Chapter 7 - Part 5: Sara’s Battle
~Song for You~
“Sorry to keep you waiting. Here goes our second song!”
Chako-sensei and her Les Paul were ready.
“Heh. Time to show off my skills.”
Detective Wanwan raised his drumsticks in preparation.
“O world, prepare to be floored.”
Samoyed Mask V cracked up the volume on his bass to the max.
Sara, holding the mic over her chest, quietly closed her eyes.
All of this was being shown on a certain super-large television.
“Wonder what they’re going to sing next. What do you think, Sato?”
“Who knows? Probably another weird original piece, I guess.”
Sato and her friends were watching it all on the television in the common room.
Although today was a holiday, the common room was quite crowded. The students had been watching the live stream for a while now, as though they had nothing better to do.
“Hey, isn’t that girl a first-year at our school?” One of Sato’s friends said, pointing at the screen.
“That’s right. Huh... First we get the school’s own warrior of justice singing pretty well on stage, and now Chako-sensei and a first-year? What’s going on? And why am I wasting my day off watching something like this?” Sato wondered, scratching her head.
“Why are we watching this, anyway?” Her friend said. Sato pulled out her cell phone.
“It’s ‘cause I got this message.”
“Let me see.” Her friend peered into the screen.
The message went as follows:
[Title: An important announcement for all fans of Anete Harami
Message: If you wish to know the truth behind Anete Harami, visit the following web page this afternoon. Address:_________________________]
“That is a strange message. So you followed the link and the site was showing a livestream of the Yokohama City Battle of Amateur Bands? What’s this all about?”
“Who knows? Maybe I’ll just forget the show...” Sato said, tilting her head. At that moment, the Chako-sensei on the screen finally ended her moment of dramatic silence and began to move like the wind.
The band began to play.
Chako-sensei’s super-sexy, uber-cool, and extra-energetic playing began without so much as a warning, fast enough to break the rules of the universe.
Those were some terrifying fangs she was keeping hidden. Her skill with the Les Paul was something to behold. It was a heartrending performance.
She was followed by Samoyed Mask V and the low tones of his bass. Detective Wanwan’s drums began as well. And then came the vocals, in perfect sync with the passionate beats.
Sara raised her head. She began to sing.
The lyrics were something like “I’m always watching over you as you watch over me or something-or-other”.
It was Anete Harami’s song.
“WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH?!” Sato screamed loud enough to blow up the dorms. The television screen trembled.
Her friend curled up with her hands over her ears.
It was all happening right before Sato’s eyes, on the other side of the screen.
Chako-sensei’s hyper-jaw-dropping guitar technique.
The clownish warrior of justice’s overpowering bass.
The young man with the sunglasses and his perfectly precise drumbeats.
Singing in harmony with these instruments was a skinny, homely first-year student.
She was singing Anete Harami’s song.
But she wasn’t copying the singer when she sang on stage.
It was Anete Harami’s song.
Sung by Anete Harami herself.
“H-how?! How is that girl-”
Sato clung to the television like a spider, staring straight at Sara. Flowing into her ears was the voice of Anete Harami, already impressed into Sato’s mind through hundreds upon hundreds of replays.
She suddenly remembered what her underclassman Kino had said about two weeks ago.
“Is it just me, or... is that girl not actually singing?”
“Is it just me, or... is that girl not actually singing?”
“Is it just me, or... is that girl not actually singing?”
Sato screamed again.
She could not help herself.
Kino ran outside and discovered two demons, lying one on top of another in front of the community center wall. She first took aim at the demon lying on the top.
And she pulled the trigger. Of course, the shot landed perfectly. The demon began to regain human form. Kino shot the demon on top first because otherwise the demon on the bottom would be crushed as soon as he turned back into a human.
That was when Chako-sensei’s guitar began wailing from the PDA on Kino’s belt.
Soon, Sara’s voice joined in. Kino could hear it as well.
She recognized Anete Harami’s song.
And just like Sato(but not quite as loudly), Kino screamed.
Right now, all she could hear was the song coming from the PDA. In other words, the Take Action Now Club’s second performance.
What would everyone play? What kind of melody would Sara sing?
Kino had been looking forward to finding out by using the performance as background music to her work as a warrior of justice. And having only thought, ‘This sure came in handy. Thanks, Chako-sensei’, Kino was nothing less than stupefied by the revelation.
She had indeed heard this song before. Kino remembered it well.
“This song... it’s from that DVD of the Yokohama concert!” Kino said.
“Yeah. It’s the exact same one.” Hermes agreed.
Kino glanced down at the PDA. She confirmed visually that it was indeed Sara who was singing this song. There was no mistaking it.
From where in that tiny body was she getting the strength to sing so powerfully? Whatever the case, she was the one behind this overwhelming voice. Kino could tell--the strange feeling that nagged at her as she watched the DVD was completely absent this time as she looked down at the PDA screen.
Kino’s singing wasn’t too shabby, either. But it would be an insult to Sara to compare the two voices. Hers was truly a professional singing voice.
“What’s going on here?” Kino asked Hermes, still not getting the hint.
“Don’t you remember, Kino? You said it yourself.”
“I said what myself?”
This protagonist has the memory of a goldfish.
“You said that Anete Harami isn’t actually singing.”
“Oh, right. I did... So that means...”
“Yeah. It was her. That Sara girl was the one who sang the songs.”
Kino’s eyes turned to dinner plates.
“So they fooled everyone and lip-synched everything? Then what about that other girl? The adorable one that looks like a doll?”
“She’s just the face. She’s really pretty, but I guess she’s not actually a good singer. Talent like that doesn’t come around often, you know.”
“No way! This isn’t the opening ceremony of some international athletic competition!” Mysterious Kino cried, her voice a mix of understanding and shock.
But being a warrior of justice wasn’t such a relaxing job that Kino could stand around in awe whenever she liked.
The demon on the bottom knocked away its friend, who was now in human form, and leapt up at Kino.
Kino avoided the attack and took advantage of the moment to draw a new weapon from her pouch. This time, it was a Type 99 light machine gun.
This is a weapon that was used by the Japanese Army in World War II. Its magazine holds thirty rounds, and sticks up atop the gun. This isn’t such an unusual design with machine guns.
The Type 99 is reliable and accurate, so it is said to have been one of the Japanese weapons the American military feared most during the war. It is equipped with a 2.5X telescopic sight, which cut down on ammo usage (ammunition was scarce back then) and helped to raise accuracy. It was an infamous weapon.
As per Imperial Japan’s obsession with putting swords on every firearm (even submachine guns were equipped with bayonets), this gun was also equipped with a bayonet. The blade was a whopping forty centimeters long, a standard Type 30 bayonet that greatly resembled the blade of a katana.
Why would anyone put a bayonet on a machine gun? It’s a mystery, but apparently attaching the bayonet improved balance and accuracy. Or was it just because it looks cool?
The Type 99 that Kino began to fire away on was also equipped with a bayonet. The 7.7mm rounds hit the demon directly. The creature writhed in pain.
Currently, the sound of gunfire and demonic howling was echoing outside the community center, accompanied by Anete Harami’s--no, Sara’s--singing voice.
Sweat began to form on Kino’s brow.
She could incapacitate the demon as long as she was armed, but she could not turn it back to human form unless she undid her transformation, then transformed back. Because neither Samoyed Mask V nor Detective Wanwan were around, this one instant she needed was not something she could afford so easily.
“Well, they’re busy with the performance.” Hermes said.
“Heh. So what?” Kino said, smiling bravely as she pulled the trigger.
“I’m a warrior of justice. I can fight just fine on my own!”
“Great. Glad I picked you, then.”
“Right? So I have a suggestion.”
“Can you just waive the ‘one shot rule’ for Big Cannon today? Just for today?”
So Kino went on to endlessly call Hermes stupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupid. Hermes responded with a “What happened to all the cool stuff you just said?!”, but this argument is so inane that I’ll cut it off here.
Around the same time, a certain celebrity news reporter’s glasses were fogged over.
He watched the broadcast on his computer screen at home, and cried:
“This is one hell of a scandal!”
On his cell phone was displayed the same message that Sato had also received.
At that moment, there was a party on the internet.
On a certain message board, the moment Sara began her song, everything went silent. No posts, no replies. Then, everyone began to post all at once, threatening to paralyze the servers.
Of course, even these Anete Harami fans had received the very same message. Although it’s still a mystery as to who got a hold of all of their contact information.
Everyone went online and listened to her song.
And they all realized:
Anete Harami was a fictitious individual.
[So she was lip-synching all this time!]
[There were two people playing her part?!]
[This is crazy... How’d they pull it off?]
[Are they just coming out like this?]
[Is this even legal?]
[Won’t she get in trouble with her agency?]
[Is this a guerrilla concert, then? Pretty cool!]
[Is this why Anete suddenly stopped singing recently?]
[I can already hear the heads rolling at her agency.]
[Who cares? They’re a bunch of parasites anyway.]
[lol new page]
As the posts about Anete Harami continued, one person broke the trend.
[Hey, doesn’t that bassist look kinda like ‘Mysterious Handsome Masked Music Fighter Sizu’ from Funefune Douga?(1) You know, their most-viewed artist?]
“I get it! So this is what Chako-sensei was trying to do!”
Kino quickly switched the Type-99’s magazine and pulled the trigger once more.
She shot little by little, slowly backing away as she kept the demon at bay. She was probably trying to escape from the parking lot and into the woods.
“She’d grab a spot in the concert under the Take Action Now Club’s name and let us sing first...” Kino trailed off.
“...and Sara would tag along as an extra, but step into the spotlight for the second song. And since this is an internet broadcast, once she starts singing, it’s all over. No one can cover it up. Once this stuff gets on the internet, you can’t get it back.” Hermes finished for her.
“So is that what the demons were doing today? Trying to stop her from singing?”
“Remember what they looked like when you turned them back? Men in sunglasses and suits.”
“I get it!” Kino exclaimed. “They’re the ones who tried to take Sara away in the hall just now!”
This protagonist has the deductive skills of a rhino.
“I understand now!”
Pulling the trigger once more at the approaching demon, Kino put on a satisfied look. Mystery solved!
“All I have to do now is...”
...seal away this surprisingly strong demon. That was also the hardest part.
Kino groaned, passing by a certain truck.
Sara’s powerful voice carried from the PDA and into the parking lot.
A demon lying on the other side of the truck mumbled quietly.
“Hello? Yes, I’m afraid we can’t comment at this time...”
The phones had been ringing off the hook for some time now in the office of the company president.
“It’s... over...” The president mumbled, weakly falling to his knees. The wind blowing in from the broken windows chilled everything in its path.
“How did this happen? How? Anete Harami was a household name... I could have raked in profits for years until those girls came of age...” The president said, cradling his head in his hands. None of his employees answered him. They were all too busy taking phone calls.
“Where did I go wrong? Was it when I tricked the Anete face into coming to Japan by promising her an acting career, then extended her idol contract indefinitely while threatening her family in England? Was it when I paid a fortune to social services to take custody of Sara as the Anete singer and kept her under constant surveillance except for her attending school? Or was it when I permanently froze their earnings at fifty thousand yen per month?”
The president quietly whispered to himself, finally slamming his head down on the soft carpet.
“I just don’t understand! I didn’t do anything wrong!”
Are you sure about that?
“Argh! This is one stubborn demon!”
Anxiety was written on Kino’s face.
The last of the demons did not fall to Kino’s barrage, continuing to step ever closer. The shots must have been painful, but it was still full of energy.
Although Kino had no way of knowing this, this particular demon was the leader of the men in suits. Naturally, his determination to finish this mission was on a different level altogether.
Kino lost count of how many times she had replaced the magazine on her Type-99. The barrel was so hot it was starting to glow. It must have been overheating.
“The cat’s out of the bag now! So just give up already!”
Sara’s second song was being played through the PDA hanging from Kino’s belt.
It was a very long piece. The Take Action Now Club had long passed its allotted performance time, but no one tried to stop them now.
Everyone in the community center must have been too shocked. The audience, the judges, and even the crew. The accompaniment was getting more and more elaborate.
For a moment, Kino managed to forget her own dangerous situation. She smiled.
The scene unfolding on the stage was more stupendous than Kino could ever imagine.
Chako-sensei’s passionate skill on the Les Paul and Inuyama’s fervent drumming.
But the biggest show-stealer was Samoyed Mask V.
He had suddenly taken out a Gibson Flying V out of nowhere and was now playing it alongside his bass.
And whenever necessary, he would shake a pair of maracas with his hands and play the violin.
How was this possible? Well, all he did was play one note on one instrument, then quickly switch to the next instrument and play a note.
Because he was moving so quickly, his instruments did not have time to fall to the ground. Samoyed Mask was thusly playing four parts on his own--perfectly--and adding great depth to the piece they were performing.
The audience was astounded.
Live reactions from some of the people who were watching the broadcast:
[It’s him! It’s Mysterious Handsome Masked Music Fighter Sizu!]
[He’s here! It’s Sizu-sama’s guitar-bass-maracas-violin quadruple performance!]
[No way! He was real? I thought he was just a CGI guy playing a bunch of live-action instruments!]
[We’re witnessing a legend in the making!]
Looks like this corner of the internet had no interest in the unfolding Anete Harami scandal.
Kino had left herself open for a single moment.
Running into the parking lot to find a place to transform under cover turned out to be a terrible idea, as the demon tossed a Mazda RX-8 at her mid-lunge. It then guessed at the direction Kino would dodge towards, and found itself quite lucky.
The sound of the RX-8 turning into scrap metal was accompanied by the demon’s powerful kick.
Kino already knew that it was too late to dodge.
But she did everything she could in the short span of time she had between spotting the demon’s attack and the kick inevitably connecting.
She thoroughly cooled the Type-99, removed the bayonet, placed it back in her pouch, and closed the pouch. She then removed the PDA from her belt for fear of being scolded by Chako-sensei if it were to be totaled by the demon and placed it beside herself. Hermes, she left on her belt, though.
The demon kicked her square in the gut. Kino flew through the air and hit a Nissan GT-R that was parked in the lot. She only came to a stop after breaking the security alarm on this cheap nine million yen car.
“That hurt, damn it!”
Kino quickly got to her feet. But the demon was also quite fast. Right after landing the blow on Kino, it had decided to end things once and for all by ramming into her shoulder-first.
‘I can’t dodge this one!
‘I’m gonna get hit!
‘It looks like it’s going to hurt!
‘If I write out my thoughts like this, it kind of looks like poetry!’ Kino thought.
At that moment,
Yet another demon roared from beside her. A demon covered in golden fur.
The black demon was sent flying into a Mazda Roadster, bounced back up into the air, and flattened the Toyota Mark X that lay underneath.
“Huh?” Kino said blankly.
Although she had opened fire on demons more times than she could count, this was the first time she had received assistance from one. She regretted not taking any pictures.
“Hey... thanks.” She said without thinking.
The golden demon glanced at Kino. And instead of attacking her, it began to saunter towards the black demon that stood before a Toyota Supra.
“Hey...” Hermes began.
“I know. That’s Elias, right?” Kino said, stepping forward. She took another step. She had undone her transformation and transformed back.
“I don’t believe this.”
Kino watched the golden demon as it walked towards the black demon. The latter slowly got to its feet, raising its fists.
“Is this how far you’re willing to go...?” Kino said to the golden demon, “is this how far you wanted to go to save Sara?!”
The golden demon did not answer.
But its pace slowed.
Kino holstered Big Cannon.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help you. So I’ll hand over the spotlight today! You’re the hero this time, Elias!” She cried at him, and drew from her pouch a pair of--
“What’s that?” Hermes asked.
Kino was holding a tiny pair of flags on sticks. They were the kind of flags you saw people waving at marathons on the streets.
“Can’t you tell? They’re flags. Here. Take a look.” Kino said. Hermes opened his eyes wide (Editorial dept.: Hermes’s eyes?) and examined them.
[Do your best, Elias! You can do anything you put your mind to!]
[Go! Go! Show that demon who’s boss!]
The lopsided words had been written on the light green cloth flags with a permanent marker.
“Well, I can see they’re flags. But what are you going to do with them?”
“Elias looked so weak that I scraped together some old handkerchiefs and some cleaning rods I use for my guns really quickly.”
“Nifty, huh? I can just wave ‘em around to cheer Elias on.”
“...Is that all?”
“Yeah. I’ll just wait for them to tire themselves out fighting each other, then seal it away when it’s helpless. I’m a genius, aren’t I?”
‘That’s terrible. You call that helping? More like cheerleading.’ Hermes wanted to say, but he remained silent.
“Do your best, Elias!”
‘Dear Goddess. Please do something about this protagonist.’ Hermes thought.
Sara’s passionate voice continued to shake the hearts of all her listeners.
At that moment, Elias was fighting.
Wearing the form of a demon, against a man who was also wearing a demon’s skin.
To save Sara, facing a man who was here to kidnap her.
The two demons were locked in a fierce battle, destroying cars left and right as they fought.
“C’mon! Now! Throw him a right hook! Don’t fall back! Keep pushing forward!”
As the warrior of justice watched, doing nothing but waving little flags, the duel between demons grew more intense.
The black demon effortlessly tossed a Toyota Vitz at the golden demon.
The golden demon grabbed a Honda Insight and deflected the attack as though batting at a baseball.
Two more cars for the scrap heap. Their drivers would probably weep at the sight. The Insight in particular looked brand-new.
The black demon charged, its arms forward.
The golden demon did not budge. Instead, it took the black demon’s arms to engage it in a pushing match.
The demons howled.
“You can do it!”
The warrior of justice continued cheering from the sidelines.
As Sara’s passionate voice shook the world, the parking lot was engulfed in flames.
Sara was singing.
She had never sung before such a large crowd before.
At first, the audience watched with their mouths agape.
But now, they were on their feet, sometimes cheering with a cry of “Anete!”.
Even still, though Sara knew that this performance would free her and the other Anete, who was recovering from her illness, she could not bring herself to be entirely happy.
She found a moment between lyrics to take her mouth away from the microphone.
“Elias...” She mumbled quietly.
But the ordinary little girl quickly returned to being a national idol as she continued to project her voice towards the world.
Meanwhile, at the school dorms:
“ANETE!” Sato cried with all her might, cheering Sara on from the common room.
Although Sara could not hear, Sato’s encouragement did not fail to reach her.
The demons’ battle had reached its climax.
The golden demon and the black demon, evenly matched in strength, finally broke their stalemate as the golden demon took advantage of a moment of distraction to throw the black demon onto a truck. And as it leapt to try and stomp on the black demon, the black demon countered by kicking with both feet, sending the golden demon flying.
The golden demon landed on its feet, and leapt across the pavement.
The black demon got it its feet, and leapt across the pavement.
They two demons ran across the parking lot and crashed into each other.
Tactics mattered nothing at this point.
In power, they were equals.
So all they could do was clench their fists and fight head-on, like knights in a jousting tournament.
They would not back down.
They would not turn tail.
With their pride on the line, the two men quickly closed the gap between then.
Kino swallowed. Sara’s beautiful voice echoed from her PDA.
Perhaps that song was what decided the outcome of this battle.
The black demon was launched into the air. It flew in an arc, landing on a Ferrari F430 Scuderia. It fell right through the chassis and landed on the pavement.
Kino stepped in, standing beside the mangled Ferrari.
“You’re pretty good. I haven’t had this much trouble in so long. You showed me that I still lack training. So thanks for the lesson.” She said, taking aim with Big Cannon.
Having turned the tenth demon back into human form (another man in a suit), Kino mumbled to herself.
There was now just one left.
The golden demon was three meters away, frozen in the position it had taken when it had sent the black demon flying.
Kino first undid her transformation, then cast the spell once more to transform into a warrior of justice.
“You have to turn him back. What are you waiting for? You could shoot him here and now.”
“That’s true, Hermes. But...” Kino said, slowly approaching the golden demon, “if we turn him back, he’ll lose his memories of having been a demon.”
“Probably, judging from all the cases we’ve seen so far.”
“Elias fought so hard today. It’d be a shame if he just forgot all the awesome stuff he did.”
Hermes understood what Kino was trying to say.
Elias needed the confidence boost from accomplishing something this remarkable. It would challenge him to aspire to even more in the future.
But transforming into a demon might turn into an addiction. He couldn’t transform every time trouble presented itself for the rest of his life.
“So let’s try and settle things peacefu-”
Whoosh. There was a powerful impact. Something bore down on Kino.
She quickly raised her arm to defend herself, but she was pushed right back into an Audi R8.
“Ugh! That hurt!”
She looked up. The golden demon responsible for attacking her was standing there.
“What gives?!” Kino howled.
“In the end, he’s still a demon, Kino.” Hermes said cooly from Kino’s side. Kino had no choice but to agree.
“I guess I’ll have to seal him away, then... I wish I didn’t have to, though.”
The song coming from Kino’s PDA was just about to end.
Chako-sensei and Shizu were standing back-to-back, playing a spectacular dual-guitar solo. The crowds were going wild at this display of energy.
After their solo would be Sara’s final part. Then it would all be over.
Kino stared down at the golden demon, five meters ahead.
“Let’s finish this.”
She holstered Big Cannon.
Kino then drew a Smith & Wesson Model 500 revolver. This weapon is one of the world’s most powerful handguns, with a four-inch barrel and compatibility with .50 Magnum cartridges. Although it looks no different from a normal revolver at first glance, it is almost laughably large for its proportions.
Machine guns would be of no use at this distance now. Everything would end in a single strike.
This handgun was the only weapon available to Kino in this situation, as she could freely aim with it without sacrificing power. Her plan was to shoot the golden demon in the arms and legs in the midst of their struggle, finally sealing it away with Big Cannon once it was down.
This was the only option left to her. The Model 500 could only hold five rounds--once she needed a sixth shot, she would have lost.
Kino silently stared down the golden demon.
The golden demon silently stared Kino down.
The Les Paul sang for one last time.
The instrumentals came to a close.
Sara’s voice echoed from the PDA.
The two warriors leapt forward.
Kino waited for a single moment--the moment in which her foe would attack.
The golden demon swung its left hand.
Kino took hold of the Model 500 with her left hand and pulled the trigger in the blink of an eye.
She then squatted down, facing her right, and fired off another round at the demon’s jaw.
The demon’s head was thrown backwards.
Taking advantage of the demon’s sights being forced upwards, Kino tightly gripped Big Cannon with her right hand.
But as she drew Big Cannon from the holster, the demon’s left leg stopped her.
All of this had taken place in the span of a mere second.
Kino was struggling to free her right hand.
The golden demon was pressing down on her arm with its left foot, balancing on its right leg.
The fierce struggle had resulted in this silent deadlock.
It was a battle of the soul--
Between a boy who had become a demon to protect the girl he loved,
And a gourmand of a girl who only ever thought of food.
“Hey, narrator guy! Talk about prejudice.”
An attempt at a nitpicking of Kino, by Kino, for Kino.
Perhaps this was what decided the outcome of this battle.
In the short span of time our protagonist took to nitpick at the narration, the demon swung its right leg. Its foot was driven straight into Kino’s side.
Kino was thrown back like a bullet, crashing into the car standing in the center of the lot--a Bugatti Veyron, a high-end, 170 million-yen luxury car.
Both the Bugatti and Kino were thrown into the air by the impact. Looks like time-space is slightly slow in these parts. Look! That’s an arc they’re drawing in the air.
The Veyron, crumpled like a piece of scrap metal, rolled down the slope in the woods. Kino landed on the parking lot pavement.
The golden demon lunged at her, grabbing her by the neck with its thick arms and lifting her into the air.
Ouch. That sounded painful. If Kino hadn’t been in the form of a warrior of justice, she would have been killed in an instant.
“C’mon, Kino. Open your eyes.” Hermes said calmly from her belt.
Kino’s eyelids slowly opened. She glared at the golden demon that was choking her.
She then reached with her right hand, which was finally free, towards Big Cannon.
Her vision suddenly grew blurry.
The blood had stopped flowing into her brain. She was on the verge of suffocating.
Even a sturdy warrior of justice is bound to experience hemoglobin deficiency if blood is cut off from her brain for too long.
Her sense of reasoning went down the drain. Just like a certain politician’s approval ratings.
‘Huh. What was I going to do again?’
Kino desperately tried to reason out her actions with what little oxygen she had left.
‘Oh, right. I was. Going to. Stuff myself full. With shabu-shabu.’
“This is no time to be unconscious, Kino.” Hermes said.
But to Kino, it just sounded like: “Apparently sesame sauce and bitter orange dressing go really well together, Kino.”.
But it was over. There was no strength left in her body. Kino began to feel sleepy.
She was on the verge of heading to dreamland.
At that moment, she heard a song.
To be specific, the song had been playing all this time from the sturdy PDA hanging from Kino’s belt.
It was Sara’s song.
The final performance.
[That’s why I~]
On the stage, Sara came to a decision.
She resolved to do something that she had never once done in the studio.
[That’s why I~]
She continued the song.
[That’s why I love you, Elias!]
She finished the song, intentionally changing the lyrics.
Sara wore a bright, beautiful smile.
The hands gripping Kino by the neck suddenly lost their force.
“Pass the dressing...!” Kino mumbled in her sleep, falling to the ground.
She landed on her rear and opened her eyes.
“Now’s your chance, Kino!”
Kino looked straight ahead. It was just as Hermes said.
The golden demon was standing there blankly, as though its soul had been sucked out.
As though it had forgotten to fight altogether.
Kino quickly stepped back, keeping her eyes trained on the demon. There was a distance of three meters between them now.
With great difficulty, she drew Big Cannon from its holster and raised the hammer with her thumb.
“I’ll turn you back!”
She took aim at the demon’s chest.
She began to apply pressure to her trigger finger.
But at that moment, Kino noticed something.
She could not believe her eyes. Kino blinked rapidly.
But no matter how many times she opened her eyes again, she always came to the same conclusion.
The constant conclusion was that the demon was changing.
It grew smaller and smaller. It slid inwards as it became more and more humanoid in form.
“How...?” Kino wondered, Big Cannon still trained on the demon.
“Who knows?” Hermes answered.
Chako-sensei, Samoyed Mask V, and Detective Wanwan’s accompaniment served as background music to this scene of the demon’s transformation.
The demon was now half its original size of three meters.
The golden fur covering its body was now pale skin, covered in a school uniform. Wait, didn’t the uniform get shredded earlier? Oh well.
Its fierce mane turned into a slightly messy head of blond.
“...What’s going on?”
Without thinking, Kino looked down at Big Cannon, still in the grip of her right hand. The hammer was still raised, meaning that she had not shot the demon.
“I don’t get it. This doesn’t make sense. It can’t be!”
If even Hermes was surprised, this must be something remarkable.
And the moment the accompaniment ended--
The golden demon returned to being the young boy known as Elias.
Standing there was Elias alone.
A thunderous roar of applause swallowed the concert hall.
Kino heard everything through the PDA.
She noticed Elias opening his eyes.
Their eyes met.
Kino quickly holstered Big Cannon, as quickly as she had drawn it. She did not forget to pull the trigger as she held the hammer and gently lowered it.
“You’re... Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino!”
These were Elias’s first words.
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. That’s right.”
His next words were:
“Is Sara all right?!”
What selflessness. It seemed like he had lost his memories of the time he was a demon.
Kino narrowed her eyes, looking at the little warrior. She then took the PDA from her belt and held it before his eyes.
“She’s free now. Don’t worry. It’s all thanks to you.”
Sara was on the screen, having finished the song.
[Anete! Anete! Anete! Anete! Anete!]
The crowd was going wild.
Sara energetically waved her tiny hands with a smile. She was basking in glorious light.
“WOW! Amazing! We actually did it!” Elias cried joyously.
Kino decided to act the part of a proper upperclassman.
“Go on back to the waiting room, now. Someone’s gotta welcome Sara back when she goes to get some well-deserved rest.”
“Yes! Thank you! Thank you so much, Mysterious Bishoujo Gun Fighter Rider Kino!” Elias said, beaming. Then,
“Huh? Wait... Kino... Kino...? Kino-senpai...?” He mumbled, frowning slightly. Kino grinned.
“Total strangers. Now hurry up!”
Elias spun round on his heels, running as fast as his legs could carry him. He sprinted past the community center doors and disappeared inside.
Kino was alone in the parking lot, which now looked more like a junkyard than anything else.
“That feels great. It’s all hunky-dory now!” She said innocently at the sky.
Of course, insurance companies would shed tears of blood come tomorrow. But that’s really not my problem.
November 4th, after school.
“Hi everyone.” Kino said, stepping into the music prep room.
Chako-sensei, Shizu, and Inuyama greeted her.
They were sitting around a table, atop which were countless sparkling cakes lined up one after another.
“Perfect timing. Let’s start with some tea.” Chako-sensei said.
Yesterday, once the commotion was finished--
Kino used the pay phone in the community center to call Chako-sensei’s cell phone. Chako-sensei picked up immediately.
“I heard there was some huge commotion over at the community center. What should I do?” Kino asked, pretending that she didn’t know a thing.
[I think Elias and I will be enough here, Kino. Don’t get yourself involved in the mess; you can go home for today. I’m going to tell Shizu and Inuyama the same thing, too. I’m sure we’ll be able to take care of our cars and gear somehow. I’ll see you tomorrow at school, okay?]
And so, Kino was able to avoid becoming involved in the incident that shook Japan’s entertainment industry to its foundations. She strode down the hill and returned to the dorms.
“Thanks for the meal!” Kino sang, digging into a piece of cake. Shizu and Inuyama followed suit.
“You can keep eating, but listen closely, everyone!” Chako-sensei said, unfolding several newspapers.
Celebrity gossip mags, sports papers, regular papers, and finance papers. The same incident was at the front page of each publication.
Of course, it was the Anete Harami scandal.
Yesterday, when Kino returned to the dorms, she headed for the common room to watch some television. There, she ran into an outraged Sato.
“We will never forgive the greedy agency that so brutally abused these two helpless girls! What do you say, everyone?!”
The other dormitory students, who were also fans of Anete Harami, agreed.
“Yeah!” “Unforgivable!” “Kick ‘em out of the country!”
Kino remembered this scene and turned to Chako-sensei.
“What’s going to happen now?”
“Well... where should I start?” Chako-sensei wondered.
Kino, Shizu, and Inuyama were frozen, despite the presence of cake. Chako-sensei began to explain the situation.
“First of all, the evil president of Anete Harami’s agency was arrested yesterday and charged with all sorts of nasty offenses. Apparently he didn’t even try to escape; he just sat there in his office, mumbling something about a grandmother.”
“The girl who was the face of Anete Harami was so troubled by the lies she was a part of, so she ended up with a stomach ulcer. She was hospitalized in the States, but she’s heard the news. I’ve been told that she’s very relieved. She’s free from the president’s threats now, so I’m sure she must be meeting with her family, who flew in from England. But I think she wants to continue to pursue acting. Isn’t it wonderful? Girls should be tough and determined, just like her.”
“And over here in Japan, one idol falls and another rises!”
I hope I don’t have to explain who she’s talking about.
Kino! She’s talking about Anete Harami and Sara!
“Who are you talking to, Kino? Anyway, Sara’s been freed now, and she’s even getting back all of the pay that was forcibly taken from her. I introduced her to a great lawyer, you see. And she says she wants to switch from the hotel they housed her in to the school dorms. Kino, you might end up sitting side-by-side with her for breakfast as soon as tomorrow!”
“That’s great! Just warn her first that when it comes to eating contests, I never lose.”
No one said anything about eating contests.
Shizu quietly raised his hand.
“So now Sara will be able to live her own life as a singer and as a student, correct?”
“That’s wonderful.” Inuyama said.
“It certainly is.” Shizu agreed. Inuyama glanced at him for a moment, but said nothing more.
“But I bet she’s probably going to start up a third role, other than a singer and a student.” Chako-sensei said with an impish grin.
The boys looked quite confused. But Kino, the only female member of the club--
Shizu and Inuyama tilted their heads, but Kino did not tell them the answer.
Sara’s third new role: Elias’s girlfriend.
(1) Funefune Douga is, of course, a parody of the Japanese video site Niconico Douga.