Remember to read Land with a Diva (Kino's Journey vol. 10, chapter 7) before you read this volume. Enjoy!
Chapter 7 - A Land That Needs a Diva
~the Shooting Diva~
Chapter 7 - Part 1: Take Action Now!
It was the day after the last day of exams.
The students had the day off today.
It was a beautiful autumn Thursday. One o’clock in the afternoon, Japanese Standard Time.
Kino lazed around until midday, napping until the sun was up high in the air. She slept in, then stuffed herself with lunch at the dormitory cafeteria before taking a breather in the common room.
The common room was large, and located between the boys’ and girls’ dormitory buildings.
Kino was currently wearing a set of red school-issue sweatshirt and track pants, the very picture of un-sexy. This outfit was also known as ‘The Dormitory Uniform’.
Over the chest of the T-shirt she wore under the sweatshirt were the words [This is the Battle of Nagashino, right?] in Russian and Portuguese.
Around her waist was, as usual, her belt and pouches, and of course, Hermes.
The gun belt was a poor match for her current outfit, but Kino was probably the only student in the world who wore her gym clothes with a gun belt to begin with.
There were rows of couches in the common room, as well as bookshelves. Because dormitory students provided a continuous supply of old magazines and comic books with the rationale ‘Better than throwing them away’, the common room was the perfect place to kill time.
On most holidays, the common room was quite crowded. But because exams had just ended, everyone must have gone out to play today--the room was empty.
Kino quietly browsed through the reading material--a teen fashion magazine from several months ago, an information brochure about Yokohama, a guns and military magazine, a gaming magazine, and weekly comic magazines.
“Oh, if it isn’t Kino! Didn’t you go out today?” Said a female student, stepping into the common room.
She was tall and slender, and had semi-long black hair. She was also a dormitory student, wearing jeans and a grey sweatshirt. It looks like all dormitory students prefer to dress comfortably when they’re indoors.
She was in her third and final year of high school, and was an upperclassman to Kino. Her energetic and lively attitude made her quite popular with her underclassmen.
“Hey there, senpai. I’m staying in because I don’t have a lot of allowance left.” Kino answered. Cut down on the food, Kino. Just to note, the upperclassman’s name was Sato. I came up with this just now. Just to note, she’s currently retired, but she was once the ace of the volleyball team. I came up with this just now. Her house is far away, and her family runs a liquor store. I came up with this just now.
“I see. Anyway...”
Sato trailed off, and pointed towards the large LCD-TV sitting in the room.
It was a new model that had just recently been installed, made to show digital cable broadcasts.
The screen was a whopping fifty inches long. It was like a gigantic piece of flooring.
The TV was capable of recording and playback with its built-in hard disk and Blu-ray player. It also had a high-speed internet cable, so people could watch videos from the internet. This is foreshadowing.
Before, the common room was home to a 21-inch television set with a VHS. You can feel the difference now. The students were ecstatic to hear of the new television being installed.
As a side note, the TV was securely fastened to the room to prevent it from falling over in earthquakes or being stolen. Unfortunately, there had been some thefts in the dormitories in the past.
When there were many students in the common room, there were often battles fought over control of the remote--Let’s watch dramas, the news, no, let’s watch movies--but obviously, no such wars were currently taking place.
“I’m gonna watch some TV. There’s a concert I want to watch, and this totally beats looking at my tiny computer screen.” Sato said, producing a clear blue Blu-ray case from her pocket.
Sato turned on the TV, ejected the Blu-ray tray, and inserted the disk.
A moment later, the screen shifted to DVD/Blu-ray mode. Sato cranked up the volume.
As Kino watched from behind, Sato turned around.
“Kino, are you a fan of Anete Harami?”
Kino tilted her head.
“I don’t think I’ve tried that before. What does it taste like?” Kino asked obliviously. Sato made a face like she had just bitten into an under-ripe persimmon.
“I’m not talking about food. I’m talking about the singer. Anete Harami.”
“The super-popular idol singer. Have you really never heard of her?”
This wasn’t anything to be proud of, but Kino was very ill-informed when it came to matters of the world. Kino shook her head, answering that she honestly had no idea.
“Well, she’s very popular in Japan right now, and her name’s just started getting out to the rest of Asia. She’s only thirteen years old right now, but she’s adorable! She’s a Japanese-English mix, and she looks like a doll! She was even on last year’s Kōhaku Uta Gassen competition!”(1)
For your reference, there are few descriptions as short-lived as “Appeared in last’s year’s Kōhaku Uta Gassen competition”.
Even Kino had heard about the Kōhaku Uta Gassen. Leave it to her to know things about battle.
“She’s not just cute, she’s also a great singer! Her voice is so much more powerful than you might think from the way she looks, but it’s also delicate and full of emotion. She’s a real angel! An angel descended from heaven to sing! Oh, it’s starting!”
The screen flickered, and a warning claiming [The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal, and will cause a curse that makes a woman crawl out of your screen] flashed on, along with several corporate logos.
The screen went black for several seconds. Suddenly, it cut to an image of a gigantic, dimly-lit stage and concert hall. The cheer of the fans roared through the speakers.
“This is her Yokohama live concert from this summer. I really wanted to go, but I couldn’t get a hold of tickets! I kept my DVD tucked away for after exams.”
It was clear from Sato’s tone that she was terribly excited for this performance.
The concert began. There was a maddeningly slow prelude, followed by an explosive noise and the roar of excited fans. Smoke and light filled the stage as the band began to play in earnest.
Watching it all on a big-screen TV and Blu-ray was something else altogether. Every last face in the crowd was clearly visible. If you were ditching work to go to this concert, you would be busted in less than a second.
Kino, who had nothing to do in particular, watched the show over Sato’s shoulder.
The diva made her appearance under the spotlight. The crowd cheered even louder than before.
“Thank you, everyone! Here we go! Welcome to the Yokohama live concert!”
Bellowing on the stage in a high-pitched voice was a small, fragile-looking girl.
Although she was supposed to be of mixed descent, she looked overwhelmingly caucasian with her height and slender figure.
She had beautiful features, pale skin, and long light brown hair. Her eyes were grey. She wore a bright yellow dress and was holding a lavishly decorated microphone. She was, in a word, a doll.
Her song began.
It was a typical love song with lyrics that went “I think of him and something-or-other”, but...
Anete Harami’s vocal capacity was enough to surprise even Kino.
First of all, she was just plain good at singing. She was very expressive.
She was also powerful. Where in that slender form could all this strength come from? It was as though the speakers themselves were throwing punches at the audience. Whoosh. Smack! More~.
“Omigosh! I love you, Anete!” Sato cried. Kino looked back and forth between her upperclassman and the screen, enjoying the concert.
The first song ended, and the cheer of the crowds continued. The second song began.
A powerful guitar solo started things off. The spotlight shone on the stoic guitarist. He was soon followed by the bass.
Anete Harami began to sing along to their powerful beat.
The lyrics were something like “I’m always watching over you as you watch over me or something-or-other”.
It was a sweet piece of rock that ended with a sincere “And that’s why I love you!”.
Kino noticed something.
Inside the screen, Anete Harami was singing to the best of her abilities.
Her beautiful voice reached Kino’s ears.
But something’s off. Something’s not right, Kino’s soul whispered.
Kino focused her sense of hearing, looking at the screen.
A split second later, her eyes took on the look of a hunter stalking its prey. Kino was surrounded by the aura she usually only took on in the moments before she undertook an eating challenge.
About a dozen seconds later, Kino realized what had been bothering her about the concert.
“Senpai...” She said tentatively at the back of Sato’s head. Sato, however, did not look back at her as she answered, “What is it?”.
Like an idiot, Kino asked:
“Is it just me, or... is that girl not actually singing?”
“Kino! Sit down right now!”
“But I am sitting...”
“Never mind, just sit!”
Kino was royally told off by Sato, who paused the concert on the spot.
Obviously, it was quite inconsiderate of Kino to suggest that the singer was lip-synching to the song--in the presence of an excited fan who was finally blowing off post-midterm stress. Learn to be more thoughtful, Kino.
“Anete is not lip-synching! She’s a genius vocalist! She puts up posts on her blog about how much she loves singing every day! She sings in person at her concerts!” Sato said, her eyes wide.
“Uh... Sorry, senpai. I guess I was just seeing things.”
Kino had no evidence to support her claim save for her own intuition. So she apologized. Very sorry.
Sato seemed to be satisfied with Kino’s apology.
“You don’t have anything else to do, right? Then watch the rest of it!”
Or maybe she was still mad, and was demanding more apology and compensation. Sato forced Kino to watch the entire two-hour concert, including the encore performance. Blip, went the ‘play’ button.
It was true that Kino had nothing else to do. So she watched the concert to the end of the end, until Anete Harami came on stage in the same T-shirt as the staff members to sing three more songs.
Her vocal technique was flawless. Kino watched the concert, ignoring the nagging feeling. It was a good way to spend two hours.
Once the concert ended, Kino turned around. The common room was filled with dormitory students. Anete really is popular, isn’t she?
“Let’s watch it from the beginning again!”
“Yeah, rewind the tape!”
“This is a Blu-ray, you know...”
As the students chattered, Kino excused herself first and sauntered back to her room.
Although her room contained nothing but a low-frame bed, a desk, and a closet, Kino had nothing to complain about. The fact that it was a single room was also a plus. These days, dormitories that only have double or triple-plus rooms can’t compete with the single rooms.
Kino shut the door, locked it, undid her belt, and addressed Hermes, who was hanging from it.
“What do you think, Hermes? Was I right?”
It was a vague question, but Hermes answered as though having understood.
“Yeah. That girl wasn’t singing at all. They were just playing a song they recorded ahead of time.”
“Hah! I knew it!”
Kino put on her what-did-I-say look (Note: An uppity look that just screams “I told you so”. Also known as arrogance or condescendence).
“But the vocal track wasn’t coming from a CD or something. It was recorded to make it sound like she was singing for real. They changed it to make it sound more like a concert, and they changed parts along the way really slightly to adjust for audience reactions. They took so many precautions that I wouldn’t be surprised if most normal people didn’t notice, even if they had great ears.”
“Huh. So are you saying that I’m not normal?”
“Wait, are you?”
“...Never mind.” Kino said, hanging up her holster and plopping down onto her bed. She pulled a thin blanket (covered with logos of gun manufacturers) over herself.
“It’s not like any of that has anything to do with us. Wake me up at dinnertime, Hermes.”
Two seconds later, Kino dove deep into the abyss of her afternoon nap.
“‘Nothing to do with us, huh?” Hermes wondered.
If it really was irrelevant, I wouldn’t use up all these pages talking about it.
The next day. It’s the day after Thursday, so...
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Yes, it’s Friday (Note to editorial dept.: Please check to see if this part is accurate -Sigsawa)!
Tomorrow was Saturday, and the weekend would begin. But students had to return to class today anyway to receive their graded midterms from the classes they had today. Of course, some of the lazy teachers wouldn’t give them back until next week.
In life, there are two things you never want to see: Your crush going on a date with someone else, and atrocious marks.
Kino reluctantly strode up the hill, blending in with her downcast fellow students. What is this, a funeral?
It was cloudy today, much colder than yesterday. Autumn is generally in full swing by late October.
As usual, Kino was wearing her sailor uniform, her holster, and her belt with Hermes. She walked with her beige bag slung over her shoulder, and yawned loudly. Looks like someone needs an infusion of passionate spirit.
“Don’t let your guard down.” Hermes whispered quietly.
“We haven’t had a demon attack in two days. I think I can relax for a while.”
Sure, but it looks like our protagonist is forgetting something--after midterms, club activities were scheduled to start up again.
The school day mostly consisted of getting back test papers and taking up the answers.
As soon as Kino received her papers,
“Ha. What are these numbers at the top corner of my test papers? They mean nothing to me.” She said sharply, and tossed aside the midterm’s very existence from her consciousness.
To give you an idea about Kino’s grades, she had avoided failing, make-up classes, and make-up tests by a hair. It looks like the only thing she really didn’t know was the answers.
Of course, you have to consider the fact that she had been occupied with club activities with Inid until just before midterms. Consider=Take someone else’s situation into account. Carouse=Drink and make merry.
Another reason for her grades would be that Hermes did not offer her even a tiny bit of help, despite their agreement for mutual assistance. But it was really no fault of his.
After afternoon classes and homeroom period, Kino stood from her seat to return to the dorms. At that very moment--
“Locked on to club member!”
Chako-sensei, who had suddenly appeared behind her, grabbed Kino by the arms and smiled.
“Whoa! Let go!”
Kino was dragged into the hallway. Chako-sensei pulled her along and began to squawk out a song.
“The school you’re in, for example~♪ Oh yeah~ Over the sky~♪”
I know this must be really really really really really really really tough for you, Kino, but you have to take it like a man.
Inuyama quietly followed behind them.
Today’s club room was the music prep room.
“From this day forth, this will be your place!” Chako-sensei cried, opening the door and tossing Kino inside. What is she, driving a slave ship?
The beautiful teacher Kuroshima Chako-sensei, she of white hair, green eyes, and gorgeous features, was wearing a dark grey pantsuit. It was unusual to see her not wearing a skirt, but as usual, Chako-sensei looks good in everything.
“We will hereby begin our elegant, sexy club activities! What’s happening this week, Miss Chako? Rock, paper, scissors!” She cried.
She was a beautiful teacher, at least when she wasn’t talking.
She was a beautiful teacher, at least when she wasn’t talking. It’s such an important fact that I thought I should repeat myself.
Kino, who had been tossed like a cat, acted in a very feline manner as she calmly and gently landed on her feet without a fuss.
Because Kino knew that complaining to this particular teacher would do absolutely nothing to help her, she just took a seat in a nearby chair.
This was the music prep room.
Located right next to the music room, it was used for storage purposes.
This was why the room took up quite a bit of space. Despite the fact that instruments and equipment were hanging from the walls with no room to spare, it was enough space for the Take Action Now Club to conduct their activities. The room was also soundproof enough that they could make a ruckus inside without causing anyone trouble.
In the middle of the room was a large work table for fiddling with instruments. There were chairs around it. Because the room was on a higher floor in the school building, the view out the window was also quite wonderful.
“You look well, Kino. We haven’t spoken since Narita Airport, have we?” Said a young man who was already sitting opposite the table from Kino.
He was a sixth year student wearing a pristine white school uniform. He had slightly long hair and handsome features, and was tall, slender, and composed.
A single dove suddenly appeared out of somewhere and flew past him. In slow motion, at that.
This dove’s name is Carl. (Question 1: Write out this sentence in English.)
Although Kino could not see at the moment, there was a katana sheathed in a black scabbard hanging from his left side. For your information, there is only one student in this school who carries around a katana. One is more than enough.
Kino greeted him back courteously.
“It’s been a while, Shizu-senpai.”
His name was Shizu. End of explanation.
“You come on in too, Inuyama!”
Chako-sensei had scarcely finished her sentence by the time the boy who had followed her and Kino from the classroom finally stepped inside. He quietly shut the door.
This student was a handsome young man with white hair. Kino no kurasumēto.
His name was Inuyama Wanwan Rikutarō. His incurable stalker tendencies towards Kino had, for some reason, disappeared entirely since the incident at Narita Airport.
As a side note, the ‘incident at Narita Airport’ was, of course, their farewell to Inid at the airport back in Volume 3. Tears, farewells, and unagi-don specials.
Kino turned to Inuyama.
She tilted her chin so-very slightly. That was it. Quite a different reception from Shizu just now. But Inuyama did not seem to mind.
“Let’s do our best today, too.” He smiled.
Inuyama’s eyes met Shizu’s. The latter was wearing a refreshing smile on his face.
“Good afternoon.” Inuyama replied simply, and took a seat at a different table.
“What a sight, seeing all of us together again!”
Let’s set aside trying to argue that four people sitting apart at a table is an amazing sight. Shizu addressed Chako-sensei first.
“We’ve been absent from club activities for so long. What do you have planned for us today, sensei? Whatever it is, I’ve been looking forward to it.”
“First, let’s have some tea and sweets!” Chako-sensei said immediately.
She immediately pulled out an elegant tea set from under the table. A beautiful porcelain tea pot and a set of teacups. Where in the world had they been hiding all this time? They certainly didn’t look like they belonged in a music prep room. Chako-sensei must have brought the set herself.
She then gingerly produced a box that was clearly from a local bakery.
“Ah... AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Kino screamed upon catching sight of the box. The bulletproof windows that had been installed to prevent damage from demon attacks rattled in their frames. Deja vu, no?
“Th-th-th-this... Th-th-this is...”
It was a box from the most popular bakery in the area!
It was a famous store that magazine articles had been written about. It had even been introduced on television.
Every last one of their products was beautiful and delicious, but their shortcake with extra-large strawberries was famous for flying off the shelves the moment they were baked.
They were very difficult to obtain even for people with a great deal of time on their hands. These cakes were being sold for ridiculous prices on auctions over the internet. Delivery took two days.
“A cake? Excellent. Sugar, also known as glucose, provides energy to the brain and gives us the strength to function.” Shizu explained.
“Lalala~ Let’s begin~ our tea party~ The Boston Tea Party~ Lalala~ the year 1773~”
Chako-sensei awkwardly hummed out a song as she expertly set the table for their tea party.
She produced a tablecloth out of nowhere and spread it over the table. She set the saucers and cups, poured the already boiled water into the cups, and finally placed the large platter with the multicolored thirteen-piece cake in the middle of the table.
“You know what happens after school? Tea time! You three must be exhausted from your midterms. So let’s enjoy ourselves! Let your youth fly into the sky!”
Kino stared at the shining cake.
And without caring who was watching, she burst into tears. Saline dribbled from her eyes like waterfalls.
“What is it, Kino?” Chako-sensei, who was by Kino’s side before she knew it, asked in a positively motherly tone.
Kino sniffled and spoke weakly, her voice nasal from crying.
“I... I’m so glad I joined the Take Action Now Club.”
Chako-sensei knelt before her and wiped Kino’s face with her fingers.
“There, there. Don’t cry, Kino. I just wanted to make some wonderful memories with you and the other club members. Now, let’s wipe those tears. You’re going to get salt in this delicious cake.”
Kino looked up at Chako-sensei, her tears glittering. She then feebly squeezed out a voice:
“Can I really eat this cake? ...Can I eat more than two pieces?”
“Of course! Feast your eyes, Kino. These sweet little slices can’t wait for you to devour them. Can’t you hear them? ‘Eat me, eat me!’, they’re saying in those wonderful, aromatic voices. Now, let’s get started with our club activities!”
Looks like both of them have gone through characterization changes.
Kino dug into her cake.
She finished all of her cake. Quick as usual.
Their furious tea time ended.
“This is bliss...” Kino said, thinking that she was probably the fourth-happiest person in the world.
“Now, let’s get started with our real club activities!” Chako-sensei said.
“I knew it.”
Shizu and Inuyama said.
Kino was overcome by the sudden urge to run away as fast as her legs could carry her. But--
Before her eyes were an empty cup that once held some very delicious tea, and ten empty cake slice wrappings piled atop one another. If nothing else, Kino could not ignore the favor known as free food.
The students waited for Chako-sensei to speak.
“Everyone. There’s something I want you all to work very hard at.”
Chako-sensei had never looked so grimly determined. Was she planning to force the students to kill each other until there was only one survivor, like in that best-selling novel from ten years ago?
Actually, they’ve already tried. They’ve already tried to kill each other in their transformed states.
“What is it?” Shizu asked quietly.
Chako-sensei took a deep breath and got to her feet.
Right on cue, a pair of shelves slid into view from behind either side of Chako-sensei. Who installed these things, anyway? Where in this mid-sized room were they hiding? Is there even space in here for these things?
Chako-sensei was undeterred by the leaps of logic. She proudly stood with the shelves acting as her backdrop.
Upon the shelves were countless musical instruments. An electric guitar, an electric bass, a keyboard, a drum set, a theremin, a koto, a violin, a harp, a shakuhachi, a clarinet, a grand piano, castanets, a guitar, et cetera.
Anyway, there was a veritable museum’s worth of instruments on the shelves. You could probably sell them for enough money to live off for the rest of your life.
“A band? As in, getting together in a group to play instruments?” Kino asked. She did not seem to care at all about the mysteriously appearing shelves.
“That’s right! A band! In English, it’s ‘The Band’! Raise your voice and feel free to jump up and down! Don’t you want to save the orphanage?” Chako-sensei asked. Kino ignored the question and shot back:
“But didn’t we already try? And... we quit. Because... you weren’t really a great singer.”
Yes. Kino was right on the mark.
The Take Action Now Club’s performance of [Allison] was sadly put to a stop after one of the walls were destroyed on the day of the festival. Afterwards, Chako-sensei poured her passion into the prospective of the club playing together as a band.
But Chako-sensei’s Destroyer-class vocal skills were soon deemed a weapon of mass destruction, and was sealed away forever. Please refer to Gakuen Kino volume 2 for details.
“Yes... Our history has been marked with pain and sorrow.” Chako-sensei said, tilting her head a full 43 degrees as she looked up at the ceiling.
Was our past really that grand, and was it really long enough to be called a history, Kino wondered. But she did not say anything.
“But we, the Take Action Now Club, have to move on from our tragic past. Unite our hearts and pave a new way forward. Do you understand, Kino?”
“Not one bit.”
“Thank you. I knew you’d understand.”
“So let’s sing together. With all our hearts! We’ll form a band together and walk towards our brilliant future!”
“Eventually, we’ll fall apart due to musical differences. But we’ll do it anyway! Otherwise, we wouldn’t be much of a band, would we? Relationships like that are false!”
“Talk about prejudice...”
“But I think it’s an interesting idea for the future.” Shizu commented.
“So are we going to do it after all?” Asked Inuyama.
“We’re going to form a band and practice hard together! And we’ll let our souls sing with our instruments, to go out into the world!”
Kino fell into thought.
Chako-sensei’s suggestion was relatively normal, compared to the play she had proposed out of nowhere earlier in the story.
But Kino did not understand why Chako-sensei decided to start up a band out of the blue. So she asked:
“But why a band?”
“Because it’s all the rage these days!”
Kino tilted her head.
“Of course! Keep your eyes peeled and watch some late-night anime! It’s being broadcast all over the country!”
“I don’t watch television at all, much less anime.”
“Then you’d better man up!”
“But I’m a girl.”
“Then I’m just going to say this once. Starting last April, forming a band became the latest craze with these freethinkers who start with an ‘O’. Instruments are selling like hotcakes! Instrument companies are rolling in cash! I could give you a video presentation with terms like ‘Lefty’ and ‘Marching Band’, if you want. It’ll take about seven hours. Are you interested?”
“...No.” Kino said finally, knowing that this particular teacher could very well follow up on her threats. After all, if she stayed behind, she would miss dinner at the dorms! Tonight’s menu is a deep-fried oyster meal set!
“Then that’s that! Let’s divide up the parts, now. Shizu!”
“You said you could play just about anything, right?”
“Well enough to meet your expectations, sensei.”
This was only natural. Shizu trained alone to sing the songs that played in the background whenever he transformed into Samoyed Mask. A true singer-songwriter, if there ever was one.
There were rumors that he covered his face with a suspicious mask and uploaded videos of himself singing and playing the guitar and bass at the same time to an internet video site, raking in viewers with his unusual style.
“Then we’ll start with Inuyama.”
Chako-sensei turned to Inuyama and asked him if he had ever played an instrument before.
“Not in particular,” Inuyama replied, “but I swear to master any instrument you teach me.”
What a dependable answer.
“Then the problem is Kino.” Chako-sensei said gravely.
Kino, having been labeled a problem--
Pouted slightly, despite knowing that Chako-sensei had hit the nail on the head. She was just competitive by nature.
“I think you’d do best on the guitar, Kino. You don’t have to worry about the tougher melodies; just play chords in the back, and we could probably cover you.”
Of course, Shizu agreed. Kino did not.
“But I’ve never even touched a guitar before! And... if I have to, could I just take vocals? I used to live in the countryside, so I always sang loudly back home. I think I could manage singing.”
“That makes sense...” Shizu said quietly. But Chako-sensei stopped him.
“No. I don’t mind you taking vocals. I was actually going to have the three of you all rotate singing parts, but you can just take it all, Kino. But I want everyone to be playing an instrument.” She said, looking more serious than ever before.
Kino put on a look that almost matched Chako-sensei’s in gravity.
“All right, then. But why?”
“Because it’s cooler that way!” Chako-sensei grinned, poking out her tongue and winking.
Kino gave up, in more than one sense of the phrase.
Chako-sensei did not operate by human principles, she decided.
Now, the story continues.
First came Shizu’s comment.
“Then I’ll take the bass. What about you, sensei?”
“I’m going to pass on this one. Leave it to you young’uns.” She said, suddenly acting like an old woman.
“Then I’ll also act as band master. Inuyama, would you mind being the drummer? You seem to have an excellent sense of rhythm. I’m sure you’ll do well.” Shizu said with a smile.
“Sure.” Inuyama said tersely. His eyes burned with the flames of vengeance.
Running through his head were not ideas on mastering the drum set, but plans to murder Shizu in the middle of the performance. He ran the simulations in his head.
The drummer’s seat, located near the center and at the very back, was the ideal spot from which to ambush a player. Even Shizu’s sense of caution was bound to grow lax during a performance. Inuyama could already think up seventeen different patterns of attack with a poison pin concealed on his drumsticks.
Whether or not he knew any of this, Shizu nodded to Inuyama.
“I’m counting on you.”
He then turned to Kino.
When the exceedingly handsome Shizu looked her in the eye, Kino found herself smoothing out her clothes without even thinking.
“I’m counting on you for the guitar.”
“B-but I’ve never played...?”
“That’s all right. You only have to sing and play the right chords at the right time. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Of course, that doesn’t exempt you from practicing. But we’ll do our best to help you. Relax and take it slowly, like you would for any other hobby you’re taking up.”
“Okay... I understand.”
Kino had the feeling that she was totally detached from herself, dragged around by Chako-sensei and the Take Action Now Club despite her complaints.
“Sensei. I’d like for us to be able to perform a piece in public eventually, but the school festival is already over.” Shizu pointed out.
“Thoughtful as always, Shizu! Good for you! And let me tell you a secret--I already have a place in mind!” Chako-sensei said, pulling out a piece of paper. She slammed it down on the desk. The three students looked down at it.
It was a poster advertising a battle of bands.
The poster, printed in full color, said something like this:
[A battle of bands for newcomers, hosted by the City of Yokohama!
Participants must be amateurs that have no ties to any record companies.
All music and lyrics must be original. Each band will be given up to nine minutes of performance time.
A local cable TV station will come to shoot the event. The concert will be broadcast on a music show that evening.
The concert will also be broadcast live over an internet streaming site!]
“L-live... over the internet?” Kino stammered.
Even our rock-dweller Kino knew what the internet was. She’d been using the computers at the school library recently to look up local challenge menus.
She had no idea what kind of music they were going to play, but once they entered this contest, their faces would be broadcast to the whole world. Live. No one could edit out their mistakes.
This event was on an entirely different scale from the play they performed last month. The internet is a scary place. Chako-sensei really meant it when she said, ‘go out into the world’ .”
“This is very exciting.”
“This sounds excellent.”
Neither Shizu nor Inuyama seemed to be perturbed in the least. Are you two brave, or just plain dense?
Kino desperately turned to Chako-sensei.
“B-but sensei! We can’t go straight into something this tough... can we?”
“Better than something too easy, don’t you think?”
Chako-sensei was being particularly merciless today.
Kino opened her mouth, deciding that she could no longer go along with this idea.
“You’re right, but... I’d like to sit out on this one so I don’t make us all look ba-”
“Wilt thou sup upon more cake?” Chako-sensei said, taking out yet another box of cake. ‘Sup’ is short for ‘supping’, and is an archaic word for ‘eat’.
“Yes! By all means! ...Wait. It can’t be!”
Kino’s eyes lit up like stars for a moment, then quickly went dark.
“That’s right, Kino. From this point forth, only students who are going to perform are allowed to eat this cake. Music is a lot of work, and you need lots of energy. It’s just like how they serve gourmet food to special operatives and fighter pilots. As your supervising teacher, it’s my responsibility to support my hardworking students as best I can.”
Kino’s eyes had become those of a beast stalking its next meal.
“Shizu, Inuyama. Go on and help yourselves! We have many difficult practice sessions ahead of us, so I need the two of you to be in tip-top shape. I’ll make sure to bring a box of cake every time we meet up for practice. Anyone who plays gets to eat!”
“SCREW GUITAR! SCREW THE INTERNET! FINE, I’LL DO IT!” Kino howled.
“I don’t believe this.” Hermes said to himself.
Looks like this protagonist will never go through character development.
“This is delicious! The chocolate cake is almost as good!”
“I’ve never had such scrumptious chocolate cake, not even back in Belgium.”
“It’s an excellent culinary work. The cacao contained within chocolate (rest omitted).”
Yum, yum. The Take Action Now Club continued their discussion of the concert as they feasted on yet one more of many cakes today.
The battle of bands would take place in about two weeks’ time, on the 3rd of November. It was Culture Day, a public holiday. Kino was shocked.
“That’s way too soon! Aren’t we supposed to get, like, six months of practice?!”
“We don’t have time for that, Kino. Six months is enough time for a 26-episode anime to finish airing.”
What is that comparison even supposed to mean?
Kino pointed out yet another shocking fact from the poster.
“Sensei, over here. It says we have to attach a recording of our performance if we want to sign up...”
“No worries! I already sent it in!”
“What? But how...”
“I asked some acquaintances of mine to lend me a hand! They’re all talented people. They did their very best to make it sound like they were novices!”
Don’t try this at home, kids.
Just to note, Chako-sensei had sent in this recording before the club members had even consented to the performance.
Despite her shock, Kino diligently downed mouthfuls of cake. The second box was soon emptied. The twenty-six pieces of cake were annihilated in less than three minutes.
“That’s it for today’s meeting! I actually wanted to start practice today, but I have some things to take care of this time.” Chako-sensei said. Shizu stood up and spoke.
“What would you like for us to do, then? We won’t have another meeting until Monday.”
In response, Chako-sensei took out three portable music players from her bag and placed on in front of each member.
“The song I sent in as our demo is on these. I want you to make your own sheet music from this song. We have enough time for two performances, but one song’s enough for now. Let’s try and master it.”
“Of course. Then I’ll make the sheet music for all the parts by Monday after school.” Shizu said. Chako-sensei nodded, and turned to Inuyama.
“Inuyama, practice with these.”
Chako-sensei pulled from the shelf a thick textbook entitled [Even a Dog Can Play the Drums], an old pair of drumsticks, an old magazine, and a roll of duct tape.
How do you use these objects? You wrap up the old magazine in duct tape, then use it in place of a drum for practice purposes.
You might not believe this, seeing as you’re reading Gakuen Kino, but this is an actual practice technique people use. Drum sets are terribly expensive, and very loud. It’s one of those instruments that are very difficult to practice, so many drummers are badly inconvenienced. This is why electric drums exist.
“I’ll make it so that you can practice here starting Monday, so I want you to learn the basics on your own over the weekend.” Chako-sensei said.
“Understood.” Inuyama said, receiving his gear and falling into thought again.
He had come up with yet more plans to defeat Shizu. He was already on his 108th simulation of bludgeoning him to death with the duct-taped magazine.
Now that Kino had agreed to take the guitar, she had no choice but to practice.
“What do I do?”
Kino was an expert when it came to firearms, but you’d be hard pressed to get any coherent information about music out of her.
“I’ll give you the details on Monday after school. But first...”
Chako-sensei reached into the shelf and pulled out a book titled [Basic Electric Guitar Studies for Military-and-Firearms Geeks - You, too, can play the guitar! Easy explanations using military jargon.].
Looks like even Kino’s going to be able to play now. Although I’m not sure if this book will ever make a profit.
“Now we need to find you a guitar,“ Chako-sensei said, “I would normally just tell you to run part-time jobs for one, since that sounds more like a plausible coming-of-age story, but we unfortunately have no time to spare.”
She then chose one of the dozens of guitars on the shelf, and raised it into the air.
“Stratocaster!” She cried in the voice of a certain cat-shaped robot.
Gakuen Kino’s Music and Instrument Corner - Part 1
(Let me explain. In this corner, I’ll explain things about music and the instruments that make an appearance in this book. Just like the title says. If you’re not interested, feel free to skip this section!)
The guitar Chako-sensei chose for Kino was a Stratocaster, made by the famous Fender USA.
The Fender Stratocaster is one of the top two electric guitars in the world, rivaling the Gibson Les Paul.
To explain further, this particular model Chako-sensei gave Kino was from the American Standard Series. It had a black body and a rosewood fretboard.
By the way, this is a totally new guitar. Purchased very recently.
The protective film with the name of the model was still stuck on the pick guard and the back of the body. It had not even been installed with a tremolo arm, a piece which makes the sounds reverberate.
Sure, Chako-sensei could talk like Dor**mon all she wanted. But that didn’t solve their problems.
Kino knew nothing about guitars.
All she could tell from the one that Chako-sensei chose for her was that ‘it’s black, and it’s an electric guitar’. If this was a gun, she could probably rattle off the model number, the caliber, and the year of manufacture in the blink of an eye.
Whether Chako-sensei was trying to gently encourage Kino or just didn’t care (probably the latter):
“From this point on, this guitar is your partner! Master it well!” She said, handing the guitar to Kino as she would a rifle to a greenhorn soldier. Without so much as an explanation about guitars.
“I’ll take it, I guess...”
Kino accepted the guitar for now, but she had no idea how to hold it, or how much force she could exert without breaking it. She carried it gingerly like a newborn baby, supporting it carefully, and gently laid it over her lap.
Six strings shone before her eyes. The thinnest of them looked rather like a string used by assassins to murder people. Wouldn’t touching it shred her finger?
One by one, Chako-sensei handed her a hardshell guitar case, a gig bag for carrying it around on her shoulders, a guitar tuner, a pick, extra strings, a guitar stand, a strap, a pair of headphones for practicing quietly in the dorms, a micro-sized amp, and the other accessories she needed.
Soon, the desk in front of Kino was covered in a pile of guitar accessories.
As Chako-sensei and Shizu taught her the basics of holding a guitar and putting it into a case--
“Now that I think about it, since we’re starting practice on Monday, I don’t need to take the guitar back today, do I?” Kino wondered.
“You just don’t understand how charming it is for a schoolgirl to walk home with a guitar case on her back!” Chako-sensei said, cheerfully ignoring Kino.
So they finished packing up, and the end of their club activity time came to an end (Editorial dept.: What does this even mean?). Chako-sensei finally left Kino with this command:
“Kino, I want you to listen to the song and write lyrics for it. The vocal part is the one the keyboard is playing. I’m going to give you until Monday.”
“Whaaaaaat?! What do you mean?” Kino blurted without thinking.
“‘Lyrics’, Kino, are words that go to a musical piece...”
“I know that.”
“I don’t know why you put on that serious look all of a sudden, sensei, but why do I have to make up the lyrics?!” Kino asked.
I’m sure you’re all wondering, what kind of improbably ridiculous answer was Chako-sensei going to give?
“It’s because you’re the only girl in the band, Kino. I want a real girl’s feelings to fill this song. And you know, it’ll be easier for you to sing the lyrics with real emotion if you’ve written them for yourself.”
It was a surprisingly sensible answer.
“That’s a wonderful idea.”
“I have to agree.”
Shizu and Inuyama nodded.
Kino gaped silently for a moment.
“Fine, but it’s not my fault if you don’t like how it turns out!” She spat, and turned on her heel.
Carrying the guitar on her back like a real musician, Kino walked back to the dorms alongside Shizu and Inuyama, who were helping her carry her things.
From inside the music prep room, Chako-sensei spread the blinds with her fingers, looking down on them with a grin. Just like a certain criminal investigation section chief from a certain police drama.
A somewhat frail voice called to her from the darkened music room. It was the voice of a young girl.
Following this voice was one of a boy who had not yet reached puberty.
“Is this really okay? I’m starting to think we made too big of a request.”
This voice sounded a little more energetic.
He sounded reluctant, but there was a very sincere desperation to the boy’s tone.
Chako-sensei turned to the two people in the music room and smiled radiantly.
“There’s no need to worry! Have faith in the Take Action Now Club.” She said firmly.
Didn’t she say the exact same thing in the last volume?
(1) Kōhaku Uta Gassen is an annual music show in Japan, broadcast on NHK.