Monday, 28 May 2012

Gakuen Kino - Chpater 6 (Part 3)

We're halfway through this volume.

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Chapter 6 - Part 3: Holiday in Akiba
~Akiba's Holiday~



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Sunday.

The skies were clear since morning--it was a beautiful autumn day.

"Hah… I don't really feel like it, but I have to remember what this is for…"

Despite her grumblings, Kino left the dormitories with time to spare so she wouldn't be late. It was a little past nine in the morning.

Today, Kino was wearing jeans and a thin green fleece jacket. On the back of the jacket was written the words 'Plastic bombs will not detonate even when burned'. No one has any idea what this outfit was made for.

As usual, around her waist was her belt. Hermes was swinging from it.

"But at least you're not bored, right?"

"Huh? I guess."

Kino tilted her head, but she looked quite happy.

Today's meeting place was Sakuragi-cho Station. This was simply because it is the station closest to Yokohama Landmark Tower. Sakuragi-cho is one station south along the JR Negi line from Yokohama Station(1).

For your information, I said way back in volume 1 that Kino took the JR Keihin Tohoku line, but it turns out that it was the Negi line that runs between Yokohama and Oofuna. I was confused by the fact that the Keihin Tohoku line and the Negi line practically run together between Oomiya and Yokohama. Let me take this moment to give you my sincerest apologies.

The meeting time was 9:53. Chako-sensei had chosen this time instead of 10:00, because some people tend to subconsciously permit themselves to be a few minutes late if the meeting time is at a round number.

You know someone who's always someone like that, right? The kind of person who's always unapologetically ten or fifteen minutes late to every get-together. In this person's head, 'Let's meet at 10' translates to 'I can come by 10:15'.

That's why a specific number like 9:53 compels people to come early.

The train Kino was on pulled into the station. She descended the stairs and arrived at the turnstiles, only to see that she was the last one there.

"We're all here! Let's go!"

Chako-sensei was dressed in a black business jacket and a miniskirt. She was energetic as always, but even on a Sunday she was dressed like a teacher.

"Hello, Kino."

Does he have no change of clothing? Shizu greeted Kino, wearing his white school uniform with a katana strapped to the side of his belt. And the dove, too.

"Hi."

Inuyama was wearing dark blue pants, a white shirt, and a cream-coloured cardigan. He was, again, unusually downcast. Actually he looked even worse than he did yesterday.

And finally,

"Morning~!"

Inid was there, wearing jeans, a plain green parka, a New York Yankees cap over her head, and a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses over her eyes.

She had tied her blond hair into a ponytail and slipped it out the back of her baseball cap. Being caucasian, Inid would stand out anywhere in Japan--but with this outfit, she could have a relatively easier time blending in, since many Japanese people these days dye their hair blonde.

Chako-sensei was the one who had suggested this outfit. Foreigners in Akihabara were nothing new these days, but Inid was so eye-catchingly beautiful that Chako-sensei had stopped her from going out in her uniform with her face exposed in order to protect her from being photographed by random passers-by.

The Take Action Now Club took the tickets Chako-sensei bought with her Suica card and walked through the turnstiles.

"What about the rest of my travel costs?"

"Don't worry, Kino. I'll make sure to reimburse you later."

You're such a cheapskate, Kino.



Their destination today was Akihabara.

By subway, the fastest route would be to switch to the Tokaido line at Yokohama Station, but this was a little annoying because they would have to transfer at both Yokohama and Tokyo (the end of the Tokaido line).

By chance, all five of them managed to find seats at Sakuragi-cho Station. They decided to to continue on the Negi line to the Keihin Tohoku line. It would take them a little more time, but it would be less of a bother.

About fifty minutes passed as they looked out the windows or talked about Japan. During that period of time, the train passed Yokohama and Kawasaki, entered the Tokyo area, passed the Shinagawa, Shin-bashi, and Tokyo Stations. After the next station--Kanda--they finally arrived at Akihabara.

Akihabara is located right between Tokyo Station and Ueno Station, in the same Chiyoda district that the Imperial Palace is located in.

It is said that, in the past, this place was called Akibagahara (or 'Akibahara', or 'Akibahhara', written "秋葉原"). The name 'Akihabara' stuck because the cargo station that had been built here was called as such.

As you may already know, this place is also affectionately known as 'Akiba'.

That's why people who don't know much about Tokyo's geography mistakenly call this place 'Akibahara', but as I mentioned earlier, this isn't entirely incorrect. In fact, it's actually closer to the original name for this place.

As a side note, if you misspell the end of the word 'Akiba', you get the name of an anime heroine. Tanks don't take baths.

Akihabara slowly transformed itself from an electronics district to an Otaku zone, but the Tsukuba Express line (Nicknamed the TX Line, like something out of a Terminator movie) opened up along the station in 2005, bringing with it a wave of redevelopment.

Huge electronics stores and high-rises were constructed along the streets, and normal people who had never set foot into Akihabara began to visit. So the streets of chaos known as Akiba had plunged further into an even more frenetic mess that couldn't be explained in just one sentence.

Stepping on anime characters, the Take Action Now Club walked through the turnstiles and stepped out to the front of the station. Girls dressed up as maids were handing out flyers for nearby Maid Cafes.

[Kuroshima-sensei! There are maids here!] Inid's eyes glinted from underneath her obscuring sunglasses.

"Weirdos." Kino said with plain disdain.



Inid's Holiday in Akiba (Not her Holiday in Rome) would be an unforgettable day.

Her golden ponytail shook as she explored the crowded Sunday streets of Akihabara.

She asked Chako-sensei to take a picture of her with one of the maids handing out flyers.

She waited in line so she could drink tea at a maid cafe.

She explored the toy building from top to bottom.

She widened her eyes at the canned oden and canned ramen noodles she saw at a vending machine.

She concentrated in excited terror as she attempted to win a figurine at a crane catcher game.

She almost stepped into an adult store by mistake before Chako-sensei stopped her.

[Sensei! Can we go look at anime merch next?]

[Of course! Let's head over to ______!]

[Okay!]

Inid was happy. She was in her own personal heaven.



Kino's Holiday in Akiba (Not her Holiday in Rome) would be an unforgettable day.

Her holster shook as she explored the crowded Sunday streets of Akihabara.

She discovered a place selling doner kebab sandwiches and excitedly downed several of them.

She waited in line so she could eat at a famous ramen restaurant by herself.

She flustered the maid by asking if there was a challenge menu at the maid cafe.

She conquered the canned oden and canned ramen noodles at the vending machine.

She won a mountain of chocolate at a crane catcher game.

"Sensei! Can I try the authentic Indian curry over there? With the club budget?"

"Of course! Don't forget to get a receipt for the school!"

"Okay!"

Kino was very very happy. She was in rakuen. (2)



Chako-sensei grinned.

"Looking good, girls! Okay, look over this way! Perfect. Oh… Yes! You get the best picture when you shoot against the sun, you know… Now, wanna take that off for a little bit?" She asked, snapping pictures left and right.



As for the other members, AKA Shizu and Inuyama--

Shizu was walking through an alleyway, several paces behind Inid and Kino, when a pair of uniformed officers suddenly approached him.

"Young man, we'd like to conduct a quick check of your belongings."

So this is one of those spot checks I'd heard so much about. Shizu, who had turned to face the officers, told the others to go ahead without him.

"Of course. It's the duty of all law-abiding citizens to cooperate with the police, after all." He answered confidently. The officers asked him to take out everything in his pockets.

Shizu obeyed and took out keys, a wallet, and a handkerchief. Everyday possessions if there ever were.

In the end, they found nothing dangerous in his pockets. The spot check was over in less than a minute.

"Sorry for taking up your time, young man. We've been having some trouble these days with young people carrying around knives for what they'd call self-defence."

With that, the officers were gone.

"To think that lawful and just swordsmen would be inconvenienced so by fools who don't know how to wield a blade…" Shizu sighed, watching the officers walk away.

He adjusted the katana strapped to his belt as he followed after the others.



Inuyama, meanwhile--

He followed after the others from a great distance, his footsteps heaviest out of every one of the club members. However, he was suddenly interrupted.

"Hey, punk. Got a sec?"

A trio of delinquent young men were surrounding him.

People who were out shopping would naturally come carrying cash. These delinquents were probably muggers after such people, and were also known as 'Otaku Hunters'. For your reference, mugging is a crime punishable by at least five years in prison.

Once the trio had Inuyama surrounded--

"Let's talk for a bit. Come here."

They tried to take Inuyama somewhere where their crime would not be witnessed.

"…"

Inuyama nodded obediently and followed them in silence. The four young men quickly marched around a corner and towards the back of a multipurpose apartment complex. At a glance they looked like little more than a quartet of close friends.

Once they were securely behind the deserted building, one of the three delinquents began their practiced routine.

"Hand over all your-"

'Hand over all your cash' was what he planned to say, but he could not even finish his sentence. Inuyama would not allow him.

Still lost in despair over being unable to kill Shizu last time, Inuyama's psyche was not prepared for forgiveness. He leapt into the air high above the trio and spun around once with his legs in the air. In less than a second all three delinquents were hit with a spinning kick to the jaw.

"Gah…!"

"Ugh!"

"Aaaah…!"

The kick itself was nothing special, but the sudden shock to their heads resulted in concussions as the three delinquents fell to the ground like the petals of a flower in bloom.

Inuyama effortlessly landed on the ground in the middle of the three.

"Defeat Shizu…" He mumbled, his fangs bared.

Inuyama then turned the corner and followed the others by tracking their scents.



It was almost evening.

As Inid and Kino enjoyed their holiday in Akihabara, a pair of men watched them from afar.

They were Japanese men in their thirties, dressed in dark blue suits. One of them was wearing black horn-rimmed glasses, and the other had very short hair.

At first glance they looked like office workers running around doing their job, even though it was a Sunday. They each carried a single black bag.

Actually, these two men had been following Inid and the others from a distance of about 50 metres, ever since they came out to the station front.

Whenever the Take Action Now Club went inside a store, one of the men would stubbornly watch the exit. Once Inid and the others left, the man would report to the other and they would continue the pursuit as a duo. They had been doing this since morning.

As they watched Inid and the others eating ice cream from afar, the bespectacled man tossed out a tired comment to his coworker.

"What's with those people…? They look like they're on vacation, but they're not leaving a single blind spot. We have to be careful, or we'll get found out in an instant."

"This is impossible." The short-haired man replied.

"You got that right. What kind of idiot planned this out, anyway? There's no way we can pull off the plan in this crowd. Those Americans have no idea that Akihabara is one of the best-policed streets these days. 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do', right? You gotta take this stuff into account. Why didn't they at least hand over the planning to us?"

The bespectacled man's complaints knew no end.

Inid and the others finished their ice cream and set off again, but the two men did not follow them anymore.

The short-haired man took out a cell phone and called someone. After a three-minute conversation, he hung up and began walking.

"We've just received permission," He said to the bespectacled man, who was walking beside him, "They're leaving it to us. The operation commences at the school tomorrow. The higher-ups are serious about this."

"Understood. What's our plan of attack? The students are going to be in the way, and cleaning up after them is going to be a lot harder than killing them."

The short-haired man, who had been rather expressionless so far, suddenly grinned.

"I hear they sometimes get demon attacks at the school. We just have to make use of the opportunities they present."

"That would be great… except how are we supposed to time our plan to one of those?" The bespectacled man tilted his head.

"Who says there has to be a real demon attack?" The short-haired man smirked.

"Right."



Afterwards, the men took a cab and told the driver the name of a skyscraper in Marunouchi.

As the cab departed, the two men opened their cases.

They then took out a single bullet from the magazine of an MP5K submachine gun from Heckler and Koch, modified so that they could be shot without being removed from their cases.



<=>



Monday.

It was yet another sunny day, but the wind was rather strong.

It had been exactly a week since Inid's arrival.

[I had so much fun yesterday, Kino!]

"Me too! I had a really good haul for food yesterday!"

Their pre-homeroom conversation (via Inuyama, obviously) was interrupted by the bell. Inid reluctantly returned to her seat.

"Good morning, everyone." The homeroom teacher said, and began to go over the day's announcements.

"I needed a break like that. The past week was a blast." Kino whispered to Hermes.

"All you did was relax. What about your job? Warrior of justice, hello?"

"What am I supposed to do? There weren't any demons around, anyway. Oh man, this isn't good. At this rate I'll get rusty." Kino said confidently.

"Really, Kino."

Hermes sighed.

Don't worry. Today there will be a demon attack.



It was at the start of today's sixth and final period--

A pair of white station wagons slowly pulled into the school grounds. On their roofs were folding ladders, and on the sides of the vehicles were logos for [OX Electric Company], along with long-distance phone numbers for the city of Yokohama.

At a glance they looked like nothing more than ordinary electricians' cars. However, the rear windows were all tinted pitch black and the wheels were made of run-flat tires, which allowed cars to continue driving even if the tires had gone flat.

The two station wagons stopped a slight distance from the visitors' parking area. A pair of men in work wear stepped out of one of them.

They were Japanese. In fact, they were the bespectacled man and the short-haired man who were at Akihabara only the day before.

Upon closer inspection, flesh-colours earbuds were sticking out of their ears. The wires led into their pockets. There was an unusual bulge under their clothes, just under their armpits. They were probably armed with small handguns.

As students were still in class, the men stepped into the quiet building and headed for the office-slash-sign-in desk. The glass door was closed, so they pressed the call button. Ten seconds passed.

"Sorry to keep you waiting."

A middle-aged woman wearing a nametag identifying her only as 'Saume' stepped out and opened the glass door.

The two men paid the name no mind.

"Please excuse us. We're here for a regular inspection." The bespectacled man said with a smile, taking off his hat.

"My goodness, thank you so much for your hard work."

The trusting Ms. Saume didn't even check to see if such an inspection was actually scheduled.

"If you would please write the name of your supervisor and your phone number here, please." She said, pushing towards them a binder.

Clipped inside the binder was a piece of paper titled 'Visitor Sign-In Sheet'. There were two layers of paper, and anything written on the top page would also be imprinted onto the second page. There were no other names on the sheet yet.

The bespectacled man wrote down his name and phone number--naturally, they were a pseudonym and the fake number printed on the side of the car.

"There you are." He said, putting down the pen and handing the binder back to Ms. Saume.

Ms. Saume flipped over the first page, making sure that the name had been printed onto the second page, and nodded satisfactorily.

She quietly looked up at the two men and smiled pleasantly.

"Ha. Enjoy yourselves."

With that, Ms. Saume vanished right before their eyes. It was as though she had evaporated. The binder fell onto the counter with a flat clack.

"Huh…?"

"Hm…?"

The men stood in confusion for a good three seconds.

Finally, the short-haired man hesitantly reached out towards the binder.

He began with a quick glance at the first page. He then flipped over to the second page.

In the blank at the top of the page were written the words: 'Demon Sign-up Sheet! If you would like to become a demon, please note down your name and phone number. We accept pseudonyms as well!'.

Looks like we finally have the demon for this story. You let your guard down, men. No student would fall for such an obvious trick these days.

"…"

As the short-haired man stood rooted to the spot in shock, he began to hear the sound of his coworker's clothing ripping apart from the inside out.






(1) The original text actually says it's two stations south, but it's mentioned in an author's note in a later volume that this was a mistake. As I am not planning to translate Sigsawa's author's notes, I decided to make the correction here.
(2) Rakuen, of course, is Japanese for paradise. I stuck with the Japanese here to preserve the contrast between Inid the American's presence in heaven with Kino the Japanese.

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