Thursday, 6 June 2013

Gakuen Kino 4 - Chapter 7 (Part 3)

That took way too long. Anyway, here's the third part of Gakuen Kino Chapter 7. Enjoy!



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Chapter 7 - Part 3: This is How a Warrior of Justice Fights
~The Role~


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Culture Day.

This day was made a national holiday in commemoration of the announcement of the Constitution of Japan on November 3rd, 1946. As you probably already know, the Constitution came into effect on May 3rd, 1947, which today is celebrated as the Constitution Memorial Day.

This day is also famous for the strange weather phenomenon it is predisposed to: namely, that the third of November in Japan always seems to be particularly sunny and clear.

“As usual.”

Kino looked up at the sky from the window of her dormitory room. There was not a single cloud in the sky. I’m sure the Iruma district in Saitama Prefecture must be experiencing the same beautiful weather, too.

The Take Action Now Club was to meet up at the school by 8:53 in the morning. Kino woke up earlier than she usually did on holidays and had breakfast at the dorms. The student cafeteria was deserted. Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Kino then returned to her room and fell into thought. What did she have to prepare today?

“She said to wear my school uniform, so I guess I don’t have to do anything special.”

In the end, she stepped out of the dorms dressed no differently than any other day, with her belt and holster and her slightly-messier-than-usual hair.

Kino climbed the slope to the school building. The path was deserted.

“I’m getting butterflies in my stomach.” Kino said.

“Don’t people usually feel like that on the night before, not the morning of? Just play and sing like you normally do. You sound good enough to perform, at least.”

“Thanks. So, how about that thing we talked about before?”

Hermes understood what Kino was talking about.

“They’re still watching the school. There’s someone in the woods with a telescope in the ten o’clock direction, four hundred meters ahead. There’s someone with a scope-equipped camcorder in an apartment building in the four o’clock direction.”

“They’re even keeping watch on a holiday... What are they thinking?”

Although she felt very much like beating these mysterious people to a pulp, Kino ignored them for the moment and headed for the music prep room.

She arrived a little earlier than scheduled.

“Good morning!”

“Hello, Kino.”

“Good morning.”

Chako-sensei, Shizu, and Inuyama were already there. Chako-sensei was just unlocking the door, which probably meant that they had gotten there not too long ago.

“Good morning. Hm?”

Kino noticed two students in uniform standing beside the usual members.

One of them was a girl. She looked very delicate and was quite small, but from the color of her indoor shoes Kino could tell that she was in her first year at the academy. Her reddish-black hair was tied into a pair of braided pigtails. Her cheeks were freckled. She looked innocent if you put it nicely, and homely if you didn’t.

The other was a boy. A caucasian. That was nothing unusual, since there were many exchange students attending the academy. He had slightly frizzy golden hair and looked a little fainthearted. But he looked handsome enough that he could be popular with girls of his own age if he carried himself with a bit more confidence.

The boy was also quite small and skinny. He was about the same height as the girl, and his indoors shoes were also the same color as hers.

They looked up at Kino.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

They greeted her simultaneously, equally anxious, and lightly bowed their heads.

“Hello. Um, so who are you?”

Kino’s question was answered by Chako-sensei.

“The girl here is Sara, and the boy is Elias. Just to let you know, they’re not exchange students--they both grew up in Japan since they were young. Sara, Elias, this here is Kino. She’s our guitarist and vocalist, and she’s also our ultimate weapon. Our trump card!”

“...Right. Nice to meet you.”

Despite being showered with compliments, Kino greeted the younger students a bit awkwardly.

“Since we’re all here, let’s get started moving all our gear!”

“Sensei! Are these two coming along too?” Kino asked.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?”

“I don’t think you did.”

“These two are first-year students in the junior high department. They’re also my students.”

‘As if I couldn’t figure that out,’ Kino thought, but she said nothing and waited for Chako-sensei to continue.

“They said they were curious about the band. It’s too dangerous to let junior high students join the Take Action Now Club, but I thought it might be all right for them to come watch our performance since it’s outside of school.”

The moment she heard this, Kino realized something. A small storm brewed in her mind.

“Oh. I see...” She said quietly, slightly downcast at the realization, but Chako-sensei spoke up quickly as though she had read Kino’s mind.

“There’s nothing to worry about, Kino. Since we have two more mouths to feed, I’ve packed us even more food and dessert!”

“I’m fine now!” Kino cried, perking up instantly. Seriously? Thinking of fighting over food with a couple of kids three years young than you? You’re a terrible protagonist, Kino.

“Let’s do our best together!” Kino said cheerfully. Sara and Elias exchanged glances.

“Okay...” “Okay...” They said softly.


They carried the guitar, the bass, and the rest of their gear--mostly the stuff they needed for drinking delicious tea--into the parking lot.

Kino carried her guitar and a backup, and Shizu did the same with two basses. But--

“This is heavy...”

“Oh...”

Sara and Elias, in charge of carrying the tea pots and plates, were already staggering under the rather trivial weight.

Setting Sara aside, Elias was quite frail for a boy. If these two were to join the Take Action Now Club, they wouldn’t last three days, Kino thought to herself.

As the two younger members hobbled into the parking lot, the others began to load the gear onto the back of the car Chako-sensei had rented--a Honda Odyssey Minivan, just like the one she got last time.

Because the guitars and basses were quite bulky, especially in their hard cases, the back row of seats was rendered unusable.

Shizu, who already had a driver’s license because he was eighteen years old, drove the Odyssey. Kino sat beside him, and Inuyama and Elias behind them.

Chako-sensei and Sara were on the CR-Z, which had seats in the back but was too compact to fit any more people.

The two cars drove out of the school gates. Mission Start.


“They’re moving! The target is on the move!” The man watching them from afar cried, and began to dial a number on his phone.

“After them! Confirm their destination and prepare to move out!”

Mission Start for you, too.


The CR-Z continued down the road.

“Don’t worry!” Chako-sensei said with a smile.


<=>


The cars made their way down the busy holiday streets.

About ten minutes after leaving the school, they made it to the location described on the poster.

It was a community center on top of a small mountain, next to a large park. It was surrounded by forest, parkland, and parking lots. The scenery was gorgeous.

Because the center had recently been renovated, it was still quite shiny and new. The beautiful, wholesome building smiled down upon the people under the bright autumn sky.

The two cars carrying the Take Action Now Club drove up the mountain and stopped in the parking lot. There weren’t many cars here yet, so they parked side-by-side and began to unload their gear.

“Oh, here. I’ll take that.” Kino said to Sara and Elias, as she slung one guitar case behind her and took hold of another in her hand. With her remaining free hand, she grabbed a large basket and began to walk towards the center.

“...”

Elias glanced at Sara with a melancholy look. Sara met his gaze.

“Our senpai is really amazing, isn’t she?” She said innocently.

But her words only cast a shadow over Elias’s eyes as he stood there helplessly.


Meanwhile.

The man who followed after Kino and the others by car saw the Take Action Now Club bring their things into the community center. He also saw the sign hanging over the entrance.

[Yokohama City Battle of the Newbie Bands! Broadcast live over the internet!]

The words passed through the man’s eyes and into his brain, where they began to wreak all kinds of havoc.

“Th-that’s... Ah...”

The shock was so great that he lost consciousness for several seconds. And the moment he came to his sense, he quickly made a phone call.

“I-it’s me! All personnel, abandon your posts and head to the Yokohama community center immediately! This is terrible!”


<=>


It was halfway to noon. The community center began to fill up with people.

The parking lot was also filled with vans and trucks. People energetically unloaded their instruments and gear, lending an air of cheer to the atmosphere.

Everyone was here for today’s battle of bands. The passionate love of music and the musicians’ hopes of playing to the whole world burned under the sky.

Some of the participants were quite young, and others were middle-aged men. The instruments were just as varied, ranging from electric guitars to accordions.

The participants who had already registered had to enter the community center and remain on standby inside a very large waiting room. Because there weren’t enough rooms to assign one for each group, the entire group of performers were allotted a total of two rooms: One large waiting room and a prep room for the female participants.

Everyone began to get ready. Some got into character. Others put on makeup or changed into their costumes.

There were eight groups in total participating today.

The order of their performances was to be decided by drawing lots. The rehearsal would take place in the reverse order. In other words, the band that performed first would have rehearsed last. This was because this arrangement spared the crew from having to change the settings on the stage unnecessarily.

Coincidentally or not, the Take Action Now Club was scheduled to perform last. In other words, they would rehearse first.

“Whoa! That’s one hot chick.” People said as Chako-sensei passed by.

“Those kids are adorable!” Others said, watching Sara and Elias.

The Take Action Now Club, having captured the sights of the people around them, headed for the stage.

“Wow... So this is where we’re going to be playing, huh?” Kino thought out loud, looking out at the rather crowded stage. Of course, most of the crowd was the stage crew. There weren’t any audience members here yet.

‘Three weeks ago, I never would have imagined that I’d end up singing and playing the guitar on a stage. That unagi-don special at Narita was really good.’

“I remembered. We shouldn’t be picky eaters.”

Hermes whispered to Kino from her belt.

“But you eat anything that’s in front of you, Kino.”

“I haven’t eaten you, Hermes.”

“I don’t taste that great, just to let you know.”

“I’m not going to eat you. You’re not even big enough for half a mouthful.”

“That’s good to hear.”

Atop the stage was a real drum set and several very, very large amps.

On the audience-side of the stage were monitors through which the performers could hear their own playing. Because Kino didn’t know anything about this aspect of performance, she left the stage setting to the experienced Shizu.

Inuyama took a seat at the drums and began to tap away, getting a feel for the sensation of a real set.

Chako-sensei was talking with the crew about pre-performance adjustments. And about the length of their performance.

“...”

“...”

And as for the two children--

Sara and Elias were just standing beside the darkened stage, not really doing anything.

Sara realized that Elias’s hands were trembling ever-so-slightly.

“I-it’s going to be all right!” She said, taking his hands in hers.

“Huh?”

But his trembling would not stop. Sara finally realized that she was also shaking.

“I’m sorry...” Elias said weakly.

“What for? Why are you apologizing, Elias?” Sara asked.

“I... I’m sorry I can’t do anything to help...”

Elias looked to be about three seconds away from bursting into tears.

“...I-it’s okay! It’s going to be all right!” Sara said, mustering all her strength.

“I’m sorry...”

Elias, who ended up on the receiving end of comfort, bowed his head and looked at his feet.

The stage was lit.

“All right! Let’s get started. We’re the Take Action Now Club, and we’ll be performing [My Gun is a Hotchkiss]!”

Kino’s cheerful voice pierced them like bullets.


“My gun is a Hotchkiss~!” Kino finished. Inuyama and Shizu ended the song on an energetic note.

The rehearsal went off without a hitch.

“That was wonderful! Flawless work, everyone!” Chako-sensei said with a thumbs-up, stepping onto the stage from behind. Along the way, she stopped to speak to the sound crew, probably discussing the mix.

“Sweet! Now we just have to play once for the cameras!” Kino said with a satisfied laugh, “But before that, food!”

With the Stratocaster (the protective film had been peeled off) slung behind her back, Kino grinned at the two kids crouching beside the stage.

“Sara! Elias! Let’s go eat!”

“O-okay...” “Okay...”

They both looked rather down, but Kino did not pay this any mind.

“I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant! I wonder what Chako-sensei packed for us today?”

The lunch menu was all she cared about at this point. The protagonist of Gakuen Kino always lives by the rule of self-centered thinking. And all she thinks about is food.

Taking along Sara and Elias, but not thinking to wait for Shizu and Inuyama, Kino headed for the waiting room.

Suddenly--

“Excuse us.”

Two men wearing black suits appeared before them.

The men had been waiting at the end of the long hallway. They were both in their thirties or forties, and for some reason, they were wearing sunglasses even though they were indoors.

Kino glared at the obviously suspicious men and made her discomfort clear in her tone.

“What is it?”

No one would get between Kino and her lunch.

“We have some business with Miss Sara.”

Kino glanced over at Sara.

“...”

“...”

Both Sara and Elias were terrified. they looked very much like little animals cornered by predators.

“Who are you?” Kino asked the men, putting lunch out of her mind for the moment. The men answered her plainly without expression.

“We are Miss Sara’s bodyguards. We’ve been instructed by her parents to bring the young lady back home.” One of the men said.

It had not been very long since the incident with Inid. Kino was wary, having been left with no way to know if the men were telling the truth.

“Are these people telling the truth?” Kino asked, turning to Sara and Elias.

Sara said nothing. Why would she not answer? But either way, she was clearly scared. Noting this, Kino decided to act like a responsible upperclassman for once.

“We’re in the middle of club activities right now, actually. For school.”

The man in the suit responded.

“We understand. But we have been instructed to take the lady back home for personal reasons pertaining to her family. I’m sure you understand. This is very important business.”

Although the man’s tone was polite, he sounded as though he was looking down on Kino, Sara, and Elias. It was true that he was taller than them, but that was irrelevant.

Kino got even more angry, but she couldn’t think of any way to respond to the man. She was probably too hungry to think. I understand that feeling.

“If you’ll excuse us, then.” The man said, bypassing Kino and reaching towards Sara’s skinny arm. But at that very moment, Chako-sensei’s voice interrupted them.

“Oh?”

The man froze. Though Chako-sensei had neither raised her voice nor gotten angry, she made clear her tone of authority.

Kino turned around. Before her eyes were the man and Sara, and a petrified Elias who was on the verge of bursting into tears.

She also saw Chako-sensei, smiling elegantly with her head tilted slightly to the side.

“This won’t do. I’m sorry, but the waiting room is for authorized personnel only. This is very important business, you know? I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Or should I just call security or the police?” Chako-sensei said without missing a beat. The men in suits paled slightly, especially at the mention of the police.

Chako-sensei went on to land the killing blow.

“Ah, let me introduce myself. My name is Kuroshima Chako, Sara’s supervising teacher. And Sara is a key member of today’s club activity. I’ll explain the situation to her father, if you’ll give me his contact information.” She said, taking out her cell phone.

“We’ll come back later.” The men declined, turning away and disappearing down the hall.

Once the men were out of sight, Kino snorted. She then turned to Chako-sensei, perhaps motivated by the love of justice that was buried somewhere in her heart.

“Sensei?”

“What is it, Kino?”

“What’s for lunch?”


Lunch was onigiri and assorted side dishes.

Multicolored onigiri filled with everything from salmon, pollack roe, salmon roe, and pickled plum, to bonito flakes and kelp. Each large handmade piece was wrapped in crunchy seaweed.

On the side they had salad, egg rolls, and fried chicken.

The burdock root salad was drenched in expensive mayonnaise that beautifully complemented its crunchy texture. A generous sprinkling of sesame seeds decorated the surface, highlighting the taste of the mayonnaise with its aroma.

The sweet golden egg rolls were firm on the outside and moist on the inside, like the consistency of an expertly baked cake.

The fried chicken, a mainstay of lunch boxes everywhere, was still steaming hot. Perhaps it had been made with delivery time taken into account.

Inside a separate container was finely diced radish and bitter orange dressing. Add these to your meal for a fresh and crispy experience!

Oh, don’t forget to try the vinegar and the tartar sauce. Put vinegar on your fried chicken, followed by the tartar sauce, and you too can enjoy western-style fried chicken. The perfect balance of sour and sweet creates paradise on the tip of any taster’s tongue.

“Yhis is great!”

The writer has just made a typo, but seeing as whatever Kino is saying with her mouth full is going to be incomprehensible anyway, he decided to leave it as is.

Kino ate. She ate some more.

Onigiri and side dishes flew into her mouth at the speed of machine gun rounds, but there was so much food to begin with that it did not cause anyone else any problems. The Take Action Now Club shone brightly above everyone else in their corner of the room.

Shizu, Inuyama, Chako-sensei, and even the downcast Sara and Elias ate alongside her. Although the latter two only ate about as much as normal people.

“This is delicious.”

“This food is excellent.”

“It’s really good!”

Shizu, Inuyama, and Chako-sensei ate almost as much as Kino. Ten onigiri each as though it were nothing, and loads of fried chicken.

Sara and Elias sometimes looked at them like they were aliens. When Kino noticed their gaze--

“Don’t worry! If those creepy suits come again, I’ll chase them out properly!”

The hungry Kino and the fully-fed and energized Kino were two completely different people.

Having taken in an uncountable number of calories, Kino was now without weakness.

“Th-thank you...” Sara said.

“...”

Elias, surrounded by the dependable Kino, Shizu, Inuyama, and Chako-sensei, hung his head silently.


<=>


“The weak are meek. Or should I say ‘meak’? Heh.”(1)

One of the men that had been driven away by Chako-sensei mumbled to himself, looking up at the sky beyond the window.

This has nothing to do with the story, but I wonder how foreign versions of Gakuen Kino will render this line? I apologize to all you translators.

There was a single minibus in the rather packed parking lot. Because it was surrounded by other trucks and buses, it did not stand out very much.

The car’s windows were tinted, and inside--invisible to the world--were ten men in similar outfits, all wearing sunglasses. Their faces were frozen stiff.

A man beside the driver’s seat was talking on a cell phone. He soon finished his call.

“We have word from the superiors.” He said loudly to his fellow suits. All eyes were on him.

“It’s impossible to force the internet’s hand after all. The plan to cancel the live broadcast has failed.”

The men groaned in defeat and sighed.

“Damn those internet providers... They’re going to learn sooner or later that ignorance really is bliss.” One of the men said, clearly very tired.

“Listen up, men.” Said a solemn man who looked to be the leader. He was a man in his forties who had been listening silently with his arms crossed over his chest the whole time. He was also wearing sunglasses.

“We’ve done what we can to try and put a stop to this without a fuss. But we’ve reached the end of our rope. From now on, you have permission to use reasonable amounts of force.”

Nine men swallowed simultaneously. Gulp.

“When the moment comes, do not hesitate. If only for the purposes of this plan, we must temporarily abandon our humanity.”

In other words, the ends justified the means.

The bus was silent once more, save for a single voice.

“Um, I have a suggestion.” One man  in sunglasses spoke up, raising his hand. The leader gave him permission to speak.

“What if we all became demons? I bet turning into demons will make our work easier.”

The men, thinking that this was a very sudden joke, burst into laughter.

“Poetic of you. Then sure, let’s all become demons.” The leader chuckled. The other men also voiced their agreement.

But no one was coming to the realization that there was currently one man among them whom they had never seen before. There were eleven people on this bus!

“Good luck.” Said the man who made the suggestion, as he disappeared in a puff of smoke.

It was three minutes later that the bus was turned into a Tokyo subway train at rush hour by the ten demons.

It was thirty minutes later that they finally managed to pop themselves out of the bus.


Between those three and thirty minutes, the battle of bands began.

And between those three and thirty minutes, a UH-60J helicopter from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Chitose Base picked up a passenger at a certain private residence in Hokkaido and disappeared into the distance.


<=>


“Man, I’m getting nervous...”

The waiting room was filled with people waiting to perform on stage. Kino was one of them.

The members of the Take Action Now Club were in the furthest corner of the waiting room, at a table beside the back door, feasting on cake despite having eaten lunch very recently.

The other contestants watched them in disbelief, but that didn’t really matter. Rest and relaxation is important, especially when you have a performance coming up. Besides, the Take Action Now Club was going to be playing at the very end.

There were a total of eight bands scheduled to play today. Each team was given a maximum of ten minutes to perform, but including the time it took to receive comments from the judges and the time it took to set up and take down equipment, each team would take up about double that amount.

It would take about three hours for all of the groups to finish playing. They began in the afternoon, so the performances would go into the evening.

From the waiting room, they could faintly hear the heavy metal band playing on the stage. They could hear it more loudly from the computer set up against one of the walls, where the internet broadcast was being shown.

“They really are showing this to the whole world. I wonder if Grandma’s watching.” Kino wondered, munching on a fruit tart.

“Ah, smells wonderful.” Chako-sensei said, sitting comfortably and taking a sip of tea.

Shizu was just sitting with his eyes closed, breathing quietly. Was he taking a nap, or was he trying to meditate?

Inuyama sat opposite from Shizu, holding his drumsticks and thinking with his eyes wide open (in more of a Zen meditation-style than Shizu). How many more scenarios for defeating Shizu had he come up with? Unfortunately, even when asleep, Shizu left himself carefully guarded. Damn it.

What were the two brats doing now?

“...”

Sara was listening to something from a portable music player through a set of clearly expensive headphones, her eyes closed shut.

“...”

Elias was watching the only member of their group who was moving, Kino (who was busy eating cake). It wasn’t that he particularly wanted to see Kino eat enough to send your jaw falling into the depths of the earth. He just had nowhere in particular he wanted to look at.

Proving this claim about Elias’s mental state: His eyes met Kino’s as she reached for another slice of cake.

“I’m just going to use the bathroom...” Elias mumbled, running out the back door as if in escape.


“Hah...”

Elias stepped out of the bathroom and sighed, on the verge of tears.

He did not feel up to returning to the waiting room. There was still some time left, anyway. He instead walked through the lobby and stepped outside for a breath of fresh air.

Unlike the stuffy community center, the world outside was deserted. There was a large park and a parking lot in front of him. It looked as though the world was frozen in time, probably because nothing was moving.

Elias walked through that sight, with no clear destination in mind.

Even when he stepped into the sun, under the clear blue sky, his mood did not improve. He looked around to make sure that no one was around.

“Why am I so weak? Sara has a teacher and three strong senpai helping her. All I do is get in her way...” Elias said, finally putting words to his feelings.

But letting it all out didn’t help his mental state very much.

“I’m worthless...” He concluded, falling deeper into depression. So deep that he was digging into the ground. We understand, Elias.

But standing around here was not going to change anything. Standing in the sun did nothing to bring light into his heart.

Elias returned to the community center building and opened the door. The halls were very dark compared to the sunny world outside.

The boy disappeared into the darkness.

And at that very moment--

BOOM!

The minibus exploded from the inside out.

Ten demons, each about three meters high and bearing the forms of lions, began to roam through the parking lot.

You’re finally out, guys.


<=>


“!”

Kino was digging into her Sachertorte when it struck.

A vein on her forehead suddenly grew visible.


“Hah!”

Inuyama, in the midst of working on his 249th scenario.

Crack.

His grip on his drumsticks tightened.


“Hm.”

Shizu opened his eyes.


“Oh? What’s wrong, everyone? We’re almost up.” Chako-sensei said as the three members suddenly got to their feet.

“I’m going to get some air.” “I’m going to get some air.” The men said at once.

“I’m... uh, I’m going to go pick some flowers.” Kino said.

They were both euphemistic phrases for “I’m going to the bathroom”.

“Oh. All right. But you know that we have to be on stage soon, right? Could you make it back in time?” Chako-sensei asked with a grin, even though there was still more than an hour left until their performance.

“Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.”

With that, the three members each left the waiting room through different doors.

The strangeness of the scene prompted Sara to take off her headphones and nervously turn to Chako-sensei.

“All three of them have diarrhea.” Chako-sensei said with a smile. She’s a real master at this ‘excuses’ business.


<=>


Meanwhile, our protagonist:

“What? What? What? What? Why?”

She rattled off one Wh-question after another as she ran down the thankfully-deserted community center halls. Don’t try this at home, kids.

You see, there’s a good reason they tell you to never run in the halls. The author thinks this because in junior high school, he personally watched a classmate get tripped by another straight into a concrete pillar. Although he thankfully wasn’t bleeding, he was taken to hospital with a huge bump on his head. Just to let you know, this student was not the author. Even he isn’t that clumsy.

“I sense a demon. But why here, of all places?” Hermes wondered casually, hanging from Kino’s belt.

“No way! This isn’t even the school! All right, who was it?! Who’s the idiot that fell for temptation this time?! And why now?!” Kino spat, running to the back of the community center. The glass panes in the doors shone like gates to another dimension.

Sensing the demon’s presence beyond it, Kino shouted at the top of her lungs.

“Hermes! I’m going for it!”

“Okay.”

In 0.02 seconds, Kino drew the model gun from her right side and raised it high into the air.

She raised the hammer with her thumb and pulled it back with her index finger.

“From my cold! Dead! Hands!”

Pop. Pop. Sparkle sparkle.

Okay. Transformation complete.

It was over in the span of time it took Kino’s left foot to overtake her right.

Her legs, until now bare save for a pair of socks, were now covered in a pair of sweatpants--the school gym uniform. Otherwise, Kino did not look very different from before.

She had transformed from Kino the ordinary high school student to Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino! It was a spectacular change to behold. How? Ask the author.

Kino holstered Big Cannon ~ Shining Iron Demon Destroyer, reached into one of the small pouches on her belt with her right hand, and reached for the back door with her left hand.

“It’s a little ways away!”

Trusting in her warrior-of-justice-senses, Kino rushed outside.


TIIIIIIIING!

With the ringing of the guitar, the heavy metal band began its second song. At the same time, Kino found herself standing under the beautiful autumn sky.

As soon as she stepped outside, she took out an AR-57 from her pouch.

The AR-57 is an upper receiver for the AR-16 (or the M4) model. It is a relatively new firearm that can shoot high-speed P90 rounds.

Like the P90, it can hold up to fifty rounds at once. It’s the perfect weapon for firing relentlessly at opponents. This particular model has a short barrel that just barely leaves room for a Rail Interface System to be equipped. It was equipped with a small laser sight for ease of aiming.

For your information, a Rail Interface System (RIS for short) is a method of attaching accessories to firearms. It refers to the rails covering the front of a gun. All kinds of accessories, from laser sights to flashlights (used to illuminate dark areas or momentarily blind the enemy with its powerful light) to fore-grips (a stabilization system for that makes it easier for the wielder to hold up the firearm for longer periods of time), can be attached to this part. Although I guess you don’t really need this kind of knowledge to survive in the real world.

Anyway, Kino rushed outside.

“There!”

She found the demon quickly. (This is an example of grammatical inversion.)

A lone lion-shaped demon was sauntering on the grass about three meters away. On its hind legs. As soon as it spotted Kino--

ROAAAAAR!

It quickly lunged at her.

“Too slow!”

It was quickly taken down by a barrage of bullets from Kino’s AR-57 (on automatic).

Kino approached the demon and pulled the trigger. With the crisp sound of gunshots, empty shell casings fell from the magazine slot like a torrent of water.

This gun was prone to some terrible recoil, but this was nothing for Kino in her transformed state. The bullets hit their mark, repeatedly hitting the demon’s legs. It writhed in agony as it crumpled on the grass.

“Prepare yourself!”

Kino tossed the AR-57 into the air and drew Big Cannon from its holster.

BANG!

The bullet hit the demon just as it was attempting to get back up. Did you really think that Kino would miss? If she did, then you are looking at an impostor.

The demon trembled and began to shrink. Demon Sealed! Mission Accomplished.

“Heh.”

Kino slowly holstered Big Cannon.

“...”

She spent the next nine seconds waiting in silence, then reached into the air to take hold of the AR-57.

She had tossed it so high that she missed her chance to look cool while catching it.

“And I’m done! Let’s go back and eat something.” Kino said to the dismay of the readers, putting her AR-57 back into her pouch.

“Mysterious Kino! Duck!”

A familiar voice. A voice that she never wanted to hear again.

But--

“Hah!”

Kino did as she was told and ducked on the spot.

Whoosh.

She could hear something slashing through the air overhead.

Kino shifted her center of balance and rolled backwards, putting distance between herself and her attacker.

Once she came to a stop, she looked up. She saw a demon swinging its thick arms towards her.

“What?”

For a moment, Kino was utterly lost.

She glanced over at the demon she had shot earlier. Lying in its place was a man in sunglasses.

“What’s going on?”

She looked ahead. There was indeed another demon standing before her.

“What’s going on?!”

“Let me explain, Mysterious Kino!”

This voice had come from someplace quite high up. Kino looked towards its source.

“It’s you...”

To be very frank, she wanted to burst into tears there and then.

It was him. A mysterious man in a white mask.

A breeze. The autumn wind gently enveloped the man in its arms.

He wore a pristine school uniform and a fluttering silken cape of white. At his side was a katana. His teeth were pearly white, and over his eyes was a white mask that covered his eyes. Atop his head were a pair of white doggy ears, between which was a single red apple. Look! A dove (rest omitted).

Yes. At this point, no one really needs explanation. It was Samoyed Mask.

“Yes. It is I! Samoyed Mask V(ictory), the Composer of Love and Soul!”

During the time it took for Samoyed Mask V to recite his name, Kino drew an RPG-7 portable anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher and mounted it on one shoulder.

The RPG-7 is a bestseller weapon from the Old Soviet Union, and a mainstay of action movies. It is shaped like a very long cylinder, equipped with a cone-shaped warhead on one end.

The warhead is fired by the force of a detonation that takes place inside the cylinder. It then ignites the rocket motor, which flies towards the target. The cylinder, of course, can be used multiple times as long as you replace the warhead each time. So technically, it’s not a rocket launcher, but a recoilless firearm. But this is, again, the kind of stuff you don’t really need to know to survive in life.

Anyway, Kino took aim at Samoyed Mask V. But she hadn’t yet shot at him.

“What’s happening here?!” She demanded of him, taking a second to glance at the demon that was glaring straight at her.

“What do you mean by that?”

“That demon over there! I just sealed one away two seconds ago!”

“But it’s right there, is it not?”

“I get it... This is your doing, isn’t it?!”

“Hearing that pains my soul, Mysterious Kino.”

It certainly was a terrible accusation. I bet she didn’t even think before she named him a suspect. People like Kino are the reason libel will never disappear from this world.

In fact, at this moment, the one who was most composed was not Kino, but Samoyed Mask V.

“And who said that demons could only materialize one at a time?”

“Tch.”

Kino pouted.

So far, we’ve only had one demon attacking at a time. But it’s not like there’s a rule book or anything to this whole business. And the government hasn’t passed any laws decreeing one way or another, either.

“Have you ever heard this story, Mysterious Kino?” Samoyed Mask V said, surprisingly solemn today.

“Stop calling me that. And what story?”

Samoyed Mask V softly began to recite his tale.

“Somewhere in Japan, once, was a childless couple. They decided, in their sadness, to set aside a portion of their rather small income, in order to support needy children around the world. Five thousand yen per child, once a month. Eventually, many children came forward and asked this egoistic couple to formally adopt them. And one by one, husband and wife took these children--whom they had not once laid eyes on--as their own, providing financial assistance to these youngsters around the world.”

“That’s cute. So what?”

“The Japanese government gives grants to couples with children. 25000 yen per month, per child. The couple received this money every month and became very rich. And so, they lived happily ever after. The end.”

“What the hell was that?!”

Kino was getting angry. But she suddenly remembered something and asked:

“So what does that story have to do with all the demons appearing today?”

“Absolutely nothing.” Samoyed Mask V answered without missing a beat. Kino sighed at the thought of having wasted her time.

And.

“Hermes.” She said to the cell phone strap hanging from her belt.

“What is it?”

“What’s going on here?”

“See for yourself. We have multiple demons today.”

“Now what am I supposed to do? I only get one shot of Big Cannon every time I transform. Are you going to give me special powers so I can shoot more than once this time?”

“That’s no fun, is it?”

“So is this supposed to be about fun?”

“Just turn back and transform again. It’s not like you have a limit to the number of transformations per day.”

“Yeah, but... what if something happens between transformations?”

“Ha-hah! You’re a warrior of justice, not an idiot! Scaredy-cat! Ironing board!” Samoyed Mask V teased. Kino mercilessly fired her RPG-7, but Samoyed Mask V leaned back where he stood and evaded the attack. The rocket flew into the woods and exploded alone.

There was a very loud explosion, loud enough to send all the crows in the forest flying. But no one the community center heard it. Probably because of the heavy metal band rocking out inside. This is how the world works.

GROAAAAAR!

The demon, sick of being ignored, roared at the top of its lungs and leapt off the ground, charging towards Kino.

It was moving like a bullet. Quicker than you could blink. Its gait rapid. Very fast.

RRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

“Be quiet.”

Kino used the RPG-7’s cylinder to bat the demon away like a fly.

The demon yelped pitifully and flew at a spin for about two meters, finally landing on a parking sign. It finally came to a stop, crumpling the sign made of metal piping like paper.

It was the perfect moment to turn it back into a human, but unfortunately, Kino could not use the Big Cannon at the moment.

“Damn it. Looks like it’s time to fall back.” Kino grumbled. She placed the RPG-7 back into her pouch and pointed a finger at Samoyed Mask V, who was still standing on the rooftop.

“I’m letting you off easy this time! You’d better watch your back!”

A line straight out of the how-to-guide for villains. Anyway, Kino looked around for a hidden area where she could transform, and began to head for the woods in the park.

But--

“Huh?”

It was at the same time as Hermes’s question that Kino noticed:

The grass before them was teeming with demons.

“WHAAAAAAT?!”

One, two, three, four, five, six.

Within her line of sight alone were six identical demons. Counting the one squirming on the sign, seven. Counting the one she had already turned back, eight.

“I’m... dreaming, right?” Kino said blankly.

Nope.

“That’s right. I must be dreaming.”

I just said that you weren’t.

“If this is a dream, I wish I could get some gyūdon specials instead of all these demons.”

How many times do I have to-

GROAAAAAAAR!

Looks like the demons have identified Kino as their enemy. They began to gather towards her.

“This isn’t good.”

Kino was actually intimidated now.

Normal guns did nothing but inflict pain upon the demons. Even with a machine gun, she could not face down so many demons alone. And each time she sealed one away, she would have to buy time to return to the woods and transform back again.

Kino was in danger.

And when the maiden of justice finds herself in danger...

Kino banked on the one-in-a-million--one-in-a-billion--or actually, the probably unlikely, definitely nonexistent chance and looked over at the katana-wielding man standing on the roof of the community center.

“...With numbers like this, even I’m a bit... cowed.” Samoyed Mask V mumbled, kneeling on the spot and taking a sip of Japanese tea. Kino prayed with all her heart for a meteor to hit him on the head.

Even at this moment, the demons were closing in on her.

“Ugh!”

Kino drew an MG-3 machine gun from a previous battle, and its magazine belt. She loaded it in one motion and held it at waist-level.

Looks like she was planning to provide herself cover fire while penetrating the wall of demons. There’s a saying about ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’. But please don’t get the two words switched around.

“HAAAAAAH!”

Kino bravely charged forward.

GUUUUUOOOOOOOHHH!

The demons leapt forward at once, heading straight into Kino’s path.

Ratatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatat!

The MG-3 sang. Kino focused her attack on the demon directly in front of her. And after taking about thirty rounds to the chest, it fell backwards.

Kino ran for it. She had to escape before the demon could get back on its feet. But being outnumbered is never an enviable situation.

“Urgh!”

The five remaining demons charged into her path, blocking off her escape. Things were not looking good.

Ratatatatatatatatatat! With another burst of fire from the MG-3, two more demons fell. But by then, the first demon had gotten back on its feet.

“Shit!”

This is bad. This series is in trouble. Is this going to be the final episode, Hermes wondered.


Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Four heavy gunshots rang out through the air as the four demons surrounding Kino were thrown backwards as though they had been hit with wrecking balls. It looked like they had been shot with extremely powerful rounds.

“Oh!”

Kino turned her gaze to the origin of the four bullets.

“Now, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino! Into the woods!”

“Detective Wanwan!”

He’s finally here, folks! The suspicious white-haired fighter clad in black and wearing a pair of sunglasses, Detective Wanwan.

He was standing atop the bed of a truck parked in the parking lot, holding a gun in each hand. A pair of Lahti anti-tank rifles, to be precise.

The Lahti L-39 is a Finnish 20mm anti-tank rifle, a monster of a gun that can fire the kind of rounds normally used with machine guns that are equipped on fighter planes. This weapon was responsible for destroying countless Soviet vehicles and tanks in World War Two.

Each Lahti is a full two meters long, and weighs nearly fifty kilograms. But Detective Wanwan was wielding one in each hand, his arms held straight up as he fired. Don’t try this at home, kids.

“Go!”

Bang! Bang!

Two more shots. Two gigantic shell casings fell to the ground. As Kino broke into a run, two of the demons before her bolted to the side.

Kino took this chance to break through the gap and made for the forest.

“Yeah! I knew I could count on you!” She cried cheerfully, and dove into the trees on the slope.


<=>


“All right!”

Once Kino had disappeared into the woods, Detective Wanwan abandoned the demons completely and aimed his two Lahtis at the roof of the community center.

Sitting there was a man with a katana.

“Ah. Delicious.”

He was still drinking his tea. His back was turned.

“Hah!”

Detective Wanwan broke his usually-composed character and cried out as he fired. And as though acting in stead of his emotions, two 20mm rounds cut through the air, straight towards Samoyed Mask V.

The moment Detective Wanwan was convinced of victory, two tomatoes exploded and turned into a fine pink mist.

“Grown in Shizuoka Prefecture.” Samoyed Mask simply said, disappearing from the rooftop without leaving behind so much as a drop of tea.

“Damn you!”

Detective Wanwan’s curse was the only sound left in the parking lot.


<=>


“From my cold! Dead! Hands!”

Kino recited her catchphrase for the second time today.

She had turned back within a second of diving into the woods, and had called out by the second second. Busy, busy. She’s going to have a sore throat by the end of all this.

The light faded, and Kino was back to her transformed state. Two heavy gunshots rang out in the distance.

‘Detective Wanwan must be doing his best to hold them off!’ Kino thought under a terribly mistaken impression, holstering Big Cannon.

“All right! I’m gonna keep rolling. I’ll seal them all before the performance starts!” She cried at the top of her lungs, sprinting out of the woods.


<=>


“Um...” Elias mumbled, looking up at Chako-sensei.

The heavy metal band finally finished their passionate display of music. They returned to the waiting room, covered in sweat and their makeup running, but full of satisfaction at having played to their heart’s content. The waiting room was temporarily filled with silence.

The community center’s soundproofing was perfect. They couldn’t hear anything that was going on outside, so nobody knew about the commotion taking place with the demons.

“They’re really late, aren’t they?”

By the time Elias had returned, Kino, Shizu, and Inuyama were already gone. He thought he felt a very strong breeze in the halls, but he saw nothing, and he couldn’t see anything that might have caused the gust.

“...”

Elias’s question prompted Sara to also look up at Chako-sensei, who was still the picture of calm composure.

“Yes they are. They must have eaten too much after all.” Chako-sensei responded casually, but this did not ease Elias’s worries one bit.

“I-if they don’t make it back on time...”

What a worrywart, being concerned when there was still an entire hour left. He just might end up with a stomach ulcer in the future.

Chako-sensei, for whom stomach ulcers were a thing of fantasy, smiled.

“Have some tea and relax, Elias.”

“B-but...”

“S-sensei is right, Elias. We’re going to be okay. I have faith in them.” Sara said, interrupting Elias.

“Hm? Oh. Right...”

Elias realized that he was being consoled by the person he was trying to protect, not the other way around.

“Right...”

Once more, he felt profound sadness and found himself wanting to run away.

Elias trembled.

“Then I’ll brew us some very sweet tea! Let’s all drink together.”

If Chako-sensei hadn’t spoken up in time, he really might have ended up running away.


<=>


A band composed of fat middle-aged men began a wonderful performance that might have been quite popular in its heyday.

GUOOOOOOOOOOH!

At that moment, Kino was fighting.

She had turned three demons back into human form. And each time, she dove back into the forest to undo her transformation and transform back, before fighting some more. It was a very difficult battle.

“I’m hungry!”

Didn’t you just eat enough to stuff ten elephants full?

“There!”

A demon poked its head out from behind one of the cars in the jam-packed parking lot. Kino  aimed the Mossberg Model 590 shotgun in her left hand at it and pulled the trigger.

For your information, the Mossberg Model 590 is a long, thin, military-use shotgun with bayonet capabilities.

The demon, hit square in the back of the head with a slug from this baby, swayed with a terrible concussion before finally crashing to the ground.

Kino clambered onto the demon’s back, and still holding the Mossberg Model 590 in her left hand, drew Big Cannon with her right.

Bang!

She took aim at the demon’s back and pulled the trigger.

The demon slowly began to return to human form, but she left him there and then.

“That’s four down! Three more to go!”

Kino continued to fight. In the distance, she could hear Detective Wanwan firing away on his two Masada ACRs. He must have been analyzing their movements and hindering them as best he could.

“Thanks, Detective Wanwan! Hold on, I’ll be right back!”

Kino zigzagged through the parking lot and disappeared into the forest.


Meanwhile, Samoyed Mask V:

“The sky is beautiful today.”

He was lying on the roof of the community center, looking up at the autumn sun.

“Come on, melanin!” He cried, “turn my white cape a crisp tan brown!”

That doesn’t sound too likely.


As Kino took care of the demons one after another, time passed.

“Just one left!”

There was, as she said, just one demon left. But this particular ball of trouble refused to be caught.

Perhaps it had seen Kino picking off its friends one by one. It began to flee from the community center. ‘Flee’ in this case having the meaning of ‘escape’.

“Hold it right there!”

Driven by anger and hunger, Kino sprinted across the park and chased the demon down like a ghost straight out of an urban legend.

In her right hand was Big Cannon. In her left, a Colt Government M1911A1 .45 caliber automatic pistol.

“I have to hurry! There’s not much time left until the performance!”

Kino’s 100% accurate hunger clock warned her that she only had a few minutes until she was due to go on stage. And considering the amount of time she needed to recharge (see: eat), she only really had a minute to chase down this demon.

“You’re not getting away!” Kino cried. But if this demon would bow to threats like this, it never would have tried to run in the first place. And this demon in particular was quite fast.

Did it have eyes on the back of its head? It avoided all of Kino’s attacks from the Colt Government, zigzagging across the grass.

It was at that very moment.

“I see you may need my help! Rest omitted!”

Samoyed Mask V, who had transformed himself into a blade of grass in the park, turned back to human form as he popped up in the demon’s path.

“Hah!”

And in one smooth motion, he drew his sword and landed a powerful strike on the demon’s body.

GUUUUOOOOHH!

The demon was too sturdy to be cut, but it was momentarily stunned by the blow to the gut.

“Now!”

This single moment was enough for Kino.

Bang!

A round from Big Cannon flew towards the demon, covering a distance that normal pistols could never reach, before hitting the demon. At the same time, a round from the Colt Government--

“Ouch.”

--bounced off of Samoyed Mask V’s mask.


And so, peace returned to the world.

A round of applause for our brave warriors!

Clapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclap. All right, thank you.

The commotion was over. But--

“Oh no! This is bad! I’m going to be late!” Kino yelled. Although she wanted nothing more than to be able to murder Samoyed Mask V here and now, she gave up on her dream and sprinted towards the community center as though her life depended on it.

“What? What are you going to be late for?” Samoyed Mask V asked, perfectly keeping pace with Kino despite the fact that he was hopping. How? Because he’s Samoyed Mask V, that’s how.

“...”

Kino used all of her strength to ignore Samoyed Mask V.

“I see! If I fall down a hole after Mysterious Kino, I’ll find myself in Wonderland!”

No you won’t.

“Why not? I may look like this, but I have a comprehensive understanding of the hearts of young maidens.”

That’s more than enough.


-----


Part 4.


-----


(1) This is a pun in the original Japanese, where the words ‘weak’ and ‘meek’ are pronounced in the same way.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for the updates! :D

    ReplyDelete