride's probably here already.] She answered.

Kino and Inuyama walked Inid to the school gates, and there was indeed a car waiting for her beyond the iron bars.

It was a Lexus LS600hL. A top-class car among Japanese models, costing about fifteen million yen. For your reference, it was a hybrid car that ran on the combined power of a fuel engine and an electric motor.

hybrid: a word also denoting an organism of mixed descent. This English lesson was brought to you by Gakuen Kino Volume 3.

The presence of a car so luxurious naturally spooked the students, who visibly walked around it as much as they could.

When Inid approached the school gates, a black man wearing a black suit and sunglasses stepped out of the car. He was her bodyguard, a mass of muscle rivalling the kind of guy you'd find firing machine guns in the Marines.

The man approached Inid, opened a large umbrella, and beckoned her towards him.

Inid did as she was told, and quickly introduced Kino and Inuyama to her bodyguard. The man looked at them and spoke in fluent Japanese.

"Thank you both. If you'll excuse us, the young lady will have to leave."

It really is amazing.

Surprised, Kino greeted him quickly. She then turned to Inid, saying goodbye to her with what little English she knew.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Uh. Let's see… Shii yuu toumoro!"

Inid smiled, waved, and answered with what little Japanese she knew.

"If you're leaving, rerere no re!"

I could point out a million things wrong with what she just said. But I won't.



<=>



It was the next day. The day after Monday, so Tuesday.

The rain did not let up, but it had weakened somewhat. The weather report said that it would stop in the afternoon.

Inid energetically came to school today, too. During breaktimes, she enjoyed fun conversations with the class, with Inuyama's help. She was practically a celebrity.

Lunchtime.

Inid headed to the cafeteria with Kino. The weather was perfect, with the blue sky peeking in through the clouds and the temperature being neither too hot nor too cold. For once the weatherman got it right.

[This is delicious! It's perfect!]

As Inid savoured her hashed beef with rice (full of thin slices of beef and the delicate sweetness of onions), Kino couldn't help but look a bit proud.

Soon, classes had ended.

"That's all for today, everyone. Get home safe."

Just as homeroom ended with the teacher's greeting, the door slid open.

"She's here!"

Chako-sensei, dressed in a suit, intruded into Kino, Inuyama, and Inid's class. Shizu was standing beside her.

"Take Action Now Club, commence activities! We're going to Kamakura, so prepare yourself!"

Kino, Inuyama, and Inid were practically kidnapped as Chako-sensei dragged them to the parking lot in front of the school. Parked there was a minivan. A shiny new Honda Odyssey.

Chako-sensei approached the car. The doors unlocked by themselves.

"Say hello to my loyal steed. Get in, now!"

"Is this your car, sensei?" Kino asked. Chako-sensei grinned.

"It was pretty expensive, you know? I took out a loan and everything!"

The letter "" on the license plate said otherwise. This was obviously a rental car.(3)Chako-sensei is a big fat liar.

But setting all that aside, the four students climbed on board, still in their school uniforms. In the driver's seat was Chako-sensei, with Shizu sitting beside her. In the middle row sat Kino and Inid, with Inuyama sitting in the back.

"Is everyone wearing their seatbelts? Don't think you can get away with not wearing one if you're in the back. Don't underestimate the G, now! We're off!"

Chako-sensei started the car.

Surprisingly, despite her personality, Chako-sensei was not the kind of driver who slammed the gas pedal and challenged innocent drivers at five consecutive hairpin turns. In fact, she drove calmly and reasonably--the very picture of a model driver.

A short drive later, they arrived in front of the Great Buddha statue in Kamakura.

The temple was officially called "Kotoku-In", but no one ever called it that. Most people said, "Great Buddha of Kamaukua" or "Great Buddha of Hase".

After parking in the pay parking lot, they entered the temple (Entrance fee: 200 yen).

Unlike the one in Nara, the Great Buddha in Kamakura had no altar. It was just lying outside. Please don't call it a hobo--it's both misleading and practically asking for divine punishment. Maybe we should just call it an outdoorsman?

Inid excitedly snapped pictures on her digital camera, and asked Chako-sensei and Shizu about the history of the temple. Of course, not much was known about this temple and the statue, so there wasn't much they could answer.

Another 20-yen entrance fee later, they entered the Great Buddha statue. That's right. You can enter the interior of the Kamakura Buddha.

They descended a series of dark, narrow stairs and observed the interior. Statues like this were made by building the frame from the bottom and pouring in copper, then adding to the frame and repeating the procedure. The process was easy to see from the inside.

As they continued their visit, Chako-sensei took snapshots of the club members with her oft-mentioned Nikon digital single-lens reflex camera. Shizu commented on its amazing specs.

"I bought it on credit just so I could record our club in action." Chako-sensei replied.

Actually, she's borrowing it from the government. Please don't forget to return it later.

The Take Action Now Club left Kotoku-In, satisfied.

"Well now, Shall we go and buy ourselves an Excalibur?"

They followed the unfathomable Chako-sensei into a gift shop before them.

This shop was called "Kamakura Arms", an emporium that only die-hard fanatics knew about. Displayed alongside the perfectly average souvenirs were a veritable storehouse of model swords and replicas of European blades. You'd better have steeled yourself before stepping in, or you're in for quite the shock.

[Oh my gosh…]

As Inid looked on in fascination, Chako-sensei began a serious explanation.

[This is the first store that heroes and adventurers visit when they come to Kamakura. They equip themselves here before going out to hunt monsters.]

[I see… So that's why there are so many weapons here.]

[That's right. Kamakura is an ancient city, so we still have monster invasions every now and then. Stores like this are essential to survival.]

[I understand…] Inid breathed. Get a hold of yourself, kid! You're being fooled!

Inid took some time to look at the disorganized mess that was the store. After a moment spent admiring the beautiful coloured papers on the ceiling, she found a decorative musket replica that was stationed rather high up.

Inid seemed to be quite taken. A curious Kino asked through Inuyama why Inid was so fixated on the musket.

[I think my ancestors must have used weapons like that.]

"Huh? What do you mean?" Kino asked, rather confident in her knowledge of guns.

[My ancestors come from England. One of them was a privateer who took part in the battle against the Spanish Armada in Queen Elizabeth's day.]

Kino decided to answer vaguely, not being too familiar with any sort of history.

"Oh… I see. Right."

It was impossible to tell if she knew anything from her answer. Of course, the rest of us know that Kino really has no idea.

To put simply, a privateer is a type of pirate who has been granted permission by the government to plunder from ships belonging to enemy countries. In other words, they're licensed pirates. They did their pillaging and gave a percentage of their earnings to the government or their sponsor.

In 1588 (Two years before the Battle of Sekihara), the English Navy defeated the Spanish Armada. This was one of the chief causes of Spain's eventual loss of power.

The man who essentially led the English Navy in this battle was a privateer named Francis Drake. This is why some people say that pirates helped England win.

I might end up writing an entire short story at this rate, so let's stop here.

If you're curious to know more, look it up at the library or on the internet. And if there are any factual inaccuracies in the above content, that is entirely the author's fault. I apologize in advance.

In the end, Inid bought the store's most popular souvenirs--crackers bearing the words "I've been to Kamakura", a T-Shirt with a picture of a warrior and the word "Kamakura" printed on it, a ninja headband for make-believe games (a headband with a metal plate on it), and several cute miniature Buddha mascots.

She actually really, really, really wanted to buy a replica of the reverse-bladed sword used by a certain anime/manga character, but she had to swallow her tears and give up for fear of being scolded by her butler if she brought it back to the hotel.

[Don't worry. I'll send it to you later.] Chako-sensei promised her.

As Inid was paying for her purchase--

"Whoa!"

Kino suddenly stopped petting the cat on the counter and turned around, glaring at the door that led into the street. Her hand reached for the pouches on her belt.

Standing by the door were three white men wearing sunglasses, excitedly checking out some souvenirs. They looked to be nothing more than tourists.

They put the keychains they were looking at back on the stand.

[We're going to Kamakura Station next, right? Do we take the bus?]

[Nah, there's a small subway station we can walk to.]

The men spoke in English, then left.

"Why are you making such a scary face, Kino? Did you see someone suspicious?" Chako-sensei asked, confused. She was wearing a ninja headband with the word "Pass!" written on it and holding Excalibur--all items she had just bought.

"No, it's nothing…" Kino replied, taking her hand off her pouch.

"Oh? All right, then." Chako-sensei said, and walked away from Kino with Excalibur in hand. You're the most suspicious one here, sensei.

"That's strange… I could've sworn I sensed bloodlust…" Kino tilted her head.

"…"

Hermes said nothing as he shook from Kino's belt.



Having stowed the wooden swords and other purchases from the shop in the car, the Take Action Now club walked a little further.

The street leading from the Great Buddha to Hase Station on the Enoden line is lined with stores.

With Chako-sensei's permission, Kino used club funds to eat as much as she wanted. Inid's eyes turned to dinner plates as Kino giddily downed ice cream, croquettes, mochi, and manju along the way.

After their food-filled walk, they arrived at Hase-dera (formally known as Kaikozan Jishoin Hase-dera. They say that the statue of Kannon is over nine metres tall).

After a good look around the temple, they headed for the terrace, which was there because Hase-dera is a temple on a rather high plateau.

From the terrace they could see the azure sky dotted with white clouds, and the blue waters past the Yuigahama Sea. Inid's golden hair fluttered in the pleasant breeze.

[So this is the Pacific Ocean. I'm going to tell my family all about it when I get home.] Inid said, having only ever seen the Atlantic. With her digital camera, she took pictures of Kino and Inuyama, and asked Chako-sensei to take pictures of her with the others.

Shizu watched them from a slight distance with a smile on his face.

"Hm?"

He suddenly put his left hand on the scabbard of his katana and turned around. His right hand also reached for the sword. He was ready to draw at a moment's notice.

In front of the main temple were countless tourists. Men and women, young and old, Japanese people and foreigners, photographers and people being photographed.

It was a peaceful sight. He could see nothing suspicious about it.

"Was it just my imagination? I know I felt a great deal of bloodlust just now…" Shizu muttered, and took his hand off the scabbard.



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Continued in Part 2. 



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(1) Shogayaki: Ginger stir-fry
(2) Kyurizuke: Pickled cucumbers (redundancy much?)
(3) Apparently, in Japan, only rental cars have the character on their license plates.

1 comment:

  1. Hi I believe Inid's line about becoming Pirate King is a reference to One Piece, and the reverse edge sword is a Ruroni Kenshin/Samurai X reference.

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